Monday, September 22, 2014

Number Sense Conversations

I've put the elevator speeches to rest. Today's two minute speech went well... I think. As one event concludes, I'm excited to resume my ongoing thoughts about number sense and students.

Working with teachers and students, I can't help but be inundated with thoughts about things I miss, look forward to, and will be challenged with this year in and out of the classroom. However, there's one thing I crave more than anything else, and that's working with students, which usually entails having number sense conversations with students.

Today, I had rich number sense conversations with students in Math 7, Math 8, and high school Algebra classes. As I sit here and put the finishing touches on the slides for my upcoming conference workshop, Get Students to Argue in Class With Number Sense Activities, I can't put to words how valuable it is to allow students to talk about math in math class. That's an oversimplification, but we seriously need to provide our students with opportunities to talk to each other, even argue with each other. Mathematical Practice 3:
Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
Steve Leinwand sums it up best:
These nine words may be the most important words in the entire Common Core effort. 
Last December at CMC North, I was honored to give an Ignite talk about something I'm passionate about: number sense and student conversations. It's titled: Number Sense: I Don't Like This Game Anymore.

Students are hungry for number sense conversations in math class. I really do believe. If you don't believe me, just put up this picture in your class and ask your students, "How long would it take to use all of that?" Then ask them to convince you of their conclusion.

As October quickly approaches, I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming conference this school year. In the meantime, I hope to post more about number sense.

Number Sense,

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Common Core Elevator Speech - Day 7

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

This is my final elevator speech in this series. My 120-second elevator speech for tomorrow is to focus on rigor. Yes, that's difficult to capture in 120 seconds. However, this is what I'll be going with.

I love how teachers are hungry for modeling with mathematics. That in itself, can be one of the most vital elements to rigor in mathematics.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Common Core Elevator Speech - Day 6

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

Did you check out Steve's elevator speech on Day 5? Pretty awesome, right? Here is the second one he emailed me.

"Appealing to an audience that recognizes school math isn't working well enough."
Regardless of what you may think of the Common Core, you must recognize that school mathematics hasn’t been working for far too many students.  You’ve probably heard that the K–12 mathematics program in the United States has been aptly characterized in many rather uncomplimentary ways: underperforming, incoherent, fragmented, poorly aligned, unteachable, unfair, narrow in focus, skill-based, and, of course, “a mile wide and an inch deep.”  Most teachers are well aware that there have been far too many objectives for each grade or course, few of them rigorous or conceptually oriented, and too many of them misplaced as we prematurely ram far too much computation down too many throats. It’s not a pretty picture and helps to explain why so many teachers and students have been set up to fail and why we’ve created the need for much of the intervention that test results seem to require.
These are realities that the Common Core has been designed to fix. How? First, the new standards are common. No longer will publishers cater to a few large states and stuff their books with the union of fifty sets of demands. No longer will our assessments be developed by the lowest bidder and overwhelmingly comprised of low-level, multiple-choice items.
Instead, the prospects of a Common Core set of standards are for shorter, more web-based, better-focused instructional materials and for computer-adaptive, computer-delivered, and instantaneously-scorable constructed response-item assessments.  Second, ignore the misrepresentations and take heart in the fact that the Common Core standards are coherent. These standards replace the vagueness of strands (number, measurement, geometry, statistics, and algebra) with domains, clusters, and well-conceived grade-to-grade progressions of standards. Moreover, they are fair. Many procedures that we have come to teach at grade x, have been moved to grade x + 1, giving us all a chance to build prerequisite knowledge and slow down what has become a drag race through the curriculum. And, lastly, they are teachable. There are only about thirty standards—of varying sizes and depth—at each grade level, resulting in a far more manageable teaching load than the forty to fifty objectives per year that many of us now face.  If you care about your children, if you care about readiness for citizenship and the workplace, and if you care about our future leaders making informed decisions, you should be fighting for, not against, the Common Core.
~ Steve Leinwand

Again, I want to thank Steve for taking the time to prepare two awesome elevator speeches. Hopefully, they've inspired you as much as they've inspired me. Maybe you can use parts in your own elevator speech when the time presents itself. It's not too late to add your own in the comments. Tomorrow, I'll post the last and final elevator speech, which happens to be my two minute speech for my district. 

Common Care,

Friday, September 19, 2014

Common Core Elevator Speech - Day 5

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

I have three more days of elevator speeches to share. Now would be a good time to say why I initiated this whole elevator speech series. I was asked by my district to give a 90 second presentation on rigorous mathematics standards. I will be giving this 90 second presentation on Monday at our district's State of the Schools breakfast where many community members, parents, board members, teachers, and administrators will be present. You know, all the stakeholders. In preparing those 90 seconds, I needed to push myself to come up with elevator speeches related to Common Core math standards and rigor. So Day 7 will be my 90 second elevator speech from the State of the Schools.

For Day 5 and Day 6, I'm honored to share two elevator speeches from Steve Leinwand. It was so cool to see an email from Steve in my Inbox, with him saying, "OK - challenge accepted!"

If you've followed my blog, you know I have great admiration for Steve and have been inspired by him numerous times. It won't surprise you that I thoroughly enjoy (and support) his first speech.

"Appealing to an audience that wants more for their children."
It’s only one of eight Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice, but we can change schools and change lives if we truly implement Mathematical Practice 3:  “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.”  In many ways, these nine words may be the most important words in the entire Common Core effort.  We can’t expect students to construct viable arguments unless we ask them “why?” and “how do you know?” and “can you convince us?”  When we ask such questions we are laying the foundation for the reasoning and justifying that represent the thinking that schools need to develop in all students.  Similarly, we can’t expect students to critique the reasoning of others unless we create classrooms where student thinking is valued and students contribute to their own learning within communities of learners.  Moreover, this isn’t just mathematics, but what needs to happen in English language arts, social studies and science as well. So when one cuts through all of the misrepresentations and politics that surround the Common Core, these powerful nine words transcend our differences and capture what every parent and every citizen should be demanding from their schools and for their children.
~Steve Leinwand 

Thank you Steve for sharing your wisdom and fervor. I look forward to sharing your next elevator speech on Day 6.


[UPDATE]: Check out the audio/visual of Steve's elevator speech.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Common Core Elevator Speech - Day 4

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

When I started this idea of preparing an elevator speech about the Common Core, I figured I'd get as far as I can on my own. I wanted to stretch myself and avoid tapping into resources or my Jedi masters. It's day 4 and I find myself at that point where I need a pick-me-up. Who better to do that than Steve Leinwand and his super math gang of leaders at NCSM? All 2014 NCSM attendees received the following framework:
It's TIME: Themes and Imperatives for Mathematics Education. 

I figured I would snag a few lines from the section titled Support an Understanding of the Breadth and Depth of Mathematics Content Knowledge (found on pages 20-21). Today's elevator speech is is from the pros (all 15 writers):
The CCSSM promotes teaching few concepts, but teaching them in more depth, with deeper understanding as the goal. However, teachers must have a deep understanding of the content themselves to teach for deeper understanding.
Mathematics involves more than just recalling facts and performing routine procedures. Mathematics needs to be understood as an integrated collection of knowledge and skills, not as a series of discrete procedures. Mathematics must also be understood as connected to other disciplines and to the world in which we live. A technology- and information-based society requires citizens to be able to think, reason, and analyze. Knowing mathematics means being able to adapt and apply mathematical ideas to new situations and to a variety of problems.
You can find this on page 21. The framework is a quick read at 58 pages and appendices full of strategies and resources. Get your own copy, you can't have mine.

It's TIME,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Common Core Elevator Speech - Day 3

Day 1
Day 2

I had a break between events this afternoon, so I stopped at In-N-Out for an iced tea and a chance to hang out for a few minutes. If you've been to a recent training or presentation of mine, I briefly share my admiration for the In-N-Out business model. Although Barry Schwartz doesn't talk about In-N-Out in his TED talk, The Paradox of Choice, he tells a parallel story extremely well.

A few notes from this afternoon:

Today's elevator speech isn't one I'd consider using, but something to chew on:
I enjoy In-N-Out Burger because of the experience, convenience, service, affordability, and great taste. When I think of the experience at a deeper level, every detail is important: the ingredients are fresh, the service is friendly and efficient, and the menu is simple yet customizable. Common Core and the 8 Math practices can be a rich experience that encapsulates critical thinking, conceptual understanding, and applied math. When you decompose Common Core, every part is important because both standards and practices demand our teachers and students to explore concepts in depth, obtain procedural fluency, and apply said skills to real-world situations using mathematical modeling.

Animal style,

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Common Core Elevator Speech - Day 2

Common Core Elevator from Day 1.

Today, I'm going to take a different direction. Enter the elevator and press your floor number. Here we go:

I believe the Common Core standards are a tool for both students and teachers to explore problem-solving and increase mathematical conceptual understanding. Picture the first cell phone you saw or owned as a tool used to communicate. Compare it to any of today's cell (smart) phones and how the tool has evolved and improved. As a tool, the Common Core standards will help students evolve to be better, more robust math students in order to think critically and communicate.

Next floor,

Monday, September 8, 2014

Common Core Elevator Speech - Day 1

For the next week, I will challenge myself (and you) to work on an elevator speech each day about Common Core Math. I will try to be as fluid as possible in my thinking as if I were describing Common Core to a complete stranger as we rode an elevator together. And with that, here's today's elevator speech:
For me, Common Core is a tool to help students see how the world around us can be explained using critical thinking and mathematical properties. My favorite part of Common Core are the 8 Standards for Mathematical Practice. No matter what grade level, the practices emphasize that both teachers and students are problem solvers and how important it is to understand why mathematical properties and procedures exist, and not just the answer. I get to see my students thinking and focusing on finding solutions through hard work and collaboration instead of me just standing up at the front of the room, telling them a procedure they will most likely forget in a day or two. I get to see students be creative in their mathematical thinking and I help guide them when they need teacher support.
Come along for the ride and share your elevator speech in the comments. Take a minute or two to compose an elevator speech. It's a work in progress...

Going up,

[Update] More days:
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

Monday, September 1, 2014


The first day of school is this coming Wednesday. I've never been two days away from the start of school and done so little preparation. It's weird. It's really weird. Here's why:

I won't be:
  • greeting students at my door
  • having students estimate my height
  • having students estimate the total class' height
  • passing out papers with school/class procedures
  • setting up grade books
  • making seating charts
  • hanging up stuff in my room
  • preparing for back to school night
  • preparing homework, notes, photocopies, etc.
  • sharing with my students the math I saw during the summer
Admittedly, I won't terribly miss items four through nine. However, the first three and the last always hold a special place in my math heart.

I'll be one of about fifteen Digital Learning Coaches (DLC) in my district this year. I'll be supporting 8-10 middle school math teachers who volunteered to be a DLC Fellow. Together, we'll be finding ways to integrate technology in their classrooms to meet the needs of their students while providing powerful learning experiences. Every time I look at technology or think about implementing some program, application, or digital tool, I look to ask myself (and the teacher), "will this [digital tool] be a more effective and efficient way for student and teacher to learn mathematics, gather data, assess understanding, or communicate?"

I will be:
  • frequently in the classroom with students and teachers (thank goodness!)
  • listening to teacher needs, desires, and goals
  • building relationships with students and teachers
  • building number sense with students and teachers
  • having (mathematical or non-mathematical) conversations with students and teachers
  • developing/designing lessons
  • teaching (co-teaching or modeling), if necessary
  • sharing many of the wonderful resources from you (the MTBOS)

I know I will miss the classroom and having my own students. However, I look forward to designing lessons and testing them out on different students throughout the district.  I look forward to learning so many things from both the teachers and students. It'll be an extreme pleasure, honor, and learning experience for me to be working alongside so many different teachers and students.