Thursday, 16 February 2017

OAME 2016 Ignites

This is a post I should have put up over 8 months ago. (These recaps were typed up on Friday, May 6th, the day the presentations occurred.) I nearly posted it here to end May 2016, but ended up musing on Supergirl instead. Since then, I’ve felt like maybe I should do more with it. At this point, it’s about getting it out there. I may have still beat the videos. You can also see prior OAME Ignite 2015 and OAME Ignite 2014 on this blog.

For those unaware of the format, speakers have 5 minutes to deliver a talk, using slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds. There were 15 speakers (down one due to a family emergency) and presenters played “two truths and a lie” where they gave 3 “facts”, revealing after which one was incorrect. I didn’t track that. For more context about the conference where this occurred, you’ll want to read this prior post.



Enjoy these rundowns, typed in real-time, then slightly edited months later for readability.


1) Matthew Oldridge - from Peel

-Math is...
-It is what parents and teachers make it. Which is what this story is about. Amazing, terrible, awe inspiring beautiful...
-There’s innumeracy in the world, like the infamous double decimal (gas station).
-Andrew Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Theorem, “This is Mathematics” is not school math, so what is school math?
-Shows quote from 1990, we’re already one generation within the reform math movement.

-We’re very good at perceiving patterns, and at teaching this. The exertions of common sense by other means is doing mathematics. We want this judgement by students; deal is a rip off.
-What do kids say, a way of describing our world is math. Malke Rosenfeld from Iz, Age 10. Also DFJH_Nitchell, Stella, less happy. On Twitter. Early Math is Serious Math. But we have to get playful too.
-“I have infinity money, I have more than I can count.” (like Donald Trump) What is the biggest number you know? We don’t even know place value yet.
-Infinity wondering is as dividing down towards zero. Things we can play with.
-Don’t be like the goat saying “I was just never any good at math”, we have the power to shape students attitudes towards math.

-Strategies and activities play a part. Classes should be talking, thinking, conjecturing, wondering. Yes, basic skills and concepts, but also thinking, always yes.
-Grade 6 student: #MathIS the most powerful force in the universe... use it wisely, use it well.


2) Ron Lancaster - from Toronto

-What to be “passionate about”.
-Ron considered a career in Computer Science after being a finalist at the 1970 Int’l science fair. The idea died when almost failing CS at McMaster University; an Assembly Language grade of 57.
-Passion rekindled in 1985 when a student brought a Casio graphing calculator to class. July 1990 saw the TI-81, then in July 1993, the TI-82 REALLY changed everything, had a port for sharing programs. Len invited him and Bob Hart to do more, T^3. (Teachers Teaching with Technology.)

-On Dec 31 1994, students ran a program to have the TI screen take 10 seconds to drop the New Year’s ball. More programs with putting two calculators together, creating pictures.
-Using it to make a graph is nice, but to do these kinds of things (seen on slide) is at a much higher level. Look up these programs, there’s many for the last 25 years. The trend is to make the programs interesting. There’s a Stereograms program! We can get kids interested in programming this way.
-We need to be more open minded, not linear in how we view mathematics, or we’ll say there’s no time. We need to get with “the program”. :)

-Final thoughts: Ron is grateful to Len Catleugh (retired after 43 years) for inviting him to be part of the T^3 family. 60 outstanding Cdn educators.
-In 1996 the OAME game Len an award for contributions. He’s retiring in June. Talk is to thank Len as much as this is about coding.
-Ron left as a MYSTERY which of his three intro statements is the lie.


3) Cathy Bruce - from TrentU

-Spatial reasoning.  tmerc.ca @drcathybruce
-With young children and teachers, read a UNICEF study, 12% achievement gap between high and low resource children. Didn’t think it was so high.
-Math is the best predictor of school success. All students are capable. M4YC (Math For Young Children), fundraisers of the research over the years.
-It’s polyhedra, but spatial reasoning is also: non-verbal reasoning, orienting, scaling, etc. (many words on slide)

-Imagine you are a bird flying directly over this flower (imaginary perspective taking), which you would you see?
-Consider symmetry, not only horizontal and vertical, but it’s all over our world and 3D figures. (Symmetry versus mirrors of each other.)
-Grids, orienting, mapping, are foundations to coding; a form of pre-coding. Spatial reasoning is dynamic; this tweet shows visual proof with a mirror for circle thinking.
-Playful Pedagogy, exploring this, asking children to play with math ideas. View things in different ways, then verbalize, verify through exploration. Open tasks with no floor or ceiling, use bodies to explore equality ideas.

-Working with under resourced children, they’re surpassing their peers, and weirdly and wonderfully they’re also showing gap closing in number (magnitude) also.
-Mental rotations versus crossword puzzles. The former did better with addition problems.
-Spatial Reasoning is a great dance party, it spans across geometry into the other strands of mathematics and our daily lives. “Taking Shape” (published a book), activities to develop in Grades K-2.
-Look at those girls, they deserve to do spatial math and complex math.


4) David Costello - from PEI
“I’ve never used a microphone before, I’m pretty loud as it is.”


-Units of Study. Building blocks or thinking blocks. How do we plan our math?
-How it started: @dr_costello tweets “why is math broken into units”. Learning goal, how does the yearly plan impact student understanding.
-Connection to the classroom. What does your yearly plan look like? “We’ve always done it that way”, it was originally designed as a method of separating concepts. (Teach - test - move on.) What is taught is not necessarily what is learned.

-Similar to “Speller” program: Short, discrete units. Words are separated based on prefixes, sounds, etc. Spellerization. Such short term compartments, encourages the idea it’s something you have or you don’t have, without focussing on the understanding.
-Fractions quiz. 21/20, solved all of it, but don’t know how to get it. Comprehension vs Decoding. In regards to math, completing procedures. Need a Multilayered approach to instruction. Connections made between concepts to help synthesize learning.
-Place Value. 4 Math Operations. Why separate them? Wouldn’t it make sense to integrate? Name one math concept that does not relate to another. “Laughter is good”
-Spiral vs Linear, we still treat as not. Moving short term memory to long term memory, for a spiral. Processes that we focus on, yet when reporting, we structure it back through discrete stoics and strands.

-Flexibility is a necessity not an option. How I got here from PEI.
-Instructional Goal: Not to cover curriculum. It’s to get students to be multidirectional problem solvers. If we teach in silos, we promote compartmentalized thinking.
-If I can ace a test but not use it, what’s the point? It’s not about covering curriculum, it’s about students understanding.
-“I’m counting down the last few seconds, what a great looking crowd you are.”


5) Marian Small - from Ottawa

-Years ago, I (Marian) was the mom of school aged kids. I was involved. “I was a good mom”. Supporting the school and teacher.
-I was also an elected school trustee in NB and I fought for what I thought was right. Fighting to save music program, for better teachers/admin
-One battle was fierce, I sided with parents against the board. Eventually I was no longer a trustee and I told my kids I just couldn’t care anymore.
-Wise daughter: “Mom, some day I’ll have kids and you’ll get involved again.” So here we are. She was right.

-Being a citizen, here’s what we need in a school system. Teachers who are kind, supportive, positive with kids. Teachers who “know” their students. At interviews, I don’t want to know the mark, I want that you know her.
-I expect teachers to work hard at improving their craft - and you are those teachers, or you wouldn’t be here today. I want teachers who “personalize” their teaching. Given “This is what I do” vs “We’re supposed to do this”, I preferred one, guess who.
-I expect a system that makes it easier for teachers to collaborate. One that doesn’t turn a blind eye to teachers who are not kind to children and/or who don’t teach well. Should ensure leaders, in schools or central, are both expected to be, and given time to be, instructional leaders (not managers).
-Curriculum is more about instilling a love of learning than covering expectations. Do help students see math as a way of thinking, not as something you do for 60 (or 75) minutes a day. We shouldn’t make teachers choose between meeting students needs and delivering expectations. Your curriculum document doesn’t give enough information, in my opinion.

-I expect a system that values intellectual debate about it’s workings. You’re allowed to have constructive criticism with those who are in charge. Have an honest look at the dilemma of marks.
-I hope this is not just my dream. I am not a teacher or education official. But I hope those of you who are, share my dreams, and help make them a reality.


6) Jill Gough - from Atlanta, Georgia

-What do you see when you look at this face? Honours student? Someone curious? High achiever? Low?
-Leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in your charge. Simon Sinek reference. This girl is working hard. How are we helping her attend to precision, maybe in more than one way?

-“I know that before, I am good at math”. We want that for every learner in our care. Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain. The battle to develop confidence, resiliency and positive self image is large won or lost in school.
-“The Myth of Average”, Todd Rose TED talk. Average doesn’t really exist. We need to be aware, even if we don’t say them aloud: Words Matter. Can we let go of expectations?
-Do people who learn by making things have the opportunity to show it? How do we offer opportunities for those students? Or those who need to think deeply before talking? Those who are dreamers, who make statements that don’t seem to be connected? We don’t want them to be shut down.
-Are our environments communal? We want them to become confident mathematicians. Do they know how to make sense of a task and persevere? Do we show our thinking, so that they can begin to learn and grow?
-Teacher says to a child that “this does not make sense”. Encourage them to make that thinking visible, then we can see their success in many ways. Flexible, artistic, creative students. Then when they understand, we help them to #ShowTheirWork

-Do we teach our students to use colour and imagery to help things make sense to the reader, and to have a community where feedback is sought instead of feared? Has a picture “Feedback needed”.
-When we hear the question WHY, why show things in more than one way? Because our children need us to, to take care of those in our charge.


7) Mary Bourassa - from Ottawa (OCDSB)

-150,000 Questions. That’s a rough estimate of the number of questions asked of students. Of course, I had a concussion when I came up with that number.
-But how many were good questions, helping students to move forward? Reality is, probably not that many. Wonder how big your inner circle would be if you asked that question.

-Enter the MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog O’ Sphere). A number of them have helped in considering better questions for deeper thinking. Like Dylan Kane. “Change one digit to make the equation easier to solve.”
-Uglier, hard questions don’t necessarily develop understanding. More thoughtful questions can’t be solved by doing a sequence of steps. Want to change questioning away from algorithms.
-Sam Shah with Better Qs blog, has many meaningful posts. Tab called “On Questioning” with a great list of questions broken up by what you are trying to accomplish. Not just good questions, but asking questions for the right purpose.
-Good questions take planning, we have to be intentional when asking them. Don’t make it a leading question. Tailor the question to student or class. Wait time is really hard, but we need to give them time to think.
-Want student to work at a deeper knowledge then a level of 1 or 2. Thinking about mathematics, not simply stating facts or following steps. Get students talking to hear their points of view. Helps to expand their repertoire of tools.
-openmiddle.com has many pathways of getting to an answer. And visualpatterns.org (which is my favourite one). Slides: “You have about 8 seconds to figure out how many tiles are in the next.”
-Showing patterns are equivalent, which is so powerful. For algebra. And wodb.ca (which one doesn’t belong).
-Open questions with Marian Small and Amy Lin. Here’s an example. “Which of these are most alike and why?” (Slide: lines with varied slopes and intercepts)

-In summary, need to: Orchestrate conversations to not give away thinking, note wait (processing) time, make every interaction count.
-For the next 150,000 Qs - ask better questions does not have to be complicated, but purposeful. Focus on sense making, not only right answer, find questions to spark curiosity.


8) Amy Lin - from Peel


-“Grade Expectations.” How to transform a culture from grading into assessment.
-It’s not really about that, it’s about motivation, and nature vs nurture in the classroom. I didn’t realize I wasn’t supposed to do what I did, I simply did it?
-Math should allow an exploration of educational avenues. The push towards good grades has minimized the ability to innovate. Losing that learning is messy.
-We have to let leave that grades measure the knowledge of a certain math topic. What do “Average Marks” really tell you?

-If test comes back, first thing is students look at their mark, even if they have written comments. Calvin & Hobbes comic. Second thing they do is look at someone else’s mark. “Schoolies” comic. Students may start cutting corners or compromising ethics.
-Only gave descriptive feedback for 1D course, mastery form. Then have students self-assess, and involved in grading process when comes time to give a mark for report card.
-So instead of testing assignments, they’re all over the table and arguing and discussing what they did and what they knew and what’s the important concepts. They’re usually more honest than you think, not inflating their marks.
-This is an example of a high school math class when we need to relinquish control. Students aren’t naturally accepting of no grade. (“Sit, Say”, never “Think, Innovate”.) Will I lose marks if I do this or don’t? Then 3 weeks in, the innovation to learn math starts to shift.
-Final summary from a student: I feel good about math when I am learning more than yesterday. (Versus having good marks.)

-Three Wishes: I wish to never have curiosity crushed by conformity. To still have passion for learning. That only type of learning isn’t grading.
-It’s not about facts being stored in your head, it’s about creating a person that appreciates math intellectually and socially. We’re creating an illusion that worthiness is a result of calculations. It’s time we’re being trusting of a different story. “Follow your North Star.”


***SESSION BREAK***

9) Alex Overwijk - from Ottawa (OCDSB)

-Peter Liljedahl: I spent a weekend with him in 2014 and two days this last school year. He’s had a massive influence, I’m drunk on his koolaid. #ThingsPeterSays
-Replace instruction with activity based teaching, go in more depth as you go through, spiral the curriculum.
-You need good tasks, open ended with low floor and high ceiling, multiple entry points, multiple solutions, hands on activities, and the list could go on.
-VNPS (Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces), students stand and solve, the feedback is timely.
-VRGs (Visibly Random Groups), a deck of cards, figure out size of groups, boards are labelled 1-10 and cards are too. Get up and get at it.

-Stage 1: Very blunt and in your face, but easy to implement. About room and students. Give oral instructions. If 20% of kids understand, then that understanding will make it’s way around the room. DeFront the room to make it about what students do, instead of what teacher does.
-What questions do we answer? There are 3 Types. 1) Proximity Qs. Don’t answer simply because you’re near. 2) Stop thinking Qs, eg “is this right”? Don’t answer those either. 3) Keep thinking Qs - you can engage in those.
-That’s Stage 2, less blunt, more difficult to implement. About students and teacher and room. “Middle size gear.”
-Communicate with students to tell them where they are, to report grades, and to be clear about what we value. Evaluate what we value; if we want tests, it’s a problem, because students are smart, they’ll figure out what we REALLY value.
-This is how we level knowledge: Not bringing everyone up to where we want them to be, then the ball falls back down. Level to the bottom instead, watch no one fall down. Totally absorbed and in the moment.
-Create flow, a balance between skills and challenge. Avoid Boredom and Anxiety. Keeping students in flow is good teaching.
-To manage flow, increase or decrease students in a group. Take best member, put somewhere else. Teacher could join a group. Then could play dumb. Give a hint, or give a group an easier task.

-How we assess and how we level and manage flow is Stage 3. Very subtle, very hard to implement. Small size gear. All teacher driven.
-If not now, when, when if not you, then who. Make the massive change. If not, students and other things will pull you back down.


10) Jon Orr - from Lambton-Kent District

-The Hero’s Journey: A mathematics tale. A philosophy of teaching. Idea on story, an English teacher’s idea.
-Begins with our favourite characters from TV or movies. Time versus tension, put it on a graph for math. Time passes (horizontal), tension is speed (vertical), what the character feels.

-Beginning. All stories start the same. Battle forces of evil. Crisis. Learn things about themselves, strengths and weaknesses. Needed to make the ending awesome.
-As story ends, the tension drops back to normal, but it’s a new normal. That’s learning student curve as well. This is a process we go through when we learn something of value.
-Let’s talk about math class. It was always taught the same way. I taught it this way for ten years. Job 1 is to take up homework, it’s in the manual. You put it up, or students put it up. Then Job 2 is to have definitions, procedures. Then do examples, then homework. Then you rinsed and you repeated.
-Put this on the same tension-time graph. Time of a lesson versus tension the student is feeling. Begins the same, but the tension then falls.
-Reveal, discovery of math rules and strategies. Students should feel the NEED for math. The procedures mean nothing, we’re robbing them of a chance to bring value to what they’re learning.
-Let’s take this old model of math learning and flip it to the new model, discovery of math rules. This is the flipped class. Want them to be begging for a better way to solve problems. Productive struggle with inquiry. The time is right for this.

-Let’s use Amy Lin’s and Marion Small’s open problems and Dan Meyer’s 3 acts, and WODB math and Desmos (my crush), to have this journey. Give the #RealFlippedClass a try.
-Allow students to transform their own story, put them through the hero’s journey.


11) Lisa Lunney Borden - from St. Francis Xavier U

-Show me Your Math: Education for Reconciliation.
-Quarter life crisis, quit job to get PhD. More indigenous knowledge to mathematics.
-Quill boxes made from birchbark, measure three times across, and a thumb width, works out every time. “That’s pi”; they say “it’s just common sense”.

-Invite the kids to talk with the elders, not us with the elders. Let the students be the researchers. Mi’kmaw kina’matnewey community. “Show Me Your Math” wanted a help desk contest; instead, for last 10 years it’s been a math fair.
-Exploring the math in community practices. The math in making a wigwam. This is bringing back stories that may have been lost. Our Elders were mathematicians too. Learning together, coming together, restoring cultural knowledge.
-We’ve shifted to Inquiry Projects in schools. Eels Kataq Project. Created scale models of eel habitats at low tide. Maple Syrup making. Blindfolded to see where their gathering place is. “Show me your language” to look at language laws and traditional language and Gaelic community too. Shared history.
-Making a drum, from steaming and bending wood to stretching leather, intergenerational learning happens. “I remember Auntie Caroline doing that at the basket shop”.
-Making an 8 pointed star, birch bark bitings. Innovating. Stencils. Making Canoe paddles with fractions and symmetry, using traditional methods.
-Grandfather’s Lunch, sharing our finished products and hearing the stories. Only as they became adults they can do it.
-Wholeness resists fragmentation, cultural synthesis. Building their own personal self.

-I invite you to think about how you might find your allies and community content, and invite them to show and you, to show me, their math.


12) Graham Fletcher - from Atlanta, Georgia


-1,025,109.8 is the number of words that make up our english language. Don’t ask me about the .8th, probably from southern states where we use “fixit” and “y’all”.
-Words are put together as Command-Exclamation-Question-Statement. Which of these allow students to talk more, and us to talk less? 16,000 words in a day. A man once spoke 48,000 words in a day. Probably a math teacher.

-Where do we use all our words? 17% (asking), 83% (showing, modelling, telling, giving). This perplexed me, how can I take this idea and flip it? Here’s 6 lessons I learned on the road to becoming an 83 percenter.
-It took time before the lesson came into play. To collaborate with colleagues and figure out, “I can’t have time to not have the time”. Plan up front, ask questions that can’t simply be answered with a yes or no. Questions beginning with “Should have” or “Can you do” become my Franks RedHot sauce - put it on every student.
-Max Ray: Listening TO student responses is greater than listening FOR student responses (2 < 4); go to his Ignite Talk.
-Voice in my head is saying stop talking, you don’t need to clarify or justify, just listen. Yo, zip it, keep mouth closed... and it’s hard to do.
-Fourth lesson: Wait time is hard. Silence is powerful and awkward. (Graham didn’t speak for the time that slide was up.) What that silence does, when we embrace it, is shows what students have to say is more important than anything we’d have to say to them.
-No standing zone. Where are you positioned in a classroom? Questions from the front are far less effective. Walk amongst the tables, with the students, does a better job of talking less and listening more.
-Lesson six: As teachers we are in a position where we can talk a lot, but we need to choose our words and our sentences carefully. The less I talk, the more they actually listen to me (when I do), because I’m not rambling on.

-As you go back to your classes, choose your words and sentences effectively, or you’ll sound like Mrs. Donovan. If you don’t know who that is, just ask Charlie Brown.


13) Chris Suurtamm - from UOttawa

-Everyone is a Mathematical Thinker. I don’t just mean everyone in this room, I mean everyone outside of the room too. Struggling learners, mothers, siblings, students.
-We see math in the fractals of broccoli, in the spiral of a shell, in a pinecone, in the structures we build all around us. Look at this building, in this building at the Faculty of Arts.

-But some feel math people are special. In this drawing from a young student, “math guy” has glasses and mismatched socks. But that’s not what a math thinker looks like. We’re all math people.
-We often hear administrators or parents or friends at cocktail parties who say they were “never a math person”. But even as a young chid, we’ve all: sorted, organized, grouped, looked for patterns, and tried to make sense of the world around us + objects we interact with.
-As we get older, we have to use objects to help think of what makes sense. Math tools are needed for everyone, not only struggling learners. We use technology to generate graphs, and we consider periodic functions, how do we change the amplitude or period? What if I dip a cube into a bucket of paint?
-Use this model. We are all curious. Not just George (monkey picture). As teachers, we need to value the curiosity that students bring to us. We need to listen to student thinking. I was going to use Charlie Brown and that teacher (see prior speaker); we can’t listen in our teacher voice.
-School math vs Math at home. Using cookies versus adding numbers. “Their mind is not a blank slate.” We need to use their intuition and thinking.
-I’m thinking of a number, if I do these operations, what is the number? They can solve an equation, all we do is formalize the way they already think when writing and solving it in the classroom.

-Our most important job as mathematics teachers is to question, listen, and respond to students’ mathematical thinking. And to respond in ways that move that thinking forward.
-Value what students bring with them, connect new ideas to their ideas. Everything is connected. All students have the right to many things, including being valued and most importantly being heard.


14) Doug Duff - from Thames Valley (TVDSB)

-As an elementary school principal, maybe I look at it differently. Can a math focus improve a school? Nine points of change. (Top “10 minus 1” change)

-In working with two large schools, what you focus on changes! Level 4s in both. (EQAO Gr 6) Belief that kids can learn.
-What happens when you focus on changes? Everything changes.
1. Formalize the Focus. Number flexibility, connections among strands.
2. Planning. What’s your path through curriculum. Front loaded notion of number.
3. Broadcast the Goal. Interactive Bulletin Boards, wish we had thought of it earlier. Display all the kids work. Representing numbers, string moving through and connecting decomposition, etc. Also “Fraction of the day”, reasoning and proving that fraction, what’s halfway.
4. Assessment Data. Schoolwide common tasks. Moderate with “Criteria for Analysis”, based on really deep number understanding (Kindergarden task, matching worms). Kids are doing things teachers didn’t know they could do, can now remediate. Develop progressions, early number understanding; FDK Task shown. Let’s look at complex cardinality, move kids through progression.
5. Timetables. Numeracy prep teacher. Best math teacher goes around and does inquiry in classes. Number progressions, move from additive to multiplicative.

-Second fastest improving school in the province, Princess Elizabeth Public school in London. “Don’t just stand there, do some math.”
-To learn the rest of the list, come to our school.


15) Paul Alves - from Peel

-Be More Cat: A rebuttal to Amy’s “Be Dog” talk from last year.
-Sit back and relax. A talk would be stealing most of that other stuff anyway. So listen to a story, The Hero’s Journey. Don’t be that dramatic, because teaching is hard.

-“A Teacher’s Story”. Grade 10. Reality of different students in class: Distracted one, the cool kid, the keen people. (pictures of cats for these)
-Recollecting. A whisper “Your fly is down”. I’m literally giving them everything I’ve got, then it’s April Fool’s. Ha ha.
-I felt more prepared but maybe not for what I was teaching. Some students just want 3 math credits and to get out of there, others want to go further, how to meet the needs of all.
-One of them says “When will I ever need this”. Did my best to pull the wool over his eyes, and everyone else in class at that time. But if I’m bored, I can’t imagine how the kids feel. Things will change. Talked to another teacher.
-“Why not”, what’s the worst that can happen. Rich Task: “Game of Frogs”. VP came in during the game, using the kids as live frogs. “We’re doing math, just relax”. Using slides and jumps to get across.
-One of my students came up and said had solved 10 by 10 frogs, did you find a model? “It’s just S’s and J’s man, all 120 of them”. Posted his solution.
-Jane’s Story, one student outside my door with a crumpled assessment. She was just tired, could see the pain in her face. Let’s just do it again, why not - do you know it? If not, let’s find out. When you do, let me know, and then we’ll try it again.

-Without deviation form the norm, progress is not possible (Frank Zappa?)
-“That wasn’t the slide I asked Amy to include at the end”. Final shoutout to Amy Lin who put all this together and got all the speakers, a lot like herding cats. Thanks.



And that’s the whole set. Hope you enjoyed these short recaps of similarly short presentations. Feel free to let me know if anything stood out for you in the comments below, and/or check out the rest of the OAME 2016 conference.

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