This post is the 100th on my blog! 🎉
With all due respect to any of you beautiful and talented people reading this, I write this blog, first and foremost, for me. It is a space for reflection, where I document some of my practice as well as the lovely mathematical ideas that students and colleagues share with me. Writing helps me work some ideas out.
But I do post my writing publicly. For everyone who was hoping to make their summer project “a deep dive into someone else’s blog posts about teaching”: the following are a few of the themes that have emerged in my 5 years of blogging. I’d love to continue the conversation.
1. Be curious about and responsive to student thinking.
“If you get hooked on student thinking, the rest will follow.” -Tracy Zager
I think I’m paraphrasing that from Tracy, but the sentiment stands.
I have written a number of posts about clinical interviews, and examining what students do know. Here are a few:
- Nov 13, 2018. Presuming Competence: Using Clinical Interviews to Support Classroom Instruction
- Jan 5, 2019. Talking about Geometry in Kindergarten, Part 2: The Shape Hunt
- Feb 5, 2019. What does it mean to be ‘struggling’ in math class? (Eduardo’s Story)
- Aug 20, 2019. Listening to Early Understandings of Division: “12 ÷ 5 is either -3 or 0”
- Dec 11, 2021. The Half-Triangle: Attending to Precision and Building On Others’ Ideas
- Mar 31, 2022. What Will Help Plan for Tomorrow?
- June 28, 2022. Secret Squares and Stop Signs
2. We all bring bias into our classroom practice.
…and we need to interrogate that bias! I am trying, and it’s something that requires continual commitment.
- Jan 23, 2018. Doris
- Feb 12, 2019. I See the Same Hands: Dealing with Discretionary Spaces
- Mar 2, 2019. Daysha at the Board: Assigning Competence
- Mar 5, 2020. Blindspots
- June 26, 2020. Crime and Punishment: A Tale of Changing Beliefs
- Oct 17, 2019. The Story of Fibonacci, and the Math Ethnic Studies Framework
- Nov 29, 2020. Using Videos to Reflect on Practice, Student Identity, and Agency
- June 28, 2021. How Much Is Enough: Using Student Feedback to Reflect on Practice
- Aug 17, 2021. Reducing Bias & Desmos
3. All students deserve to be a part of the mathematical community, which includes access to grade level mathematics.
How do we support students in accessing grade level content? The following blog posts address access within the classroom, and also how we might nudge students forward even when they may already know the grade level standards.
- Feb 8, 2017. The Intersection of Fraction Talks & Clothesline Math: Formative Assessment and the Five Practices
- Nov 26, 2018. No More Mathematical Matchmaking: The Return of the Inaba Place Value Puzzles
- Jan 3, 2019. #TeamBlankSpace
- Mar 4, 2019. The Striped Snake Barbecue Puzzle: Exploring “Challenge” in 3rd Grade
- Mar 21, 2019. You’re Both Right: Examining and Honoring Mathematical Assumptions
- Oct 19, 2019. Using Instructional Routines to Inspire Deep Thinking
- Problem-Based Learning in Grade 4 Blog Series
- Jan 6, 2020. Getting Started with Problem Based Learning in Grade 4
- Jan 7, 2020. Problem Based Lesson #1: Launching Symmetry in Grade 4
- Jan 8, 2020. Problem Based Lesson #2: Making Connections with Symmetry in Grade 4
- Jan 9, 2020. Problem Based Lesson #3: Learning From One Another in Grade 4
- Jan 10, 2020. Reflections on the Problem-Based Learning (Symmetry Mini-Unit)
- Sep 29, 2020. Johnny Upgrade
- Dec 10, 2021. “Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say”: Peas and Carrots Edition
- Feb 1, 2022. Understanding Negative Numbers: In Praise of Tiny Games
4. Making mathematical connections is powerful.
- Feb 21, 2017. Inaba’s Place Value Puzzles: Making Connections and Asking “What If”
- Mar 28, 2017. Making Connections during Number Talks
- June 16, 2017. “Which is Greener?”: Connecting Fractions, Percents, and Ratios in Sixth Grade
- Oct 3, 2017. Leading Act 3: Using the 5 Practices & Intentional Talk To Deepen Discourse About the “Whopper Jar”
- Aug 28, 2019. Choosing a Story to Tell: Examining a Lesson Close in 1st Grade
- Dec 16, 2019. Using Diagrams to Build and Extend Student Understanding
- Jan 20, 2020. Debate in Kindergarten: Building Appreciation for Ten Frames
- Nov 18, 2021. Digging in the Closet: The Return of the Museum of Rarely Used Math Manipulatives (MoRUMM)
- Apr 19, 2022. The Learning that Led to Today.
5. Celebrate learning activities that are high leverage Yet low prep, like some of these games.
Years ago, the administrator evaluating told me that I needed to be able to walk into any classroom in my school (K-8!) and, with only a few minutes notice, engage students in a high quality mathematical experience. From this lofty and seemingly unrealistic expectation came these Low Prep but High Leverage Games!
- May 28, 2019. The Simple-But-High-Leverage Game Collection
- May 28, 2019. One of My Favorite Games: The Answer Is…
- May 29, 2019. One of My Favorite Games: Number Boxes
- May 30, 2019. One of My Favorite Games: The Skip Count Game
- Feb 1, 2022. Understanding Negative Numbers: In Praise of Tiny Games
6. Sometimes, weird things happen in schools.
Especially the school where I had my first teaching job.
- Oct 16, 2017. The New Kid
- May 28, 2018. We Need to Talk About Crazy Barb, or Throwing Skittles at a Problem
- June 19, 2019. A Tribute to My First School: The End of the Beginning
7. We are fully human.
We love. We cry. We make mistakes.
Most importantly, this means that we have lives outside of our work as educators, and that is beautiful. Sometimes, these lives still manage to intersect with our professional passions. (But usually they don’t! Because we are fully human!)
The subtitle for this section is: my children are hopelessly and utterly adorable, and if you’d met them you’d agree without complaint. I am blessed with the most wonderful family — my nuclear family, my extended family, and my chosen family of friends.
- Jul 20, 2020. Caterpillar Math
- Jan 28, 2020. Everyone Gets a Handful: Preschoolers Explore Division
- Mar 20, 2020. Making Meaning with Arrays: More Preschooler Division
- Jul 30, 2021. Kids Mathematize the World: Arrays
- Feb 2, 2022. Jeni
- Apr 6, 2022. The Ramadan Calendar
Embrace the Challenge
The title of this blog, Embrace the Challenge, came from a group of fourth graders a number of years ago. (They are now solidly halfway through high school.) We spent a day or two crafting norms for our class, and the above photo shows what they came up with.
Focus on learning.
Be responsible for yourself.
Embrace the challenge!
This was something that this particular class of fourth graders took on with great zeal. They were always eager to engage in mathematical challenges, and reflective on the group’s own struggles with some social dynamics. While I’ve never been in love with this name for my blog, I think it’s a beautiful tribute to possibility. We are not perfect, but we enter into learning with a full acceptance of what it may be. It may be complex, and it may be tricky, and some days feel more rewarding than others. Nevertheless, we persist. We embrace.