WARNING: Finding Dory Spoilers in this post...but why haven't you seen it yet anyway???

As I was watching Finding Dory, next to some of my favorite summer school students buddies whom I randomly ran into at the theater, I was suddenly inspired.  I'm not sure exactly what line triggered it for me, but I immediately began making connections to Carol Dweck's Mindset and to many of my students.  Once I started I could not stop.

Marlin: Poor Marlin is the epitome of fixed mindset.  He actively avoids opportunity for growth and does his best to keep his loved ones to follow suit.  New adventures are simply an opportunity to fail. Now, this does not mean that Marlin is bad.  He is doing what he does out of love and a lack of confidence, but if he never leaves the safety of the reef, he will never realize that he is capable of crossing the entire ocean...and more.

Nemo: Nemo is about as growth minded as you can get.  He is ready to take chances and grow from every experience.  He knows that he will make mistakes and need help, but he is willing to take those chances to grow. WWDD? (What would Dory do?)

Jenny & Charlie (Dory's parents): What great parents!  I can only imagine how terrifying it would be for them.  However, they did not give up.  They adjusted their parenting tactics to find out what would help Dory learn the best.  They provided her with visual and musical queues to trigger her memory and provide the needed support to allow her to grow.  These two are great inspiration for educators and administrators.

Dory: Just keep swimming! ....enough said

I honestly could go on and on talking about Hank the octopus and Bailey the beluga and their fixed mindsets, as well as Destiny the whale shark who keeps trying no matter how many times she runs into that stinkin' wall.  I will leave you with this thought.  If we live in a mindset fearing our own failure as well as our students, how are we supposed to reach for the stars? (Sorry...I could not help one more Disney reference.)

This week I attended a two day workshop with Robert Kaplinsky. I. LOVED. IT. Luckily for you, I am a sharer...meaning you will be reading a lot about what I took away from the workshop over the course of multiple posts.

Speaking of professional development, how many times have you been in a workshop, PD session at your district, or even a faculty meeting within your own school and you were too scared to share your thoughts?  This fear sets in when we are asked to share our opinions with others.  It's a panic. What if we say something that others do not agree with, or worse, is actually wrong? Eeek!

"If I say nothing, nothing bad will happen to me." -Kaplinsky

Many of our students feel like this...a lot of the time.  What a catastrophic blow to mathematic discussion and productive struggle! Thankfully I spent some time with a talented group of teachers discussing how to handle it. The goal is for students to think freely and move forward without depending on the direction of other students or adults; intellectual autonomy.

  • Community: In a classroom where students feel safe from judgement and ridicule, they will share more freely and will be able to learn from mistakes rather than shutting down.  Set the standard for mutual respect.  Tell everyone up front that nothing short of respectful behaviors will be tolerated, so everyone feels comfortable sharing in class

  • Respect mistakes yourself: Model for your students how to respectfully address mistakes and misunderstandings.  I tell my students that I learn (currently, not in the past tense) the most from the mistakes I make and that I want them to learn a lot!  We not only respect mistakes, but we embrace them and learn from each other.

  • Value the process: Too often we focus all of our attention on the answer.  Is it right? Is it wrong?  What did you get? We take for granted that if a student finds or is told the correct solution, that they are learning. Focus your questions on their thinking and their problem solving process rather than only asking students for their answer.

  • Encourage talking: Students should be talking more than teachers.  The only way for students to gain intellectual autonomy and feel comfortable sharing ideas is by providing the time and space for that to happen.  I promise, this time will be the best investment in your students' learning you will make!  It is well worth having to extend the lesson for another day to take that time for peer to peer, small group, and whole group discussion. 

For too long math instruction has been almost exclusively direct instruction.  Students haven't been encouraged to share ideas that are different from their textbook or their teacher's.  These subtle changes are the first steps to growing mathematical problem solvers. We would LOVE to hear any other ideas you have in the comments below.  Don't be afraid.  This is a safe place to share.

Umm...isn't this a math blog?  Yes, but I am a woman of many passions, including technology integration.  I put together this presentation for a tech workshop this summer and thought I would share them here as well.  If you have any questions or additional ideas to add to this presentation, please comment below!  I love hearing all of the ways people are integrating technology into their educational settings.

Click here for the slides > Tech for Young Learners

By the way, after looking at the slides you may be wondering....yes, I am a Pokemon trainer/hunter.  Gotta catch 'em all!
They say that the first step is admitting you have a problem.  Hi, my name is Lori, and I have a dollar store problem.  I cannot get out of one without spending at least $40. I've decided to start looking at my not-so-cheap shopping trips as an investment in my classroom and my blog posts.  So to those of you reading this, thanks for feeding my addiction!

On a recent binge, I found these adorable Disney die cuts at my local Dollar Tree.

I had no idea of what exactly I would use them for, but I am obsessed with Disney, Mickey specifically, so I HAD to have them...all of them.  I bought every package of the Mickey ones in the store.  (Did I mention I have a problem?)

I thought it would be fun to write the names of U.S. cities on the back of the Cars die cuts.  I was going to have my students use Google Maps to determine how far away the city is from us, how long it would take to travel there, and how much it would cost to get there.  I also thought that having a high school volunteer write the city names would be a good idea.  I was wrong.  Of course, I only bought ONE package of these die cuts, so I am hoping to get back to buy a new set before another crazy teacher gets there and swoops them up.

However, my Mickey ones turned out much better. I mean, how cute are these? I decided to use these as talking points.  I chose topics that I consistently find students need to review, re-work, and reveal to others.  By asking students to talk about these topics, I left the activity open ended and really flexible.  I can require as much or as little detail as I want, depending on the student, the time of year, or grade level.

These cards are great as a warm-up activity.  One student could be in charge of reading it to the class or students could form groups to collaboratively come up with some talking points.

We all know that every minute counts in our day.  During one of those weird transition times where you only have a few minutes, grab one of these cards for a quick spiral.

I am sure that there are a hundred more ways to use these cute cards...and I have a couple more packages to use up.  Please share your ideas in the comments below!

Typically my students walk in to my classroom feeling discouraged and frustrated with math. Many of them even tell me that they hate math.  The first year, this really intimidated me.  Now, it fuels me.  I have made it my personal goal to help students find their love of math. Here are a few tips that make a huge impact on their feelings about math.

1. Be Excited: Now I realize that not all teachers love math the way I do.  For you, I recommend you spend a little extra time immersing yourself in math.  Don't go crazy. Chose one or two skills a semester to focus on.  Ask math specialists, Title I teachers, or your friends who enjoy math, what they do while teaching that skill that works and engages students.  This will take away some of the fear for you and you'll be more likely to take a few risks.  For those of you who already have a love of math, are you still teaching math the way your teachers did?  If you love math, sing it to the mountain tops! Tell everyone you meet!  Teach like you love it.  Do you see teachers who love teaching science reading out of a textbook everyday?  No!  They are leading experiments.  They are encouraging students to not only ask quality questions, but to answer them themselves.  Students work together in groups, try things out, and discuss what did and did not work. Their passion shows in their teaching. Honestly reflect on your math teaching.  Does your passion show?  How can you grow?

2. Be Real: I know you've heard it before; Including real world content into lessons engage students.  Well....there is a good reason you keep hearing that.  It's true!  I pride myself on having a real world connection to every skill I teach my students.  Box and whisker plot graphing nearly broke me, but I figured it out through my love of baseball. This is not only good for student engagement, but it is also really fantastic way to support problem solving in a less intimidating way.  Asking a student to divide 1 1/2 by 7 is not the most exciting thing to do.  However, if you ask them to divide 1 1/2 bags of candy among 7 people, things just got real.  Kick that up a notch by giving a group of 7 people a bag and a half of candy to divide and you are going to impact their entire view of fractions! (And probably yours) Start the day with a math challenge related to something you heard on the radio or saw on tv.  Pose problems about the sports playoffs going on at the time, the price of the hottest concert tickets, or amount of memory on the coolest tech gadget.  Questions do not have to be anything formal or complicated.  Just ask how much you would have to save each week,  what the chances are of a certain team winning, or how many days are left until a big event.  Simple yet highly impactful.  Very little teacher prep that leads to tons of opportunity to spiral skills and improve academic math vocabulary.

3. Be Compassionate: Stop for a moment and remember a time when one of your classmates (co-workers, teacher, boss....) was very vocal about how EASY they felt the lesson was.  Can you hear their tone of voice?  Can you feel your skin crawl?  Can you feel any confidence you had left disappear?  That is exactly how our students feel when they hear others announce that the skill that they do not understand is coming easily to others.  On a side note, too often those announcing how easy it is actually have no idea what they are talking about either, but that is a whole other post. It is vital when creating a supportive math community that all students, gifted, strugglers, and everyone between, feel like what they have to say is important and valued by everyone.  Most of the students and teachers who walk into my life hating math simply need to build their confidence.  Choose your words carefully and do not allow students to feel bullied or demeaned in any way.  Celebrate mistakes as an opportunity to learn, embrace students' questions because they trust you enough to ask, and encourage students to explain the mathematical choices.

I believe that we all have the potential to grow as mathematicians.  We are only limited by the belief we have in ourselves and that others have in us.

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