This Week in Math Ed: January 22, 2016

Math Ed Said

My MathEd Twitter list has passed 1300 members and 150 followers. Here's what the list members have been talking about in the past week.

Jason Zimba presenting at the 2015 NCTM Annual Meeting
January 15: Diana Suddreth, Illustrative Maths, Katherine Martin, Shauhna Feitlin, and Kate Nowak shared a post by Jason Zimba on the "Common Core Watch" blog titled, "Can parents help with math homework? YES." This post is written in response to recent headlines suggesting that math education is best left to teachers, and provides some advice for parents who might not be familiar with the curriculum their children are using.

On a personal note, I find conversations about parent help on homework interesting and, frankly, a bit foreign. Growing up, getting homework help from my parents just wasn't a thing. They didn't offer, I didn't ask, and even thinking about it now I still feel like my parents instructing me on my homework would have been as weird as me standing over their shoulders at their jobs instructing them how to do their work. This had implications for me as a teacher, as on more than one occasion I struggled to deal with parents simply because I underestimated the involvement they wanted in their child's education. I consider it just one more example of how teaching is difficult when you struggle to shake yourself from the idea that you just need to do for your students what was done for you when you were a student.

January 16: Mike Lawler, Simon Gregg, TJ Hitchman, and Kate Owens were all talking about how to fold a dodecahedron into a cube. This is a richly multimedia post, complete with animated GIFs of folding shapes and videos of kids working with a Zometool set to demonstrate how the two shapes fit together. (Fun fact I just learned: The Zometool offices are just a few miles down the road from me in Longmont, CO.)

January 17: Oh boy. Michael Welch, Jose Vilson, Ματτ, Shannon Houghton, Michael Welch, Taylor Belcher, Kate Nowak, Joshua Bowman, Jessica Faurote, Robin Hosemann, and Megan Schmidt shared a link to the story, "My year of terror and abuse teaching at a NYC high school," published in the New York Post. Many people retweeted Doug Robertson, who summarized the story thusly:

January 18: It's a 3-way tie! Shauna Hedgepeth, Kent Haines, Bridget Dunbar, and Elizabeth Statmore shared Elizabeth's post, "Algebra 1 Inequalities – A minor 'How People Learn' unit". Meanwhile, Lorraine Males, Eddi Vulić, Chris Lusto, and Dan Meyer shared Dan's post, "[Makeover] Marine Ramp". Lastly, Jocelyn Dagenais, Larry Sizemore, Brian Bushart, and Kasi Allen shared "Practical Ways to Develop Students’ Mathematical Reasoning." Without summarizing these, I'll just say that the quality across these posts is outstanding.

January 19: It's bigger than the last one! Gary Davis, Learning Maths, ATM, Dave Radcliffe, Better Maths, and Avery Pickford shared either a news story or the announcement of our brand-new largest known prime number.

January 20: People like to share Ben Orlin's bad drawings. This time it's "The Number Line: A Journey," shared Thursday by Simon Gregg, Paula Beardell Krieg, Denise Gaskins, Alison Hansel, and Ben Orlin himself. This one might have bad drawings, but the entertaining narrative more than makes up for it.

January 21: Three posts were most-shared on Thursday, but the one that got my attention was Rachel Lambert's "Developing meaningful mathematics goals for IEPs," shared by Bridget Dunbar, Tracy Johnston Zager, Tina Cardone, Fawn Nguyen, and Andrew Stadel in preparation for #SwDMathChat. The post makes some very good suggestions for writing IEP goals that reflect mathematical practices rather than merely requiring a certain number of right answers on a certain kind of repetitive exercise. The other most-shared posts were about Desmos's new features in Activity Builder and calls to submit to the MTBoS Activity Bank.

<soapbox>My one piece of critical feedback for the latter: it's great to submit a "good math activity" but I want to keep pushing people to articulate and work with criteria for why something is good — and none of us should be satisfied with the simple thumbs-up, likes, or 5-star systems we might see on any of the other repositories. Furthermore, as a community, we shouldn't put the blame for this on the makers of the repositories. When we, as lesson and activity authors, make it standard practice to articulate and use shared criteria for activity quality, then the repository builders will have something powerful to work with.</soapbox>

Global Math Department

This week's GMD meeting featured Ryan Seth Jones work on statistical variability in a talked titled, "Conceptual Understanding is Not Enough! Supporting Students to See Statistics as Epistemic Tools." Next week's meeting looks at video-supported measurement scenarios and mathematical modeling.

Research Notes

Samuel Otten released a new episode of the Math Ed Podcast. His guest? Himself! (Why not? It's his show, after all.) In this episode, Sam talks about a new article in ZDM that he co-authored with Chris Engledowl and Vickie Spain, "Univocal and Dialogic Discourse in Secondary Mathematics Classrooms: The Case of Attending to Precision."

I was excited to see Elham Kazemi, Hala Ghousseini, Adrian Cunard, and Angela Chan Turrou's Journal of Teacher Education article, "Getting Inside Rehearsals: Insights From Teacher Educators to Support Work on Complex Practice." I should say more about this article when I get around to following up on my "Madness to Our Methods" post from last fall, but for now, I want to acknowledge it for being a well-framed article that pushes the conversation about practice-based teacher education a bit further by really focusing on the roles of novice teachers and teacher educators and how they interact in the context of rehearsing practice. I think the scenarios described here (all of which are math activities) are things that existed in my imagination when I thought about practice-based teacher ed, but I lacked any empirical basis for really thinking about how as a teacher educator I might facilitate rehearsing a practice.

I also looked at "Exploring a Structure for Mathematics Lessons that Initiate Learning by Activating Cognition on Challenging Tasks" which has been added to the slate of articles for the March issue of The Journal of Mathematical Behavior. (See last week's TWiME for the previously-added articles.) My first thought was, "Is this going to be any different than Stein, Smith, et al.'s cognitive demand?" Yes, it's different, but related. The Australian authors (Peter Sullivan, Chris Borcek, Nadia Walker, and Mick Rennie) draw upon a somewhat different body of literature than you might typically see in a Smith & Stein-based article, but their lessons were designed similar to what is typically found in Connected Mathematics, citing Lappan, Fey, Fitzgerald, Friel, and Phillips (2006), the CMP2 Implementing and Teaching Guide. The researchers were interested in lessons where initial tasks were quite engaging and demanding, as opposed to more traditional lessons in which simple problems were practiced first before working towards problems of higher difficulty. Overall, Sullivan et al. found success with the lessons, as most teachers rated them positively for what students learned and were able to contribute during the lessons. Time management of the lessons did not always go to plan, which is no surprise for those of us who have taught such lessons. Students did show improvement from their pre-test to post-test, but this was not an experimental or quasi-experimental study that compared the focus students to any others using different lesson structures. For this reason, this research isn't by itself going to answer really big questions about how we teach mathematics, but it can sit comfortably with the body of evidence that promotes a more student inquiry-oriented type of teaching.

Other articles appearing in JMB's March issue that I didn't mention last week are Pedemonte and Balacheff's "Establishing Links Between Conceptions, Argumentation and Proof Through the ck¢-Enriched Toulmin Model" and Huang, Barlow, and Prince's "The Same Tasks, Different Learning Opportunities: An Analysis of Two Exemplary Lessons in China and the U.S. From a Perspective of Variation."

A quick look through the February issue of the International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education seems to have quite a bit more science than math, but here's a quick rundown of what's new:
Lastly, five new articles in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education:
Patricio Herbst presenting at the 2014 NCTM Research Conference
Can you take just one more article? Here's one from the Journal of Teacher Education by Erin Turner (University of Arizona) and Corey Drake (Michigan State University): "A Review of Research on Prospective Teachers' Learning About Children's Mathematical Thinking and Cultural Funds of Knowledge"

Math Ed in the News

Math Ed in Colorado

Colorado Math Leaders (CML) are meeting in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, January 26th. This will be my first meeting, and I'm anxious to meet everyone and see a few familiar faces. I believe our main topic is Principles to Actions, and I can't think of too many other relevant publications that I'd rather talk and hear others talk about.

Northern Colorado Math Circles are on January 25th at UNC for 5th-8th graders. Find Ross Hall 2090 from 5:30 to 7. RSVP to Gulden Karakok or Delia Haefeli by noon on Monday, January 25th. The next sessions for teachers and students will be on Monday, February 22nd.

The next CCTM board meeting is Saturday, January 30th. I had a great meeting with CCTM President Joanie Funderburk on Wednesday, and I look forward to working with her and the rest of the people with CCTM. In case you missed it, the Winter 2016 issue of the CCTM Journal is available, and I'm happy to say that I'm a co-author with Frederick Peck, Jessica Alzen, and Derek Briggs on an article that talks about some of our learning progression-based growth measurement work, specifically the tools we used with teachers to guide the analysis of student work and the quality of assessments. See the CU-Boulder CADRE website for more information about this work or feel free to contact me.