Friday, 25 July 2014

TMC 2014 Entry 1 - Groundwork

I write records. I also write fiction. (Personified Math, Taylor’s Polynomials!) Hence I will be recording the events of “Twitter Math Camp” as I did last year, with a twist. Every section below will contain ONE item that is false. Your job, which can be done whether you attended or not, is to identify the false statement as you read. I may post the responses in the comments at some point in the future. Now then...


Just very briefly about Wednesday, July 23rd:
-Flight delay out of Ottawa (with @MaryBourassa, @AlexOverwijk, @SheriWalker72), still able to make transfer in Chicago where we met @NathanKraft1, @a_mcsquared, @mathhombre.
No dice (yet).
-Was next to Audrey in the plane. Rough landing in Oklahoma due to a storm.
-Me and John Golden went to the hotel in his rental car. We ended up getting diverted off the main highway and onto Route 66.
-I found out I’m not in the Jenks hotel but the Glenpool one (which means I inadvertently gave the wrong info to customs agents...) but Shelli herself drove me and Mary Brown over there.
-Took the hotel shuttle back to participate in the Games Night at Jenks hotel.
-I played a game of Set with Sam Shah and Justin Aion.
-I chatted with a number of people (including fellow Canadian @thescamdog) and met my roommate (@bstockus) in person for the first time.
-Took last (9pm) shuttle back to my hotel, got settled in, in bed just after 11pm.

(Reminder: One of those points was partial or complete fiction.)


-Woke before alarm. Breakfast at hotel, caught 8am shuttle to school, got registration package.
-Got a #tmwyk business card from Christopher Danielson (@trianglemancsd)
-Introductory remarks by Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) and Shelli Temple (@druinok).

Went to PreCalculus session (with Tina Cardone and James Doherty):
International PreCalc
-Being from Ontario, I teach a slightly different course. Being at this session helped me to understand (much) better how the American system works.
-Nik Doran (@nik_d_maths) was also at this session, bringing the UK perspective. (I remember him from Stats last year. I think he’s following me.)
-Cindy of “conic cards” fame was also in attendance.
-We started by folding wax paper to create a conic. Led to idea of “start with verbal conversations”. Can make connections that way (e.g. Ellipses to orbits, to distance formula).
-We then did an activity that related to solving a trigonometric identity.
-Then looked at: 1) Key Prerequisites for the course; 2) Key Topics covered in the course; 3) Key items needed going into Calculus.
-Key from 1) Distance; Transformations; Functions (+Intro Inverses); Solving Equations; Factoring
-Key from 2) Conics; Trigonometry; Transformations of functions; Sequences/Series
-Key from 3) Domain/Range; Slope=Rate of Change; Trig Identities; Graphing key elements
-Apparently in the UK they do no work with limits outside sequences... derivatives are taken using various laws.
-A reason to keep radicals in a calculation: If you’re doing a hip replacement and round off, perhaps the person won’t be able to walk.
-Splitting up the Quadratic Formula denominator is a good rule of thumb.
-In last 20 minutes, set up three groups to go more in depth on topics: 1) Trig (ALL the Trig); 2) Vectors; 3) Conics (Geometric v Algebraic).
-I went to the Trig group. General consensus that we start teaching it with Unit Circle, then to Graphs, then to Solving and/or Identities. Thought that maybe something to do with inverse (multiple solutions) may be a topic to tackle.


-Walked back from lunch with Brian S and Bridget K, not realizing the bus was making two trips.
-Lisa Henry noted that there were about 17 people from TMC12 present, and about 14 who had been to both TMC12 and TMC13.

-#1: Chris Shore (@MathProjects) talked “The Thinker”.
Hitchhiker's Guide to Math?
-He started with two bubbles from the classic statue: “THINK.” “Don’t Panic.” then asked the class for more ideas based on “What do you do” when you don’t know how to proceed.
-Gave lip service to ideas like “Copy” “Quit” but not out of Thinker’s mind.
-Also recommended: Get naked and sit on a rock.

-#2: Rebecka Peterson (@RebeckaMozdeh) highlighted “Friday Letters” and “Mathematician Spotlight”.
-On Friday, students can either work a warmup question (eg. write formal definition of derivative and come up with synonyms) or write her a letter. She promises if they write, she will respond. “Quiet people have the loudest minds.” -Stephen Hawking
-Possible extra credit: Can research a mathematician, write a paragraph on their life OR Given a quote by them, restate it in your words and write a paragraph on why you agree or disagree. (Also 3 biographical info.)
-These are things that help you to get to know your students. Also #MathHistoryNerd

-#3: Sarah Martin (@Sarah3Martin) talked “Window Math”.
-She has a window next to the door of her Grade 7 class. Each week, she writes a problem on the window for the students to answer. See her link for examples.
-The prize is shared among all winners, so many winners means each gets less (can discourage cheating). Only an answer is needed.

-#4: John Mahlstedt (@jdmahlstedt) talked “Tell Students How Awesome You Are”
-He first mentioned that writing the date as a math problem can relate to current content.
-As building connections is important, he starts with “32 things you may not know about Mr. Mahlstedt” (# things may vary, also changes year to year).
-He gave some examples we could use, like a fear of heights or your 5 year old child.
-8 Reasons For This: 1) Students Immediately Connect Something; 2) Answers Questions They Ask Anyway; 3) Starts On Taking Notes; 4) Starts Games (he asks about the presentation); 5) Can Look Cool (picking right info); 6) Shows You Exist Outside Classroom; 7) They’ll Know What Gifts You Like; 8) Might Find a Spouse (if they overhear).


-Steve Leinwand: Shift from Remembering HOW to Understanding WHY
-Has been to 175 classrooms in the last 12 months.
Model works only if you like what you're getting.
-5 Introductory Thoughts:
-1) Look Around; you are the future. Other courses haven’t changed as much as math (e.g. causes of WWI are the same).
-2) Conversation Stoppers. Say depth (NOT rigour). Say alternatives (NOT differentiation). Say Collaborative Strategies (NOT PD).
-3) Recognize the Problem. “Simplifying” isn’t doing math but it’s seen as such.
-4) What Can’t Continue. Mnemonics like “Mental Abuse To Humans”.
-5) Posted Gifts. (see bottom of this link)

-What is 8+9? Immediate question after the answer should be WHY? “Convince me that the answer is 17.”
-Care less about remembering how, more about understanding why: Is that sum something you remember? Did you increase 8 (or 9) to a 10? Did you double the 8 and add one?
-We may have mental glitches, but with neural shunts, we pave over them.
-Give 10 or less homework problems per night; while it reinforces those doing it right, it equally reinforces WRONG methods during learning.
-Consider your own fundamental mindset: Is math a set of “rules to be learned and memorized to find answers to exercises” or a set of “competencies and understandings to solve problems”.
-When you solve something, ask yourself how you solved it. How you teach it. How your colleagues teach it.
-Some two digit multiplication examples were looked at in depth; a volunteer with a calculator was needed.
-For graphic models: See

-SIXTH GRADE is where the important (and hardest) mathematics is. Such as multiplicative change (suddenly you don’t line up decimals to multiply) and solving equations.
-Every single time you ask a WHY question... you HAVE to stop. You have to say turn and talk to your neighbour.
-We can’t do it by ourselves, we can’t come up with so many alternatives.
-The kids are going to push back. “Stop confusing me, just tell me how to do it.” Let them try solving; a “buying straw” problem was looked at from many angles.
-Documentation says “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others”... that’s your ‘Trojan Horse’ to get this in (if necessary).
-Practice needs feedback. Work without collaboration is not sustaining.


-I went to Stats Basic Training (to atone for not choosing morning Stats this year) with Hedge (@approx_normal).
Why marshmallows?
-Items in 6th Grade “Common Core” are done in AP Stats. Things can be deconstructed down to middle school.
-Hedge talked newspapers, and Venn Diagrams were shown to relate to web search engine terms.
-Horsepower Lab: Dan Meyer won with a 1.42 (But was it due to height? Interesting discussions.)
-Students know mean/median/mode, but what is variability?
-Marshmallow Guns: When you explain this to middle school students, you have to choose your verbs carefully. (Do not use the ‘b’ word.)
-“Any time you have weird data that fits outside what you expect, you have to think if there’s a reason for that.”
-Start with a standard and think about how to get good data for it.
-Take conversations about the activity and guide them to the (common core) standards you want to teach.
-Shooting Elastic Frogs: To discourage random fires, allow students to shoot the teacher once if they behave.

-I went to Math Maintenance with Kathryn (@iisanumber).
-To start: Think of how you start your class, and why you do it that way.
-One option: 5 question spiral review. 2Q review, 2Q current, 1Q preview. Cover 5 topics per week, constantly revisit.
-For example, first question on “systems” for all 5 days. Could be scaffolded question over those days.
-Benefits: Review skills from prior units. Become familiar with test jargon. Helps to diagnose issues. Shows preparation for tests while keeping the later lessons interesting.
-Implementation can use questions/ideas from: ; ; ; ; ;
-Used differently by colleagues: Could take up with whole group Monday, grade the work Tues-Fri. Could do individual checks, students to correct. Could have a single graded quiz on Fridays.
-Question of students working ahead (all Qs on one sheet): Usually no. Question of student absences: Adjust as needed, make it up or not.
-Record Keeping: Track in a google doc to make sure cycling over all topics, can get external input
-Has some built in reassessment. Sheets never need to leave classroom. Could use as “standardized homework” but make sure to take up Monday (do it the right way).
-Final takeaway question of will you use or not?


-Went to the nearby Aquarium after, got Jamie Ryske to come along and Chris Shore also.
I have a hunch there's a shark
-Pretty nice setup, some large sea creatures, took a bunch of pictures.
-Gift shop attendant saw my “Para” button, remarked on how her child liked anime.
-Left 6pm (closing). Walked back to High School for shuttle pickup at 6:30. It was hot. Got there about 6:20.
-About 6:35pm, messaged Alex O (at Glenpool) to check at desk about shuttle running. Sure enough, it hadn’t picked up anyone at 6pm, hadn’t gone back.
-Hotel manager himself came out to pick me up. Offered to pay for my dinner.
-Met up with Alex O and went via Nathan Kraft’s car to get Mary B, Sheri W. Proceeded to Kilkenny, a place in Tulsa, where @_levi_ and TMC folks from Memphis (@kjmonopoly, @melroseharkins, @mwbigger) were holding a table. Learned about Oklahoma's #TeachLikeMe.
-I don't drink beer. I had a Sadie. (Not that Sadie.) Also tried a fried green tomato.
-On the drive back, I acted as Nathan’s GPS, following the same route as with John Golden the previous day, taking a trip onto Route 66.
-Got back in before 10pm, plenty of time to put up a blog post.

There you have it! Of course, SIX of those points were fiction. Were you able to spot any of them? Feel free to call me out in the comments... or just mention something you found interesting.


  1. Great recap. Loved reading it. Thnaks!

    1. Thank you! Appreciate you reading it and remarking!

  2. I know we met, and I remember it because you were kind to the new guy who arrived when the social was in full swing. So that point is true. As for the rest, let me just say, "thanks for such a detailed summary." As I write this, I am aware of 6 conference summaries that have been posted on blogs. 3 of them are from Canadians. I have no idea what that means, but I noticed it. I wonder something, but I'm not sure what that might be.

    1. I remember meeting too, mostly because of how the Canadian connection was pointed out. I'm glad you enjoyed the summary! I figure I'll post up the false statements down here within the week, because I'd hate to leave anyone with the wrong impression in the end. As to the noticing and wondering... um, maybe we type faster?


    1) “I played a game of Set with Sam Shah and Justin Aion.” I don’t enjoy most games. I’m awful at Set. Sam was playing ‘Cards Against Humanity’ (I think) as I chatted with Justin. There was a game of Set going on elsewhere.

    2) “We then did an activity that related to solving a trigonometric identity.” There was no second activity, and I implore you to read that sentence again. Identities. We solve them. Wait...

    3) “He gave some examples we could use, like a fear of heights or your 5 year old child.” John mentioned he liked climbing, and showed his 4 month old. While he did give some examples, they were not the ones I listed. (That one was a bit hard.)

    4) “Some two digit multiplication examples were looked at in depth; a volunteer with a calculator was needed.” Steve completely skipped over his slides on multiplication, and the talk was focussed on different ways to approach problems - so no calculator.

    5) “Hedge talked newspapers, and Venn Diagrams were shown to relate to web search engine terms.” Not at all. Hedge wanted to start with activities. The page I linked to was not discussed, and is merely one I find interesting.

    6) “Got back in before 10pm, plenty of time to put up a blog post.” Yeah, that’s why the recap of Thursday was posted on FRIDAY. Pacific time. I think we got to the hotel around 11:30, the post went up after 2am.

    Which means, yes, the manager of the Glenpool paid for my dinner - and Alex’s. Super nice people. How did you do? Do your deductive skills beat my creative writing?