This Week in Math Ed: April 29, 2016

In putting together this week's TWiME, I'm struck by how much great material is being shared from the NCTM Annual Meeting, and by how many people are sharing it. Putting these posts together is taking longer because popular links are being shared by 10, 20, or more people rather than three or five. That's great! This has more people thinking about future directions for NCTM, and how together we can be a stronger and better community of mathematics educators.

Math Ed Said

April 22: If you missed Dan Meyer's talk from NCTM, here's your chance to see it. The talk is called "Beyond Relevance & Real World: Stronger Strategies for Student Engagement" and it contains some very practical advice for exploiting the fact that we're not limited to presenting all of a problem at once like textbook publishers have had to do on paper. If you're thinking you'd like to take Dan's ideas and use them with teachers in professional development, let me also suggest checking out these materials from the Primas project (adapted from Swan & Pead, 2008). There, they are called "unstructured problems," and the materials include examples as well as guides for teacher enactment and reflection.

Shared by: Nancy Terry, Dan Meyer, Peps Mccrea, Patty Stephens, Bryan Anderson, Craig Barton, Kyle Pearce, Robert Kaplinsky, Greg George, Damion Beth, Marilyn Burns, Danielle Reycer, danny brown, Jennifer Blinzler, Mark Chubb, MathDDSB, Math with Matthew, Rusty Anderson, Stephanie Ling, Keith Devlin, Andrew Gael

April 23: The post "How to help your kids fall in love with math: a guide for grown-ups" makes me think about how important our definitions of mathematics are. For me, I generally define math as "the human activity of reasoning with quantity, shape, and patterns," so as long as I'm doing that kind of reasoning, then I recognize that I'm doing mathematics. When we think of mathematics that way, it's easier to value the kind of activities children can do (and often do unprovoked) and support them with their reasoning.

Shared by: Peg Cagle, Malke Rosenfeld, Janice Novakowski, Christopher Danielson, Brian Bushart, Mark Chubb, Sunil Singh, Christina Sherman, Jennifer Lawler

April 24: Kristin Gray shared, "RTI for Adults," a post that reflects her thinking about the type of intervention and supports we offer those who might struggle and how we might deal with unintended consequences.

Shared by: Kristin Gray, Jennifer Lawler, Anna, Janice Novakowski, Jamie Duncan, Kent Haines, Andrew Gael, Mark Chubb, Laura Wagenman, Tracy Johnston Zager, Tim Hudson, Nicora Placa, Shelley Carlisle, Nathan Kraft, Anne Schwartz, Brian Bushart

Gail Burrill at the 2016 ASSM Annual Meeting
April 25: Gail Burrill is hearing voices. Don't worry, it's okay, and it will make sense if you watch her ShadowCon talk, "Math Is Awesome: Let's Teach so Our Students Get It." Gail is talking about seeking out knowledge and inspiration, and reminding ourselves of ways we can be doing better as teachers.

Shared by: Dan Meyer, Jedidiah Butler, Megan Schmidt, Ilana Horn, Bob Lochel, Zak Champagne, Brian Bushart, NCTM, Ron King, Rusty Anderson, John Golden

April 26: A bunch of people shared this on the 25th, but it was the top share on the 26th, too. "Stop telling kids you're bad at math. You are spreading math anxiety 'like a virus.'" appeared in the Washington Post and was written by Petra Bonfert-Taylor, a Dartmouth engineering professor.

Shared by: Markus Sagebiel, Camsie McAdams, Shannon Houghton, Egan Chernoff, Sherri Adler, Regina Barrett, Amy Spies, Chris Robinson, Jeff de Varona, Anthony Purcell, NikolaJL, Clint Chan, POWER Org Math

April 27: A lot of people were sharing Robert Kaplinsky's ShadowCon talk, "Empower." No, it's not a pun related to exponents. It's about something more important — it's about ways in which we lead and the dynamics between power and influence, both broadly and within schools and classrooms.

Shared by: Zak Champagne, NCTM, Mary Bourassa, Robert Kaplinsky, John Berray, Kaneka Turner, Michael Fenton, Bob Lochel, Kristin Gray, Brian Bushart, Megan Schmidt, Jamie Duncan, Graham Fletcher, Laura Wagenman, Elham Kazemi, mathzone, Heather Kohn, Henri Picciotto, Mark Chubb

April 28: In another ShadowCon talk, Rochelle Gutiérrez asks us to "Stand Up for Students." Rochelle asked us to think about the students we're not serving well, to examine how we view math and power, and then gives a list of 10 things educators need to know about mathematics. Related: If you're looking for more explanation about why Rochelle asks us to use the term "emerging bilinguals," I suggest this article by Ofelia García.

Shared by: NCTM, Rochelle Gutierrez, Sadie Estrella, Robert Kaplinsky, April Pforts, Mike Flynn, Brian Bushart, Dan Meyer, Matt Larson, Rusty Anderson, Megan Schmidt, Kaneka Turner, Christina Sherman, Sharon Vestal, Bryan Meyer

Around the Math Ed Web

Have you submitted your proposals? If you want to present at these conferences, here are the due dates:
How about one more: The American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC) is holding their annual conference in Denver from November 17-20, 2016 and the deadline to submit for the poster session is May 1.

Sam Otten is looking for some informed opinions:
Last week in the Global Math Department we heard about Coding in Math Class from Dawn DuPriest. (Fun fact: I didn't recognize Dawn from her Twitter profile picture, but I recognize the mountains in her header photo. That's Mt. Lincoln on the left and North Star Mountain on the right, and the picture is taken from just off Highway 9 south of Hoosier Pass. Okay, I can stop showing off my Colorado bona fides now...) Where was I...oh yeah, GMD! Next week Kent Haines will show us "A Conceptual Approach to Teaching Integer Operations by Global Math Department."

Research Notes

Remember that really long list of new articles in last week's TWiME? You'll have to settle for looking at it again because I checked more than 30 journals and didn't find a single new math education article published in the last week. There's probably some things floating around in "online only" status, but I'll wait for them to be assigned to an issue before listing them here.

Math Ed in the News

Math Ed in Colorado

The deadline for submitting CCTM conference proposals is May 1!

The University of Northern Colorado is offering three graduate level math courses this summer as part of their Masters in Mathematics: Teaching Emphasis program. You don't have to be in the program to take the courses. A tentative schedule of courses through Spring 2018 and contact information is here.

Rebekah Ottenbreit from CDE's Office of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education is offering two more sessions focused on helping math teachers and ESL/bilingual educators use tools and strategies to make mathematics content more accessible to English learners. You can grab a flyer here.
  • May 10, 2016, from 8:30-noon at the Pueblo City Schools Administration Building, Pueblo, CO (register by 5/5/16)
  • May 13, 2016, from 8:30-noon at the NW CO BOCES downstairs conference room in Steamboat Springs (register by 5/8/16)
The grand opening of the Geometry Park exhibit in Lafayette (201 S Bermot St) will be Wednesday, May 25th, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. The park is supported by the Center for STEM Learning at CU-Boulder and you can read more about the park here.

See the Rocky Mountain Math Teachers' Circle website and the Northern Colorado Math Circles for information about upcoming events, including a joint workshop in Durango from August 8-11. You have until June 15 to apply for that one!

The "Expanding Your Horizons" symposium for middle school girls interested in STEM registration begins March 1.

NCTM is offering two summer institutes this summer in Denver:
Job openings:
  • Lake County School District in Leadville is looking for a 7th and 8th grade math teacher. If you are interested in joining a math department that combines Jo Boaler's work with Expeditionary Learning while living in a small town in the mountains, this job is for you. More information and an application can be found at their website.
  • Delta County is looking for a math teacher at Delta High School to teach upper-level math. Contact Todd Markley for details.
  • Hope Learning Academy is looking for secondary math teachers.

This Week in Math Ed: April 22, 2016

What a busy, busy post-conference week! I've been busy recapping ASSM, the NCTM Research Conference, and the NCTM Annual Meeting, and from the looks of it the rest of you have been writing and sharing, too. There's a ton of new literature below in the research journals!

Math Ed Said

April 15: Michael Fenton shared materials from his presentation at NCTM.

Shared by: Michael Fenton, Heather Kohn, Cathy Yenca, Andrew Gael, Charlotte Dunlap, Jonathan Klupp, Karyn Vogel, Turtle Gunn Toms, Elham Kazemi

April 16: Nine people shared Dylan Kane's post "Math Ability." It's a great thought-piece about whether math ability exists, or what form it takes, and if it has limits.

Shared by: Dylan Kane, Alex Overwijk, Anna Blinstein, Taylor Belcher, Bryan Meyer, Ilona Vashchyshyn, Patrick Honner, Andrew Gael, Steven Strogatz

Dan Meyer at ASSM 2016
April 17: Dan Meyer did us all a favor and bundled every handout and presentation from NCSM and NCTM 2016. Well, every posted handout and presentation, anyway. I'm one of those naughty presenters that didn't post his slides. (Some key images were broken on export and I haven't had a chance to fix them.)

Shared by: Nancy Terry, Dan Meyer, Bridget Dunbar, Laura Wagenman, Jennifer Blinzler, Glenn Waddell, Jr., Christine DiPaulo, Steve Wyborney, Michelle Rinehart

April 18: It's the Monday after NCTM 2016, so naturally people were sharing the link to proposal submissions for NCTM 2017.

Shared by: Suzanne Alejandre, Zak Champagne, Avery Pickford, Sarah Bush, Matt Larson, Kristin Gray, Carl Oliver, Christina, Janice Novakowski, Christina Sherman, NCTM, Janet Oien

April 19: Two blog posts tied with 10 (re)tweets a piece, and I'm really glad they did because I wouldn't want to have to decide which of these is the better post — they're both awesome! First, Tracy Zager tells a great story about her daughter's mathematical reasoning at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. Second, Jamie Duncan (@jamiedunc3) (who somehow wasn't on my math ed Twitter list!) wrote "First Grade Math Fight... Fractions, Proportional Reasoning, and Algebra, Oh my!." That post describes her rigorous and engaging approach to getting students to reason with fractions while considering wholes of different sizes. It ties together standards, multiple representations, class discussions, and cookies, and is what I consider to be a great example of what lesson reflection blogging can be.

Shared by: (for Tracy) Tracy Johnston Zager, Andrew Gael, casey, Brian Bushart, Sahar Khatri, Kent Haines, Tim Hudson, Susan Davidson, Shauna Hedgepeth, Simon Gregg; (for Jaime) Kyle Pearce, Dave Lanovaz, Simon Gregg, Brian Bushart, Matt Vaudrey, Teresa Teri Ryan, Andrew Busch, Mark Chubb, Brett Parker, Shannon Andrews

April 20: Jaime's post was quite popular this day, too, but so was another KQED MindShift story by Katrina Schwartz, "How 'Productive Failure' In Math Class Helps Make Lessons Stick."

Shared by: David Coffey, Maria H. Andersen, Jennifer Lawler, Donna Boucher, Jim Wysocki, Meg Tewey, Rusty Anderson, Mark Chubb

April 21: People liked Joe Schwartz's "Dot Crazy," his reflection on a great counting activity done with a third grade class. I dare you to not read a post that includes the line, "Math started gushing out all over the place."

Shared by: Joe Schwartz, Kristin Gray, Brian Bushart, Marilyn Burns, Bridget Dunbar, Steve Wyborney, Allison Hintz, Kent Haines, Simon Gregg, Janice Novakowski

Around the Math Ed Web

The Global Math Department brought a bunch of people to reflect on their NCTM experience.

Next week's GMD talk is "Coding in Math Class." Dawn DuPriest which will help us look at different ways for a beginning coder/programmer to get started.

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines! If you want to present at these conferences, here are the due dates for proposals:

Research Notes

Here's another addition to the June 2016 issue of The Journal of Mathematical Behavior:
ZDM has their first issue of the year, a double-issue with the theme, "perception, interpretation and decision making: understanding the missing link between competence and performance." Sigrid Blömeke and Jon Star were the issue editors.
Add to this long list a couple new articles added to the July 2016 issue of Teaching and Teacher Education:
New in AERA Open:
Here are new articles in the Spring 2016 issue of the Journal of Mathematics Education at Teachers College. Remember, these are all open access!
I think while everybody was away and conferences all the editors of the above journals decided to hit their "publish" buttons. Whew!

Math Ed in the News

Math Ed in Colorado

I attended a CoMMIT meeting yesterday and had a great time learning about the group and doing a task posed to us by Kim Bunning, CU-Boulder CU-Teach master teacher. Some of the toughest questions about math ed I get are from special education teachers, and they also seem to be hungriest for the answers. I think I'm going to learn a lot from this group — far more than they'll learn from me, anyway.

Kim Bunning presenting at CoMMIT, 4/21/2016

The deadline for submitting CCTM conference proposals is May 1!

The University of Northern Colorado is offering three graduate level math courses this summer as part of their Masters in Mathematics: Teaching Emphasis program. You don't have to be in the program to take the courses. A tentative schedule of courses through Spring 2018 and contact information is here.

Rebekah Ottenbreit from CDE's Office of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education is offering two more sessions focused on helping math teachers and ESL/bilingual educators use tools and strategies to make mathematics content more accessible to English learners. You can grab a flyer here.
  • May 10, 2016, from 8:30-noon at the Pueblo City Schools Administration Building, Pueblo, CO (register by 5/5/16)
  • May 13, 2016, from 8:30-noon at the NW CO BOCES downstairs conference room in Steamboat Springs (register by 5/8/16)
The grand opening of the Geometry Park exhibit in Lafayette (201 S Bermot St) will be Wednesday, May 25th, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. The park is supported by the Center for STEM Learning at CU-Boulder and you can read more about the park here.

See the Rocky Mountain Math Teachers' Circle website and the Northern Colorado Math Circles for information about upcoming events, including a joint workshop in Durango from August 8-11. You have until June 15 to apply for that one!

The "Expanding Your Horizons" symposium for middle school girls interested in STEM registration begins March 1.

NCTM is offering two summer institutes this summer in Denver:
Job openings:

Notes on the 2016 NCTM Annual Meeting

Following 25 sessions at the ASSM Annual Meeting and 12 more at the NCTM Research Conference, it was finally time for the big conference, the 2016 NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition. While I pride myself in attending a lot of sessions, this year I needed a chunk of time on Thursday to finish preparing a session of my own, and on Friday I made a trip to the Exploratorium to see the museum and to visit my colleague and friend, Sara Heredia. Due to snow and Denver and a canceled flight, I got a chance to see San Francisco on a beautiful spring Saturday afternoon. But before all that, here are the sessions I attended, counting on from ASSM and the Research Conference (with more pictures here):

Wednesday, April 13

A fisheye view of the opening session
  1. Opening Keynote: "Inspiring Change: Creating the Next Generation of Mathematics Leaders and Learners" (Eric Jolly): I had never heard of Eric Jolly, but his bio made it clear he was the opening keynote more for his speaking ability and less his ties to mathematics education. His keynote was interesting, mixing fables, Cherokee lore, live basket weaving, and an optimistic story involving Hitler. Elements of the basket weaving were the best, and illustrative of how when we bring more people from different backgrounds into mathematics, our collective understanding and perspective of mathematics grows from their experiences.

Thursday, April 14

  1. "Discourse 3.0: Assembling Discourse, Access and Equity, and a Culture of Professionalism" (Beth Herbel-Eisenmann): Quite a few well-respected researchers have focused on classroom discourse over the past few years, but Beth and her colleagues are the only ones I know of who have paid particular attention to discourse at the high school level. We watched video of a teacher executing some pretty solid talk moves, and Beth announced that she'd just inked a publishing deal for a set of professional development materials aimed at high school math teachers.
  2. "Modeling Your Way to Understanding with Realistic Mathematics Education (Raymond Johnson, Fred Peck, and David Webb): That's me! Fred and I ran a workshop that used RME's perspectives on "modeling as organizing" (as opposed to "modeling as translation") and used a progression of tasks with polynomials with a room full of high school teachers. The session was a great reminder to me that RME is unknown to most teachers, and there's little reason I shouldn't continue to keep spreading the word in the future. This is also something I hope to write about in the future, so keep your eyes open for that.
The RME session Fred Peck and I did with many HS teachers

Friday, April 15

Uri Treisman
  1. "The Learning Mindset Movement and Its Implications for Addressing Opportunity Gaps" (Uri Treisman): This is the second time I've heard Treisman talk about mindsets, and I have a great appreciation for how he takes a view that goes beyond Carol Dweck's work and beyond simply fixed vs. growth. He's also not shy about describing the limitations of this work, something that I think might have been under-discussed in the mindset movement.
Exploratorium visit: I usually don't sneak away from conferences, but my friend Sara Heredia is a researcher there and she offered to give Fred and I a little tour if we came to visit. How could I pass that up? The exhibits were cool, but even better was watching Sara have fun like all the kids there, showing Fred and me what fun we could have surrounded by all kinds of math and science.

Sara Heredia showing off the giant mirror at the Exploratorium
  1. "A Brief History of Math Education: Lessons for Today" (Matt Larson): This was my first time seeing Matt Larson talk and I can say with confidence that I'm really looking forward to his leadership as president of NCTM. This talk looked at almost 200 years of cycles of math reform, in which calls for better outcomes drive new curriculum and methods, only to be pushed back by those with more traditional views. Larson asked us to all be "foot soldiers" in the battle for better mathematics instruction, and the strong language reveals the passion Larson brings to his leadership.
    Matt Larson
  2. "Build Capacity through Lesson Study" (Megan Gundogdu and Nicora Placa): I'd never met Nicora, and I'd never heard anyone talk about an attempt to really implement lesson study, so I'm extra-glad I attended this talk. In a new K-8 school in New York City, Megan, an assistant principal, and Nicora, a grad student and consultant, worked with elementary teachers to design, implement, and reflect/redesign lessons in a lesson study style. My favorite part: The lessons the group worked on weren't just taught by the teachers. Some of them were taught by Megan or Nicora while the teachers observed. Between this level of shared participation and responsibility and some efforts to shift school schedules and work structures, I thought this was an excellent example of the kind of work needed to make reforms like this stick.
  3. "ShadowCon 2016" (ShadowCon Speakers): I missed the first couple of speakers, but found a seat in the back row to see the last four speakers at ShadowCon. I tend to gravitate towards the informational rather than the inspirational, so I'm not sure that Ignite sessions and ShadowCon talks are really meant for me, but I still really like the idea of the event (although the name is silly and the event doesn't feel shadowy at all) and I wouldn't be opposed to having it morph into the NCTM Opening Keynote.

Saturday, April 16

  1. "How Research Can Impact Curricular Decisions in a K–12 Classroom" (Lori Hamada and Elizabeth Gamino): There were a lot of good-looking 8 am sessions, but I resisted attending one from a speaker I knew and instead went to this one because I'm very interested in how people take up research in classrooms. This session ended up with a table-full of attendees, mostly elementary teachers, and we watched video of some first-grade students first without any framework for discussion, and then using a framework that appeared in Teaching Children Mathematics, NCTM's elementary teacher journal. The article was based primarily on the Mathematics Recovery work from Austrailia.
  2. "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying the Math Curriculum" (Jason Zimba): It's politically difficult to highlight things that need to be cut from the curriculum, but it's pedagogically necessary if we expect to keep improving over time using limited time and resources. Jason Zimba described a number of examples, such as to avoid teaching too many methods for solving a problem, or treating all those methods equally. Also, procedures are for procedural tasks, not for making sense of concepts (like the vertical line test).
    An example of Zimba's advice to save the procedures for the procedural
  3. "Facilitating Meaningful Mathematical Discourse" (Megan Staples and Sherryl King): Why do I go to so many discourse sessions? Because I always felt my questioning strategies and discourse moves as a teacher were in need of improvement. I figure the more examples I see and the more experts I listen to, I stand a better chance of improving my skills with practice and Staple's expertise has impressed me ever since I read her 2007 article in Cognition and Instruction.
  4. "The Future: The Energized Educator" (Hill Harper): Could it be? Could it really be the end of the conference? It was, and it came with a high-energy speech about the need for energy to transforms institutions, people, and ourselves.
With my Saturday flight canceled, I found some Twitter friends to have lunch with (thanks again, Casey!) and then set off on a 9-mile walking tour of San Francisco: First down market to the Ferry Building, then along The Embarcadero and the Bay to Fishermans Wharf and Ghirardelli Square, then up the steep hills to the curvy bit of Lombard street and down Leavenworth Street all the way back to the Powell Street BART station.

Yerba Buena gardens


Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco sunset

Notes on the 2016 NCTM Research Conference

Following my participation in 25 sessions at the ASSM Annual Meeting, the second leg of my big San Francisco conference trip was the NCTM Research Conference. As usual, the Research Conference overlapped with the NCSM Conference. There are a lot of good reasons to go to NCSM, but I figured that I'd take advantage of still having one foot firmly planted in the research world and get as much out of the RC as I could. (See here for more pictures.)

Monday, April 11

Cynthia Langrall
  1. "JRME: A Tale of Unicorns, Mastodons, and Ants" (Cynthia Langrall): In past years NCTM has had an opening plenary speaker from outside math education, but this year we were entertained by a — dare I say — fun talk by Cynthia Langrall about her perspectives on the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education (JRME). I saved my weird question for her until after she left the stage: "Why are NCTM article URLs so long, and why aren't there DOIs for the articles?" (Typical me, paying attention to details but probably not the details others are paying attention to.) Answer: NCTM isn't exactly Springer or Elsevier when it comes to journal publishing and it takes longer for them to figure these things out. Anyway, I made a personal recording of this talk and plan on listening to it again.

Tuesday, April 12

  1. "Activity and Impact of Elementary Mathematics Specialists in Rural Schools" (Patricia Campbell and Matt Griffin): This research involved hierarchical linear modeling and a bunch of statistical results that I didn't fully understand, but I did understand these findings: there was a tendency for math specialists to take on more non-specialist duties from Year 1 to Year 2 of the study, and no good reason to think more bus duty increases student math achievement.
  2. "Designing Professional Development to Support Teachers in Learning Trajectory-Based Instruction" (Jennifer Kobrin and Nicole Panorkou): In this session, Nicole described PD that included teacher task ranking activities, strategy identification activities, and video analysis, all designed to help teachers elicit and interpret student thinking in a geometry unit based on a learning progression on area. I'm not sure the learning trajectory focus came out in the session, as it felt like it could have just as easily been framed as a mathematics knowledge for teaching (MKT) session instead.
  3. "Research on Math Teacher Education in an Online Multimedia Environment" (Wendy Rose Aaron, Emina Alibegovic, Joel Amidon, Sandra Crespo, Amanda Milewski, Kristi Hanby, Crystal Kalinec-Craig, and Alyson Lischka): It's a LessonSketch party! In various ways, all the presenters used LessonSketch to help conduct some kind of online teacher education or professional development.

    Wendy Rose Aaron
  4. "Examining the Impact of Multiple Representations on Students' Achievement" (Raymond Flores, Fethi Inan, and Sunyoung Han): I'm always intrigued by negative results, so when this session description said their study showed an algorithm-focused approach outperformed an approach with multiple representations, I was interested. While that was indeed the finding, the study methodology was relatively weak: it was only a two-week study using a cross-over design (half the students got algorithms for a week, while the other have explored representations, and then they switched for another week).
  5. "Cracking Her Codes: Investigating Technology Boundary Objects Using Interaction Analysis" (Gretchen Matthews, Nicole Bannister, and Amber Simpson): I'm a fan of both cryptography and the theory of boundary objects, so this session drew me in. The presenters were clear that they were still in the thick of analyzing data and applying theory to it, and there was some good discussion about how boundary objects may and may not work well, and what some theoretical alternatives might be.
  6. "A Unified Framework of Teachers' Conceptions of Learning and Assessment" (Raymond Johnson, Frederick Peck, Derek Briggs, Jessica Alzen) Fred and I presented some findings of our work with CADRE, in which we noticed teachers having conceptions of learning and assessment that varied between what we called a "count up points" conception and a "developmental progression" conception. Fred did a great job with the first draft of our paper and we got some good feedback at the session, so I think this is something I'll be able to talk more about in the future.
  7. "Understanding Changes in Novice Teachers' Social Networks" (Anne Garrison Wilhelm and Dawn Woods) I met with some Reasearch + Practice Collaboratory during the poster session (they awarded me a travel fellowship to attend the conference) so I missed out on most of the posters, but did sneak in some time with Anne to talk about how new teachers often leave old advice networks behind in favor of smaller networks they build in their schools.

Wednesday, April 13

  1. "Examining the Impact of Elementary Mathematics Specialists and Coaches" (Patricia Campbell, James Tarr, Corey Webel, Kim Markworth, and Lynsey Gibbons): This symposium brought together a number of people who study specialists and coaches, and some of what I got out of it was simply a better understanding of different coaching models, such as team teaching and co-teaching. One surprising result: When time was tracked, sending elementary students to a different teacher for math actually took less transition time than having math with the same teacher in a self-contained classroom. However, self-contained teachers have more flexibility with their time and can extend math lessons in ways that can't be done as easily with specialists.

    Lynsey Gibbons
  2. "How Research into Second-Language Learning Might Be Useful to Mathematics Educators" (Brent Davis): This was the big plenary talk of the conference, where I became introduced to the great work of Brent Davis. I recorded it for Sam Otten's Math Ed Podcast so you can listen to the talk yourself if you'd like.

    Brent Davis
  3. "Measuring and Supporting the Improvement of Mathematics Teaching at Scale" (Mary Kay Stein, Richard Correnti, and Katelyn Kelly): In this session, "scale" means "state-wide," as the work involved getting some understanding of math teaching across the state of Tennessee for grades 4 through 8. They're using what they call "quadrant theory," where one dimension of the quadrant is divided into high and low opportunities for students to struggle meaningfully with mathematics, and the second dimension is divided into high and low attention to mathematical concepts. It's a bit of a gamble to boil down the quality of teaching into something so coarse, but it really helps to do this work at scale. It also leads to interesting thinking about teachers in each of the four quadrants, such as those who give a lot of attention to concepts but don't let students struggle with them.
    Stein and Correnti's "Quadrant Theory"
  4. "Measuring Teachers' Beliefs in Relation to Standards for Mathematical Practice" (Iris Riggs, Davida Fischman, Matt Riggs, Madeleine Jetter, and Joseph Jesunathadas): Development and validation of research instruments is really important, but do you know what I liked best about this session? The presenters were clearly enjoying themselves and I had fun watching them. That counts for something, right?
Positive: I didn't attend anything specific to teaching statistics, but there was quite a bit to choose from if I'd chosen to. It's really good to see the research community increase its stats education efforts because we have a lot to learn about stats ed if we're going to shift high school and college pathways to engage more students in statistics.

Negative: With NCSM in Oakland and the RC in San Francisco, the conference felt quite small this year. It just wasn't possible for people to quickly slip back and forth between the two venues.

Neutral?: Remember all that talk of "Grand Challenges" at last year's conference? I heard not one peep about it this year. Maybe that's a lost opportunity, but from the sessions I attended last year I didn't come away feeling very positive that a grand challenge was going to mobilize the organization. Math ed has plenty of challenges, whether we label them grand or not, and when the right one comes along we can be ready for it.

Notes on the 2016 ASSM Annual Meeting

Prior to getting my new job as Colorado's mathematics specialist, I didn't know there was an Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics (ASSM). Such a group does indeed exist, with almost 200 members, and I joined them for our Annual Meeting in San Francisco in advance of the NCTM Annual Meeting and NCTM/NCSM pre-conferences. You can think of this as a pre-pre-conference, if you'd like, and it consisted of long days in hotel meeting rooms with some pretty good activities and speakers. Here's my rundown with some notes (more photos are here):

Friday, April 8

  1. New Member Orientation (Dewey Gottlieb): It's always important for organizations to make a good impression on new members, and ASSM has the good fortune of having Dewey Gottlieb be the one welcoming me and the other new members this year.
  2. PAEMST Coordinator Meeting (Diana Kasbaum): One of the duties that I share with Colorado's science content specialist is the coordination of recognizing the best math and science teachers in the state of Colorado. In this session, I got to know more about the program and some tips on how to select state finalists.
  3. Gail Burrill
    President's Welcome (Diana Suddreth) and Opening Keynote, "Mathematics Education at the State Level: What Matters Most" (Gail Burrill): After some opening remarks from Diana Suddreth (UT), ASSM President, Gail Burrill gave an excellent talk that, if I read between the lines a bit, went like this: "Hey! There's some messed up stuff out there in math education, and you all are in positions to help do something about it." Gail didn't deliver her talk in a pessimistic or accusatory way, but there was certainly a call-to-action feel for it that was greatly appreciated.
  4. Reception and Talk (Karen Greenhaus): The evening reception was sponsored by Casio and Karen Greenhaus gave a talk that was 95% about uses of ed tech in mathematics and maybe 5% about Casio.

Saturday, April 9

  1. Breakfast and Talk (George Khachatryan): George is a co-founder of ReasoningMind and he talked to us about his love of mathematics and the roles software can play in helping us learn.
  2. Business Meeting, Part 1: We reviewed, amended, and approved the minutes of the last meeting.
  3. "Action-Oriented Leadership Pedagogy Focused on Equity and Excellence in Mathematics" (Susie Håkansson): Susie gave an overview of equity issues in mathematics education, and referred to the new TODOS/NCSM joint position paper on equity.
  4. "Exploring the Imperative for Mathematics Education: Content Knowledge (Hung Hsi Wu): Wu's talk targeted what he called "Textbook School Mathematics," or TSM. In Wu style, he dug deep into the mathematics that we ask students to engage in and picked apart bits that are taught for reasons that have more to do with tradition than with standards, research, or good pedagogy. I was a little concerned that Wu was making a blanket judgment of textbooks, treating them all as equally good or bad, or that anyone seeing tweets of his talk would construe his message that way. Wu certainly wasn't saying that the solution lies in tossing out all textbooks, regardless of quality; instead, he was suggesting a massive effort to prepare a corps of elementary math specialists who have the pedagogical content knowledge to break with poor practices of the past. While listening to Wu I couldn't help but be reminded of Sfard's attention to processes and objects, Windschtil's "folk theories,", Erlwanger's "disaster studies", and Nix the Tricks.
  5. Lunch talk sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (David Dockterman): My memory is pretty fuzzy, but I seem to remember some talk of mindsets and number sense.
  6. "National Assessment of Educational Progress Update and Data Release" (Kim Gattis): This talk about the NAEP was just the kind of thing that's very applicable to those of us in these jobs, especially if we also do assessment work in our state departments.
  7. "Key Issues and Opportunities for ESSA and Life After the Mathematics and Science Partnerships" (Diane Briars and Ken Krehbiel): This update from NCTM leadership keyed us in on some aspects of ESSA with implications for math education, as well as some new initiatives and directions that we can expect from NCTM.
  8. "The Future of Engagement in Mathematics" (Eli Luberoff): Eli talked about how technology facilitates learning in mathematics, and engaged us all in a demo of Marbleslides.

Sunday, April 10

  1. Breakfast talk from Corwin Mathematics (Linda Gojak and Erin Null): After a mad scramble to get to the conference (I didn't realize BART didn't run early on Sundays, so I quickly found a train/bus combination), I arrived in time to see some of the Common Core teacher guides that Linda Gojak has been working on.
  2. Business Meeting, Part 2: This short meeting was a quick rundown of ASSM's budget and finances.
  3. "Mathematics Alignment Modules: Supporting the Professional Learning of Assessment Item Authors and Reviewers" (Shelbi Cole and Astrid Fossum): The title of this breakout session is somewhat self-explanatory, I think, and we referred to this document from CCSSO.
  4. Lunch talk sponsored by Big Ideas Learning (Denise McDowell and Mary Quadrini): More on mindsets.
  5. "Revising College- and Career-Ready Standards" (Deb Romanek, Joleigh Honey, and Robin Hill): This may have been the most valuable session for me, as it was great to hear about the experiences and get some advice from other math leaders who have or are revising their standards. My favorite quote from Deb: "We don't have new standards, we have revised standards, and I'm still waiting to fully implement the 1989 NCTM standards."
    Deb Romanek, Joleigh Honey, and Robin Hill
  6. "Principles, Principals, and District Leaders: Affecting Change in Mathematics Education" (Jennifer Curtis and Chris Avila): This talk had relevance to the Research + Practice Collaboratory, who awarded me a travel fellowship to help pay for the trip. There was talk I've heard before, such as the need for shared goals and responsibilities, and the design and use of tools to facilitate work, but I believe it was Chris who made the comment, "Everybody is about frameworked out," referring to the multitude of curriculum frameworks, PD frameworks, accountability frameworks, and other similar tools that education leaders are currently dealing with. That's not an easily solved problem, I don't think.
  7. "Pursuing Coherence" (Diana Suddreth and Dewey Gottlieb): Diana and Dewey's talk looked at right and wrong drivers of our work and how the affect coherence, based on work by Michael Fullan.
  8. "Coaching for Change" (Lucy West): Tired and hungry, I was fading by this point, but Lucy was still enjoyable to listen to. As an administrator in New York City, she oversaw the implementation of a massive coaching program. If I remember one story correctly, she said she was asked to find and hire 1800 qualified coaches to work in schools, to which she replied, "If there were 1800 qualified people out there ready to hire, we wouldn't have the problems we have." That meant for her, she had to design a focused and scalable coaching support system to help the coaches as the coaches did their work of helping teachers.

Monday, April 11

Dan Meyer
  1. Breakfast sponsored by CPM (Elizabeth Coyner): It's no secret that I taught using CPM, attended their summer workshops, and supported their status as a not-for-profit publisher. For these reasons, I feel I can offer a critique here, as I had a rather negative reaction to the very glossy promo videos we were shown. Maybe it's just me, but they came across as too polished and inauthentic and I worry they detract from the decades of curriculum design work CPM has done with teachers.
  2. Business Meeting, Part 3: The last of our 3-part business meeting mostly dealt with leadership recognitions and election results.
  3. "Scaling Up Digital Design Studies" (Jere Confrey): Jere did a wonderful job laying out a framework for understanding the landscape of educational technology. She organized tools into six categories, with pros and cons: (1) e-textbooks (2) rich and engaging problems (pro: interactivity, like Dan's work with Desmos; con: not clear how to sequence into a curriculum, no practice problems), (3) dynamic tools (like Desmos calculator, Tinkerplots, Fathom, Sketchpad, etc.), (4) OER resources (pro: can be creative and they're free; con: not sure how to sequence, fragmented, inconsistent, uncertain shelf-life, quality varies widely), (5) digital learning systems (like from Carnegie Learning, Khan Academy, etc.; pros: full-service; cons: often expensive, non-extensible), and (6) analytics system tools.
  4. "Math, Education, and Technology: Reasons for Pessimism and Optimism" (Dan Meyer): Dan's admitting that his thinking about technology is now at the same level of concern as he thinks about mathematics and education. In this talk, he described the high bar we should set for our math ed tech, and went into some details about where we're currently falling short.
  5. Conclusion of the Annual Meeting: My goodness, ASSM likes to give prizes, recognitions, and gifts to people. Not that it's a bad thing — in this group, people have a pretty good idea what each other are struggling with, and this is a way of showing each other support. We also heard a little bit about plans for next year's ASSM meeting in San Antonio.
Whew. Twenty-five sessions/events attended in less than 72 hours. I had no real desire to eclipse my record of 40 sessions attended in a conference trip, but at this rate with two conferences still to go that was sure to happen. Before I get ahead of myself, let me wrap up with one big positive takeaway and one big negative takeaway from my ASSM experience:

2016 ASSM Annual Meeting group photo

Positive: It was great to meet so many people who share jobs like mine. There really is no other place or organization like ASSM where I can do this. From starting the meeting with Dewey and Diana, to walking to the BART station after the closing with David and Robbyn, I really enjoyed getting to talk to people.

Dewey Gottlieb

Negative: The ASSM Annual Meeting is, by my standards, a very commercial-feeling, sponsor-driven affair. Yes, sponsors are asked to avoid blatantly making sales pitches during the meals they pay for, and most were pretty good doing so. I just happen to have an extremely low tolerance for these kinds of things. Part of it is a matter personal principle, and another part is a sense I've developed in the research world for maintaining one's independence and integrity. For me, that meant choosing not to eat any of the meals I was offered (some costing sponsors more than $100 a person) or taking any of the free materials. (Dewey, thanks for all the little Hawaiian candies at the tables — those calories kept me going!) I totally understand that ASSM needs to keep conference costs under control, and hosting a conference in downtown San Francisco is really expensive. For that, sponsors, I thank you — had registration costs been higher, I may not have attended. I also thank and appreciate the work of Tom Muchlinski, the primary ASSM member who works with sponsors, as he clearly has a more advanced set of skills than I do for this sort of thing. But I feel like the work of ASSM is in the public's interest and I wish it was sustained with public support. Sadly, our state budgets aren't designed to finance these kinds of events, so if I continue to attend the ASSM Annual Meeting I'll have to do so while wrestling with my conscience on an empty stomach.