Wednesday, January 3, 2018

TMC 2017 – Reflections

For me, I went straight into pre-planning the day after Twitter Math Camp 2017.  Though I started writing this piece about a week after school started, I am just now finding the kind of rest and relaxation to give it proper air time and reflection.   I would have liked a few days or so to digest all the awesome ideas I got at TMC17 before returning to school, but the energy I had from it was a huge plus for enthusiasm going into a new school year.   Now four months later, I am embracing the chance to talk about my conference experience in an applied way.

Looking Back to the Conference Itself with a Quick Glance/Reflection

This was my first year attending Twitter Math Camp, and a lucky thing was that I live in the Atlanta area, so I did not have to travel out of state to go.  I did however, avoid the Atlanta commute by staying at the TMC17 designated hotel.  The benefit of that far outweighed just saving commute time – it allowed for so much more opportunity to meet new people, socialize, and enjoy meals and evening activities with new friends.

I had put in a proposal to do a morning session on Socratic Seminars.  I only had 2 people come to the session on Thursday, so I went ahead and closed it because just needed a few more than that for it to be meaningful, and I did not want them to miss out on something else that could be really influential to their craft by staying.  The good thing that did come out of Friday morning after I closed the session was meeting and talking with Daniel Forrester, who was the point person from Holy Innocents for TMC17.   I did share my materials with him and talk about the Socratic seminars and how they worked.  We are both teaching Pre-calculus this year, so we extended our visit to swapping ideas for that course.  We also exchanged contact email for sharing throughout the year.  He is an amazing person and I am sure an awesome teacher.  Had I not needed technical help for my session, and then not had my session, this conversation never would have ensued- one of many great things!

I was able to meet some great people and go to some amazing afternoon sessions including Glenn Waddell’s session on math concepts that carry through K-12 math courses and how to enhance them at every level, Chase Orton’s session on calculus concepts for early ages, Anna Vance’s “Make it Stick” session, and I was lucky enough to get in on an added “Clothesline Math” session by Chris Shore.  All of this great stuff was in addition to the fantastic keynote speakers each day and the “Favorite Things” talks at lunch each day.

How TMC17 Enhanced My Classroom Fall Semester 2017

One great thing that happened at TMC17 was seeing my student teacher supervisor Christopher Danielson again.  I had ordered his turtle and pentagonal tiles, and he was kind enough to bring them to the conference for me rather than ship them out.  It gave us a chance to catch up and he shared with me his latest passion of working with “Math on a Stick” at the Minnesota state fair as well as his hopes to expand on it however he can.  Christopher has always been a passionate educator and champion for conceptual understanding, and I love that he has taken this to the “ground up” approach with #tmwyk and tactile ways of letting people of all ages engage in “Math Play”.    The tiles he delivered were the first step I took in creating a math play table in my classroom.   The kids absolutely love it, and I have added to it as the semester progressed.   My husband was not sure how this would work in a high school classroom, but I was proud to report back with pictures of football players “at play” on the table.  He was flabbergasted, but intrigued.  He became a believer in it as he progressed through his curriculum and training for a second career math teaching degree.  He wants to teach geometry, so I know when the time comes, I will have to make sure he does not start stealing my tiles for his classroom!  Though it was my play table, my husband was yet another pre-service teacher influenced by the ideas and skills, and knowledge of Christopher Danielson
Below are some pictures of the play table this semester:  Thanks Christopher!

I absolutely loved Glenn Waddell Jr’s session:  “Bridging Elementary Skills & Concepts to High School & Beyond”.  In this session, he highlighted fraction work/exposure from early elementary on through the bridging ideas of intermediate and middle school concepts of common factors and multiples that lead to fractions in the form of rational expressions in high school algebra.  This year I am teaching Honors Pre-Calculus, and in the beginning of the year our pre-requisite work involved review of the operations of rational expressions.  I took extra time and used Glenn’s approach and bridging of elementary, intermediate, and middle grades concepts to build for a deeper understanding of rational expression work for review.  Since the application of these operations would manifest itself in operations for verifying trig identities later in the semester, I knew it was a now or never thing to get the conceptual understanding as solidified as possible.  Wow did it work well!  I have never seen students at this level master this concept so well and with such depth; especially the addition/subtraction work rational expressions.  Further, their strength in mastery of that operation carried through very well during trig identity proofs 3 months later.   His ideas and work with connecting concepts across the grades is a winning addition to our craft-Thank you Glenn!

Our classroom play table in various stages this semester:

Elissa Miller shared a classroom management practice she uses for a “My Favorites” presentation.  I believe she calls it “Two Nice Things”.   The ideas is that she uses this when kids say unkind things to their peers in her classroom.  For every unkind thing a student says towards another, she then expects them to share two nice things about that student.  This really resonated with me as a great way to turn negative comraderie into a positive act in a classroom.  I started this immediately into the semester, and it worked so well.  Double-edged sword is this:  I stopped having to do this early on in the fall, which was great in that it meant students were more respectful of each other, but I did like giving them the experience to think about the balance of positive and negative feedback as it is an important life-skill and such a necessary one to our craft.  Thanks Elissa!

Anna Vance’s “Make it Stick” session was solidifying for me.  I had read the book and loved it, but the ideas of spacing, lagging, and spiraling were still seemed like such a blended concept to me rather than separate intentions.  Her session helped me to develop them as separate entities in my mind and figure out which ones I had implemented and what I wanted to add in the future.  Last year I started to spiral homework, but it fell by the way side early.  This year I decided to continue work with this concept first and got further with it this semester, but the cramming in the end due to missed weather days off set the attempt in the end.  I will continue with spiraling of concepts next semester, but in a way that probably mirrors more of the spacing concept.  I want to keep students working on concepts that need strengthening and reinforcing as they venture toward Calculus next year.  Even though I have not seen this practice through consistently, I believe it has really helped students in the times that we were able to do this.  Thanks Anna for straightening these concepts out for me!

Clothesline math presented by Chris Shore is an incredible concept – the proof is concrete in that there was demand for a second session of it at TMC17 AND the room was packed to the gills!  I integrated this concept into my fall Unit Circle Socratic Seminar, which will be a separate blog to follow this one.  I did not actually use the string, but the concept of it was there and played an important role in the development of radian use on the unit circle for the students.  There is so much great work that can be done with number sense across all grade levels involving this strategy, and I would love for our new Algebra 1 team to learn this method, but time and lack of funding for professional development got in the way for first semester.  I am hoping we can find the time to show our new team this at some point this semester.  Thank you Chris!

Ideas from TMC17 that I Plan to Drive My Second Semester Instruction

I attended the Desmos session on the Wednesday before the conference began.  At this session, there were break-out sessions developed for the afternoon.  I attended Chase Orton’s session on calculus concepts for early ages.  In this session, he talked about the concept of area in early grades extend into non-vertex edge images/curves in an estimation sense; further, to use concrete area calculation to drive the estimation.  I had never thought of connecting this idea so early and in parallel to usual area concepts and calculations.  As I look to second semester with my Honors Pre-Calculus class and think to our algebraic units this coming semester in preparation for Calculus, this will be a concept I embrace when looking at graphs of functions.  We have the time to do it as I have just “functions” penciled into the calendar, so what a great way to enhance the study of the curves of functions they know and lose redundancy that is typical in this practice.  Thanks Chase – I cannot wait!

Lastly, I went to a session on standards-based grading given by Tony Riehl and Jennifer Brackney:  “Standards-Based Grading in a Traditional Setting”.  This was so informative for me on the ideas of implementation of this practice as our district is and has always been a traditional grading district.  A beginning contradiction to that, our district has started piloting standards-based grading practices in a few of the elementary schools with intent to expand into all grades at some point.   I had always come across standards-based grading on a 4-point scale when exploring it, but I really liked the presenters’ 10-point system that they developed to bridge the transition from traditional to standards-based grading.  This semester, I am looking to utilize the information and resources they provided in working on my data collection and analysis skills; I need work in that area.  Our department chair is already implementing the practice of posting our standards on our tests this semester, so it seems like a natural pairing.  This will be a big challenge for me, but I am committed to at least developing it along with her request.  I really like the objectiveness that it brings to the table of evaluation of student skills, and I am hoping I can find enough success with it to share in further development of our Algebra 1 and Geometry initiative for next year.  Thank you Tony an Jennifer for providing this valuable information for traditional-based classrooms to involve themselves in a more growth-orientated mindset!

In closing, there is so much more I experienced at TMC17, but I would be writing for days and days; I wanted to highlight the experiences that have and will receive real-time application this year.  Though I wish my session at TMC17 would have come to fruition, I realize it was pre-mature of me to try to speak at a first Twitter Math Camp being a newcomer.  I wish I had allowed myself the opportunity to be a participant at one of the other morning sessions given how much I drew out of the shorter afternoon sessions.  Those sessions have driven my instruction thus far this year and fuel my excitement for more implementation for 2nd semester as I sit here and write 2 days before going back to semester 2 pre-planning.    I am hoping I will get the chance to experience a thorough and in-depth morning session as well as more afternoons sessions in Cleveland as I do plan to enter the registration lottery in February.  With holiday festivities over for all of us and a new semester in the dead of winter ensues, 

I am hoping the timing of my reflection of TMC17 can help boost the yearly excitement we all feel for TMC this time of year because the professional development and relationships we form at TMC are priceless!  

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