I just made a summary list of my itinerary since I left NYC almost a week ago – and it’s three pages long. I’m on Interstate 80 in Indiana right now – Jamie Rykse is thankfully driving my car to ease some of the long drive. But even the drive (with my trusty companion and navigator, James Cleveland) has been part of the journey that is my Twitter Math Camp 2016 experience.
It’s been a hell of a long year, and at times, a pretty unpleasant one. I wasn’t sure (believe it or not) that going to Minneapolis would be a good idea. But from the moment James and I set out last Wednesday, it’s been another great #MTBoS experience – of growth, restoration, professional and personal companionship. How could I have thought otherwise? It pushed me out of my comfort zone, for sure – presenting in not one, not two, but three workshops. [Truth be told, part of my reason for submitting proposals to present was to insure that I wouldn’t back out.]
Without giving all the details of my experience at once (after all, there were 200 attendees, many of whom who will be sharing blog posts like this), I am going to try and zone in on the highlights. This will most likely take several posts, because I will not subject my dear readers to the 1500+ words my reflection on this great week will take.
The drive there: Pennsylvania is very wide. There is no escaping it – because the exits on Route 80 count down from 310 [miles] as you head west. As a matter of fact, to get to Minneapolis from NYC, you drive on Route 80 pretty much straight across to Chicago, and then make a left to head up through Wisconsin (also pretty long on that NNW diagonal). But James is a creative and informative navigator, easy-going and pleasant – in the very best sense of the word – that made the long drive seem not. He booked us hotel rooms for our stopover in Toledo, found restaurants, anticipated traffic, and sang the Nightmare Before Christmas with me. You may wonder why I am going on at length about this road trip, but it really put me at ease and set the stage for the great week to come.
Our second day of travel involved a caravan with Justin Aion, and Jamies Packer and Rykse. We arrived in Minneapolis around 8 pm on Thursday, and our long journey was rewarded
by an enthusiastic reception at Pizza Luce, a gourmet handmade pizza restaurant. I hadn’t attended Twitter Math Camp since 2013, but I’ve spent a lot of time on line developing relationships since then. It was a wonderful welcome.
The pre-conference on Friday sponsored by Desmos was a great way to ease into TMC.About half of the TMC participants were there, and finally putting live faces and voices to the people with whom I have been communicating – collaborating, commiserating, sharing deeply –was nothing short of a huge emotional high. Imagine meeting people for the first time – many of them – and throwing your arms around each other like long lost friends (which we are, just not lost). But after a brief breakfast and reunion, we got to work, and spent a full day immersed in learning more about Desmos, practicing new skills, and developing new activities. And we got socks.
On the road trip on the way out to Minneapolis, James read (and patiently re-read) the course descriptions to me, and we debated the pros and cons of every session, as they applied to each of our needs. Suffice it to say, like many people I spoke to, we arrived undecided on every slot due to the abundance of tempting offerings. During Friday night dinner, Jasper DeAntonio gave me an extended elevator speech about the Instructional Routines morning session, and I was sold – and a terrific decision that turned out to be.
The big idea behind the Instructional Routines morning session was to perfect – or learn how to beginning practicing, anyway- an activity called Contemplate then Calculate. It targets developing the mathematical practice of recognizing and using structure (aka SMP-8) through a detailed series of steps and teacher moves. Students are given a mathematical representation with some type of open question, and work towards
strategies and shortcuts for answering a question about that representation. The teacher moves are specific and calculated, and rely on questioning to elicit student expression and thinking. David Wees, Jasper and Kaitlin Ruggiero each demonstrated the routine, and then coached us as we worked with partners to structure our own. Thankfully, David and his colleagues at New Visions have put together a library of many routines for Algebra 1, 2 and Geometry from which teachers can choose – because the work of facilitating the routine and thus, changing your classroom culture, is not as simple as it may sound. I applaud my brave classmates Alex Overwijk, Judy Larsen, Jasmine Walker, Sadie Estrella, Dylan Kane and Anna Blinstein who practiced the routine for the first time for our benefit. I have committed to trying Contemplate then Calculate as my #1TMCThing; I know if I can stick with this with it can have a huge impact on my classroom and make a substantive improvement in my teaching.
I’m going to end post #1 here. Thanks for reading this far!