Today’s guest post is from our Mathematician in Residence, Manuela Crowley!

This past April, Zeno sponsored 4 local teachers to attend the nation’s largest math education conference – the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference held this year in Denver, CO. I was honored to attend with this group of local educators and soak up all the great insights and collaborations conferences like this make possible.  As always the resources in the exhibit hall were abundant and there were tons of workshops and lessons to help teachers across the nation update their practices to align with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.
One person can’t make it to every session – there are simply too many! But our incredible group of Puget Sound teachers met every evening to compare and share the best nuggets from the sessions they attended. They all brought back lots of great lessons, teaching tips and ideas to share with their classrooms and colleagues.  One of our teachers learned how to make some elementary math lessons more algebraic, and how to use pictures and puzzles to make fractions more fun.  Another walked away with a host of suggestions for tablet apps that will help in their classroom (…psst – here’s our favorites!).  These resources will not only benefit the teachers that attended and the kids in their classrooms but the school as a whole. Teachers will present these great resources back to their schools as professional development workshops. Get a taste of this fun stuff available through NCTM via their conference activity sheet.
But what were MY favorites? I’ve been to NCTM several times and, in no particular order,  here are some of my favorite resources and tips for elementary educators:

  1. Origo has always been one of my preferred math companies out of Australia.  They offer a multitude of products with some of my favorites being the GeoSeriess – especially PaperPolygons. I also find their Fundamental series of books very useful.  Each book focuses on teaching mental math strategies for different grade levels through game play.  I have used the games in classrooms throughout the spring. In addition, Origo has come out with a digital curriculum which gives you access to many resources (including professional development videos) for a yearly licensing fee.
  2. I reconnected with a company I used to work for: EDC (Education Development Center).  They are doing some interesting work around algebra for older kids.  I used some of this work with the 4/5 kids at one of our partner schools.
  3. I was introduced to the concept of Number Bracelets by Ruth Parker at her session on Enhancing Teaching and Learning with the Standards for Mathematical PracticesHere is a website on Number Bracelets that explains the activity nicely. The intriguing thing about Number Bracelets is that it allows students to practice their math facts in the context of exploring mathematical ideas – kids making sense of mathematics not just memorizing! In exploring Number Bracelets they may come up with their own investigations such as those below.
    • How long (or short) a number bracelet can you make?
    • Will a number bracelet always loop back to the beginning, or can you have a string of beads that never repeats?
    • How many different starting pairs of beads are there? .
    • How many different number bracelets are there? .
    • If you start with the same two beads, but in the opposite order, do you get the same bracelet?
    • Do you get the same bracelet in reverse? .
  4. Finally, here is a link to the mathematics of juggling that George Hart shared in the closing session with his daughter Vi Hart.

And that’s our dispatch from this year’s NCTM!
Zeno Partner Teachers – don’t miss the opportunity to receive a scholarship to next year’s conference!  Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date one when next year’s applications for NCTM New Orleans are out!

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