#NCTMAnnual: Friday

This is my second in a series of posts breaking down my time at NCTM’s annual meeting in April 2016. Here is the first.


Ignite talks are 5 minute bursts of passion by educators. I won’t recap them all, just those that moved or pushed me. Ignite was a pretty solid way to start my Friday.

Michael Fenton

When presenting a problem, consider adding a sequel because students are already invested, we can push boundaries and we can learn more about the work by pushing beyond. We also have to know when to stop, teachers have to solve the problem before putting it in front of students and we should take what works from before and apply it again.

Andrew Stadel

Time is a dirty, dirty word. We need to use the highest leverage things in our classroom because we only have so much time with our kiddos. What are the highest pieces of leverage we can use during our class? Andrew proposed: Talking less so students can talk more, do less rote problems and more problem solving and finally blend different parts of instruction together as students work through a problem instead of having discrete parts. (Follow the discussion online at #classroomclock)

Annie Fetter

People can’t understand solutions to problems they don’t have and therefore STUDENTS CANNOT ANSWER QUESTIONS THEY DO NOT HAVE. She also said that students may believe that mathematics is something done to you, not something you do. We have to believe and promote a culture that every student has ideas about every math problem, which will increase their engagement and learning. She pushed us to replace SWBAT with students will be curious about….

Max Ray-Riek

Max shared with us that when you reflect on a lesson someone else has implemented and written about online, you are thinking critically about the lesson and how to improve it. This kind of thinking is what promotes student outcomes. While Max pushed us to become blog addicts, he also said that students need a coherent curriculum. My school doesn’t – I’m just a blog addict cut-pasting things together. It’s atrocious and a huge problem. I’ll be addressing it this summer because what we have is not okay.

Tracy Zager

Mathematicians work together in fluid ways, 4 authentic ways mathematicians share

  1. Working alone (think time, before ready to talk to anyone else)
  2. Thinking partnership: Could we work on _ together? Can I run something by you?
  3. Cross Pollination: Share ideas from different people
  4. Math Disputes: I think I hear what your saying but I disagree because, listen to others
  5. Peer feedback/critique: Can you prove me wrong?

Big takeaways:
-there’s a need for a coherent and longitudinal curriculum that will outlast me
– Sequels are an underused tool in my repertoire
– Structure to a group activity/purpose will promote better reasoning and ideas when a student then recognizes that they need help. And what kind of help they need
– My classroom clock is running on better time this year in the past, but it still needs to be reworked.
– Students have to be asking questions about the mathematics (A great followup to this is Dan Meyer’s presentation)

Digging into DOK with Robert Kaplinsky

When you walk into a room 10 minutes early and there isn’t a seat left in the house, you know the presenter is a rock star…at least in the math community. Robert was one of those sessions – and didn’t disappoint. I didn’t a seat, but I did get a push to push student thinking my classroom by increasing the Depth of Knowledge.

Reflecting upon the work, I realized that in many of my classes, there’s a clear jump from basic computation questions to bigger 3-act math/math tasks. And there isn’t much opportunity for play or experimentation like open middle problems. Many days, my class doesn’t have much cognitive demand, and that’s a problem. A big problem.

Moving Forward:
– Plan for students to do deeper level work to build up their knowledge
– Use open middle tasks
– My students can do it. I need to let them.

I did implement my first Open middle problem in Geometry this week. It went okay…but I fit it in over three days instead of devoting a chunk of instructional time to it. I definitely feel that there’s a skill in implementation that I don’t yet have. The task also took way way longer than I anticipated…but did help reveal some misconceptions about student understanding. There’s also a class culture around these types of problems I have to address – but it is not just my class my entire school has an apathy/engagement problem. Hopefully more consistent implementation  of problems like these will be helpful.


Rewards and challenges of Standards Based Grading

I’ve considered implementing SBG for a couple terms and just never have had the guts (or been together enough to be ready for it). Matthew Grinwis and Michael Manganello gave simple, concrete ways they have slowly implemened it in their work. 

Their take aways: SBG allows for better feedback, students talk about topics and know their deficits. Biggest struggles were sharing information with parents, creating standards, designing/grading unit tests and creating re-test assessments. They also eventually created a generic rubric, score each question on the rubric then take the average for the final score on the topic.

Personal takeaways:
– Take risks, do it. Stop making excuses Winfield
– Scoring each question on the rubric is actually brilliant and would solve my current problem
– So much of what I grade now isn’t a measure of student learning and that needs to change. (As I have hours upon hours of grading to catch up on from being gone for two weeks).

Handout PPT


A Brief History of Math Ed: Lessons for Today

Matt Larson, President of NCTM, gave an expanded version of his Ignite talk from the morning. He pushed that we need to stand up as educators and stop swinging between procedural knowledge and application – both are good and both are necessary for student success. He called us to do three things to address this “Pendulum Swing”: 1) Recognize that we have the same goal as previous generations – to educate students 2) realize that mathematics is multidimensional, not necessarily what people were exposed to in school 3) Parents respond best when we discuss the need for critical thinking and problem solving skills. We need to help people separate standards from curriculum, help critics see strategies and finally be advocates for research based strategies.

– My voice is needed, not only in Arizona but in NCTM, #MTBoS and AATM.
– We’re in this together

Developing Problems that Evoke & Assess the SMPs: EDC.org

I started in this session, but left early because I saw that #ShadowCon16 had a huge line and I didn’t want to be turned down like I know people were earlier in the day for Jo Boaler.

Biggest takeaways:
– design and implement an algebra 1 assessment that focuses on how students use structure to solve problems, instead of struggling through problems.
– Two kinds of structure were “Chunking”  where you treat objects as a single number and “Hidden meaning” Where you can re-write a problem to reveal different properties
– When looking at student work, it shows the students first inclination and what they are most comfortable with not all that they are capable of.


A series of 10 minute talks by leading folks in our field. NCTM’s website about the page is here, pushing us to take action after the conference together.  I have one complaint about #ShadowCon16 1 Some presenters repeated their presentations in large part from earlier in the week. I get why, but I would’ve known that I could’ve been somewhere else during the earlier block. This wasn’t an issue in 2015 because ShadowCon was created because people got snubbed. Now that it was sanctioned this seems like an unexpected hurdle for the team to conquer.

Robert Kaplinsky shared his powerful story and called us to empower others. Personal response: See below.

Gail Burrill: Called us to ask deep and meaningful questions about deep topics. And never say anything a kid could say, but instead probe them to have conversations themselves.
CTA: Find a “mentor” voice and keep them in your head. After class, think about what would have happened if you listened to that voice and try to make a change for the future.
Personal Response to the CtA: I’m going to find that voice over this summer and follow Gail’s advice. Why summer? I have just 4 weeks left of school and want to frame my entire 16-17 school year around my “voice” of choice.

Kaneka Turner: Pushed us to invite others into the world of mathematics. Without an invitation, we are excluding others who so desperately need to be included.
Personal response to the CtA: As we hire our new math teacher for 16-17, my goal is to be radically inclusive, empower and invite them into #MTBoS and help them grow.

Brian Bushart: Bring joy into mathematics classrooms. His presentation resonated with me because as I teacher higher and higher levels of math there is significantly less joy.
Personal Response to CtA: Bring play into my precalculus classroom as we discuss continuity through an open middle problem. Long term: Embeded more play – students LOVED playing with polygraph earlier this term – it shouldn’t go away.

Rochelle Gutierrez: Once again, a rockstar in our midst. Her call was for us to stand up for students and be an advocate for them, and possibly against the system.
Personal Response: We are redesigning (or dare I say designing) a scope and sequence and choosing courses to offer our students. I want to be an advocate for flexibility of placement, allowing students not placed on the AP track in grade 9 could find a way to be on that track later in their mathematics career.  I am also pretty sure I’m going to ask to teach our new statistics course for seniors and design it around social justice issues. (And yesterday at our staff PD, I pushed back that our school’s guiding principles don’t mention our students culture or being culturally relevant, which I don’t think I would’ve done two weeks ago).

Graham Fletcher: Discover something within our standards for our courses. Then reflect and see if there is anything we are currently teaching that isn’t in the standards (ie simplifying fractions)
Personal Response: Well…our entire curriculum needs to be (re)designed so as I find out which courses I teach in 16-17, I’ll be digging in deep to the standards and reflecting upon Graham’s call.

My two sentence summary doesn’t do the work justice, so ShadowCon16 talks are being released in the coming weeks:



3 thoughts on “#NCTMAnnual: Friday

  1. Pingback: #NCTMannual: Saturday | Function of Reflection

  2. Pingback: #NCTMAnnual: Wednesday | Function of Reflection

  3. Pingback: #NCTMannual: Final Reflections | Function of Reflection

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