Promoting whole class discussions with pre-written questions

I am starting the school year in precalculus having students develop both their collaboration skills and their ability to model real world scenarios with mathematics. It is the beginning of the school year and many learners are still a little uncomfortable with each other and with their confidence in math class. I wanted to have a productive class discussion, and to make students feel safe to engage in dialogue around the content. I decided to create a discussion that appeared natural as a gateway to get some of the less confident learners engaged in the content.

At the start of class I presented a scenario to optimize by modeling with mathematics. Learners worked in randomly assigned small groups to develop an optimal solution and then, in the last 20 minutes of class, each group was to present their solution and reasoning. I wanted the learners in the audience to ask challenging questions to learn more about the groups thinking after each presentation.

Here is what I did:

While listening to learners work on a task in small groups, I circulated, listened, and wrote questions for each group on separate index cards. I was also thinking about how to sequence their presentations based on their approaches as described in the book, 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Math Discussions.

When each group was setting up to present, I would discretely hand the questions written on index cards to a less confident learners. After the group presented their thinking, I would ask, “Does anyone have any questions for this group?”

The learners would look around nervously in an awkward silence while I glared uncomfortably at a learner with an index card. Eventually, uncomfortable with the silence, the learner would ask the question on their card. Then, the presenting group would respond, which led to genuine student questions, thinking and further discussion.

By the last groups presentation, many of the learners seemed comfortable to ask questions and engage in thoughtful whole class discussion!

AP Computer Science Principles Blog List

If you teach and blog about AP CSP, please fill out this form so I can link to your blog here too.

This is my first year teaching AP Computer Science Principles. I am super excited to bring the first AP class to my tiny alternative high school. I attended AP training through’s TeacherCon in Phoenix, AZ in July 2017. It was very helpful and so far, I am enjoying using their curriculum.

I created a new blog to use to post a short daily post for each day of my AP CSP class. You can access that site here.

I know other teachers who also decided to blog about their AP CSP classes. I want to learn from you, so I am linking to those here.

Daniel Schneider normally blogs here and has an AP CSP blog here.

Matt Owen normally blogs here and has an AP CSP 180 blog here.

Kaitie O’Brian blogs about both AP CSP and AP CSA here

David Griswold blogs about AP CSP here

Steve Svetlik blogs about AP CSP here

Steph Reilly started a 180 blog for AP CSP here

Chalkbeat: How I Teach

I was contacted by Chalkbeat to answer a few questions for their “How I Teach” series. They asked some difficult questions and it took me a lot of thought to answer them. I appreciated having to stop and think about what I do.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization committed to covering one of America’s most important stories: the effort to improve schools for all children, especially those who have historically lacked access to a quality education.

Here is a link to the interview

30 things from #TMC17

I attended Twitter Math Camp for only 2 of the 3.5 days this year. I learned so much. Each of these items below could be a separate blog post, but for now I am just listing them in order to put them somewhere and remind myself of what stood out to me this year.

  1. It is complicated. It is political.
  2. Sometimes less is more. Allow space for students and yourself to develop mastery. The less crucial things will take care of themselves
  3. Start with clear goals, then make interesting scenarios approachable. Anticipate student responses, thoughtfully prepare, then allow students to explore and try to understand each others thoughts.
  4. There should be clear connections between your learning goals and your preparation and task section.
  5. Not every lesson has to be stellar, but it should be purposeful.
  6. Sometimes the process is all that matters, you don’t have to get to a beautiful, tidy solution every time.
  7. Make space for experimentation.
  8. Shut up and listen.
  9. Ask clarifying questions. Invite students to explain.
  10. Play. Approach key learning targets from multiple ways. Anticipate and sequence student approaches. Find ways to illustrate the connections between these approaches.
  11. Learning occurs within understanding of the connections of related ideas.
  12.  Communication > Evaluation
  13. We are innately driven to understand. We want to understand and be successful.
  14. Norms sketch noted by Jill Gough, from Elizabeth Statmorenorms
  15. Problematize over schoolitizing.probelmatizing (2)
  16. Resist intervening!
  17. Support experimentation
  18. “What we prove depends on the questions that we are asking.” – Grace Chen
  19. Explore alternatives
  20.  Separate related topics and cycle back to make new connections.
  21. Thoughtfully create structures that align and embody the culture and messages you are working to develop.
  22. Be rich in tools. Make students rich in tools. Make tools always available.
  23. Think about all of the choices over which you have control. Don’t give away power.
  24. Don’t assume.
  25. Play.
  26. Be Present.
  27. Reflect. Record yourself teaching: short audio conversations with students using your phone, or video. Keep it simple. Get over yourself and use it to grow.
  28. Focus on methods and connections, not answer getting.
  29. Dynamic number-line clotheslines are a great tool for supporting connections between concepts and ideas.line
  30. Stay conscious of funneling vs focusing questions. (from Principles to Actions, p37)2017-08-02-11-04-46-e1501693564143.jpg