The head of my department came to our meeting yesterday with an entire box full of math books to share with us. I was so excited! Like I was genuinely happy that she was bringing me books about math to read over my summer break. My colleagues even snapped this picture of me with Jo Boaler's What's Math Got to Do with It? because they know I am totally obsessed with Jo.

Reading these books affects me. Sometimes they make me question what I believe to be true. Sometimes they take me outside of the bubble that I live in and provide perspective. Sometimes they validate what I already believe to be true. No matter what, I feel like I am hearing from someone who is passionate about math which is inspiring in itself.

I'm not going to lie. Usually the books that I enjoy the most are the ones that include beliefs that are similar to my own. It is like eating a whole back of Cheetos and not gaining a pound. It makes me feel supported and like I am not alone in the math battles I face daily. I refer back to Mathematical Mindsets, Principles to Actions, and Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had like old friends.

However, the books the I need to read and probably learn the most from are the books that do not follow my current beliefs and books that are written about environments I have not worked in. I am looking forward to reading Christopher Edmin's For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and Jose Vilson's This is Not a Test. I do not expect to feel like I understand their experiences. I expect to grow.

I have an entire stack of math related books that I would love to read this summer. My challenge to myself is to read one or two non-math books this summer. What are you reading over the next couple of months? Any recommendations?

The first and last weeks of my school year are what I dread most. I love my job and appreciate the need for tons of paperwork and data. However, being in a school full of children and not teaching makes me nutty. I get crabby. I am short tempered. I even mope.

I've spent the last week reviewing and organizing data, creating reports, and filling files. Well...that is what I am supposed to be doing. What I am actually doing is spending an hour on paperwork then sneaking out to watch softball games or stopping by classrooms to chat with my students. I even invited three third grade boys to come hang out in my room this afternoon. It was the best part of my day.

My co-workers are so supportive.  They never blink an eye when I pop in their rooms and they share their students with me without question. These moments remind me why the paperwork is important. I used to try to tough it out and keep my nose in the reports, but I need those moments. I need to be reminded that the reports are about people; the kids that I love. I think next fall I will even schedule myself time to spend in classrooms to keep myself focused.

Tomorrow is another day of reports and meetings. It is also awards day for the kids. I wonder which I will spend more time on.

I don't think I need to explain to any teacher that the last couple of weeks of the school year are nothing short of overwhelming. It was hitting me especially hard today. And then the emails started coming.

We recently missed four days of school due to catastrophic flooding. The Missouri Department of Education took pity on us and decided that we do not have to make up the days. Yay! Except that we still have a bunch of state testing to get through in 5 days. I've already done hours of make-up testing, but still manage to feel like a jerk for not doing more.

A parent of one of my students is part of our killer PTO. Her email was a panicked plea for help finishing a video for a contest they've been hosting. She wants to put it together before the week is over. I am the jerk that does not have time to help.

There weren't enough helpers for field day today. I didn't help...jerk. Oh! Did I mention I forgot to bring in a potluck dish for our retiring cook? Jerk, jerk, jerk.

A former student came by asking for help prepping for her geometry final. I stopped what I was doing, helped her out, and made a plan to work with her again tomorrow.

I did a good thing. So why do I still feel like such a jerk for not helping put out all of the other fires? Why are we so hard on ourselves? It could be my bleeding heart. It could be my need to support my peers. Maybe it is just my ego telling me that I can fix everythying. Whatever the source of this jerky feeling, I know that it something I need to work on.

I just need to make the time to fix my own problems...but that is a whole other post.

This week I began packing my classroom materials up so they can be moved to another room over the summer. I've been inspired to cleanse my shelves of materials that I don't use or weren't very useful in the first place.

It is taking me forever! I keep feeling guilty for getting rid of  materials that I've barely used. I feel like I need to find it a good home or justify why I do not want it. I feel even worse about throwing away materials that I do not think any teachers should be using.

So why is it that this year I finally feel ready to get rid of this stuff? The flip side of the guilt is pride. I am proud of the growth I've made as a mathematics educator. I used to feel like my best lessons had to include an elaborate activity that I created with plastic Easter eggs, jumping frogs, or fancy magnetic drawing boards. Now I'd rather have a pile of two-sided counters, a ten frame and some great conversation. Don't get me wrong, I love bells and whistles, themes, and a little over the top drama in my classroom. I just do not think I need it like I once did. I am enough.

I just finished my weekly math therapy session on Twitter via #ElemMathChat. Every Thursday evening I am drawn to this group of people-strangers who live all over the continent, who understand me in a way that my co-workers do not. Every week we talk, debate, challenge, and support each other. I leave feeling full and inspired.

Tonight a challenge was thrown down. Get up or shut up! It's time for me to quit talking about wanting to blog and actually do it. Daily blogging until the end of the school year. Who else is in? Join our challenge. Join our PLC.

I am pretty sure this lesson has changed how I will teach counting money for the rest of my career. Ready for the secret? I did not tell my students what to do.

Backstory- My dad, Tim was trying to use a battery powered coin sorter/counter to count his coin stash. It was a train wreck. I begged asked him to let me take the coins to school to have my students count them instead. He happily agreed.

Honestly, I just figured that the students would get a kick out of counting real coins. Plus, they love anything that is related to my life outside of school. "Tim's Coin Collection" was a huge hit! Win #1. They loved asking about my dad and touching real coins.

I always give them a couple of minutes to explore our math tools before we use them, so they spent some time talking about what they look like, feel like, and sound like as they hit the floor. Some interesting estimates of total value ranging from $2 to a million were thrown out.

They told me that a dime is worth 10 cents and a dollar is worth 100 cents. This also lead to several money puns that I will spare you from.

Win #2 I challenged them to figure out how many dimes it takes to make one dollar. Without prompting they used their ten frame and each put one dime in each space. Then they counted by tens to 100.

I am never one to just sit on my laurels, so I took it to the next level. How many dimes does it take to make $5?

Win #3 Problem solving in real-life math worksheet required! The hardest part about this portion of the lesson was keeping my mouth shut. All I did was remind them to use what they discovered making one dollar out of dimes to help them make five dollars.

What I saw was amazing. It was right out of a book! On their own, they chose strategies that made sense to them to organize and sort the coins, notice patterns, and problem solve.

Array 10 rows of five
Put one dime in each space five times
Stacks of ten dimes

Put one dime in each space then made a stack
They had never seen coin rolls

Win #4 They all were able to justify their reasoning. ALL WITHIN 25 MINUTES!

Used ten frames to count sets of fives then added the rest
Win #5 The following day, they remembered what they discovered the previous day AND were able to apply it. They made several sets of $5 and put them in paper coin rolls. There was more discussion about Tim's great collection and what they he might do with the money.

Most of them even challenged themselves to use a different strategy to make $5. Win #6

Tomorrow? We will see what they discover about nickels.
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