My Week at Math Camp

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Jacqui Giuliano, Oakwood Hills, IL

Every school year, I end feeling like there are SO many more things I can do to make learning math more fun for my students. I have come up with many ideas and have gone to some great professional development sessions, but I am not sure anything can ever top what I just experienced.

Sometime in April, I Googled, “Math Teacher Conferences” and stumbled upon the Academy of Best Practices 3.0 through CPM. It was a lengthy application, with a 1-minute video and two letters of recommendation required, and I barely made the deadline, but I was pretty proud of myself. Doing something like this would be enhancing my leadership and that was something I have been striving for as my years in education have progressed. I found out near the end of May that out of 160+ applications submitted, I was one of 32 math teachers chosen to attend this conference!

I literally BURST into the rooms of the two fellow math teachers who wrote my letters of recommendation and almost hugged them out of excitement. I know this sounds SUPER dorky, but I really do enjoy learning as much as I can so that I can become a better teacher for my students.

Here is a rundown of the week. For more details, read my blog:

With people coming in from all over the country, we had a meet-and-greet with the other teachers we would be working with. There was definite variety in the group between location, experience, and even age.

I had no idea what to expect going into this when we arrived, but we jumped right into another Ice Breaker activity. We learned many of these throughout the week, which is great to use in the classroom. We then learned about Team Roles, which is something I had wanted to work more with this year, so to learn more about effective grouping really was great for me. We had a guest speaker talk about leadership as well. We ended the class with a super fun activity, Bubble Pi, that I absolutely plan on using in my classroom when we discuss circles (Pi, Area, Circumference).

Each day from here on, we came into class by getting some sort of object that sorted us to a certain table where we were grouped differently each day. It was great to work with other teachers and meet new people. We did the Marshmallow Activity that I have done with my classes before, and it was fun to watch a group of teachers do it as well.

We then learned a LOT about algebra tiles, which is something I am 100% going to use in my classroom. I really feel like this will help my pre-algebra students with many of the misunderstood concepts throughout the year and am looking forward to it! The great thing about algebra tiles, as we learned throughout the week, is that they can really be used at any grade level.

We also discussed feedback. I feel like this is a really difficult part of teaching. Regardless of if you are an elementary teacher with 20-30 students or a middle/high school teacher with 100+ students, finding ways to give descriptive, effective feedback is always a challenge. I left the day feeling like I had strategies to incorporate better use of feedback at least on a weekly basis with my students.

Today’s first topic was productive struggle. As a teacher, you are probably cringing reading that phrase. It is SO hard to let our students struggle, because we naturally want them to be successful; however, productive struggle is SUCH an important part of the learning process. To demonstrate this, we were given a chance to experience this… and it was super hard. BUT, it was really cool to see the teacher facilitating productive struggle and I learned a lot about how I (as the teacher) should respond to students.

AND THEN, WE MET DAN MEYER. Okay, for those of you NOT in the math/math teacher world, you probably have no idea who this is. BUT, for those of you in the math/math teacher world, you recognize him as basically a god. This guy was SO engaging and had SO many amazing ideas to get students really thinking (and caring!) about math. He is tied for my favorite presentation of the week (more on that later).

Today’s morning session discussed Number Talks, which was awesome as this is something I am planning on doing in my new math course (a math intervention course….which I have no prior experience with, so am totally stepping out of my comfort zone, happily!) We also continued our discussion on feedback before revisiting algebra tiles. It is so crazy to me that a manipulative as “basic” as algebra tiles can be used essentially from 6th grade through senior year. I am really excited to bring this idea back to my fellow teachers.

Our speaker for today discussed equity in the math classroom. We viewed a video, “My Favorite No,” which is something our district math group has watched before. I really like the concept and think I might try and include it more in my classroom so that students DO see that it is okay to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them. We talked a bit about academic mindsets before ending the day.

Wednesday, meeting Dan Meyer and hearing his presentation, was awesome, but I cannot choose which presentation was better as today we had the pleasure of meeting Eli Luberoff, the founder of Desmos (online graphing calculator). He had never been a teacher (unlike Dan Meyer) but was SO engaging and had us laughing and learning simultaneously. His story is one I will probably share with my students: he dropped out of middle school, high school, and college, and then went on to graduate summa cum laude at Yale. We were able to play around with Desmos and do some Desmos activities as well.

We worked with algebra tiles once more (completing the square!) before wrapping up our time together. It was bittersweet to be ending, but I was completely exhausted.

As I sat in my Uber on the way to the airport, I could not help but think how lucky I was to be one of 32 teachers to attend this conference. I am so thankful that Mark, Sharon and Karen found something about me that stood out in my video/application/letters of recommendation as I am bringing an incredible amount of knowledge, and confidence, back to my school this year. If you are a math teacher, this is a conference you CANNOT miss.

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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.