Resources for Global Math Department, September 8, 2015 NUMBER TALKS

On Tuesday September 8, 2015  I was privileged to be the presenter on Global Math Department.

I’m not sure that the Resources links that I had in my Powerpoint presentation work properly so I am reposting them here.


How to Start a 2 page document with facilitation tips.

Common Math Strategies A list of mental math strategies for the 4 operations, elementary and middle. High schoolers should have these.

How to use Number Strings in a Number Talk directed toward 4-5 but useful for all

Lots of Number Strings   for grades 3-6 to build strategies

Dot cards for 4-12   useful and fun for students   More Dot Cards

Dot Cards for Kindergarten

First grade frame cards

Web site for Number Strings

Middle School Number Talks Presentation from NCTM

Books that I think are worthwhile

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 5.04.18 PM

I will continue to add more to this site.  (If I survive Global Math Department)


I’m unbalanced!


We talked about balance in my teacher credential program.  We talked about balance in my Administrative Credential program.  And it still eludes me.

As a math coach, I think of balance as rigor in a math program: rigor is a balance between conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application.  Now that seems attainable!!

But in my life, I can’t seem to balance work and all the rest.  ‘All the rest’ includes clothes shopping, doing nothing, going out with friends, partying, reading for pleasure, working in the yard, …

My family commitments are not as great as they were when the kids (now adults) were young.  Then the non-work tasks at home were essential.  Now it’s just my husband and I, and he works long hours.  Oh, and I do visit my mom in Canada.

But when I look on FaceBook, I see that I’m lagging behind – not as many dinners out, not so many vacations, I don’t go to many baseball games, my birthday is a very low key event, I don’t have group pictures with my friends, not as many people over for dinner, …  And that doesn’t really bother me, after all, I’m not trying to keep up with the FBers.

But tomorrow is Memorial Day and I’ll be working at home all day, finishing content maps for 4th and 5th grade CCSSM.  It’s not a task I enjoy so it takes me longer than it should. 

So I’m asking for advice – How do you keep your life in balance?


This is not your mother’s teacher job search!!

My daughter, who blogs at A Brand New Line, is looking for a new teaching job. And I am startled by how different the process is now than it was 4 years ago when my son was looking for a teaching job, 5 years ago when she was looking for her first job, and 17 years ago when I was looking for my first job.

In the past 17 years in California it seems to me that the process was something like this:

  • Learn how to teach
  • Student teach
  • Graduate with a credential
  • Apply for jobs
  • Take a job if one is offered (and it could be that there are no offers)

And maybe it is still like that for first year teachers.  But my daughter is now looking for a job in a very different way. A very professional way with a critical eye.

She has 4 years teaching experience; 1 year in a K-8 public school in CA and 3 years in an all-girls boarding independent school in NY.  And she knows what kind of school she wants to work in.  To quote her: “I am looking for a school committed to collaboration and a deep evaluation of curriculum.  I could teach public school in NY or CA or independent school anywhere and by anywhere I mean I am really looking to teach in a large urban area.  I am looking for a school that is deeply involved in conversations about diversity and social justice.  I am looking for a school that provides opportunities for advancement and professional development. I am looking to teach at a place that most importantly makes decisions around what’s best for kids.”

I don’t know if this makes job hunting easier or more difficult.  But I do know that she has turned down a job because it didn’t fit her criteria, she has interviewed in 3 different states, she has interviewed in public and private schools.  And I know it is a little scary to realize that she won’t have a job at the end of June.  But she is sticking to her criteria.

And I’m proud of her.  This is how all teachers should look for jobs.  This is how we can make school systems accountable.  This is how schools improve.  Change is a growth experience, too many teachers haven’t changed in the last decade.

So if you know of a school that needs an excellent math teacher who has passions beyond numbers, let me know.  I don’t think they’ll be disappointed.




No fish today, plenty of hooks, lines, poles!

Well, I’ve been doing this coaching gig  (4th and 5th grade math) for five months now. And I’m still not sure that I like it.  I certainly miss the daily contact and relationships with kids.  I like the 4th and 5th teachers, and I enjoy their students.   Call me crazy, but I miss my middle schoolers. 

And this job is hard.  Not impossible but very difficult.  I understand, it is hard to change the way people teach.  And that is the thing about CCSSM,  the math didn’t change  (it is really old, older than I)  but the way we teach it and the way kids should learn it has changed.  No doubt,  this is a good change.

But I’ve found my position in this whole coaching role.  I won’t give out lessons, activities, assessments, or daily curriculum. (Well, I might but not enough to teach for a year.)   I think the key to success is content knowledge!  The elementary teachers I deal with are great teachers.  I have so much respect for what they do and how they do it.  I see my job as strengthening their content knowledge, not just at their grade level but beyond.

So I am adopting the Chinese proverb as an Action Plan.  Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  I’m handing out the equipment, they will do with it as they will.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

As always; questions, comments, suggestions are appreciated 🙂

MIssion #2: Twitter, Tweet, Tweep MTBoS, does anyone speak English?

I’m new to the Twitterverse.  Well, I’ve had a handle for a while but didn’t really understand or feel a necessity to look at stuff.

This was despite the influence of my daughter, @sophiegermain who is an avid tweeter and a member of MTBoS.  I mean I even paid for her plane ticket to Twitter Math Camp in Philadelphia last year.  (And by the way, let me brag – she’s a great high school math teacher.)  Just to make it clear, this is not an age issue.  Yes, I am old. But I don’t think that is what made my entry into this brave, new world a slow process.

But I’m in now and this is what I’m getting from MTBoS.  New friends from my native country, new friends from across this country, help with my new gig – elementary math coach, articles & lessons to pass on to my teachers, many articles to read about education, middle school stuff to pass on to my former coworkers, links to really useful math blogs which I now follow.

I could say much more but, I’m guessing you know all this.

If you’re not part of the MathTwitterBlogosphere look at #MTBoS on Twitter and welcome to my world!!

The power of “YET”

This is not a carefully crafted post.  As with so many things these days, I’m grabbing a moment to do something that has been rattling around in my head for a while.

This summer I started, and finished in the fall, a MOOC.  A first for me.  The course info came to me from the Assistant Superintendent in my District and since she is my boss in my new coaching gig I thought “Why not?”  The course was from Stanford On-Line, given by math education guru Jo Boaler.  (EDUC115N How to Learn Math to be offered again in the Spring)

Last week I facilitated a group discussion about the course,  attended by 20 teachers who worked on it during the summer.  A great discussion about Growth mindset, brain growth, Common Core, girls in math, the ‘S’ word, …

One of the best conversations was about the word YET.   How often have you heard a student say “I don’t get it.” or “I can’t do this.” or even worse “I’m not good at math.”  If the teacher or the student puts the word yet at the end of those 3 statements the meaning changes; “I don’t get it yet.” , “I can’t do this yet.” , “I’m not good at math yet.” 

Now those laments sound hopeful, positive and motivating. 
If we start using that one word with our students we’ll send a powerful message – you can learn and you will learn.  And we’ll start changing attitudes towards learning and math.
But as a coach I can see that this doesn’t just apply to students.  I hear the same kind of language from teachers – “My kids can’t do that.”, “CCSSM expects kids to discuss math, students don’t even have the language to do that.”, “This might be easy in K-1 but it won’t work in my 5th grade math class.”   You know the drill – put ‘yet’ at the end of those complaints/comments.   See it’s not so hard. 
I’m struggling a bit with this coaching role – I’m not great at it YET.

Mission #1: The Power of the Blog

(First of all I want to say that I don’t have a class this year.  But I had a class for the last 15 years so I’ll take it from there.)

Why is my class different than any other class?  Well it’s because of ME!  I am what makes my class different from other classes in my school.  So let me try to describe my teaching.

For the last 4 years I have taught 7th and 8th grade math students who are all several years behind when they enter my class.  You know the kid – “I can’t do math” “Math sucks”  “I’ll never use this” “I don’t get it”.  And having these kids every day has changed my teaching style for the better.

I’m big and loud and in their faces.  I tell stories, I whistle, I tell jokes, I am sometimes sarcastic, okay more than sometimes.  I keep their eyes on me by demanding their attention.  I know that sounds very ‘old school’ and I guess I have something of an old school style.  But I’m morphing and my students have more choice than I used to give, more collaborative work, less Ms. Harris.

And sometimes people say I’m too tough on kids which makes me a little sad.  But, for the most part kids like me by the end of the year and they know I care about them.  And they leave my class closer to grade level.

So what’s unique about my classroom – it’s me.  A few years ago my District kicked off the year with a “It Begins with Me” motto for everyone in the District.  It kind of got lost over the last couple of years.  But I believe it not only begins with me, it ends with me.  I’m accountable!!