Monday, November 14, 2016

Innov8 starts this Wednesday

This fall (in two days!) NCTM will host its new professional development conference in St. Louis, Mo. Innov8 is not a traditional professional development experience, this innovative and team-based opportunity is centered around acquiring the necessary skills to provide high-quality mathematics education for learners of all abilities. So bring your team and engage in a hands-on and interactive learning experience for math education.

If you are going to this conference I would love to hear about your experiences. I’ll be following on Twitter.

Friday, October 21, 2016

NCTM Phoenix Regional 2016 Technology Sessions

If you are going to Phoenix for the regional conference and are interested in attending some sessions focused on technology, you might be disappointed by the availability if you use the search by topic in the Conference Planner link. Why? Because there are only 19 sessions highlighted there.  I found that there are actually 48 sessions that highlight some form of technology in their descriptions. I list them here. The keyword breakdown is a as follows.

Also the deadline for voting for the Board of Directors starting in 2017 is October 31. Check out @Samjshah post describing the candidates. 

You need to be a member of NCTM to vote. This is an excellent reason to join. NCTM’s voting website is here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

NCTM Events Fall, 2016

If you are looking for some informal professional development, get inspired about your work or just get away for 3 days, then the upcoming regional conferences will be well worth your while. First there are 2 regional conferences one in Philadelphia, PA and the other in Phoenix, AZ.

Highlights in Phoenix

The keynote will be an IGNITE session with seven past presidents of NCTM participating. Should be fun. Too bad it can’t be a debate.

Though technology is not a strand some of the highlighted speakers will no doubt share their expertise with technology in the classroom. The highlighters I’m familiar with are: Karim Ani (, Robert Kaplinsky (, James Tanton ( and Patrick Vennebush (

Highlights in Philadelphia

The opening sessions is once again an IGNITE session. This time it’s not the presidents though Matt Larson is one of the presenters. Each igniter gets 8 minutes and will preview some aspect of the conference. By now I’m all ignited out, but if you are a fan or new to this format, I’m sure you will enjoy it.

Tools and technology IS a strand so there will probably be more technology sessions than is usual. I can’t tell you how many because the full list of speakers is not out yet. 

The highlighted speakers that I would go hear or recommend: Karim Ani (, Dan Meyer (, Sarah Bush (, and Tom Reardon (

Innov8: A New Conference Experience from NCTM

Also this year NCTM is rolling out a brand new and exciting conference called Innov8 which focuses on engaging the struggling learner.

November 16-18 in St. Louis, MO 


Use #NCTMinnov8 to get the latest updates and engage with others about NCTM's new learning experience on social media. A clarion call. I look forward to the twitter blogosphere continuing to become a growing trend as we go further into the 2016-2017 school year.

The new Innov8 conference experience is designed to support mathematics teachers and teams in identifying, analyzing, and planning for instruction and intervention around a self-identified problem of practice related to learners who struggle in mathematics. (more)

Annual Meeting in San Antonio
April 5-8 2017

It’s too late to be a speaker, but not too late to participate. See my blog entry about the conference.  It should be great.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What is a coherent pedagogical framework?

In a recent blog, Henri Picciotto (following a successful workshop series that he led) shared a participant’s comment. Henri writes:

“One of the participants in my Making Sense in Algebra 2 workshop had an interesting criticism. That anonymous participant pointed out that I presented no coherent pedagogical framework for the activities I shared. Good point! I did not present a coherent [pedagogical] framework because, well, I do not have one to present.”

I was puzzled. Which coherent pedagogical frameworks was the participant referring to? Webster states that a framework is a basic structure underlying a system, concept, or text. For math education that structure is a curriculum. Pedagogical refers to the myriad of approaches that a teacher can take in presenting a curriculum to students. And a coherent pedagogical framework would be a pedagogical framework that made sense. So conjuring up the meaning of those three words together Henri continues with why he doesn’t have one to present.

“During my four-plus decades in the classroom, I've seen many math edu-fads come and go: new math, individualization, manipulatives, problem-solving, group work, constructivism, constructionism (yes, that's a thing), portfolios, complex instruction, differentiation, interdisciplinary-ism, backward design, coding, rubrics, problem-based instruction, technology, Khan Academy, standards-based grading, making, three acts, flipping, inquiry learning, notice-wonder, growth mindset... not to mention various generations of standards.”

So instead of following some fad-like frameworks, Henri says:

“We need to be eclectic, and select "what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles." Instead of rejecting the fads wholesale, we need to consider each one as it comes along, as all (or almost all) have some validity. Instead of shutting our classroom door and continuing business as usual, we should keep it wide open.  Without becoming a dogmatic across-the-board adopter of each pedagogical scheme, we need to learn what we can from it, and incorporate that bit into our repertoire. This is how we get the sort of flexibility that makes for good teaching. If we do that, our lessons will not fit a standard mold. Quite the opposite: they will depend on the myriad variables that make teaching such a complex endeavor.”

Like Henri I too have spent more than 4 decades working in math education. I’ve also worked with many of the edu-fads he mentions. In my private school teaching days I eclectically developed my own curriculum which included lessons borrowed liberally from Harold Jacobs’ “Mathematics: A Human Endeavor.” In fact, Harold’s work helped me to develop a coherent pedagogical framework - a classroom strategy model - that served me well in my modeling of how to teach coherent lessons to the teachers I worked with. My model went something like this.

Each lesson (approximately 45 minutes) had three parts.

The first part I called: Set the Stage. This part would motivate the activity that followed. (I never wrote objectives on the board.)

The second part was: Do the activity. Students would usually work in groups. They would discuss and record their findings on a handout I would give them. (See 5th grade example.)

Finally (and maybe most importantly) was Debrief. What did we learn today? This is where the objective is revealed or left open for further noticing, wondering and even debating.

This was the model I used with teachers who were teaching math in conventional ways. For teachers who were interested in exploring more innovatively, I modeled a collaborative project approach - usually referred to as Project Based Learning (PBL) which was an edu-fad back in the 1920s, but recently is undergoing a revival according to the Buck Institute. What I like about PBL is that it takes into consideration student interest. My example of PBL is the Noon Day Project which is a recreation of the measurement of the earth done by Eratosthenes in 200 BC. See my blog entry about it here.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mathematics & Technology - Perfect together in La Crosse, WI

I was in La Crosse, WI earlier this month to give a keynote talk at the University of Wisconsin Teaching Mathematics with Technology conference. The night before a group of the conference attendees were treated to a cruise on the the La Crosse Queen which is a replica of the old riverboats which used to ply the Mississippi River in the 1800s. Our host was Josh Hertel (the tall guy in the photo) who organized the conference.

A unique feature of the conference was that all the attendees including the speakers were in the same room and got to see all the presentations. It made for a more intimate experience.  Unlike most conferences my keynote was the last scheduled talk so I had the full flavor of the conference before I spoke.

I focused on the 3 big technological ideas that are driving math education today.
  1. Dynamic Math Software
  2. Web 2.0/Social Media
  3. Technology-based learning Communities
When these 3 dynamic forces come together a synergy of innovative curriculum development follows (think Dan Meyer) which engages students in activities that are highly motivational as well as mathematically rich.

I shared several activities that did just that.
  • The Famous Jinx Puzzle
  • Fermat's Last Theorem... Debunked? (By Homer Simpson no less.)
  • Average Traveler Activity
  • The Weird Number Video and the Irrational Invasion
  • The Librarian who Measured the Earth 220 BC
  • The Green Globs Challenge
For more details see

Handouts of other presenters are available at:

Here are some additional ideas shared by David Wees that I should have referenced in my talk.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Response to Questions about Tech Use at NCTM Conferences - A Collective Answer

Response to David Barnes' (Associate Executive Director for Research, Learning, and Development at NCTM) question about technology use at NCTM conferences.

David's question: "So the question for you and your crew is what makes a quality technology session? What does it need to do, include, address, etc?"
  • Tech sessions should focus on larger themes that transcend tech brands or even technology itself. A quality technology session will integrate the tools with the content, demonstrating how the power of visualization enables students to generalize properties and consequently understand concepts more quickly and effectively. Technology is a means, not an end.  It needs to be pedagogically sound.
  • As a participant, I want to know what the big pedagogical ideas before the presenter shows me how a particular tool can realize them.

  • Sessions should generate ideas that make math more interesting to my students and will help me become a better teacher. I will use any tool at my disposal to make the subject more palatable (and fun) for my students, pique their interest, and make the math come alive. 
  • Examples of how to interpret the output of technology to demonstrate understanding and computational fluency should be included. After all, the goal of teaching with technology is to help students learn what tool is appropriate to make mathematics meaningful no matter whether it is a calculator, computer, or pencil.

  • Learning the tools is also very important. The vendors can contribute during their exhibitor sessions and do demonstrations at their booth in the exhibit area. Participants should have the opportunity to USE the technology during the session.
  • An area in the exhibit hall should be devoted to helping teachers get hands-on experience with various effective software programs and apps. That’s something the Math Forum could do in their booth.
  • Encourage the use of social media that helps promote the communication standard both with students and teachers through the use of Twitter and blogging. Members of the MathTwitterBlogosphere could help with recruiting & supporting new members at their booth.
Thanks to Ray Klein, David Wees, Henri Picciotto, Tom Beatini and Dan Meyer for their comments.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Encouraging Effective Use of Technology at the NCTM Conferences

I’ve been counting technology sessions at NCTM annual meetings now for as long as I can remember. (Actually the first listing I made was in 1989 when CLIME was still the Council for Logo in Math Education.) It was done in the spirit of CLIME being a lobbying group for the effective use of technology in math education. Our group felt that NCTM was not doing enough to promote effective tech use at their annual meetings. In the last couple of years I’ve been getting feedback that maybe counting tech sessions is no longer necessary since technology use is now “seamless” at the conferences. Although it's true that Powerpoint is the dominate technology use (as a delivery system) at most sessions, it doesn’t say much about the quality of the tech use in classrooms which is what I tried to count.

So a question arose in an informal conversation that I had with David Barnes, Associate Executive Director for Research, Learning, and Development at NCTM, where we were seeking common ground. David describes the question in an email:

I’ve been thinking about our conversation and how we can work together to move this forward.  First I think that while some sessions need to put technology out there in front, what we should be working towards is sessions where it is seamlessly integrated as well. 

From the program side the challenge with the tech in front sessions, at times, is when does this become a commercial for a product and then be relegated to the exhibitor sessions? 

So the question for you and your crew is what makes a quality technology session? What does it need to do, include, address, etc?  And what are some things that it should not do?  What types of tech session would you be okay with saying that doesn’t really fit within the program?

I’ve not talked to Sarah (Bush) about this, but trying to see if we can do some thinking and collective development work to support the community and our collective efforts.

My reply:

Yes, I agree. We should be working towards sessions where the technology is seamlessly integrated. Last night I watched on video Dan Meyer’s presentation that he gave at the conference. He made a very interesting comment that speaks to this issue.

“This (my session) is not a technology session. I don’t consider myself a technologist, though I do work for a technology company. But I love technology to the extent it energizes pedagogies that I love. Here’s the pedagogy I love and the technology (Powerpoint) I need to do it.” 

Dan used Powerpoint very creatively to demonstrate how you can take a typical textbook problem and turn it into one that is pedagogical sound and engaging to students. Maybe this kind of session needs a special category in the program description. I also remember a session that Robert Kaplinsky did in Boston last year where he posed a problem and spent the hour developing it using technology very effectively. Maybe NCTM can archive and encourage such sessions where the focus is on lessons, activities, etc. that demonstrate this seamless integration and quality of presentation.

I think there were very few sessions outside of the exhibitor sessions where the focus was on a particular piece of software. Neil Cooperman had a session titled “Challenging Precalculus Alternative Assessments Using the Free Online Desmos Calculator” which was misleading to attendees who thought the session would be more about Desmos than it was. So there is a need for software sharing by teachers, but in the context of an interesting lesson.

Here is David's question again:

So the question for you and your crew is what makes a quality technology session?  What does it need to do, include, address, etc?  And what are some things that it should not do?  What types of tech session would you be okay with saying that doesn’t really fit within the program?

One takeaway from my conversation with David was that what CLIME ought/might do is to help NCTM choose those sessions that use technology seamlessly in ways that illuminate one or more of the NCTM principles.

I’m interested in your take. Please let me know by posting below.