Reflections on #TMC14

After a couple of days of reflection, vacationing, and reading, I have some ideas coming out of TMC14.

The first portion of this post is going to be my reaction to some of the conversations coming out of the conference.  The thoughts started rolling in my head with this blog post by @thescamdog and the subsequent comment by @ddmeyer: link

I think this is good, constructive criticism.  Having an explanation of why something is our favorite could be very beneficial to the MTBoS at large.  I also happen to give a My Favorite, and there has been some other chatter that made me think even more about what I presented, so I thought I would give a little space here for that.

I presented on how I use card games in the classroom.  If you didn’t get a chance to see it, those games will be posted up on the Middle School part of the TMC14 wiki (Middle School) hopefully by the end of the weekend.  So, to satiate Dan and John, why do I like using card games?  I like practice.  I come from a classical music background, so I am eminently familiar with practice.  One thing I sometimes struggle with the MTBoS community has been that we come up with really cool “teaching” activities where students create their own ways and learn new things, but I often miss where students get to practice their skills.  Games allow for us to put practice into a more enjoyable package for students, while also making sure they are getting the repetitive practice they need to master a skill.  I was actually heartened when I read this comment and portion of Dan’s post (link).  I like to see my students play skill building games because I know some of them are not getting quality practice at home, so I at least know they are practicing some at school when we play games.

If you gave a My Favorite at TMC, and you have a blog, give Dan and John what they want and take a post to explain the why of your My Favorite presentation.

What else did I take away from TMC?  By tweaking @iisanumber’s Math Maintenance to fit my own school situation, I finally have a routine I am comfortable starting each class with, and it will meet a few needs of my students that I have been struggling with.  Also, I am going to try random groupings and some work on non-permanent vertical work surfaces (I cannot currently remember who I talked about with this and who presented on it) as well as creating homework that has 10 or fewer quality problems as I was discussing the effectiveness of that with someone as well.  I am sure there are other lessons I heard about that will spark things in me as well, but those are the ones that stick out the most.

Mostly what TMC did for me was get me re-energized and thinking about math teaching again.  I had a rough end to the year and even a rough beginning to the summer, but now I feel like I am ready to get back in there and make some positive changes.  I hope after some good reflection, you all feel the same as well.

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New beginnings and #TMC14 Day 1

So it is time to revive my too-long dead blog.  I just became a little overwhelmed with everything that came from being in a new environment, teaching my first year, and putting a few other responsibilities on myself, my blogging just slipped last year.  #TMC14 has given me a renewed energy for great teaching and innovation in my classroom.  This seemed like a good time restart my blog and set a challenge for myself.  In reflecting, I was trying to make my blog posts too involved and just too long.  The challenge to myself is to do a mini-blog everyday; just a little note about something going on in my classroom.  I will then expand on one topic every Sunday morning.  I think having this structure will help me keep accountable and get my into a rhythm of blogging.

With all of that out of the way, as I mentioned above, I am in Jenks, OK at #TMC14 and it has been an overwhelming experience to meet all of the other teachers with such a passion for innovative math instruction.  It has been great to put avatars with faces, and I cannot believe the passion present in these rooms.

I thought a little about some of the other sessions in the morning, but the middle school session always seemed to make the most sense.  I felt very affirmed by the discussions of use of games for number sense and sense making in the middle school classroom, as it is something I try to use often.  Discussions about how to use games, like review games vs. skills strengthen games vs. games for teaching concepts pushed to me to consider using them in ways outside of review or eating up some extra time.  The ways Justin(@justinaion) and Max(@maxmathforum) presented how to consider the use of games challenged me to be more intentional about my use of games.  I am stoked about where we can take this game development idea over the next couple of days.

The keynote speaker was also very affirming for me.  I always felt pulled to middle school because I felt the mathematics was important and it was a final checkpoint before students progressed into the scary world of Algebra I-Geometry-Algebra II, etc.  Steve’s (@steve_leinwand) words about how important we as a group of people are, as well as alternate solving solutions and the basic necessity of ratio and proportion concepts rang very true to me, and I hope to bring these ideas back to my school with not just myself, but my whole faculty.

Chris’ (@pispeak) session about debating in mathematics way eye opening to say the least.  As he stated, you see debate in other classrooms, where opinions can vary on different ideas, but I had not considered how you can apply this in a math classroom until today.  I love this as a structure to allow students a little more comfort in explaining their solving methods, and a way to use vocabulary in the classroom.  I cannot wait to apply this as I move forward.

Kathryn’s (@iisanumber) session on math maintenance was exactly what I was looking for in a way to include review and test prep in my classroom.  I know that standardized tests are a reality, and I know that I need to up my acknowledgement of them in my classroom.  This structure is going to allow me to include work on these as well as fill the gap in my beginning class routine which was lacking last year.

The thing I am most taken by is the conversations that I have found in non-structured times.  A discussion of the usefulness of poker in probability on the walk to the high school, a lunch-time discussion of a catapult project, making two points change places on a body-scale number line, computer programming and occam’s razor discussion on the walk back and a very involved dinner conversation about keynotes and everything else under the sun are just some of the highlights that I can think of off the top of my head.  Everyone has been nice, accepting, and just willing to allow you into a conversation and will converse with you about any mathematics concept.  I feel like I have found a bunch of allies and a support system that will push me to innovate and persist as I keep working to become a better teacher.  I look forward to new adventures on day two!  Time for 9:00 my favorites.

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