New Routines for 6th grade

In my district, there are several 6th grade teams at three separate elementary schools. They are an anomaly in that they are invited to secondary professional developments & textbook trainings with other middle school teachers, but yet they are their own special group.  It’s not easy to have secondary expectations, all the while being at a site with kindergarteners passing by your window.  With all these new expectations, new standards, and a new curriculum guide, I saw the need for help.  Me –being a middle school teacher turned math coach–jumped right in.

Our latest venture at one site has been to start math talks.  I introduced them to Which One Doesn’t Belong, Estimation 180 and Would You Rather. They were excited by these routines because they are engaging for the students.  It’s not their usual math.  It’s different.  The teachers are now sparking conversations with the pictures and questions.  It’s been incredible for them.  I recently took their principal on a math walk into the three 6th grade classrooms so she could observe their new routines.  The principal was supremely happy.


One popular thought that came up during our work last year and this year was a simple question….how do you review previous units?  How do we keep information that we did at the beginning of the year fresh?  For instance, 6th grade began the year introducing rates and ratios.  Part of their “Would you rather” routine reviews rates.  For instance…would you rather buy a Starbucks Venti for $3.59 or a Starbucks Grande for $2.99.  Essentially we are asking which is a better buy. We are starting a math argument.

So how do you bring fractions, decimals, percents, and ratios to life?  How do you make that lively and different from what they see in their textbooks?   Well…let’s first look at this pic….

Donuts from a gift bag at Target

What do you see? What do you notice?  What math questions could we ask?

What fraction of the donuts have green icing?  What’s the ratio between sprinkled donuts to stripped donuts?  What percentage of donuts have chocolate icing? What fraction of the donuts have purple icing?  Can you turn that into a decimal?  

A simple routine comprised of many pictures of donuts, cupcakes, legos, or any variety of objects.  I’ve seen many math educators use pictures like this to start a visual routine/number talk.  Pictures are an amazing way to wake the students up and look at things differently.  I might bring this routine to my kindergarten teachers as a sorting activity.  

So many donuts… many possibilities.

Until next time,


Calif. Math Council Takeaways

Besides the rush of presenting, I attended a whole mess of sessions that left me thinking. Here are some highlights/ideas I was left pondering….(writing this helps me digest what I saw)

Cathy Fosnot – Conferring & Questioning to Spark Deeper Understanding

  • The goal of a conferral is not to fix the math, but support the development of the math.
  • You don’t raise scores with tasks; they raise from developing mathematicians.
  • 3 Goals of a Good Conferral – listen & clarifying, celebrating, and challenging.

Megan Franke From Counting to Problem Solving – Supporting the Development of Understanding from Each Student

  • We never master things, because there’s always more to learn.  
  • Counting collections develop number sense, organization, and struggles (80-120)
  • How can we use what they do know about counting to engage students in problem solving?

The IGNITE talks had a few calls to action…

  • Do something to increase the level of communication
  • Choose one call and measure daily.  Only give feedback if healthy
  • Students ability to visualize math is important.
  • #ObserveMe – open your doors & learning from the best —-> each other!
  • Teach every student as if they’re future mathematicians
  • Love your students

Lucy West – 

  • Does discourse promote learning?
  • How you interact will greatly impact what you will do.


During Saturday, I went wondering around and saw a familiar face.  It happened to be Annie Fetter from The Math Forum.  She introduced the math educators to a strategy called “Notice and Wonder.” Upon seeing her, I went up and had a chat with her.  She was such an unassuming, lively educator.  We chatted about her work, my work and had a fine time.  She even agreed to a selfie! Yes…that’s the Notice and Wonder lady (youtube it!)img_8526

CMC 2016 was quite memorable.  This year, I focused my sessions on K-2 sessions.  Next year, I do want to branch out a bit.  My collaborator and I are thinking of presenting again, but it’s too early to decide.  However, I did notice that there’s not as many presentations geared for kindergarten.  Why is that?  And yet…there’s a need.  There are kinder teachers wanting more information.   

Until next time…


Calif. Math Council – 2016 (Pt1)

It’s Monday night and I sit here beaming because my weekend was awesome.  I was fortunate enough to attend California Math Council’s Palm Springs conference.   It was a weekend of connecting with fellow math educators, getting inspired, and always learning.  Not only did I get to attend, I got to present—which upped the ante A LOT!  


7 months of preparation ….convincing my collaborator on the idea, writing the proposal, editing, getting accepted, doing paperwork for my district, piecing together our presentation, gathering supplies, and figuring out who should say what, and multiple rehearsals—- had all boiled down to 90 minutes on Friday morning.  It went by in a flash.  But it was lightning in a bottle.  

We are ready!

Friday morning at 8:30 am, my collaborator, Stacy and I started sharing our story (mostly Stacy’s story) to about 20 math educators.  Turned out that most of them were kindergarten teachers.  In introducing myself to everyone and asking where they were from, one participant said “I wasn’t going to miss this because there’s never any sessions for kindergarten.”  And in my mind, I thought to myself, “then this is where I’m supposed to be.”  

After starting the presentation, we found our flow.  The nerves went away and we did our thing.   I handled introducing each of the routines and the technical “mathy stuff” like standards and content while she told her story of what happened in her classroom. And it worked.  The participants listened intently.  They took notes. They actively participated.  We had conversations. We reflected.  Stacy looked at me at one point and I could see what she was thinking…It’s working!  Yeah…I know.  

Participating in a Clothesline activity


When it was all said and done, Stacy and I were thrilled.  Feedback was positive.  Participants were happy with their give-aways.  Someone asked me if we could come back next year.  Too soon to tell, however—never say never.


There’s a saying…You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with! I’m fortunate to have a teacher like Stacy who’s willing to take a leap of faith, take a risk and try something new – all for the good of her students.  Our collaboration is built on trust and honesty.  We value each others opinions.  We push each other’s thinking because we know something powerful will come of it.  She is just as much a coach to me as I am to her.  

We did it.  #mathnerds

To all those TOSAs, TOAs, instructional specialists, & coaches—go find YOUR Stacy. (Sorry–this red head is taken) Find a teacher that will push you as much as you push them.  Develop that repoire.  Nuture the coaching model.  Help each other get better.  

And Stacy…thank you for being you!


Until next time,