Keep Them Going With End Of The Year Math Projects

I love end of the year projects, because it’s a time to really celebrate what your students know and can apply. We started the Design a Dream Bedroom project in a 4th grade classroom, and the enthusiasm and excitement was absolutley out of control the first day. There are 6 in-depth problems within this gigantic problem…
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from Beyond Traditional Math


Visuals Make EVERYTHING Clear

One thing I’ve learned about teaching elementary mathematicians, is that you should assume NOTHING.  We think because our young learners know how to count, that they know what the quantity of those numbers are.  If you get a chance, watch Graham Fletcher’s progression video about Early Number and Counting. Actually, if you get a chance…
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from Beyond Traditional Math

You are all innovators

I recently started a keynote talk with the message, “You are all innovators.” This was not some empty platitude to win over the audience, and the message remains sincere for you dear reader.

After becoming pretty jaded with the polemic and doom-laden openings of most education keynotes these days – I wanted to start on a more positive idea.

Teaching and the world of learning design is one of the most creative of pursuits we have. It certainly is one of the most challenging environments to work in.

Innovation can only be defined in context

One of the main reasons I believe teachers are all innovators is that we apply new ideas, big and small, in a continuous effort to improve the learning experience for students.

Sometimes those ideas take time to implement, but often they occur at the point of learning we share with our students.

When we think of innovation as ‘renewal’ (from the Latin root ‘innovare’) – any teacher will understand the constant questioning and reflection on “what more can we do?”, “how else can we explore these ideas?”, “how might we approach this in a more accessible way?” or “where can I continue to challenge these students?”.

This type of curiosity leads to creativity and taking action. That is innovation in my book.

What needs “renewal” and what doesn’t, is completely defined by context. What is new for one region, district, county, school, department or class, is not necessarily new for another.

There are still people reading my articles on ideas I implemented over 10 years ago and sharing how interesting and exciting they are. What I perceive as innovative is defined by the context I am in, the same is true for you.

Keeping Up with Joneses

This popular idiom refers to people’s tendency to compare their own social standing according to that of their neighbours. It originated from a comic strip that went by the same name, created by Arthur Momand in 1913.

Within the frame of innovation in education, we might consider how we are influenced by the work and progress of other schools. I also think within the echo chambers of education social networking FOMO is generated, a Fear Of Missing Out.

If my class of 30 students is different to the one down the corridor, and to the school across the road / border – perhaps comparisons to other innovation stories is limited in utility.

You can gain inspiration, but whether it is innovative or not, to what degree it is a story of renewal, depends on your context.

Writing in a shared Google Doc

I have had the chance to work with lots of different schools throughout the last fifteen years. One example of innovation that sticks out is the use of Google Docs.

The ability for multiple users to simultaneously work in the same digital space, renewed the process of writing and feedback in my classroom. I was one of the first classroom teachers in the world to be using the technology with my Year 5 class in 2005-2006.

(If you go far enough back in this blog’s archive you will find those posts.)

For my class of students that technology helped with the way we were writing – it was innovative for us in 2006. Using that idea is not innovative for me any more though, it is no longer about renewal.

Since then I have worked with organisations and schools who have never used Google Docs. For them the process still can be renewed. It is still innovative for them even 10+ years after it was for me.

It all depends on our context.

The key thing is not to get caught up chasing other people’s innovative projects. They might just not be applicable for you. Ask yourself is this idea “new” for us or “new” for the world?

Pay attention to the needs of your own context and the students in front of you.

from The Curious Creative

Prototyping – the quickest way to learn how bad your ideas really are!

Prototyping is all about the process of generating multiple versions of a solution so you can continually improve it.

Prototyping is one of the later stages of the design process and is normally folowed by a period of testing. You can make a prototype without testing it. This stage normally follows on from a time when you and your team have generated and filtered a range of ideas.

It would also be true to say that the sooner you are prototyping and testing the better as this often instigates new thinking quite quickly.

A different way of thinking about this stage is that prototyping is to engineer as many opportunities for feedback as you can. Feedback is the main reason anyone creates rough versions of anything. Rough and ready versions give us the chance to test and think about what works and what doesn’t. And to truly understand how bad our ideas are.

You have to remember that the only thing that is worse than a bad idea is one that has been isolated from feedback for too long.

Feedback is oxygen for your ideas. It will help them to grow and get stronger, starved of it and your ideas will get weaker.

When you create a rough prototype, first draft or early sketch you are using iteration to develop your creative ideas.

Often the first prototype you can create is the moment you describe your idea to someone else.

  • What if we…
  • Imagine that you…

Your FVP (first verbal prototype) is the kick to then begin representing your idea in a more tangible way.

I developed this little decision tree to help you and your students think through some ideas for prototyping.

A Visual Prototype will be one that focuses on the look (and feel) of the product, but it will not function. You will likely focus on:

  • Sketches and illustrations
  • Storyboarding a short video
  • Digital / paper wireframes
  • Creating the packaging for your product
  • Making an advert for your service
  • Photo sequence for a new service
  • On-the-shelf mockup (placing your new packaging alongside competitors in a real store)

A Functional Prototype will be one that focuses on showing how something will work, even in a rudimentary way. The visual quality will be ignored.

  • 3D printing
  • Paper prototype and mockup
  • App mockup
  • PPT or Google Slides for a website mockup
  • Bodystorming a service (using roleplay to act it out)
  • Cardboard life scale mockup

You might also explore the following reflection promtpts to help you make the most of the prototyping process.

  1. Which type of prototype is most feasible / useful in the time you have?
  2. Why is your choice appropriate for the solution you are exploring?
  3. What resources and support will you need to build your prototype?
  4. Who are you testing your prototype on?
  5. What specific aspects of your idea do you want feedback on?
  6. How will you record feedback and ideas?

I discovered the little app POP by Marvel which is a fantastic way to quickly prototype ideas for apps. I drew around my phone and then did some sketches. Took some photos and added some links and hotspots and then you have a little functioning app.

Took me 5 minutes (including downloading the app) a great example of a functioning prototype. I need to work on the visuals!

If you enjoyed this post you should check out my article on the Prototyping Disposition and Learning in Perpetual Beta.

from The Curious Creative

I Am NOT Doing Math Today: Math Fortune Tellers

I have a student that had many excuses for why math was not going to happen today. Here they were in this order: “I’m tired.” “I didn’t really sleep last night.” (Head down on the table, arms at the sides.) “My hair hurts.” “I ate lunch too fast. I can’t do math today.” “I can’t…
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from Beyond Traditional Math

Deepening Math Vocabulary In One Simple Step

Sometimes I think we abandon the simple things that we know work because we are always on the hunt for new and better. Of course I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continually improve, I just don’t want to throw out things that still work well. I’ve seen a whole lot of “pretty” flashcards on Pinterest…
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from Beyond Traditional Math

Ask this little question to improve collaboration

Launching straight into the agenda for your sessions or meetings is not always the best way to start. We all need to create some buffer space for participants to establish themselves and shed the skin of the previous meeting or decompress after stepping out of the classroom.

The whole first phase of your sessions might take on the intention of “talking about the talking”, in which we explore the readiness of the team to start, the disposition that is most appropriate and the type of thinking required.

A successful tactic to lead and facilitate sessions in this way is to start with the innocuous invitation:

What’s on your mind?

I am always seeking ways I might improve my ability to facilitate dialogue or create the conditions for open discourse.

When you ask this simple question you create an opening for everyone in the room to share something, to allow everyone to be heard and also to gauge the readiness for the time ahead.

The group may (or may not) share something, including me, and it helps create a respectful, open space for dialogue. When we have had time to contribute early on we are much more likely to contribute throughout the session.

Later during a reflection or debrief you might make the connection to powerlessness and vulnerability, exploring how that opening impacted the work you did together.

All it takes is to ask that simple question. When you do create that little space for sharing you respectfully register the emotional (and operational) state of your colleagues, which increases the team’s awareness of the pressures we might be feeling.

This heightened emotional and operational awareness of each other is another step closer to deeper empathy and improved collaboration.


Photo by on Unsplash

from The Curious Creative