NCSM 2018

Some of the most insightful, inspiring minds in math education converged upon Washington DC this week for the annual meeting of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics.  I left recharged and ready to continue to do the good work, knowing I am not alone in this.

I am indebted to my friends (specifically Steve Wyborney, Kyle Pearce, Robert Kaplinsky, and Kris Childs) who spent valuable time with me before, during, and after the sessions to share ideas, challenge one another’s thinking, and re-commit to the work together.

The sessions I attended each provided a clear, consistent message …

Michelle Rinehart

Math Talks: Adapting the Number Talks Structure for Secondary Mathematics Classrooms


Christine Newell

Building Mathematical Language and Precision Through Routines


Grace Kelemanik, Amy Lucenta

Learn How to Develop Teacher Content Knowledge and Practice Through Instructional Routines


Graham Fletcher

Teaching Beyond the Task: Using Yesterday’s Lesson to Prepare for Today


Kyle Pearce, Phil Daro

Digging Deep into Ratios and Proportional Relationships in the Middle Grades


Kristopher Childs

Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice Develops Student Problem Solvers and Not Just Rule Followers



Make It Stick

Recently I read Make it Stick by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel.  My sketchnotes from each chapter are below.

Chapter 1: Learning is Misunderstood

Paper.Professional Learning.96 (1)

Chapter 2: To Learn, Retrieve

Paper.Professional Learning.97 (1)

Chapter 3: Mix Up Your Practice

Paper.Professional Learning.98 (1)

Chapter 4: Embrace Difficulties

Paper.Professional Learning.99 (1)

Chapter 5: Avoid Illusions of Knowing

Paper.Professional Learning.100 (1)

Chapter 6: Get Beyond Learning Styles

Paper.Professional Learning.101 (1)

Chapter 7: Increase Your Abilities

Paper.Professional Learning.102 (1)

Chapter 8: Make It Stick

Paper.Professional Learning.103 (1)


UbD, Rekenreks, and Number Bead Strings

This week I had the opportunity to spend time with two amazing groups of elementary educators, K-2 and 3-5.  Teamed with our Director of Science, Linda Cook, we devoted the first three hours of our time together to dive into the Understanding by Design model, including a focus on backward design and constructivist learning.  Throughout the professional learning, I created sketch notes on chart paper.  The final product…

UbD Sketchnotes

We also modeled formative assessment strategies by embeding them within the experience.  Again, I took sketch notes.  The final product…

formative assessment sketch notes

Our goal is to provide curriculum documents that include Stage 1 (transfer goals, organized standards, enduring understandings, essential questions, and knowledge and skills) and Stage 2 (performance assessments, other evidence, and formative and summative assessments) content.  We are making great progress in this undertaking and our new hires were relieved to learn they may focus their design time on Stage 3 (planning learning experiences).

The second half of the professional learning concentrated on content.  The focus for mathematics was on the developmental progression of learning math and the numeracy continuum.

The mission of the Coppell ISD mathematics program is to provide opportunities for learners to reason, collaborate and think flexibly by applying critical thinking skills and problem solving strategies in meaningful and relevant situations in order to prepare for a lifetime of successful problem solving.

Utilizing rekenreks, the educators explored Number Talks.  I shared What to Do with a Rekenrek, by Diana Saylak.  This multi-touch book in the iBooks Store includes 21 activities for educators from subitizing to fractions.

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We watched videos of elementary children using rekenreks to model mathematics.  Listening to learners’ thinking paints such a clear picture of where they are on the continuum.  I beamed with pride as my new educators pointed out pivotal moments like – when the children used counting on rather than counting up and when there was evidence of subitizing a structured set.   In one video clip a child arrived at an incorrect answer and one of my educators added, “if she would have answered that on a worksheet, I would have just counted it wrong – I would not know why. But, I can see there exactly what happened.”  Yes.  That’s it.  That makes me proud.

Then the educators had an opportunity to build a number bead string and we practiced formulating questions appropriate for lower and upper primary learners as well as discussed possibilities of using the bead strings as take home activities or a make-and-take during meet-the-teacher.


Materials needed per string:

  • 1 yard of #95 paracord
  • 60 red pony beads (or 50 for kindergarten learners)
  • 60 white pony beads (or 50 for kindergarten learners)

After cutting the paracord, either burn the end slightly or use tape to prevent fraying.  Then, string the beads in sets of 10, alternating red and white sets.  Allow a small amount of movement of the beads (an inch or so), then tie double knots on each end of the paracord.


Example Questions/Skills for Bead Strings:

  • Counting forward/backward by one
  • Skip counting by 2, 5, and 10 (Skip counting with sets of objects supports learners’ conceptual understanding – for example, skip counting by ten means adding ten objects each time.)
  • Greater than/less than (Use two bead strings and a clothes pin on each to identify a certain bead, then lay the bead strings side by side to compare the numbers.)
  • If each bead is worth…(Assign each bead a value of 2, 5, or 10 and ask, If each bead is worth ___, then what is this certain bead worth?)
  • Fractional values (Insert a black bead as a decimal point between any white and red sets and assign each bead a value of 1/10.  Then, identify the value of a certain bead.)

Planning for a few precious hours with new hires is challenging.  Prioritizing what content in what format for their first experience in our district is not taken lightly.  The wide range of needs exhibited by these educators are carefully considered and I am confident time spent seeing the forest (big picture mission and goals) as well as the trees (details of curriculum documents and implementation of strategies to support the numeracy continuum) were well worth it.

The anticipation of the start of school each year is so difficult to describe – it is exhausting and exciting at the same time!  I am looking forward to another great year!

Full Circle: Instructional Coaching

This week I had the opportunity to learn alongside other instructional leaders from Coppell ISD (campus Principals, Assistant Principals, Instructional Coaches, District Administrators) at our annual Principals Academy.  The great Ainsley Rose from Jim Knight’s Instructional Coaching Group led us through two days of collaboration and contemplation of our next phase of Instructional Coaching and one day of work on Principals as Communicators.  Powerful stuff.

My sketch notes from the three days are below.  Impactful thoughts worth remembering…

  • Teaching is so hard…it is never perfect…no matter how good a lesson is, it can always be improved.
  • When we do the thinking for them, they resist.
  • Help like a dog, not like a cat.
  • Own the misunderstanding.  Don’t blame the student.
  • Actions prove who someone is.  Words just prove who they want to be.
  • Be ambitious and humble.







Here’s the full circle part…Recently, I had the opportunity to accompany a team of colleagues to IBM for a day and a half of design thinking.  What came from one team’s work there that I will not soon forget was the realization of how burdensome, stressful, and exhausting a day in the life of a teacher can be.  I knew this, but to see it in light of our work is motivating.  What can I do to change this?  More coaching.  More empowering.  More support.  More celebrating.  More listening.  More empathy.  More trust.  More individualized attention.  More understanding.



Review: Switch by Chip & Dan Heath

Switch provided clarity to the need to dig deeper when faced with a change problem.  The bright-spot philosophy  (“What’s working and how can we do more of it?”) sums up my daily perspective.  Rather than dwell in the doldrums of ineffectiveness and doubt, I challenge myself to use counterintuitive thinking and maximize success.

Switch clearly articulates three surprises about change:

  • What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem – though we must realize the environment does not stand apart from hearts and minds (p. 5)

We must shape the path.

  • What looks like laziness is often exhaustion – we must realize that self-control is an exhaustible resource (p. 10)

We must motivate the elephant.

  • What looks like resistance is often lack of clarity – we must be specific and concrete – more like 1% milk and less like the Food Pyramid (p.63)

We must direct the rider.

I appreciate the action verbs in the chapter titles – such as Shrink the Change or Tweak the Environment.  This challenges me to take action to make a change.  As an instructional leader, I wonder how I can use what I know about change to help others… remove friction from the trail to make the journey more accessible, make the right behaviors a little easier and the wrong ones a bit more difficult.

My notes from my reading are below.


Review: Drive by Daniel Pink

Drive provided clarity to what makes me tick.  What is it about me that can’t get enough of the work that I do?  It is the intrinsic motivation that I experience when I am in flow, challenged with a Goldilocks Task and benefiting from the Sawyer Effect.

Drive clearly lays out the three types of motivation:

  • biological
  • rewards & punishments – this may cause a caffeine-like effect (an initial jolt that wears off quickly) and works best for algorithmic tasks.
  • intrinsic motivation – this is what drives open source work and works best for heuristic tasks.  These people find themselves on Vocation Vacations – when people use their vacation time to work on something engaging (p. 29).

Type I behavior (intrinsically motivated, devoted to becoming better and better at something that matters) depends on:

  • autonomy – this is the powerful 20% time that produced the Post-It note
  • mastery – this is when you find yourself in flow – that perfect spot between what you have to do and what you can do
    • assign these people Goldilocks Tasks – challenges that are not too hot and not too cold, neither overly difficult not overly simple (p. 116).
    • reap the positive rewards of the Sawyer Effect – practices that can turn work into play (p. 117)
  • purpose – think about Toms shoes charity <–> business

This is me.  Type I.  This is the niche I work toward and recognize when I am there.

As an instructional leader, I wonder how I can use what I know about motivation to help others… provide autonomy, become keenly aware of mastery and the gap between an individual’s knowledge/experience and that which is required by the given task, and think bigger picture – toward purpose.

My notes from my reading are below.



Paper Fifty Three (Think Kit): Sketch Noting

I am participating in the CISD Digital Learning Coach Blogging Challenge.  I have chosen to utilize the Think Kit in Paper Fifty Three to organize ideas and reflect on the experience and outcome with this blog post.

I am experienced with sketch noting with Paper, but I rarely use the Think Kit.  On the sketch below, I used tools in the Think Kit to enhance my practice.

Using the app, Paper, I created this sketch to illustrate and organize the new (updated 2015) Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines.  The blue oval and orange circles in the center are connected with arrows – all created with the Think Kit tools embedded within Paper.  A few other shapes on the sketch were also created with the Think Kit tools.

Prekindergarten Mathematics


Read about the features of Think Kit, including diagram, fill, and cut here.

Other sketch notes I have created can be found on my blog here.