Jul 292011

Today had some more very good things happen at the Institute.

I think the first thing is the definition of an “Institute” versus a “Conference”. That distinction was made yesterday, and then briefly discussed again today in a session.

Now these are not formal definitions, found in a dictionary. These are rough and dirty definitions formed through discussion. I attended a NCTM “Conference” in Salt Lake City a couple of years ago. It was huge. Hundreds of vendors, probably a hundred presentations over the course of 4 days, with a schedule that was packed to the gills. Honestly, that “Conference” was a huge waste of dollars.

Oh, yes, I took home some resources. One or two presenters had resources on CD, and I think I even got one website out of the deal. I sat through 10 presentations and listened.

Yup, it was EXACTLY like the worst math class you ever took. Sit down, listen, take notes.

Compare that with the “Institute”. WE are involved, engaged, asking questions, and sharing with each other, both audience to presenter (lots of question opportunities for audience to ask questions) and among audience to audience. We are given working time to share and collaborate built into the schedule, and the presentations are stranded. The stranding means you don’t have 4 stats presentations at the same time so you have to miss out on something. The Institute is designed to have good workflow, with sessions in the middle and end to have collaborative work.


So, let’s start with some of the great recommendations I have taken from today. First off, some books that came very strongly recommended by William McCallum.

1. Mathematical Discovery by George Poyla and is out of print and very expensive to buy on the used market. And by very expensive, if you click the link you will see Amazon has copies, for $165!!!!! Go check it out of the library and photocopy it. It will only cost you $20 and 30 minutes of time. That is highway robbery.

2. The Stanford Mathematics Problem Book, published by Dover Press. $6.95. This book was recommended repeatedly, and is available on Amazon and other fine bookstores. It is nice because it has problems, hints and solutions, and the problems are good problems for high school reasoning and sense making activities.

3. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation by Sarah Donaldson, 2011, Teaching through problem solving: Practices of four high school mathematics teachers. Not sure where to get this as a high school teacher. College students and teachers have access to everything, but high school teachers get screwed on these types of important works. In this dissertation 5 things were identified as being best practices:

  1. Teach problem solving strategies
  2. Model problem solving
  3. Limit teacher input (hmm, recall yesterday’s post where Dan Meyer said the teacher should stay out of the way)
  4. Promoting meta-cognition by the learners
  5. Highlight multiple solutions by the learners

Some websites I found out about today that will definitely benefit my teaching. There is no particular order to these sites. I just went down my notebook and put them in the order I wrote them down.

  • Illustrativemathematics.org – very bare. Like mother hubbard’s cupboard bare. I am hoping for more content here soon.
  • http://commoncoretools.wordpress.com/ William McCollum, who was one of the major authors of the CCSS, has a blog where he has documented and will continue to document developments and resources for implementing the CCSS.
  • Park City Math Institute – Honestly not sure what is on this site yet. It was thrown out by another teacher I overheard, “Hey that can be found on PCMI!” I wrote down pcmi, and then had to do some searching. Honestly, it looks like a promising resource.
  • www.insidemathematics.org – a website to help with the CCSS rollout and help for teachers to make the adjustment. Looks like a well made site. I have not examined content yet.
  • www.nctm.org/hsfocus – so far it looks like a page selling the NCTM books. There is some additional content, but it is lean on the content and large on the selling. It does not really fit with the approach and styling of the “Institute”. It seems far more “Conference” focused instead. Of course, it is a work in progress. I hope.
  • www.nctm.org/reasoninghandouts – This is the official place for the handouts, not the /hsforum. It was another miscommunication with the NCTM that some of the employees of the NCTM handed out the /hsforum on Friday mornings session. Unfortunately, it was not corrected until Saturday’s closing session.
  • www.nctm.org/reasoningforum – not much going on yet, but the NCTM needs to do some major push to get people to know it is there, populate it with posts from the presenters, and start using it. The biggest need is the presenters without websites need to post their take on their presentation here.
  • www.rossmanchance.com – a very nice collection of applets for statistics that may replace the scattered applets that I have been using and suggesting.
  • nctmrsm11.mrmeyer.com – Dan Meyer’s site where he is posting all of the materials from his presentations. This is what I would expect of a professional teaching organization. And it is only a one man show!

Ideas that came up that I will want to follow-up on later during the summer and school year.

  • First off, in the keynote today with Gary Martin and Eric Robinson, Eric pointed out that questions like x2 – 7x + 12 have no reasoning required, just rote recall. But what if we replaced that factoring question with this one: x2 – ?x + 12.  What numbers could go in the question mark? What integers? What fractions? Why? Now the problem becomes interesting and has multiple points of entry and multiple answers. Just a simple tweak, but enormous payoff. (Thank you to Eric Robinson for this idea.)
  • Notice that this question is not contextual like Dan Meyer’s questions. It is not always about contextual problems, but sometimes it is just about INTERESTING problems. After all, they publish sodukus in the newspaper not because just math teachers do them, but they are interesting and challenging. (Thank you to Gary Martin for this idea.)

Okay, that is enough for now.

My only complaint, and for me, it is a big one. Thanks be unto the NCTM for choosing a hotel that charges $14.95 per day for internet access to teachers! Like many of you, I had my pay cut this year, and I paid my own way cross country to attend this conference (so far total cost is estimated to be $1300, not counting all the meals.) This lack of internet is pretty much my major annoyance with this beautiful hotel. The Comfort Inn I stayed at in Lewiston MT offers free internet for $80 per night, but the Renaissance at SeaWorld can’t for $149.00, except in the lobby. Really? I call call (cough) Bullhouy.

  4 Responses to “Reasoning and Sense Making day 2”

  1. I vouch for the Stanford book of problems. Some of them are even challenging for the math teachers.
    The Robinson idea is just beautiful!!!
    Thanks for the info.

  2. Thanks. I just bought the Stanford book (love Polya!), but through Better World Books. For interesting problems, you might also be interested in this British site: http://www.risps.co.uk/

  3. Sue, WOW! The RISPS or “Rich Starting Point” for people who do not like to follow links, is an an amazing site. I hope they build it up with even more topics in the future.

  4. It looks like it’s from just one teacher, so I doubt it will grow fast. But he gives lots of links if I remember correctly.

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