Math teachers are amazing.
Exhibit A: Last weekend I spent an hour with a group of math teachers who woke up early on a Saturday morning to hone their craft. We were just steps away from the beach in Monterey, and yet they’re willing—hungry, even—to gather in a room to reflect on their own learning and teaching, even at 8 am. That’s just awesome.
If you weren’t able to join us, here’s a quick snapshot of the session:
- Some of the ways we use technology in the math classroom waste the human potential in the room. Picture computer cubicles. Kiddos wearing headphones. Teachers grading papers while students work in isolation.
- Let’s build something better. Let’s build activities—digital or otherwise—that spark more conversation, more discussion, more human engagement. And let’s build tools to help teachers facilitate those activities more effectively.
- With that in mind, the team at Desmos built a Classroom Conversation Toolset. You can read about it here.
- We’ve also spent considerable time thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of the activities we’ve built over the last year or so, and codified those thoughts into our Activity Building Code. You can read about it here.
Activities + Principles
Here’s a list of the activities we looked at during the session, along with the principles I had in mind for each one:
- Graphs of Lines. Create objects that promote mathematical conversations between teachers and students.
- The Intersection. Create an intellectual need for new mathematical skills.
- Point Collector. Create activities that are easy to start, difficult to finish.
- Function Carnival. Connect representations.
- Marbleslides: Lines. Integrate strategy and practice.
My hope is that these activities serve as exemplars for the principles, and that folks in the session walked away with a sense of how the principles might apply in other situations (whether Desmos or non-Desmos, digital or non-digital). We ended with a brief quiz to encourage folks to wrestle with these principles in new contexts.
Here’s the quiz. Take a look at each task, and let me know in the comments which principle(s) you think each activity exemplifies.
(To check your answers, turn the cereal box upside down. Wait, no. That’s something else. Never mind.)
The original presentation included quite a lot of video (to quickly show off the activities linked above), as well as a presenter (hi there!). So this version of the slide deck (which includes neither) may not be very helpful. But, in case it is, you can download it here.