Last month I had the opportunity to attend the annual Mississippi Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM) conference in Ellisville, MS. Davis Parker (’15) and Dylan Jones (’15) attended as well, and have shared what they learned below. Take a look, and steal some ideas – specifically…
- Using Algebra Tiles effectively!
- Creating “Secondary Circuits” centers-alternative
- Meaningfully infusing Statistics into Algebra I
- Using Plickers for quick data collection and sharing!
My name is Dylan Jones, I am a second year teacher in the Mississippi Delta, teaching 6th – 8th grade mathematics to 50 of the most passionate and energetic students I know. I have had the pleasure of being sent on many professional development experiences on behalf of the Sunflower County Consolidated School District. Recently, I had the privilege of attending the 2016 Mississippi Council of Teachers of Mathematics at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, MS. At this conference, I made connections with iReady representatives, engaged in many sessions to enhance my classroom, and got a chance to participate in a state wide Professional Learning Community (PLC) with fellow math educations across the state.
The purpose of this blog post is to share some of the information gleaned from these sessions. Since I found most of what I attended to be extremely useful, I have narrowed down my post to include the following sessions: 1) How to use Algebra tiles and 2) “Circuits”.
In my short time as a second year teacher, I have been able to incorporate technology into my classroom, increase the level of confidence and rigor, and fully implement secondary centers. One thing that I have always wanted to figure out is how to increase my use of manipulatives. While at the MCTM conference, there was a session on the fundamentals of algebra tiles. I signed up, made friends with the teacher next to me, and we began our journey together! My partner teacher has used algebra tiles for over 10 years now, so she allowed me to hog all of the tiles as I was learning the rules. Each tiles represents a variable (x, y, xy, x2, and y2) and then there are unit tiles to represent the numbers in the equations. I received a template and the facilitators started to walk us through some equations. Right before my eyes, for the first time in my adult life, I started to visualize the zero pairs when I solved for the variable in the equation. The facilitator took us through over 10 different equations, I was blown away. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wish I had these when I introduced 7.EE.1-4 to my seventh grades in the first nine weeks. Below I have included some pictures to show you how powerful algebra tiles could be in your classroom! I ordered the set from EAI education, here is the direct link, and I used my EEF card and they were delivered in a week.
While I was still reeling from the algebra tiles session, I saw a session for “Secondary Circuits”, to which I though was a cooler name for center rotations. When I arrived at this sessions, I was told that it was not about centers, but yet a way to make work more rigorous, engaging, and where students can assess themselves. I was sold! The facilitator starts passing out what look like worksheets, but have two to three columns of boxes with problems in the top. The facilitator asks us to solve the top left box, use that answer to find the next box, so on and so forth. So I am sitting with about 25 other math teachers and there is not a sound. We are all trying to solve these algebra problems and use out answers to advance our progress. I get stuck about 75% through the first circuit. The facilitators looks at my paper and says that I am operating on the target level question because I completed 75% of the circuit. The facilitator then explains that if a students can complete less than 50% of the worksheet, they are not operating on the grade level question target. If a student completes 60%-75% of the worksheet, they are operating on the grade level target question and if a student complete above 75% of the circuit, they are operating above the grade level target question. For better representation, here is a link to the facilitators TeachersPayTeachers website, where some of her circuits are free! I have also included a picture!
The annual MCTM conference in Ellisville was a unique opportunity to learn and share with other math teachers from the state. Over 300 teachers, representing every corner of the state, were there with the goal of improving their student’s outcomes and to change the way our students see and interact with mathematics.
With nearly 50 different sessions available to attendees, there was a great variety of information to be gathered. The most impactful session I attended dealt with the use of statistics in Algebra 1. The presenter walked us through the process of refreshing students’ knowledge of basic statistical analysis—box and whisker plots, mean, median, and outliers. Often times, statistics is taught as a system of rules and formulas with very little student input. It is rote and boring. The presenter, Dr. Jennifer Fillingim of Madison County Schools, completely flipped this script. Rather than simply copy notes of the board, students were actively engaged in the learning process and contributing to the creation of knowledge. Through pointed questioning, the presenter was able to draw the needed information out of students, building on prior experiences. Going forward, I am planning a statistical analysis unit for the start of the second semester. We will use statistical techniques to analyze our performance from the previous semester, which will allow us to not only learn the material but also think more critically about how we can improve during the second half of the year.
The second most valuable presentation covered the variety of useful technologies available for our classroom. Specifically, it further interested me in using Plickers in my classroom. Up to now, I’ve used a variety of different quiz-type apps such as Kahoot but have always been a bit underwhelmed. For those unfamiliar with Kahoot, it is a quiz app where students answer predetermined questions on their phones and received points for getting them right in a set amount of time. Students enjoy playing Kahoot, but it’s not ideal for teachers as not all students have functioning smart devices, and it does not give useful data on how students are doing. Unlike Kahoot, Plickers requires only the teacher uses technology (reducing tech issues significantly) and gives student specific data, allowing a teacher to more easily identify those students who are struggling. I am in the process of printing and implementing Plickers in my Algebra 1 classes, and I am eager to see how students respond. Certainly, there are issues of students losing their Plickers materials, but I think it will be a much better system than before.
Overall, the most valuable aspect of the MCTM conference was not the individual sessions but rather the conversations with other math teachers. As a 2nd year teacher, I am always eager to glean wisdom from the veterans who have been in the classroom for many years, and I am hopeful that one day I will be able to provide the valuable insight to others that they have given to me.