Using Kahoot! Challenges and Desmos BREAKOUT to Revisit and Review… and a shout-out to #DesmosInTexas

My Math 8 students took their state STAAR test this past week (SIDE NOTE: This testing season marks lap#5 of my students using the Desmos Test Mode app on iPads as well as a TI graphing calculator while taking the STAAR test… more about that in a plethora of past posts). For a unique test-review twist, this year was my first opportunity to share *ALL* of the Math 8 Kahoots! I created last school year for Math_by_Kahoot with my kiddos en masse.

Using Google Classroom to share with students, I launched an asynchronous “Kahoot! Challenge” link for each and every TEKS-aligned Math 8 Kahoot (SIDE NOTE: These Kahoots! are organized by standard and are available for YOU to also use! Just check out the side bar on the right side of this screen to access Kahoots! for Math 8 and Algebra 1). Next, I compiled all of these links into an announcement post in Google Classroom so that all of my students would have access and the opportunity to play any and all of these Kahoots! on their own time. Additionally, I shared this massive “Kahoot! Fest” of links with my PLC-mates, so their students could play along with my students.

I was pleased to glance through the reports in Kahoot! and see that students, indeed, chose to use the links to play along with one another, outside of our class time together! Unfortunately, since some students did not use their actual names, I’m not sure how many students participated from my classes or my colleagues’ classes. Bummer!

While glancing through the reports, one Kahoot! in particular seemed to draw more traffic than any other. Why do you think 100 students chose to play? 🙂

SPOILER: Mrs. Yenca played this one, and earned a pretty awesome score. Apparently word got out amongst students, and it became a goal to defeat me! One awesome student beat my score, ha!

In other news, Mr. Jay Chow’s Desmos Linear Breakout! was also a FANTASTIC resource to use to help students take one last stroll through linear lane before their STAAR test. What?!? You didn’t know about Desmos Breakout?! RUN, DO NOT WALK.

Additionally, while many of us were helping to facilitate STAAR testing on our own campuses this past week, we prepared written testimonies to help SB 1453 gain traction. So thankful that Oscar Perales was able to attend and deliver a powerful in-person testimony to help advocate for ALL student mathematicians across Texas! Stay tuned by keeping up with the hashtag #DesmosInTexas.

Want to learn more about Desmos and Testing across the nation? —>

Posted in Algebra 1 | 3 Comments

Using Apple Classroom for “Stand & Talks”

Sara VanDerWerf claims that “Stand & Talks” are “the best thing she ever did to get students talking to one another” and I believe her. For this 2018-19 school year, I’ve implemented “Stand & Talks” intentionally (though, moving forward, I hope to use them even MORE often) and there are SO MANY benefits.

For my middle schoolers, giving them the opportunity to TALK and MOVE early in the lesson provides social, kinesthetic, and math benefits for the rest of the class period. It gives them opportunities to make math observations judgment-free, and to talk to students with whom they might not otherwise interact. We’re moving, talking math, and building community… and it only takes a few minutes! Mere minutes that many of us teachers might use to TELL students things we want them to notice… rather than giving THEM the chance to do so first. This is not “one more thing” to do in our classrooms for which we “don’t have time”… it’s likely a time swap… trading in a LESS EFFECTIVE strategy for a MORE EFFECTIVE one… at least, this is how I see it with my own students! 🙂

Sara provides this AMAZING blog post, detailing her methods and teacher-script for implementing a “Stand & Talk” in her own classroom. Before reading on here, I suggest you check out her post first.

In recent months, I’ve used Apple Classroom to share “Stand & Talk” visuals with my students on their iPads. First, I ask students to ensure that their bluetooth and wifi are ready to go. In the Apple Classroom app on my teacher iPad, I open my current class of students to confirm that most of them have their iPads on and ready to receive a visual from me. I can see icons of students’ faces on my own iPad screen and toggle to see tiny live previews of their individual iPad screens… otherwise their faces show with the label “offline”.

Ahead of time, I’ve prepared a visual to share with students. Sometimes I create the visual myself using Apple’s Keynote. Other times, I use a visual I’ve found online from a fellow #MTBoS-er. I have this visual saved as an image on my teacher iPad camera roll.

Apple Classroom during a Kahoot! Wish I had an image during a “Stand & Talk”! Stay tuned? 🙂

I announce that I have something to share with every student! I select the image from my camera roll. Since I’ve already selected the class of students in Apple Classroom beforehand, the “share square” option for the selected image at hand gives me the option to AirDrop the image to the entire class of students in front of me with one touch of the screen! In a quick moment, I’ve AirDropped the image to my students… like magic! By the way, this process never loses its novelty on middle schoolers! And… even if not EVERY student is ready with a functioning iPad when I AirDrop the image, a “Stand & Talk” still works great. A student who did NOT receive the image from me naturally pairs up with a student who DID receive the image… and that student shares the image with her/his partner so they have it too.

Proceed with Sara’s process here… with iPads in hand, students stand up, walk across the room, partner up, and notice and discuss *insert a big number here* things about the image that’s just been shared. {Bonus – when the “Stand & Talk” is over, students still have access to the image because it’s saved on their OWN camera rolls, thanks to AirDrop within Apple Classroom.} I walk around, listen in, and work VERY HARD to NOT TALK… JUST LISTEN. Once students have noticed and discussed *big number of* things about the image, they start returning to their own seats, which, in my classroom, equates to 8 groups of 3-or-4 students each. Mind you… students have NOT been talking with the people they normally sit with… they moved around and talked with people NOT in their groups.

So… next phase! Now that students are seated back with their groups, I ask them to share their favorite noticings from the “Stand & Talk” with one another. With iPads in hand, students continue to talk and point and share… and I continue to NOT talk and to LISTEN and walk around, likely making all sorts of faces as I try NOT to chime in, ha! 🙂 I ask each group to choose a spokesperson or two to get ready to share out ONE THING they noticed about the visual. Students decide within their own groups about the ONE THING they want to share, and who’s going to share it. We come together as a class, I stand in the middle of all the groups as they WILDLY volunteer to share out first (so no one steals what they want to say before they get to say it… smooth move… I know…) and I point to each group, signaling each spokesperson to share. Sometimes we take ONE lap around the room… ONE sharing from each of EIGHT groups of students… and sometimes I surprise them and take TWO laps… or THREE… Some visuals spark more discussion than others… and sometimes, what ONE group shares helps another group notice something new that THEY want to share.

It really is a beautiful process!!!

By the time we, quote, “actually start the lesson”… we’re likely a good way into it, thanks to everything the STUDENTS have noticed and shared ahead of time.

Here are two examples of “Stand & Talk” images I shared this past week with my Math 8 students. This one was shared at the start of class on review day for a unit on 2D transformations in the coordinate plane. I created the slide in Apple’s Keynote and exported it as an image to my iPad camera roll:

Surprise noticing: One student said that Image B was a reflection of Image A over the line y = x because he remembered the extension presented in this Desmos Activity earlier in the unit. MIC DROP!!!! What do you think YOUR students might notice about the coordinates shared here?

Here’s another image I found at that I used at the very beginning of a scatterplots & data analysis unit, prior to any instruction whatsoever.

The vocabulary I heard was impressive! I heard words like “outlier” and “scatterplot” being used before I said ANYTHING. Students realized that Columns A and B did not match as presented, and swiftly opened this AirDropped image in their own drawing apps of choice, drawing lines to match correct descriptions from Column A to their corresponding scatterplots in Column B as they chatted together. During the share-out phase, students not only CORRECTLY matched the graphs, but ALSO entertained the idea of what the graphs might mean if the descriptions beside each graph DID represent the graph. So silly and fun!

Next, students completed this Desmos Activity... and I waited for THEM to ask more questions about vocabulary after their unsuccessful attempts to sort the cards within their groups on Screen 1. After a brief direct instruction, at students’ request, they were back to sorting cards! As green stacks appeared and student “experts” helped peers obtain green stacks too, we continued with the Desmos Activity to apply what we’d learned about correlation/association, and causation. Later, students had the opportunity to further apply their new-found vocabulary through this Desmos Polygraph Activity.

I have found that using a “Stand & Talk” before a Desmos Activity can be highly effective! “Primes the pump” before diving in! Here’s an example where creating a Keynote slide to “Stand & Talk” about helped students make connections between representations just before sorting cards in a Desmos Card Sort.

Looking ahead to your plans this week, where/when/how might you swap a component of a lesson where *you* had planned to do the telling… for a “Stand & Talk” instead?  

What visual will you use? 

 How will you share this visual with your students?

Posted in Algebra 1 | 2 Comments

#MathResourceRoundup – Pythagorean Theorem

I thought it would be fun (and useful!) to choose upcoming math topics and share resources we love to use with students as we explore these topics. I don’t use everything I find or create every year, but it’s nice to have options at arm’s length when I’m planning and while I’m teaching. Consider this a compilation rather than a comprehensive or cohesive plan. As a matter of fact, I’d love to hear how you use these, or other resources!

A glance at what my Numbers Doc might look like on any given week. I’m always adding to it as folks create and share relevant resources!

{An aside… I like to keep track of such resources using an Apple Numbers document. So many folks share on Twitter using #iteachmath and #MTBoS, and much of what’s shared may not be immediately relevant for my students, but WILL be relevant eventually. It’s been a lifesaver to add these as they come my way to my own Numbers document so I remember them when I’m planning. I literally copy and paste the links to the resources on the specific day(s) I might use them in the future, so they’re ready to consider as I plan each unit/week/day.

Here’s a blank template of the Numbers document.  Each document serves as a place to plan a 9-week quarter. Each week in the quarter has its own tab at the top, and since I teach two courses, each course has its own row of cells for the week at hand. If I didn’t have this template, I’d probably forget about 80% of the goodies you and I have already created! Using this template has helped streamline lesson planning!}

Today’s #MathResourceRoundup Math 8 topic is the Pythagorean Theorem!

STAND & TALK – Squares and triangles visual

I created this using Apple’s Keynote, and I love using Apple Classroom to airdrop the image to every student’s iPad so they can “Stand & Talk” about the things they notice. Just used this today!

  • VIDEO – Visual representation of the Pythagorean Theorem (Kyle Pearce)
  • VIDEO – Visual Pythagorean Theorem demonstration using water
  • VIDEO – Millionaire game show Pythagorean faux pas
  • VIDEO – Wizard of Oz Pythagorean faux pas
  • DESMOS ACTIVITY – Pythagorean Practice (Andrew Stadel)
  • DESMOS ACTIVITY – Pythagorean Triples and Similar Triangles (Michele Torres)
  • DESMOS ACTIVITY – Distance (Andrew Stadel)
  • KAHOOT! – Pythagorean Triples (Cathy Yenca)
  • KAHOOT! – Pythagorean Problem Solving (Cathy Yenca)
  • KAHOOT! – Distance Between Two Points (Cathy Yenca)
  • SOCRATIVEDistance in the Coordinate Plane – import with code SOC-32315155 (Cathy Yenca)
  • iBOOK – Learn Pythagorean Theorem Through Exploration (Kyle Pearce)
  • MATH TASK – Pythagorean Theorem Pile-Up (Michelle Rinehart)

Are there Pythagorean Theorem resources you use every year that I might have missed?

Add your favorites to the comments!

Have a great idea about how you’d use a resource in a unique way?

Share your tips here!

And… I’m curious… how do you keep track of lesson plans and resources?

Posted in Algebra 1 | 5 Comments

Break the Chains and Get More Mobile!

We all do *things* in our classrooms that are simply *normal* to us as teachers… it’s what we do every day… effective routines and strategies that we do because that’s what we do. Some of these seemingly *normal* things, when shared with others, provide amazing a-ha moments that make each of us better at what we do!  So, here’s one of those shares that has become part of my students’ classroom *normal*.

My PD A-Ha Throwback:

Having had the opportunity to attend various conferences and trainings, I first experienced today’s tip as a participant.  My colleagues and I attended a Nearpod training, and we’d completed a task where all of our “Draw It” work was anonymized on a big screen at the front of the room from the trainer’s laptop computer… but the trainer ALSO held an iPad in his hand.  While we examined what the trainer wanted us to see on the screen, anonymized and strategically chosen for our viewing, the trainer repeatedly referenced his own iPad held in his hands, giving individuals in the room specific verbal praise and feedback.

Wait.  We can see anonymous class feedback and work on the big screen from his laptop… but he’s also logged in to the SAME session, seeing what we’re doing on his iPad, as the teacher?  In TWO PLACES simultaneously?!? 

The trainer was completely FREE to roam around the room.  The big screen maintained its place at the arbitrary front of that room, but the trainer, iPad in hand, could walk around, provide feedback, check in with individuals as the need arose, and even advance to the next task within the Nearpod activity… all from his iPad.

In that moment, I was like… DUDE.  

Why haven’t I been doing this for my students?

This run-an-activity-from-two-devices-simultaneously tip works for Desmos Activity Builder too!  Being able to showcase (or not) student thinking on the big screen from my laptop, while pausing, advancing to the next screen, viewing student thinking in real-time on my own iPad… it’s gloriously liberating to be MOBILE and be able to visit with specific students or student groups to INTERVENE and provide specific verbal FEEDBACK to the work students are doing RIGHT NOW. 

One advantage to Nearpod in this realm is that students can be anonymous on the big screen, yet the teacher can choose to view students’ names on her own iPad… in Desmos, if student names are anonymized, they are anonymous on the teacher’s laptop AND the teacher’s mobile tablet.  

Do you feel like you’re *stuck* at the from of the classroom during a Nearpod or Desmos Activity?

Do you have access to two teacher devices?  

If so, give this a try!  

Break the chains, get more mobile, and see timely student thinking that you might have been missing before!   

Don’t have a second device or a tablet?  Not always ideal, depending on the size of your phone… but rather than use a tablet, give your phone a try as your second mobile device!

Posted in Algebra 1 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Surprisingly Motivating, Impromptu, x-Words Challenge.

At the start of a lesson yesterday, I showed this image from to students and asked them to Stand & Talk about it.  After returning to their seats (they’re seated in groups comprised of 3-4 students), student groups shared a few noticings (there are two groups of shapes here… there are triangles and weird shapes… the triangles look proportional… the weird shapes look weird… I don’t think those shapes in Group 2 are proportional).

Next, I asked students to write a “two-minute paper”, silently and individually, answering the prompt below.

After the two minutes had passed, I encouraged students to share what they wrote within their groups.  Next, rather than asking, “Group 1, share about what you wrote and talked about,” I did something else.

On the fly, I asked, “Can anyone share what it means for two polygons to be similar, but only use FIVE WORDS?”


This tiny modification in my questioning raised the student engagement level in the room by approximately 427%.  No seriously, their eyes lit up!  You could see their eyeballs looking up at the ceiling, and they began tilting their heads the way little puppies do.

Hands shot up!  They shared concisely and excitedly!

“Same shape, maybe different size!”

“What about in only FOUR words?  Or THREE?  TWO words, anyone?”

I don’t think anyone was sitting on seats at this point.  Everybody had something to say!

Then, it happened.  That moment that makes teachers belly-laugh with tear-filled eyes.

One young lady exclaimed, “What about HALF a word?  PRO – PO!!?!”

Yes, friends, an abbreviation for “proportional” was just invented.  My student wrote her new 1/2  word on my copy of the notes at the front of the class, placed it in quotes, autographed my paper to copyright her creation, and sat down, proudly.

All middle-school-silliness aside, isn’t this a cool strategy for engagement, concise use of vocabulary, and fun?  If you use “The x-Words Challenge”, I’d love to hear how it goes with your students!


Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Leave a comment

Yes We Did! No He Didn’t.

Yes We Did!

Recently, we had the pleasure of a classroom visit from Jenny Wales!  My students were honored to have a Desmos Expert stop by and see us in action.  Students found creative ways to “put the point on the line” and quickly discovered that considering the slope of each line would help them with the process.

One big A-HA?  That the universe doesn’t owe us points on a line that are equally spaced.  For example, in a follow-up activity on paper, students encountered this problem. This table of values –> had many students arguing about whether the relationship was linear at all.  They’d calculated the “constant rate of change” for several years without necessarily deeply considering proportionality.  I love when big ideas show up in math arguments!

Another idea that surfaced from our slope-y day I shared in the following tweet.  It was so encouraging to hear from other teachers that we should embrace methods students prefer to use and understand.

An aside… did you notice that Jenny and I posed for a photo in front of last year’s students’ Desmos Pet House projects, preserved on custom art canvases for all to enjoy?!?  It looks like some other 7th graders are really rocking this project too!

Yes We Did!

At #LearnFestATX this past June, my math pal Nadine and I shared about using Desmos Activity Builder to create Card Sorts in every content area.  It was an honor to have yet another Desmos Expert, Jay Chow, mention us in his recent blog post!  By the way, I can’t overstate the awesomeness of Jay’s Desmos Breakout activities!  Go work ’em yourself with your student-hat on, then launch them for your own students! *Update* Check out my awesome colleague using Desmos in her History classes!

Yes We Did!

My Twitter pal Steph Reilly and I had an impromptu-and-virtual-Desmos-Collaboration this past Saturday morning.  The power of sharing, tweaking, and creating resources together across time and space never ceases to amaze me.  Check out Steph’s awesome creation to help students understand WHEN and WHY we “flip” the inequality sign.

No He Didn’t.

If you missed it, read this thread.  You might experience laughter (from the comments) and also be moved to tears (from this ridiculous #pseudocontext).

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fluency, Concepts, and the Order of Things

I’m back in the groove with a fantastic new-to-me crew of learners, spending short snippets of time on Twitter… and neglecting to blog!  It’s time to hammer down several threads that resonated with me and recent experiences with my own students in this mash-up post.


Knowing Order of Operations would be part of my own review with students, and likely a topic in many mathy classrooms, I shared “Twin Puzzles”.


I also shared another strategy to address Order of Operations – combining the famous Four Fours with Nearpod to capture and share students’ favorite equations that they believed no other student had come up with in our class.


Then, I caught this problem (both the math problem and the problem with the way a teacher seemingly used this math problem as a gotcha, causing students to second-guess their own math ability, making for a rocky start…)


And… this plea that there is no excuse to mention Aunt Sally… please!


Additionally, Dan Meyer’s recent blog post and thread on Twitter seems to speak to all of our Order of Operations discussions.


Whether you call it PEMDAS, GEMS, Order of Operations, or something else, the Order-of-Things procedure becomes extremely mushy to students… even though the “rules” don’t change, the problems do.

What have students looked like in my class who possess procedural fluency but lack conceptual understanding?

Students perceive these problems as being “wrong” because “multiplication comes before division” and “addition comes before subtraction”.


Students stop dead in their tracks at this problem, wrestling with their knowledge of number properties, and whether to distribute the 4, or subtract 5 – 7 first.


Students ask, “How do I know whether I should distribute first or follow the correct order of operations?” for a numerical expression like this, without realizing that BOTH methods lead to the same, correct answer, OR, that distributing first might lighten the load.

(Note: I created this activity with this premise in mind – that students don’t generally realize the result will be the same either way, or how to decide when distributing might be more efficient, and when Order of Operations might be more efficient.)


Students insist on doing the “grouping symbols” first in a problem like this, even though the parentheses only contain a single value.

Is it our use of mnemonics like PEMDAS or GEMS that have contributed to students’ confusion?  Is the solution to add context to these “naked problems”?  Do MORE problems, so that more exposure to lots of problems helps bring clarity?  I appreciated these questions on Twitter as well… as teachers sometimes we know what we SHOULDN’T do, but we’re not sure what TO do, especially when students have similar misunderstandings year… after year… after year.

And a final thought: Every misconception and question students ask that reveals some level of procedural understanding without conceptual understanding is a learning opportunity. What THEY do next and what WE do next matters too!  There’s no formula for how to handle these “teachable moments” with our own students.  However, fostering a classroom culture that values questioning, mistakes, and exploring multiple methods flexibly and respectfully is a great start.

Speaking of great starts, I hope your year is off to one!

And, if you want to explore many, many, many perspectives on fluency versus conceptual understanding, you’re in for a ton of food-for-thought here.

UPDATE:  And… folks are still discussing…!


Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Leave a comment

Too Mathy, Too Techy.

Every time I attend a conference, I have a mini identity crisis.

When I attend math conferences, I thrive on the content and pedagogy shared.  It’s amazing.  My brain is filled with strategies and tasks that inspire and equip me to be better.  However, sometimes I feel “too techy” because I can’t help but run low-or-no-tech strategies presented through my own experiential tech filter to think of ways I might implement the tasks/strategies differently in a 1:1 iPad environment.

When I attend ed-tech conferences, I’m inspired by the capabilities of new tools, or ways to use familiar tools more effectively.  While we all can agree that there are ed-tech tools out there that are complete junk, many also have huge potential.  However, some tools with amazing potential leave me scratching my head… how could I use this in a math classroom?  Or even… I wouldn’t use this in a math classroom… too contrived… doesn’t apply to *my* content area.  I feel “too mathy“.

True Confessions:  Probably over a year ago, maybe more, pals on Twitter requested that I share about how I use Apple’s powerful tool, Keynote (cue the angelic voices from on high) to create math visuals.  Folks wanted to know, how do you make this stuff, Yenca?  I was invited to share on Global Math about Keynote creations for math… and I ducked out!  I felt like my sharing would disappoint people… that Global Math wasn’t the right place to share about this… that my sharing would be “too techy” for an environment that was “too mathy” to value what I’d planned to showcase.

Given that I’m still perseverating about this (ha) I’ve wanted to find a platform to share what I didn’t share on Global Math that day.  And… here it is!

I’ve just published a brief, FREE-for-the-taking eBook entitled, Using Keynote To Explore Math Relationships Visually.  It’s designed to be a quick, practical read for teachers, with the hope of extending math-visual-creating to our students too.  I address *WHY* math visuals are important, and *HOW* to use some nifty features in Apple’s Keynote to create and even animate math visuals.  I include examples for inspiration, and shout-outs to those who have created and/or implemented the use of math visuals, including Jo Boaler, Annie Fetter, Kyle Pearce, and Sara Vanderwerf.  Finally, I challenge you, yes you, to CREATE and SHARE math visuals that promote student discourse and conceptual understanding.  I suggest using the hashtags #KeynoteForMath and #EveryoneCanCreate to tag your goodies on Twitter so others can find and use them too.

Grab the book here!  I’ve also added it to the sidebar here on my blog (scroll down to see it) –> so it’s easy for folks to find.  Because, you see, it’s okay to be purposefully mathy and techy. 🙂  Thanks for letting me share about something I’m passionate about, AND I enjoy creating, and stay tuned for more by checking out the aforementioned hashtags.

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | 2 Comments

The Mind-Blowing Power of a Global Community of Educators: #ADE2018

Fun Fact: That’s the Capital of Texas Highway, which takes you right to my house!

Every time I try to sit down and compose a blog post about last week’s Apple Distinguished Educator Global Institute… I can’t.

It’s not that I don’t want to!  I *literally* can’t type the words.  Even with every letter in the alphabet and every word in the dictionary, anything I attempt to share here will fall short.

How can I convey here the feeling I had when I walked into the first general session, realizing that nearly 400 educators with hearts like mine from nearly 40 countries were gathered there?  When I saw the back of the ballroom, and all of the telephone-booth-like contraptions all lined up, filled with global translators so that *every* educator could be a part of the conversations happening in that room, I was literally overcome with a wave of emotions.  Humility.  Anticipation.  Excitement.  Pride to be a part of such a unique community.

Through workshops facilitated by ADEs and Apple staff, we learned so much from the best of the best at Apple.  So many powerful feature updates with huge potential for creativity!

We collaborated in teams, brainstorming and offering feedback on our passion projects.  Familiar faces reunited, and new friends made in an instant that, without this opportunity, may never have crossed paths.  The focus – creativity.  A search on Twitter using the #EveryoneCanCreate hashtag won’t leave you disappointed.

A few of many, many highlights for me include:

Stephanie Thompson’s 3-Minute Showcase: Using ‘Equity Maps’ to empower students with relevant, accessible, and meaningful data.  You don’t want to miss this one – talk about “seeking students who hide” taken to a new level!  INSPIRING!

Working with “Homeroom 56” to brainstorm, share ideas, and begin working on our creativity projects. What a fantastic bunch – instant friends!  Here’s our ice-breaker video, exploring creativity in light of having access to so many tools and features.  Rather than get overwhelmed, we decided, to get started, it’s important sometimes to simply #ChooseOne.  The advice to “simplify, simplify, simplify” liberated us this week.

Activities in ADE Central, including “Expert Labs” where we could learn and receive feedback in a smaller-group setting about all sorts of Apple tools.  Light-hearted competitions like “Battle Mania” where folks dueled on the stage to share the most interesting tips and tricks brought many a-ha’s and a lot of laughs!

Rooming with my colleague and pal, Lisa Johnson!  Though we work in the same district right here in Austin, we’re at different campuses serving different roles, so having the chance to chat and debrief was a great opportunity.  She also compiled an amazing blog post of resources and ADE events that you should check out!

The Lobby Piano Concert Crew.  With a focus on creativity, and a piano in a cozy corner of one lobby area, singers and musicians alike couldn’t resist a good sing-a-long.  You’re looking at a group of us that stayed up singing 3- and 4-part harmonies until 3:00AM… for perhaps 5 consecutive hours?!?!  I think it’s safe to say that none of us teaches music as our profession, yet a common interest had us all sacrificing sleep for the opportunity to share our creativity through music – real piano, real voices, but technology close by to provide lyrics and chords.  What a blast!  I’ve added a few songs I forgot that I love to my HomePod favorites playlist, thanks to this bunch… and so many others who aren’t pictured here, who opted to sing for a time… and ALSO get some sleep! 😉

My favorite part of all?  The continued conversations and collaborations that keep happening even though our time together in Austin is over.  Brainstorming on Twitter, sharing ideas, taking action on things we said we’d do, offering and receiving feedback, and continuing to build professional friendships is what makes this a community, versus several days of excitement.  The Institute is AMAZING… but the global after-party is what really keeps us all moving and shaking.

Thank you for allowing me to be me.  A tweet by Jennifer Gonzalez was so timely this week.  She shared a post from several years back with an epic title:

I can completely relate to that blog post!  It’s powerful to be in a place personally and professionally that I take pride and joy in embracing the title of ‘dork’.  When my pal Michael Mills shared this photo he’d taken of me, rather than want to hide under a rock, I celebrated my positively dorky self, and all of those whom I’ve befriended who would also wear the dork title as a badge of honor.  Be joyful.  Have passion.  Trying too hard to be cool is just plain boring.

I mentioned that ADEs were charged with a project, so here’s a sneak peek at the work I’m doing. I’m working on an opportunity to share through an eBook about my love for math visuals, Apple’s powerful “presentation tool” Keynote, and combining the two as a creative outlet that’s supported by brain research… be on the lookout for the final draft!  Fun fact: I used the new Drawing feature in Keynote to trace over a video of my own eyes, creating an animation that’s truly personal!  Another note: I placed quotes around the words “presentation tool” when describing Keynote because I find that most other “Keynote Dorks” use Keynote for everything! Sometimes “presentation creation” is the last thing we do with this most versatile tool (though it’s GREAT for presentations… but it’s also GREAT for so many other things… visualizing math conceptually being one of those things!)

So, reading this back, it falls short of describing the whole experience, but I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be.  So many conversations, big and small.  So many ideas and friendships.  And thanks to all sorts of social media, our conversations never stop – we’re just getting started!  Maybe you’re curious about becoming an Apple Distinguished Educator and you’ll apply next year?  In the meantime, you and I can enjoy the continued sharing by searching through the hashtags below.

#AppleEDUchat, #ADE2018#EveryoneCanCreate

Sincerest thanks to everyone who played a role in planning and executing this Institute!  Your hard work and intentional planning were apparent in every experience!

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Summer 2018 Plans & Goals

Since today’s the Summer Solstice, I hope you’re officially enjoying your break.  I won’t rub it in that our students’ last day of school annually is prior to Memorial Day.  Whether you’re just getting used to that alarm clock NOT going off, and eating and peeing whenever you’d like, sans bells, or if you’re just learning how to NOT wake up at regular school time, surely you’re thinking about the 2018-19 school year.  What you want to do the same because it went AWESOMELY well in 17-18… and what you’d like to change… and professional conferences… books to read… and oh ya, VACATION.

Here’s my summer, in 7 chunks.

(1) Conferences

Yes, we dressed alike. On purpose.

Our school district hosted iPadpalooza for six years, and has re-framed it (in beta this year) as LearnFest ATX. Rather than our usual global crowd of 1000, we had a smaller, mostly local crew of 300 this year.  The name of the “Learning Festival” shows the shift away from a device toward a focus on learning.  I had the pleasure of presenting a session with our high school math department chair, Nadine Herbst, featuring Desmos Card Sorts as a way to promote collaboration and communication.  You can find our resources here, which were inspired and created by many of YOU! Thanks, as always, for sharing awesome activities!

I’m looking forward to the Apple Distinguished Educator Global Institute next month.  This year, rather than welcome a new class, alumni from (literally) all over the globe get together for a week of unmatched PD and collaboration.  Can’t beat the location this year… they could have chosen any city in the world… and they chose…. AUSTIN! 🙂

(2) What I’m Reading

I’ve had this Mathematical Argumentation book in shrink wrap for TOO long, so it’s on my list.  I read Denis Sheeran’s latest book, Hacking Mathematics, in two sittings.  It will be great to reference next year!  Our math departments at the middle school level are doing a summer book study on Taking Action, using Google Classroom to respond to questions and one another.  I’m loving it!  And, I’m reading Ready Player One with my sonny boy as our own little book study at home.  We each have our own bookmark, and debrief regularly.  Saw the movie first.  Kind of glad about that, as I don’t think book-first-movie-second is commutative in this case.

(3) What I’m Wrapping My Brain Around

Those who DON’T TEACH often seem to think that our so-called “summers off” are our greatest perk.  I disagree.  The fact that we have the chance to start NEW and FRESH every year is the BEST PART!  We can try new things, fail at new things, and succeed at new things.  We have a clean break right now to make any change or adjustment to our practice that we want to!

I was reminded about “lagging homework” in Hacking Mathematics and took to Twitter.  Conversations and ideas abound in this thread!  I’m trying to figure out a “transition plan” for myself and my students.  Not sure how this might look yet.

Desmos Computation Layer, you are amazing.  I had every intention of sitting down and learning you by brute force, but that’s not working out.  I think I will watch and re-watch these kind webinars by CL Guru Mr. Chow.  For me, the key is creating a need within an activity FOR the CL, and I need to understand more about the capabilities before I create something and give it a go.  BABY steps.

The amazing Sara Vanderwerf shared this blessing of a post, and I’m on a mission to more intentionally include Stand & Talks in my classroom in 2018-19.  Here’s how I’ve started planning!

 (4) Closing My Rings

You know, teaching is a physical sport!  In the summer, when that sport comes to an abrupt end, I have to be intentional about staying active and fit.  Last September 18, it clicked for me that I should be “closing my rings” on my Apple Watch every day.  So, that’s what I’ve done (with the exception of that bout of the pesky flu when I commissioned my son to wear my watch and run laps for me, as I had a high fever and literally couldn’t peel myself from the couch).  It’s important to take care of our bodies AND our brains.

(5) Travel

All the blue pins on my mini-map show where I’ll be traveling this summer.  I’m happy to report that some pins are for “work” but most are for “pleasure”, vacationing and visiting family and friends.  I’m looking forward to riding some roller coasters (my summer OBSESSION) and soaking up some Gulf Coast rays.

(6) Crafty/Mathy Projects

I am a maker.  During the school year, most of my “making” involves designing math lessons and resources.  In the summer, my maker skills usually involve crafts, paint, and weird experiments.  Take my most recent project.  I’ve been tossing empty make-up compacts into a box under my bathroom vanity for… probably 3 years?  I took the time to count my collection (I’ve had an up-cycling art plan all along) and was surprised at how many I’d saved!

Went to the craft store to find something to attach all of these mini-mirrors to, and found a wooden square I liked.  Spray painted it, loved it.  Had NO IDEA it would end up being a 5-by-5 square… I was just trying to create a new art piece for my classroom.  Then it hit me… PYTHAGORAS!!!!  Phase 3 of this project is currently on hold until I use up a bit more face powder.  I’m all outta empty compacts.

(7) Oh Boy

My biggest goal each summer is to maintain my status (see images at the start of this post).  It’s a BLESSING to be able to have the same schedule as sonny boy.  The 2018-19 school year will be his last year of attending the middle school where I teach, so I need to soak up this time THAT I WILL NEVER GET BACK.  P.S. He’s turning 13 next month, and the fact that my son will be a TEENAGER is a bit surreal.  So proud to be his mom.  AND, I’ll be celebrating 19 years of marital bliss, blessings, and occasionally a healthy-level of bickering with the one and only Mr. Yenca.


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