Category Archives: Reflection

The Science of Early Learning and Adversity: Daily Leadership to Promote Development and Buffer Stress Day 1

Rhonda Mitchell (@rgmteach) and I are attending The Science of Early Learning and Adversity: Daily Leadership to Promote Development and Buffer Stress at The Saul Zaentz Professional Learning Academy. This professional development features keynote speaker Walter Gilliam (@WalterGilliam).

How can early education leaders support the design and implementation of strong early learning environments—those that buffer stress, reduce challenging behaviors, and promote development?

Agenda (with my notes)

Today’s Early Education Landscape
with Nonie Lesaux and Stephanie Jones

Understanding Stress and Behavior
in the Early Education Environment
with Walter Gilliam

Reflection and Application
with Walter Gilliam and the Zaentz Team
facilitated by Robin Kane

Strategic Planning Session
facilitated by Robin Kane and Emily Bautista

My list to think about, reflect on, and grapple with  from today includes:

  • Micro-stresses pile up.
  • How might we pay attention to and recognize stress?
    (Student stress, teacher stress, family stress, leadership stress.)
  • Empathy: Who is it given to? From whom is it withheld?
  • What are we looking for and who are we looking at?
  • How might we anticipate expected “unexpected” events?
  • What structures can be put in place to support learners, teachers, families, leaders?
  • When sharing information about a learner, check intent. Are we sharing knowledge and understanding to support the learner?
    • Can we offer evidence to show what we know and understand?
    • Can we share information without adding judgement and labels?

#LessonClose with @TracyZager at #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 8, Lesson Close with Tracy Zager.

Tracy’s session connects, for me, to a practitioner’s corner in David Sousa’s How the Brain Learns.  He writes

Closure describes the covert process whereby the learner’s working memory summarizes for itself its perception of what has been learned.  It is during closure that a student often completes the rehearsal process and attaches sense and meaning to the new learning, thereby increasing the probability that it will be retained in long-term storage. (p. 69)

How might we take up Tracy’s challenge to “never skip the close?” What new habits must we gain in order to make sure the close is useful to the learner?

Sousa continues

Closure is different from review. In review, the teacher does most of the work, repeating key concepts made during the lesson and rechecking student understanding.  In closure, the student does most of the work by mentally rehearsing and summarizing those concepts and deciding whether they make sense and have meaning. (p. 69)

What new habits must we gain in order to make sure the close is helps them reflect on learning, make connections, and/or ask new questions? In other words, do we plan intention time for learners to make sense of the task?

Closure is an investment than can pay off dramatically in increased retention of learning. (Sousa, p. 69)


Sousa, David A. How the Brain Learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a Sage, 2006. Print.

#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.

#NCSM17 #Sketchnotes Tuesday Summary

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

Tracking, Equity, and the Many Paradoxes of Algebra II
Jason Zimba

What is Algebra II good for? For whom is it good? Phil Daro raised these and other questions for the Carnegie-Institute for Advanced Study Commission. Fast forward to now, and the debate about ‘what mathematics and why’ has found its way into the pages of the popular press. Is there anything district leaders can learn from this conversation? How might a district leader who prizes equity think about the question of tracking in school mathematics?

Routines for Reasoning:
Ensuring All Students
Are Mathematical Thinkers
Amy Lucenta, Grace Kelemanik

Instructional routines embody research-based best practices for struggling learners, especially when they focus on the Standards for Mathematical Practice and include ‘baked in’ supports
for special populations. Participants will explore a universally designed instructional routine, Connecting Representations, and learn how to leverage it to develop teachers’ capacity to ensure development of ALL students’ mathematical practices.

Letting Go: Cultivating Agency and Authority Through Number Talks in the Secondary Mathematics Classroom
Cathy Humphreys

In this session I share my dissertation study of two high school teachers as they learned to enact Number Talks. I wanted to know what the teachers found most challenging and how coaching supported their learning. In examining the videos of classroom lessons, I noticed marked differences in how agency and authority emerged in the two classes. I hope what I learned while searching for “Why?” will be useful for teachers and coaches alike.

Winning the Game in Mathematics Leadership
Matt Owens

Mathematics leadership is multifaceted in nature as we strive to intentionally impact students and educators in classrooms nationwide. Leadership pathways can be different from leader to leader, but ultimately curriculum/ content, instruction, activism, and assessment (CIAA) are all areas of evaluation for “PRIME” leaders in mathematics education. Discover the top seven practical strategies for overcoming the struggles that may arise in your role as a mathematics leader within your school/university, district, state, and national professional learning communities, while building the capacity of teachers’ leadership among mathematics educators in these respective communities.

Approaching Ten Tough Mathematical Ideas
for High School Students
Salmon Usiskin

The main purpose of this talk is to provide insights into mathematical content that many mathematics teachers may not have seen. By covering a broad range of content, from aspects of manipulative algebra through proof in geometry and in general, discussing language, applications, and representations, my remarks are designed for leaders to help in decisions they make in the professional development of their teachers.

#NCSM17 #Sketchnotes Monday Summary

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

Knocking Down Barriers with Technology
Eli Luberoff

One-to-one. Accessibility. Personalization. Internationalization. Low oor. High ceiling. What do these all have in common? Each is targeted to making mathematics work for every student. Not just the con dent students with engaged parents, not just the struggling students, every student. We will explore the technology and techniques that can open doors, challenge the bored, empower the disempowered, and turn every student into a mathematics student.

Gut Instincts: Developing ALL Students’ Mathematical Intuitions
Tracy Zager

We’ve long misunderstood mathematical intuition, assuming it’s innate rather than developed through high-quality learning experiences. As a result, students who haven’t yet had opportunities to foster their intuitions are often denied access to meaningful mathematics. Through analysis of powerful classroom teaching and learning, we’ll explore three instructional strategies you can use to empower ALL students to grasp mathematics intuitively.

Problem Strings to Change Teaching Practice
Pam Harris

A problem string is a purposefully designed sequence of related problems that helps students mentally construct mathematical relationships and nudges them toward a major, efficient strategy, model, or big idea. We show how problem strings can be leveraged for changing teachers’ practice. Because it puts students’ ideas at the center, teachers are forced to listen deeply to kids and structure mathematics conversations around their thinking.

Rethinking Expressions and Equations:
Implications for Teacher Leaders
Michelle Rinehart

How are one- and two-variable expressions, one- and two- variable equations, and the standard form of a line connected in a powerful way? How might this progression support student learning of these “tough-to-teach/tough-to-learn” ideas? Explore the underlying theme that uni es these seemingly disparate topics using a technology-leveraged approach. Consider research and the role of teacher leaders in developing real understanding of these topics.

Talk Less and Listen More
Zachary Champagne

It’s a simple, and very complex, idea that great teachers
do and do well. Genuinely listening to students can yield incredible opportunities for teachers to not only know and connect with their students, but also increase the quality of teaching and learning that happens in the classroom. Join us as we explore the power of listening to students and using that information to inform our instruction. We’ll also explore strategies to help provide the supportive conditions and frameworks to help leaders support teachers in doing this work. We’ll do this through examining video clips of students sharing their mathematical ideas and consider what listening affords and what questions could be asked to further their mathematical thinking.

Productive struggle with deep practice – what do experts say

NCTM’s publication, Principles to Action, in the Mathematics Teaching Practices, calls us to support productive struggle in learning mathematics. How do we encourage our students to keep struggling when they encounter a challenging task? How many learners are accustomed to giving up when they can’t solve a problem immediately and quickly. How do we change the practice of how our students learn mathematics?

Effective teaching not only acknowledges the importance of both conceptual understanding and procedural fluency but also ensures that the learning of procedures is developed over time, on a strong foundation of understanding and the use of student-generated strategies in solving problems. (Leinwand, 46 pag.)

Low floor, high ceiling tasks allow all students to access ideas and take them to very high levels. Fortunately, [they] are also the most engaging and interesting math tasks, with value beyond the fact that they work for students of different prior achievement levels. (Boaler, 115 pag.)

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.)

Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways — operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes — makes you smarter.  (Coyle, 18 pag.)

Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them —as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go— end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it. (Coyle, 18 pag.)

The second reason deep practice is a strange concept is that it takes events that we normally strive to avoid —namely, mistakes— and turns them into skills. (Coyle, 20 pag.)

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.)

…help students slow down and really think about problems rather than jumping right into solving them. In making this a routine approach to solving problems, she provided students with a lot of practice and helped them develop a habit of mind for reading and solving problems. (Flynn, 8 pag.)

This term productive struggle captures both elements we’re after:   we want students challenged and learning. As long as learners are engaged in productive struggle, even if they are headed toward a dead end, we need to bite our tongues and let students figure it out. Otherwise, we rob them of their well-deserved, satisfying, wonderful feelings of accomplishment when they make sense of problems and persevere. (Zager, 128-129 ppg.)

Encourage students to keep struggling when they encounter a challenging task.  Change the practice of how our students learn mathematics.

Let’s not rob learners of their well-deserved, satisfying, wonderful feelings of accomplishment when they make sense of problems and persevere.


Boaler, Jo. Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching (p. 115). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. (p. 20). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Flynn, Michael, and Deborah Schifter. Beyond Answers: Exploring Mathematical Practices with Young Children. Portland, ME: Stenhouse, 2017. (p. 8) Print.

Hattie, John A. (Allan); Fisher, Douglas B.; Frey, Nancy, Visible Learning for Mathematics, Grades K-12: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning (Corwin Mathematics Series) (p. 136). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Leinwand, Steve. Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. Reston, VA.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2014. (p. 46) Print.

Zager, Tracy. Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had: Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classrooms. Portland, ME.: Stenhouse Publishers, 2017. (pp. 128-129) Print.

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:

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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.

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-7-41-07-pm

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.

#Awesome

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!

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-7-42-45-pm

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.

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-7-59-09-pm

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