Problems of Practice Part 2

The second part of this assignment involved myself taking on a problem of practice for my partner. Her problem had to do with teaching her students the distributive property. Over the past few years, she has found that her students struggle to multiply all the way across when utilizing this property. She was looking for a strategy to help her students remember that they need to multiply all the way across.

After reaching out to my PLN, I came up with strategy that is based on students prior knowledge of double digit multiplication. When students first learn to multiply double digit multiplication, they are taught to use the area model (also called the place value sections method). This model can be easily used to model the distributive property in a way that will prevent skipping a step. Students know that they are not finished if they haven’t completed a multiplication problem in each box. This is also a strategy that they can use in later math classes with more complicated examples of the distributive property.

The second part of her problem required more research on my part. Her other problem is that students have trouble factoring out from equations to form an equivalent expression. Essentially, they are struggling to reverse the distributive property. Overall, they can do it, but they struggle to put the expression in simplest form.

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Example of the place value sections method. Students can use highlighters to help keep track of the numbers.

One of her main teaching strategies is called the cake method, and it seems to do a great job of breaking the process down into small, manageable chunks for students. Since by itself, this method isn’t working (students forgetting to continue factoring until they can’t anymore), perhaps start by relating the idea to how students know that they have simplified a fraction as much as possible. By 6th grade, they should be familiar with simplifying fractions, even if they aren’t perfect at it. Building on prior knowledge can be very beneficial. Another idea is to assign each student a sample problem. With the sample problem, give them the solution at varying degrees of simplification, and have them explain which one is factored out completely. You could even throw in an answer that incorrectly simplifies the expression as they get more adept at identifying the correct simplification, this way they have to use more of the skills related to GCF vs. just identifying the answer with the smallest numbers. One of the research articles I read indicated that student discussion on identifying “best” answers helped them to think more critically, which should help them to be more confident in their factoring.

Examples of possible student answers & explanations

Teacher Perceptions of Year Round & Traditional School Schedules

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Our project has evolved quite a bit over the course of the last few weeks. We started out by initially looking into whether or not students achieved higher test scores in year round schooling (YRS). I am still very interested in this topic, but it’s kind of hard to complete a research study on something when you a) have two weeks and b) don’t have access to test data from the type of school you are looking into. Most of the research articles we found indicated that studies of this topic were completed over a period of years in order to have enough data. Since the entirety of the program is one month that made this a bit challenging. Continue reading “Teacher Perceptions of Year Round & Traditional School Schedules”

#GREAT17 Reflection

For a first time presenter, I think I did well. Was it perfect? Definitely not. That just means that there is plenty of room for growth. However, I have been to conferences in which it was very obvious that the grad students presenting were not prepared for anything. Based on the feedback we received from the attendees, that was not an issue in our presentation. Additionally, by the time we reached the actual presentation, I felt prepared, which is important for a presentation to run smoothly. Continue reading “#GREAT17 Reflection”

GREAT17: Leading the Way

Me, next to our conference sign morning of the conference.

I can mark one thing off of my bucket list: I have now not only presented at, but also helped to plan an international ed tech conference. What a relief to have that over with! I had so much anxiety leading up to the conference. For someone whose entire career is about presenting to people, stuff like this stresses me out. I think because in my mind, it is more ok to tell my students that I don’t know an answer than people who are trying to learn a teaching method from me. Not to mention, adults ask much harder questions.

Continue reading “GREAT17: Leading the Way”

Problems of Practice

This assignment makes me a bit uncomfortable. We each have to come up with an area where our students really struggle and write up an analysis of the problem, context, technology used and how we teach it. Then, we give the problem to a classmate who takes the problem and solves it for us. That is the part that makes me uncomfortable. I have no issue with asking for help. However, I like to be involved in the process of solving my own problem and reaching out to other people. With this, I had to give up the problem to another teacher and let them do all of the solving. All that being said, the teacher who is responsible for solving my problem of practice is someone who I respect and would be willing to ask for help from. I just don’t like completely giving over my problem to someone else. I would much prefer to discuss with them throughout the whole process rather than solely at the beginning and end.

The problem I am passing off to my colleague is in regards to teaching equivalent fractions. My students tend to do ok throughout the week we spend learning about equivalent fractions, but then seem to forget all about how to find equivalent fractions once it comes to applying them in other contexts (e.g. comparing fractions with unlike denominators). Additionally, my district only gives us five days to teach the topic. My students are successful at using fraction bars to figure out which fractions are equivalent, but struggle to use other methods. While I am always ok with students using those manipulatives in class, they are not permitted to use them on the district and state tests. They also struggle with drawing accurate representations of fractions to use those instead of the fraction bars.

Personally, I feel the number one thing I need to do is spend more time on finding equivalent fractions, perhaps through incorporating more practice while comparing fractions (the other part of the fractions unit where students work with unlike denominators). However, this is not my problem to solve at the moment, and I need to work on taking a step back from this.


Research 101

This is the project that I feel I have to do the most work on. Last week the only progress we made was to identify different research practices and and start to identify a topic we were interested in. My group decided to look into year round schooling, and boy is that a mess to research right now. I am still very interested in the topic, but I am finding it hard to identify exactly what we should be looking into. I’m especially interested in how year round schooling effects student performance and engagement.

Our initial ideas include comparing teacher surveys between year round and traditional schools. The survey would ask teachers to discuss how long they need to spend reviewing after a break, as well as how burnt out they feel prior to a break. The idea behind this is that the more time teachers need to spend reviewing, the less the students remember from prior years.

The stumbling block we are running into is that it’s hard to reach out to teachers from specific schools during the summer months while on holiday. There is no guarantee that they will respond or even receive our survey within our time frame. We may need to do some modifications between now and actually sending out any sort of survey.


One of our major projects this summer is to work on arranging the GREAT 17 Conference. This conference is something set up by all of the Year 2 students in the abroad program, and is a traditional end of course assignment. While Year 1 and Year 3 students offer assistance and present posters and infographics, Year 2 students (my class!) are the ones in charge of logistics and presenting session topics.

First on our list of things to do was determine exactly what we needed to do (since our instructors are being very hands off). We determined our committees, digital, marketing, communications and logistics. Each of us had assigned tasks within our committees. My committee is the digital committee. My role is to be help take the lead in social media communications.

One of the other major tasks is to come up with session topics. My topic is project based learning, and I will be working with Piotr and Kyle. At this point, we are not completely sure in what direction our research will take us, but we are working very hard! Check back both here and on our website to find out more information!