Monthly Archives: May 2016

The People in My Math Neighborhood

Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day

I work with an awesome group of people at a high school outside of Philadelphia.  They are my colleagues, the people I share ideas with on a daily basis, and some of my closest friends.

But in recent years, my math neighborhood has grown considerably.  I suppose I discovered the power of the online neighborhood 4 or 5 years ago, developing and growing a wonderful network of professional colleagues through the #MTBoS. And my relationship with this neighborhood has grown from a mechanism for sharing ideas, to a source of inspiration, positive thought, discussion and reflection.

We are now 3 weeks after the NCTM Annual Conference in San Francisco. It’s easy to forgot the little things which occur in a big conference, and I hopefully will find time to reflect and utilize new ideas later. NCTM this year has done a wonderful job of providing a means to continue reflections and growth outside of the conference, along with archiving session resources.  Here, I highlight 4 sources of inspiration, and friends in my math neighborhood, as I look back on my San Francisco experiences.

GRAHAM FLETCHER – Graham, an elementary specialist from Georgia (or is he Canadian? such a chameleon), challenged teachers to consider the mathematical story we share with students in his ShadowCon talk. How is your story different than the one being told by your colleague teaching the same material just across the hall?

grahamHigh school teachers may be intrigued by Graham’s discussion of fractions, reducing and equivalence and the role of “simplifying”. His talk has caused me to think about the many odd restrictions we place on student work: i.e. “write the equation of your line in standard form”, and their necessity in my math story. Graham’s call to action – challenging teachers to identify their own “simplifying fractions” (something they teach not currently in the standards) – is an appropriate task for all grades.

ROBERT KAPLINKSY – Robert was featured on the MathEd Out podcast last summer, and I recall taking a walk, listening last year when it occurred to me that Robert’s path to becoming a math teacher was eerily similar to mine. His ShadowCon talk, “Empower”, reminds me that no matter how top-down our education world may feel, we all have a role to empower others and become influential in our math neighborhoods. I appreciate the multiple mechanisms Robert suggests for fostering empowerment, and his call to action that we thank a colleague who helped us feel empowered is a wonderful way to close out a school year – and look forward to new things.

PEG CAGLE – I have admired Peg’s ideas for some time now, and was thrilled to meet and chat with her last year at Twitter Math Camp. Even though I rarely teach geometry, I felt pulled to Peg’s session “Paper Cup + Gust of Wind”, and was awed by the simplicity, engagement, theme-building in this simple task. By rolling a paper Dixie cup along a surface, Peg develops a lesson which extends through the school year, building complexity each time.

Day 1:Explain what happens when we roll out the cup

Day 40: Convince a skeptic of the shape it makes. Find its area.

Day 105: find area of shape based on dimensions

Day 140: How can you build a cup from a single sheet (with base) of 8.5 x 11 paper to trace out the maximum area as it rolls?

Day 175 (after trig ratios): how do you NOW find the area of the shape, given its dimensions

This session has caused me to think about other simple tasks which could become full-course themes. Peg’s inspiration came from a cup blowing in the breeze – you never know where the next fun math idea will come from!

CHRISTINE FRANKLIN – Why was I so nervous and awe-struck to meet Christine at the AP Stats forum in San Francisco? Because she is so awesome – and was the inspiration for my NCTM talk on Variability and Inference, geared towards the middle school community. It was at Professional Night at the AP Stats reading 2 years ago where Christine diagrammed the historical path stats has taken in K-12 curriculum, and the parallels between AP and middle school descriptions. Christine was recently named the K-12 statistical ambassador by the ASA, and a sweeter person could not fill the job.

Hoping I never move out of the neighborhood!