the radical rational…

in search of innovative ideas with a well-balanced approach for the math classroom

What do I Hope to Get Out of #MTBoSblaugust Challenge? Post #1

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. - African ProverbThis will be a continuing theme for my year, but I want to share it from my daughter’s swim team perspective.


Shortly after her first swim meet of the summer, she added this… to her summer accessories.


When it was time for the first meet, she wanted to go cheer on her teammates.  And we did.  After a few events, it hit her, she wasn’t getting to swim…sadness in her eyes.  Heartbreaking for her momma.

Each week we went back for new x-rays in hopes to get a waterproof cast and be able to swim, just a little.  If only 1 more meet, literally freestyle, just enough to qualify for conference.  No. No, again. No.  She cried at home that evening, knowing her cast wasn’t coming off until after Conference Finals and her doctor was adamant about not swimming.  I was hoping a few days away on vacation would distract her a bit, but no, “Its been the worst summer ever, not getting to do what I love,” she said through tears Thursday evening of vacation this past week.

When there was a meet, she wanted to go – to cheer on her teammates.  It was gratifying as a parent to watch her realize being part of team doesn’t always mean you are the one getting the points – but being on the side lines, high-fives with her friends, cheering them to finish strong and sharing laughter/creating memories between events – is important as well.

Conference finals were today.  I waited for her to ask to go and we would have made the 2+ hour trek.  But my brother’s family happened to be in town and it took her thoughts away from the swimming events she would miss.  It was time well spent with family.  We cheered and celebrated when we found out her team won.  She smiled, “Of course, I knew they would win before the conference even began.”  The fact is, it took every single swimmer today, the youngest to the oldest, giving their best effort to defend their conference title.

Things don’t always go as planned.  Sometimes we are side tracked and we need to adjust.  Last spring was a side track for me.  I lost site of my focus.  I hope the reflections and writing this month will remind me to come alongside new teachers and colleagues and be a support / an encouraging leader, to keep my door open and welcome ideas from colleagues, to remember the daily race is not against state mandated exams, but a team effort to collaborate and help each other as we help our students move forward…

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Join the #MTBoSblaugust Challenge!

So I saw this interesting #blaugust tag from @druinok earlier this evening.  Hmmm… sounds interesting.  I asked for the list of prompts so maybe I could play along.  However, the prompts she was modifying were sent out daily and  a full list wasn’t available to share.

Feel free to join us as we blog each day in August.  Choose from our list or create your own prompt!

Prompts for the MTBoS Blaugust 2015

  1. What do you hope to get out of Blaugust this year?
  2. Show us your classroom
  3. Top 5 Tips for New Teachers
  4. What are your Back to School Must-Haves?
  5. What would you like to Start doing this school year?  What would you like to Stop doing?  What would you like to Continue doing?
  6. One time in math class… (as a teacher… or when I was a student…)
  7. 5 APPS I can’t live without…
  8. Something I read/learned this summer that intrigued me…
  9. Pinned It, Did It and/or Pinned it, Did it, It flopped.
  10. Recipe Swap for Busy Teachers
  11. Something that makes your classroom unique
  12. A  mentor/colleague who impacted your classroom/teaching…
  13. The best teacher I ever had was …. because …
  14. How do you tame the paper tiger?
  15. Brain breaks for students.
  16. Favorite take 5 for yourself?
  17. Be the Change.. what will you do this year to impact the culture of your school and/or classroom?
  18. Using your school mascot, create an acrostic of character traits you wish to instill in your students
  19. What is your focus/theme/mantra for the year and why?  Create and share a notecard for your desk as a reminder.
  20. What are your go to quotes?
  21. Reblog an old post – reflect how you see/use it now?
  22. What are your favorite formative assessment strategies?
  23. Professional Growth Goal
  24. What are your best organizational tips?
  25. Theme song for the year? like your personal fight song?
  26. What is something in your classroom that you cannot live without?
  27. What’s a positive change you would like to make in your life – could be community/school/home/health?
  28. Last time you belly laughed…
  29. List of gratitude.
  30. Describe a typical day (or hour) in your classroom.
  31. What is your biggest classroom pet-peeve?
  32. Link to 3 blog posts that impacted you and share why.
  33. Read 3 posts from blogs you’ve never visited, give a quick take-away from each.
  34. What is your greatest joy in teaching?  What is your greatest fear?
  35. Tell us about you!  Post 20 facts about yourself.
  36. What are your New School Year Goals or Resolutions?
  37. What’s in (and on) your teacher desk?
  38. Interact with a new follower and use FORE from Make It Stick reading, then introduce them in a post?
  39. What’s the 10th song on your device playlist?  What memory does it conjure?
  40. Text 5 people, ask them for 1 word that describes you and reflect.
  41. What’s your “One Good Thing” for today?
  42. What do you do on parent night / open house?
  43. What’s the toughest challenge you face as a teacher today?
  44. A favorite activity that is fun and leads to learning…
  45. A nostalgic thing/activity in your classroom you wish to modify and improve.

Enjoy! And please tweet out your posts with #MTBoSblaugust so we can follow along!

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Leading through Learning Cadre #KASCLTL

I spent a couple of days this week re-energizing and learning with a great group of educators and instructional coaches…in an effort to become a better leader.

Many of the topics KASC presented were ones I felt quite familiar with, however, the tools and resources they provided will have a great impact on refining my implementation of these ideas.

Our 5 focus areas were: Growth Mindset, Feedback, Student Engagement, Relationships and Cognitive Skill Building – all chosen because as high-effect size factors for student achievement.

The two days were filled with exemplary models from our Framework for Teaching.  I was challenged to work outside my comfort zone, encouraged to share ideas, learn from others and given opportunities to reflect on ways I could implement the ideas in my classroom and school.  It was refreshing.  Quality, purposeful, inspiring.

Several ideas on working memory and processing strategies supported the reading and discussion of our summer with #eduread Make It Stick.  This encouraged me to continue formulating exactly how I will incorporate these structures into our learning this school year.

I think I appreciate most the amount of retrieval practice and reflection we were asked to do at LTL.

Here are 3 activities we did that I can see using in my classroom.

Up, Up and Away

As a quick review, we were asked to jot an idea that stuck with us from our reading and videos prior to attending our cadre.  We then folded the paper, placed it in a balloon, blew up the balloon and tied it.  Music played and balloons bounced around the room, floating from table to table and participant to participant.  There were smiles and laughter – something we need in our classrooms, daily.  Music stopped, we grabbed a balloon, returned to our groups and popped them – yes you need to warn nearby classrooms and administration/front office prior to doing this activity!

We took turns reading the statements, sharing our response – whether we agreed/disagreed and how it impacted our own thinking.  Great discussion and sharing.

I see doing this on occasion, even modifying to the paper-wad / snowball fights.  It may be a great way to begin the week as a retrieval over last weeks learning or to end the week as a time of reflection.  It was an energizing activity with much laughter and smiles. Totally worth it.

Koosh Ball Review

First thing on Day 2, each table had a koosh ball (any soft object would work here) and we were asked to stand in a circle.  Music played, and we threw the ball randomly around the circle.  When music stopped, round 1 question was on power point slide and person with the ball answered the question.  The ball was thrown around the circle until every person had a chance to respond to the question.  Music played again, tossing randomly, music stopped, person holding ball answered Round 2 questions, koosh was tossed around until everyone had a chance to respond. etc.

Our questions we responded to were:

  1. The most important thing I learned yesterday is… because…
  2. I was surprised to learn… because…
  3. My students will be interested to learn about… because…

Again, music, movement and laughter were present.  A great activity that can be easily modified to any topic or content area, age-group.  It was a bit tough right off the bat – having to dig back to yesterday, retrieving information we had discussed and work with – but totally supports our Make It Stick research.

Examples vs. Non-examples

I love a good card sort.  This particular activity we had statements concerning fixed vs growth mindset.  Though not the exact statements, I was reminded of @mathequalslove bulletin board she devised from this pin shared by @druinok

9 Ways Students Can Develop a Growth Mindset - Ferndale, MI, United States, ASCD EDge Blog post - A Professional Networking Community for Educators

Each person in our groups was given several different cards.  We had to read it aloud and place it into one of 2 piles and explain why it belonged there.  The key was everyone holding everyone accountable as to why they chose to place it there.  This supports one of the chapters in Make It Stick which discussed students who study the examples.  It suggested rather than looking over one example at a time to actually compare examples as they studied.  This would allow them to better process new situations when examples are varied.

The next phase of the card sort was to take the non-examples and rewrite them so they would represent phrases to model growth mindset.

Initially, I think of using this when comparing different types of functions – whether like models, all equations or graphs or tables of values.  But I can also see in evaluating expressions, maybe.  Maybe if students use a frayer model style of examples vs. non-examples of a particular concept, then share how they could change the model so it becomes an example of said concept.

I just really like the wrap up of having to modify after the sort and create/change something that would change the representation some how.

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Professional Library at My School #eduread

This is basically just a re-post of an email I sent our school and central office administration, curriculum coach and Library Media Specialist this morning.  Inspired by @druinok, I have been super jealous of their professional library in their school for a couple of years and thought – why not ask?

What other titles would you suggest to add to our collection?

If you are reading this and have books you would like to donate/send our way, feel free to message me!

I am overly excited our LMS replied back in less than an hour to say she would help get this project going!  Yeah! Happy dance!!!  Hoping to hear form administration soon, as well!

Good morning.
I just returned from KASC’s Leading Through Learning Cadre in Bowling Green.  This is not my actual project, but it is something I have had on my mind for a couple of years and would like to see in our school.
Though some may never utilize it, I feel several of our teachers and staff would read more if they had access to professional books and didn’t have to purchase them.  For this reason, it would be an awesome resource to create a professional library for teachers and staff at RCHS.
Using Hattie’s high effect-size factors of growth mindset, feedback, student engagement, relationships and cognitive skill building, here are some book suggestions that transcend the content areas:
Growth Mindset, Carol Dweck
Drive, Daniel Pink
Growth Mindset in the Classroom (& resources), Mary Cay Ricci
Embedded Formative Assessment, Dylan Wilham
Effective Feedback, Susan Brookhart
How to Teach Like a Pirate, Dave Burgess
17,000 Classroom Visits, Antonetti
The Highly Engaged Classroom, Marzano
Never Work Harder than Your Students, Robyn Jackson
Rethinking Grading / Homework, Cathy Vatterott
Visible Learning, Hattie
The Fred Factor, Sanborn
Making Thinking Visible, Ritchhart 
Creating Cultures of Thinking Ritchhart
Creating Innovators, Tony Wagner
When administration or teachers go to conferences and receive resources they’d like to share, we could add those. Does anyone reading this email have books on your shelves you’d like to donate to get us started?
Would it be more feasible to actually have a section in the library (D____ , would this work?) or maybe even S_____’s office to start out? I don’t want to inconvenience either of you but a central location would be helpfiul.  Just a couple of shelves – we can populate with books teachers can check out when they are looking for resources or help toward their growth goals.  I will commit to getting it set up.
Does our school have an ASCD account?  Those come with choices of so many quality books and access to great online resources as well.
We could survey teachers and narrow down a few topics they are interested in, to begin with. 
I have tagged some central office staff because I realize they occasionally may run across funds that could be used for this type of teacher resource.  Please keep this in mind!
Thank you in advance for any input, support and suggestions!

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Lollipop Moments #kascltl #whatyoudomatters

Just a quick share of something we can all pass a long in our schools and classrooms…

At the end of yesterday at our Leading through Learning Cadre, Lynne shared this TED talk from Drew Dudley…

Leading with Lollipops

as a reminder that we sometimes get fixed on leadership being things big, beyond our reach that we start to devalue things we do everyday…  how we need to remember the small things we do, we may not even be fully aware of how we are impacting someone.

Lynne shared lollipops with each one of us, but also gave us extras to encourage us to continue those small things that have big impacts we may sometimes take for granted.  And as a reminder to let those people in our lives know – who have given us lollipop moments and made a difference in our lives – maybe without even knowing what they did mattered.

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Let the Fun Begin! #supplyswap 2015 Info Has Been Sent


I was super excited when Cindy shared this idea with myself and @druinok a few weeks ago.  We had nearly 30 participants!  Just enough but not overwhelming.

A few interesting stats from out participants:

19 different states are represented with Kentucky having the most at 5.


The most popular names among our list: Lisa, Lynn, Cindy & Jenn.

Most are high school teachers but several middle school.

Primarily from math, but we have an ELA/SS, Biology/marine science/forsensic science, Spanish, STEM, Administrators and School Counselor.

I hope everyone has as much fun as I have had just reading through the responses to our questions.

Just a reminder to participants, spend about $15 (excluding shipping) and mail between July 27 & August 7.  Keep your pairing a secret until they receive your box!  You will not be sending a box to the person who is sending one to you!  More new connections this way!

Here’s a list of those who submitted twitter handles / blogs if you would like to check them out – maybe make some new friends!


If you missed out on the fun of #supplyswap 2015 – maybe you can join in on the next round whenever that may be!  Until then…

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Sign Up for School Supply Swap!

I am super excited about the School Supply Swap that Cindy suggested!

New pens and notepads!  Fun and functional organizational tools!  Not limited to math or any particular grade level.  We have a world language and school counselor join the list too!  Join the fun of this opportunity to encourage one another as we begin looking toward a new year – filled with new possibilities!

Cindy’s Post:

I was scrolling through Instagram last night and noticed the #SisterhoodoftheTravellingGift hashtag on many of my virtual friends’ posts.  As I followed the links, I came upon a post by Zoe at A Quirky Bird explaining the details behind the idea…in short, it looked fun!  So, I immediately contacted my #Made4Math buddies, Pam and Shelli who agreed, if fashionistas can gift clothing and accessories, teachers can gift school supplies:)

Fun, right?
My favorite part of going back to school has always been shopping for supplies.  I remember telling my grandmother when I was 8, how much I loved shopping for school.  Bless her heart, she thought I meant for clothes and told me a story about a pair of new shoes she got as a little girl.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I meant that I liked the binders, the old cardboard school boxes, and the paste. But still to this day, I get a bit giddy as I see the colored paperclips, new planners, and fancy pencils being carefully arranged down the aisles of my local big box store.

So, if you are like me and love this stuff too,

Join the Back to School Supply Swap
What is it? 
The School Supply Swap is a fun gift exchange between July 27 and Aug 7.
A gift exchange?  Let me explain…

Imagine…your favorite parcel carrier pulls into the drive and knocks on your door to deliver a brightly colored package addressed to YOU.  You carry it inside…eager to open it.  What could it be???  Most assuredly that whatever is in the package was carefully selected just for you and will be the perfect addition to your classroom this fall, because this School Supply Swap was planned by teachers for teachers.

How does it work?
You will be matched up with another teacher and will be provided results from his/her online questionnaire, so that you can find out a bit more about this new friend. You will select a few school related items based upon the responses on the survey…something that you think that they would enjoy and would fit into their room’s decor.  There is a prize for cutest wrapping, so box up your goodies, snap an image of your package and post to Twitter with the hashtag #SupplySwap.

The cost of the gift should be around $15 (excluding shipping) and should be shipped between July 27 and August 7.  It will be like a little Back to School surprise!!!

Ready to join the fun?
If you would like to participate to connect with other teachers from across the country, complete this Google form by July 15 and we will match you up.

Note: To keep shipping costs down, only teachers from the same country will be matched.

REAL mail filled with lots of goodies just in time for the new school year! We can’t wait to see what the parcel carrier brings to you!!!

Lots of love! Cindy, Pam, and Shelli xoxoxo


Flashback Friday – Past Posts

Sometimes I wonder what I was reading/planning and thinking in old posts.

So today, I’m creating a time-capsule to link to posts as close to the same date in years past.

2014 Skip-It Linear Speed, an idea for an experiment to gather information with a child-hood favorite toy.  @Maxmathforum suggests a similar problem that involves skateboarding in the comments.

2013 Addressing Questions about Formative Assessment Lessons – these learning tasks from the Mathshell site are among my favorites.

2012 #made4math July 9 hanging vinyl tape measures for data collection and magnetic borders for white boards                              Learning from Others #made4math July 11 Tarsia Puzzles, DoppleMe and Posdcasts

2011 Stop Waiting for the Map – July 16 literally, my first post ever on The Radical Rational.

Initially, I started blogging to journal my experiences with Standards Based Grading.  This year, I hope to refocus some of my efforts to improve my practices toward achieving a true standards based learning environment.

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Ponderings About AP Statistics Part I: Reading the Textbook #eduread

I’ve waited most of the summer before I pondered over my first attempt at teaching AP Statistics until after the scores release this past week.

It was quite an experience for me.  First time teaching the course – my week at APSI was overwhelming, now, I look back and have a slight clue as to what Landy, our facilitator was sharing.  The course was a semester block – thankfully it was in the spring.  And we had lots and lots of snow days.  Grateful to have had edmodo as a medium to share notes and HW, answer questions, submit quizzes.

Mostly listening to discussions of experienced teachers, I am hearing these commonalities:

  • How can I do a better job of accountability to reading textbook?
  • How do I find time to score/purposefully use class time for free response questions?
  • Due to several stats teachers in our #eduread chat of Make it Stick (Brown), how can we interleave practice? or lag homework?  When do we find time for lowstakes testing?  Practice retrieval within these structures?

My intentions are to post over the next couple of days to address these questions and separate some thoughts winding through my head.

Concern #1 Accountability to read textbook?

Many students will get by with as little reading as possible.  As I consider my students who were successful vs. not successful on their AP exams, some were not successful because they never read the first page in the textbook unless it was an in class activity.  They never engaged with vocabulary outside of class time.  They did not prepare themselves to pull it all together and make connections in the end because of their lack of preparation on the front end.

At some point, the teacher can only provide so much information and instruction, if the student chooses not to interact intellectually, there is nothing the teacher can do.

I attempted to use activities that would assume little to no textbook reading.

One of the files @druinok had shared was a reading guide.  Of course, I passed this out to students at beginning of a unit/chapter.  It included essential questions.  Those who utilized it typically scored better on exams.  A couple of times toward the end of the semester, I followed a structure she had shared – essentially a jigsaw.

The reading guide was split into 4 similar size sections: red, yellow, green, blue.

After a couple of days within a chapter:  activity, notes / examples / practice, the next day each student received a color dot when they entered class that day.

When the assignment was made students were given the section that corresponded to their dot and asked to lay their pencils down and read the questions in their section only and then stop.

Timer was set for 10 minutes or so to skim the chapter from the textbook, answer their questions, recording the page number where they found their response.

Next they were in small groups with like colors to discuss their responses and agree on the big ideas.

*** I believe this is where I want to adjust for next year by teaching students the Visible Thinking Routine (VTR, Ritchart, et al) Sentence – Word – Phrase (SWP).  You can read more from Jill Gough here at Experiments in Learning By Doing.

Each color then jigsawed with other colors to share their responses, at least page numbers in hopes to complete the reading guide.  Yes, ideally I WANT them to read the entire chapter, however, I’m a realist that some never will unless its an in class task.  At least with this structure, they’ve read (skimmed) a section and responded to questions in order to help classmates.

The last step was a reflect and connect:  Any a-has?  Share something another color shared in your group.  How did this connect to activity/work we did previously?  Generally, I’d like this to take place as a whole – class discussion.  However, depending on time, an exit ticket with their responses to reflect and connect gives me enough information to see possible gaps for the following day.

*** This VTR is very doable.  I wonder after the reading, if they discussed and shared with like color reader how their SPW would compare?  What if each person who read the same section, recorded their SPW on a combined chart paper, then we carousel the room, noting similarities and differences prior to whole-class discussion?


(yes, Jill’s  cute, informational doodle notes are fun to read too!)

So Stats folks (& other math teachers who require reading in class) – can you see this working?  how? what changes?  Yes, it is more class time if done in class, but if they aren’t reading and I need them to, I see this as a place to start, at least until they learn the thinking routine.

Maybe later we can wean them from class reading – Your HW assignment isn’t to read the entire chapter but these ___ sections with SPW and be ready to share out when you come to class tomorrow.  Hmmm?

This routine and structure of class sharing allows students the opportunity to interact with what they are reading individually, then with partners, again with other partners and finally with whole class discussion/reading posters.

The idea is to eliminate the illusion of understanding when all they’ve done is just read but to help them develop some routines that will allow them to interact with the information they are reading – as we read early on in Make It Stick.

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A Routine for HW Practice and Warm Up Retrieval with Peers #eduread

Our #eduread chat over Brown’s Make It Stick leaves my mind spinning each time.  So many ideas to process.  It can be overwhelming.  It makes me wonder… How often do our students get overwhelmed after a day of learning in multiple classrooms?

The idea of interleaving practice – whether in class or as homework has been a big part of discussion.  For me, I have never been a fan of 20 or so practice problems.  I never knew why really until I read this book.  My plan is to be intentional in practice, interleaving some review topics in on each assignment.  I appreciate Steve Leinwand’s structure of 2-4-2.  2 new practice, 4 review practice and 2 open ended questions.  Depending on the course, this may look a bit different.  But very doable for me.  I definitely like the idea of mixing new with old.

While on Pinterest, I saw an idea about using address labels to print Reading Response Questions for a Novel study.

address label

Either with address labels or on regular copies, what if I made a 5 questions HW assignment.  Say 4 different sets of these – will color code or use symbols to designate different sets.  Each set has 2 new practice problem and 2 review practice problem and 1 open ended question.

After completing the work, students will also be asked to reflect over their work briefly and describe in writing:

  • a.  which new and which review problems are most alike?  explain.
  • b.  which new and which review problems are most different?  explain.
  • c.  which was easiest?  most difficult?

When entering class, they will see instructions to pair up with someone with a different set of problems, maybe reds with blues or yellows with greens, etc.

  1. Each person will work 1 new problem and the open-ended question from their partner’s set.
  2. They will compare/check their work / solutions.
  3. Finally, they will share their written responses from the previous night’s written reflection.
  4. As a class, we will then share from our comparisons.

This structure would allow us to achieve a few goals:

  • Retrieval practice from previous day’s work.
  • Peer assessment with comparison and discussion of classmates work.
  • Time for reflection and sharing.

This HW / warm up routine would not be used on a daily basis but I think once a week or at least every other week would be beneficial.



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