The Dream – Help me out here, #MTBoS

I’ve had my first day back. I’ve met with new colleagues at a new school. We’ve started making plans. I’m full of hope and belief in the new year, but I can already see the mountain of work ready to bury me in its immediacy and distract me from my goals.

Thus, I’m stating my goals here so you can all hold me to them. If you have ideas or thoughts about them, I would love to hear what you have to say.

  1. Regularly do NumberTalks. I have, at best, been scattershot with this one in the past. I have done them, my students could identify them for me, and although I (and importantly, my students) have loved nearly every single one, I have not committed to doing them regularly with fidelity. I will change that this year.

[Update: 12/10/16

I am regularly doing number talks, but have given myself too many excuses for days they don’t happen. I stuck pretty regularly to the rule of 3/week for the first quarter and now little excuses like, “Need time for the quiz,” “Oh, I have a good warm up, we’ll use that instead” are popping up. Knowing I planned to update this post, I recommitted and did more this week and was grateful for it. Throughout the year I’ve seen students starting to steal their peer’s ideas. The most common stolen idea has been a tweak to the traditional algorithm. My students no longer say (or quickly correct themselves if they do), “you can’t take 6 from zero”


Which I suppose is a silly, but for some students, it’s a significant and good tweak.  I hear students say, “YES!” when they come in and see that we’re going to do a number talk. I see students starting to speak up now if they hadn’t earlier on. So the update to this goal is: 

Do number talks 3 times per week, no excuses. Plan them ahead on Sunday. I can change them later if I want, but I will do numbers talks 3 times per week in each of my classes. ]

2. The Mathematician’s Project. 

[Update 12/10/2016

Well of course I’m still doing this, and as I’ve written about it a lot elsewhere I won’t do so here. I will say that I have learned my lesson that I should not just try to “remember” a talk I gave last year. I never do it justice and the enthusiasm on everyone’s part goes down because I am not speaking to specifics, but rather as my memory fades about a specific story I’d read, I start saying generalities. Re-research any talk that is a repeat from previous years. 

I will say that I’m working on tweaking my record of the mathematicians. I would like to be able to sort and search for mathematicians by identity and by mathematical specialty, so I’m slowly working on turning my list into a spreadsheet that you can sort & search.]

3. Talk less, and give my students the structure and space to talk more. It is too easy for Annie-of-10,000-words to dominate the classroom discussion. I would say more here, but…

[Update 12/10/2016

Failing miserably at this one. I have oodles of excuses, but they’re all terrible. Help! How do I step back and talk less? Who has successfully started to break this habit? My current focus is to stop summarizing my students and asking them to repeat when their peers don’t understand/follow. Which is manageable and easy to call myself on, but it isn’t enough. What else works?]

4. Require written reflection of my students…and myself. I firmly believe the most enduring learning happens with regular, thoughtful reflection. If I don’t provide that to my students, I doubt they will do that type of learning on their own when the bell rings. I have to make space. I will continue to blog here.

[Update 12/10/2016

Not nearly enough. I have done a few. I was very pleased with this quadratic-matching-reflection  (connected to this activity quadratics-matching-katys-proposal) Nothing mind-blowing, but students summarized their findings nicely and I was surprised how many needed to spell out things like the connection between vertex and vertex form.

I have been very displeased with homework – just now I’ve re-tooled this week’s homework to include a summary question at the end. Will update again after I try that out.]

5. Stop asking boring questions, whenever I can. Instead of asking students to solve 10 problems, I will ask them to rank the problems in difficulty. I will ask them to write another problem for that set. I will ask them what story the equation tells them. I will refer often to the phenomenal resources provided me by Chris Luzniak and Matt Baker.

[Update 12/10/2016

Enter sheepish face. I’m doing it more often, but good gracious am I asking boring questions still. Blech. I’ve had a hard time adjusting to assigning homework every night and nearly all of my homework, for the sheer volume of it, is horribly boring. 

There are successes though! I’m not totally terrible! I liked the combination of the Wheel of Theodorus, an irrational ruler, and these questions for reviewing radical math with my geometry students. 



I just need more of that and less of “solve this quadratic”. Good, reviewing this is helpful. Knock it off, Annie.]

6. Use images & gifs intentionally to promote student generation of knowledge. Instead of telling them equations, I will try to have them conjecture and create. In the past, what has worked best for me is leading them with images, gifs and other media to help them generate ideas.

[Update 12/10/2016

Finally. Something with which I’m not actually embarrassed about my progress. I rocked this in geometry. We use gifs and pictures throughout our constructions to make sense of what’s happening and why one thing works and another doesn’t. Many of those are up on my GIFs post.  I made a lot of much simpler ones, too. We’ve been using geogebra and sketchpad in class to test hypotheses. I was particularly pleased with the conversation we had about this gif. 

regular hexie construction

It revealed a ton about what language my students knew, didn’t know, and how they were perceiving constructions. We had a great conversation about whether this was just a miraculous case and had Ms. Perkins cheated to make this work out so perfectly? If I started with the compass elsewhere, would it have not worked? It was great. Keep this up, Perkins. Do more of it.]

7. Give myself a break…occasionally. I fully expect to work a lot harder this year than last. I’ll be at a new school with new colleagues, students, structure, & curriculum. If we can only reasonably change 10% every year, I’ll be using all 10% of that just adjusting to the new school. There will be challenges and bombed lessons, but there will also be great lessons, and my students will learn. It’s my 4th year. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s not okay to not strive to do better.

[Update 12/10/2016

I probably should have been more specific with this one. Thus far, I’ve managed to get breaks, but then I get overwhelmed with work and whimper pitifully about how everything is impossible and why try. My inner Eeyore really shines through. So my goal now is to give myself less stupid breaks. There’s absolutely no reason to take a break to do “nothing” like watching dumb shows. There is EVERY reason to give me a break to do things that actually help me feel better, relax and be energized. Like reading Paul Nahin’s An Imaginary Tale, which is absolutely amazing and fun and stimulating. Or yoga. Don’t mean to sound like a floofy snob, but after I do yoga I feel better. You’re welcome to throw things at me. Or take my fat bike out for a ride. That’s fun and energizing and a good break.] 

I could make this list a lot longer, but in the spirit of balance, these are the ones I’ve chosen to be most important. The ones I can commit to.

[Update 12/10/2016: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! You’re hilarious, Perkins. This is an insanely long list and you’re just adding to it, because you have no self control.]

Tell me how you’re doing these things if you are. Give me ideas for how I can do them better.

Author: Ms. P

Math Teacher in Minneapolis, MN.

2 thoughts on “The Dream – Help me out here, #MTBoS”

  1. I’m loving goal #5! I’ve been thinking lately about homework that is worthwhile yet low risk and accessible to everyone. #4 is one of mine, too. (PS I just found your blog via Meg Craig’s Stars, and by your 3rd post, I hit the follow button. Great writing, great voice, great reflecting!)


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