On Thursday UWM’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences hosted the first of three sessions for students in our Zoo Train challenge. We met in the College’s new maker space where students from Franklin High School used short lengths of lath to assemble beams of various configurations. With these in hand, students went from there to the structural testing lab where UWM faculty had students estimate the maximum load their beam design could support. Each design was tested to the point of failure.
For round two, students went back to the maker space to design and assemble a five foot high tower from angle irons. That tower was put under load in a different device to measure deflection. The maximum load there was capped at twice the load the Zoo’s water tower needs to support.
UWM will host two more sessions to accomodate students from other schools. Thanks to the UWM team who made this happen: Chris Beimborn, Andrew Dressel, and Rahim Reshadi, and Avie Judes.
Our January session focused on what should happen between now and next fall for schools that want to expand the number of teachers using number talks as a regular practice or support an initial cohort of teachers willing to make that happen. Here’s where we landed:
- Introduce number talks in an in-school PD session for teachers new to the practice
- Understand how teachers think about Number Talks
- What are their goals for math lessons?
- Where do they hope the practice might bring?
- What do they fear might happen during number talks?
- What do they value most in their current approach to teaching math?
- What do they think is least effective in their current approach to teaching math?
- Have a teacher or coach that is comfortable with Number Talks lead a session for the class of a teacher new to the practice
- Have teachers try out the practice in their room with a coach or experienced teacher on hand to provide feedback
- Participate in UWM’s Math Circle for Teachers
- Line up funding for resources, PD
- Identify teachers for pilot effort– the goal here is to require participation, but identify teachers who want to kick of the 2019-2020 school year with Number Talks as a regular practice.
- Script the first 20 days of number talks so that teachers new to the practice can focus on leading the practice rather than figuring out what problems to use. Here teachers can tap into the work Brown Street Academy and LaCausa did to kick things off this year.
- Assemble resources for teachers participating in effort
- Reference materials
- Anchor charts
- Number Talks quick reference card
- Number Talks PD just prior to the start of school
- Teachers have a chance to both lead and participate in number talks
- Teachers have a chance to practice charting student thinking
- Teachers get a chance to preview strategies they are likely to see in their first 20 days of number talks
- Teachers use Number Talks 2-3 times per week starting the first week of the semester
- Quick, frequent check-ins with in-school coach or teacher lead to address issues and concerns
- Work with grade level groups to select problems focused on specific strategies to guide problem selection after the first 20 days of Number Talks
- Participate in peer led PD with other teachers working with Number Talks
Want to be part of the Number Talks Workgroup?
Teams participating in our challenge to design a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives presented their concepts at MSOE on Monday. We have more than 65 students involved, representing ten teams from six high schools. Given the number of students involved, we ran parallel sessions for the reviews, with each team presenting before a panel that included civil engineers from Excel and MSOE, experts in railroad history from The Center for Railway Photography & Art and the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (our partner in this effort), and the staff which maintain and operate the Zoo’s train.
We asked teams to cover, not only their designs, but how they organized their efforts, alternatives they considered, and where they need additional help. Students from Elmbrook’s media program stepped up to record all of the presentations for students and teachers to review.
After a short break for lunch we pulled everyone back together for a recap session with all of the reviewers. That provided an opportunity for the panelists to summarize what they saw in their session within a few broad themes. One of the most interesting things for us was to see the different ways schools with larger groups organized their teams– by functional area of the tower, expertise of the team, member, or into smaller teams who would each produce a design concept. We used the recap session to engage students and teachers in a discussion of how that worked and what it felt like over the course of the semester.
We’re pulling the teachers together next week for a debrief to guide adjustments we’ll want to make as we go into the detailed design phase next semester. That work will begin and end with visits to UWM– first, for a chance to play in UWM’s structures lab, and, on May 2nd, for the detailed design review where the review panelists will select an approach to be fabricated and installed.
We are very grateful to MSOE for hosting the event and working with us to get everything in place. They provided a beautiful setting with the 4th floor conference area inside the Grohmann Tower.
The Journal Sentinel was also on hand to cover the event. You can find their write up here.
This month we joined the Milwaukee Area Math Council at City Lights Brewery for conversation about math and math education. We were also able to distribute copies of the latest version of our Number Talks quick reference card, which Milwaukee Succeeds had printed for us. We’ll have the final version laminated, but we’re taking advantage of a mix-up when the printer forgot to laminate these.
The unlaminated versions make it much easier for a teacher to highlight key things they want to pay attention to or write additional prompts. We’ll check back early next year with the teachers these have gone out to to see how they may have modified them and what other feedback they may have before we finalize the design.
If you would like to get a couple of the quick reference cards for yourself or colleagues, let us know. We’d love to hear what you think.