Monday, April 29, 2013

"Tiny Math Games"

This week I am borrowing from an excellent blog dy/dan, Dan Meyer.

Dan's following is quite substantial and the stream of replies to his posting about "tiny math games" is an terrific resource for a mathematics classroom. I added a few of my own - look for the Norma Gordon comments on the blog page.

Here was his prompt for tiny math game suggestions:
  • The point of the game should be concise and intuitive. You can summarize the point of these games in a few seconds or a couple of sentences. It may be complicated to continue playing the game or to win it, but it isn't hard to start.
  • They require few materials. That's part and parcel of being "tiny." These games don't require a laptop or iPhone.
  • They're social, or at least they're better when people play together.
  • They offer quick, useful feedback. With the multiplication game, you know you don't have the highest product because someone else hollers out one that's higher than yours. With Fizz-Buzz, your fellow players give you feedback when you blow it.
  • They benefit from repetition. You may access some kind of mathematical insight on individual turns but you access even greater insight over the course of the game. With Fizz-Buzz, for instance, players might count five turns and then say "Buzz," but over time they may realize that you'll always say "Buzz" on numbers that end in 5 or 0. That extra understanding (what we could call the "strategy" of these tiny math games) is important.
  • The math should only be incidental to the larger, more fun purpose of the game. I think this may be setting the bar higher than we need to, but Jason Dyer points out that people play Fizz-Buzz as a drinking game. [Jason Dyer]

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Curriculum Alignment and Mapping Webinars from MA ESE

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in partnership with the Pioneer Valley Readiness Center, the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative, and the Collaborative for Educational Services, will present a series of free webinars on curriculum alignment and mapping during the month of May.  

 To register, please go to the links below:

May 13, History and Social Science: 10-11 (elementary) and 1-2 (secondary), History and Social Science 

May 21, English Language Arts and Literacy: 10-11 (elementary) and 1-2 (secondary)

May 29, Mathematics: 10-11 (elementary) and 1-2 (secondary)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Creating a Rigorous Task and Making Sample Tasks Your Own

This week I am sharing a resource I created for a workshop focused on identifying language objectives together with mathematical content and practice standards objectives. It is based on the Buttons Task (grade 6 Statistics and Probability) found at (illustrative Mathematics is an initiative of the Institute for Mathematics & Education funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

This is an example of how a task found on-line (or elsewhere) can be modified for broader learning objectives and rigor while embedding [student directions] to encourage mathematical discourse.

If you are interested in a copy of the file email your request to:

Content Standard:
Develop understanding of statistical variability. Recognize a statistical question as one that anticipates variability in the data related to the question and accounts for it in the answers. For example, “How old am I?” is not a statistical question, but “How old are the students in my school?” is a statistical question because one anticipates variability in students’ ages.
Context for language use:
The Jar of Buttons task requires READING the definitions and questions, WRITING, recording reasoning and questions. Additionally there is well SPEAKING AND LISTENING with the oral discourse activities such as turn and talk.

A Jar Full of Buttons
Zeke likes to collect buttons and he keeps them in a jar.
Occasionally Zeke empties the buttons out of the jar so
he can see all of his buttons at once.

PART ONE: Review in your group the following definition:
A statistical question is one that anticipates an answer based on data that vary. 

Example: “How many minutes do 6th grade students typically spend on homework each week?” is a statistical question. We expect 6th grade students’ time spent on homework would vary from student to student or week to week. 

Non-example: “How much time did Juana spend studying last night?” is not a statistical question since the answer is based on a single number individually complete the table below. 

PART TWO: Which of the questions in the table below are statistical questions? Explain why it is or is not a statistical question.


Statistical Q?
Yes or No
Why or Why Not?
 I. What is the typical number of holes for the buttons in the jar?

 II. How many buttons are in the jar?

 III. How large is the largest button in the jar?

 IV. If Zeke grabbed a handful of buttons, what are the chances that all of the buttons in his hand are round?

V.  What is a typical size for the buttons in the jar?

 VI. How many buttons have four holes?

VII. How are these buttons distributed according to color?

PART THREE:  When everyone has recorded his or her answers, compare with your partner/group. Share reasoning if there are any disagreements. 

Individually write TWO new “button questions”. One should be a statistical questions and the other one not statistical. Be prepared to share your thinking and explain why it is or is not a statistical question.

PART FOUR:  Trade your two questions with your partner/in your group and see if they agree with your classifications.  OR Hand in your two Question as exit ticket 

Statistical questions I, III, IV and VII
Possible statistical question:  What is the distribution of button shapes in the jar?
Possible non-statistical question:  How many more buttons are in the jar this week?

Adapted from Illustrative Mathematics

Monday, April 8, 2013

Flip Books and PARCC/NMSI resources

This week I am sharing two resources:

FLIPBOOKS (source:

Common Core “FlipBooks” are a compilation of research, “unpacked” standards from many states, instructional strategies and examples for each standard at each grade level. The intent is to show the connections to the Standards of Mathematical Practices for the content standards and to get detailed information at each level.
Resources used: Common Core State Standards, NCTM’s Focus In Grades K-8 series, Student Centered Mathematics by J. VandeWalle, Arizona, Ohio and North Carolina department of education “unpacking” of the standards. This “Flip Book” is intended to help teachers understand what each standard means in terms of what students must know and be able to do. It provides only a sample of instructional strategies and examples. The goal of every teacher should be to guide students in understanding & making sense of mathematics.

And from

National Math + Science Initiative blog

Newly Released Common Core Resources and Materials Are Now Available to All Teachers

National Math and Science Initiative is providing teachers unlimited access to the PARCC open-source learning management system
DALLAS – The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), a non-profit organization launched in 2007 to transform math and science education in the United States, announced today that they will make Common Core State Standards (CCSS) resources available to all teachers with unlimited access.
In 2012, the National Math and Science Initiative was selected to partner with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to launch the Educator Leader Cadres (ELCs) initiative.  PARCC is a 22 state consortium working collectively to design and develop a common set of next-generation K-12 assessments in math and English anchored in what it takes to be college and career-ready. 
The PARCC Educator Leader Cadres (ELCs) help each state build and expand the number of educators who understand, support and feel ownership of the successful implementation of the CCSS and PARCC assessments.  NMSI has hosted face-to-face meetings and webinars for the ELCs in these states to develop expertise and guide implementation of the CCSS.  
Because many of the materials and resources produced through this partnership are applicable to any state implementing the CCSS, NMSI is now providing access to the PARCC open-source learning management system to educators across the country.  Additional materials and resources will continue to be released through the 2014-2015 school year.
“We are excited to be able to provide teachers and administrators with resources that target the Common Core State Standards.  This growing repository of tools will provide resources for successful implementation of the standards and assessments,” said Sara Martinez Tucker, NMSI President and CEO. “Common Core instructional resources focus on strategies for building higher-order thinking, effective communication, and problem solving skills in the context of the discipline.”
To access these resources, educators will need to go to  They will click on “Get Free Resources” and be asked to create a profile.  Educators will then have unlimited access to these and all new open resources developed for PARCC by NMSI, ELC state team members, and PARCC staff members. Additional, free classroom-ready lessons are also available on the NMSIwebsite.

Monday, April 1, 2013

GB DSAC Symbaloo

A shout out to my colleague Abbey Dick for setting up a GB DSAC curated list of go-to web sites using symbaloo. Look for a WIDA/Math/ELL I am working on in the coming weeks.