CMC North 2014 Recap: The Sessions, Part 2

Part 1 of this session recap is available here.

Session 5

Video Games and Making Math More Like Things Students Like
(Dan Meyer • Saturday, 11:00-12:00 pm)

If you’ve never seen Dan Meyer present, you’re missing out. Great content, great delivery. His slides are polished, there’s always something worth pondering, and the audience usually ends up in stitches once or twice. This session was no different.

I sat next to a woman who was a little skeptical at the beginning. Based on the title, I think she expected to hear about math-based video games (i.e., a thin veneer of video game painted on top of drill-and-kill practice). This was my first time seeing Dan give this particular talk, but after reading a few related posts from his blog I was anticipating another message, and suggested as much. Turns out my suspicions were correct, and my neighbor (and I) thoroughly enjoyed the session.

The major takeaways from the session:

Six Lessons from Video Games
  1. Video games get to the point.
  2. The real world is overrated.
  3. Video games have an open middle.
  4. The middle grows more challenging and interesting.
  5. Instruction is visual, embedded in practice, and only as needed.
  6. Video games lower the cost of failure.

I’m struggling a bit with how to incorporate all of these ideas into my classroom. But one that I think will make an immediate and positive impact is #3, “video games have an open middle.” As it turns out, this phrase from Dan’s talk is what inspired Robert Kaplinsky and Nanette Johnson to create Whether you take problems directly from the website, or simply draw inspiration from what you find there, I highly recommend checking it out.

A few more tweets from the session:

Session 6

Desmos: Infinite Graphing Power on Every Device. For Free.
(Me! • Saturday, 1:30-3:00 pm)

Selected resources from my session are available here:

A reflection on my session (less a recap, and more a few thoughts on how to get better) is coming soon.

[UPDATE: My session reflection post is here.]

Session 7

Implementing Real World Problem-Based Math Lessons
(Robert Kaplinsky • Saturday, 3:30-5:00 pm)

I planned my session attendance this year entirely based on presenter names. I missed Andrew Stadel, Dan Meyer, and Robert Kaplinsky at CMC South in October, so I made sure to put them at the top of my list for CMC North. The one problem—unique to Asilomar, possibly—that such an approach brings, is that the physical distance between sessions might make on-time arrival difficult. For Dan’s session, that turned out not to be a big deal. He was in Merrill Hall, the biggest room at the event, and there were (thankfully) unlocked, unguarded closets full of chairs on each side of the hall, seemingly designed for latecomers like me to select a chair and find some open ground. (Surprisingly enough, front left had room for one more chair.)

My session ended at 3 pm, about 2 miles away from Robert’s session. A short walk, a bus ride, a light jog in the wrong direction (I really should learn to read a map), and a more intense jog in the right direction, led me to a packed-out room designed for 30 or 40. I was the 55th person to walk through the doors, and I found the last few square inches of unoccupied carpet halfway beneath the water table on the side. (Oh, and I had signed up to be the “presider” for Robert’s session, so I was supposed to introduce him. “Er, sorry Robert. Can you introduce yourself? I’m having trouble breathing right now.”)

Okay, traveling nonsense aside, Robert’s session was excellent.

He led with his 100-by-100 task, and we actually lingered there for quite some time. Despite the significant time dedicated to the problem, we seemed to change gears regularly, swapping our student hats for our teacher hats, and back and forth for a few rounds. (As a teacher trainer and conference speaker, I took a few mental timeouts to note the way Robert led the group of teachers through the session. Aspiring presenters, get thee to a Kaplinsky session! And put Stadel and Meyer on your bucket list, for that matter.)

I remember telling Matt Vaudrey after attending his La Cucina Matematica presentation in Palm Springs (recap) that the highlight for me was the way he showed participants just how far/deep one of his tasks would go. Rather than seeing a rapid-fire “best of” showcase of great tasks, I really enjoyed camping on one context for an extended period of time. I’m sure some teachers would prefer to see a dozen different tasks, but I think I benefit more from delving deep into a smaller set.

All of that “delving deep” and exploring one thing from multiple angles that I enjoyed in Vaudrey and Stevens’ CMC South session was alive and well in Robert’s session here in Asilomar. Seeing him launch the task, lead us through the turn from Act 1 to Act 2, drawing connections to the Common Core practice standards (all eight, if I remember correctly), adding problem based lesson commentary, displaying student work, and responding to some problem-based lesson FAQs along the way… All of those moves—anchored to a single rich task—proved very helpful to me as a teacher who appreciates this style of lesson, but hasn’t seen too many teachers take it from start to finish.

Toward the end, Robert talked for a bit about “The Four C’s.”

I’d suggest his blog post on the subject as required reading. Here’s a teaser:

As a district math coach, my challenge has been successfully demonstrating problem-based learning in academically diverse classes. I am frequently unsure of what to expect as I go into unfamiliar classrooms to work with a variety of students. An interesting problem that achieves wonderful results in one class causes frustration and anxiety in another class that appeared similar on paper. These struggles have led me to come up with four C’s that I believe teachers should focus on to improve their success with problem-based learning: communication, curiosity, critical thinking, and content knowledge.

Session 8

(Lots of cool folks • Saturday, 7:30 pm)

Yes, the Ignite talks were recorded. No, the videos aren’t available. Late spring would be my guess based on last year’s release dates.

Session 9

Erasing Mathematics Failure Through a Growth Mindset and Multi-dimensional Mathematics
(Jo Boaler • Sunday, 9:00-10:15 am)

In Part 1 of my CMC North recap, I mentioned that tweeting during a session forces me to focus, process, and remember what I’m hearing. Then there’s the added side benefit of making a dead simple recap. With that in mind, I’ll let my tweets do the recapping for Jo Boaler’s outstanding session.

You made it past all those tweets? You deserve a cookie! (Unfortunately, I’m fresh out.)

Session 10

Stepping Stones
(Phil Daro • Sunday, 10:45-12:00 pm)

Phil is outstanding, however… I’ve seen him present before, and I hadn’t yet set foot on the beach. I planned to head home as close to 12 noon as I could, so I skipped this last session and wandered down to the water. I’m sure Phil’s talk was characteristically excellent, but I have no regrets.

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