So this week I attended two days of the NCTM 2018 Annual Conference in Washington D.C. I’m so fortunate because my school has a funder, PDT, that fit the bill. This was my first NCTM Conference — and I’m pretty sure that without their generosity there’s no way that I would have been able to attend.
While I was overwhelmed with the massive selection of workshops, thousands of people, and the dizzying amount of corporate sponsors, I did my best to stay focused. I narrowed my takeaways to two, one big and one small.
Well first let me just say that, naively, I was surprised by how lackluster some of the sessions were. None that I attended were horrible, but there were several that I was very unhappy about. This was true also for my colleagues that attended. What can I say, I’ve been spoiled by MfA — where the quality of PD is through the roof. After a while, I just started looking for sessions facilitated by folks that I knew and could bank on, like Sara Vanderwerf. She never ceases to inject me ridiculous levels of inspiration.
Anyways, back the takeaways. This school year, while I’ve adopted a more problem-based learning approach in my classroom, I’ve been crying inside at the loss of my standards-based grading structure. By pouring so much energy into reimagining my classroom, I sort of gave up on integrating SBG with PBL.
Well, with that being said, it seemed as if the entire the conference was screaming SBG at me. I attended a session with Dave Martin (he was incredible) on differentiating assessments and SBG and I walked out knowing that I have to find a way. My kids deserve meaningful, accurate assessment. There were several other sessions that also forced me to rekindle the love that I have for standards-based grading. This was the biggest and most impactful takeaway.
On a smaller scale, I went to a session by Chris Shore, the pioneer of Clothesline Math. I have played around with Clothesline Math once before after reading about it online, but this was an opportunity to experience it firsthand. It was awesome! Interestingly, his focus was on functions, yes functions, on the number line. It’s such an intuitive tool for building number sense. I’m definitely making plans to bring the open number line to my students before the end of the year. In fact, I hope that it can become a staple.