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).

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(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.





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!