#TMC2015 Better LATE than NEVER!

So I’ve been hesitant about writing this one.  Not because I didn’t have an awesome time or because the time wasn’t well spent but because this time around I put myself in positions to really push myself personally in order to push myself professionally.  I’m not all that open about who I am in my personal life and this year’s conference put me in a place where I had to start doing that.

To start it all off I got to pick up my favorite and amazing colleague Mitzi Hasegawa at LAX.  While we were there we also picked up two more hitchhikers, Teresa and Megan. Chatty filled drive to the hotel to drop off our cargo and then get settled in at our adobe for the week (Mahalo Judy!).

It started Wed night with game night! What fun that was! I loved the environment of being able to mingle and just walk around, make new friends and also tackle hug old friends.  Thank you to all who helped support this night of casual fun!

Morning Session

Comings and Goings: Building a Shared Understanding of Math Education from K-Calculus (Tina Cardone, Jennifer Bell, Brian Bushart, Michael Pershan)

Go to meet and work with lots of new stars that I chat with often on Twitter. Had great convos around K-Calc progressions.  How and where to make connections and building ways to use models that span K-Calc content/courses.  For example: equivalence, distributive property (models for this), proportional reasoning, and much more.  Conversations were rich, thought provoking, and challenging.

Quick side note:

I’ve reflected on and thought a lot about the structure of the morning session.  One of the greatest things about this special session is we get to work as a group for 3 solid days on a big idea and actually produce some kind of product.  This doesn’t happen at any other conference I’ve attended and I very much love the focus this allows us teachers to have on improving our craft of teaching.  Mahalo again TMC team for this special morning session!

Thursday Keynote

Growing our own practice: How mathematics teachers can use social media to support on going improvement (Lani Horn)

I don’t need to say much about her because her work, book and research pretty much speak for her awesomeness! LANI HORN!!!! How amazing is she!!!!! Biggest take away for me from this talk was the discussion around classroom ecology.  The huge dynamics of classrooms and how these dynamics affect our teaching and students learning.  No joke I am still processing this information.

Thursday Afternoon Sessions

Accepting our Powerlessness in the Classroom (Megan Schmidt)

All I have to say is MAHALO to Megan for opening this up to me.  I needed this personally.  I cried my eyes out and totally pushed myself in so many ways at this conference starting with this session!  Not enough thanks to you Megan!

Half Hour of Cool (Sadie Estrella, that’s me!)

I was VERY nervous about this 30 min session I came up with on a whim by an idea John Golden gave to me on the day of the TMC submission deadline.  I had no presentation, no handouts, NOTHING! I had 7 measly index cards with norms, some guiding questions and a closure statement.

As more and more people filed in to be in my session the more nervous I was!!!!!  I mean people…..IT’S 30 MINS OF TALKING!!! YOU DON’T WANT TO COME HERE BELIEVE ME!

Everyone proved me wrong!  So many great stories were shared.  Memories of students and the weird stuff they do that drives us crazy but we also can’t live without. Those quirky awkward moments that stick in our brains forever.  These experiences only allowed to us because we take that crazy, psychotic decision to get paid less for more work, to be a 2nd parent, to have our lives consumed by these part human, part teenager alien students that we absolutely adore and could not see our lives without.

Therein lies the one of a kind experience that this profession has to offer and we got to honor that for 30 mins and take the much needed time to celebrate ourselves and our profession.  Mahalo to everyone who attended.  I am humbled by your commitment and passion!

Friday Keynote

Math from the Heart, Not the Textbook (Christopher Danielson)

Christopher Danielson is one of my favorite humans of all time! Such a thoughtful person.  This session reminded me that I need to go back in the classroom. He asked us all to find what we love and do more of it.  I cried a bunch during this session because his message is so down to earth and simple.  Be passionate about something and do more of it in your classroom with your students.  I asked myself this questions during this entire session and I can’t deny it that the thing I love to do the most is……


(preferably Math but I’ll take anything)

Mahalo Christopher for reminding me about what which I am extremely passionate about…..TEACHING!!!

Friday Afternoon Sessions

Supporting Small Group Instruction with Math Workstations (Sadie Estrella & Mitzi Hasegawa)

Mitzi and I were excited to share out ideas.  We think it went really well.  We haven’t kept up on what we said we would provide for our attendees yes but I am hoping to catch up with that soon!  Sorry everyone!

Planning and Assess-Respond-Instruct Cycle in Mathematics (Michelle Naidu)

This session was kind of amazing!  I loved how this session deliberately addressed the needs of students.  The big idea was using workstations to make sure students had the previous knowledge before new learning was introduced.  It was very intentionally planned to addressed previous knowledge needed in order to get to the new content that needed to be taught.

Plus Michelle had some of the best cat videos!

Friday Night BBQ

Very fun, social, great food, and hosted by amazing, loving people!  Mahalo Jed, Matt, John, all their families, Mathalicious and the many others involved to get this event planned and happening!

Saturday Keynote

Teacher Woman, because Teacher Man is Taken (Fawn Nguyen)

There are no words to describe Fawn’s session.  I didn’t get to finish watching this whole presentation because I had to drive to the airport to fly home but the half of it I was there for I laughed, cried and was reminded what a strong role model for students should look like. I mean the woman has come so far personally and the way in which she leads by example is the most humbling.  I only wish that someday I’ll be able to be that role model for my students.  Fawn you inspire me to be a better me every single second of my life.  Mahalo for all the inspiration.

My TMC journey this year was an emotional rollercoaster.  However, it was time for me to be challenged in a different way than I have been putting myself in.  I am ready to go forth and take my learning journey with me.  Mahalo everyone for the great experiences, conversations and memories.  See you next year TINNISOTA!

#TMC2015 Better LATE than NEVER!

Another Rad Resource

Well I’m back with another recommended resource book I just finished reading.

I know, I know, I’m a horrible blogger and TMC attendee because I didn’t do my required TMC aftermath post before this one but I assure you I will be getting that blog post done within the week.  Now on to the resource…………

Mathematical Practice #4 is all about modeling.  I have a confession though….no matter how many times I read the description of MP4, look at related tasks and/or chat with people about the amazingness of mathematical modeling I’m always unsure of how to fit it in the classroom.  I’m guilty as a teacher for being one who says

“Gosh, I know how important it is but where will I fit it?  I don’t have time!”

So when I saw Modeling with Mathematics by Nancy Butler Wolf and learned that it was for middle school (maybe some HS) I jumped on the opportunity to read this bad boy and start figuring out a solution to a problem in my classrooms (instead of playing the BLAME GAME of course).

The #1 thing this book has is great tasks you can use with your students.  There is the infamous Barbie Bungee task in there but there’s also a lot more tasks that can be used right from the book without modification (there is also room for modification too).

Something I really love is how the author points out what makes a task a modeling task and goes further to even compare the difference between word problems, problem solving and modeling problems.  This helped me to see clearly the definitions because to be really honest I’m not sure I really knew the difference with as much clarity as i do now.

Majority of the book is dedicated to the process of modeling.  There are chapters that refer to each “step” in the process ad those chapters go into detail what you as a teacher do to help facilitate the process with students.  There are short vignettes that give examples of conversations between student and teacher which totally helped me to make sense of how to facilitate this scary modeling process.

Process of Modeling

My favorite part of the entire book however was the section about Mathematical Autonomy.  I had to stop myself from highlighting the entire section!This part spoke to me because it was really about classroom culture, being student centered and allowing students to be leaders in their own learning journey.  This is one of the biggest struggles I see with teachers in classrooms (even in my own): How to build a truly student centered classroom environment where there is respect from all parties involved in the class.

Student Autonomy

This resource would be great in your classroom if you’re like me and was (past tense because I feel a bit more confident  now) intimidated by the idea of integrating modeling in your class.  She provides a framework to move through and lots of ideas of how to start having students engage in modeling.  It’s scary but the thing that the author says about modeling is it is the way to get the best bang for your buck!

So go out and read it and then come back and let me know how you liked it and use it in your classroom!

Another Rad Resource

Student Learning Objective (cont.): 3-5 Resources

My Student Learning Objective or School/System Improvement Objective (SSIO) this year was to add on to the K-2 bank of resources I created last year.

Everything in that previous post still stands.  I am still worried about all those things however I still want to share these resources so that whoever might have a use for them does.

Feel free to leave comments about mistakes or updates that should be made to them.  I hope to continuously update these as I continue to use them while working with teachers.

My main use recently for them is for finding workstation activities focused around a certain cluster.  That way the work station game can be used over for a longer period of time and address multiple standards throughout the year.



Measurement and Data

Number and Operations – Base Ten

Number and Operations – Fractions

Operations and Algebraic Thinking

Student Learning Objective (cont.): 3-5 Resources

A Useful Reference for ALL!

I finished reading Christopher Danielson’s (@Trianglemancsd) Common Core Math for Parents for Dummies book just yesterday.  It took me a while to get through it, which I think was partly because it wasn’t the most intriguing read for me.  Now that doesn’t mean I think this book is horrible!  Instead I think the EXACT OPPOSITE!  This book is a GREAT resource for anyone with kids or teachers grades K-12.  Now, I am a certified 7-12 mathematics teacher but that doesn’t mean I know the ins and outs of all things math or even the Common Core State Standards-Math (CCSSM).  That is why I recommend this to all K-12 teachers (that teach mathematics) and especially parents!

Yup there are A LOT of tabs on that book! 11 to be exact.

This post is a quick write up of how I would (or plan to) use this resource in my current position.  I wrote this post while enduring a bad day at the beach.  A bad day at the beach for us who live here in Hawaii looks like this:

Hamoa Beach, Hana, Maui

As for parents, you should read this resource to help you get a better idea of the how and why of what your child is learning in their math classes from grades K-12 and how you can help support a positive journey through learning mathematics.

As a resource teacher when I’ve worked with grade 3-5 teachers I’ve had teachers ask to have “training” to learn where their teaching of math gets applied beyond their 3-5 grade band.  After reading this book, I can see using this resource to provide a 1 day training, maybe even an ongoing book PLC where grade level teachers (K-8, maybe 9-12 too) could brush up on their grade level content standards.  In addition, teachers would engage in a conversation about how to approach teaching their grade level standards knowing where a standard comes from and goes to, previous grade level and post grade level.  This discussion is rooted in the Coherence shift of the CCSSM.

Other conversations that could be fostered, would be around the Standards for Mathematical Practice, domains of the CCSSM and/or specific topics that span CCSSM: linear equations , functions, arrays, etc.  This structure would work well for a course that would help teachers engage in the understanding of their content standards and span across a few sessions.  This would help teachers expand their knowledge of math beyond their grade level and feel more comfortable teaching at their grade level knowing where their students’ learning is coming from and going to.

Conversations and learning can most definitely be had around strategies of teaching concepts or even math strategies used.  These two could also be combined together and you could add in a bit of strategies in order to foster student discourse around these math strategies.  For example, on page 84 in the book


I jotted a note in relation to a model and how might a teacher use it to teach a related topic.


Allowing teachers to make connections between concepts within their grade level (horizontally) and between grade levels (vertically) addresses the Coherence shift again here.

When I started writing this post I had 2 ideas I wanted to share, however as I am writing it up more and more ideas are popping into my brain making connections to the two main ideas I started with.  I hope to mull these over more and since I said this post would be quick, I’ll leave it as is.  I hope I can make any of these ideas come to life sooner rather than later.  In the meantime, feel free to leave comments, feedback or updates on how you’ve used this resource.  In addition, feel free to contact me to have a more in depth conversation of how to use this resource

Lastly, MAHALO Christopher Danielson for providing us with a great resource to help support positive math teaching to students.

A Useful Reference for ALL!

A Course Idea, Feedback Wanted!

So I am at it again!

I want to teach another course.  A different one from my last one (although I will be offering that same course again next year).  I want to offer this new course for professional development credit, so that teachers will be able to get something back from their hard work. And I also want to pack the course with serious learning and requirements!!!!

I’ve been working with Kristin Gray on some of and here is what we have come up with so far (it is not complete yet):

I’d really love feedback on the course.  If you want to leave comments directly in the doc. Email me your google accounts and I’ll add you on as commenter.  If not go ahead and leave your comments below.  Any feedback is greatly appreciated!

A Course Idea, Feedback Wanted!

#coreadvocates Conference

To be honest I have so many different feelings after this conference:

  • Empowered
  • Rejuvenated
  • Supported
  • Honored
  • Humbled
  • Validated
  • Speechless

That I’m not sure this post will come out as coherent as I’d like it to but I’m going to share it anyways.

Imagine being surrounded by educators who have the same drive as you: to be the best you can be AND MORE! Add in rigorous who honor you as a professional, treat you as such, and empower you to keep moving forward.  Now imagine you get to spend the weekend with them chatting about learning, teaching and supporting efforts of teachers across the nation.  Their on top of this learning sessions focused around math, literacy, common core, professional development, planning tools and much more.  This describes the most amazing weekend I had attending the #coreadvocates: Taking the Next Step children’s in Denver.

There were multiple times that I got completely emotional because we were bring tested like professionals.  During the opening panel discussion it was mentioned multiple times

You are the ones doing the hard work of the core advocates. Let us know how we can support your efforts.

This really spoke to me.  I felt recognized as a professional and as someone who had an impact in education.

This panel consisted of Jason Zimba, Sue Pimentel and Gene Wilhoit and was the kick off for the weekend. It really set the tone of the conference bit it didn’t stop there!! Throughout every session I attended, this mindset and belief was embedded.  It was evident that each educator attending this conference didn’t just believe in their profession and the work they did but they lived and breathed it.  It was part of their everyday teaching and they continually work day in and day out to put these practices into every second of their profession (sometimes more).

The presenters also emanated this mindset.  They shared their experiences, hard work and expertise with us.  And at the end of each session, we did an evaluation that the last question always asked us:

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How are we going to live this belief (if you will)? How are we going to share and continue the hard work of the advocates with other people we connect to? It’s all about moving forward with the work we know is right for learning and ultimately what’s right for our students!

So after this amazing weekend of learning and interacting with awesome educators I’m commuting to living, breathing, believing, and sharing the work of the #coreadvocates. Keeping in touch with people I met this weekend, educators who impacted me to continue the hard work in this profession, taking next steps in order to take back or profession and empower other educators I work with ti do the same.

Mahalo tio Barbara Beske and all the Student Achievement Partners purple for giving me this opportunity to learn and be a part of this positive change in education.

My closing quote from Sue Pimentel:

All kids are geniuses. As educators, it’s our job to figure out how to get them to access their genius.

#coreadvocates Conference

A Learning Experience

I can’t really remember how I got the idea but I remember negotiating with my boss about being able to do something I wanted to do before I left this position. My main idea started off small but eventually evolved into what I offered:

  • A course for teachers
  • The course to be focused around small group instruction in math
  • Only attract teachers who wanted to learn something new

I asked a friend (and co-worker) to help me with the course, he said yes so with these main ideas in mind we started writing up our course description and figuring out the logistics of the course: how many days, where to hold it, how many people etc.

Here is what we came up with:

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Our complex area did not provide any funding for substitutes and/or stipends.  Basically the only benefit teachers got from this course was what they personally learned from it.  My co-worker and I were going to be happy even if only 5 people showed up.

We limited the class to 20 people because of the space we had and the amount of follow up we could handle. We ended up with 23 teachers enrolled!  We were SHOCKED!  As day 1 drew closer and closer my nerves increased.  I could only really think about day 1 for now because I didn’t know how the course would evolve with the teachers in it and their needs and wants.

We decided on day 1 being an overview day.  Driving questions for the day turned out to be:

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There were more than just these questions answered  but this was the main gist.  Day 1’s plan really laid the ground work for days 2 and 3.  There ended up being a few routines that started on day 1 and continued to day 2 and 3. These included the math entry task, the task breakdown, troubleshooting workstations, and goal setting.

Math Entry Task

I’m a true believer in providing teachers opportunities to engage in mathematics as learners.  This section was provided on all 3 days of the course and allowed me to provide learning opportunities for K-5 teachers that normally don’t get to engage in mathematics.

The entry tasks rolled out like this:

Day 1 – Robot Stepper

Day 2 – Noah’s Ark Task

Day 3 – Central Park by Desmos

Task Breakdown

After every math task (see above) they had to breakdown the task with their teacher vision.  Here are the task breakdown questions for all 3 days:

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Day 1
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Day 2
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Day 3

Troubleshooting Workstations

This started on day 1 as “Obstacles and Worries” that they had about implementing work stations.  My main goal for this was to see their fears so I could make sure to address them throughout the rest of the course.  Day 1 produced a chart full of them.  On Day 2, my colleague and I choose 3 big worries and obstacles from their day 1 list to conduct a PLC style session. We posed their questions/worries right back to them. We asked them to use their professional knowledge to collaborate and come up with ideas of how they would address these issues:

On Day 3 this section looked pretty much the same except the troubleshooting statements were a little more specific and came from Debbie Diller’s book, Math Work Stations: Independent Learning You Can Count On, K-2.

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The best part of this section of the course was that you could see their progression of learning from their worries and obstacles to day 3 troubleshooting answers they came up with!

Goal Setting

Everyday in the last hour or so, teachers were given time to reflect, set goals and share their goals with the group.  This helped to keep themselves accountable for actionable steps (next steps) they would take with the information they learned from each day.  It also helped them figure out how Ian and I could help with the follow up we wanted to provide between days.

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After Day 1 forming this structural routine for the course we moved forward….

As I already mentioned day 1 was an overview.  They got to play some stations (6 different stations) that had a variety of activities (various grades, various concepts).

On to Day 2……

I wanted day 2’s focus to be around implementing workstations.  So now that they got their feet wet on day 1, I wanted them to dive deeper on day 2.

We made day 2 really about the contents of workstations.  We focused on activities that could be placed at stations.  This day was the most prep work Ian and I did for this course.  We made 2 workstation boxes for each grade level.  Lucky us we had no 3rd grade teachers so we only had to make 10 different boxes!!!  Each box had a minimum of 2 activities and we only reused 4 or 5 activities from day 1.  Teachers sat by grade level and switched between 2 roles during this investigation time.

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After they were at the station for 10-12 minutes they switched roles and switched station boxes for 10-12 more minutes.  I then proceeded to ask teachers to step into their teaching role and break down the tasks in their grade level boxes.  In addition to the task breakdown they were asked to come up with variations for differentiation for the games also.

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There were a lot of smaller pieces to day 2 but this was the main course!

Overall look of day 2:

  • Play station games
  • Figuring out station games big idea
  • Where to put it in their teaching
  • Little sprinkling of differentiation

Best part of day 2 was when we gave away all the station boxes as prizes and we even got a variety box of goodies to give away from 52pickup!!!  TEACHERS WERE STOKED!

Day 3: The hardest day….

So now that they have a good grasp on workstations it was time to discuss: “Now what?”

Day 3’s focus was on assessment and what happens with the small groups the teacher pulls.  I really struggled with this day because I thought it would be the hardest for teachers to agree to.  Most teachers I work with want an assessment already made and don’t want to create  one or take the time to engage in the deliberate assessment process.  In addition, I often see teachers using just paper and pencil test to formatively assess their students.  Teacher’s often forget an important piece to the classroom: The sayings and doings of their students.  So I tried to integrate data collection an other formative assessment strategies in to day 3.

To address the assessment piece, I created a speed dating style activity.  Each station had an iPad and an index card.  The index card had a previously played activity written on it.  The iPad had 2 tabs open for them to use:

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Teacher’s only had 7 minutes to get familiar with the station activity and create a question that they could use to assess students’ understanding of the concept the activity addressed.  The results of this speed dating was two fold:

  1. Teachers practiced creating quick formative assessment questions for stations.
  2. We now have 6 different formative assessment questions for 6 different activities that you could use in your class when you use one of these activities.

But this wasn’t my favorite part of the day (but I did love this part).  My favorite part was sharing with teachers Kassia Omohundro Wedekind’s Math Exchanges.

We read a portion of her book that she does such an eloquent job of describing Math Exchanges but beyond that she specifically talks about why math exchanges and not small groups.  This part of the day I knew I’d be pushing teachers thinking about small group instruction.  Most of my teachers see small group instruction as a time to address student’s with the same ability during that small group meeting.  I really want to provide them with examples of how to go beyond that one way method of seeing this time with students.  I shared with them how I did my math exchanges (2 years ago) with 2nd graders.  I shared audio of student’s conversations and pictures of what students were doing.  Best part about it all is no one had anything to argue in their reading.

At the end of day 3, right before they did their goal setting activity and evaluation, I thanked my teachers for joining me on this journey of learning.  This was an idea that I wanted to try for myself. To try for teachers but mainly I was being selfish.  And they rode the wave and helped me with my learning.  From the looks of it they did a bit of learning along the way also.

If you have more specific questions about this course, feel free to email me, I’d be delighted to expand on what I share here or fill in the the holes of what I didn’t share.

A Learning Experience