Posted in Education, Professional Development, Uncategorized

NCTM Institute Reflections, day 1


My day began at the Clarendon Hills train station. I reread the portion of Dave Burgess’ book, Teach Like a Pirate, so that I could begin to think about how I want the beginning of my school year to take off. I’m still stricken by the importance of building relationships and how key it is. Although I would not change a thing about my pregnancy or maternity leave with Jacob as it was the biggest learning experience of my life, I think I truly learned about the repercussions of not setting up and maintaining the relationships with students from the beginning. When I came back after my 2.5 month leave at the beginning of the school year I barely introduced myself before I dove into content and I paid the price for the remainder of the year as I was constantly compared to my substitute and never felt in touch with my class. I think that the relationship building that takes place in that first week is key to success with class and I am truly looking forward to a new approach to those days.

Seriously, it’s the Sears Tower…ACTUALLY when I was a kid I thought it was the SERIOUS Tower…this whole Willis thing is lost on me.

The introduction to the keynote speaker brought up the “butterfly” method again.  I actually saw Phil Daro speak about this and have been on the constant lookout for “butterflies” in my classroom ever since.  That is not to say that a mnemonic device every now and then is not helpful, but when it impedes the mathematical conceptual understanding that is where the problem lies. Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 5.20.32 PM   The end of the keynote left us with the following, which I LOVE!


Following the keynote, we went to our assigned discussion groups. I was in a great group of teachers. Seriously it felt like a cross section of the United States: representatives from Nebraska, Illinois, and South Carolina. We engaged with the math right from the beginning.  Working with the South Cook Math Initiative has given me an appreciation for doing math while participating in PD. I, unfortunately, made some “attend to precision” errors. I was mad at myself because I know better than that, however, making mistakes is something that we all do and the whole idea of “FAIL” meaning the “First Attempt In Learning” is not lost on me. Maybe revealing those mistakes to my students will enable them to feel more comfortable in my classroom.

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 5.21.46 PM

The part of the discussion group that really struck me was the idea of equity. Although it was not an expressed, planned, intentional outcome of the discussion, the lesson I gained was invaluable. As teachers were comparing two tasks that were presented, teachers brought up that they would use one of the tasks with their upper students and one with their lower. The upper students would get the broader, more open ended task, while the lower students would get the multiple part, more textbook-ish task. I wanted to ask, “WHY?”. Why shouldn’t both levels be allowed to grapple with the problem?  Why were only the upper students allowed that opportunity.  Now I am not saying that we should give unapproachable tasks to our students.  However, I think that we should allow all of our students to attempt the challenging mathematics and find ways to make it more accessible to everyone through our questioning or through discussion with students.  I’ve heard the word “equity” thrown around lately and did not realize how prevalent of a problem it really is.  I wish that I would have shared my thoughts at the time. I guess this will have to be my forum until I find a new opportunity to share my thoughts on the topic.   I chose to attend a breakout session on Probability.  It was nice to get back into that frame of mind as I plan to teach AP Stats this fall.  It was funny that before the session I talked about this great TED video on the argument that we should teach statistics before calculus and then the presenter STARTED with that video.  The presented then did an interesting lesson on independence where we were to create a two-way table in which the variables were independent and compare it to the one that we had just discovered was not. I liked the idea of building the inside of the table when usually we just make inferences from a table that already exists.   The last lessons from my day actually came from the train ride home. I sat on the upper deck with the intention of sitting alone and composing this blog. I sat facing the last backwards facing seats and a couple sat down. I don’t know how the conversation started but let’s just say I didn’t get to do a lot of reflecting like I planned. However, they were awesome. They were telling me about how they’ve traveled the U.S. by driving a truck that carries ultra light planes. They actually were assisting with the Air Show in Oshkosh. It was interesting because they were asking my advice on where to go and what to do and mentioned that they were eventually headed back up to Wisconsin and my suggestion was going to be to see the EAA. Anyway, I reminisced about my travel job with Starfish Aquatics where I got to travel the U.S. (from DC to the Poconos in New England to Arizona) and how I didn’t enjoy it because the entire time I just wished I had SOMEONE to share the experience with. Trips by yourself versus with others – why are they more fun? It’s OBVIOUSLY not the destination… I would argue that it is because of RELATIONSHIPS you have with people and sharing the experience. And so my day has come full circle…

Being touristy… this was in Union Station while I was trying to figure out where the Metra Station was…
More tourism 🙂 I think I’m always in awe when I visit the city. Unfortunately, I don’t think the feeling is mutual when people visit my suburb :).
Posted in Education, Flipped Classroom

Pump the brakes…but still full speed ahead with #flipclass

This summer has been incredibly inspiring when it comes to my classroom for the upcoming year.  I was asked to assist with registration tonight and I served in the room that got parents into their PowerSchool account and through a registration process for a product our counseling staff utilizes to assist students in their college and career planning.  This experience was really eye opening.  I had two parents who were unable to use a computer mouse which was shocking to me (and really shouldn’t but it was).  It made me really reconsider the ways that I will probably have to accommodate some of my students this fall as I attempt to flip my classroom instruction.  I think that this experience would deter some teachers from their original course of action…however, it had an opposite effect on me.  I realized that now MORE THAN EVER I need to help my students address these 21st Century BASIC skills.  Maybe through enlightening students to the possibilities of technology will they be able to get their parents on board with the ideas.  So although the experience gave me pause to think, it has reinvigorated me even more on my mission.

Posted in Uncategorized

“I Gotta Share That” #science guy podcast inspires #MathEd girl

I just finished listening to a podcast by EduAllStarsHQ interviewing Steve Spangler


So much of what he said resonated with me, a math teacher. Specifically the idea that in 20 years from now will any student ever say “I remember that worksheet from Ms Stone’s class”? He also talked about the importance of making connections, to both each other and the content. I loved when he was talking about the mix of content and and passion. Anyone can be taught content, but you can’t teach passion.

This was so relevant to my work this summer with Teach Like A Pirate. I don’t know if I’ve EVER felt this passionate about my work. I can’t wait to use that to fuel my lessons. Now I want to pass that on. The adrenaline I feel now is amazing and I hope I can “pass it on” to others and help them achieve their goals and aspire higher.

Posted in Uncategorized

Has anyone used Google Hangouts #gho or #skype for Parent/Teacher Conferences?

I was thinking about the possibility of using a Google Hangout or Skype to be able to have parent conferences. Lots of parents work or have lots of kids and it prevents them from coming to actual conferences. However, there is something more authentic or real about conversations had face to face rather than by phone or email. I was wondering if there are pitfalls to avoid or if it seems like a bad idea.

Posted in Uncategorized


After listening to a podcast from the Flipped Network on encouraging teachers to attend PD. One idea I loved was a badge system (specifically, you could get an icon on your door) or gamification. I also really want to introduce tech to my staff through my PD sessions without teaching it directly. I’m thinking to have teachers sign in using google docs etc.

Posted in Uncategorized

Hey @MisterAbrams, I finally got to try #SketchUp

OMG – So I finally had a reason to use this and – OMG it is awesome. It made me want to teach Geometry again :). SketchUp was easy for me to learn with very little looking up of things. It helped that I had a reason to actually do something with the program as opposed to just playing with it. My husband commissioned me to come up with a drawing that was “sort of” to scale. Now I want to make it more to scale. This was so fun. Thanks @mistarabrams for introducing me to the app (probably a couple of years ago at this point). If you want to see the sketch, here it is

Please don’t be too critical as this was my first attempt.

I can’t wait to think of a project to have my students do with this.

Posted in Brainstorming, Education, Math Coaching

Math Coaching Ideas

After listening to some podcasts I wanted to jot down some ideas for math coaching this fall. I have been a math coach (with release time) for the last several years. I want to have more impact and get more teachers involved. A couple of the ideas that I have garnered include:
Challenges with some kind of badge system (similar to the SummerLS challenges)
Three hour lunch for completion of challenges
Take over your class for completion of challenges
Use my PD time to introduce my teacher friends to the world of tech, starting with Twitter. I think that this can be accomplished through tying the idea to one of the math practices.