NCTM Annual Meeting 2017, Day 1

Wow. I just experienced my first day at my first NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) Annual Meeting in San Antonio. I have wanted to go to one of these since I started teaching six years ago, but this year was the first year I was able to make it happen. My principal was not only supportive of me missing 2 days of school, he was even able to pay for part of my registration. I appreciate his support because this has been an invaluable professional development experience. And it’s only the end of day one.

The event kicked off with an opening presentation by Jordan Ellenberg, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, talking to us about how important it is for mathematicians to be wrong, be the critic, and fight for truth. He pumped us up with “mathematics is a superpower”, and we all left energized and ready for the next few days of learning

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Today, I went to many presentations, and while I am exhausted, I learned so much. I  learned how to use models to show the connections between fractions, division, and decimals.

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Just yesterday I had an interaction with a student that would’ve been so much more productive and conceptually-sound had I used this type of reasoning with him.

I learned how to teach multiplying fractions and whole numbers in a structure that makes sense and encourages using prior knowledge.  The presenter, a 5th grade teacher from Boston, says that his students think multiplying mixed numbers is so much easier than multiplying fractions.  If this method makes that true for students, I want to use it.

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I love leaving a session feeling like my conceptual knowledge of a topic was deepened, and this was one of the sessions in which that happened.  This has been the session that I have talked about the most, which I think is interesting since I stumbled upon it by accident.  I just keep thinking about this session; it has really stuck with me.  It is going to completely change how I teach multiplying fractions next year.

I also learned a few new multiplication fact practice games, including this handy do-it-yourself flashcard that allows students to practice both multiplication and division using it.  Hooray for making connections between the operations!

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I tutor a 3rd grade student who struggles with her math facts, and I will be able to use the games that I learned in this session to help her enjoy math more (and practice her math facts).  The 3rd grade teacher that I came with thought this flash card was pretty neat, and if a flash card passes the 3rd grade teacher muster, than it must be good.

I went to a session about productive struggle, which I already use in my classroom, but I left with this interesting self-assessment tool for students to use to monitor their own struggle.

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What I like about this tool is that it gives students an idea of how much help they really need, and what they should ask for from me.  There is a difference between giving a hint and posing a guiding question; the students should be able to tell the difference and know when they need each one. (Helpful note: 5 is not struggling, and 1 is very struggling; I was confused by the scaling at first.)

The 3rd grade teacher and I were very intrigued by the event this evening called ShadowCon.  The program didn’t give many details, just that it was back by popular demand.  Apparently, everyone already knows what it is.  So, obviously we had to go.

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Well, I now know what ShadowCon is: a series of short presentations on a math education related topic that ends with a call to action.  To support you in this action, each presenter also created a short 5-week free online course in the fall to help facilitate you taking action and creating change in your classroom.  It was a really cool idea!  We learned about noticing those “hidden” students, how to incorporate play into our math classroom, and how to create learning activities that support student reflection.

It was a great day.  I am so excited to see what I will learn tomorrow!

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