We were welcomed by Henri Picciotto. (Check out some of his cool stuff!) And then Jo Boaler, author of What's Math Got To Do With It?, spoke.
Jo Boaler's Talk
She points out 3 characteristics of good classrooms:
- They are mixed ability
- The students work on problem-solving
- The students work in groups
- Engage the students as active and capable learners,
- Teach mathematical practices,
- Develop a collaborative mathematical community, and
- Help the students develop their own voices.
One student said: "After finding a pattern, you can stretch it in many ways, instead of just staring at it."
At first, when asked "How many squares (of any size) on a chessboard?", the students were willing to play around with the problem, but they were not willing to look systematically, or to record their thinking. The teachers encouraged them to try a smaller case, but the kids felt like that would be cheating. (!)
She showed some video clips of these classes, and asked us to discuss our reactions. That gave me just enough interaction to keep me focused. (Usually an hour-plus talk would be too long for me, and I'd be off thinking about something else. I actually managed to listen and think about it the whole time.)
Paul Zeitz, Puppies, and Kittens
We had a short break, and then came Paul Zeitz's talk. (Paul Zeitz is the author of The Art and Craft of Problem Solving.) Except that it was a math play session instead of a talk. Before we started playing, he said he thought math class should be more like:
- Field Biology
"What you need to learn is how to investigate."
He gave us some handouts with good math games, and asked us to think about this kittens and puppies game.
The two players come in turns to the pet store, and each time have to buy at least one pet. The rules are that they can buy:
- As many puppies as they want, or
- As many kittens as they want, or
- An equal number of puppies and kittens.
Then Paul showed us a way to graph the oases, which helps you find more of them. The patten is very interesting. (I won't wreck your fun by telling more.)
After Paul's session was lunch, where we got to chat with other teachers. The folks there were over 80% high school teachers, I'd guess. It was a lively crowd, and I had fun chatting with two people I'd just met and a colleague I get to see at every one of these conferences. After lunch we went to one of about 6 workshops. I went to Avery's and had a blast.
I liked that he focused on the idea of getting students to pose their own questions. After some discussion, he handed out unifix cubes, and asked us to make a patten that:
- Could be repeated indefinitely
- Can be counted
I loved each of the 3 sessions, and the energy of the teachers there. I hope there will be another conference like this in the fall.