CMC South 2019 Recap

It must have been a good omen for the start of the weekend, because my flight out of SFO included Jay from Desmos and Kathy a Desmos fellow. We hung out before take off and got to know each other better. I am going to review my written notes in this blog post to synthesize big ideas and reference this post later on, rather than my notes.

Building Math Residue with Lessons that StickGraham Fletcher

I have seen Graham present on a video recording, but never in person. I had the chance to see him, and I am so glad the K-5 label it had didn’t scare me away. Experienced presenters can use humor that’s  planned and not improvised, and I love this quote from him, “What was the last word problem you gave your students? … Can’t remember? … Neither can you your students.”

This lead to his main idea that if we launch a unit with a juicy task, it will constantly be referenced throughout the unit, especially if we tap into students curiosity with notice and wonder to co-craft questions that can be explored later on.

One salient point was not saying “simplifying” fractions but “renaming.” Also, to read 1/4 as “one one fourth” rather than “one fourth,” emphasizing it as a unit fraction. Saying 3/4 as “three one fourths.”

What I learned was that he is intentional with his language. We also looked at comparing fractions by:

  1. Common denominator
  2. Missing Parts
  3. Benchmark Fractions
  4. Common Numerator

For example, 8/11 is greater than 4/7 because both have 34 parts missing, but the 3/11 is a smaller part than the 3/7 missing from the second fraction.

Graham suggested students using blue pen before scaffolding, and a red pen after scaffolding to see students growth. He also referenced Pam Harris’ graphic organizer about Counting leading to additive, to multiplicative, and then to Proportional. It’s a great reminder to see how my students thinking has developed over their history.

To emphasize how context helps, he asked us to think of things that are white… (stuck, can’t think). Then think of things that are white in your fridge. (then we can say more: milk, eggs, cheese, etc.) Context helps.

I believe we finished with an Open Middle problem after watching some cool 3 act task launches he just created with one of his daughters. Great session and start to the conference.

Supporting Equity: What we are learning at IM – Bill McCallum & Dionne Aminita Samb

I think it’s obvious why I went to this session. Bill is one of the writers of common core as well as the curriculum I use, Open Up Resources 6-8 Math by IM. I also watched Dionne’s Shadowcon talk and participated in the follow-up email PD.

In this graphic you can see the path IM has taken. I remember being frustrated with teaching 2 way frequency tables and finding amazing tasks for it on the IM web site many years ago, and many of those tasks found their way into their curriculum.

I believe they are testing their new K-5 curriculum in the Council of Great City Schools, which in 2010 represented 8 million students, 71% of which are on free and reduced lunch.

The cited statistics from “The Opportunity Myth” to conclude that it’s not who can do the math, but who gets to do the math. Too many students are not getting access to high quality rigorous curriculum aligned to current grade level standards.

This slide talks a bit about what a problem-based curriculum is as well as the supports IM offers.
Then we got to dig into some math from Grade 3 where we located 1 and 3/4 on different number lines. It provided some great discussion.

Dionne leads the 3-5 curriculum. She cited Culturally Responsive Teaching, a book I really need to read. She looked at two categories of learning: collectivism and individualism. Students of color are more collectivist culture than individualist.

We then noticed and wondered at this data where a high score was more a more individualist country. We noticed lots more Spanish speaking countries being collectivist and Western society being more individualist.

We then took a look at a task from Grade 5 and similar to Mr. Stadel, did a brave too low, too high, and about right for the number of number cubes in the image. I said 45, 63, and 180 respectively. The answer was 90. Great table conversations about layers and one person mentioned your estimate must be a multiple of 9, especially if it’s not hollow.

Then she mentioned how instructional routines support equity because they engage student curiosity and offers daily opportunities for discourse and students to explain their thinking. They can “unleash higher learning in ethnically diverse students.”

Dionne showed how the IM lesson structure is similar to the one suggested for a Culturally Responsive Lesson. As you can see the descriptions in the slide, you first ignite, chunk, chew, then review the lesson.

Ask yourself two questions each day:

  1. Who participated in math class today?
  2. Who got to do math today in class?

Use Anchors to Make Math More Accessible – My session

Here’s the bad selfie I took right before we got started.

I am going to present this same session in a 60 minute format rather than 90 at CMC North this Saturday so I won’t go into too many details. I will write another blog post with the slides and the feedback I got from attendees. For the 60 minute I will do a stand and talk rather than a complete Successive Pair Share as shown below with the graphic organizer.

I’m really proud of the rough drafts attendees came up with. The goal was to plan a particular anchor chart about a big concept coming up in your classroom and how you would organize it and use #purposefulcolor.

This partnership was talking about 7th grade y=kx proportional relationships.
Another 7th grade group was thinking about visuals to go along with two step distributive property equations.

I am also really proud of 3 different people coming up to the document camera to show their work to the whole group.

Devin Rossiter talking about visualizing division.

MLR’s: Building Discourse Communities Vanessa Cerrahoglu (@mymathsoul) & Craig Schneider

I had to go to this session because last year Vanessa presented in the same time slot as me so I missed her. She’s a coach for IM and so is Craig. We looked at the routine Co-craft questions with a 9th grade Unit 1 Alg 1 Statistics task. Basically the questions provide lead ins to help answer questions you want to ask the students anyway. It also provides a natural extension for those that are done.

Similarly to the first IM training I went to, we reflected on how Vanessa launched the routine. For co-craft questions, I noticed she asked us to have our books (packets) closed, individual think time, pair share, then write the questions up near the visual. My wonder with the routine was what do you do if students can’t come up with a question without giving an example and reducing the cognitive demand. A person at my table also thoughtfully said that there is less pressure to get a question then to get an answer.

We analyzed some student video of the routine, and we could see that students were working on calculations and solving without being told to solve anything and to only come up with questions. So, it shows that our students are trained to solve solve solve, even when we’re not asking them to. The positive side effect is that in the time they were coming up with questions they were exchanging great ideas that lead to questions.

We then did the same procedure with MLR 1. I like their example of a graphic organizer that had the instructions in English and Spanish, since the class that they were using the routine with had 3 newcomers from a Spanish speaking country. The quality of their output greatly improved with each share and had a mix of Spanish and English written. One takeaway is in the pre-write, it’s OK students aren’t done with their first draft. That worried me the first time I used the routine, and now I am less worried with this advice given.

That night was the Ignite. I live tweeted again this year, and it was a great event. I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy listening and then live tweeting Dr Kristopher Childs.

That night was the pizza meetup which was a lot of fun. I got to meet new people and connect with friends I’d already met. I was so exhausted that my eyes were closing on me so I walked home to my hotel room at around 8 or 9 PM.

Day 2:

Teacher Confessions About Meaningless Ways to Teach Math – Andrew Stadel

Surprisingly this is another person who I’ve never seen present in person. Andrew main theme was “gimmicks die, mathematical reasoning lives.” He challenged us to think about “what math rule are we going to better understand” and how we were going to teach it without using gimmicks. He also encouraged us to write a mission statement to guide our work and focus. I also noticed that he’s pretty good at using pre-planned humor and stating norms for a session.

He played an excerpt from his podcast where he interviewed Hedge about “slip, slide, and divide” I way to factor quadratics with an “a” value greater than 1. It lead us to looking at ways to factor with physical algebra tiles, virtual ones, as well as the generic rectangle.

We wrote down gimmicks we are guilty of using and shared with people from other grade levels. I shared that I had used “keep, switch, flip” for dividing fractions and asked 6th graders to memorize the perimeter formula P = 2L + 2W.

During work time I tried working on how to scaffold a problem where two friends live 7 miles apart and travel towards each other at different speeds. I wondered how I could scaffold it and also wondered why you get the same solution if one is y=0.15x and y=7-0.2x or one they’re flip flopped and one is y=7-0.15x and y=0.2x and asked some people in my next session.

Beauty of Movement: Increasing Discourse in Math Classrooms Sara VanDerWerf & Chris Luzniak

OK, so I have been looking forward to meeting Sara in person for a very long time. She is the originator of the first 5 days name tents and has written a ton of amazing and impactful blog posts. The fact that she teamed up with Chris, who I saw at last year’s CMC North Asilomar for his Debate Math session was a good omen. And before I continue it was easily the best session of the whole conference.

First of all, the atmosphere upon entering was high energy. There was a great soundtrack playing, which I have already borrowed a few songs off. Here’s the tweet with the Spotify playlist:


Let’s just say I plan to play Gloria Estefan’s “Get On Your Feet” at some point this year in my classroom. Maybe on Into the Groove by Madonna and I wanna dance with somebody by Whitney Houston.

Had to get a selfie!

We started with a stand and talk with the prompt “what is the same? What is different?”

Standing increases discourse. Sara observed for turn and talk students only talked when the teacher walked by. She mentioned @alirubinf incorporates movement daily. We need our students to move every 20 minutes. That’s at least twice a period. Big goal.

Just like her sticker says, Sara firmly believes:

  • Students will see it before I show them, and say it before I tell them.

I have already downloaded the podcast of her Global Math Department talk on Stand and Talks I just haven’t listened to the whole thing yet.

A great tip for stand and talks is if it’s a notice and wonder, to ask students to take turns sharing at least 15 things you notice and wonder. She said not to ask for mathy, it will come. This honors the culture of feeling safe to share what students think, and yes that’s going to involve some humor sometimes.

There were 3 goals for the session:

  1. Intro to Movement activities
  2. Look at the Rationale and Research
  3. How to adapt to your classroom
I just realized this is probably a clip from Hamilton

Peter Lilljedal got a shout-out for his VNPS work (kids standing at whiteboards) and a quote from John Medina was shared, we are “designed to solve problems… in near constant motion.” Movement improves cognition.

Before you give instructions for the prompt, firmly announce, “Everybody: stand up.” And repeat it to those not or moving slow and make eye contact. It’s also a good idea to get students in the routine of tucking their chairs in after standing to allow safe pairing up.

We did two activities from a link that is a collection of a bunch of them ( Balance Points and Rumors.

Balance Points is basically a pair of students working on a problem and when they have a solution that number is the number of contact points they have with the ground. You must be in contact with your partner at the same time. It gets students in the habit of using gestures. Sara picked my partner and I as one of the models to demonstrate how we showed “5.”

From the slides, 7 tips for success were shared:

  1. No opt-out, no negativity.
  2. Infuse excitement in voice and movement.
  3. Move with your students.
  4. Cross-lateral movement helps memory.
  5. Move 10 school days in a row.
  6. Pick 1-2 movement activities to start with.
  7. Accountability partner.
And Sara offered some of her amazing stickers.

Then we did the activity Rumors. On an index card you write 3 ideas to share. When you partner up you share your 3 ideas, hear 3 ideas from your partner, then exchange cards and share your partner’s ideas with a new partner. They suggested to say “take _____ steps to find new partner.” I think you then do 1 more exchange after that.

Brain imaging showing the research

2 of my ideas I wrote were to bring back the function / algebra walk into my school year and use balance points to review 1 step then 2 step equations.

My goal for 2020 is to bring back the Algebra Walk, do more stand and talks with Flippity for random partnering, try balance points, and get my students up working on the Wipebook whiteboards I invested in. Another tip is she advised us to set a calendar alert for Sunday night to remind you of your goals for the week.

This was a powerful quote of an anticipated response for a teacher not ready to try this.

Like I said, the best session!

Fawn was at my table so I had to bother her for a selfie!


Ran into Jessica Borah in the hallway, a member of our #openupmath PLC!

After lunch it was Mike Flynn or Ed Campos and I opted to check out how Ed integrates computer science into Algebra concepts through Bootstrap.

Bootstrap Algebra Ed Campos

Ed ran his session through PearDeck which was a really cool way to make it interactive. Basically Bootstrap Algebra has modules that allow students to learn algebra concepts through a programming language. We practiced writing expressions as a “circle of evaluation” which is a cool visual that helps write the code. It helps students understand the order of operations and the syntax of a programming language.

One of Ed’s students created a game where a dog shoots knives out of it’s mouth to stop ice cream and collect biscuits. The student made all the graphics in Adobe Illustrator themselves.

There is a lot to explore with the interface and it’s all executed on the web site He also talked about how we can use #purposefulcolor to help students see the connections between the multiple representations of code in an expression and the circle of evaluation. You can also draw shapes like (ellipse 50 100 “outline” “red”) and students can figure out if 50 is the height or width by switching the numbers, changing outline to solid, red to a different color, etc. I like how you could then put that whole command inside (scale 3 (triangle 40 “solid” “purple”) to make your shape bigger or smaller.

What do I say now? Responsive Facilitation of Small Groups Geetha Lakshminaryan & Alissa Fong

Geetha has done some coaching work at my school when partnering with my district’s math coordinator so I wanted to spend some time learning from her and her colleague Alissa. They work at Stanford’s Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET) and remotely coach new teachers. They referenced a book I must request my district to get, In the Moment: Conferring in the Elementary Classroom by Munson. The session was about adaptive expertise for in the moment classroom decisions. One quote they showed was, “The first question is easy – it’s the follow-up question that is hard to learn.”

We thought about 5 ways an interaction could move a group forward:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Conceptual Understanding
  3. Strategy Development
  4. Representation / Connection
  5. Communicate Thinking

Alissa mentioned that as teachers we need to avoid always jumping to 3 and trying to help students develop a strategy. For interaction 1, the group may not be sharing their ideas and need assistance doing so. For interaction 2, the students may or may not understand the problem hindering conceptual understanding. For interaction 3, we have to be careful not to just give the students OUR strategy, therefore robbing them of doing their own thinking and lowering the cognitive demand the task may provide. For interaction 4 we might be asking questions that lead students to see a connection to a different representation. And finally, we know that sometimes we want students to communicate their thinking more clearly verbally and written so that other groups and the teacher can understand their ideas better.

Their recommendation is that 75% of time spent conferring should be eliciting student thinking only. Really understanding what they do and do not know.

The session focused on nudging. It’s a cycle where we elicit student understanding, attend to what they say, interpret what they know, decide what to do, and then execute a nudge that is a question or suggestion that will advance the group’s progress and allow us to elicit from other groups.

They talked about a cycle of how they work on nudging as a core practice.

  1. Introduction and learning about the core practice
  2. Prepare for and rehearse what you will do
  3. Use it with students
  4. Analyze and reflect

One of the video clips we analyzed was Dan Meyer’s 3 act task about the Super Bear which was cool because I was familiar with the context.

Geetha’s session ended early so I got to see the last 10 minutes of Bill McCallum’s number line progression session. It was cool because he gave out a packet on the progression from K through 12.

It provided me with some cool stuff to dig into on the plane ride home. For example:

In second grade students are figuring out intervals, and then labeling exact points between the intervals. This is from the alpha materials of their upcoming K-5 curriculum.

When I got to the session he was talking about addition and subtraction of integers on the number line. I am very familiar with teaching it so I was discussing it with some participants from earlier grade levels that were unfamiliar.

And of course I got to remind myself of the 2 major instances the number line is used in grade 8:

Zooming in on a repeating decimal, 2/11
Using a coordinate graph and a circle to approximate the square root of 2.


Of course I had to ask someone who wrote the Common core standards and is the president of IM for a selfie!
Special thanks to Ed Campos for being my mentor and zoom chatting with me to help review my presentation outline with me. He also let me stay with him and is a class act person and a friend.


If you made it this far, great, thanks for reading. CMC South continues to be the premier math conference to go to with speakers coming to the west coast nationwide. It’s awesome they reimburse for office supplies so that some lucky participants went home with sharpie flip chart markers to create their own anchor charts. I’m looking forward to reviewing these notes to implement some ideas and take on a whole new set of ideas this weekend at CMC North Asilomar.

Author: mrjoyce180

6/8th grade math teacher using open up resources tweeting from@martinsean

2 thoughts on “CMC South 2019 Recap”

  1. Thank you for the write up! On my first time through read I found 2 ideas to incorporate into an upcoming pd.
    And can I make Sara’s “what I hear” slide my close slide for every presentation from now on???
    Hoping to prioritize cmc-s next year. 🙂


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