Tuesday, July 26, 2016

TMC16: Just TRY to Explain It to Those Who Ask

Having just experienced my 3rd (and I believe BEST) Twitter Math Camp, I feel as though I should have some profound insights to share.  I don't.

Instead, I want to write a letter to myself (kind of like you may have done at camp or at a church youth retreat), to remind myself of the things I learned, the people I met, and maybe even some of the "ah ha!" moments I had in those 4 days.  This post is FULL of links to all sorts of things so I can find them easily.

Dear Tina,

First thing: please remember what you said to people when they asked you where you had been that week in July.
Me:  "I was a Twitter Math Camp!"

Them: "Hunh? Math Camp?  What did you do, sit around and do math problems?"

Me: "Oh that would have been cool! I didn't get to do much of that...maybe a little on patterns and stuff."

Them:  "So what DID you do?"

Me:  "Hmmm, hard to describe.  First we got to spend a day with Desmos!  We got to find out all the new things they have added to the graphing calculator.  You know Desmos, right?  The online graphing calculator that is free? And they also have built Teacher Desmos, a site that is full of activities that are made by Desmos staff, or created and shared by other teachers, OR you can make your own! They had JUST finished creating Card Sort for Activity Builder the night before and we got to try it!"

(Noting the glazing over of the eyes, I add...)

"They gave us cool socks!.....And a pencil.....oh and a Desmos STICKER!"

"No, really, TMC was the BEST professional development I have ever been to:  all 4 days of it!"

Second thing:  Remember all you DIDN'T get to tell people when you came back:

A.  The morning sessions of Rehearsing Instructional Activities Together with David Wees, Jasper DiAntonio, and Caitlyn Ruggiero (I can't find her Twitter page!).  We worked specifically with an Instructional Activity called Contemplate then Calculate. (You can see more of this if you click on the link above then look for that title and click again. EVERYthing they showed us is shared there.  Unbelieveable.)

What I like best about these morning sessions?

First it ties in perfectly with the problem solving strategies I have been working on with my students for the last two years thanks to Max Ray-Reik and the crew at Math Forum, something I learned at the first TMC I went to.
Second, it ties in perfectly with the Number Talks I started doing with my students last year thanks to Chris Harris from my 2nd TMC (and who persuaded me I really could do this with HS students), and Kristin Gray, and Crystal Morey (who co-led a fantastic on-line Number Talks book study last fall).
Third:  It ties in perfectly to the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions book study that several members of the SSVT Math Dept are doing this summer. I got to see the 5 Practices in action at one of the sessions thanks to Tony Riehl and Kerry Gruizenga.
Fourth: It can be done in 15 mins using just about any interesting problem you can think of that can have multiple strategies for getting to an answer.

Side Note: no one I sat with understood what I was talking about when I said that "Contemplate then Calculate" sounds like what the "detectives" on Mathnet (from Square One TV) used to say: "To Calculate and Cogitate" or something like that. (You have to be REALLY old to get all the references to Dragnet, Car 54, etc in this show.  The puns and literary references are to groan for.  Go find and watch the episodes.)

B.  I need to remember to work in time for students to reflect on their work.  I was made more aware of the importance of this in Pam Wilson's session, "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall".  She not only shared the different ways you can work students reflecting in to your lesson plan, but also ways in which YOU can reflect on YOUR teaching.  Awesome stuff.

C.  The discussions, the friendships, the safe space to be vulnerable:  how can I capture these and explain to others?  (see Hannah's post or Annie's post)

Back to the First Thing:

Them: "So you had a good time?"

Me:  "Yes. You really had to be there.  It is going to be in Atlanta next year.  If you are a math teacher, you should go."

Now the Last Thing: This is the message that came from Key Note speakers (Thanks Dylan Kane), session leaders, and casual conversations:  It is OK to fail.  It is OK to fail more than once. It is in the failing that comes the learning.  Failure is just one step closer on the path to success. (restated from poster)
Remember all this, Tina!


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