Category Archives: Creativity

Building and Sustaining the Culture of Problem Solving in our Classroom with @FawnPNguyen #MtHolyokeMath

I’m taking X.MTHED-404: Effective Practices for Advancing the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics (K-12).

Here are my notes from Session 7, Building and Sustaining the Culture of Problem Solving in our Classroom, with Fawn Nguyen

I am struck by Fawn’s initial purpose. Building and sustaining a culture of problem solving in our classrooms demands vision with plans and commitment with continual growth through feedback.

How to we make use of structure in our planning to narrow our resources to build and sustain coherence and connectedness? Wen we plan, are we intentionally connecting to standards and intentionally stepping away from them to promote problem solving, visual learning, and deepening understanding?

What tasks do we select? How much time do we spend? And, most importantly, how do we show faith in our learners to promote productive, creative struggle?

Notes from previous sessions:


#NCSM17 #Sketchnotes Wednesday Summary

I’m attending the  National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics  2017 conference in San Antonio.  Here are my notes from Wednesday along with the session descriptions from the presenters.

Conferring with Young Mathematicians at Work:
The Process of Teacher Change
Cathy Fosnot

If children are to engage in problem solving with tenacity and confidence, good questioning on the part of teachers during conferrals is critical. Questioning must engender learner excitement and ownership of ideas, while simultaneously be challenging enough to support further development. Video of conferrals in action will be used for analysis, and a Landscape of Learning on the process of teacher change is shared as a lens for coaching.

Leading to Support Procedural Fluency for All Students
Jennifer Bay-Williams

Principles to Actions describes effective teaching practices that best support student learning. In this session we will focus on one of those teaching practices: “build procedural fluency from conceptual understanding.” Ensuring that every child develops procedural fluency requires understanding what fluency means, knowing research related to developing procedural fluency and conceptual understanding, and being able to translate these ideas into effective classroom practices. That is the focus of this session! We will take a look at research, connections to K–12 classroom practice, and implications for us as coaches and teacher leaders.

How to Think Brilliantly and Creatively in Mathematics: Some Guiding Thoughts for Teachers, Coaches, Students—Everyone!
James Tanton

This lecture is a guide for thinking brilliantly and creatively in mathematics designed for K–12 educators and supervisors, students, and all those seeking joyful mathematics doing. How do we model and practice uncluttered thinking and joyous doing in the classroom, pursue deep understanding over rote practice and memorization, and promote the art of successful ailing? Our complex society demands of its next generation not only mastery of quantitative skills, but also the confidence to ask new questions, explore, wonder, fail, persevere, succeed in solving problems and to innovate. Let’s not only send humans to Mars, let’s also foster in our next generation the might to get those humans back if something goes wrong! In this talk, I will explore five natural principles of mathematical thinking. We will all have fun seeing how school mathematics content is a vehicle for masterful ingenuity and joy.

Deep Practice:
Building Conceptual Understanding in the Middle Grades
Jill Gough, Jennifer Wilson

How might we attend to comprehension, accuracy, flexibility, and then efficiency? What if we leverage technology to enhance our learners’ visual literacy and make connections between words, pictures, and numbers? We will look at new ways of using technology to help learners visualize, think about, connect and discuss mathematics. Let’s explore how we might help young learners productively struggle instead of thrashing around blindly.

When Steve Leinwand asked if I was going to sketch our talk, I jokingly said that I needed someone to do it for me. We are honored to have this gift from Sharon Benson. You can see additional details on my previous post.

PD Planning: #Mathematizing Read Alouds part 2

Time. We need more of it.

How might we gain time without adding minutes to our schedule?

What if we mathematize our read-aloud books to use them in math as well as reading and writing workshop? Could it be that we gain minutes of reading if we use children’s literature to offer context for the mathematics we are learning? Could we add minutes of math if we pause and ask mathematical questions during our literacy block?

Becky Holden and I planned the following professional learning session to build common understanding and language as we expand our knowledge of teaching numeracy through literature.  Every Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, and 3rd Grade math teacher participated in 3.5-hours of professional learning over the course of two days.

Have you read How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara, G. Brian Karas?

Learning Targets:

Mathematical Practice:

  • I can make sense of tasks and persevere in solving them.

2nd Grade

  • I can work with equal groups of objects to gain foundations for multiplication.
  • I can skip-count by 2s, 5, 10s, and 100s within 1000 to strengthen my understanding of place value.

3rd Grade

  • I can represent and solve problems involving multiplication and division.
  • I can use place value understanding and properties of operations to perform multi-digit arithmetic.

Learning Progressions:

I can apply mathematical flexibility.
#ShowYourWork Algebra

Here’s what it looked like:

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Here’s some of what the teacher-learners said:

I learned to look at books with a new critical eye for both literacy and mathematical lessons. I learned that I can read the same book more than once to delve deeper into different skills. This is what we are learning in Workshop as well. Using a mentor text for different skills is such a great way to integrate learning.

I learned how to better integrate math with other subjects as well as push pass the on answer and look for more than one way to answer the question as well as show in more than one way how I got that answer and to take that to the classroom for my students.

I learned how to integrate literacy practice and math practice at once. In addition, I also learned how to deepen learning and ask higher thinking questions, as well as how to let students answer their own questions and have productive struggle.

I learned that there are many different ways to notice mathematical concepts throughout books. It took a second read through for me to see the richness in the math concepts that could be taught.

I learned that there are many children’s literature that writes about multiple mathematical skills and in a very interesting way!

How might we notice and note opportunities to pause, wonder, and question? What is to be gained by blending learning?

estimate and reason while dancing, singing, and playing

How might we promote peer-to-peer discourse that is on task and purposeful? What if challenge our students to estimate and reason while dancing, singing, and playing?

Andrew Stadel, this week’s #MtHolyokeMath #MTBoS Effective Practices for Advancing the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics facilitator, asked us to use visuals to engage our learners.  In his session, we used Day 127 How long is “Can’t Buy Me Love”?, Day 129 How long is “We will rock you”?, and Day 130 How long is “I feel good”? from Estimation180.

Here are my visual notes from class:


Our homework was to estimate  How long is “I feel good”? and to try visuals with students.

I asked Thomas Benefield, 5th Grade teacher and FSLT co-chair for 10 minutes of class to try Day 127 How long is “Can’t Buy Me Love”? with 5th grade students.


How might we make sense and persevere when making estimates? What is our strategy and can we explain our reasoning to others?

Students were asked for a reasonable low estimate, a reasonable high estimate, and then an estimate for how long the song is based on the visual. My favorite 5th grade response:

Well, you asked for a low estimate and a high estimate, so I rounded down to the nearest 5 seconds and doubled it for my low estimate. I rounded up to the nearest 10 seconds and doubled it for my high estimate.  For my estimate-estimate, I doubled the time I see and added a second since it looks like almost half.


It was so much fun that they let me stay for How long is “We will rock you”?, and How long is “I feel good”?, and they asked for Bohemian Rhapsody. Wow!


Andrew said that you know you have them when they start making requests.screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-7-43-06-pm

As you can see, it was a big hit. They were dancing in their seats. This quick snapshot of joy says it is worth it for our students.


What if challenge our students to estimate and reason while dancing, singing, and playing? What joy can we add to our learning experiences?

Boost Conceptual Understanding & Procedural Fluency with Rich Number Sense Tasks with @mr_stadel #MtHolyokeMath

I’m taking X.MTHED-404: Effective Practices for Advancing the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics (K-12).

Here are my notes from Session 4, Boost Conceptual Understanding & Procedural Fluency with Rich Number Sense Tasks, with Andrew Stadel.

Notes from previous sessions:

Review, revisit, recommit to norms – our hopes and dreams

Strong teams regularly self-assess how well they function within their norms – the hopes and dreams for how they are when together. As we learn and grow together, we pause to reflect, revise, and recommit to strengthen our teams by reviewing our community norms.


  • We commit to collaboratively design the agenda for each team meeting and that the agendas are shared ahead of the meetings. (ALT)
  • We commit to fostering a growth mindset with our learners and ourselves. We embrace the power of yet. (Carol Dweck)
  • We commit to use technology as a tool for learning and not as a barrier between us. (ALT)
  • We commit to speaking about our learners as if they are in the room with us. (Katherine Boles, Harvard)
  • We learn, i.e., we have permission to change our minds. (Elizabeth Stratmore)
  • We agree to ask for and offer the umbrella of mercy. (Tim Kanold)
  • We serve all learners. Teams committee to take responsibility, together, to differentiate to help all learners learn and grow.
  • We resist labeling students – all learners.  We agree to design for the edges to dramatically expand our talent pool. (Todd Rose)

How might we strengthen our team? What if we review, reflect, and recommit to our hopes and dreams of how we are?

Deep understanding: visualize, connect, comprehend

We need to give students the opportunity to develop their own rich and deep understanding of our number system.  With that understanding, they will be able to develop and use a wide array of strategies in ways that make sense for the problem at hand.  (Flynn, 8 pag.)

Let’s say that the essential-to-learn is I can subtract within 100.  In our community we hold essential I can show what I know more than one way. 

Using our anchor text, we find the following strategies:

  • I can subtract tens and one on a hundred chart.
  • I can count back to subtract on an open number line.
  • I can add up to subtract on an open number line.
  • I can break apart numbers to subtract.
  • I can subtract using compensation.

What if we engage, as a team, to deepen our understanding of subtraction?

Deep learning focuses on recognizing relationships among ideas. During deep learning, students engage more actively and deliberately with information in order to discover and understand the underlying mathematical structure. (Hattie, 136 pag.)

In his Effective Practices for Advancing the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics class last week, Mike Flynn highlighted three advantages  of using representations to deepen understanding.

  • Representations build conceptual understanding and help assess comprehension.
  • Representations serve as a tool to make sense of the task and the mathematics.
  • Representations help develop proof of generalizations.

What if we, as a team, prepare to facilitate experiences so that learners can say I can subtract within 100 by deepening our understanding with words, pictures, numbers, and symbols?

Context: Annie had some money in her “mad money” jar.  Today, she added $39 to the jar and discovered that she now has $65. How much money was in the “mad money” jar before today?


Can we connect the context to each of the above strategies? Can we connect one strategy to another strategy?

If we challenge ourselves to “do the math” using words, pictures, numbers, and symbols, we deepen our understanding and increase our ability to ask more questions to advance thinking.

How might we use Van de Walle’s ideas for developing conceptual understanding through multiple representations to assess comprehension and understanding?

Flynn, Michael. Beyond Answers: Exploring Mathematical Practices with Young Children. Portland, Maine.: Stenhouse, 2017. Print.

Hattie, John A. (Allan); Fisher, Douglas B.; Frey, Nancy; Gojak, Linda M.; Moore, Sara Delano; Mellman, William L. (2016-09-16). Visible Learning for Mathematics, Grades K-12: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning (Corwin Mathematics Series). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Van de Walle, John. Teaching Student-centered Mathematics: Developmentally Appropriate Instruction for Grades Pre-K-2. Boston: Pearson, 2014. Print.