Sunday, July 17, 2016

Five Things I Learned at TMC16: Sunday 7/17/16

1. The difference between further and farther: Farther is used to refer to actual distance, but further refers to a metaphorical, or figurative, distance. Often, further can be used to discuss depth in a curriculum. For example, "we can take the similarity of congruence further by extending it to non-polygons, such as circles"

2. The Price is Right and Probability: The mathematics used in the game show The Price is Right varies greatly, and allows for a natural way to differentiate a probability or statistics course. Flip Flop gives a nice introduction to the main concepts of probability (and a great ending in this clip). Games like Bonkers let us think about random guessing versus strategy. Others, such as Punch a Bunch, have multiple levels of probability built in which can be great for a low-floor high-ceiling task. Better yet, they have the individual clips online. Thanks to Denis Sheeran for pointing this out. Even better, this Slate article has strategies for every game, along with how viable that strategy is. This would have been great to use at last year's TMC trip to The Price is Right... if only we had made it onto the stage.

2a. If you want students to play the games themselves, check out online games, such as this Deal or No Deal simulation. This provides a great discussion about expected value.

3. Instilling racial competency in teachers doesn't have to be painful: I attended a professional development session not too long ago that aimed to make teachers aware of their own privilege. Instead of meeting this objective, it inadvertently made examples of teachers with less socioeconomic privilege. Some participants left crying, others confused.

In contrast, Jose Vilson and Wendy Menard led a very comfortable, yet deep session on Racially Relevant Pedagogy. They started by placing the words Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Class, and Religion on different walls of the room. Then, Jose would pose a question and ask teachers to respond by walking towards one of the words on the wall. Questions started with, "Which one do you most identify with?" but quickly became deeper, "Which one do you talk about least with your parents?" Along the way, teachers were prompted to volunteer reasons for their answers, but rationals were never forced, and responses were always appreciated. The setting was so comfortable, I didn't realize how many "difficult" topics we had addressed until it was over. I hope I can take the spirit of this session back to my school in the fall.

4. The Dean's Feedback Meetings: Feedback meetings can be an especially strong way to create a culture of learning, both as a math teacher and as a grade level team leader (dean). Anna has graciously put her resources up here.

5. Primary and secondary teachers have a lot we can learn from each other: Tracy Zager began her keynote with the graph below from Math With Bad Drawings. She went on to discuss how both content and pedagogy are important for primary and secondary teachers, and how we should use both physical and electronic interactions to connect and ask for feedback from teachers outside of our own grade level. The keynote discussed a number of rich anecdotes that probably deserve a separate post. However, Tracy's two final calls to action were concise and clear:

- Look at who you're following on Twitter and diversify those voices to include different grade levels.

- What are the current obstacles to cross-grade level collaboration? What can I do to tear them down?

6. (Extra Credit) Explore Math: Sam Shah created a site called Explore Math. It serves as a launching point for students to browse topics not traditionally covered in a secondary mathematics curriculum. He asks students to create about four of these open-ended explorations a year, and finds that it works best as a low stakes, high reward activity. More information can be found here.

7. (Extra Credit) Voroni Maps: Dave Sobol gave an amazing presentation that focused around finding perpendicular bisectors between two points on a map. They're called Voronoi Maps, and you can use them to divide up a the USA into sports regions, find the closest airport to you, and more. The best part is, you can then compare the Voronoi Maps to actual maps (e.g. media markets) and discuss the differences.

8. (Extra Credit) Nice Ride: You can rent a Nice Ride bike in Minneapolis for three days for only $10. What a deal!

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