I’ve started a 180 day blog so if you’d like to read a more detailed description of the week’s activities you can go move the cursor and click on the link. If you’re exhausted like me then save your energy and read below.

The first week was pretty much filled with getting to know you, team building and collaboration activities. I have a good group of students but I already knew that. About half of them I had last year when I taught 6th grade. The week’s highlights included:

Day 1: Learning about each other. Students completed the Who I am worksheet that Dan Meyer posted, then I asked them to write a paragraph regarding their feelings about math. As a team, we teachers are spending quite a bit of time on mindset through literature. Since I teach one section of lit, my students discussed the growth vs. fixed mindset using a card sort.

Days 2-4: Creating your own graphing stories and finishing up the graphing stories. Students needed more time to process than I had anticipated, but some of their stories were cute!

Then we moved to jigsawing the mathematical practices.

Followed by:

Day 5:  Marshmallow Challenge.

Like you I’m fried.

I wish everyone a safe, Labor Day weekend.


Some resources for math teachers in need of a little nudge (and some re-direction)

Granted, and...

A number of math teachers have complained either directly or indirectly recently that I have offered criticisms but no solutions to the problem of poorly-designed math courses, especially at the secondary level. For example:

“In my opinion the writer suggests that textbooks are merely a collection of topics with examples of exercises under each and that teachers merely race through a textbook to get to the end. In a sense I agree with this but my problem/concern is that he offers no alternative/answer to what we should be doing instead…. It seems there are so many people out there saying that this is not what we should be teaching our students and that us Math teachers are in fact wasting students time with our outdated teaching methods. My question is then what should we be teaching them? What am I missing? He offers no answer to that question.


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SMART goal—raising students’ self-efficacy

I’m placing a bet on a pony named Self-efficacy. I got the tip from Boaler, Dweck, Hattie, and Marzano. It may come out of the starting gate slow, and it’s a long distance race, but it has incredibly good odds. Take a look at the graphic below. As a rule of thumb any strategy that has an effect size of d > 0.40 is worth considering.

self efficacy

There are so many components to increasing self-efficacy:  providing timely, constructive feedback, fostering a growth mindset, creating a classroom culture where mistakes are encouraged—all of this should sound familiar to those who are taking Boaler’s course How to Learn Math. But the puzzle piece I want to focus on is building self-efficacy through challenging, individual and group problem solving tasks.

I wanted to see what this goal looks like as a SMART goal so I downloaded a template. Here’s what I have so far. I have never written a SMART goal so I would appreciate your feedback. I am NOT crazy about measuring success using MAP scores, and I’m not even sure I am using it accurately, but here’s the draft:

Mary will raise students’ self-efficacy in math by providing rich, problem solving activities. She will build into her plan book a minimum of 4 challenging, individual and/or group tasks per quarter. At least one of the tasks will be non-routine or where the problem is not directly linked to the current unit of study. Results will be measured using spring to spring MAP RIT scores. The quantifiable goal is for 80%  students to exceed the average growth by one or more points.

What do I need to do to take this draft to final form?  I appreciate your feedback.

BTW: Thanks, Julie for selecting this MS Sunday Funday topic. I probably spent too much time on it; then again, it was well worth it 🙂

Graphing stories ice breaker

Here’s a fun (I hope), creative, and uber-easy-to-implement icebreaker. I call it Create Your Own Graphing Stories and it is inspired by Sarah’s blog post at Everybody is a Genius.

Everything’s included in this PowerPoint, but for you visual learners:

To get the creative juices flowing, show students this video. If you are adventuresome, include the “Grow a Pair” segment and pretend you don’t know what it means, else stop at the 40 second mark.

You can also skip the video and show these examples that are in the PowerPoint:

card53_l card162 card405 card3494-380x233 card3533-380x232

I’ll then offer the students these possibilities to create their own graphing stories. Of course, they can make up their own.


They’ll need some time to think. Some students may generate more ideas than others, but as long as they can create at least one graphing story I’ll be satisfied. After they’ve sketched out their ideas they can finalize them on index cards.

Students will share in small groups and as a class. Afterwards we’ll decorate the classroom by hanging them with fishing line.

If time permits and depending on the class atmosphere, we can follow up with more philosophical graphing stories such as:

Link to Forbes article: How to be interesting.

Again, it’s all in the PowerPoint.

Sarah, thank you for the inspiration and pointing me to Indexed.

Getting kids and parents to focus on the learning–the grade will come. Trust me.

Open House idea. I’m trying to think of a subtle way to impress upon parents that the focus is on the learning not on the grade. Maybe for some the focus is on the grade. However I think parents and students would agree that if we focus on the learning the grade will come.

Since I’m bored, I created two GoAnimate videos that I might use at Open House.  The first is a 30 second discussion about grades.

This one is less than a minute long and focuses on the learning.

This will lead into a nice segue where I can talk about the success students had  last year when they set goals and monitored their progress. I constantly tweak this document so you may notice that it’s not exactly like what’s represented in the image below. Maybe I’ll show the parents what progress monitoring looks like.

progress monitoring
This student needed to be assessed 3 times before she achieved mastery. As you can see the student was honest with respect to the amount of effort she put forth.

My assessments are designed in a standards based grading format (that’s why you see Scores 1-4). Students set a goal of either 3.0, 3.5 or 4.0. Three is the target. My formative assessments are ongoing and students can reassess as long as they complete and follow through on a study plan which is their evidence of study.

I cringe when I hear, “What can I do to raise my grade?” or, “Is there extra credit?”

I want to work with parents and students to reframe those questions to be more like, “What can I do to improve?”

Maybe Open House is the place to start.