Marbleslides 2017-2018

Last year (well 2 school years ago now) I shared a Marbleslides project I had my students do.  I realized I never got around to sharing some of the things this past group of students  created.  Again, I was blown away by what they did.  This became one of the tasks students could work on if they had extra time.

For whatever reason, I almost didn’t do this activity with students.  I’m SO glad I changed my mind.  Students got into playing around with the view window to see how long it would take the marbles to show up on the screen or how slowly they could get them to roll.  Some students also got into naming their creations.

It’s so fun for me to see what students figure out just by playing around in Desmos.  They figured out how to restrict the domain and range, make parabolas, circles, and many other things we had not talked about.  I love hearing students ask other students how they did something and seeing them teach each other.

Here is the link to their creations.


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Fawn Nguyen

I remember last spring when I heard that Fawn Nguyen was coming to Minnesota.  I honestly couldn’t believe it!  Fawn was the first middle school math person I followed on Twitter.  Her name comes up often (more like all. the. time.) in the MTBoS, and I use her stuff frequently.  I’ve met numerous people at Twitter Math Camp who know her and sing her praises; however, I hadn’t had the chance to meet her in person yet.  So when I heard she was coming to Minnesota, I immediately signed up.  I honestly didn’t know what she was even talking about until I looked it up as I was getting ready for bed the night before the workshop.  I didn’t care.  Fawn was coming, and I was going to be there.

A few weeks prior to her coming she shared this on her blog.  I had no idea she had a connection to Minnesota.

There was a meet and greet the night before the workshop.  It was so fun to reconnect with other math teachers from MN that I hadn’t seen in a while and meet new people, as well as meet Fawn prior to hearing her speak.  Like so many of the other math educators I’ve “met” online prior to meeting them in real life, I found myself thinking, “Hey!  She’s a regular person too, just like me.”  I had heard so many great things about Fawn already, and meeting her in person solidified all of the things I had already heard.

And then I heard her speak.

I quickly learned that everyone else was wrong about her.

She is SO much more amazing than everyone said she was.

I wanted to take pictures of every one of her slides to remember for later and wished there was a recording of her entire presentation because I was torn from wanting to listen and absorb everything she was saying and wanting to type everything up as she was talking.  It was ALL. SO. GOOD.


Below is a recap of the day.

Here are some websites she shared.

Visual Patterns

We started by going through a visual pattern together.  I really enjoyed seeing how she facilitates this in her classroom.  I’ve seen these before, but I have only really used the images as dot talks at the beginning of the year.

Here is the general routine she uses.  (She modifies it based on where in the year she is.)

  • Quiet work time where students give a rough sketch of stage 4 and try to come up with an equation.  (2-3 minutes)
    • Fawn uses a timer in her classroom.  She makes sure that students know that the timer signals that they are moving on to the next thing.  NOT that they need to be finished with their work.
  • Share with a neighbor (1 minute)
  • Call on 3 random students
    • Students bring up their paper and share under the document camera their method.  Even if they have nothing on their paper, they still come up.
      • She may prompt with the following questions:
        • What part do you see staying the same?
        • What part do you see changing?
    • The rest of the class is writing down on their papers (they have multiple copies of the pattern) what the student is sharing if they haven’t already thought of that method.
    • She and her students use LOTS of color when sharing.
  • Invite others who did it differently to share
  • Teacher shares his/her way


When going over the equations she will ask questions such as, “Where do you see the ‘1’ in the image?”  She also will not always simplify the equations down all the way.


She mentioned that sometimes people ask her why she doesn’t organize the patterns on the website by equations because they teach younger students and only want to use the linear ones.  Her response hit home with me because I too have had the same question before.  She said, “Just because students are younger doesn’t mean they don’t see rectangles.  That’s all quadratics are.”  Yes!!  As soon as she said this and seeing how she uses it with students made so much sense to me.


Another way she uses visual patterns is to give the 2nd step and ask students what steps 1 and 3 could be.


Problem Solving

The next portion of the workshop was spent on problem solving.  We got to work on several of the problems she uses in her classroom.

Fawn has 2 rules in her classroom.

  1. Never give up.
  2. Never tell an answer.


Her problem solving routine:

  • Posing the problem and checking for understanding
  • Individual quiet work time
  • Small (groups of 3) random groups
    • “everyone talks once before someone talks twice.”
    • Groups must come up with 1 solution that they all agree on.
  • Whole Group Discussion (5 practices)
  • Reflection

She said that if she gives 5 minutes quiet think time for a problem and a student has solved a problem in those 5 minutes, then she picked the wrong problem.  She said, “I have high respect for my students’ thinking.  If I didn’t struggle with a problem, my students don’t even see it.”

Here are some of the problems we worked on:

Fawn encourages her students to “share your progress” a lot.  She wants to see really messy papers because that shows a lot of thinking.  She also says, “I hope you’re struggling.  That means I picked the right problem.”

One of Fawn’s criteria for a good problem that I hadn’t thought of before is that you, the teacher, truly care about the problem.

She does problem solving tasks like this once or twice a month.  I always think that teachers who share things like this are doing them every day and wonder how on earth they do it?!  It was encouraging to hear that this isn’t something she does every day.  One of the things she mentioned that I appreciated was that, “pacing guides are good to have…to tell me how behind I am.”  Amen!

Where to find problems:

  • Existing curriculum (look for “enrichment”, “challenge”, “problem solving”)
  • Consider the extension or sequel in 3-Act tasks
  • If you teach grade (x), dig into books and websites for grade (x + 2) or higher
  • MARS (I think it’s this, but I’m second guessing myself now.
  • Desmos
  • Mathalicious
  • NCTM Illuminations

Here are a couple of books that she recommended:

Number Talks

Of the routines we went through that day, number talks was the one I was most familiar with.

When she calls on a student to share their thinking she will say something like, “Ok, we have more time now.  Can you give me an estimation?”

At one point during the day Fawn said this.

“You’re not good to anybody if you’re not good to yourself.”

I so appreciated that she was honest with us and admitted that she’s said no to things this summer.  Realizing that she may be an absolutely amazing teacher, but she can’t do it all was good for me.

Laura Wagenman also shared this great post after attending the workshop.

I drove home after the weekend with a full heart.  This math teacher community is truly one of the best.



I shared here a little bit about Twitter Math Camp (TMC) this summer, but this post is all about the stuff I learned and did while there.

As I’ve started going through stuff for this post, I’m reminded of how much I love TMC.  It’s the best.

Travel Day

My trip to TMC started on Tuesday.  I found Dianna and Teresa in the airport.

Once at the hotel in Cleveland, a group of us were in the lobby, and Bob was hungry.  Long story short, Casey assured him that if he said he was going to get food and left, people would follow.  It turned out to be somewhat of an adventure.

There were some food trucks by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the Taylor Swift concert that night.  We thought we’d walk down there since there would be multiple options for people.  Turns out Taylor brings in a bigger crowd of “Swifties” than we realized.  Eventually we came across a really good Mexican restaurant so it was worth it in the end.

One of my favorite things from TMC this summer are getting to see all of the teacher moves of the presenters.  I don’t know if I just never picked up on these things as much my first year going or if now that I have five years under my belt as a teacher I’m picking up on these things more, but I love getting to see the little things that others do in their classrooms!

David Butler from Australia attended TMC last year in Atlanta, and wrote a really great post on it just prior to TMC.  He describes the TMC Attitude in this post.  In short, he describes that attitude as a combination of two things

  • “Everyone in every face-to-face session is there ready to learn something. Not just expecting it but looking out for it — they are actively seeking for something to learn.”
  • “Everyone is there ready to be part of the community.”

I would argue that every teacher at TMC has a similar goal as one of the Desmos’ goals:

Desmos Day

I love the Desmos precon.  There’s just something about the fact that Desmos finds value in flying 5+ of their employees to Twitter Math Camp to spend time with us, that makes me love Desmos even more.

I spent part of my day with Christopher Danielson.  He lead us through Marcellus the Giant.  I did this activity in my own class last year, so it was good for me to see how Christopher facilitated it as well as to have student responses to look through as we went through it.

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Christopher referenced this post in his presentation.


Later on in the day Eli gave an update on Desmos and things they have been working on.  The Desmos museum was new to me.

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The exciting new feature that was shared at TMC was Snapshots.  I’m SO excited to try this out this year.  You can learn more about it here and here.  It allows you to take a screenshot sort of students’ work and then you are able to select images to discuss as a class.  Students’ names are taken off the images so you can solely focus on the work.

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I also heard Julie and Jonathan talk about how they use Desmos on assessments.  Here are their resources.  Here were some of the tips they mentioned.

  • Some of the test is on paper and some on Desmos and will include in the instructions “You only get credit if you show it algebraically on your paper.”
    • 1 slide per question.  Even if there’s a question that is just on paper, include a blank slide in Desmos to keep the slide numbers and question numbers the same.
  • Have students type in their last name first so Desmos alphabetizes their names.
  • You can go into the activity and sign in as a student to enter correct responses so that you have a key.
  • Note that if a student doesn’t answer a question, their name doesn’t show up in the summary.

Morning Session:  Talk Less, Smile More

This year I went to “Talk Less, Smile More” led by Chris and Mattie.  It’s the third year they’ve done this presentation, and every year it’s one of the ones that I have on my list of possibilities for morning sessions.  Every year I back out of going because I’m afraid of what they might make me do.  “Talk Less, Smile More” leads me to think that they probably won’t do a ton of talking and they’re going to make me do all the talking activities they have their students do.  Talking in front of large groups of people, especially if I don’t know them very well, even if it’s just for a short time is not my thing.  (And what do you know, about an hour into the first day I was called on to share my response and I had no. idea. what to say.  The question was something along the lines of “My favorite movie is___________.” or “The most important math concept is______________.”  Fun fact about me, when it comes to picking out my favorite anything, I most likely won’t be able to do it.  I just can’t, so this was one of the worst questions ever for me to be asked to share in front of the group.  BUT, I survived.  I was put on the spot and made it through just fine -a good experience for me.)

Well this year I obviously went to the session.  I’m so glad I finally went because I took away many things I want to try.

Some of the structures Chris and Mattie shared with us were things I were familiar with, but it was good to participate in them myself.  Other structures were new to me.  Below is a picture of all the structures we participated in over the course of the three days.

Here are some debate-y words they shared.

Since Chris and Mattie have been giving this presentation, I have heard many people at TMC say “My claim is__________ and my warrant is_________.”  in conversation or others will ask, “but what is your warrant?”  I never knew where this was coming from…until now!  This is the format they have students use to debate in math class.  They mentioned that this structure helps students form their answers and that the “stuffier” the wording is, the more comfortable students are to share.

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Here are some more specific examples they shared in their session that I really liked.

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Here are some other things I got from their session.

  • Chris gives students a “life pass” at the start of each semester to place on their desk.  When this is on the student’s desk Chris knows not to call on them that day because something outside of school is going on.  I think students in his class have one pass per semester.

Jill was also at this session and made some passes for her classroom.

  • Alli shared how she uses “participation chips” in her class.  Students get a chip when they walk in and have to spend it that day.  She talked about how one advantage of doing this is that students who typically want to answer every question are now more selective in ones they are willing to answer because they don’t want to waste their chip on an easy question.
  • This website was mentioned, and I want to look more into it.
  • Rose shared this link to some Talking Points questions from Elizabeth.

Here is the link to Chris and Mattie’s resources from their session.  You can also search #talklessAm as well as look in the TMC Wiki from the past two years (2016 and 2017).

My Favorites

My Favorites are short 5-15 minute presentations to the entire group that happen throughout TMC.  I’m not going to share every presentation, but here are a few that stood out to me or were new ideas for me.

  • Casey gave a great presentation on her alphabet book she’s done the past three years at TMC.  Casey is absolutely amazing!
  • I really enjoyed Chris Nho’s presentation on problem solving.
    • “Come to a stopping point.  Maybe you just learned some things about the problem.  That’s fine.”
    • Chris also shared a poster from his presentation.

  • Chase shared some things his doing with Desmos and Estimation180.
    • #EstimationStation

  • I really liked the stickers that Allison uses with her students.
  • Megan’s love letter to elementary teachers was great.
  • I enjoyed hearing Annie talk about her phone calls home.
  • Kent has a great math games website.
  • Mattie shared about the MTBoS community.


All of the keynotes were excellent, but Julie’s was a message I needed to hear for myself right now.


Edmund Harris, John Golden, and Glenn Waddell:  Mathematics isn’t everywhere.  It is more awesome than that.

  • Pam Wilson:  Formative Assessment Lessons -Where do I begin?
    • Pam shared information from her session here.  A lot of her information is in that post, so below are other little things I took from her session
    • She has a Where’s Waldo “mascot” that her students hide around her classroom.  She likes how this brings the students together in her room.
    • She has a “creeper seat” that mechanics use for her classroom so she can help students without hurting her knees.
    • I loved her cube timer and may need one for my room this year.
    • One of her favorite exit ticket prompts
      • Something I’ve learned…
      • Something I’ve realized…
      • Something I’ve been reminded of…
  • Tom Hall:  Being Purposeful with Soft Skills

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  • Jonathan Claydon: Calculus for the Algebra Teacher

  • Amie Albrecht:  Mathematical Ideas from the Game of SET
    • Here are some resources Amie has shared.  Post 1 Post 2 and another article she shared.
    • I really enjoyed looking at the math behind SET.  This is a game I play nearly every week with my students.  We also got to play 4D set at game night.  SO FUN!!!

4D Set at game night!


And 5D set!


  • Chrissy Newell and Casey McCormick:  Making progress in K-8 geometry
  • Sara Van Der Werf:  The H-Word
    • Devalue the answers.  Give evidence that these are the correct solutions.
    • Give phrases to Google
    • Model the routine of doing homework for students.
      • If your kids aren’t doing homework, do they know how to do homework?  Have they been taught how to do homework?

Other Stuff

This made me smile:

These pictures were outside one of the restaurants in Cleveland, and I’d say they describe the people at TMC pretty well.  The people at TMC are on the same mission, and everyone there is willing to help others improve.

Lastly, here’s the TMC song.


I got back from my third Twitter Math Camp (TMC) about almost two weeks ago.  I haven’t had a lot of mental space since returning to think about everything I learned math and teaching wise.  That’s a post for another day.  But there is something I want to share today.

Each TMC has been a different experience for me for different reasons.

TMC16 (Minneapolis):  My first TMC.  I was SO new to the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (MTBoS) and was a lurker on Twitter at that time, that I was so completely overwhelmed.  Also, with it being in my home state it was easier for me to stay in my comfort zone (hide in my room after sessions, drive myself to get supper, talk to people I already knew from MN).  Just GOING was so far out of my comfort zone, that once I got there, I did everything I could to not step out further.

After that, I became more active on Twitter and more involved in the MTBoS community.

TMC17 (Atlanta):  This felt like the first the first time I really met people because I had been involved more in the MTBoS community since TMC16.

Before I left for Cleveland, I found myself wondering what this year would look like.  What would it be like now that I was more familiar with the resources people would be sharing?  What would it be like now that I “know” more people from Twitter and more people may have seen my face around the MTBoS community?  I wondered if it would still be everything that I had remembered from my first two TMCs.

I shouldn’t have been worried.  It was definitely different than my first two TMCs, but different didn’t mean it would be any less than the others.  I’m fully convinced that no matter where you are in your journey with the MTBoS, TMC will always be an incredibly awesome experience.

TMC18 (Cleveland):   This year I got to see people again.  I got to build on friendships from last year in Atlanta.  I didn’t feel like the “new kid” quite as much.  I felt like I belonged.

Belonging.  That’s something that is so easy for me to doubt as I sit at home and type up a blog post or a tweet.  But at TMC, surrounded by my MTBoS friends, there was no doubt in my mind that I belong.  (Like many others, Julie’s keynote was something I needed to hear, and I can fully relate to Ali Grace.)

The last day of TMC, I was thinking about how this TMC was different for me than the others, and something stood out to me.  What do you notice about the different ways I titled things from the sessions as I took notes at TMC16 compared to this summer?


Peardeck (Julie Reulbach and Julia Finneyfrock)


Julie Reulbach – Teacher Leader

I realized that I now start with the presenter rather than the topic.  You might be thinking, so what?  Why does that matter?  To me, it shows how I’ve shifted my mentality regarding the MTBoS.

The people are what matter most.  At TMC16, sometimes I didn’t even include the presenter’s name in my notes!  This year, I sometimes forgot to include the title of their presentation.  When I left TMC, my memories were of the people over the math.  As I looked through some things writing this post today, I was reminded of all the great math and teaching things I learned from everyone at TMC, but the people and relationships stand out more to me than the content of the sessions.

As Casey shared in her My Favorite, “TMC is family”.  I think it was Mattie Baker who quoted a colleague who said that TMC is, “a mixture of church and family.”  Yep, I’d agree with that.

As I think back on everything from that week, I can think of several specific examples of times I felt like I was part of this community and that I belong.  One of the things that stands out the most to me was walking into the hotel lobby the first night.  In that moment, I truly felt known and a part of this community.  No one had name tags on yet, but I was greeted by name by several people and hugged by just as many.

I know that there will be countless times throughout the school year that I will doubt myself as someone who belongs to this community, so this is my reminder to my future self that I do in fact belong.




Marsha (top left), Cori (top right), Tom (bottom left), Nicole (bottom right)


Michelle (top left), Amie (bottom left), Mary (right)


Connie -my roomie for the week! (left), Chrissy (top right), Heather (bottom right)




me, Heather, Casey, Connie, Nicole


Minnesota at TMC!  (Dianna, Annie, Sara, me, Megan, Teresa)

Maybe you aren’t able to go to TMC or NCTM, but I can’t encourage you enough to find other like minded educators close to you that you can connect with in person at least once a year.  You will thank yourself.  I promise.