Saturday, 25 March 2017

Not Teaching: Week 38

Well, the Math Minutes were done, the Serial Fools Swap is regulated, and I’m into the WebComic Swap. I went to an Irish bar after St. Patrick’s Day (the waitress said she was less busy) and a Pizza Hut lunch after March Break (ditto). It’s still felt pretty crazy, but I think it’s working out on all ends, including medical. I wonder if this is how English teachers feel in March? (The Ontario literacy test is this week.) Also Bones is ending after 12 seasons! I won't get my David Boreanaz fix any more.

Previous INDEX Next

*
Item counts run Sunday (March 19) to Saturday (March 25).

Step Count: About 55,000. 18 stars.
Again, all days staying between 7500 and 8300. Stars every day this past week though, that’s new.

School Email Count: 99 New (26 sent)
Conference organization and cancellation - busy week here.


Writing/Art Related Items:
 -Drew and inked comic for Monday
 -Finished reading research for April Fools post
 -Wrote 2000+ word entry for April Fools Guest post
 -Started reading research for April Fools comic

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Doctor’s appointment Monday
 -Math Council meeting Monday and Minutes done
 -Dinner with friends Monday
 -Another chapter in Gleick’s “Time Travel”

POSSIBLE NEXT ITEMS:
 -Get Comic Guest Post done
 
Cat Cafe. A week old, but meh.
-Post recap about Anime North (from May)

 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Post recap about AFEMO Conference (from Oct)
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -French Citizenship project
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

Still keeping up with tumblr and RoyalRoadL reposts.

Previous INDEX Next

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Not Teaching: Week 37

My guest post “Models of Time and Fate” went live this past Monday. Since then I’ve been crazy busy, which is kind of the opposite of a normal March Break. Largely because April 1st will involve two guest posts and the coordination of a Math Conference, yet all of my buffers and cued up posts are gone now. Gah. So, actual writing, very sporadic.
Previous INDEX Next

On the down side, my “Cubic” song parody was not a finalist, and I don’t know why I submit math parody songs anywhere (including YouTube). On the plus side, actual comments on my serial, and another math fanart. Onwards.

*
Item counts run Sunday (March 12) to Saturday (March 18).

Step Count: About 52,900. 12 stars.
Still a very uniform distribution.

School Email Count: 26 New (4 sent)
March Break. But Conference incoming.



Writing/Art Related Items:
 -Wrote, drew and inked a comic special for Pi Day
 -Inserted NEXT posts for ENTIRE Math-tans serial
 -Reading research for April Fools posts
 -Started ANorth 2016 recap

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Yoga Monday
 -Dinner with friends Monday
 -3 Family dinners and a lunch
 -Tidied house and hosted a dinner

POSSIBLE NEXT ITEMS:
 -Doctor’s appointment Monday
 
Picture is hung
-Math Council meeting Monday

 -Get Serial Guest Post done
 -Get Comic Guest Post done
 -Post recap about Anime North (from May)
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Post recap about AFEMO Conference (from Oct)
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -French Citizenship project
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

At this point, I need to not fall further behind.
Previous INDEX Next

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Not Teaching: Week 36

Seems the more caught up I am, the less productive I am. It’s not like I don’t have things to do, and the list isn’t that much shorter than it was in January. Do I fear being caught up? Relaxing? Possibly I fear a lack of scheduling. One of the things I discussed with the kinesiologist this past week was how yoga feels like a “disruption”, because it’s only once a week. Whereas I’m always up by 9am to watch “Mayday” on Discovery channel. I thrive on routine. I hesitate when it's absent.


Previous INDEX Next

Interestingly, school is very routine - until it isn’t (tests, extra curriculars, assemblies). The mind is a crazy place. Remember to set your clocks ahead if you’re in North America.

*
Item counts run Sunday (March 5) to Saturday (March 11).

Step Count: About 52,800. 14 stars.
Very uniform distribution this week. A star is 10 consecutive minutes of more than meandering.

School Email Count: 56 New (2 sent)
I now need to pull together a short social media presentation by Apr 25th.


Writing/Art Related Items:
 -Inked in comics for last Monday and this Monday
 -Wrote more comics, up to #300 (not inclusive)
 -Finished Commentary 26 for T&T (mostly)
 -Wrote most of the guest post for Time2TimeTravel
 -Joined “ComicBookHour” forum + posted

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Yoga Monday
 -Doctor’s Appointment Wednesday
 -Another chapter of Gleick’s “Time Travel”
 -Family dinner Friday

POSSIBLE NEXT ITEMS:
 -Post recap about Anime North (from May)
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Post recap about AFEMO Conference (from Oct)
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -French Citizenship project
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

Holding pattern, I guess. Made some blog comments too, I don’t track those.
Previous INDEX Next

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Not Teaching: Week 35

I’ve paid the College of Teachers and have the papers submitted for returning to school in September 2017. I’ve also been dealing with math conference organization and Cappies signage. Starting to think, maybe the only way to achieve work-life balance as a teacher is to not do any teaching? Well, let’s see what March brings.

Previous INDEX Next

*
Item counts run Sunday (February 26) to Saturday (March 4).

Step Count: About 53,100.
After hitting 33 straight days of 7500 steps or more, today, only inched over 2000.

School Email Count: 69 New (8 sent)
Looks like the conflict with the school play is now Progress Reports, instead of Report Cards, so that’s something.


Desk needs tidying. Been working on dining table.

Writing/Art Related Items:
 -Inked in comic for last Monday. Sketched comic for next Monday.
 -Finished edits on “No Reason” (now “Free Will”) and submitted to Flame Tree Publishing call for Short Story Titles.
 -Did two Math COMA Recaps for 2016.
 -Did at least half of Commentary 26 for T&T.
 -Randomly sketched Megan (T&T), Rose and Paige.

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Saw “Lego Batman” with friends Sunday
 -Yoga Monday
 -Dinner with friends Monday
 -Went to school’s “Annie” production Wednesday
 -Got back to reading Gleick’s “Time Travel” (also Time2TT site)
 -Went to NAC “Infinity” production Friday
 -Brunch with friends Saturday

POSSIBLE NEXT ITEMS:
 -Doctor’s Appointment Wednesday
 -Post recap about Anime North (from May)
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Post recap about AFEMO Conference (from Oct)
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -French Citizenship project
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

The list IS shortening. I’m considering reaction writing to my anime binges.
Previous INDEX Next

Friday, 3 March 2017

PD Social: Ontario Math

The Carleton-Ottawa Mathematics Association (COMA) aims to have a Social every year, in September. It doubles as a chance to hear a speaker. I previously blogged about 2014 (Marian Small) and 2015 (Kyle Pearce), so here is 2016. Chris Suurtaam (from University of Ottawa) spoke about the topic “What makes math education in Ontario great?”.

Viewing mathematics education from an international perspective, we’re doing pretty well. Where do we stand?

Consider equity versus quality on a graph (from Pasi Sahlberg presentation at ICSE 2016). We often measure equity (horizontal axis) by how narrow the gap is between high achievers and low achievers. Quality of student achievement can come from scores (as PISA). Where would a country like to be? Where is Canada?

Chris notes she was “in Scotland, listening to someone from Finland” and up in the cloud, high in both measures, was Canada (along with South Korea, Japan, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong). Those countries are “Well known” for high achievement in assessments but also high equity.



We don’t hear about this, we often get painted with the same brush that the US gets painted with. While others, like the US, are still climbing the “stairway to heaven”. If we look at PISA scores for 2012 (international assessment of 15 year olds), Ontario is 514, while International Average is 494. So we’re well above, while the US is below that average. Yet as their stories are perhaps not as positive, we get drawn across the southern border.

Chris says that a researcher came to visit recently. A fellowship to Canada to see what we’re doing. They could “find out what’s in Singapore or Hong Kong” but that’s a very different context, Canada has more similarities to the USA. “You should all pat yourselves on the back”, because instead, you get beat up over the kinds of things that are happening. Yes, PISA scores dropped slightly in the last assessment, but it was exaggerated in the media.

Canada is fairly well respected in terms of our math education system. And we have high standards. We’re just not showing it. So what is it that makes us great? Chris doesn’t have all the answers, but wants to use a framework based on what she’s done in Ontario with teachers, to do some analysis. (ASIDE to Blog readers: Canada’s education system varies by province; Ontario isn’t the same as Quebec, which isn’t the same as the Western or Eastern provinces.)


FRAME WORKING


The framework is based on the guiding principles for school mathematics. Consider “Principles to Action”, NCTM 2014. We’ll go through these points: (1) Access & Equity. (2) Tools & Technology. (3) Curriculum. (4) Teaching & Learning. We’ll save “Assessment” and “Professionalism” for another talk. Chris will be drawing on her recent research over the past 10 years. Which includes “Curriculum Implementation in Intermediate Mathematics” (CIIM), a focus on Gr 7-10 teachers, “What Counts in Math”, communities of practice studied over 2 yrs, “Pan-Canadian Pedagogy Project”, which looks at what things are like in BC, Quebec, etc, and the “Grade 9 Applied Project”, also studied over 2 yrs.

(1) Access & Equity. “I think we’d all nod to that”, and we want to be sure that’s not just for our gifted students, but also for our struggling learners. All students have the need - and Chris would say the right - to engage in rich mathematical activity. All students need (and have) the right to these things: To Engage, To Have Opportunities, To Time, To Feel Valued. It’s more than just worksheets.


(2) Tools & Tech. “Some of you had me when you were teacher candidates”, thus know Chris refers to manipulatives and mathematical thinking tools when she instructs. But it’s not just about manipulatives. Look at the kinds of technology that many of you use: Kahoot, Nearpod, Plickers, Desmos, Geogebra, Geometer’s Sketchpad. “All of these things I observe you using in your classrooms.” And they’re used in interesting ways.

Chris shared one way she saw a teacher use EQAO questions (from the Gr 9 mathematical equivalency test in Ontario). At the time it was plickers, could easily be kahoot or other. These were Gr 9. Applied level students, looking at a summer gardening job question: $10 flat plus $8 per hour, which graph matches (A, B, C, D). The teacher gave them a couple of minutes, they keyed in their response, and then she displayed responses... a pie graph about evenly split four ways.

Chris wonders where she’ll go with this. Teacher: “Turn to your partner, and tell them why you think your answer was right.” After some time for this, she put it up again, everyone individually keyed in responses. Now almost ALL of the responses were the same, and on the correct answer. It was a wonderful example - and this teacher did many more - of using the technology in a very collaborative kind of way. It was formative assessment for her, in a collaborative environment, more than a timed competition (which can be how some use those devices). The students can talk about why to pick this one over that one.

(3) Curriculum. Phrases like “Develops important..." are defined in that “Principles to Action” NCTM document. Chris claims these are satisfied in Ontario. But even though our current curriculum has been around since 2005, over 10 years, why are people still talking about it as NEW math?

Consider, what does the research tell us. What about learning progressions (what to teach first), about a network of learning, about new pedagogies? And what are other countries doing and how do we compare? ”When I visit other places”, they’re surprised that there would be consultation with education researchers or teachers. It’s not as though the curriculum comes out and we totally disagree, so we’re lucky to have that consultation progress. 

Actions that students should do in a mathematics class: Identify, Compare, Describe, Pose problems, Evaluate, Gather, Connect, Expand, Investigate, Sketch. Chris adds her beginning teacher candidates are often doing those things themselves too. It’s not about the number of manipulatives on the table. Manipulatives don’t always mean it’s good lesson.

Chris shows an image from Singapore, their framework. (Note: Singapore was an outlier in the country graphic above, high quality despite middling equity.) The graphic shows math problem solving at the heart, and pod areas around for: Attitudes, Metacognition, Processes, Concepts, Skills. “You’ll see words that pop out from our curriculum.” Then there’s also talk of mathematical competencies with South Koreans, French, and Germans, similar to our mathematical processes. (You can just look on the internet and see other curriculums.)

(4) Teaching & Learning. We need to engage students in meaningful learning. So they’re not just cutting and pasting, they’re doing some math. Big ideas that get broken down, what does that look like. “Productive struggle”, support this, even if “we want to rescue those kids, to save them”.

Look at implementing tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving. “Rich Tasks.” It’s like a buzzword, but we’re looking for varied opportunities with multiple entry points - not a simple task, more one with high cognitive demand. Everyone at tables had the following problem on a sheet, and were asked to work on a solution “that you think a Gr 5-8 student might produce”.

PROBLEM: Tug of War 1: 4 frogs tie with 5 fairy godmothers. Tug of War 2: 1 dragon ties with 2 fairy godmothers and a frog. Who wins the third Tug of War: 1 dragon and 3 fairy godmothers versus 4 frogs?


PROBLEM SOLVING


We had 5 minutes to play. I think I had seen something like this before, as my immediate inclination was as follows. Focus on the 3rd scenario, swap out the 4 frogs for 5 fairies. Then, remove equal fairies until I had 1 dragon versus 2 fairies. The dragon will win; the fairies are missing a frog. Others at my table were looking at unit rates. We spoke briefly. Should the scenario be modified to avoid such a direct swap on my part? How deliberate was this option? If someone finds this solution, should they be encouraged to look for other ways?

Chris warns sometimes we give a task and “scaffolding too early can reduce the cognitive demand”, taking away opportunities for students to explore and build confidence. Support productive struggles.

Grade 7 teachers in a conversation on October 9, 2013: “I like the struggle, and I do that too.” ... It’s “part of my own struggle as a teacher, because you’re so wanting to just get in there and help them and save them. But the standing back and giving them time, and realizing that often they WILL get it, and get more out of it when you let them do that - when you let them struggle.” Which, Chris says, is what she knows Ontario teachers do.


We looked at some different kinds of solutions from a class. “Did you draw pictures like this?” One student explained reasoning as “we started with 4 frogs and we decided to value them as 10, because 10 is a friendly number”. It was a value of their “strength”. Why strength? “Well, I thought about Pokemon.” And from there to rates. Another student valued 20 and 20 (each side of the rope), so in a way, they’re doing a similar thing. “Once you assign a value to one, it influences the others” and that’s huge, realizing that.

Chris said it was very interesting, the diversity of solutions. Not necessarily using algebraic reasoning. (See mine, above.) In the end, the teacher pulled the students together and had them compare, to see a richness in the kinds of solutions. That deals with another teacher practice. Use and connect mathematical representations, to deepen understanding of concepts and procedures.

Also, facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. Used to be teacher to student, student to teacher, but students hearing teacher talk is like in Charlie Brown. Understanding comes from student to student discussion, need to facilitate those. Give the opportunity for debate. “I teach with my door closed all the time because we are loud.” It’s okay not to agree. See shared thinking that almost sounds like one voice, back and forth discussion, while working on a problem.

Another practice is: Elicit and use evidence of student thinking. Such as having whiteboards around the whole room, shoutout to Peter Liljedahl (who was in the audience). It’s about making student thinking explicit, and eliciting student thinking, making it so the teacher can also see their thinking. Otherwise there’s no way to see what’s going on inside their head.

Also, pose purposeful questions. The teacher in “Ferris Bueller” (Anyone, anyone...) is not asking purposeful questions, ones that help me get a sense of understanding. Ask “What makes this a linear relation”, then give wait time, and listen, not just waiting for someone to say y=mx+b. “Teacher questions in action.” At the end, “Why does that make sense?” If there was one question to tattoo on your arm, that could be it.


WRAP UP


And those are the kinds of things happening in Ontario classrooms. It’s that list (above) that Chris often sees as she wanders around classrooms and engages with teachers. And that’s what the principle document says too. We’re building classroom environments to promote math understanding and thinking.

What are the things that are common elements? (“Oh I do that too”.) Chris says they tried a concept map. What often came up was the goal of teaching, that idea of “Developing students’ math thinking and understanding”, from which components of a lesson come out. But a lot was on the environment. Knowing when to step in, making connections, choosing groups... and valuing student voice. “We saw that as huge.”

So Chris thinks we’re doing a great job in Ontario. There’s ways that you can engage in student learning, and it helps us stand out internationally. If there were any questions, feel free to ask her, suurtamm@uottawa.ca


For more on Peter, see this post.
A final note: As I mentioned, Peter Liljedahl was in the audience. He chatted briefly with some of us afterwards about an experiment that had been done in Chile, in Spanish. They filmed classes for 21 teachers, with one fixed point in common: The same problem to solve. Then they separated 30 second segments of the results, to create a video highlighting key points (the intro, student work, wrap-up, that sort of thing). Then had teachers watch the video. “Why did you think to do that?”

Peter quipped that “every time I do something, I get 10 years worth of data”. Since it takes 10 years to do proper analysis, he’ll likely be busy for about 160 yrs now.

And with respect to the PISA study, referenced above in the measure of quality of student achievement? The last questions are: “How hard did you try.” and “How hard would you have tried if this was worth marks.” They don’t publish this in Canada, but Peter had recently tweeted the information out. (He got this data from Sweden.) The biggest differential between those numbers? Is in Sweden. The second biggest? Canada. Is it the students that “really try” who have the higher scores?

Thanks for reading this post! Feel free to comment below on any questions you might have, or anything that stood out for you. If you teach in Ontario, consider joining the OAME, and if you’re in Ottawa, your chapter is COMA.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

PD: A Measure of Success

The Carleton-Ottawa Mathematics Association (COMA), the local chapter of the OAME, tries to have a Conference or Forum of some sort every year. I should know - I'm the secretary.

I believe the last time I blogged about it was in this 2013 region PD post, when it took place in November. I have covered the COMA Social (a September event) more recently: In 2014 with Marian Small (Public Math Relations), in 2015 with Kyle Pearce (Math in Context) and in 2016 with Chris Suurtamm (Ontario Math) - tomorrow's link now active.

Due to logistics, since 2013, our local mini-conference has changed venue and time of year. This post will look at what occurred during the 2015-16 school year, specifically on April 23, 2016. I happened to attend the session run by Bruce McLaurin, entitled “What a Rowdy Grade 9 Applied Math Class Taught Me About Teaching”. I reproduce a summary of that here.


THAT CLASS



Bruce had presented this topic at a University “Ignite” session (12 slides at 15 seconds each for three minutes), and is slowing it down here to provide more truth.

Knowing when to shut up is a gift that few people are born with. This particular class, it would take them five minutes to settle down, then a deluge of stuff that can be unrelated - so Bruce learned to shut up. They were not good listeners, they would keep talking, so no lectures.

Also, Bruce didn’t have a textbook. TIPS4M (a collection of questions, TIPS = Thinking/Inquiry/Problem Solving) let him pull away from a text. Students were nervous, they questioned this, they thought they couldn’t learn math without a textbook. He gave in, the text lasted a couple days, then they put them away again.

There were no notes. They just did the math every day, handouts going into lockers - or recycle bins. There was no homework. After this, Bruce is not a huge fan of homework in general anyway. (As a parent, homework ruined his family life.) The French president (Hollande) even proposed banning homework in 2012. Truth is: “Most who do the homework, don’t need to. Most who need to, don’t do it.” Don’t even call it homework, call it PRACTICE.

So what do you do with no lectures, no text, no notes and no homework?

Bruce brought his math class to shoot baskets in the gym, to get data, to determine where on the court is the toughest shot. Once they had the data, the students did 20 minutes of quiet working analyzing it - unplanned. Bruce thought, there’s something to this. Not merely gathering their own data, but the movement. It was not easy to implement this. (He spoke about EQAO results and changing schools.)

Children need love the most when they appear to deserve it the least. An exercise: Write your feelings on a piece of paper. Crumple it into a ball, and throw it. Read the crumpled messages of others. Anonymous (but may be able to find out?). Question to use: How Do You Feel About Math?

“Parents are sending you the best kids they have. They’re not keeping ‘the good ones’ at home.” It’s not you, it’s me. Bruce also remarked here that he’s concerned about repeating his stories, and explained why, personally and professionally.

Even though Grade 10 Applied is a huge amount of work for him, he has now requested that course. Just step off the cliff, try new things. Bruce then opened up the floor (if memory serves, based on a shift in my handwriting), wondering about directions from here.


SOME DISCUSSION


Questions that came up: How do we judge or measure success, if it’s not immediate? (Things can change day to day in a classroom.) What do we value in a math classroom? (Some students value repetition, so is that the practice they need?) Grouping and randomizing was also brought up. Is it true that 60% of things we tell kids, they already know? (Consider students who don’t do well on stuff from last year, even if they did well on it then.)


Student survey: It’s a little scary, but we need to do that, to look at the effectiveness of what we do. To start looking at data. How good are our techniques? Try a survey in September versus January, see if there’s a change.

Bruce had some information here. Statements for students to rank: “You can be creative in math class.” “I talk about math when I am not in school.” Agreement with “I like math” versus “Math is one of my favourite subjects.”

The danger with small changes, is you’ll reset. Big changes tend to stick. Bruce’s closing words: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

A couple other items referenced afterwards:
-Slogan of some shoes: “Always in Beta” (New Balance), it’s a bit like a classroom.
-GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) is not great - look to Finland for better work.
-A possible claim to prove: Two exponential equations can have more than one solution/intersection. More engaging that way?
-We should be talking more with elementary and middle schools towards choosing Academic and Applied in Grade 9.
-Instead of “assigning homework”, “offer practice”.

Thanks for reading this recap! (Try to be vaguely impressed; by helping out with the school play, I wrote this after being at school every day since Easter in late March. April 23rd here was my first day off.) Comment below with thoughts or questions. Note COMA's Ottawa mini-conference this year (2017) will be at the start of April, only a month away - do let me know if you want more details.