Education Growth Mindset – So Important for Teachers and Students

I just came back from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where I was working with Department of Defense Education Activities (DoDEA) math teachers as part of the DoDEA/UT Dana Center College and Career Ready Standards Initiative. Our focus this summer, which kicks off the next year of continued support and training, was on helping teachers create a classroom culture of student discourse and a growth mindset that allows students to develop deeper mathematical understanding and become problem-solvers and confident mathematicians. It was a fabulous two days, and the teachers, some who had never explored this idea of ‘growth mindset’, really had some powerful conversations around this idea of providing students productive struggle opportunities and helping them develop this sense that they can solve problems, and they can improve mathematically, and they can learn. It was rather eye opening for many.  How many of us educators have come across those students who give up without even trying because they think they can’t do it? Or they have been so ingrained in the idea that they are ‘bad at math’, so they don’t even try? That’s what this idea is about.

Carol Dweck is a leader is this field of Growth Mindset, and how to motivate and help support this idea of a growth mindset. In fact, the teachers I worked with as part of our workshop, read an article by Dweck that provided some insight into what we as both teachers and parents, inadvertently sometimes do that prevents students/children from having a growth mindset. Something as simple as the way we praise can actually interfere with this growth mindset. More here.

Many of you may be unfamiliar with what a growth mindset is, so I found a great TedTalk from Carol Dweck that explains the idea behind it. As educators, this is something to really think about because we want to develop in our students the willingness to persevere and solve problems that may seem difficult.


Rethinking Summer School – Equity & Promoting Student Learning

Summer school – I know that it conjures up bad thoughts in most of our minds. Having to go to summer school usually means you failed a course or a grade and you have to make it up.  But – do only the ‘failures’ or the ‘bad kids’ need to go to summer school? Is that what summer school is for? This is what most of us think of when we consider summer school, when in reality, summer school should be a place where all students could go to keep on track, get ahead, or learn some new things. Research shows that the 3-month summer break is often a huge learning set-back for many students, particularly minority students and students living in poverty, causing a widening of the achievement gap, in part because these students are often denied opportunities for summer ‘enrichment’ courses or camps. Summer school options are usually focused on remediation and failures, and not very enticing for students to attend voluntarily, and so we have most students taking a 3 month break from any learning. But what if we approached summer school differently? What if it weren’t a punishment, but rather a place where students were motivated by other students or college student mentors and were engaged in new and interesting topics that kept them learning?

I found this really motivating TedTalk by Karim Abouelnaga, who from his own experiences with school, decided to try to change the way we rethink summer school. It’s not too late, even for this year, for those of you educators out there getting ready for this years summer school to consider making some changes that would make summer school a learning opportunity for all students.

NCTM Regionals -What’s the Point?

NCTM Regionals in Phoenix, AZ and Philadelphia, PA are going on this week and next (Phoenix, AZ is October 26-28, Philadelphia, PA is October 31 – November 2). The regional conferences are significantly smaller than the National conferences, and draw much more of a local group of math teachers versus the more wide-spread attendance, both national and international, at the NCTM Annual Conference (this year in San Antonio, TX, April 5-8, 2017). There use to be 3 regional conferences, and this year we are down to two, so the question arises, what’s the point? Are these Regional Conferences worth the time and effort? Well – as a math teacher who faithfully attended regional conferences for years and years, my answer is yes.

Here’s my short list of why there is in fact, a very definite “point’ to the NCTM Regionals:

  1. They are in the fall, after teachers have had a chance to get their classes going, image20understand their students, and get in the swing of things. It’s about the time when the dust has settled and teachers are looking for some new ideas, engaging activities, technology apps and devices – anything to help support student learning. The Regionals’ provide a chance to spark some creativity for teachers who are finally having some breathing room after the chaos of the start of a new school year.
  2. These are much more local conferences, so there’s a lot of teachers from the same area as both presenters and attendees – it builds some camaraderie, with many local schools and districts providing a day or two of professional learning time for their teachers to attend. It supports local math initiatives and provides teachers with new ideas and strategies that they then take back and share with other teachers and their students.
  3. The Regional conferences are less expensive, allowing for more teachers who want to attend to actually do so. Often times schools/districts will pay for teachers to go to the Regionals since they are a more affordable and they can send more teachers as well (more bang for their buck).
  4. keycurriculum_nctm2012-0442They occur early in a school year, so that math leaders and those who make ‘funding’ decisions can check out new curriculum, textbooks, technology, professional development, and math resources at the Exhibit Hall and at sessions. This allows for them to arrange for samples or pilots or meetings to plan for things like textbook adoptions or technology purchases or professional development support. Teachers often go to these Regional events and bring ideas back to their school leaders of what might be good for their schools/students. There is time to research, try-out, and get a feel for what resources might be best before any funding/purchases need to be made (usually the Spring).
  5. It provides a place to learn more about mathematics standards, Education Policy (like ESSA), standardized testing, and other math-related issues that impact teaching and student achievement
  6. It’s an opportunity for math educators to get together to collaborate, learn, share and get informed and rejuvenated about mathematics education. That’s the most important thing – educators learning together to find new and different ways to engage their students in mathematics learning. Nothing more powerful than that.

So – yes. There is a point. Hopefully there are many of you out there who are able toimage12 take
advantage of the NCTM Regionals this year. If not, the same can be said of your local and state math conferences, so don’t pass up the chance to attend those if you can.

Casio is in attendance at both Phoenix and Philadelphia NCTM Regionals, so be sure to stop by the booth and gets some hands-on play time with our technology and math resources. Not to mention entering the raffle for a free graphing calculator. We also have workshops happening at both conferences, so be sure to check those out as well.


  1. Thursday, October 27
    • Exploring the Connection Between Recursive Sequences and Composition of Functions  Room 102 C, Grades 10-12, 9:30 – 10:30 am
    • You’ve Got To Move it! Transforming Mathematics – Room 227 AB, Grade Levels 8-10, 1:30 Pm – 2:45 pmimg_4198
  2. Friday October 28
    • Linear or Not Linear: That is the Question  Room 101AB, 8 – 9 am
    • The Probabilities of “Wheel of Fortune” – Room West 301A, 8 – 9 am


  1. Tuesday, November 1
    • Problem Solving for Middle Grades Pre-Service Teachers   Room 105AB, Coaches/Leaders/Teacher Educators, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
    • Polar, Parametric, Rectangular – Can You See the Connection?  Room Franklin 3/4, Grade Levels 10-12, 3:15-4:15 pm
  2. Wednesday, November 2
    • Hands-on Activities & Technology=Mathematical Understanding Through Authentic Modeling    Room Franklin 3/4, Grade 8-10, 9:45 – 11:00am
    • Exploring the Connection Between Recursive Sequences and Composition of Functions   Room 201B, Grades 8-10, 12:30 – 1:30 pm


Calculators – Back to School Choices

gallery-1466087182-middle-school-and-high-school-school-suppliesHard to believe that summer is already over – for some students anyway.  Depends of course where you live – here in PA students don’t go back until the end of August, in VA, it’s after Labor Day, and in CA, my sisters kids are already on their 4th day of the new school year.

As a teacher and as a parent, I know the beginning of the school year involves a lot of money and making choices – new clothes, bookbags, pens, pencils, papers, notebooks, calculators.  Those long “school supply lists” seemed to get longer every year.  In part because school funding has decreased, so teachers have less to work with and count on the parents to help support classroom needs. Though, as most of you know, teachers spend a lot of their own personal money on their classrooms and students too.  Something to remember when you question the box of tissues, the dry-erase markers, and other seemingly ‘unnecessary for my child’ supplies.

These days, some of the needed supplies come with a hefty price-tag – laptops and tablets for example. Depends again on what the school/school district supplies and if your child’s school even uses such technology.  BYOD (bring your own device) schools expect you to provide these, and those that do provide the devices often require a hefty ‘rental’ fee – for obvious reasons such as damage, repairs, upkeep, etc.  But – these more expensive items are still not the norm in most schools – again, because of funding, lack of internet, lack of training on how to use these devices appropriately, etc. In my research, only about 25% of schools are using laptops/tablets on a daily basis, with most students only getting access to these a few times a month (shared laptop/tablet carts or a computer lab).

One technology tool that is still prevalent and requested, more so in middle and high school, is the calculator. Schools use to supply these, and some still do, but the cost to maintain and replace broken or lost calculators is difficult when school funding is so drastically reduced. Calculators are often added to the school supply list, like in my sisters case, where she was asked to buy two graphing calculators for her two high school students. Sometimes they request a specific brand – for no other reason than its what the teacher/school is familiar with, not considering price at all. But price matters, especially when functionality is the same and often times better. Scientific calculators have similar price tags, no matter the brand, but graphing calculators have a huge range of pricing and options – color, non-color…what to choose? Color graphing calculators in particular can be expensive – $150 for the ‘familiar’ model. But you don’t always need to get the most expensive, ‘familiar’, requested model just because it’s on the list.  Get the one that’s going to support your child’s math learning.

IMG_3406Obviously I am going to promote Casio calculators here, since I am a IMG_3407Brand Ambassador for them.  But, as a math teacher for 25 years, I am also promoting them because they are truly a better calculator and more affordable, so why wouldn’t you make that choice? If your child needs to purchase a calculator, then just go into a store, like Walmart or Target or online – and compare. In the Scientific models, pricing is similar, so how do you choose? Well- you go with functionality and Casio is easier to use and, as in the case of the fx-300Es vs the TI-30xIIs, the Casio makes fractions look like actual fractions, lets you see tables when entering data – just a few of the things it does better. Same in elementary calculators – the fx-55plus is far superior than any TI calculator and fractions look like fractions! (i.e Natural display).

Graphing calculators are trickier – there are color options, non-color options. In all cases, Casio is much more affordable than TI. Do you need a color graphing calculator is probably the real question. For more advanced mathematics courses, the color graphing calculator is the better choice for several reasons, for example they tend to have more functionality and color displays allow for easy comparison when looking at several functions on one graph. The Casio Prizm is significantly more affordable than either of TI’s color options, and as we showed at NCTM, a previous blog, and in many comparison videos, the Prizm outperforms TI.

2015-10-29_14-24-37In most instances, particularly middle school, color is not needed, in which case you can get a Casio Graphing calculator like the 9750GII or the 9860GII for 1/3 to 1/2 the price of a T. Even without color, both of these calculators outperform and are easier to use than the TI models, including color (see videos again!) And, if you only want to purchase one graphing calculator for your child to last all through high school, both of these will get them through the highest levels of math. I guess my thoughts are why pay more for a name when you can get a better calculator at a significantly more affordable price? And if the teachers or schools say it must be a specific model, that’s only because it’s what they know – it’s NOT because it’s a better product. And in this day and age, where we are all watching our money and have to make choices, I say go with the more affordable and efficient functioning option.

As you go shopping for your back to school supplies, just remember you have choices. So choose what works best for your budget, your child, and don’t forget to pick up some extra tissues and dry-erase markers for the classroom – they are definitely needed!!

Casio Global Teacher Meeting – 2016


GTM 2015

Hard to believe that a year has already gone by since I went to my first Global Teachers’ Meeting to support Casio Education initiatives. Looking back on my post from August 2015, A Global Perspective, I still felt that same sense of awe being in a room with teachers from all over the world – Algeria, France, Belgium, Japan, Australia, Finland, Germany, China, England, Italy, Spain…..A regular United Nations of math teachers!

This year the meeting was not held in Japan, as it normally is, but in Hamburg, Germany. This was due to the fact that ICME (International Congress for Mathematics Education) was being held at the University of Hamburg during the same week, so Casio, a big sponsor of ICME, wanted the two events to coincide. ICME only happens every 4 years, and I was fortunate enough to attend a couple days of the ICME conference – a math conference very different than an NCTM conference. This conference is all about researchers sharing their work and math educators collaborating and discussing the issues surrounding math education. I have a lot of reading to do because some of the research I heard about was fascinating.


GTM 2016

My take aways’ from this years Global Teacher Meeting (GTM) was again how diverse math education is in other countries, and how culture and government of education really impacts how and what is taught. Many countries have a Ministry of Education, and therefore all schools within that country are governed by the curriculum, resources, and assessments that the Ministry of Education defines. This is different from the United States, where, even though we have the Department of Education, every state controls what happens in their states, and often control is even given to individual schools. This explains why it is so difficult to enact change in United States schools because we have so many different governing bodies defining education and there is rarely any real commonality. It also, in my opinion, explains why it really is unfair for us to compare our education to many other countries since it is such a vastly different ‘thing’.

There are many other differences – respect for the teaching profession is much higher in many countries than in the US, there is more consistent use and access to technology, and a more pervasive use of diverse, inquiry-based, problem-solving focused strategies for teaching mathematics – it’s all very different. But, what is very apparent and similar in these Global Teacher Meetings, is how dedicated all the teachers from every country are to their students, to providing quality education and math instruction, and in their belief that technology is a necessary tool in supporting mathematics learning. I think I said it last year, and it’s still true this year – Casio is number one in these countries. These teachers are using Casio calculators, particularly the Classwiz-fx-991 and the ClassPad, all the time.  Pretty telling I think.

I came home this year from both the Casio GTM and my experience at ICME with renewed excitement about the possibilities for math education and integration of technology in mathematics instruction in a more equitable, pervasive way. I know Casio is really striving to get technology into the hands of every student to help bridge those access gaps. Much of the research I heard talked about the benefit of dynamic math capabilities and using technology to increase understand and expand problem-solving and critical thinking as students learn mathematics. I see great things happening this year – school starts just around the corner, so it’s a new beginning.

I leave you with a few images from Hamburg, Germany.  I was very busy being a complete math and technology geek, so unfortunately did not see much of the beautiful city.  But we did get a wonderful experience “on board” the beautiful, historic Rickmer Sailing boat, so here are some pictures from that experience.

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CAMT 2016 – Worth the Texas Heat

canal-san-antonio-tx-view-one-canals-downtown-texas-31902254CAMT (Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching) starts tomorrow in San Antonio, TX. Texas math teachers know all about CAMT – it is a tradition, so you can be sure that Texas math teachers will be well represented. It’s a huge conference with a large attendee turnout not only from Texas but from all over.  When I was living in Houston, I attended and spoke at CAMT every year – it’s a great conference with a really fun vibe – perhaps because it always happens in the summer and everyone is on summer break and feeling relaxed and pumped to get some new ideas for the upcoming year.  Whatever the reason, it’s always a great conference and is in beautiful San Antonio, TX this year, with it’s lovely River Walk and great restaurants and shops.  If you are attending, I wish you a successful conference where you learn new things to bring back to your classroom or schools.

Casio will be there naturally,  with our fabulous Texas folks, Amy Chow and Marty Frank there ready to do some math with Casio technology and work with leaders and teachers on supporting their tech needs. Be sure to stop by booth #133 and check out all the calculators and resource books for all grade levels and subjects, and do some comparisons and hands-on learning.  We also have several presenters who are doing some great technology workshops, which I have listed below:

  1. Wednesday, June 29 from 11:30 – 12:30 pm in Room 302 (Ballroom)
    • Grades 3rd – 5th
    • Presenter: Sandra Browning
    • It’s Elementary! Gain a deeper understanding of how technology helps students in grades 3-5 gain deeper understanding of patterns that build to proportional reasoning, an important concept in grades 5-8.
  2. Thursday, June 30 from 10:00 – 11:00 am in Room 005 (River level)
    • Grades 9 – 12
    • Presenter: Tracey Zak Johnson
    • Pushing the Limits of Your Graphing Calculator for the EOC Algebra Test. Make the difference between passing and failing the STAAR exam with the natural-display graphing calculator. Learn testing strategies and bring life to linear and quadratic equations using real-life situations. This is a hands-on session so come learn and use technology to enhance math instruction.
  3. Thursday, June 30 from 1:00 – 2:00 pm in Room 217D (Concourse Level)
    • Grades 6 – 8
    • Presenter: Kathy Mittag from
    • Have Fun Teaching Middle School TEKS Statistics Concepts. A hands-on workshop where participants will collect real-world data and then explore the concepts of mean, median and use various plots, such as stem-and-leaf, box, and histograms to explore and analyze data. TEKS statistics concepts will be highlighted in this session.
  4. Thursday, June 20 from 2:30 – 3:30 pm in Room 005 (River Level)
    • Grades 9 – 12
    • Presenter: Tracey Zak Johnson
    • “Real Life” Math. This will be an exciting session, using real situations/pictures and designing a curve of best fit to model the data. Data interpretation from 8th grade math through calculus will be explored and all participants leave with free trial software to take the lesson back to their classrooms to help their students understand quadratics.
  5. Friday, July 1 from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm in Room 005 (River Level)
    • Grades 9 – 12
    • Presenter: Catherine Tabor
    • Polarizing Art. Delve into the exciting world of polar coordinates and equations through the use of polar art. Examine how changes in variables can cause radical changes in the graphs.  Participants will create beautiful pieces of polar art using calculator technology and see what students have created. Participants will leave with ready to use lesson for their classroom.
  6. Friday, July 1 from 1:00 – 2:00 pm in Room 301 (Ballroom Level)
    • Grade 9 -12
    • Presenter: Kathy Mittag
    • A Hands-on Mathematics Function Activity Integrating Science Gas Laws & beautiful-river-walk-san-antonio-26039500Technology. New ides to integrate math, science, and technology to support student learning. This is a hands-on workshop using inexpensive manipulatives to model functions for scientific gas laws. We will cover topics such as measurement, mean, graphing, tables, independent/dependent variables, direct/indirect/inverse functions, dimensional analysis, domain, range, problem solving, interpretation of function graphs, percent error, and TEKS.

Those of you going – enjoy your conference, learn a lot, stop by say hi to Amy and Marty at booth #133, check out the sessions above – you will have a great time and walk away with some ready-to-use ideas for integrating technology. And don’t forget to enjoy San Antonio!