Scaling Meaningful Discourse – Recap

Our workshop at this year’s System Thinking Institute focused on how to increase the adoption of meaningful discourse within math lessons. As we noted in our last post, recognizing that a practice is effective is not enough. If we want to see widespread and sustainable adoption, the practice must be part of a larger solution that solves a real problem for teachers.

To understand how we might do that, we teamed up with Danielle Robinson, the Math Interventionist from Brown Street Academy.  Danielle lead the group through an exploration of their hopes and fears around introducing meaningful discourse into the classroom.  In the afternoon, we used that to guide a discussion of the factors that drive the decisions teachers make as they plan their lessons.

After the first day’s session ended, we sifted through everything we heard to construct a profile, written from a teacher’s perspective, that summarizes how they think about meaningful discourse, and what that means for their planning.  Day 2 began with a discussion of this profile. You can view the complete profile here.

Moving Towards a Solution

With our profile in hand, Danielle led us through a look at factors that drive or hinder quality math discourse in the classroom.  That set the stage for us to identify four key problems teachers face as they seek to introduce discourse or Number Talks in their classrooms:

  • Number talks are new to me and I’m not comfortable trying them out on my students
  • I don’t know how I will assess how my students are doing when I use a number talk as part of a lesson
  • I worry about being to reach all students in my class
  • I don’t have the resources (tools, time, support) to do number talks well/get good at doing so quickly

Using a version of the Lean Startup Canvas we’ve adapted for looking at programs within schools, we had the group sketch out what a solution might look like.  You can see the canvas we put together here.

The approach we arrived at equips classroom teachers with tools, resources, and support to drive quality discourse in a way that allows it to take root, and commit to seeing that it does.  Here’s what that looks like:

Tools

  • Set of common terms/behaviours to be used by teachers working on meaningful discourse
  • List of sentence starters teachers can use to guide students
  • Quick Checklist for Number Talk lessons, that identifies strategies students might use in the exercise as well common misunderstandings. The checklist should provide an easy way for the teacher to make note of the strategies and/or misunderstandings of individual students. It should also indicate how the lesson relates to standards (MTAP?)
  • Best practice anchor charts for Number Talks
  • Use Reflection Journals to have students reflect on their own learning/approaches
  • List of ideas for math challenges teachers can use to check understanding

Resources

  • In-building math specialist who is available for in-classroom modeling of meaningful discourse and ongoing support/mentoring as teachers develop their skills in leading math discourse.
  • In-building cohort of teachers working to integrate meaningful discourse into their lessons, and support each other in doing so.
  • Cross school network of teachers working to expand the use meaningful discourse in their schools.
  • Peer-based professional development that respects the voice of teachers.
  • Schedule changes that would allow teachers to observe/provide feedback to each other.

Support

  • Overt support from building leadership for teachers who elect to integrate meaningful discourse into their math lessons.
  • Permission from district administration for teachers to deviate from the pacing guide based on their students’ needs.

Next Steps

We treat everything on the canvas as a hypothesis to be tested.  The key assumption to validate first is that the problems we identified are issues for teachers beyond those in our session. There is no point investing time and money in a solution if we aren’t focused on the right problem.

We had a number of Danielle’s colleagues from Brown Street in our session, but as a first step, we’ll look to review the list of problems we came up with to confirm that these are important to a wider group of teachers at her school.  Assuming these teachers see the same set of issues, the group identified a series of actions we could take both before the end of this school year as well as over the summer to lay the groundwork for a strong start in the fall.

  • Converting a CAB to a number talk
  • (continue to) Provide intervention to students that need extra instruction
  • Practice Number Talk procedures
  • Establish a common language for Number Talks (“turn and talk” vs “shoulder partners”)
  • Create prototypes for tools– sentence stems, anchor charts, checklist

We’ll review were we landed at the next meeting of our Middle School Math workgroup. We don’t want to lose momentum coming out of the workshop, so we’ll continue to work with Milwaukee Succeeds and Danielle and her colleagues from Brown Street Academy to move this forward.

Middle School Math Workgroup – February 26th Recap & Notes

The focus for our workgroup is now shifting to explore how we can speed the adoption of meaningful discourse/Number Talks within schools.  If we want to scale an effective practice, we need to get beyond simply asking (or telling) teachers to use the practice because it is effective. As teachers plan their lessons, they need to balance a number of competing forces. For Number Talks to be part of their solution, we need to understand those forces, and set up the conditions where the regular inclusion of Number Talks becomes the easy choice for them to make.  This will be the focus of our two day workshop at the Systems Thinking Institute next week.

Our February workgroup meeting was a chance to start down this path.

We began our session with a clip from Clayton Christensen, the Harvard professor who coined the term “disruptive innovation”. In this clip, he describes work he and his colleagues did to get a handle on why so many milkshakes are sold to commuters in the morning.  The key insight was not to look at the demographics of the buyer, but asking what problem they were buying the milkshake to solve — the “Job to be Done”.  In the case of this group of commuters, the Job to be Done was to give them something to do on a long commute, not leave them hungry by 10:00 in the morning, and not make a mess on the way.  As Christensen puts it, by understanding the requirements of the Job to be Done, we can craft solutions that allow customers to pull the solution into their lives.

To start down the path to understand the forces that guide the decisions teachers make when planning a lesson, Danielle Robinson, the Math Interventionist for Brown Street Academy led our group through an exploration of the hopes and fears they hold around Number Talks.

Our big question: How can we facilitate meaningful math discourse in our classroom?

What do you hope will happen when you implement math discourse in your classroom?

  • Kids help teach each other, and are excited about learning
  • Increased conceptual understanding
  • Increased student to student relationships
  • Build confidence in their math identity
  • Teachers would have better understanding of math learning process
  • Evidence-based conversations
  • Students make their own connections
  • Increased student engagement
  • Students learning multiple strategies from each other
  • Disagreement and testing new ideas
  • Teachers utilize feedback/take in student reactions
  • School-level, better attention paid to increased comprehension of math principles
  • Collect evidence
  • Inter-grade coherence
  • Raises the visibility of ah-ha moments for students
  • Coherence between subjects
  • Equity
  • Build community (students feel safe enough to share their thinking)
  • Students build relationships with each other
  • Learn to disagree respectfully

What do you fear will happen when you implement discourse in your classroom?

  • Non-stop discourse
  • Students get off-topic
  • If a teacher can’t properly define meaningful/productive discourse
  • Teacher will not value discourse/only values certain students discourse
  • Loss of Equity of voice
  • Teacher compliance vs. fidelity
  • If a principal wants discourse in a building, but how do they support
  • Fear of lacking support in the school
  • Students not becoming fluent in skills
  • Discourse time inconsistent with test time, basically how do you test learning
  • Difficult to measure the results of math discourse
  • Grading can be difficult, in terms of what a teacher values

Danielle asked the group to pick key hopes and fears for meaningful discourse and graph how they expected what they hoped for/feared would change over time.  Across the group, the top fears centered on classroom management issues. The top hope was that students would share their thinking rather than just their answers.

Testing this process with the workgroup has given us a sense of what we might expect in our Institute Workshop. In that longer session we’ll be working with Danielle to further explore the factors that drive teachers’ decisions around the practices they incorporate.  We’ll look for common themes and identify measures one might that can make meaningful discourse a solution teachers want to pull into their lesson plans.

 

 

Collab Lab 17: Recap & Notes

Healthy Food Passport — Connecting Students to Food & Culture

Collab Lab 17 was a chance to further develop an idea that came out of our December session. One of the three projects proposed would engage students in real world issues around obesity and nutrition–  the Healthy Food Passport.  Participants in our December Lab noted that the specifics of the program would vary by age group, but the goal is to have students research a culture or cuisine and then craft a healthy version of the selected dish. Even better would be to have the students grow the ingredients. Inspired by the notion that “Food is how culture talks”, the team envisions a food fair where families are invited to sample the dishes, and stories about the dish may be shared.

Through the project, the team aims for students to gain an understanding the food production process (e.g. where food comes from), help build family connections to the school and increase exposure to different fruits and vegetables.

At this session, we used a version of the Lean Startup Canvas to guide our thinking and capture our assumptions about the goals for the project, and how it might be structured.  We started the process with a discussion of the problems we are trying to address through the project, and then stepped through the remaining sections of the canvas.  We closed with a discussion around the importance of starting with validation of the key assumption– that the problems we identified matter to the students engaged in the project.  The end result is available here:

 


Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space, and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Shelley Jurewicz,  Executive Director of FaB (Food and Beverage) Wisconsin

Marisa Wall Riepenhoff, Vice President of Education SHARP Literacy

 

For an overview of the Learn Startup Canvas, visit https://medium.com/@steve_mullen/an-introduction-to-lean-canvas-5c17c469d3e0

 

Collab Lab 16: Recap & Notes

First, a bit of background…

In our conversations around makerspaces over the past year and half, we’ve heard several concerns around the cost of materials for student projects, and the effort involved to secure material donations.

Schools need material for student projects but:

  • They have limited budgets
  • It’s time consuming to track down potential donors
  • They can’t always find donors for what they need

There are a parallel set of concerns on the industry side. Companies are willing to donate material for use in schools but:

  • They don’t know always know what is useful
  • They don’t know who needs it
  • They don’t have a simple means to do so

We started exploring a model for getting excess material from industry available for use in area schools last January when we partnered with Betty Brinn to sponsor a challenge through The Commons.  That work continued over the summer and fall as we experimented with pulling equipment from Gooodwill’s E-Cycling stream for tear down events to recover useful parts.

The challenge of getting excess materials to educators has been addressed in the Bay Area through a non-profit called the Resources Area For Teaching (RAFT).  While they do a great job at pulling material in and packaging it up, the relationships that develop with donor companies are with RAFT.  Given all the efforts we see to help schools develop relationships with area firms and career based learning experiences (CBLEs), we see that as the wrong model for Milwaukee.

We’d like to see schools use up-cycling as another point of engagement with the companies around them.  The idea is to develop a network exchange model, where participants have access to materials their counterparts are able to pull in. That network could include not just K12 schools, but libraries, museums, and other organizations who can provide or use up-cycled materials for student projects.

In a network model, we need a way to create a view of inventory that is spread across nodes.  It turns out that a couple of the leading thinkers on network resource planning live in western Wisconsin. They have developed an open source platform that facilitates the kind of network we envision.  We’ve paired them up with a team of MSOE students who are working to tailor the application to see how it would work for us.  We’re starting with the simple stuff– let me see who is in the network, and what is available.

The model we proposed looks like this:

  • Non-Profit consortium
  • Supported by membership fees
  • Members issued credits used to purchase material
  • Members set pricing (in credits) for material/services they offer
  • Consortium sets membership fees/credit pricing
  • Supported by open source NRP platform

And now, the recap…

Up-cycling discussion at Collab Lab 16During Collab Lab 16, we walked participants through our model and had them beat up the idea in both small group discussions and a sharing out of key points to all participants.

Participants listed the following as key questions/concerns for each player in the model:

Donors

  • Liability for downstream use
  • Transportation/Logisticcs
  • Visibility of need — how do we know who needs what?
  • Impact on student learning

Aggregators/Distributors of Donated Material

  • Liabilty
  • Compensation
  • Sustainable model
  • Space limitations within schools

Recipients

  • Getting the right stuff
  • Equitable cost structure
  • Ensuring equal access
  • Growing the network/community collaboration (share recipes)

We then prompted the discussion groups to think through experiments that could help validate potential solutions to these concerns.  That generated:

  • A commitment from Digital Bridges to provide laptops for a tear down event at one of the schools participating, and to document the lessons learned from the process.
  • Involve students in understanding how to acquire donated material by having them explore potential relationships with area firms.
  • Start the network, learn and grow:
    • Start with a simple catalog
    • Let participants work out transportation of materials
    • Skip the distributor role for now
    • 4 column spreadsheet for catalog
    • Promotion to potential network nodes
    • Communicate to actual users.
    • Next Steps

Quick & Dirty Has/Wants Directory

We like the idea of prototyping with a shared spreadsheet that can serve as a directory of folks at schools and other organizations that have material or skills that may be useful to others, or have something they are looking for and could use help finding it.   Here it is: https://tinyurl.com/y7uas8h3

Feel free to add/edit/share.  We added attendees from schools as editors, but the link is set to view only for everyone else.  If you’d like access, let us know.

School/Donor Interviews

We also want a better understanding of how schools work with companies who make material donations on an ongoing basis.  If you have a such a relationship, we’d like to sit down with you and your contact at the company to walk through your current process, talk through what works, and what gets in the way, and what would help make the process better.  If you’d like to bring along a student who is, or would like to be involved in the process, we’d more than welcome that.  We have time to schedule six of these discussions between now and the first week of March.  If you’d like to be included, let us know.


 


Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space, and to everyone who joined us for the insight they brought to the discussion.  We had several folks from outside of K12 join us (thank you). For those who asked how you could find them, here you go:

Rachel Arbit — Senior Director of Programs, SHARP Literacy

Ben Dembroski — Open Lab Manager, MIAD

Kelly Ellis — CEO, Einstein Project

Jeff Hanson — Executive Director, Digital Bridge

Lisa Perkins — Re-Creation Station

Owen Raisch — Associate Director, Student Run Business Program, Marquette University

 

 

 

Collab Lab 15: Recap & Notes

How can we provide K12 students with opportunities to explore real world healthcare issues that have meaning for them?

We thought we’d try and find some. Last night we pulled educators from across the area together with healthcare researchers and professionals. We asked Brian King, a Collab Lab regular and former Director of Innovation for the Milwaukee Jewish Day School to facilitate.  Brian’s work with students to develop and launch student run projects with a social purpose help make him the right person to guide the group through what we wanted to accomplish. In short, to generate ideas for projects that:

  • are meaningful to students;
  • allow for the participation of students from multiple schools/districts;
  • allow teachers and students build connections to the broader community.

The thinking here is to get beyond programs that may link a single school or small group of students to a single organization.  Those connections can still happen through any of the project ideas that came out of the process.  We see a better chance to scale up the number of these connections with more open-ended projects that can grow and evolve as schools find their own ways to participate based on the interests of students, drawing in new community partners at the same time.

Participants started the evening with some Post-It Note brainstorming on the top five health related issues faced by school-age children. Three volunteers grouped these by topic.  We talked through each cluster, did a bit of rearranging and pulled out our blue dots for a vote on which topics were most important.

The result was three topics that would become the focus for the next stage of our work:

  • Stress/Mental Health
  • Physical Health
  • Obesity/Nutrition
Photo of Brian facilitating Collab Lab 15
Brian at work facilitating

Brian split the workshop participants into three groups to sketch out what a prototype program around each issue might look like.  The groups talked through our threshold considerations:

  • What aspects of your group’s issue would be most engaging for kids to explore?
  • Which aspects of this issue could kids realistically research or effect change?

And then addressed our guiding questions for their prototype:

  • Who are the students you would involve?
  • What goal(s) do you have for them?
  • What would they do?
  • Where/when would this happen?
  • Who are the partners you’d need to bring your project to life?

Here’s what we came up with…

Stress/Mental Health

Challenge: Screen Free for 24 hours

Recognizing that the use of social media can amplify the stress of school, this project challenges both students and staff to go screen free for 24 hours.  In preparation for the challenge, students/staff would lay down the ground rules for what counts as a screen, and develop plans to address tasks they currently use a screen to complete– how will we report attendance, how will students let their parents know they are ready to be picked up?

Both students and staff would document how they expect to react to a screen free day, the choices they made during the day when they otherwise may have used a screen, and a post challenge assessment of what it felt like.  The project will require the cooperation and support of student’s families. Media coverage could help spur participants to live up to the challenge and encourage other schools to participate.

 

Physical Health

Design & Build an Adventure Playground

This project would partner high school students with those in elementary grades to design and build playground that will encourage positive risk taking and problem solving.  Perhaps guided by a community planning organization, the high school students would work with a group of younger students to determine what the younger students would find engaging.

To complete the work, the project envisions connecting students to mentors who can help them with selecting a location, design, engineering, construction, marketing, and considerations for students with special needs.  The team also envisioned connecting the group to mentors who could help tie the project to curriculum goals and understand the impact of design decisions on the level and type of physical activity users of the playground were likely to engage in.

 

Obesity/Nutrition

Healthy Food Passport

The specifics of the program would vary by age group. but the goal is to have students research a culture or cuisine and then craft a healthy version of the selected dish. Bonus points if the students grow the ingredients.  Inspired by the notion that “Food is how culture talks”, the team envisions a food fair where families are invited to sample the dishes, and stories about the dish may be shared.

Through the project, the team aims for students to gain an understanding the food production process (e.g. where food comes from), help build family connections to the school and increase exposure to different fruits and vegetables.

 

Interested in helping move one of these projects forward?

If you’d like to get together with others to flesh out one of these projects in greater detail let us know.


Screen Free for 24 HoursDesign & Build an Adventure PlaygroundHealthy Food Passport


During the school dayA weekday eveningA Saturday morningA Saturday afternoonA Sunday morning


Thanks again to Brian King for facilitating, The Commons for providing the space, and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Christopher J Simenz, PhD, NSCA CSCS*D- Clinical Professor,
Department of Physical Therapy- Programs in Exercise Science, Marquette University

Jennifer Tarcin – Menomonee Falls High School Healthcare Academy Coordinator; Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Community Memorial Hospital Healthcare Career Academy Faculty Liaison

Jonathan Wertz — Director of Clinical Risk Management, Medical College of Wisconsin

Kristina Kaljo, PhD — Assistant Professor and Co-Director for the Third-Year Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical Student Clerkship, Medical College of Wisconsin

 

Laying the groundwork for Forensic Illustration

Sometimes things just seem to fall into place

Over the summer we took a group of makers from area schools, Betty Brinn, and MIAD down to Goodwill’s E-Cycling facility for a tour of the facility and to do a bit of shopping.  After seeing the kind of material that comes through the E-Cycling program, we sat down with their folks to talk through the types of equipment that would have parts that could be useful to makers.  It didn’t take much time for Goodwill to set aside a pallet full of material for us to play with.

In August we held a pallet party at MIAD for a small group of educators and students to take apart equipment (typewriters, sewing machines, DVD players, old phones, etc.) that had come through Goodwill’s E-Cycling program.  The goal was to find the parts that would be useful in school makerspaces and return the un-used material to Goodwill’s recycling stream.  At the time, Ben Dembroski, our host at MIAD, suggested that it would interesting to see if we could engage Milwaukee area students to document how to take different pieces of equipment apart and where the useful parts are.

In September we took the equipment we had left to Maker Faire where we were mobbed for three days by kids wanting to take stuff apart. A number of educators who stopped by the booth asked if we could do something like this at their school.

In October we connected with Sharp Literacy, a local non-profit that uses the visual arts to build literacy and math skills.  Some of the schools Sharp is working in are looking at ways to incorporate makerspace activity.  They were intrigued by the idea of having students take apart equipment and illustrate it’s function within the device. AKA Forensic Illustration, AKA the first installment of Ben’s student-produced guide for how to take things apart.

We brought everyone together over lunch at MIAD and hatched a plan. We  bring the equipment, MIAD provides student interns to help coach tear-down and illustration work, Sharp Literacy opens time in their program for the effort and works with the students to guide the process. We hope to cap off the project with a tour of at MIAD where students can show off their work. Useful parts can stay at the school or go to another school that can use them; the rest get recycled.

Last Tuesday we went out to Thurston Woods where students took apart DVD drives, a circular saw, printer, keyboard, camera, and a few other odds and ends in our collection.  Today we were out at Browning Elementary to do more of the same.  We were thrilled to see the students dive in and work together with little more instruction than “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey”.

We knew from our experience at Maker Faire that students can get deeply engaged taking things apart.  Our goal for these two sessions was to get a sense of the time required to take apart different pieces of equipment, and what the students found most interesting.  We’ll use what we’ve learned so far to craft the approach we take when we kick off the forensic illustration project next semester.

 

 

 

 

Collab Lab 14: Recap & Notes

We put together our November session with help from Susan Koen and Stacey Duchrow from Milwaukee 7’s Regional Talent Partnership.  In their work to help develop the talent pipeline for industry in southeastern Wisconsin, they see a number of systemic issues that get in the way of effective career based learning experiences for students.  We set up the session with the aim of mapping out factors which contribute to successful CBLE’s and identifying the key places where collaborative efforts might make a difference.

For this session, we split the attendees across 5 tables, where each participant shared their thoughts on key goals, and came together as a team to share those the felt were most important with the entire group.  These included:

  • Help students find their passion
  • Students/Mentors develop relationships that allow them to know each other as a person
  • Students Stay in School
  • Students are able to build 21st Century skills
  • Teachers are prepared and energized

We followed this with a second round of where participants shared their thoughts on key factors which help reach those goals or stand in the way.  Again, each table came to a consensus on on the key factors to share out with the larger group.  These include:

  • Students are prepared for CBLEs
  • Students have a voice in their learning
  • Students have access to a number of diverse experiences
  • Students have the resources (transportation, etc,) to accept CBLE opportuntities
  • An organization wide culture within schools supports CBLEs (as opposed to a focus on college preparedness)
  • Teachers have the resources they need to deliver on their end of CBLEs
  • Policies (state & district) support CBLEs
  • Leadership embraces 21st Century skills
  • The level of collective will (in support of CBLEs)
  • CBLE is part of general conciousness
  • Employers recognize the benefit of CBLEs
  • Teachers’s ability to connect curriculum to CBLEs
  • Schools/industry have a common understanding of what a partnership requires
  • All stakeholders have an equal voice
  • Employers have program in place to support CBLE
  • Teachers are prepared to be coaches
  • Schools/partners have dedicated resources to make CBLEs work

As we talked through each of these factors in turn, we built up a map that gave us a first draft how these factors influence each other, and thereby, the goals we have for CBLEs.  We ended the session by having the participants identify, by placing dot stickers on our map, the factors they felt were most important.  The key items for the group as a whole:

  • An organization wide culture within schools supports CBLEs (as opposed to a focus on college preparedness)
  • Schools/partners have dedicated resources to make CBLEs work
  • Schools/industry have a common understanding of what a partnership requires

Next Steps

We’ll be working with Milwaukee 7 to pull together follow on sessions to drill into each of the top three factors and from that, identify where collaborative efforts could make a difference. Interested in participating in one of these sessions?  Let us know:


During the school dayA weekday eveningA Saturday morningA Saturday afternoonA Sunday morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

Middle School Math Workgroup: November 13th Session – Recap & Notes

Gabriella Pinter from UWM’s mathematics department joined us for our November 13th session. Gabriella runs a Math Circles program at UWM for middle and high school students (http://uwm.edu/news/math-circle-taps-kids-creativity-in-problem-solving/) as well as a second program for area K12 teachers. She gave our group a minds-on experience of the process.

The Math Circles approach is to explore a problem (which may or may not have a known answer) to see where the ideas lead, test whether a solution can be proven, and see what new questions those discoveries raise.  As with meaningful discourse, it allows students to collaboratively build their understanding of the problem at hand, drives students to think carefully about what they do and do not know, and, as the problem is discussed, makes that thinking visible not only to the teacher but the other students in the room.

For our exercise, Gabriella asked us to play a game within a 4 x 4 grid. The rules of the game are pretty simple: You may put a single diagonal line running from corner to corner in any cell of the grid, so long as neither end point of that diagonal touches an end point of a diagonal in any adjoining cell. Go.

It doesn’t take long for the question to surface– how many diagonals can one place in the grid? The group’s consensus, 10.

How about a 3 x 3 grid? 6.

2 x 2 Grid? 3.

1 x 1 grid? Well yeah, 1.

5 x 5? 15…. Are you sure?

 

Well it looks like we have a pattern of triangular numbers…

Grid Size 0 1 2 3 4 5
Diagonals 0 1 3 6 10 15

Take the last number of diagonals, add to it the next grid size, get the next number of diagonals:

0 + 1 = 1

1 + 2 = 3

3 + 3 = 6

6 + 4 = 10

10 + 5 = 15

So we have a pattern and that looks like a pretty good rule.  Is it a proof? er…. maybe?

What else have we seen?  Well, each diagonal we place uses up two potential end points on the grid.  On a 4 x 4 grid, if we mark these potential end points as alternating rows of blue and red dots, starting with blue, we will have 3 rows of 5 blue dots and 2 rows of 5 red dots.  With that pattern, every diagonal must touch a red dot.  There are only 10 red dots, seems like a pretty good proof that 10 is the limit for a 4 x 4 grid.

Ok, what about a 5 x 5 grid?  Now, for both blue and red dots, we have 3 rows of 6, and therefore an upper limit of 18 diagonals.  So what is possible 15, which we found, 18 which is clearly the upper limit, or something in between?  Please tell us how you found 16.

……………………..

The wonderful thing to see in this process was how Gabriella slowly released a little bit more of the problem to explore just as the group thought it had arrived at an answer.  It was a very effective way of keeping engagement and interest high by continually adjusting the bounds of the problem to a point just beyond what we knew.

Gabriella pointed us to www.mathpickle.com which has a wonderful collection of problems to explore for any grade level.

Up next for the group, math journals.


The Middle School Math Workgroup is a collaborative effort with Milwaukee Succeeds to explore practices which drive student performance and share ideas and experiences about bringing those practices into the classroom.

 

 

 

 

 

Collab Lab 13: Recap & Notes

Problem Finding

Bring King joined us for Collab Lab 13 to walk us through an exercise to identify problems worth solving at attendees’ schools.  The idea was to give participants the feel for a process they could use with their students to identify challenges students could take on as authentic learning experiences.  Thanks also go out to David Howell (MSOE/Epiphany Consulting) who, with Brian, helped us pull together the process (below).

Our participants look to take the process back to their schools to see what their students might come up with.  We’re scheduling a follow up meeting at the beginning of December to re-group and share feedback from the process, see what problems students are willing to take on and, and share ideas about how to help the students dive into a problem solving exercise.  If you are interested in joining in, let us know:

 

The Process:

Step 1: Rapid Fire Problem Finding

  • Break into teams of 4 to 8 participants
  • On their own, each participant writes as many “problems at your school” as they can think of on note cards– one note card per problem
  • Collect all the note cards and put them into the bag o’ problems

Step 2: Mix and Redistribute the Cards

  • Shuffle the cards and distribute them equally between the teams
  • Each team categorizes and notes duplicates
  • Each team prepares a categorized list of problems to share with the entire group on a white board or large Post-it sheet.

Mixing the cards ensures that members are exposed to ideas from outside of their own team

Step 3: Large Group Sharing

  • Each team reports on the problems on their list
  • Teams share anything noteworthy about their process
  • The team may refine the categorization and list based on feedback from the group

Step 3a: Optional — Identify More Problems.

If the teams had a hard time coming up with an initial set of problems, prompt for additional ones to consider by asking

  • Are there categories of problems that are missing?
  • Are we missing the problems of any groups at the school (teachers, staff, administration, parents, students, neighbors) or subgroups of those (new students, minorities, impoverished students, etc.)?

Step 4: Drilling Down

In teams, but remaining all together in the room, consider the following questions:

  • Are there any problems on the wall that are actually dilemmas?
  • Are there any problems on the wall that aren’t actually problems?
  • Are there any problems on the wall that would benefit from re-articulation?
  • How might we “triage” these problems?
  • Is it realistic for you/your group to actually solve the problem?
  • Are there new problems to articulate based on your reading of all the problems?

Each team then drafts a revised list:

  • Based on the drill down questions, narrow to 3-4 issues and write them on a white board or large Post-it note.
  • Put a circled D or circled P next to each issue to identify it as a problem or dilemma
  • Record any problems/dilemmas that need further clarification before decision/asking
  • Each group shares their revised list

Middle School Math Work Group: October 9th Session– Recap & Notes

Causal Loop Diagram for middle school math performan
Our revised diagram highlighting key factors and adding a couple of new ones.

This was the first working session for a group of educators focused on middle school math that is part of a collaborative effort with Milwaukee Succeeds. We began our October 9th session with a silent discussion: using post-it notes to determine what is missing on the causal map, and dots to determine what three factors have the most impact on student learning.  Our goal in doing so is build a model that can help us chart a course to improved student performance.

Reflections

At the end of our first session we challenged the group with a reading assignment (Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding) and to experiment with meaningful discourse in their math classes.  The group took a bit of time to reflect on what worked, what was challenging, and ways to we get past that.

What stuck with you

  • Process is important (engaging in routines and creating common language)
  • Temptations to resist (not putting words into students mouths)
  • Mindset check, reminder on what really does help a student
  • Actually prod student confusion, and allow students that space

If you had a chance to experiment, were you able to? What worked and what didn’t work?

  • Peer-peer convos, non-verbal responses, but students have a hard time explaining what they really mean beyond the algorithm
  • Number talks: intentionally planning these talks
  • Multiple ways of talking about the numbers
  • Thought patterns, find out where the kids are at
  • Kids ping-pong off each other to see each other ideas and ways of thinking about things
  • Kids being so ingrained in rote-memorization, have a hard time getting out of that, and that there isn’t only one way of finding the answer to the math problem

Exercise in meaningful discourse

For the bulk of the evening, Kevin McLeod from UWM’s Department of Mathematical Sciences led the group through a discourse session on a single math problem appropriate for middle school students. This helped provide context for the higher level conversation which ran in parallel around the reasoning behind the process. The problem and his notes are available to download here.