Reflection on Modifying Problems for Workshop – a PD Session

I presented my part of the district’s PD sessions for secondary math teachers today. It went pretty good – at least people had smiles on their faces and no one walked out (maybe they were being polite).

Aug 101.PNG

(Hmm my principal snapped this while I wasn’t paying attention to her in the room because I was too engaged with my participants.)

The Plan

My session was about how to take textbook problems and make it less sucky interesting for the students to engage with. I set the session up with a Workshop Model Lesson Plan so of course we had to have an IWBAT.


Referenced Dan Meyer’s talk at the 2016 NCTM Annual Meeting (here),  starting the video around 38 minutes until 43 or so minutes.  Three problems to choose from to practice taking away information to increase noticing and wondering. Then referencing Faun Nguyen’s Reversing the Question (here). A little practice.


I had the participants answer the question and come up with some of their own.

Then added we could combine them all and add in a writing component (not for an opening, but definitely as part of classwork/homework or close).

Gave everyone some ideas on who/what to Google for more ideas. LOTS of information in a short 50 minute presentation.

The Reality

The laptop was missing quick time, couldn’t get a borrowed I-pad to connect and there were no speakers (lesson learned/rookie mistake: bring my own stuff). So no video (which I thought was the most powerful aspect for them to hear), so I had to talk about it instead. So, monitored and adjusted discussed and tried the strategies on the PowerPoint and THEN did the practice with the problems.  Some sessions, people jumped right in and did an great job (choose from 6 problems) and had a good discussion. Some sessions needed more scaffolding. So we took the first problem and discussed all the ways we could modify each part of the problem. Again, in one session we only got to the table of Elevations of Atmosphere Layers and Ocean Zones — just like in classes – some groups get farther than others – but it’s all good. Lots of ah-ha moments = a good thing.  I think, judging from participants they really liked the Which One Doesn’t Belong aspect the best.

Lesson learned:  I’ll cut back to 3 sessions (the fourth one wasn’t a good as the first 3).

I attended 2 other sessions on Backwards Planning by friends at Bowie and Mann Middle Schools and a session with my friend Cornia (here) on growth mindset and we looked at a pattern of numbers and found some I hadn’t noticed before.

We have another day with secondary math teachers today (Thursday) to work on common lessons and tests by unit. My group will be working on surface area and volume unit – I’ve got some great resources for us to check out.






Modifying Problems for Workshop – a PD Session

Today I found a post on  Drawing on Math  by  Tina Cardone (here) .  Talk about timing!  She was talking about getting ready for a PD presentation she did in July and asked twitter  what they liked and didn’t like about PD.  Yes! Yes! and YES!

I’m presenting 4 sessions next Tuesday (August 10th), 50 minutes long for our district about how to make textbook problems less sucky for students. The real title is Modifying Problems for Workshop. As I was working on this I really tried to keep things I hate about PD in mind. I have my aaughfactors indicated 1 – 5, 5 is  the W.O.R.S.T!

Pet-peeve number 1 — someone reading the slide to me. Dang it! I’m an adult, I learned to read a L O N G time ago. You read to me, I’m not thinking about what you’re saying anymore – I’m thinking about #1 where I’m getting lunch, #2 who I’m going to get lunch with, #3 what I need to get done in my classroom  and #4 my lessons, INB ideas, or working on a math problem I’m thinking about using.  Yes, in that order.  aaughfactor 5.

No, I am not going to read the slides. I have copious notes on talking points about each slides – but I’m not going to read those suckers.

Pet-peeve number 2 — get up and … . I’ll do it, but I don’t like it. I’ll speak but only as much as I absolutely have to.  (Unless I know you, then we’ll talk about the topic and then about what we want). Presenters usually give too much time for this. They say a minute – but it’s usually 3 minutes. (Yep, I can tell time too!)  aaughfactor 3.

Truth be known, I WAS going to have my participants get up and move to another group but I took it out. Teachers will come in a sit with their friends, people they recognize. That will be good enough.

Pet-peeve number 3  — Think-Pair-Share.  If I’m sitting with people I don’t know, again, I do the minimum.  If I’m sitting with friends (same course or not) and I think the question you’re asking us to talk about is good – we’ll discuss it, if not – we’ll talk about what we want.  Yes, it is obvious when presenter’s just throw a semi-related question in there to have a Think-Pair-Share.   aaughfactor 3.

Pet-peeve number 4— Work on the math. If I’m sitting with people I don’t know – I’m really intimidated (I know my math and I shouldn’t be, but I am).  If I’m sitting with friends – I have no problem working on the math, asking questions and for help — zero intimidation. aaughfactor 2.

I have two times where teachers will be working on changing a  problem to be less sucky. They have 3 choices of problems (7th/8th grade math, algebra and geometry). I don’t care if they work on their own or with their friends and neighbors. That’s their choice too.

I have one place where I want them to Think-Pair-Share but I’m going to tell them to “talk to their paper or to their neighbor.”  Give participants a choice!

I am going to have them share out what they came up with (1 from each grade level) to wrap up the session.

I have a slide that has resources I think are important such as MTBoS, Global Math and others, because I want them to join in the fun! The presentation and other documents used will be in Google Drive shared by a

I think I’ve taken care of most of the aaugh factors in my session. I’ll see what the feedback is next Tuesday. Wish me luck!





Back To School Shopping

What have I gotten for my classroom?  Nothing. Nada. Zilch. We have a new principal at our school and the crazy woman (said with the utmost love) changed  90% of the teachers in the school to different rooms. So, instead of doing back to school shopping, I’ve been boxing up, moving and unpacking my classroom.  AND, during our PD days I’ll be presenting a session to math teachers about making textbook word problems less sucky a la’ Dan Meyer ,  Open MiddleEstimation 180,  Visual Patterns and Which One Doesn’t Belong. Anything to get students thinking and talking more and teachers talking less is a win-win in my book!

So I still need to get:

  • Shoeboxes. My desks are arranged in groups of 4 (how else can I pack 37 – 40 students in a small room?). Each shoebox has a set of 4 calculators, highlighters, scissors, glue sticks, protractors (mostly for the straight edge, I didn’t want 12 inch helicopter blade going) and colored pencils.
  • A set of highlighters for me – cause I like clean and new ones.
  • A set of pens – don’t know which ones I’ll use for notes (pen shows up better on the doc camera – I’m thinking erasable pens but there aren’t that many colors.
  • Pencil lead
  • Bulletin board paper or something to back the bulletin boards  and border (I’m thinking plastic table cloths cause I don’t have time to go shopping for material).
  • A set of mason jars. I’ve read about layering in your salad fixins on Sunday and the salad will still be fresh on Friday. I don’t know if that is really true but I’ll see. Making lunch for a week on one day verses making lunch everyday – once a week definitely wins.

Am I going to be ready for students? One way or another I will be.

Before I go, I’d like to welcome Corina Srygley, my friend. Corina used to teach at my school and is a great mentor, how do I get my TI calculator to do question answerer, sounding board and innovative teacher. Check our her blog at  and give her a warm encouraging welcome to MTBoS!


Okay, I’m Gonna Do This Blog Thing.

I am a stalker lurker. I have been for over 5 years. I read tons and tons math blogs. I keep thinking I should blog, but what would I talk about? I’m not creative or innovative or anything like the rest of the MTBoS group. I am not worthy!

(how do I add a meme from Wayne’s World here?) (Got it!)

I'm not worthy

Our district is going towards a Math Workshop Model, which is really about the students collaborating, thinking, writing, having productive struggle and way less teacher talk. Just what MTBoS has been talking about for years. So, that’s what I’m going to reflect about.

Katrina Newell,  at Mrs. Newell’s Math, talked about her class sizes. Hmmm.  I could do that.

I teach 7th pre-ap, 8th on level, and pre-ap algebra 1 in the Texas panhandle. We have about 650 students (at least we did last year). 94% free and reduced lunch, and 30% English language learners. Student demographics are almost 55% are Hispanic, 24% Asian, and about 12% each African American and white.  So far, (and they are still working on scheduling) I have 140 students. About 45 more than the other math teachers — but I’m not complaining I have better classroom management with larger classes.  I really do not like classes less than 20, but I’ve had a high of 42 in a class. It looks like my largest class this year is 37. I like groups of 4, so I need 1 student to be added to this class or moved to the other class — hopefully moved to the other class because my classroom is on the small size and that will reduce the number of desks I have crowding the room. (Dang! I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining, I’m not…. I just would like there to be room to walk between groups.)  Anyway, approximately 14% are English language learners, 2% with IEPs, 20% gifted and talented.  Working above grade level in 7th pre-ap are 9% of my students and 48% of them are in algebra.  Thirteen percent are in an 8th grade math class, but half of the did not pass the state mandated test (which in Texas they have to pass the 8th grade test to move on to high school). So I have gaps to fill in all the classes (except for the algebra students, I had them last year a 7th graders– but there may be a gap or two I didn’t catch).

What do I need?  I need to feel more comfortable with (in no particular order) number talks/number strings, blogging, and how to do a book study in addition to the math I have to teach.  Oops, can’t forget I also need coffee and dark chocolate.

I’m signing up for MTBoS Blaugust.  You can join here and find  a list of participants here.