Being a part of The Math Forum has been very beneficial to me as I have been completing this course over the past few weeks. As one of our final projects, Gina, another Co-op at The Math Forum, and I are required to present a lesson on an ancient math topic and provide an activity for our classmates to complete. I remember coming across Tangrams one time while perusing through some of the Problems of the Week on The Math Forum website. I stumbled upon this topic again when I was looking through Suzanne’s Mathematics Lessons on the site and read a little bit of history on this Chinese puzzle game. The Tangram is a dissection puzzle consisting of seven shapes: two large, one medium, and two small triangles, one square, and one parallelogram. These shapes are called tans and are put together to form pictures and shapes. Suzanne’s website contained numerous lessons on how to use Tangrams to introduce geometric shapes, symmetry, congruency, and even area to ones students. Gina and I were able to take ideas from these lessons and create a PowerPoint that teaches about the history of Tangrams, as well as three activities in which our classmates will solve tangrams, create them, and find the area of their puzzles. Suzanne even gave us plastic tans so that we would have manipulatives to use for our lesson. Having The Math Forum as a resource for school and my future classroom is definitely one of the best parts about working for this excellent educational website. I know I will be leaving here with a more open mind on how to teach math to my students!

]]>On the first day, I began by walking around and listening to the different teachers notice and wonder about rubrics they each had submitted prior to the institute beginning. I noticed they each had a different style of grading students and had many opinions to share with one another. What I found most interesting was how all the teachers seemed to click with one another. A few hours ago they were all strangers, but they were not afraid to talk to each other about their ideas and teaching styles. It was a real friendly group!

Later that day, I was given my task for the rest of the week of making sure Sue, one of the teachers who was unable to make it to the institute, was able to video chat with the rest of the group. I made sure everyone could hear her, got her some speakers, carried her around the room, I was Sue’s personal chauffeur for the rest of the week! It was pretty funny and also awesome how she was able to be a part of the EnCoMPASS Institute without physically being there. It was a successful experiment! I think the funniest part about the whole thing was that Sue’s luggage managed to make the trip to Philly twice without her!

Over the next few days, I listened in to the different teachers conversations as they discussed rubrics, student work, video scenarios, using iPads in the classroom, and more. The Math Forum even introduced a new software program where teachers can upload student work to the site and tag or highlight the work they think will be most useful for them later, whether its for grading or showing other teachers. While the software consisted of a few bugs at first, it’s slowly becoming this huge project that the Math Forum staff and the EnCoMPASS teachers are working on together as a collaborative effort. They’ve been sharing ideas and building connections over Facebook, Twitter, Email, and blogging to stay in touch with one other. It’ amazing how many online resources there are for teachers to use to share their ideas and I think this new software the Math Forum is creating will be an excellent addition!

One of the most interesting aspects of the Institute was that many people didn’t know what they were exactly doing until the very last hours they were there. During connections, each person was allowed to say one thing without anyone interrupting or responding to them and I could sense some confusion from around the room. That’s when Suzanne told them that it’s okay to not know exactly what they should be doing. She went through the same experience many years ago at a professional development seminar. What I got out of the whole institute was that they were bringing these teachers together to build relationships and connections between everyone to bring better math practices to schools. They were there to help develop this new EnCoMPASS software and bring their ideas to the table. I can see now that sharing feedback between teachers is so crucial to developing good math teaching practices. One person can not simply do it alone. I think by the end of the week, everyone gained something from the EnCoMPASS Institute, even Sue who was all the way in Chicago. I know I did.

Here is a picture of Suzanne and I from the EnCoMPASS Institute in front of the Math Forum!

]]>Recently, I came across a new puzzle game on The Math Forum Facebook page called KenKen. It’s a mixture of Sudoku and math all in one. It was discovered in 2007 by Robert Fuhrer, a toy inventor, who came across the puzzles published in Japanese books. Fuhrer’s toy company and chess International Master David Levy brought these puzzles to the attention of *The Times *in London and the puzzles were published in the newspaper in 2008. The New York Times and hundreds of other papers followed by publishing these fun, educational puzzles years later.

I was really confused when I came across my first KenKen puzzle, but was able to pick up the rules quickly. The object of the puzzle is similar to Sudoku – fill in the grid with different numbers without repeating a number twice in the same column or row - but now there is a math element involved, in which the numbers must combine to form a target number using a specific operation.

I haven’t played too many KenKen puzzles yet, but when my brain needs a break at work, I like to go on my KenKen App on my iPad and practice some puzzles. Just as I loved to complete Sudoku puzzles every day in school, I think students would enjoy completing these fun puzzles in the classroom. They would be helping them improve their calculation skills, logical thinking, and persistence. I think they’re the perfect way for kids to master new math concepts and practice with different operations!

]]>As you already know, the Math Forum staff taped at Christopher Columbus Charter School in May to get footage to go along with the new book Max wrote. They wanted to show how different methods highlighted in each chapter of the book are implemented into different grades and classroom settings in schools. They tried different activities with the students like “Forget the question,” “What do you see/hear?,” and my favorite think-pair-share, in which students think about the question on their own, share what they noticed and wondered with a partner, and then share with the class. As I was going through all the video footage, I realized that when the students were given manipulatives to use to solve the problems, they became really engaged in the activities and were having fun. They would argue their ideas with one another and would even take the questions one step farther by wondering what would happen in a different scenario. For example, Annie did a problem with a class called Trapezoid Teatime, in which they had to figure out how many seats you could have if you connected five trapezoid-shaped tables together.

With the manipulatives given, the students figured out the problem, but they also began to form new shapes with the trapezoids to figure how many seats they could fit if the tables were placed in a different formation.

I loved how creative the students were and how eager they were to answer the problems using the manipulatives!

]]>P.S. I was finally able to wear my new Geometry Toms too! My Math shoes!

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