When NEA Master Teacher Melissa Romano received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math Teaching, it came with an invitation to the White House.
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are the highest honors in the nation awarded to teachers of mathematics and science. Before she left for DC, she wasn’t sure what to expect but she was very excited. I just caught up with Melissa and let’s just say she’s still excited and it is justifiable.
“Washington DC exceeded all of my expectations!!!! I got to actually shake hands with the President and introduce myself. To be a guest in the White House was so amazing. I’m still trying to catch my breath and savor the memories and people.” – NEA Master Teacher Melissa Romano
Melissa had just returned to her Grade 4 classroom brimming with excitement from her trip when she found her own quote featured in the White House blog.
Melissa is the 8th teacher from the right in the front row!
“Promoting math and science education is imperative in order to create a society of critical thinkers and problem solvers that are able and ready to succeed in many walks of life. The platform of this award will allow me to voice and share the amazing work my colleagues around the nation do every day…”
One of the ways Melissa has shared her work is on cc.betterlesson.com. This new site, built by teachers, for teachers, to help them align their teaching to the Common Core hosts all the content created by the BetterLesson NEA Master Teacher Project.
Needless to say, we are very proud of Melissa. She’s a rockstar. She deserves the accolades. She loves to teach and it shows. If you want to see why she’s so acclaimed, check out her lessons here at CC.BetterLesson.
Melissa with Montana Senator Jon Tester
When it comes to teaching lessons aligned to Mathematical Practice 3, our Master Teachers often find that less instruction is more impactful.
In order for a teacher to recognize that students are learning effectively, his or her students must be able to communicate what they understand and what they don’t understand independently of a teacher’s direction. Our high school Math Master Teachers meet up regularly to discuss Math Practice Standards. In February, they discussed Math Practice Standard 3. You will find that each MT has his own tactics to get students to communicate their arguments, strategies and understanding.
Here’s a refresher: CCSS.Math.Practice.MP3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. Mathematically proficient students understand and use stated assumptions, definitions, and previously established results in constructing arguments.
This blog highlights:
1. Master Teacher Jacob Nazcek addresses MP3 in his lesson, “The Parallelogram Rule”.
“This lesson I selected to focus on MP3 and the parallelogram rule for the addition of complex numbers. In the previous lesson, we would have actually introduced the notion of adding two complex numbers – the real parts and the imaginary parts. This lesson really focuses on the development of the rule and the justification of the rule (hence MP3).
I’ll have a student come to the board and explain how to do the addition.
Then, when that student is done, I’ll ask someone else to come up and connect those lines and we will begin a discussion about how we can prove that this figure is a parallelogram. During this whole process I try to step into the background. I say very little. As students ask questions, I point those questions to the kid in the front of the room.
This kind of lesson I really enjoy. In some sense, my job is really “easy”. I ask some questions and walk to the back of the room and let the rest of the class question each other from there. It takes some effort to build up a culture where students are comfortable asking each other questions, disagreeing with each other in a respectful way and also the student at the board being comfortable saying ‘I don’t know. I can’t figure that out.’”
2. In the lesson, “Inequalities: The Next Generation” Master Teacher Tim Marley starts with common misconceptions for students, and uses this to engage them in justifying their answer (MP3).
Tim knows what tasks will trip students up. He knows what answers they’re going to gravitate towards and he uses that expertise on a regular basis as part of his instruction.
To start off this lesson, students are given a task worksheet with a simple problem to solve.
Then, they present their work. I tell them to use as many different methods as possible. Students are seated in groups. We talk about how this is different than what we have been working with. (polynomial functions / equations).
Every single student was convinced that this strategy was correct:
After that, I had a student come up and present their work. I asked, “How do you guys feel about this?” They were convinced that this was right. I had them test a couple of points. Test the point -4. They plugged it in and figured out that this works in the original inequality but not the new one.
The reason I picked this lesson is because making these arguments and critiquing the reasoning is really the most important part of this lesson. Thinking about their original reasoning and trying to come to terms why it didn’t work in this case.”
3. Master Teacher James Bialisk discusses his lesson, Mirror Task; Understanding Cognitive Functions and how, through MP3, students share out their thinking.
“Since we’re really trying to focus on MP3, I picked this lesson because this is a completely student centered lesson. It’s really student driven. They’re doing a lot of the work and it really works out nicely that way when they’re coming up with a lot of the math.”
“One technique I really like to use to get MP3, is as students are sharing – trying to have them to build off of each others’ responses instead of just sharing their own. So, when you’re doing a think, pair, share, you really want to get around and try listen for – what conversation is gonna be a good entry point for everybody and start there. And then ask for other students who might have more sophisticated responses to build off of that initial response. And so that usually works pretty well to get students not only listening to each other but also building off of each others’ ideas.
The nice thing about this lesson is that it basically runs itself once you get the students out there, get ‘em investigating. They have a good opportunity to really discuss among each other how to come up with these different expressions.
I use different turns of phrase to get students to build on each other, such as, ‘Can anyone add to that?’ It gives the impression that we’ve got something. We’re starting.
A nice way to facilitate some of those conversations is recording the essential vocabulary on the board. It brings out dialogue and questioning from the students.”
If students can learn to speak the language of math independent of the teacher and come to their own conclusions, whether they decide their conclusions are right or wrong, they are learning. As a result, they inevitably take more away from their classroom experience.
Stephanie Conklin is one of our rockstar Geometry Master Teachers. She leads Geometry classes at Saratoga Springs High School in Saratoga Springs, New York.
We asked Stephanie to tell us more about her student-led lesson ‘Calling All Quads’ where students create and debut presentations about quadrilaterals.
Take it away, Stephanie!
“In this lesson, my students were required to present a short in-class project about a quadrilateral which we were studying (i.e. a rhombus, isosceles trapezoid, rectangle, or square). The entire class did a great job presenting their quadrilateral and each small group seemed very enthusiastic about their shape. After our presentations, one of my creative, animated students asked, ‘Can we make a video about our shape?’ To be perfectly honest, my entire class had been asking to create a second video after a very successful project we completed earlier in the year on Triangle Proofs.
I asked for a day to think about this, and the next class, surveyed the class to see who would be interested in extending out short project into a full-blown video project. Opinions varied. Some students passionately voiced their desire to plan, shoot and create a video featuring real-world examples of their quadrilateral, while other students felt uncomfortable being in the spotlight. So, we all compromised. Students were given the choice to create a video or a poster of their quad.
Naturally, I worried about losing precious, precious time by completing this additional project. However, while looking over our unit schedule, I realized since we had a review day planned, the videos and poster presentations could be a natural way to have students articulate their learning, critique the work of others and also actively engage in a review. “
Thanks, Stephanie! Inspiring work!
Stephanie’s lesson is aligned to Common Core state standards HSG-CO.A.3 and HSG-CO.C.11. These are standards that easily facilitate Math Practice Standard 3. In “Calling All Quads, students worked in groups so that they could create presentations to present and explain their quadrilaterals. Students naturally demonstrate Math Practice Standard 3 when they work together to build a presentation around quadrilaterals.
It’s really fascinating to hear stories about students who become inspired to do more than what a lesson asks for in this case, Stephanie’s students wanted to go above and beyond the lesson to create video projects for their quadrilateral presentations. It’s even more fascinating when a teacher embraces that desire to heighten and continue the organic learning in the classroom.
Michele and Pete Morris are two of our outstanding instructional coaches. They just so happen to be married. Interestingly enough, they’re also married to gamifying math instruction. We were so inspired by their fun approach to learning math that we asked them to write blog posts on our behalf about some of their games.
Today’s Edition – Pico Fermi Bagel – A Math Logic Game
by Michele Morris
Without a doubt, my favorite, go-to math game has to be Pico Fermi Bagel. This game can be simple enough to use as a filler when you have five extra minutes, or allows the teacher to probe deeper and spend entire class periods discussing strategy and number sense. I have used this game in grades 3-5 though I will outline the basic structure for a grade 4 classroom and then get into modifications at the end.
Pico- Fermi- Bagel is a logic game in which one player (player 1) thinks of a number and his opponent then needs to determine the number based on the responses given. Once a number is guessed, player 1 responds using a combination of the words “pico”, “fermi” and “bagel” to guide his opponent in the right direction.
“Why a bagel?” kids often ask. Each piece of this name is representative in some way. Pico is the pre-fix for one trillionth, but in this game pico means that one of your digits is correct but in the wrong place value spot. Fermi was a famous physicist and in this context fermi means that your digit is correct and in the correct place value spot. And a bagel? Well, a bagel is a bready breakfast treat that is shaped like a zero and in this game bagel means that none of your digits are correct.
In fourth grade I generally start with a 3 digit number. I think of my number – in this example it will be 657 – and then I write the number of place value spots on the board.
_______ _______ _______
My students guess:
541, ‘pico,’ I say and I write a P next to the number on the board.
In this case it took my students 9 guesses to determine my number. Some students might have been able to come up with 657 after 8 guesses based on my responses, though the majority of fourth graders will take several tries to get the correct number. I particularly like this game to get kids thinking about the correct way to say numbers and I adapt this with fourth graders to give them practice saying large numbers.
Here’s a video of another case with one of my 5th grade students.
Modifications: For younger students the game can be simplified not only with smaller numbers, but with the format of your response. The teacher can always respond with 3 words, in the correct order, so that students know which digits are “bagel”, “pico” or “fermi”. (For example, with the guess 541 I would have written PBB next to the guess).
For older students I love to incorporate decimals into my numbers. This gives fifth graders practice saying numbers to the hundredths or thousandths; I ask my students to say ‘five hundred forty one and twelve hundredths’ rather than just ‘point twelve.’
Stay tuned to the BetterLesson Blog for the next installment of Morris Family Math Games!
One of my Grade 10 English / Language Arts (ELA) Master Teachers, Jessica Keigan, had an awesome unit uploaded to CC.BetterLesson last week. The unit is called “The Analysis of Plot and Character Development in A Tale of Two Cities”.
Jessica teaches at Horizon High School in Thornton, Colorado. She also works with the Denver New Millennium Initiative team, an initiative of The Center For Teaching Quality, to help improve schools in Colorado.
Jessica’s lessons about A Tale of Two Cities help students understand the typical textual elements of the novel. The lessons also help analyze Dickens’ style so that students can eventually write their own serialized stories and structure in Dickensian style. Her focus on style, diction, syntax, and structure is the really compelling aspect of this unit. In fact, her lesson “The Development of a Declaration: Diction, Syntax and Rhetoric in the Age of Revolutions” is spotlighted in this Education Week piece.
This awesome lesson focuses directly on a Common Core standard that is one of the less frequently covered standards (RI.9-10.9) which asks students to analyze seminal US documents. It’s a lesson that combines history and close reading skills (in a combined world studies classroom) with the goal of engaging students in learning from and modeling these seminal documents in order to write similar declarations of their own.
Post Written by Valerie Librizzi; ELA Instructional Coach; NEA Master Teacher Project
One of the major goals of BetterLesson’s Master Teacher Project is to break down the walls (both literal and figurative) that all too often isolate teachers. As teachers around the country transition to the Common Core, this mission is more critical than ever. There is a ton of buzz, both positive and negative surrounding the Common Core. The ruckus has gotten so loud, that just last week Bill Gates weighed in, writing an op-ed defending the standards and dispelling the many myths surrounding them.
Teachers are at the center of this maelstrom. Some work in school districts where they are fortunate to receive sufficient Common Core training and support, while others work in districts where their efforts to tackle the curriculum are handicapped by lack of resources, hostile outside groups…the list goes on and on. Regardless of their situation, no teacher should have to weather the shift to the Common Core alone.
No one illustrates this fact better than Marisa Laks, a geometry teacher in New York City. Marisa, a Master Teacher sharing a year-long, Common Core aligned course on CC.BetterLesson, was recently profiled in ChalkbeatNY. New York City has been at the center of much of the Common Core debate, and Marisa is honest in sharing that the transition has not been perfectly smooth. As students grapple with the rigor required by the Common Core, they often get stymied and frustrated; keeping students motivated can be a challenge. Marisa remains optimistic, and is excited by the growth she has seen in her students.
Marisa is fortunate to be working with a cohort of Master Teachers from around the country, many of whom have faced similar challenges. By sharing their lessons, and their authentic reflections, these teachers are demystifying the shift to the Common Core. Working in a vacuum, Marisa or any teacher, could easily grow disheartened. CC.BetterLesson offers unique insight into the practicalities of teaching the Common Core. Master Teachers like Marisa don’t whitewash their struggles, because they know that their honest reflections will help teachers in similar situations. We hope that teachers coming to CC.BetterLesson will find they are not alone in this tricky time of transition, and find a friend in the BL Master Teachers.
by Christine Glandorf; BetterLesson Project Associate
Building blocks are a staple in the lives of many children worldwide.
Teachers know it.
In fact, there are several lessons on CC.BetterLesson that incorporate building blocks to supplement and inspire learning. For example, if you’re teaching Grade 7 Math, Master Teacher Grant Harris’ lesson ‘3-D Models from 2-D Views’ uses blocks to help students construct 3-D representations of 2-D images.
What’s fascinating is how children can inspire adults using building blocks.
Shubham Banjeree is twelve years old. He’s in 7th grade. He invented the prototype for cost effective braille printer using Legos he’s called ‘The Braigo’. Check out his video here. Pretty inspiring, right?
Believe it or not, Shubham isn’t the only young innovator. Marcy McKenna is the producer of the Style and Go Hair Care Valet but her 7 year old son, Jack, built the prototype out of Legos. She was looking for a solution to the mess created in her bathroom by her hair dryers and curling irons; he found it! Here’s the full story.
Since building blocks seem to be the gateway to childhood inspiration, let’s take a trip to the Lego Factory! Check out this Grade 1 Math lesson ‘Building Tens at the Lego Factory’ taught by Amanda Cole. Amanda is an NEA Master Teacher from KIPP Central City Primary School in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Hopefully, this post is a building block toward your Thursday inspiration.