Sunday 30 August 2015

Better Qs

Last week, Sam Shah tweeted this:

I immediately replied because I was at Rachel's session, and at Dylan Kane's session and at Robert Kaplinski's session, all of which were on questioning. My #1TMCThing was:

(I'm going to let go the fact that I can't seem to get those two tweets to be the same size, but know that it is really annoying me.)

What were Sam and Rachel planning, you ask? A most awesome collaborative blog found here. There are already a number of posts, so check it out!

Why did I agree to be a contributor? Plainly because I know that I need to work on asking better questions. I hope that participating in this collaborative blog will give me that push to try harder. Of course I feel completely overwhelmed by it all right now, but I haven't started school yet, so I guess that's okay.

If you would like to work on asking better questions, become a contributing author. The instructions are on the blog. And if I haven't convinced you head on over to Sam's blog post about it.

Sunday 2 August 2015

Warm-Ups 2.0

Back at the end January, I created (i.e. compiled from all the great stuff out there) a set of warm-ups which I used in one of my classes last semester. Each student received a duo-tang* on the first day of classes with all 18 weeks of warm ups. These did not leave the classroom.

I have updated my warm-ups to include Which One Doesn't Belong?, Open Middle, along with better balance benders. There are also now quadratic visual patterns thrown in from week 6.

Here is the DropBox link to the Word file. Please feel free to edit them to better suit your needs!

*Apparently the term "duo-tang" may be a Canadian thing. This is what I am talking about:

Saturday 1 August 2015

To Those Considering Attending TMC16

In a recent conversation, a teacher whom I respect greatly, said "Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to register for TMC". This is an amazing teacher, who has deservedly won every award possible, who gives workshops around the country and is among the kindest, nicest, most genuine people I have every met. How could TMC seem to intimidating to this person? I went to Twitter Math Camp for the first time in 2013, knowing no one, rooming with a complete stranger (who turned out to be lovely) and really not knowing how or if I really fit in with this community, so I understand the anxiety leading up to TMC, but I still went. I wonder if the community has grown so strong in the past few years, that it seems to be more intimidating. Well, let me shatter that for you. The teachers at TMC are the most welcoming and kind you could find anywhere. The teachers whose blogs we all read are down-to-earth people who are, just like you and me, trying to get better at what they do. They will sit down for a meal with you and give you a hug when you fix their tech issue. TMC is an experience - one that is at times overwhelming, but one that is always positive. There are times on Twitter when some express opinions that bash something that another teacher makes work really well in their classroom - I find this very unfortunate. In my three TMCs, I have heard none of this. It's just really positive. I have met so many great people through TMC - people that are now friends for life. I have connected with teachers who really push me out of my comfort zone and make me think about teaching in ways I would not have on my own. Meeting and having conversations with these people in real life really strengthens my on-line connections. It's much easier to jump into a Twitter conversation when you actually know someone in that conversation. It's about community (as Lisa said), and TMC strengthens your sense of belonging to this amazing MTBoS community we have. So I urge those of you who didn't make it to TMC15 to make plans to be at TMC16 - you will not regret it. 

TMC15 - Morning Session: Activity-Based Teaching

I teamed up with Alex Overwijk this year to offer a morning session at Twitter Math Camp on something we are both passionate about: activity-based teaching. We had a fantastic group, 30 strong, who jumped right in with us. 

Day 1:
After quick introductions we started right away with an activity. We showed this picture:

and asked them what questions came to mind. Al brought the original picture from National Geographic so everyone could look at it up close. Look really closely - that speck at the bottom is a person! Next, they formed groups and came up with their group's top three questions with justification for choosing them. After that the groups snowballed around the room - they chose the top question from each other group's top three and wrote why they chose it, then put it under the desk so as not to influence other groups (I was supposed to take envelopes - that's what we do in class - but forgot to pack them). Then each group got back to where they had started and read what the others had chosen as the best question and why. Each group then chose and wrote what they deemed was their best question on the blackboards surrounding the classroom, along with all the reasons for having chosen that one. Here is what some of that looked like:

We then moved into a discussion of what makes a good question. Co-creating this criteria in the classroom helps students learn how to ask better questions. Here is the list we created:

Not every question has to hit all of these criteria, but it is something to strive toward.

Next, we talked about criteria for a good activity. Each criterion was written on the board and then everyone had 5 votes for the ones they valued most. Here is the list, in order, based on those votes:

As [optional] homework, we asked them to read Al's blog post on 26 Squares, found here.

Day 2:

We started by talked about 26 Squares which, over the course of about 3 weeks, allows students to see linear relations, quadratic relations, Pythagorean theorem (sum of squares), similar triangles and right angle trig. You can read more detail via the link to Al's blog above. Perhaps this is a good time to mention that I blogged every day in my grade 10 applied (MFM2P) course last semester so if you want more of a day-to-day breakdown, start here.

We did another group activity called Serial Position Curve. Al and I had come up with a list of 20 words which he read. No paper/pens or devices allowed - everyone had to remember as many as they could. Then they had time to write down as many as they could. Such focused students here!

We then counted how many had written each one and I put that into Desmos to show number of words vs. position of the word in the list:

Here are the words, in case you were curious:
hat, fork, golf, nose, horse, glass, belt, canoe, watch, book, shirt, phone, tent, ball, truck, foot, pencil, gum, ring, skate.

The relationship looks somewhat quadratic and can be used to ask questions about the features of a quadratic in context. My students get pretty good at telling me what the vertex means, not in terms of "it's the lowest point", but "the fewest people remember the word in position 12". We came up with a number of good questions to draw out the math. We also talked about what this means in terms of memory and how this can be used in real life.

We also did a 2nd run with a new set of words, only this time at the end Al "burned" everyone's short term memory. Here is my data and graph and this is what Dylan Kane did with it:

I think we spent some time just talking about spiralling (I wrote this after TMC14 as an overview) and answering questions to finish off day 2.

Day 3:

We started day 3 with me saying that although I have jumped off the edge of the cliff with my grade 10 applied classes, I still teach with units in other courses. I have been incorporating activities in my classes for, well, forever, but have made a much more concerted effort in the past few years to add meaningful activities where they make sense in each of my classes. I find this more difficult the higher the grade, but continue to look. I often find that matching activities work to help consolidate learning. I'm pretty sure I showed a few examples of other activities - this blog post likely highlights most of them.

Initially Al and I thought we would have everyone in the group create an activity of their own, but we changed the plan. I had started a Google spreadsheet to collect activities as I thought this would be more helpful in the long run. The intent was that this way we would all share with each other and everyone would have a starting point if they wanted to add activities to their class(es) this year. Well, the one-and-only John Stevens ran with this and turned it into the MTBoS Activity Bank which is searchable and all kinds of awesome. We populated it with 68 activities during that morning session and everyone can submit their own using the link at the top of the Activity Bank page. This is such a great example of "together we are better"!

A huge thank you to the participants in our morning session for making it so great. Apologies from me for not contributing as much as I would have liked. I know we will all stay connected throughout the year and support each other in our journey to make our classrooms better for all our students.

Post Script:
Since TMC15 I have decided to go against the flow and will be spiralling my grade 10 academic class this fall. I'm very grateful to have the full support of my principal. My plan is to blog every day to help me reflect and perhaps provide something useful to others along the way.