How Many Hamsters Fit in a Helicopter?

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Beth Baker,  Eureka, CA

As many things do, my side job as a co-host for a live, call-in television show began with an innocent phone call. “I hear you like to talk about math,” said my caller. I was hooked.  “Just call 497-5044 with your math and science questions!” is ingrained in my psyche at this point. Homework Hotline is a locally produced math and science call-in show for students. Our PBS affiliate, KEET TV, produces the show and it airs Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:30. Teams of math and science teachers take turns in a four week rotation to do science demonstrations between calls. As a special favor the producer, Sam, schedules my little sister (she is the little one) as my science partner. We finish each other’s sentences on camera just as we do the rest of the time. Our synchronized “Hi, Mom!” during the intro is one of our running bits.

2017 is my sixth season and the callers never cease to delight. From two-digit multiplication woes (that we tackle with generic rectangles), to solving equations, to fifth graders who have forgotten long division, the math calls are mostly procedural. With my CPM background I can almost always show a visual approach that is supported by a concept rather than just going straight for the algorithm.

My favorite call recently came from a seventh grader who went rogue as soon as she was on the air; instead of asking the question she gave the screener on the phone, she asked, “How many hamsters would fit in a helicopter?”

When on live TV, you just have to roll with whatever comes your way! We established how much room each little creature might need (4-inch cube) and how many cubic feet there might be in a medium sized chopper, (6ft x 3ft x 4ft) and crunched the numbers to get a whopping 5,508 hamsters! My sketch on the whiteboard was pretty crazy, but the caller was happy with the answer and the show went on.

What I have learned from my stint on the show is to relax and go with whatever math comes up; math is fun to think about no matter what size or shape, and having partners in thinking makes it even better!

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.