The Variable – Volume 2, Issue 4

Volume 2, Issue 4 (July/August 2017) of The Variable, periodical of the Saskatchewan Mathematics Teachers’ Society, has just been released!

From Kindergarten to Grade 12, there is something for everyone in this month’s issue of The Variable. In his article “Desmos Art,” Nat Banting describes a Pre-Calculus 30 project on function transformations built around the online graphing calculator Desmos; Jehu Peters justifies why, as he argued in last month’s issue of The Variable, handing back exams randomly is a bad idea, probabilistically speaking; and Kelly McCormick and Guinevere Twitchell describe a meaningful project-based learning experience that invites problem solving and mathematical thinking in a preschool classroom.

You will also find our regular features, including “Spotlight on the Profession” (this month’s interview features Steve Leinwand, who discusses changes and future directions for mathematics education in North America); “Reflections,” where Sharon Harvey responds to the age-old question, “When are we ever going to use this in the real world?”; “Intersections,” which will bring you up to date on upcoming professional development opportunities; and “Problems to Ponder,” where you will find a range of rich problems for K-12. Last but not least, we are proud to offer the second installment of “Math Ed Matters by MatthewMaddux,” a new column by Egan Chernoff: “slightly bent, untold, true stories of mathematics teaching and learning.” In this issue, Chernoff offers his perspective on the aphorism “the lottery is a tax on the stupid/poor/mathematically challenged,” arguing that there is more to the story than the aphorism suggests.

To access this month’s issue, head to http://smts.ca/the-variable/, where you will find this and all issues of The Variable free to download.

We hope you find this publication relevant and valuable for your teaching or personal interest – and if so, that you share it with your colleagues and invite them to join the conversation! If you have feedback, questions, or would like to contribute, we would love to hear from you – contact us at thevariable@smts.ca.

Reflections: An Open Conversation About Curriculum

Reflections is a monthly column for teachers, by teachers on topics of interest to mathematics educators: reflections on classroom experiences, professional development opportunities, resource reviews, and more. If you are interested in sharing your own ideas with mathematics educators in the province (and beyond), consider contributing to this column! Contact us at thevariable@smts.ca.


An Open Conversation About Curriculum
Sharon Harvey

“When am I going to use this in the real world?”

I don’t know if it’s because I teach math, or if all teachers are asked this question, but it’s the time of year during which it comes up a lot. And this year, for the first time, I engaged in a conversation with the students instead of issuing a witty remark such as, “Well you might not, but the smart kids will,” which usually garners plenty of chuckles and allows us to move on, forgetting the question that was asked in the first place.

But students should question. Why are they learning these particular mathematical concepts, and why right now, and when are they going to be useful? We are trying each day to help students become critical thinkers and problem solvers, but too often shut them down when they inquire about the purpose of a lesson. Continue reading

Spotlight on the Profession: Steve Leinwand

In this monthly column, we speak with a notable member of the mathematics education community about their work and their perspectives on the teaching and learning of mathematics. This month, we had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Leinwand,  who we look forward to welcoming this fall as a SUM Conference 2017 keynote presenter.


 

Steve Leinwand is a Principal Research Analyst at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and has over 35 years of leadership positions in mathematics education.  He currently serves as mathematics expert on a wide range of AIR projects that focus on high quality mathematics instruction, turning around underperforming schools, evaluating programs, developing assessments and providing technical assistance.  Leinwand has spoken and written about effectively implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics, differentiated learning, and “What Every School Leader Needs to Know about Making Math Work for All Students.” In addition, Leinwand has overseen the development and quality review of multiple-choice and constructed response items for AIR’s contracts with diverse states.

Before joining AIR in 2002, Leinwand spent 22 years as Mathematics Consultant with the Connecticut Department of Education, has served on the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ Board of Directors, and has been President of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics. Steve is also an author of several mathematics textbooks and has written numerous articles. His books, Sensible Mathematics: A Guide for School Leaders in the Era of Common Core State Standards and Accessible Mathematics: 10 Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement, were published by Heinemann in 2012 and 2009, respectively. In addition, Leinwand was the awardee of the 2015 National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics Glenn Gilbert/Ross Taylor National Leadership Award for outstanding contributions to mathematics education.


First things first, thank you for taking the time for this conversation!

With over 35 years of leadership positions in mathematics education that span consulting, evaluation, program development, research, and more, you have surely observed many changes in curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and philosophy in the area of mathematics teaching and learning at the primary and secondary levels.

In your view, what are we doing better today in the area of mathematics education, in comparison to 35 years ago? Continue reading

Problems to Ponder (May edition)

BCAMTlogo

British Columbia Association of Mathematics Teachers

Welcome to the May edition of Problems to Ponder! This month’s problems have been curated by Michael Pruner, president of the British Columbia Association of Mathematics Teachers (BCAMT). The tasks are released on a weekly basis through the BCAMT listserv, and are also shared via Twitter (@BCAMT) and on the BCAMT website. This post features only a subset of the problems shared by Michael last month – head to the BCAMT website for the full set!

Have an interesting solution? Send it to thevariable@smts.ca for publication in a future issue of The Variable, our monthly periodical.

I am calling these problems ‘competency tasks’ because they seem to fit quite nicely with the curricular competencies in the British Columbia revised curriculum. They are non-content based, so that all students should be able to get started and investigate by drawing pictures, making guesses, or asking questions. When possible, extensions are provided so that you can keep your students in flow during the activity. Although they may not fit under a specific topic for your course, the richness of the mathematics comes out when students explain their thinking or show creativity in their solution strategies. Continue reading

The Variable – Volume 2, Issue 3

From Kindergarten to Grade 12, there is something for everyone in this month’s issue of The Variable. In her article “Talking Points,” Heidi Neufeld describes a structure for engaging students of all ages in meaningful mathematical discourse; Jehu Peters explains in “Matching Tests” why handing back exams randomly is a bad idea, probabilistically speaking; and Colleen Haberern presents a rich problem-based task for middle school students based on TLC’s The Cake Boss in “The Cake Contest.”

You will also find our regular features, including “Spotlight on the Profession” (this month’s interview features Christopher Danielson, who offers a multitude of strategies for supporting children’s numeracy skills at home); “Reflections,” where Amanda Culver reflects on this year’s Extreme Math Challenge; “Intersections,” which will bring you up to date on upcoming professional development opportunities; and “Problems to Ponder,” where you will find a range of rich problems for K-12. Last but not least, we are proud to introduce “Math Ed Matters by MatthewMaddux,” a new column by Egan Chernoff: “slightly bent, untold, true stories of mathematics teaching and learning.” In this issue, Chernoff offers his perspective on the alleged decline of basic mathematics skills in “Subtraction: How the Hunted Became the Hunter.”

To access this month’s issue, head to http://smts.ca/the-variable/, where you will find this and all issues of The Variable free to download.

We hope you find this publication relevant and valuable for your teaching or personal interest – and if so, that you share it with your colleagues and invite them to join the conversation! If you have feedback, questions, or would like to contribute, we would love to hear from you – contact us at thevariable@smts.ca.

Intersections (May edition): Upcoming professional development opportunities

In this monthly column, you’ll find information about upcoming math education-related workshops, conferences, and other events. Some events fill up fast, so don’t delay signing up!

For more information about a particular event or to register, follow the link provided below the description. If you know about an event that should be on our list, please contact us at ilona@smts.ca.

Jump to:
Within Saskatchewan
Beyond Saskatchewan

Online workshops

Within Saskatchewan

Workshops

Using Tasks in Middle Years Mathematics
August 16, Saskatoon, SK
Presented by the Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit

Using tasks in a middle years mathematics classroom can provide rich opportunities for differentiated learning and authentic assessment. How do we choose tasks that meet both curricular outcomes and student needs? Tasks allow students to enter mathematics where they are at and extend their learning. In this workshop we will look at a variety of resources for finding good middle years tasks. We will also reflect and discuss what planning and teaching moves can assist in maximizing student learning through mathematics tasks.

See https://www.stf.sk.ca/professional-resources/professional-growth/events-calendar/using-tasks-middle-years-mathematics-0 Continue reading

Spotlight on the Profession: Dr. Christopher Danielson

In this monthly column, we speak with a notable member of the mathematics education community about their work and their perspectives on the teaching and learning of mathematics. This month, we had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Christopher Danielson.


Christopher Danielson has worked with math learners of all ages—12-year-olds in his former middle school classroom, Calculus students, teachers, and young children and their families at Math On-A-Stick at the Minnesota State Fair. He designs curriculum at Desmos. He is the author of Common Core Math For Parents For Dummies, the shapes book Which One Doesn’t Belong?, and the forthcoming counting book How Many? He blogs about teaching on Overthinking My Teaching, and for parents at Talking Math with Your Kids.


First things first, thank you for taking the time for this conversation!

Besides teaching mathematics and curriculum development (at Normandale Community College and, most recently, at Desmos), one of your main interests is helping parents support their children’s mathematical development, as the title of your website Talking Math with Your Kids suggests.

As you write on the website, parents know that they should read with their children every day to support their literacy development, but are typically less familiar with strategies to cultivate numeracy. Why might this be the case? Continue reading

Reflections: Extreme Math Challenge 2017

Reflections is a monthly column for teachers, by teachers on topics of interest to mathematics educators: reflections on classroom experiences, professional development opportunities, resource reviews, and more. If you are interested in sharing your own ideas with mathematics educators in the province (and beyond), consider contributing to this column! Contact us at thevariable@smts.ca.


Extreme Math Challenge 2017
Amanda Culver

Between Walter Murray Collegiate and Centennial Collegiate, we host the Extreme Math Challenge and the Extreme Math Camp every year. On Saturday, March 18th, we launched our first full-day Extreme Math Challenge. In the past, this event was held after school. However, we always felt that our schedule was rushed and would have liked to have more time with students. And thus, the weekend Extreme Math Challenge was born. Continue reading

Problems to Ponder (March edition)

BCAMTlogo

British Columbia Association of Mathematics Teachers

Welcome to the March edition of Problems to Ponder! This month’s problems have been curated by Michael Pruner, president of the British Columbia Association of Mathematics Teachers (BCAMT). The tasks are released on a weekly basis through the BCAMT listserv, and are also shared via Twitter (@BCAMT) and on the BCAMT website. This post features only a subset of the problems shared by Michael last month – head to the BCAMT website for the full set!

Have an interesting solution? Send it to thevariable@smts.ca for publication in a future issue of The Variable, our monthly periodical.

I am calling these problems ‘competency tasks’ because they seem to fit quite nicely with the curricular competencies in the British Columbia revised curriculum. They are non-content based, so that all students should be able to get started and investigate by drawing pictures, making guesses, or asking questions. When possible, extensions are provided so that you can keep your students in flow during the activity. Although they may not fit under a specific topic for your course, the richness of the mathematics comes out when students explain their thinking or show creativity in their solution strategies. Continue reading

Intersections (March edition): Upcoming professional development opportunities

In this monthly column, you’ll find information about upcoming math education-related workshops, conferences, and other events. Some events fill up fast, so don’t delay signing up!

For more information about a particular event or to register, follow the link provided below the description. If you know about an event that should be on our list, please contact us at ilona@smts.ca.

Jump to:
Within Saskatchewan
Beyond Saskatchewan

Online workshops

Within Saskatchewan

Workshops

Using Tasks in Middle Years Mathematics
March 13, Saskatoon, SK
Presented by the Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit

Using tasks in a middle years mathematics classroom can provide rich opportunities for differentiated learning and authentic assessment.

How do we choose tasks that meet both curricular outcomes and student needs? Tasks allow students to enter mathematics where they are at and extend their learning. In this workshop we will look at a variety of resources for finding good middle years tasks. We will also reflect and discuss what planning and teaching moves can assist in maximizing student learning through mathematics tasks. Continue reading