Annual ASSM, NCSM, and NCTM – A Week of Math Ed Leadership & Collaboration

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Just returning from a week of fun in San Antonio where the annual math leadership and teacher conferences were held. Casio was a proud sponsor of a few events and at NCTM we had such a blast showing off our new graphing calculators (both approved by College Board for use on the PSAT, SAT, & AP exams), the CG-50 Prizm and the CG-500 Prizm CAS (3D graphing anyone?!) Not to mention the added bonus of blowing TI out of the water! (Side note: I will be doing specific posts for each of these in the next couple of weeks showing off some of the new and exciting features).

Thought it would be fun to highlight some of the moments we had sharing math education and technology with the dedicated math leaders and teachers we met throughout the week.

ASSM & NCSM


For the second year, we were honored to sponsor the opening session of ASSM (Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics). Mike Reiners, one of our amazing math teacher leaders and Casio user from Minnesota, provided some technology talking points after the main speaker and then everyone enjoyed some good food and conversation.

DSCF3005At NCSM (National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics) we were able to connect with many math leaders at our exhibit booth. We had a great time sharing our new calculators at our Showcase workshop and everyone walked away with a brand new CG-50 prizm to explore

 

Benjamin Banneker Association Reception at NCTM

It was a privilege to sponsor the BBA Reception at NCTM for the 2nd year in a row. What a great group of math educators who work so hard to ensure equity for all students. We were excited to continue our scholarship for a deserving student to support their future education endeavors.

NCTM & The Calculator Face-Off Challenge

NCTM was a big endeavor, with game-show stage and podiums, screens, lights, calculator displays. Thanks to the amazing team of Chris and Lionel from Events Special Effects and our own Casio Exhibit gurus John and Jason, the vision was made into a reality and it was a pretty beautiful booth if I do say so myself. Kudos to the team – it’s hard work designing, building and creating everything, but they did an amazing job. Some behind-the-scenes photos:

We had some crazy fun at the booth with hourly game-shows, and T-shirt spotter program where we gave away Kindle-Fire to those spotted in our t-shirts. We had G-shock watch giveaways, calculator prizes for our volunteer contestants and a magician, Mark Paskell, doing some magical give-aways and tricks. (My mind is still blown away by the reproducing bunnies….) 

We loved all the connections and interactions we had with math teachers, showing offthe amazing capabilities of all our calculators, but definitely our newest CG-50 and CG-500 graphing calculators. The look on our game-show participants faces when our CG-50 just blew the TI competitor out of the water was priceless. I know I am excited by the number of converts!

Here is a slide show highlighting some great moments from the games, demonstrations, sharing and talking with math educators, winners of our T-shirt spotter program, and some magic as well. Thanks to all the great math educators who came by and participated! Big shout out to our Casio teacher contestants, Jennifer North Morris, Tom Beatini and Mike Reiners.

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STEM In Action – Science Fair Amazement

I had the honor of being a judge for the Bucks County Science Research Competition (i.e. Science Fair) at Delaware Valley University yesterday. This is a competition for students in grades 6-12 who submit research projects in STEM related fields such as math, physics, engineering, chemistry…just to name a few. This was my first time volunteering as a judge, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but what I found reinforced my belief that students can do amazing things if given the chance.

There were hundreds of displays, where students laid out details of their research projects on 3-paneled poster boards, including images, their research paper, their hypothesis, pictures, graphs, data and some even including the devices they created or used. I was assigned to the Engineering judging team, so my focus was the 22 Engineering projects, which we spent 3 hours reading/reviewing, and then 2 hours interviewing the students themselves. Let me tell you – if these 22 students are examples of future engineers, the world is in good hands! It was very hard to ‘judge’ and the ultimate goal as a judge was to get the students to talk about what they did and why, and provide them with suggestions and questions that make them want to continue their research and explorations. I would say the most impressive part of the day was the interview time we had with each of the students, where they gave us their ‘elevator’ talk about the why, the what and the how of their research. These students were articulate, passionate, and most impressively, able to explain the math, the science, the technology, and the engineering behind their creations and findings.

There were too many impressive projects to be able to list them all, but I will describe a few standouts.

  • One sixth grade girl created a robotic hand that she programmed as well as a ‘human-like’ hand out of gel and straws/string (that she notched joints in so she could move the fingers) and compared the force of the finger compression.
  • A seventh grade girl compared the prepackaged program of a drone to her own programming of a drone to show her commands were more efficient and smooth.
  • An eighth grade boy developed a laser beam cane for the blind to help them ‘hear’ objects in their path.
  • An eighth grade girl, trying to solve the fresh water problem in 3rd-world countries, tested 3 natural  ways to filter water to help provide an affordable way for these countries to use their own resources to filter the water.
  • A junior in high school is in the middle of a 3-year project to design a 1-rotating platform 3D printer that he hopes will be a more efficient 3D printer than those currently out there. And he printed the parts of his new printer from the 3D printer he already made a couple years ago…..(of course?!)
  • A senior girl was using 3D printing to develop prosthetic for lower legs and ankles.
  • Another senior girl created her own biodegradable implants for meniscus tears that she believes would be stronger and more durable than current implants.
  • There was a senior boy who was building a water desalinization machine that uses de-ionization to get the salt out of the water and would be, if he is successful, a cheaper alternative for 3rd-world countries than current machinery
  • Then there was the seventh grade girl, spurred on by her parents and siblings diabetes, who built an artificial pancreas.
  • And finally, the middle school boy who tried to show that ground solar panels were more efficient than roof solar panels, and if nothing else, proved to his parents that their decision to invest in solar panels was a good one.

I was blown away by the creativity, the interest, the dedication, and the knowledge these students demonstrated both in their displays, but more importantly in the communicating of their ideas and hopes for future research. A big part of the science fairs is to encourage these students to keep exploring, to keep asking questions, and to continue to pursue these STEM related interests into the future, and hopefully into future STEM-related careers. It was so encouraging to see the number of girls at this event as well.  I left the day inspired and hopeful about the future – these students are already thinking and exploring ways they can improve it and if their projects were any indication, they are well on their way to doing so.

Numeracy – Skills for Life

I just watched this very interesting, and slightly alarming, TedX talk by Alan Smith. It drew my interest because of the title: Why You Should Love Statistics. Statistics is one of those math topics that I really believe all students in high school should take, yet it is often considered secondary in importance to pre-calculus or Algebra 2. My feelings about Statistics is that it is more important for the majority of students (and adults) because statistics are used daily and without an understanding of statistics, it is possible to be continuously deceived or misled. I think our present day political climate is a clear indication of this.  It all comes back to numeracy and understanding numbers and what those numbers, or data, are telling us about the world around us.

Smith begins his talk with some information about numeracy in the UK and then shows some data from the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAACX2012) comparing the numeracy rates from 12 countries, shown below.

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There is a clear problem numeracy in several countries.

Smith goes on to talk about statistics and how statistics are about us – “the science of dealing with data about the state, or the community that we live in….it’s about us as a group, not us as individuals”. He goes on to show how the way people perceive statistics is remarkably different than the reality of those statistics. It’s much more interesting to actually listen and watch Smith as he talks and shows results, so here’s the talk:

His basic message is we need to be more excited about numbers and statistics in general because it gives information about us. And if we are excited about numbers, we become more engaged in looking at numbers and data which can only improve our understanding of numeracy rates and more importantly, an understanding of us. Something much needed in this day and age.

Changing Classroom Strategies – It Takes Practice and Commitment

downloadHappy New Year!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and is ready to start 2017 with a new outlook and determination to make this the best year yet, both personally and professionally.

My New Year’s post from last year, New Year’s Resolutions for the Classroomprovided a list of 5 things I use to do to rejuvenate my classroom each year – things I really tried to emphasize and focus on deliberately to help foster student engagement.  The list is still appropriate, so I am not going to repeat it here – read last year’s post if you are interested. Instead, this year, I wanted to focus on change – which is what a ‘resolution’ is after all.  And by change, I mean long term, sustained change, that becomes habit and routine, which, when we are talking about effective classroom strategies, these are the changes we want to be making in our instructional practices.

Change is hard, as we all know. It’s much easier to keep doing what we have been doing, even if we know it isn’t working.  That unfortunately has been the problem with education for a long time – change that will have lasting, positive impact doesn’t happen overnight, and therefore when results don’t manifest immediately on a test or in a classroom, we think the ‘change’ was a failure and move on to something else. (Hence the reason why education looks remarkably the same as it has for the last 100 years or more). Take the Common Core Standards – a very positive change if done right, but deemed a ‘failure’ when results on standardized tests didn’t dramatically change or show improvement immediately. It’s not the change – it’s that there wasn’t enough time – enough practice – enough support. Real change for the better, in anything you do, takes serious time, commitment, support and practice. And unfortunately, we do NOT give teachers enough of any of those things to really make significant changes in instructional practice.

According to Malcom Gladwell in the book Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. Now, granted, there is some debate about that, but, the point here is it takes a lot of practice to get better at something or to make a change and become good at it. So, let’s say in a math classroom, we want teachers to change their practice and provide better questioning (i.e. critical thinking) practices. Let’s say this is your New Year’s resolution – you are going change how you ask questions of your students so that they are using problem solving and critical thinking versus just regurgitating answers or providing ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ solutions. This means that you must first learn what are some good questioning strategies and questions to ask that provoke thinking, and then you have to practice incorporating these into you current practices.  Deliberately incorporate, which is often very difficult, especially in a math class where it’s pretty easy to just ask what the answer is and move on when a student provides it. So – practice. Every day. On this one thing. If we calculate out 10,000 hours, and say you manage to do 2 hours a day of practicing good questioning strategies (that’s probably over-estimating, but we will give you the benefit of the doubt). So that’s 5,000 days.  Which….if we think about a typical school year of 180 days, it’s going to take 27 years to master the skill. Unrealistic, right? (Though…as someone who has been in education for 27 years, I would say my questioning skills are significantly better than they were when I started….but I still don’t think I have mastered it!)

27 years of practice to master a skill, or make a change that has an impact. Crazy. Let’s think about some changes teachers are asked to incorporate into their classroom, focusing just on math. There are new standards, so they have to change some of the things they have taught, the curriculum they use, the resources they have. There are recommended strategies – i.e. more collaborative learning experiences, incorporate more technology, foster more problem-solving and critical thinking, utilize questioning skills, focus on conceptual understanding not just skills, incorporate modeling….and the list goes on. Some of these are not new or changes for all teachers, but many are. And if each one of these ‘changes’ takes 10,000 hours to master, we definitely have a problem! Teachers are given usually a couple months to make these changes – if they are lucky, a couple of years, but then there are always new changes coming down the road, and there is NEVER enough time to practice any of the changes enough.

Obviously, no teacher is going to be given 27 years to practice something new. My point here – change in strategies imagesis important and necessary, and to change requires consistent practice over the long haul. You may not see the results right away, but don’t give up because it takes TIME and commitment!! Make those New Year’s resolutions to be a better teacher, to do better at questioning, to use technology more, to help your students think critically and to work collaboratively. But realize that it takes practice – lots of it – to make these changes have a real impact on student learning. Devote that time. Focus on one resolution/change at a time and just keep doing it – over and over – till you get better and until it becomes a habit. Practice truly does make perfect (or at least better) and your students will benefit. I don’t think it will take 10,000 hours to see positive results, but it won’t take a day or a week or a month either. It will take your commitment to practicing a little bit every day until it becomes routine and you continue to improve over time.

Keep practicing and Happy New Year! Let 2017 be the year of change!

The STEM Around Us

NCTM Innov8, the new team-based conference that NCTM is sponsoring, is going on right now in St. Louis, Missouri. Our team is there of hqdefaultcourse, supporting math teachers with our technology and a great team-building session based on the Wheel of Fortune and the probabilities of winning (session is Friday, November 18 at 10:45 am in Room 265/266). St. Louis brings to mind the very famous St. Louis Gateway Arch, something math teachers attending will probably be exploring and trying to mathematically represent – is it a parabola? (In fact, it is NOT a parabola, but rather a flattened catenary). (Cool 3D mathematical model here).

This idea of looking at real objects and connecting mathematics to them is something math teachers do often. It makes complete sense, and, as I have been teaching a geometry course for Drexel these last several weeks, I have really deepened my appreciation for this idea of looking at our constructed world to find the mathematical connections and relationships. What I think we tend not to do with students, and what we should do much more of, is go beyond the obvious “shape” explorations and function fitting to explore the STEM connections.

What I mean is after we identify the inherent shapes and/or functions in ‘real-world’ objects, start asking questions that get students thinking about the why behind those shapes. The why questions lead to investigation and research by students into science, technology, engineering, and math applications that would take them much deeper into understanding the world around them. And, I wager, this type of questioning will engage students in learning and applying what they learn in a much more relevant and interesting way.  Giving them purpose for learning. And, as a result, we might have more students going into STEM fields.

Some examples:

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Why, for example, are most buildings polygon shapes, particularly triangles and rectangles? Why don’t we see more circular or cylindrical shapes for buildings, besides the grain silos or water towers? Is there a reason? This is where engineering would come into play – are certain shapes stronger from an engineering perspective?

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Why are science and medical tubes cylindrical? Is their a scientific reason for these shapes/containers? Why not use a prism shape, so then you could set the vials down on a table versus having to store them in special holders so they don’t roll away? Is the shape somehow connected to the way molecules or blood cells behave – i.e. science factors that might determine the tools used.  2791136-image-of-the-motherboard-without-a-pc-processor-closeup

Look at all the different shapes on a computer motherboard – there are cylinders, rectangles, squares, networks of curves/lines of wires, prisms…so many things going on. Students could ask whether certain shapes provide better conductivity? Or heat control? How does the height of a component impact it (notice the different heights of the cylindrical components). I don’t even know the questions to ask here, but this is a great example of where technology comes into play.

I feel that if we allowed students to explore beyond simple things like fitting a function to a curve or identifying shapes in a picture, and really focused on STEM applications and reasons behind the use of those specific shapes, we would be encouraging students creativity, curiosity, and developing research capabilities in order to find solutions. It would be so engaging and really get students interested in those STEM careers, but more importantly, a better understanding of the STEM around them.

 

#Edtech Professional Development – Comfort, Confidence & Relevance

I did an article several months ago about technology professional development and ready-to-use lessons being one way to support teachers implementation entitled Teachers and #Edtech – REady-to-use Lessons Can be A Support. Obviously, this is only one of many things schools and education leaders can do to help support technology implementation and ensure that the technology use is sustained over time as well as actually improves and supports student learning. I wanted to just share a couple more things that I found in my own doctoral work that education leaders need to consider PRIOR to purchase technology, as well as AFTER purchasing technology.

keycurriculum_nctm2012-0414I have spent years researching, creating, and doing professional development, much of it specific to technology integration in mathematics, whether that be online learning, dynamic software or calculators. I have been all over the country (and now the world as well!) providing teachers and administrators with face-to-face workshops, online learning, and blended professional development to support technology integration. My doctoral work was specifically focused on technology professional development with math teachers and was a long term, embedded study over 3 years. From my own research, which supports other educational research findings on PD and technology integration, here’s is a condensed list of things education leaders can do (before, during and after professional development) that make a difference in the success and/or failure of technology integration into classroom practice:

  1. Curriculum & district expectations
    • Ensure technology used actually supports standards and content taught
    • Make sure there is relevance of professional development content/resources to what teachers actually teach and do in the classroom
    • Provide content-focused, ready-to-use activities/lessons that utilize the technology
    • Set clear expectations from administration that using the technology was expected & supported
  2. Teaching practices
    • Professional development should emphasize using technology to teach specific content keycurriculum_nctm2012-0486
    • Professional development should provide classroom management and teaching strategies for using the technology
    • Multiple teaching strategies need to be modeled in professional development (questioning, collaboration)
    • Teachers are given time to collaboratively plan lessons and practice using technology with their content/classroom
  3. Sustained Professional Development
    • Long-term support must be provided
    • There should be continued training on technology as well as content-focused implementation of technology
    • Coaching, modeling, active learning should be key components of sustained professional development
    • Teachers need sufficient opportunities to collaborate & time for practice and feedback
  4. Internal & External Factors are accounted for and controlled
    • Access to technology should actually be available(seems a no brainer?!). Technology integration won’t work if students access to the technology is limited.
    • Teachers must believe students will benefit from use of technology (so PD emphasizes relevance) and be confident in their ability to use it (so sustained PD is provided and teachers are supported in many ways)
    • Time is provided.  Time for teachers to learn and practice implementation, time for students to learn, and time for changes to take place BEFORE judgements/assessments are made
    • Classroom structures need to support the use of the technology. So – class size, other competing technologies and/or resources are de-emphasized, support for changing classroom teaching strategies, etc. are all considered and addressed prior to and during implementation

image16The importance of providing teachers with resources they can use right away with students that are relevant to what they are actually teaching is so crucial, especially when a new technology is introduced. If the beginning of trying to use a new technology is filled with frustration and angst, the chance of that technology being a lasting education tool is unlikely. Comfort, confidence, and relevance make a big difference in the success of technology as a learning tool – if you provide those resources up front, and then as teachers see the benefit and get more comfortable with using the technology with students over time, you will see continued use. Follow that up with sustained support through collaborative lesson planning, coaching, online on-demand support and resources – so many possibilities, and you will see a big difference in the successful implementation of technology. ROI as they say – return on investment if you invest the resources, time, and support from the very start.

These are just a few things to keep in mind as you consider new technology for classrooms or as you re-consider how to support current technology implementation.

NOTE: A great example of this relevant, hands-on PD approach, with sustained support afterwards, is offered by Casio’s technology workshops.  At these mini-workshops you get to ‘do technology’ using content-focused, hands-on math activities that can be used immediately with students, you get the technology itself (Casio fx-9750GII) and you get on-demand, sustained support via our tutorials and ready-to-use lessons, content webinars, and guided tours. The idea here is teachers get their hands on technology and do content-specific activities that help them see the relevance of the technology to their teaching and student learning. They then have ready-to-resources to implement immediately, getting them more comfortable with the technology. And they have a place to find additional resources as they become more adept with using the technology with their students. The resources and support help the use of technology become an integral part of teaching practice.

 

Preparation and Making Educated Decisions on November 8

I watched the Presidential Debate this past Monday. My brain still hurts.

I obviously could talk about a lot of things I heard, but instead I want to bring up two things that stood out for me.

  1. Hillary Clinton’s reply to Donald Trump when he accused her of being “over prepared” for the debate. Her response: “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. You know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing,” 
  2. Education – not really mentioned in the ‘debate’ (yes, let’s use that term very loosely!), except in passing, and in all honesty, sort of missing in this whole election process.

As an educator, these two things struck me as sort of key components – we need a president that is prepared and we need to get this country focused on education, because, as is very evident in this political climate we are in right now, lack of education is clearly resulting in a lot of inaccuracies, belief in “hype” and poor decision making. Education is so crucial, and we need a President who is going to help address issues like equity, ESSA, funding, ELL….so many things.

Let’s talk about preparedness. Can you imagine, as a teacher, walking into a classroom of students unprepared? Unthinkable! Teachers study the content they are going to teach, anticipate student misconceptions, prepare for alternate ways of presenting information, prepare questions to guide and encourage student discourse and investigation. They know their stuff.  They have a strategy. Because of that preparation, they can make educated decisions and changes during a class, based on student questions, misunderstandings, tangent trains of thought, etc. The plan may change when execution begins – as any teacher knows, the lesson you planned can go in lots of directions – BUT – the preparation for that lesson leads you and the students in relevant directions focused on the original content. Preparedness matters when important decisions are at stake and, in the case of students, when learning needs to happen – so…being prepared matters every day?!!

I would like a prepared President who knows his/her ‘content’ (about our country, policy, government, treaties,  and world affairs, etc.). One who can use that preparation to make decisions, big and small, and be flexible for those times when tangent trains of thought or questions or disagreements arise.

This leads me to my second focus, education in this country. The next President will have a huge impact on shaping education policy – and its not mentioned much and we don’t really hear about the candidates take on education except for sound bites. ESSA is just coming into play, so that’s huge. The next Supreme Court Justice appointment could impact education policy -also huge. The next Presidents’ take on the Department of Education, on Pre-school Education, on higher-education, teacher pay, funding, technology, etc- all those really important things we educators think about on a regular basis, this matters a great deal to the future of education in this country. The next President should understand education policy – how the federal, state and local governments interact, what issues and policies are important and needed, how changes impact students access and equity in education. If we don’t educate ourselves on what all the Presidential Candidates believe about education, and instead make decisions based on personal feelings, ‘hype’, showmanship, he said/she said, then we are NOT PREPARED and our vote on November 8 is NOT an educated one, and could drastically hurt the state of education in our country.

So please – as educators interested in the future of education, prepare for this November 8 election. Read the actual policies on education that each candidate proposes. Find out what they know (or don’t know). Prepare, compare, and make an educated decision.

Here’s a nice quick visual summary of the four candidates positions (from BallotPedia):

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Here are some good resources for comparing the candidates views on education . I’ve also included some links that compare the candidates on many of their policy stands, not just education. But, as an educator, education is rather crucial to me, so it is the one I focus on.

  • This link has a nice summary and then a run-down of each candidates stance and things they have said about education.
  • This is an interactive comparison on different education related topics (just Clinton vs Trump)
  • A higher-ed comparison of the candidates (just Clinton vs Trump)
  • List of some key education ideas and how candidates compare
  • Strong Public Schools (NEA) comparison
  • In their own words comparisons of the 4 candidates (Ask yourself – who knows what they are talking about, who doesn’t?)
  • 20 Questions/Answers (on more than just education) from ScienceDebate.org. All 4 candidates. Eye opening – again, ask yourself, who is prepared, who isn’t?

Let’s do what we as educators do best – prepare, plan and make educated decisions. It matters.