NCSM Day 3 ~ Reflections

Wow! NCSM never fails to fill me with feels, challenge me to expand my learning, and inspire me to fight the good fight! Just when I was feeling completely disheartened and ready to give up… The PEOPLE!! Never in my life have I been surrounded by so many insanely talented educators who are all eager and ready to work collaboratively towards this vision that we all share.

Common Vision? Check.  
Research? Check.
Man Power? Check.
The Will & Drive to do the work? Check.
Plan for how to do the work? Check.

I feel the need to personally thank and shout out to those who imparted wisdom on me these last 3 days:
Annie Fetter, Cathy Seeley, David Woods, Erica Burnison, Geoff Krall, Graham Fletcher, Jo Boaler, John SanGiovanni, Kristin Gray, Kristopher Childs, Marc Garneau, Marilyn Burns, Michael Young, Michelle Rinehart, Nanatte Johnson, Stacy Reeder & Juliana Utley, Rachel Lambert, Robert Kaplinsky, Sarah Ives, Stephanie Reddick, Steve Leinwand, Sunil Singh, Tim Hudson, Tracy Zager, Zalman Usiskin, …

And of course my team who over the last 10 months has pushed my thinking and supported even my craziest ideas (they may have had some crazy fun ideas of their own, too). Words cannot express how grateful I am that we did this together. Jennifer Graziano, Tim Hébert, and Stephen Arndt. You are the Dream Team!

I would be remiss if I didn’t also appreciate and acknowledge Mikila Fetzer, my Coordinator, for always pushing us and believing in us. And lastly but most importantly, my husband, whose honesty is a necessary evil and whose unconditional support keeps me going when my belief falters. Thank you babe.

My takeaways from today are numerous, so let’s get to it!

  1. The 5 Practices came up ALL 3 DAYS!! If you haven’t picked it up and read it in a while, go read it. And then share it with your team, and read it again!

Today I was thinking that Step 1: Anticipation can be really hard because we don’t always KNOW how students might solve. As teachers we don’t always have the content knowledge.

This is why opening up the task to allow many representations is SO important! We need to learn alongside our students! Jo Boaler quoted Cathy Humphreys saying,

“We should only ask [students] questions for which we don’t yet know the answer!”

So what kinds of questions are those?
-How did you think of that?
-What are you wondering?
-What connections are you making?

2. Give students time REGULARLY to discuss/defend/argue over a statement.

-There is no subtraction involved in multiplication.
-You always have to begin adding in the ones place.

3. How do you ensure that you are having meaningful conversations with each student in your class at least once a week? See Also: What does “meaningful” mean?

4. ASSESSMENT!! Ugh. In short: You cannot “teach” your students about Growth Mindset while simultaneously giving students tests that perpetuate a fixed mindset!!! This might be my new motto, so be prepared to hear me say this repeatedly.

Regarding both 3 & 4: Formative Assessment Practices are embedded in everything that students are doing. Tracy Zager says, “There are 4 channels for getting information about what students are thinking: Products, Observations, Conversations, & Student Self Evaluation.” Between these 4 strategies, you should have ample evidence of learning. AND they promote Growth Mindset. Right? And when you consider how you are going to record the evidence of student learning, it doubles as your opportunity to track the meaningful conversations you’ve had with students! 2fer! Voila!

5. Annie Fetter said it, Tracy Zager said something similar, it’s just a good teaching practice… take the question off the word problem! Let students Notice & Wonder, argue, defend, discuss, and then compare their models & representations. Such an easy way to open up your instruction and create more equitable outcomes.

6. If you haven’t enrolled yourself in Jo Boaler’s online courses yet, you have no excuse. Go! Do it!

7. I’m elated that so many teachers used Jo’s Week of Inspirational Math this year. She shared with us so much wonderful data around students who take her online course for students. Do that, too! Oh, and did I mention that Jo not only has a new book out called Limitless, but she’s also going to work with the California Department of Ed to rewrite the Math Framework!? SCORE!

I’ll continue posting resources in the coming days…

I’m sad I have to wait another year for NCSM. CMC is calling my name. I have a few ideas I’m throwing around for presentations for next year. If you have any interest in working with me on an idea you have, let me know! Teamwork makes the Dreamwork!!

 Viva la Revolution!!

NCSM Day 1 ~ Reflections

I had the honor of both attending and presenting at my national conference today, the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics. I have so many takeaways that I’d like to share. Honestly though, I’m so overwhelmed by being surrounded by incredible educators. I’ve had this naive belief that I’m at the forefront of some frontier. But I’m not. And it took NCSM 2018 to show me how little I know. You know the old adage, “the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know”? Seeing presidents from decades past present about the history of math education is both inspirational and disheartening all at once. My son is in kinder. My son deserves better. This is personal and urgent and feels insurmountable. There is so much work to be done and you have the power to change outcomes for our students.

So we’ll take this one step at a time…

My takeaways from Day 1:

  1. NUMBER LINES!!!! I’m going to argue that we need to be using Number Lines in damn near every lesson! Stop avoiding them! They are not the exception, they are the rule!
  2. Stacy Reeder & Juliana Utley presented about some amazing ways to support student’s basic fact fluency. Stay posted for a new section on my blog dedicated to Fact Fluency which will include the games they shared! #nomoretimedtests
  3. Tim Hudson (@DocHudsonMath) never fails to inspire me with his messages of growth-based assessment and conceptual learning. Today he shared a video from Daniel Schwartz from Stanford. Take ONE minute to watch:

4. DocHuddy also shared some online resources that have somehow escaped me! Maybe I knew and forgot, or maybe I’ve had my head buried in sand. Regardless…


No Seriously. Just go spend an hour downloading all of these resources and planning how you’ll incorporate them into your lessons for the next 3 weeks!!!

6. Wondering how to encourage Growth Mindset with your students? Let them play MasterMind. Simple. Easy. Done! My suggestion? DonorsChoose 15 of them so you can let students play when they first get to school in the morning. They play 1 game, then join you at the carpet for morning meeting.

7. Post your takeaways below!! Keep it going! #NCSM19


I was assigned the task of finding a visual pattern that would only take 15 minutes to facilitate during our NCSM presentation. Boy, did this send me down a rabbit hole! Jump in with me! Keep scrolling… don’t miss the best part!

I started at Why wouldn’t I? Fawn Nguyen has created this amazing site filled with awesome visual patterns! As I was clicking through I found the one below that stood out to me… one by the amazing Megan Schmidt. And that’s where I found bricks. Models built with LEGO bricks. How cool!? I needed to find a way to make this work.

So I started playing with my son’s LEGO bricks. I arranged them in a variety of ways and tortured everyone I saw with them. It’s a funny kind of torture, when you approach someone and ask, “Want to play with LEGO bricks with me?” It’s all fun and games until you start asking math questions. Then they get this funny look on their faces… [insert evil cackle]

I landed on this pattern which seemed to work with every age from 4-104. Ok, that’s kind of a lie. I had to adapt. I hope you have as much with this as I have.

Here’s the original pattern.

I wanted a reasonable combination of constant & change.

To varying degrees and in every circumstance imaginable, I asked people to create Figure 4, guiding them through reasoning about:

  • how many in each Figure
  • how many stay the same (are constant)
  • which ones change and how you see the change
  • how to describe the Figures using the variable n to represent the Figure number within an equation

To my wonder and excitement, every adult engaged in this task was successful in creating an equation!

Jo Boaler Quote

What equation do you get? Post it in the comments below!

The beauty is, there isn’t ONE RIGHT EQUATION! And how many people said to me, “I never understood what n-1 meant before!” or “I can see 2n for the first time!”

Giddy with excitement, I kept going… I couldn’t stop there! Jo says “high ceiling” so I took that literally. We went UP!

“If I put these green bricks here, what would you do to Figure 4?”

Even my 6 year old LOVED this part!

My little Mr. 6 reasoning about Figure 4.

Ok… a little secret: with the little ones, I scaffolded. *sigh* I know! Check out how I started them off! This is my 4 year old getting started with her #VisualBrickPattern. After this she moved on to the one above.

“Now what does that do to your equation?” Even those who proclaimed “I am NOT a math person!” were suddenly adapting and adding to their own equations! (This is where I began feeling a bit like a Dr. Seuss character!)

Now this is the best part…

It took me about 8 tries to get the wording right.

“Can you please use this new bag of different sized & shaped pieces to add or edit/change what’s in front of you. But it still has to continue a pattern!”

I am not lying that not one single person added to the pattern in the same way. (No… the children weren’t all able to do this part… but even the most fixed mindset adult COULD!)

Let me rephrase: every single person I’ve asked to complete this last part of the task has created a unique pattern!

And I might add… each person was able to describe how their new pattern affects their equation!

If this photo gallery below is the highlight of my career, I’m happy!

Won’t you try it out for yourself? Share! Tweet! #VisualBrickPatterns