Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Asilomar Reflection

I led a workshop this past weekend at CMC-North Asilomar (this is a math conference for those of you who do normal weekend things like gardening and watching football).

Making the Common Core Standards of Mathematical Practice More than an Afterthought

This was the second iteration of the talk I gave last month in Palm Springs. About 25 people showed up, a number I was pretty happy with considering it was the last session of the day (a beautiful one at that). I feel the Palm Springs session went fairly well, but that this talk was more polished and more interactive. Three or four more times doing this and it'll start approaching good.

One of the recurring themes of the talk was promoting productive failure and a culture of working on hard problems. With this in mind, I'd like to share the critical feedback I received (thanks to those who took the time to write feedback):
Give more sources for 'good problems'
To be honest, most of the good problems I have are from a mishmash of sources: conferences, colleagues, blogs, students, and sweat. I need to start putting together a problem bank as soon as I get over feeling intimidated by Sam Shah's Virtual Filing Cabinet. That said, here are some good online sources:
Alan Schoenfeld talked about the Math Assessment Project
The Park School in Baltimore
The CME Project (a more traditional textbook in the sense that it's published)
Someone at the session recommended the book Thinking Mathematically.

Show how to connect to content standards.
Right now 99% of the resources for math teachers center on content standards. As for the standards for mathematical practice, we are the 1%. I see the discussion of habits, independent of content, to be necessarily in order to raise the status of these processes.

Heard this before. Glad will be part of standards, but didn't we already know this is good math teaching?
Maybe this comment wasn't meant as criticism, but would you prefer that I talk about and model bad teaching?

Thought it would be more about what the common core is
 I zoomed through the connections between my habits of mind and the common core standards of mathematical practice. Feel free to download the presentation, though, and take your time looking at the specifics.

a little slow
moved very slowly
I'm not sure I can drink enough coffee to keep a Steve Leinwandimo tempo (that's a bit faster than Prestissimo for the music novices). That said, I think some parts can be tightened, especially the beginning of the talk. On the other hand, I'll take "a little slow" any day if it means work/reflection time that leads to someone learning something and changing their practice for the better.

I would like to hear about or develop rubrics to assess habits of mind

I run my version of standards-based-grading where topics are broken up into skills and concepts. Kids can take each quiz as many times as they need until they show proficiency. I mostly use projects and classwork to assess retention and connections. Along these same lines, I give my students assessments of certain habits of mind (no way to hit on all 10 in one year). Here are some examples.
Assessing Collaborate and Listen: Sam Shah writes about the Participation Quiz
Assessing Pattern Sniffing: Here's one version of habits of mind quizzes my sixth graders took last year.
Assessing Tinker and Invent

Wanted to see how he views implementing the common core. Not sure the premise of conference is accurate.
Hmm...I guess I really failed with at least one person on this part. My views on implementing the common core standards is that they should be implemented. More importantly, I believe that the standards of mathematical practice should be implemented. Really implemented.


  1. Hello Avery,

    I'm part of a leadership team holding math workshops to inform teachers of the new common core and do lots of fun math activities.

    I'm hoping you'll have a chance to check out my new blog at I've taught middle school for 20+ years. I post math puzzles, recipes, and anecdotes of teaching and being a mom to 3 teenagers.

    Thank you,
    Fawn Nguyen

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