Fellows Lounge Posts

Fellows’ Lounge: Conference Proposals

The Desmos fellows have been brainstorming possible sessions for upcoming state and national conferences. This past week we considered the following questions to help us get ready to write our proposals:

What is your big idea for the session? If that idea is aspirin, then what is the teacher’s headache? Under what circumstances, would your big idea offer teachers a feeling of relief from pain or a feeling of power over a problem they experience frequently?

Here are some of our ideas:

  • Jade White is working on a proposal for a session focused on activity building. Participants in this session might ask, “How do I design an activity to meet the goal of my lesson? Which Activity Builder tools do I use (sketch, draw, answer, etc) and when? How do I conclude the lesson?” To help with these challenges Jade hopes to focus on a design process to help teachers develop their ideas and move from the big lesson idea to the individual screens of the activity.
  • Jenn Vadnais is proposing a session on using Desmos to develop double number lines and visuals for representing the proportionality of percents. This session’s aim is to build coherence around related topics that are taught in grades 6-7, and to support conceptual understanding of percents.

Students can use color and labels to demonstrate understanding of percents.

  • Paul Jorgen’s session idea is around the headache many of us encounter when a group of students are all in varying spots in a task. He states, “We will see mistakes in their work. We might wonder if they arrived by many trials and if those repeated trials have led to learning. What moves do we make? Where are the opportunities the formative assessment? What role do we take facilitating the task?” The aspirin for this session is around pedagogy of digital activities and helpful teacher moves.
  • In her role as an instructional coach, Allison Krasnow noticed that teachers can feel torn between spending time at their computer looking at student work and circulating the classroom to help struggling students, including English Language Learners. Allison has been using Desmos activities along with word banks, sentence frames and screen shots of student work as warm ups to support all students developing academic language and deepening their ability to communicate mathematically.

Student work from the Pool Border Problem.

  • Dave Sabol is leading a couple of multi-day Activity Builder sessions this summer with a focus on how to use Desmos activities to improve student engagement. He sees the headache as a lack of student engagement, with the aspiring being the ability to leverage the dashboard with an understanding of the Activity Building Code to meet students where they are and bring them into the class discussion and lesson.

One way to engage students is to start with informal ways of thinking.

  • Anna Scholl’s session idea is on demonstrating activities that create conversation naturally and how to use the teacher pacing tools to facilitate classroom conversation.
  • Linda Saeta’s session idea is about how to develop in students a habit of using math to become informed voters.

Look for these and other Desmos sessions at a conference near you!

Fellows’ Lounge for November 29

We asked the Desmos fellows to reflect on how their practice has changed after participating in the Desmos Fellowship and attending our weekend retreat at Desmos headquarters in San Francisco, California. Here are some of their reflections.

Content Knowledge

There are many ways that you can increase your mathematical content knowledge, from taking courses to attending workshops to joining your local math teacher circle. In the Desmos fellowship, we increase our content knowledge both by using Desmos as a tool to solve math problems and by rebuilding graphs from other Desmos users. The Desmos Potluck activities have been a great way to both share what we are learning and to give others ideas to try on their own. Last week Patty Stephens recreated a ferris wheel shared originally by Jenn Vadnais. Glenn Waddell added on to what Patty built, also teaching Jenn something new about representing math in Desmos.

Activity Design and Student Experience

During the fellows weekend and in the weekly prompts we spend a lot of time talking about best practices for designing Desmos activities, as well as how to structure the student experience to maximize conversation and learning.

  • Julie Reulbach and her colleagues have started using a brainstorming process before building activities which involves using Post-Its to map out your goals and main interactions. Many thanks to Desmos designer Jenny Wales for sharing this process with us during the fellows weekend.
  • Patty Stephens values the different approaches and ways of thinking around building activities. Meg Craig appreciates that even though we have very different backgrounds, we are able to come together to help each other improve activities. Having a space to ask for feedback and reflect has been instrumental in improving our use of Desmos Activities and making powerful learning experiences for students.
  • Allison Krasnow has used her learning to begin redesigning each of her past activities to be more open-ended at the beginning and include challenges at the end.
  • Dave Sabol reminds us that activity builder is just a platform, and that the medium doesn’t make and teach the lessons, the teachers do. This is a helpful reminder that as we improve our design skills, it’s important to plan for class conversations and the student experience as well.

Collaboration and Continuous Growth

As mentioned above, collaboration is valued in our community. We accomplish more by sharing ideas and receiving feedback. No community can function successfully though if it’s not a safe place. We’ve been working hard to build a safe community from the start. Many of the fellows attribute their growth and willingness to participate in the community to the fact that it feels like a safe place.

  • Stephanie Blair shares that Desmos Fellows program has helped her be a more effective teacher of mathematics by having a safe place to ask questions to learn and grow.
  • Kendra Lockman and Tony Riehl appreciated the time spent together at the fellows weekend. Tony says “Getting to know the team and other fellows personally makes a huge difference in developing trust and the willingness to share ideas.”
  • Nolan Doyle saw that one of the biggest benefits to the Desmos weekend was building a culture and connections with others that can’t happen through the the online community. During the weekend Nolan and others talked about the benefits of going outside your comfort zone and being vulnerable in meeting new people and staying open to new perspectives.
  • Scott Miller appreciates that our community of learners has a passion for trying new things and self-improvement. The Fellows program has given him a space to ask and explore questions such as “what if…”, “yes, and…”, “have you tried…”, “I am having trouble with…”, “my students loved…”, “is it possible…” and have the forward thinking stance of “not yet”.

Whether or not you’re a member of our fellowship, we hope you have a community that helps you grow in similar ways. If you’d like to become a fellow, keep an eye on our Twitter feed for application details.

Fellows’ Lounge for November 21

Though the Fellows’ Lounge took a break from its weekly prompt this past week, there was no shortage of activity. The fellows carried on with the usual routine of collaboration and discussion around a variety of topics. Read on for a glimpse of what we do on a weekly basis in the Fellows’ Lounge.

We share graphs and activities, ask for feedback, and collaborate around design and interaction.

We improve our graphing skills.

We plan, lead, and reflect on Desmos and non-Desmos professional learning experiences.

  • Adam Poetzel led a webinar for the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
  • Glenn Waddell and Allison Krasnow led PD for preservice teachers, and Suzanne von Oy got ready for her first presentation in a math methods class.
  • Some of us are getting ready to apply to speak at conferences, including the NCTM regional conferences for 2017.
  • Jenn Vadnais works as a math coach in her district, and regularly shares strategies she is using for helping students learn with Desmos. This week she worked with a teacher whose students were solving equations in pairs. One student solved the equation on a desk using a whiteboard marker and the other checked the partner’s work in Desmos. Students switched roles for each equation, fostering good discussions.
  • In addition to sharing several interesting graphs, Nolan Doyle delivered a workshop in his school district.

We are involved with and share ideas around our school math clubs.

  • This week Paul Jorgens shared a graph that one of his students made that had our entire office in awe.
  • Anna Scholl’s club spent time strategizing how to get the highest score in Point Collector.

We regularly obsess over Marbleslides and related stories from our classes.

  • This week one of Mark Alvaro’s students asked on day 2 of their conics unit whether or not they knew enough to do Marbleslides yet. Not quite, my friend!
  • Dave Sabol caught one of his students on screen 10 of an activity before trying screens 1-9. When asked why the student was on screen 10 the reply was “I just wanted to see if there were any Marbleslides at the end.”
  • Sean Sweeney and Suzanne von Oy set up a brainstorming/storyboarding chat online for anyone interested in discussing how to improve Marbleslides:Lines.

In addition to the Desmos related activities that we collaborate and reflect on, we continually support each other and push each other to grow as teachers so that we can help our students learn. Stay tuned for the next edition of the Fellows’ Lounge to hear reflections from the fellows on how the Desmos Fellows program is helping teachers improve their practice.