Do No Harm

Photo Credit: Lauren Johnson
If you are a math teacher, perhaps you have heard of Desmos. They make an amazingly powerful, free, online graphing calculator as well as awesome math activities. Over the past few years, in pursuit of learning more about what teachers need as well as to build a network, they have developed a “Desmos Fellowship” program where about 40 teachers are brought to their headquarters in San Francisco for a weekend of collaboration and learning. 
There have been 3 cohorts of teachers to be involved in the Desmos Fellows program. The popularity of the program growing so much that there were over 400 teachers to apply for Cohort 3 that just met this past weekend. I was very humbled and honored to be part of the group. If you ever have heard the saying, “if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room,” just know if that is true, I was most definitely in the right room, as I was overwhelmed by the amount of people so much smarter than me!
Photo Cre…

MATH in the BATH(room)

When you want people to read something, should you send an email? Maybe. I know some people are good at reading their emails. But, if you really want a captive audience, meet them where they are... how about the bathroom?!

When people are sitting down to take a little *ahem* rest, they probably would enjoy a little reading material. That's where "MATH in the BATH(room)" comes in. I've heard of people posting newsletters and "Learning in the Loo" in staff restrooms and thought I would borrow that idea to bring fun/interesting math to teachers.

This way I can highlight a few of my favorite go-to resources for finding interesting math problems and also just get math on teachers' minds. So, I made my first three editions of "MATH in the BATH(room)" and took them around to all 8 of the schools in my district. In case you are wondering, there are 28 staff bathrooms in my district, that is including the district building. And, yes, I've been in e…

The Low Kids and The High Kids

Teaching is challenging and personal and important work. Every teacher I work with is doing their best, want to do their best, and do all of this with a kind teacher heart. I love teachers, in fact I still identify as a teacher myself. When people ask what I do, I say I'm a teacher. Because even if I'm a coach or a math coordinator, at the center of my work is teaching.

I was in the classroom for 12 years. I know the difficulties of having a diverse group of learners in one class. The range of understanding on any given topic can be overwhelming to navigate. Am I challenging everyone enough? Is this too challenging? Are kids bored? Are kids checked-out? Are they learning?

These are real questions and fears we all have. And sometimes, being in this work means we develop some short-cut ways of describing the complexity of what we see in front of us. It's normal and natural as humans to look for patterns in our experience and categorize things. If we didn't our brains wo…

Counting Collections


I can't believe I didn't know about them before, but after watching an ICTM webinar by Denise Brown (check out the recording here!), I was hooked! Immediately, I reached out to a few teachers in my district that also watched the webinar. I co-taught a counting collections lesson in each of their classrooms, one kindergarten and the other 1st grade. Wow. It was amazing.

Then, I saw another ICTM webinar by Kassia Wedekind (see that one here!) where she talked about nudges during counting collections. Ah ha! Another amazing idea.

Now I wanted to try more counting collections lessons. Luckily, we had a teacher institute day coming up and one of the original counting collections teachers agreed to present the idea to all of the kindergarten and 1st grade teachers. She did an awesome job sharing how she was using the routine in her classroom.

Next, I put together a traveling "Counting Collection Collection." I went to the dollar store and bough…

My Favorite Fraction Manipulative

Wait, that just looks like strips of paper?!
Yep, that's what it is. Introducing my FAVORITE fraction manipulative. No need for fancy plastic fraction tiles, no purchase order necessary, no app to download. Just find some paper and cut it in strips. It can even be "GOOSe" paper (good on one side), as in scrap paper!

Here's why I love it:
1) It makes fractions visual. 2) It relates to tape diagrams. 3) It helps make connections of where fractions go on the number line. 4) It's a manipulative that won't expire. It always works, even when students start exploring decimals and percents. 5) It's fun!

I have done this lesson with lots of kids over the years. It works great with grades 4-6. 
Here's the procedure:
1) Put a lot of strips of paper out! (you want kids to have access to extra in case they "mess up") 2) Have students start with 1 strip and fold into halves. This is usually accessible for all kids. But walk around to help if anyone is stuc…

STEM Themed Toys, Gifts, and Prizes

My district hosts a student-centered conference called SIT (Students Involved with Technology). It's a great event where students present their knowledge of tech to other students. It's held on a Saturday and open to kids in grades 3-12. There are students from our district and also kids from surrounding areas. There is even a kid keynote!

Generally our biggest issue is kids running in the hallways... because they are so excited to get to the next session!

The adults just help kids get set up and are there to supervise, but it's the students that present and learn from each other!

Each year we cap off the day with raffle prizes. This year I was asked to make an Amazon wish-list of prize ideas. So, basically, I got to shop for $900 worth of fun stuff! I tried to get prizes that would appeal to kids that range from 8 years old to seniors in high school. I also put some artsy stuff on there, some coding stuff, books, toys, and t-shirts.

Who do you think is more excited about…

Finding HAPPY: Efficiency, Productivity, and Avoiding Teacher Burnout

Dusting off the old blog. How is it possible that I haven't blogged since October?! I've missed you!
Lately I've been thinking a lot about how to help with a common phrase I hear in education: "One more thing." As in, "this new (initiative/idea/curriculum/app) is just one more thing I have to worry about in my classroom."
And I get it! With the rate of new initiatives/ideas/curriculums/apps coming across my desk, it's a dizzying pace of new and change. But I also like a lot of these new ideas. I often present to teachers about these ideas! So, in my role of instructional coach, how can I help teachers embrace them too without feeling overwhelmed or burning out.

First, I think we need to look at the ideas of happiness and success. In this Ted Talk by Shawn Achor, he looks into the idea that being happy makes us more productive. Often, we might think that success will lead to happiness, but this is backwards. And, in fact, thinking you need success for h…