Friday, December 27, 2013

Piles of Tiles

I was at my parents' house for Christmas and came across this game (older than me) in a closet full of board games. Made by The Cootie Company back in the 70's, I give you Op Tile.

There's a lot going on here; game boards, tiles, dice, cards, bell-bottoms, shag carpeting. Instead of typing up the directions, amuse yourself with these:

The tiles look like plastic jello. 

The cards offer some opportunities for strategy throughout the game.

There are many things I like about this game, even though I have never played it. I like the spatial reasoning component, the challenge of placing tiles depending on what you roll with the dice (and the order in which you have to place them), and the demand for strategy that the cards present. I didn't like reading through all the directions to discover all the nuances. Some parts of the game are not intuitive. However, I really like what is intuitive: placing the tiles on your game board in the best way possible to cover the most area (square units) of the game board earning the most amount of points.

I brought the box home to create some adaptations for my students. Here's phase 1: Piles of Tiles. Having recently blogged about weekly POPS, Piles of Tiles will become an additional option for the first P (Patterns/Puzzles) in POPS. In phase 1, I'd like my students to play around with the Piles of Tiles puzzle like this:

I'll pass out this sheet (maybe two) to students and have them cut out all of the figures. They can keep their cut-outs in a plastic sandwich bag.

The student game board will look like this. 

Students can use their cut-outs to fill the 12x12 board with the specific tiles, found in the table at the bottom of the page. Once they have their solution, they can outline each figure within the game board and specify which section refers to figure A, B, C, and so on. They can use colored pencil or crayons to keep each similar figure the same color. For you detailed people, I made the grid so it prints each square unit as 1 cm by 1 cm. Therefore, you get a total of 144 square centimeters. AWESOME!

Students can stay organized and also submit the following to me:

All the Piles of Tiles goods (blank templates) can be found in my weekly POPS folder.

My goals (right now) are to get students to:

  • manipulate shapes through rotations and translations
  • build their spatial reasoning
  • recognize there are multiple solutions
  • organize their data
  • have a better understanding of area

I'm open to suggestions or feedback, so please let me know.

Since we're on the topic of puzzles, ThinkFun has some great puzzles (as I've mentioned before). Go over to their site and check out these Big Games group activities to use with students. Many of the activities are puzzles you might have seen on paper somewhere, but they rewrote them as group activities to foster collaboration, spatial reasoning, and problem-solving amongst students.

Piles of Tiles,

Saturday, December 21, 2013

J.T.A. my F.I.L.

Today I experienced a bittersweet-simultaneous-challenging-weakening-strengthening perspective on the following:

  • There are some really amazing, big-hearted, significantly good-for-humanity people that come into your life (and the lives of others): make the most of the time you have with them.
  • There can be a blurry (sometimes blinding) difference between how remarkable somebody was, and if given more time, what could have been. Don't let the latter blur the significance of the former.
  • Life is more enjoyable celebrating it.

R.I.P.  J.T.A

Sunday, December 15, 2013

CMC North 2013

Here's a recap of my CMC North experience from last weekend. 

Fawn Nguyen and I flew up to Monterey Bay, checked in, and found the Fishwife restaurant for lunch. It was within walking distance of the conference grounds. Thank goodness because it was a little chilly outside. We enjoyed lunch so much we made a trip back there for the 4-6 p.m. Happy Hour so we could fine-tune our Saturday presentation. We checked in with the CMC people, and if you ever make it up to Pacific Grove for the conference, don't forget the badge they mail you. It'll cost you $5 if you forget it, right Fawn?

Later that night, we attended the opening keynote by Dr. David Dockterman where he discussed the importance of a growth mindset.  Afterward, it was great to see and meet up with Fawn, Dan Meyer, Avery Pickford, and Breedeen Murray for some pizza. Good times. Good company.

Session 1:
The first session I attended was titled Using Formative Assessment to Create Equitable Practices by Karen Mayfield-Ingram. We diagnosed some student work and left with the following reminders:
1) Make a concerted effort to give students detailed feedback on any assessment.
2) Try and ask students questions that will encourage them to analyze their work better.

Session 2:
I showed up early at Larry Armstrong's session titled Flip Instruction to Transform Learning. I'm interested to know more about the flipped classroom. Not because I'm sold on the idea, but because my district is getting iPads the second semester and I have a feeling we will be encouraged to implement some type of flipped classroom model. Who knows? Again, I'm not sold on the idea, but I want more information just in case. Well, it's 5 minutes before the start of the session and the front of the room is empty: no computer plugged into the projector, no one is setting up, no Larry Armstrong. Nothing!
A CMC helper comes to the front to inform us Armstrong won't be presenting and we have time to catch another session if we want. I saw Brad Fulton come in at the back of the room and I got up to ask him if he'd present, but he said he was only coming to drop his stuff off for presenting at the following session. I turned to the CMC helper and offered to present my Number Sense session I gave at CMC South. She took me up on my offer and we had ourselves an impromptu Number Sense session. It was fun! For the forty to fifty attendees that stuck around, we had a blast doing estimation challenges and talking number sense for about 50 minutes. I will blog more about my presentation over the next few weeks. Stay tuned! I was honored when Rebecca Lewis, the Program Chair, gave me this token of appreciation for stepping in at this session. This proudly sits on my desk.

Session 3:
Shelly Lawson gave a great hands-on session titled Modeling Lessons Can Work for All Students - Yes, Even Yours.  I was excited about this one because it was geared toward 7th grade curriculum. You know you're in for a good session when you see a bag full of PVC pipes, a stopwatch, a meter stick, a steel ball, and some string. There were 5 different length PVC pipes, and four connecters; two right angles and two at about 135 degrees.

We had to construct a pipe so that the ball, when dropped, would make its way through the pipe at the fastest rate possible. Here's our contraption. It was the fastest because of my teammate's design. Great job Bob!

Shelly also introduced us to the Incredible Egg, Float That Boat, and the Penny Lab. All of these activities allow students to make measurements, mistakes, and formulate conclusions based on observations and data collected. I left with a packet full of hands-on activities that I can incorporate into my curriculum. The structure of the packet gives students pretty detailed steps and instructions. Personally, I will probably revise the activities to leave them a little more open-ended and less structured. Overall, some great activities. Email Shelly for a copy. See the link attached to her name above. By this time, I think I ran into Dittmer about 50 times. Really cool guy!

Session 4:
Fawn and I presented Hotel Snap to the CMC attendees. Fawn is awesome! Tell you something you don't know, right? Okay, chances are good you've already read her blog post on Hotel Snap. If not, go now and read it here. Fawn did an amazing job coming up with this task. You might be surprised, but I have nothing but great things to say about Fawn. Her task is challenging and can be used at numerous grade levels. CHECK IT OUT!
Photo by Dan Meyer
Thanks to Brian and Dan for helping us with the calculations. Thanks John for helping us clean up!

Session 5:
My man, Max Ray, presented Becoming Better Reasoners: Supporting Students to Develop as Problem-Solvers. I was excited since this was my first time seeing Max present.  See how calm he is in this picture?

I love how Max is so patient and allows his students (us CMC attendees) to formulate noticings, wonderings, and other thoughts as we worked through some Math Forum tasks. I enjoyed this last session of the conference because we worked in groups to problem-solve a task, we analyzed student work, and Max charged us with asking students questions that would help them further their problem-solving approach by becoming better reasoners. Well done Max!

Saturday night:
Ignite talks!!! I could write a whole other blog post on these. I was honored and privileged to present with the following mathletes!

The Math Forum organized, hosted, and took over the Ignite talks this year. Thanks Suzanne for all you did! Watch them in January or February 2014 when they post the 10 videos online. It was a lot of work preparing my 5 minute talk, but was great fun! Fawn stole the night! The energy and inspiration from these talks was a great way to cap Saturday night!

Dan Meyer gave the first keynote of the morning titled Fake-World Math. Dan is the man! His presentation was fantastic. I don't want to post any spoilers here, but he talked about the importance of modeling and how CCSS defines modeling. If I could summarize some important points, here's what I want to reflect on for future reference.
Although important to the math classroom at certain times, the following is NOT modeling:

  1. I do, we do, you do
  2. Using concrete manipulatives
  3. Graphs, equations, functions
Furthermore, Dan stressed that the real world is not always greater than a math problem. Vice versa, a math problem is not always greater than a real world situation. He emphasized that strong modeling starts with a simple question and allows students to identify variables, formulate the necessary model to organize and solve the task, and to validate conclusions a la something along the lines of a 3-Act task. He reminded everyone that modeling tasks are out there: Dan, Robert, and here. My summary can't do justice to his presentation, content delivery, and charisma. If you get a chance to see Dan live, DO IT!
*For the record, my initial estimate for Dan's Super Stairs task was over by fifty seconds. Bam!

Dr. Timothy Kanold gave the second keynote titled The Art of Teaching Mathematics: Inspiring Students to Learn. CMC North 2013 ended with Bill Withers' Lean on Me.

Before Fawn and I flew back to Los Angeles, we had brunch with some great math amigos (pictured below).
Left to Right: Stadel, Nguyen, Meyer, Murray, Pickford.
We also said hi to some fish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Thanks Dan, Avery, and Breedeen for driving us around too!