Twitter Math Camp 2016

I am so, so happy I decided to attend TMC in Minneapolis the last five days (counting the Desmos pre conference).  I wanted to use this post to reflect on my experience.

Let’s rewind to just over a year and a half ago, while I was in the middle of my first field experience. It was a couple days before I was supposed to have a formal observation and I was in a panic of how to make my lesson exciting and interesting for my students.  I cannot remember exactly what I was going to be teaching, but I remember using google to try to find some fun activities to do with this lesson.  Through this, I stumbled upon some math teacher blogs.  From there, I started spending hours (literally) jumping from blog to blog reading what other teachers were doing in their classroom.  I eventually saw the hashtag #MTBoS, and did a google search on that to discover there was a whole network of people out there and started following some people on twitter.  I have always just kind of been a lurker, so in January, I decided to try the MTBoS blogging initiative where I was paired up with my mentor Danielle.  She asked me if I was planning to go to TMC and said that I should because it would be a good experience. BTW, the blogging thing apparently didn’t stick since this is my third blog post.

Come February, I must have been at the right place at the right time.  I had followed TMC on twitter,  so right after school one day I saw that registration was open for TMC 2016.  I made an impulsive decision to register and was surprised when it said that my registration was confirmed, especially since I had heard registration usually filled up very quick.  As TMC got closer and closer, I started to panic a little more each day.  About 4 days before, I actually almost decided to drop out, but then I thought about it and decided that my spot maybe wouldn’t even go to someone on the waitlist because I had waited so long, and I didn’t want a space to go to waste.  So, I sucked it up and decided to attend.

I am SO happy that I did.  Friday started with the Desmos pre conference.  I ended up arriving an hour early to Augsburg–leading me to sit in my car for half an hour before I went in.  When I got inside, I was greeted by the Desmos staff almost instantly.  It was nice to feel so welcomed, but I was still kind of freaking out inside.  Eventually, breakfast was served and I ended up getting in line next to Lane Walker. She invited me to go sit at her table with a few other people.  I started to feel less like an outsider and more like a member of the group.  The rest of the day consisted of learning about and playing around with the Desmos calculator and activity builder.  We also got the pleasure of hearing Sara VanDerWerf speak about being an Evangelist.  After the Desmos conference, there was happy hour at Republic.  I was still surprised each time someone sat down by me and introduced themselves.  At one point, most of my table ended up leaving the bar to go somewhere else.  Julie Wright stayed behind and invited me to go meet some people with her.  I remember meeting Glenn for the first time that night and he asked me “so how is your first time at TMC? Overwhelming?” I replied “kind of” and he said “and isn’t it crazy that TMC hasn’t even started yet?” That got me even more excited for TMC to actually start the next day.

Twitter Math Camp started Saturday morning.  After checking in, I was sitting at a table with a group of other attendees.  We ended up being recruited to move some boxes from one building to another.  This is how I met my new friend Leslie!  We were both first time attendees who didn’t really know anyone else at the conference.  We ended up sitting together and making plans for lunch before heading off to our morning sessions.  I decided to attend Matt Baker and Chris Luzniak‘s session, “Talk Less, Smile More: Getting Students to Discuss and Debate Math.” I learned so many great things I am going to try to implement in my classroom including the words “claim” and “warrant.”  I could go on and on about how awesome their session was, but it should have a post of its own.

We had a keynote speaker every day after our morning sessions and lunch.  The first speaker was Jose Vilson.  He talked about how we as math teachers have the ability to discuss and change the injustice happening in our country right now.  We need to participate in the conversation, not just watch in the shadows.  He made the point that people of color do not need mascots, they need people who are going to go out and make change.

The second day, our keynote speaker was Tracy Zager.  She talked about how elementary and secondary teachers should collaborate because they both have so much to learn from each other.  She made the point that elementary teachers seem to start teaching knowing so much more about pedagogy, while secondary teachers know more about their content.  One isn’t more important than the other, instead you should focus on improving understanding of both.  I hope to go back to school and try to discuss math with the elementary teachers in my building.

The third day, the keynote speaker was Dylan Kane.  He talked about how he has become a better teacher by being a part of the MTBoS.  He talked about all the amazing resources in the community, and how sometimes it can get overwhelming.  You have to find what works for you in your classroom, because clever ideas =/= coherent curriculum.  He also mentioned that you should expect to change over time, but it is unrealistic to try to change more than 10% each year.

Well, if you stuck with me up til this point, I applaud you.  This post got longer than I thought it would be.  I am not going to write about the many other sessions I attended at this time, but possibly in the future.  Just know that all the sessions I went to were amazing!  This is just a post to say thanks to everyone in attendance at Twitter Math Camp for making my experience so memorable.  It was an amazing four days and it has definitely given me a jolt of motivation going into the next school year.  I am proud of myself that I attended TMC even though I was honestly scared and nervous leading up to it.  I would recommend if you have been thinking about it, to try to attend in the future.  It is everything I hoped it would be and more!!

#FirstYearProbs and the MTBoS

I’m often asked about how my first year of teaching is going  and/or if it is everything I hoped it would be.  I feel (and hope) that most people go into education hoping to inspire and help students learn.  While I was still in school I would picture my classroom in my head and see a space that was engaging, encouraging, accepting, and full of students participating and problem solving.  I saw myself as a super amazing teacher.  Enter: My Reality

I’m walking around the room taking notes on my computer while the students follow along.  Often, I will ask students questions to try to come up with solutions on their own.  Occasionally one student will answer me, but most students look lost and/or bored.  Side conversations are had, and across the room another student will complain and ask why we even need to know this.  I fail coming up with answers to this question. Will you ever use imaginary numbers in your everyday life? No, probably not.  However, we are currently learning about them so that we can find our imaginary roots that contrary to their name, do exist.  I get that this is confusing.  I get that it maybe isn’t the most interesting thing and I could be teaching it better and I wish I was more engaging.  But, I struggle.

I know that many people have four preps just like me each day. I had two preps during my student teaching and was unprepared for just how much time and effort it took to create fun, engaging lessons.  I find myself writing notes, printing pre-made worksheets, and finding the things that take me the least amount of time to plan.  I am lucky if I am ahead of my students by more than one day. 

Now, this isn’t supposed to be a pity party for me.  Even though the majority of my lessons seem boring and repetitive to me, I occasionally will do an activity that goes over well with my classroom.  I see bits and pieces of that classroom I envisioned for myself while I was in college.  I just wanted to give thanks and credit to the MTBoS.  I may not always be active in conversations, but I appreciate all of the resources, ideas, and advice I receive from you all daily.  I signed up for TMC 2016 and I am nervous and excited all at the same time to attend.  As I grow as a teacher, I am glad to know that there such a great supportive network of people out there helping me improve. 

2016 MTBoS Blogging Initiative Week 2


The post for this week is supposed to be one about my favorite things in my classroom.  I’m a day past the post deadline, but wanted to write one anyway!

Favorite Review Game
1) My students really enjoy playing Kahoots before tests.  It keeps them engaged and they love to play with nicknames. Even though they can be time consuming to create, after they are made they can be used over and over again.  At the end of the Kahoot, it gives students the opportunity to rate the actual Kahoot on how helpful it was.  As the creator/leader of the Kahoot, you can also download a spreadsheet that has every student’s stats from the quiz on there.  Another cool thing about the Kahoot website is that you can make your own quizzes public or private, and you can search for Kahoots others have made that might work for you.  I have found some that even corresponded to certain chapters in my textbook that have helped me when I didn’t have a lot of time to create my own.

2) If you are into something a little more low maintenance, my other favorite review activity is to just post a question/problem on the board and have students work out the problem on individual whiteboards.  I use this more often when I am reviewing a specific lesson, as opposed to a unit/chapter.  However, I have used them for both purposes.

Favorite Products I use in the Classroom
I start out most of my lessons by giving my students notes over whatever topic it is we are covering that day.  I started the year by making a PowerPoint for each lesson I was going to teach.  I would project the PowerPoint on the board and write on the slides if I needed to (my computer screen flips around to become a tablet, WHICH I LOVE).  However, it just wasn’t working for me after a couple of weeks of making PowerPoints for 4 different subjects.

ENTER: Microsoft OneNote


This is the program I now use if I am going to make any sort of one page note guide for my students.  Everything is automatically saved, I have separate notebooks for each subject, I can zoom into the document if students need to see what I wrote, AND it has an equation editor/input.  It also allows me to print out a copy for my students to follow along with.  It has led to my students being able to focus on what is important in the notes.

Well, there you have it! Not the most interesting blog post, but these are things that are helpful in my classroom at this time! Thanks for reading!


2016 MTBoS Blogging Initiative Week One

Hello everyone in the MTBoS reading this! I am a first year teacher from South Dakota.  This is my first blog post ever, which is super exciting.  I first discovered this community while I was in my last semester of college, during student teaching.  Some days I would find myself spending hours jumping from one blog to another.  So, I decided to join this blogging initiative.

I chose the “one good thing” post as my first post.  Mostly because I have been in a slump lately, and wanted to try to find at least one major good thing in my week.  I have two good things I wanted to share that both showed up in the middle of my week.

The first good thing I noticed this week was the nice weather.  Last weekend the temperature got as low as -13º, with even chillier wind chills (tonight we’re going for -16).  The pipes in my house froze, and it just was a bit annoying.  Towards the middle of the week it started to warm up. I was able to actually leave school while it was still light out and go on a short walk on Wednesday.  This got me energized and refreshed for the rest of the week.  I realized how important it is to just take these small breaks every so often and really take in everything around you.

The second good thing I wanted to share is more student and school related.  I have noticed so many of my students have very little confidence in their abilities, especially when it comes to math.  At the beginning of the week, I assigned a dilation project in geometry.  Students were to pick a picture from the internet, draw a grid over top of it, then redraw the picture following the grid on a larger piece of paper.  My district does not have an art program, so many of the students are definitely not comfortable when it comes to art.  I heard a lot of negative comments that day from students saying they sucked at drawing, it was going to turn out horrible, and many pleas of students asking me to “please not hang them up!”  They were especially adamant that they WOULD NOT be putting their names on their pictures.  I told them it would be okay and they would turn out great.  I said that if I could do it, anyone could do it!  Well I gave them 2 full days of class time to work on their posters.  I hung up a couple of the posters after the first day, because two of my students finished theirs by working on it in study hall.  The next day, my other classes were all asking who drew what.  I said, sorry guys this class wanted to remain anonymous.  Well, my geometry class came in later in the day.  I told them all that people kept asking about who drew what but I did not rat anyone out about who drew what.  Then, a very exciting thing happened! Students started saying, “Mine looks so good, I’m definitely putting my name on mine” or “I want everyone to know who drew mine.”  They told me that it wasn’t as terrible as they thought it would be and it was actually fun.  I loved seeing students so excited and proud of their own work. It always makes my day brighter when students realize just what they can accomplish.  Everyone ended up putting their names on their finished products, and I was left as one happy math teacher.  I only took a photo before everyone’s was hung up, so you won’t get to see all of them.  If I get to the school tomorrow, I will take pictures of the other ones.

If you made it this far into my post, I thank you for reading it! I am hoping I start blogging more consistently now that I have started.