Friday, August 9, 2013

Random thought about technology

Plain and simple,I am all for using Technology for education's sake, but not using technology for technology's sake.   

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How I try to explain that the basics matter

I often wonder if students still need to learn basic number facts like multiplication tables. I'm told that they do, but I see so many that don't know basic multiplication facts.

Students, parents and even some of those affecting the direction of education seem to think that students don't need to "memorize" math facts.  That's "old school" like when teachers used to hit students with pointers, (remember the wooden sticks with the rubber tips)?

Memorize multiplication tables?  That's simply torture with no rationale or valuable outcome.  You'd think it's Abu Ghraib or something!  After all, we all have access to calculators pretty much all the time.

Pretty soon students probably won't need to write script/cursive.  Oh wait...I think that already happened too.  I guess being able to read script isn't important either.

Anyway, the analogy I use that seems to work for me is comparing knowing number facts to driving.  Could you imagine if every time while you were driving and saw a sign you had to stop, interpret and then proceed?  That analogy works if you assume that students eventually get their number facts correct after thinking about it (even though they often don't).

So I come to a red, eight sided sign that says "stop".  Do I need to think about what to do?  No.  Am I even reading the sign?  Maybe not.

I can drive from here to work and sometimes not remember anything about the whole ride.  My brain helps me drive almost subconsciously.

When a ball rolls across the street, I automatically hit the breaks.  No active interpretation needed.  Ball = STOP!  Street lights, merging into traffic, turning, whatever.

There was a time in my life that I needed to consciously decide what to do and how every moment through the process. 

With mathematical facts, I just know them because I had to learn them.  I think this is what many students are missing and why they stumble through math.  They stop to think about every step in the process of solving mathematical problems.  6 X 7...uhhhhhhh.  Damn! 36? uhhhhhhh.  Ok 42.

Obviously these problems are may differ in different areas, schools, etc.... but when I encounter a struggling student, I usually find that the issue is with basic math.

If the simple processes could be truly mastered and internalized and become part of students thinking process, they would do much better.

I feel that the basic skills mastery is usually the difference between good students and bad ones.

-Multiplication tables
-Working with fractions 
-Operations with integers

These are the root of many of my students' problems.  I usually hold pop boot camps several times throughout the year, and I think I've been able to do some good.

I'd love to know how others feel about this and what if anything they do to combat this problem.

Added 8/9:
Chris Robinson has an interesting blog post about number sense here, check it out.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Parent Roadmaps for CCSS

While looking for some simplified explanations of the CCSS, I stumbled across the Council of the Great City Schools website.

For your convenience and mine, I have also placed links to these docs in the subject/topic specific pages I created here.

This organization has created PDF documents that can be shared with parents to help simplify the CCSS.  Take a are links to the 6th Grade through High School Math docs:


There are also similar documents for the English CCSS.


***The Parent Roadmaps to the Common Core State Standards may be reprinted or posted online for non-commercial purposes without the Council’s prior consent. Please include attribution to the Council of the Great City Schools.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My Favorite: Remind 101 (text students and parents)

One of my "my favorites" at TMC13 was Remind 101 and using it to communicate with my students and their parents. Remind 101 is a free service that allows teachers to set up lists they can send text messages to. The important thing is that users do not know each others' phone numbers. 

  • I set up a class called "TMC13" and invited all participants to join the group.
  • I sent out the instructions via Twitter explaining how to be added to the list.
click to enlarge instructions
  •  The image is generated by the system and is easy to share with students and parents.  Once they follow the instructions, they are added to the list for their class and will receive texts on their phone.
  • To send messages, I used the dashboard to select the correct class "TMC13", type in the message and send.
My dashboard as i looked at TMC13

You can even publish your messages to your website or blog by inserting some HTML code. Go to the "My Widgets" screen to access the code you'll need to insert.

The text you'll need to insert can be seen in this image.  There is even a preview of what it will look like on your site. (I covered my token number which is unique to my account)

Here is a quick sample of how you might use on your own website:

Notice I also added a feed from my class blog into the right column.  These widgets will allow one stop shopping for all of my communications.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like more more info or help setting your up.

Twitter: @aanthonya

Saturday, August 3, 2013


So it's been almost a week since TMC13 ended.  It comes and goes so quickly, but it's impact will stay with me for a long while. While writing this I wanted to mention that although I loved TMC13, it was just missing something for me since and were not there.

Even though my grey hair tells you I've been teaching for a hundred years, the fact is I am only entering year four.  In fact, I was probably one of the oldest people at TMC13, but have less experience than most people there.  My experience is mainly in the non-teaching world.  This experience serves me well in general, but I will always feel that I have a lot to learn.

Even though in my business career I was responsible for tens of millions of dollars and managed dozens of people, there will always be twinge of inadequacy in me when I am in a teaching environment.

Teaching makes me feel younger than I am because of the nature of what it takes to be a teacher and that I am mostly around younger people.  After 15+ years in the stuffy marketing/advertising world, I am more energized for life in general now more than ever.  One of my favorite parts of teaching is that I get to re-boot each year.  In my previous career, any frustrations I had tended to fester and build.  Maybe this is why in that industry people generally turn over and switch companies or roles frequently.

As a teacher, we can work hard in year x, succeed some and fail some, but in x+1 start over with some extra knowledge we didn't have before.  This for me is heaven.  I get to keep trying to fix what I know is wrong.  It's like using a pencil with eraser in your career.

Anyway, one thing that has stayed consistent for me is my tweeps.  My first two tweeps that I tweeted with frequently were  and .  The people that had been helping me survive from a distance are always there for me (and I for them) year after year.  That list has grown in a big way.

Last year when the prospect of a Math Teacher cruise cropped up, I was excited!  To be honest, I felt much better when the cruise idea died and the idea for math camp in St. Louis took priority.  In fact I even remember and others trying to see who was interested

I really felt a connection with those peeps.  To be honest, I don't think I could have made it through my first couple of years without them.  Even if I didn't actually know them or even follow them, there was something about what we shared that swept me up.  Bottom line, that crew , and the rest of TMC12 swept me off my professional feet.

TMC13 was equally awesome personally and professionally although I think the vibe was slightly different.  I suppose there will be growing pains for "la cosine nostra".  I use that term as a joke. I kind of feel like I am part of the Math teacher mafia now, La Cosine Nostra!  Growing up on Staten Island and now living in New Jersey, both homes to "La Cosa Nostra", translated "this thing of ours"....the mafia.

Statistics in the Morning
Although I am mainly an Algebra 1 teacher, I wanted to spend my morning sessions with the stats group.  I am much less comfortable teaching stats than algebra so was in desperate need of arms to fall into.  I'm pretty sure @approx_normal could catch me if I fell.  Hedge, your stats presentation was my single favorite session of the whole event!

@maxmathforum you simply rock!  Your session will remain one of my favorites.  You are a good person and a great thinker and teacher.  Thank you for "notice" and "wonder"! Now I do more than ever before.  Also it was wonderful that your colleagues from Drexel helped us get around.  The facility was amazing and the people were wonderful.  Please tell those folks thanks again (and good luck to the undergrads).

@gwaddellnvhs (Glenn), you are a great roommate and great mentor.  Your knowledge of statistics is mindblowing!

-I need a break here.  I can't believe I even rambled this much!  I  still have a lot more to write.  Wanted to post this for now...will add more later.  :-)