Best Review Day Ever

Today my intern planned a review for my OpenUp classes. (Gosh, that sounds so much better than my Math 8 classes.) I attended our vertical math PLC yesterday and @BethSize shared a review game they do in 6th grade where the kids play connect 4 with post-it-notes, earning them as they solve sets of problems as a group. When my intern had all these review sheets I thought, “what the heck? Let’s do this.” I checked with my next door 8th grade teacher neighbor to see how big the board was supposed to be. She didn’t recall, so we made up our own rules. Three teams of four. A 6×6 grid on a white board. Different post-it-notes for each team. No building from the bottom. Put your mark anywhere on the board. Teams solve a sheet of OpenUp problems harvested from problem sets and elsewhere in the OpenUp resources (goosing some up by adding solve or show or prove directions.) They are checked by me or my intern. If there is an error or two, we say something like, 3 of those are correct. Learners then return to find their own errors. Once all are correct for each member of the team and we ensure all members are on-board doing the learning, the team earns a sticky note. (High tech can be over rated.) A member of the team places the note on the board. We played three groups of 4 per board. We called it Connect 4, but once teams got four, they challenged themselves to get a whole column or simply the most stickies on the board. I teach middle school. We are very flexible.

The conversations and teaching, one learner to another learner, were out of this world!! Now, true confessions, we had two adults in the room so groups got quick attention and directions. That cannot be under emphasized. More adults is better. Period. Done. Who doesn’t get that? Oh, yes. The state of North Carolina.

The second OpenUp class was even better. We had time to reflect and resequence the problem sets for that delicate balance of success, challenge and learning. Intentional sequencing is so important and yields amazing results. Getting good at it is a work-in-progress.

This activity went so well with my OpenUp classes that I tried a variation on this with my Math 2 classes. They too have a Unit Test soon. I created MC problem sets off of SchoolNet and made a packet of questions for each of the 8 groups. Some packets were 12 questions, some were 4 and everything in between. It all depended on where the nice page breaks occurred in the printed versions rather than planned sequencing. This is designed for online, so the printout isn’t pretty. It’s easy to harvest–by–standard though, so vetting time is minimized. Because they got many more problems per packet than my OpenUp classes, I decided to do two groups per tic-tac-toe board rather than Connect 4. It worked. It wasn’t perfect, but for the seven out of the eight groups that worked, it was great. I told teams which if the questions were incorrect so they could go back since there were many more problems and they were all MC. (Easy to check, but still challenging/standard aligned questions.)

Unit 4 Practice Problems my intern compiled are here, though the ideal sequencing is not in the order the problems are presented here. This is Unit 4 of the Open Up 8 grade curriculum.

Everyone in room 209 has been working like crazy since we got back from winter break. Today we had fun showing off our learning.


Group Quiz–Maiden Voyage

I’ll start with the goods…student and collegue comments:

This is great.
I could have never done this alone. (from an uber high level student)
Can we finish with the same people on Monday?
I feel really good about this.
I want to see this with your OpenUp students. This a great. (my principal)
Did you hear what they are saying? They are really talking math! (curriculum facilitator)
Telling them they can kick a kid out of the group if they are not part of the process is gold. (math coach)
Did you come up with this yourself? (sixth grade teachers that came to watch)

So here’s how this came about.

I was in math club this morning and we had a group competition where each team of 4 had two problems and 6 minutes in there rounds. (Modified @mathcounts target round combined with team round) With math club you need the time con-straight because you are preparing for competition. I stole the two questions per sheet idea, the score only one sheet, and the group collaboration. I added…use 1 calculator for the group if you need it, graph paper and patty paper are permitted as are compasses and protractors, sadly, no desmos. Students choose the tools though. Tools are in the room, but students need to get them. They are figuring out what tools they need. That’s a mathematical practice, you know.

I bought a book at a used book store last weekend called something like The Humongous Book of Geometry Problems (I left it at school soI don’t have the exact title.) I was attracted to it because it had problems as well as solutions. Thank you. I modified some problems from there and used some pretty much as given. I also used problems from the quiz bank I was recently turned onto by David Wees. Thank you.

So, each group got a pack with two problems per sheet. Each student had their own sheet plus a colored sheet that had to have the final solution on. Group stapled all work papers to the colored sheet and turned it in as which time they got another pack with two questions. I had a total of three packs for 6 questions. There was notice limit. Here’s a copy of the instructions posted for the class.

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Here’s a pic of the problem packs. I’ll attach the files if you want them. By the way, we are studying transformations.


The students were more engaged than I have seen them all year. I know part of it is that these students are motivated by grades. That got them going since it was a quiz grade, but the learning and the sharing and the teaching one another is the goal. I hate grades, but these students will work for them. This quiz was actually getting them ready for their unit test as they taught and reviewed with one another.


My last class ends at 3:50. This quiz had kids engaged at this level at 3:45 at the end of a week where they had county interim assessments for three days. IMG_2763

Her’s a montage of photos from the two classes.

At my principal’s request I am going to try this with my Math 8 students (they are using Open Up Resources). They are motivated in different ways than the groups I show here. I too am curious at the levels of learning and engagement I will get. I am hopeful.

Here’s the problems if you want them. group quiz transformations

Opening Up about My Affair with Open Up Resources

I feel like a first-year teacher drinking from a fire hose. A couple days before school started, we were offered the opportunity to pilot the Open Up curriculum in our county for mathematics in grades 6 through 8. Because I had taught math 8 with zero resources for the past 12 years, other than what I harvested or created myself, I jumped at the opportunity.

There are many things I love about the Open Up Curriculum.

  • I love that I have to be more organized, focused and deliberate.
  • I love that I learn and see math differently each and every day.
  • I love the warm-up and learning routines and structures.
  • I love trying new things.
  • I love that the materials are already prepared.
  • I love that my kids are challenged and then they still have second chances if they don’t get something the first time around.
  • I love that they finally respect my kids and me enough to develop some real resources.


I cannot get ahead. I barely keep up. Each day I rush to get ready for the next. I prepare a PowerPoint to keep the class and me on topic. I snip screen shots into a PPT and prepare Student Task Sheets using what Open Up provides. Problem is, I frequently have to heavily edit so the information fits nicely onto a printable document. Mastering Textboxes has helped enormously in this area. I am saving all of these edited documents, so hopefully next year will be better. If that holds true, it will be the first year I have ever used what I made the year before. I have always created everything new each year in response to what my kids need.

I know that Open Up is integrated with OneNote and I even spent a couple hours being trained on how to do that. On my own, I cannot for the life of me figure it out though. I have to get ready for the next day. I don’t have time for trial and error where it is mostly error. I want to learn how to do all of that, but I also must be ready for the next day. I cannot sacrifice my kids for my learning curve. I also know there are Google slides for many of the lessons, but I have no idea where those are. I had them in the last unit, but can’t find the link now. There’s just too damn much to keep track of. I have to use what I know I can pull off now. I must survive.


I am working on pacing myself and my class based on the recommended time estimates for each activity. I have a hard time not getting each and every comment and contribution out of students before I move on, but a timer is helping me. I hate leaving a kid unheard, but we need to move.

Many kids are used to waiting you out. They will copy what you do, but they will not venture out on their own. I am now waiting many of them out, but I can’t wait them all out. There just isn’t time. I love mistakes that kids learn from, but too many won’t even try until the bitter end. Working in extra supports and re-teaching is tough. Where? When? With what?

I struggle with formal assessment as well. I hate grades and love learning. Unfortunately, we are required to take a minimum number of grades a quarter. On what? There are only end of unit formal assessments, but that is not enough. There are no quizzes. I collect daily work and cool downs periodically, but are they really formal assessments or are they just part of the learning process? I started the year doing my own quick quizzes, but have gotten away from that. I need to get back to that. Now.

The formal assessments created by Open Up are really great, but they are a bear to evaluate. If we were doing standards based grading, I could see where this type of assessment would be really helpful. We are not though, so making the grey into black and white is a challenge for sure.

 Misconceptions about conceptual understanding:

For years I was told to dig deeper to get students to better understand. Problem was, nobody showed me what that meant. I was left to my own devices. I thought I was doing that when I insisted students understand why certain math algorithms worked. Turns out, I missed the mark. I am finally starting to understand what conceptual understanding means. If somebody was writing about it, I wasn’t reading it. Open Up Resources is actually showing me what it means to have/get/show/teach conceptual understanding of mathematics topics.

What I worry about now, is what my NC Math 2 kids are missing along the lines of conceptual understanding. These are the kids who have done well so far because they have been able to get away with memorizing stacks of mathematical algorithms. My only evidence that I am actually teaching for understanding in Math 2 is that I have a few kids that have historically gotten all As now struggle to get Bs because they do not truly understand what they are doing. I digress. This is about my experience with Math 8, Open Up Resources. I long to crack this conceptual understanding nut though.

I confess, I tell my Math 2 kids everyday how excited I am about what I just learned in Math 8. The ones that truly listen to what I am saying are very curious and want to know more. How I wish I could teach them this Math 8 goodness as well. I know next year I will work much of this into the Math 2 warm-ups. I do a bit know, but not like I wish I could.


I want to share with others, but I am slow. I know I should put all my stuff on Google Slides and share that way, but I haven’t learned all of that yet either. I need help figuring out how to efficiently share my stuff. I am re-creating all this and I am not sharing. That’s not who I am. I need help figuring out how to do that without spending an additional thirty minutes a day. My biggest problem is that I stink at asking for help. I will do anything for anybody, but I am not good at asking for help for myself. I’m getting better, but I still have a long way to go.

Goals: (These are actually wishes because I do not have actionable steps for them—yet.)

  • Create a Desmos activity of each lesson. I experimented with a cool down, but I want more. I think the tasks could be adapted pretty easily in Desmos.
  • Figure out how to use the parent resources created by Open Up. I am not even sure how to show parents that they are available. What I print stinks, so there must be a better way.
  • Figure out how to get students to utilize the reflection piece created by Open Up. That looks pretty deep and by deep I mean valuable.
  • Design a notebook or filing system for students to organize work papers so resources are available for review.
  • Figure out how to work training into my schedule. I teach Math 2 second and last periods. Math 8 is first and third. Trainings are half days. This takes me out of half of each of my classes. We have a dozen cross-teamed kids so adjusting the schedule is not practical.
  • I want to find or develop a group of learning tasks that show kids that their efforts matter even if they don’t get to the end. Too much of math is about the end and we need to start to praise and celebrate the middle because that is where the learning happens. I think this will help that perseverance piece a great deal.


I hope I don’t sound like Debbie Downer. I am really digging this curriculum. I even showed my pharmacist brother-in-law how cool it was over Thanks Giving. He said, “I don’t fully understand, but I can see how it would be exciting for a math teacher.” Now, granted, he is above average intelligence. The point is he appreciated what Open Up is trying to do for kids’ understanding. He also enjoyed how excited I was about it.


Reacting Intentionally

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So, I’m here in Indiana at a family reunion. First of all, I love these people. I only see them at weddings or funerals and there haven’t been many of those. My cousins are quite a bit younger than I and live quite far away so I only know them superficially. Many of these Baumgardners have been or are educators, with the have “beens” far outweighing the “nows” especially by those in attendance. So I’ve been thinking about all of them this morning. I’ve also been thinking about going back to school and being around teachers whom I also love and haven’t seen in a while. My biggest dread being around either group is the one-ups-manship that is played out fairly constantly.

With family, someone asks you what you are up to and you tell her or him or at least you start. Not too far into the conversation the focus shifts off you and onto the person inquiring since she or he has done or seen something far worse or far better. With family, unless it’s a medical condition, they tend to favor the far better. And to be fair, it usually has to do with bragging about offspring rather than her or his self. By contrast, teachers one-ups are almost always downers. This makes talking to teachers rather depressing. So, what’s going on here? Why do teachers do this? Most importantly, what can I do to not be “that” teacher?

Multiple choice question:

I talk with a teacher about a situation that ends up being one-upped I am actually

A) venting so I don’t explode on a kid/parent/administrator/colleague
B) seeking support in the form of advice about how to handle a situation
C) trying to impress them with my mad skills
D) feeling sorry for myself and having a pity party
E) all of the above

Answer for yourself, but I choose E, if I am being totally honest. When I talk to another teacher I just want to talk to someone who speaks my language and understands.

I taught my husband to just listen and maybe get me a drink if I was sharing something particularly painful. Things at school, he cannot fix for me. I don’t want him to fix them. It’s not his world. I just want him to listen and know I had a rough day. I don’t usually want his advice either and if I do, I ask for it. Now, these behaviors, just listening and asking, did not come naturally for either of us. We have to think about what we are doing and “react intentionally.” Sounds like an oxymoron but it’s not.

Imagine if an administrator or counselor or pastor one-upped each thing I shared with them. I’d quit going to these people. Venting would never turn into conversation that would lead to solution or simply a shoulder on which to cry. These people had to learn how to react and so can teachers. Teachers need to be there for one another. So in 8.6 days when I go back to school, I want to be a better colleague. I want to be a supportive listener. I want to help where I can and lead the positive charge by example. I want to react intentionally.

As I go onto the very loud, highly competitive stage of the Baumgardner reunion today, I hope to also react with intension. I pray for inner calm and keen listening for myself. I will make certain the conversation is centered appropriately. I am going to do my very best not to interrupt. That’s just really hard when you have something funny to sprinkle onto the conversation. But I will try.



GOALS #SundayFunday Post

GOALS #SundayFunday

GOAL 1) I really wish I had blogged more and slept less last school year. I need to change that this year. My goal is to blog at least once a month.

GOAL 2) I will to become a better planner. I have my daily class structure ready. Once the dadgum pacing guides come out I will see how they stack up with what I have planned. It’s just two preps and I’ve taught both classes before, but this year is going to be very different in the most awesomest kinds of ways. I’m getting super excited. I am doing a self-study along with my language arts partner and that has already helped me plan and organize.

GOAL 3) I am going to do everything I can NOT to waist time at school as well as at home. Time wasters to keep my eye on are: doing jobs students can do, redoing things that don’t meet my standards but are certainly adequate, going down rabbit holes looking for lessons and tasks, starring into the refrigerator and pantry with no plan.

GOAL 4) I want higher quality resources and I want to come by them more efficiently. I’ve already gotten into some of this with my wade into Exeter. I need to get through their maths 1 & 2 materials since my smarty-pants Math 2 classes are a blend of some of both. I’m going to take my Math 8 kiddos into the Exeter world some as well by way of some of their math 1 problems. They can do it.

GOAL 5) I am going to enjoy time with my husband and myself daily. We will deliberately relax, exercise, talk or just sit there silently doing for at least fifteen minutes each day.

So that’s quite enough. Have a great week party people!


Vulnerability = ZPD for teachers

TMC17 Summary and Reflection

I was surrounded by greatness and for that I am grateful. I didn’t show up at TMC17 with my A game, but I improved as the week progressed. Why is that?

Attitude—After leaving Greensboro late because of a doctor appointment that came with unexpected news topped off with car trouble, I got to Atlanta three and a half hours later than expected. It all worked out rather well as I ran into some very nice MTBoSers in the hall and they invited a first timer and me to join them for dinner. Great restaurant. Great company. Thanks Steve Weimar, Megan Schmidt and Benjamin Walker.

Comfort level—I left TMC16 thinking I would not bother to come to another TMC. I got into writing proposals to present back in January and they were accepted and so I came. I attended the Desmos pre-con this year so that was nice. I read comments that non-amateurs were not very open to new folks at that point of the camp and that is unfortunate. I will say, though, that TMC non-amateurs were super great at speed dating the next day. Perhaps it’s because they were held hostage by a downpour, but regardless, they were there. They were participating and they were welcoming and I think they actually enjoyed meeting new people. That was a real turning point for TMC17. Somebody really needs to schedule rain for TMC18. I wonder who is in charge of that.

This year’s TMC was my 2nd so I had a point of reference. Last year I over-PDed, if that’s possible. This year, I came hungry. I enjoy My Favorites and the Keynote speakers blew me away. If you haven’t done so, please check out their presentations here. I chose good short sessions this year. Then I hit the mother load when I made the right choice for my three-day session. I was excited to meet and learn from the well respected @cheesemonkeySF. Boy, did she deliver. See separate post.


Along with friends, I presented so I also came to TMC17 vulnerable. Little did I know that vulnerability was the theme of TMC17. Last summer’s marching orders were “be intentional”. This year I heard loud and clear to be vulnerable. Take risks. I see vulnerability as a teacher’s Zone of Proximal Development. Learning and progress happen for teachers when they open up and take chances and then reflect and refine.

Have a great, vulnerable school year party people!! May you learn and grow exponentially.


Reflection on TMC17 long session–From Drab to Fab

This is MY reflection and summary of my three day Twitter Math Camp (TMC) session with @cheesemonkeySF, aka, Dr. Elizabeth Statmore. This is my interpretation. I apologize if I misconstrued anything Dr. Statmore put before me. My intent is to honor her and to document my learning at the same time.

Differentiating CCSS Algebra 1 — from drab to fab using Exeter Math 1 & Exploratory Talk

Day 1:
A goal to be met in the first three weeks of school is to build a culture where students exhaust all they know and have available to them before asking for help when problem solving.

In order to get students to own the problem for themselves, make it personal to them. Change the names and places to be relatable to the earners. Put a story behind the problem.

Teach students how to approach a problem. This is the Know—>Notice—>Wonder sequence.

Use readers’ theater as a way to establish procedures and protocol for classroom routines such as Talking Points, Vertical Non-permanent Surfaces, and Number Talks. Elizabeth has done this through a script she has created called deleted scenes.

We actually got to practice this as a class and this helped me understand the purpose as well as the procedure. I had read Elizabeth’s blog on this, but never truly got my head around it. I am now ready to give this a shot. There are at least a couple people in the class that are going to give writing a script a shot. I hope these get posted and shared widely. Each member of a table group (4 students or so) has a copy of the script. (reuse for all classes.) Characters are assigned and the script is read, with each group simultaneously working through the script. Doing this as whole class leaves too many inactive learners. Up engagement and participation at every turn.

Use Talking Points to illicit emotions and access prior knowledge when moving into a new topic. Choose statements that are debatable and students have opinions about. The number 1 rule to adhere to and teach and monitor is: No comment, no emotion, no body language as the talking points are going around the table. As teachers we must model this. By doing so, we honor learner space and inner thinking. I repeat: NO snarky comments. Listen. Be silent and listen. In a circle, Talking Point 1 is read. The only person in the group speaking is the person holding the Talking Stick (or whatever article you choose). The talker states their reaction to the Talking Point and gives justification for their opinion. They then pass the talking stick to the next person who then gives their comment and justification. This continues all the way around the table group. Round two is the same procedure with the same Talking Point only this time the talker keeps or changes their opinion and gives justification. When all have completed the second round, opinions are tallied and the next Talking Point is run through the process. Some groups may get several Talking Points from the list completed and others may only get a couple. That’s ok. Front load the Talking Points so the important points are covered first. Shut it down and channel the emotion into learning the math at this point. I see this as peak interest and passion and then shift to content.

The learning cycle—Wash, rinse, repeat


Day 2: The theme of today was Radical Differentiation and this was addressed through problem organization and people organization.

Organize problems

  • Challenge for all
  • Practice & support—more problems and challenges for speed demons
  • Extensions
  • Make sure the beefy problems are up front so all students get these
  • Challenging learners does not mean stumping them
  • Every learner deserves a win.

Organize people

  • Group speed demons together so they do not rob the other learners
  • Group the “katamari” together. These are the thoughtful, careful, deliberate learners, not strugglers, but rather the learners who know speed is not the end game.
  • Group free-loaders together.
  • If writing as a group, the talkers do not write and the writers do not talk. Trade devices when necessary.

Day 3: The final day, we were all in awe of Elizabeth and just wanted to learn everything we could from her. We asked what a day looked like in her class and she delivered.

She uses a broadcast clock to plan her class period, regardless of the length of the period. (I know I read about this someplace else, but I forget where, but it is genius.) Her clock looks something like this. broadcast clock Details below. Please note, unlike a real broadcast clock, the sectors in my clock are not proportional to the total time. (I simply do not know how to do that in Word.)

  1. Open class with a PowerPoint slide that has students self-managing. Do now, check “Home Enjoyment”, aka, homework, with table mates, identify burning questions with tablemates, and get any handouts or supplies needed for the day. This all takes about 4 minutes. Each class has a theme song that plays for the first minute of the opening slide. This helps learners shift into math class mode.
  2. Burning questions that students have about Home Enjoyment are addressed. Reserve the right to deem a posed question as NOT burning if learners can get there themselves and merely didn’t do so. This segment is as long as it needs to be, and no longer.
  3. Slide changes to a fanfare of sorts to reveal the EQ. Learners rely on the EQ for focus and grounding. Initial notes and direct instruction happen here. This is only 6 minutes. Tighten up. You get another chance at the end.
  4. Productive struggle/guided practice/guided sequential flailing happen at this sector. Have plenty of chosen problems, but front load them so all students get rich materials, not just those who get there first, aka, speed demons. Never give problems you have not done. Intentionally choose the sequence. Stumping learners is not challenging them and vice versa.
  5. If the situation warrants, have a close. Elizabeth does not see this as a nonnegotiable the way some instructors do. I appreciate that, but will try to get my head around when closure is helpful and when it is just a closer for the sake of that checkmark.
  6. Set a timer so you know when you have 7 minutes (or whatever your experience tells you that you need) for final notes and marching orders and a calm ending.


The productive struggle sector could be handled in a variety of ways. One way is to use Speed Dating—one side moves, each student is an expert in one problem, see Kate Nowak blog for details. This could also be Vertical Nonpermanent Surfaces, aka white boards. Alex Overwijk is the expert in this area. This could be the time for Exeter problems thoughtfully and purposefully sequenced for maximum learning.

Phrases—these just stood out to me as brilliant insights made by Elizabeth and paraphrased by me and others in our session.

  • You can’t develop patience quickly. (teachers or learners) Practice and honor the process.
  • Your learning should never be a threat to others. When you share your learning you gain and kids need to experience this. A rising tide floats all boats. Everyone benefits when students share their learning and insights with one another.
  • Speed demons commit cognitive theft. Honor all learners and protect the Katamari from robbery of their learning.
  • We don’t “fix” struggling learners, but rather, we help heal the disconnection from their inner mathematical selves.
  • Guided sequential flailing leads to learning. Problems are sequenced to support learner success.
  • Kids have to be able to get a win. Challenged ≠ Stumped
  • If kids have been robbed of their confidence, lend them yours. (Believe in them and let them know.) Take that burden from them so they may focus on learning.

Management Tips

  • Seat for discourse and production (separate the speed demons, katamari and freeloaders) when appropriate.
  • Honor learning and respect the process for self and others. Talking points procedure can reinforce this culture.
  • Music may be used for unity; transitions; class identification; sharing about yourself.
  • Students can self-start and you need to set the stage for that. Have this structure in place from the start so students own it and can rely on it, even if you are absent.
  • The Tibetan Singing Bowl is a peaceful way to focus students in a calming way. Help students be fully present and you be fully present for them.
  • Listen at every turn. Sequence. Listen. Learn. Breathe.

(Note, this is not intended as my TMC17 archive reflection. This is yet to come.)