Sunday, October 14, 2012

NCTM Dallas, TX 2012 Conference

Let me start by saying this was my VERY first NCTM conference.  I was blown away.  There was so much to do that I couldn't do everything that I wanted to!  There just wasn't enough time.  There were great seminars to go to on topics that I found very interesting, TONS of vendors showing new math tools, and yes I even spent money for my classroom.  Here is a highlight of what I did:

Scott Flansburg:   This guy was absolutely amazing and a great way to start off the conference.  He was nicknamed the Human Calculator by Regis Philbin back when he did Good Morning with Regis and Kathie Lee.  At any rate, what makes this guy special is that he can do insane math calculations in his head in record speed.  As a matter of fact, he is a Guiness Book of World Records place holder because he is so fast.  What really engaged me in this seminar was not only did it blow me away to watch him beat a calculator, but his passion for kids and math.  He has a great program for schools that I got to demo when I met him called Mathletics.  Mathletics is a tool used in conjunction with your curriculum that gives students the opportunity to not only practice their math, but play games, and compete around the world with other students.  It is a great tool for the classroom because we all have those lag times when the really fast student is done before everyone else, they can be doing Mathletics.  They can be doing Mathletics at THEIR pace so if that is 2 weeks ahead of your curriculum, or even behind, they can do it.  They can even do Mathletics from HOME.  Scott also hosts mathematics competitions for kids, and even has several books and a new one coming out.  I will be hunting them down!

Shere Salinas:  The seminar was called If They Can't Read the Test, They Can't Pass It.  We did a great tessellation exercise in groups and learned about how even easy vocabulary can trip a student up because words have double meanings in normal vocabulary and in mathematical vocabulary.  Now if you add vocabulary the students aren't familiar with, it is easy to see why students get tripped up with word problems.  This seminar was a real eye opener for me in that I always knew one of the main problems with math word problems was lack of mathematical vocabulary understanding, but I didn't really see how words with double meanings can trip up students.  It was a great interactive seminar.

Anna Davila: This seminar was called From the Great Wall to the Taj Mahal: Math in Asia.  It was VERY interesting, and very sad at the same time.  The speaker and a colleague applied for a grant to go to several Asian countries to find out what was different in the classroom or culturally that gave their students such an edge over ours.  Their results were almost the same thing in every country.  The people value education and have a huge respect for educators and the students are respectful and take charge of their education and their well being.  Something that is severely lacking in our country.  Another thing the speaker touched on was the amount of mental math being done in every conference.  This importance was noted because it was brought up in Scott Flansburg's conference as well.  He had discussed how an area in his brain was about 5 times the size as a normal person's.  The mental math or "calculator" area could be exercised like a muscle.  Listening to Anna I had to wonder, are we focusing too much on learning an algorithm and not so much on growing the brain with mental calculations.  I looked at my own classroom and thought... yep, we sure are.  SHOW YOUR WORK comes to mind.  Not "what is the answer".  How did you find it?  If you are interested in the type of grant that these ladies did to go abroad, you can learn more at Fund For Teachers.

Concepcion Monlina: So, Who Invented the Order of Operations?  This speaker focused not on great techniques for teaching orders of operations, but really on what we are missing when we do teach the order of operations.  The biggest thing missing of course is the why.  Why do we do this first?  Why does this work?  We start out teaching our students the basics when they are younger (grouping, place value, etc.), but when we get into their later years of school, we forget that they need to be reminded that the more complicated things we are doing work because of the same reasons they were taught in their younger years.  (or we hope they were taught at least!)

Sharon Padgett:  Using iPads in the Mathematics Classroom.  I WAS SO BUMMED!  I left 10 minutes early to get to this seminar and it was full when I got there :(.  I didn't get to do this one.  So I'm throwing it up here so if any of my convention attendees got to go.. I would LOVE some feedback!

Eric Milou:  Teaching Number Sense to the iGeneration.  An absolutely PHENOMENAL seminar.  I laughed so hard and really got into all the cool things Eric showed us, and let's face it that is what the kids want to!  To laugh and be engaged.   Eric showed us really cool websites and really cool things to use in our classroom to engage our students.  Great hooks!  He is a big fan of Dan Meyer who was at the conference and I missed :(  Some of the websites he showed was:

Arcademic Skill Builders - I used this when teaching math intervention and LOVED it.  It was great to see that another professional gave it a high rating.

SumDog: Another gaming website much like Arcademic.  I really like the garbage stack game.

Poll Everywhere: Easy way to send polls to your students and its iPad compatible

Math Snacks: Math Video Site VERY funny ratio videos.

The good news is, that he has so much he's made his own website.  So you can view this and so much more just by clicking his name!

Rita Barger: Everyday is Mathematical.  This seminar focused on how you could turn every day you teach and even every day in the year into a special mathematical day for your students to engage more wholly in math.  This idea is much the same as Pi Day, or metric week, but using this technique you make your own days up such as Prime Day or Double Prime Day.  You use what you know about mathematics to create your own day to teach the students about fundamental theorems and get them involved in configuring future dates and trying to figure out what the day could also be named.  I think this could be a fun way to do bellringers, and a fun way to bring out mathematical vocabulary and get students to really thinking about numbers.  You start to view numbers not just as any old number, but you view them as their possibilities... like a Fibonacci, or a prime, or a pattern.

Henry Borenson:  Do Word Problems Scare the Daylights Out of Your Students.  VERY cool seminar on how to work word problems using manipulatives.  I got a FREE set, and I bought a few things for my classroom because I found it so easy that my kids could easily be engaged in this.  What a great aid!  Essentially students use colored pawns and number cubes to set up a word problem and then use "legal moves" to solve for the unknown and solve the problem.  Click on the name to go to the website that talks about this.

Now.. I did not get to go to every seminar I wanted to :(.  Not enough time :(.   BUT.  I did want to spend a hot second talking about some of the exhibits I saw.

Mathletics - I got to meet Scott Flansburg and get a live demonstration of his website.

Textbook Exhibitors - I got to compare a lot of different textbooks and found out who has iPad compatible textbooks.  By accident I met MathyCathy a fellow educator and learned about the hyped up textbook her school is using.   Visit MathyCathy's blog.  She truly is a phenomenal educator!

There were TONS and TONS of exhibitors showing off the latest and greatest in software and manipulatives.  LOTS of freebies!  It was FUN.

So a special thank you to my school for sending me, paying for it, and making sure I was in a great hotel!

Now its time to put this knowledge to work!