Learning Together – SUM 2014

The ability to share wisdom at SUM Conference 2014 through twitter allows me to go back and reflect on my own and others’ learning. Looking back at the storify I am able to see how others’ synthesis of the days together was the same and different than my own, offering me new insights into keynote and session presentations. Contributors to the reflection and sharing of learning were:


While most of the presentations will be posted on the SMTS website, the following is a reflection of my own and others’ tweets throughout the two days. As David Coffey would say, this reflection is helping me to consolidate my learning so that I can use it moving forward.

Steve Leinwand started us off by laying the responsibility for student achievement squarely on our shoulders. As teachers, if we notice that kids can’t do something, it is our responsibility to figure out how to teach them how. Accessibility for children is not an achievement gap, it is an instruction gap. If children forget, we need to review. If they see things differently than a standard algorithm we need to encourage multiple representations. Teaching by telling is no longer good enough – if it ever was. From this learning, I then make the leap to professional development. Teaching teachers by telling is no longer good enough, as well. And if teachers who participate in professional development are not able to do something, it is our responsibility as leaders of professional development to take on that responsibility and figure out how to reach our adult learners. Hmmm this is big and important both.

As mathematics teachers, we were encouraged through our two days together to think about how we encourage active struggle in our students. To have them reflect on their learning, and not let them off the hook when they think they don’t know. The phrase “If you did know, what would you say,” rang through the twitterverse. As educators, we need to do less of what doesn’t work and do more of what does – and know the difference! As one tweeter observed “If most kids in class are not ‘getting it’, maybe it’s not the kids. We teachers need to take the responsibility for kids learning.” and “If we care about kids’ learning, we need to stop with power trips and MAKE SURE they learn. Give them what they need.”


There was some discussion in our days together about the importance of collaboration and trust. Noting that we can achieve more together, one tweeter wondered “How can we get innovative educators to share so they become the norm?” This is a good question, and a discussion about building trust and being trustworthy ensued, where you not only need to be trustworthy yourself, but show your colleagues and students that you trust them as well.


Learning about instruction is what we love most as math teachers! While Steve Leinwand pointed out that we may get aggravated when kids ignore us and do what makes sense to them, isn’t instruction really about trying to have best first instruction so that our classrooms are open enough to allow students to generate their own ways of thinking? We need to support the active struggle of students within our math classrooms, and move our focus away from rigid rules to encouraging reasonableness in student thinking. Lisa Lunney Borden reminded us that while Math concepts are universal, it’s the numbers that is the language. For our First Nations and Metis learners, one tweeter observed that “The characteristics of how FN kids learn are just straight up good teaching practices. Collaboration, logic, hands on, connections.”  Lisa Lunney Borden has her framework and teaching ideas on her website, Show Me Your Math.

Some ways that were shared via twitter in sessions to achieve this were:

Suggested Strategies

There were many Classroom Structures for Differentiation shared in sessions that help teachers to individualize instruction. These included Math Workshop created by David and Kathy Coffee, an adaptation of Daily 5 in Math created by Sandi Neufeld and Jennifer Brokofsky, Explore +4 created by Kira Fladager, Sharia Warnecke, and Lori-Jane Dowell-Hantelmann, and Responsive Stations to Build Readiness created by Terry Johanson, Sharon Harvey, and Michelle Naidu. As well, Strategies for Differentiating Math in whole class instruction, including Parallel Tasks, Open Questions, and Games were shared.


Assessment is a huge part of instruction. Some shared wisdom was the idea that you should not ask for formative feedback unless you have a plan to do something with it. We were also cautioned that assessment often implies a test – feedback for learning is the important part. The evaluation of the assessment to diagnose learning levels is crucial in order to plan for instruction.

Goal Setting

One important task for educators and administrators is to have goals for student learning. Without classroom-based goals, school and division goals will not move. Teachers and students need to identify their areas of strength and growth and map them out. This process is summarized in a Developing a Math Goal Powerpoint. Starting with a process of ‘dream student, dream teacher, what do we need to learn’, you can identify what is most important.

Dream Student 1

A Math Goal Logic Model Blank is a useful tool to jot these ideas down, referring to an Exemplar. As one tweeter observed “Once we have a logic model, assessment becomes a piece of cake – focus on the observable indicators.” One participant reflected that Goal setting was a useful consolidation of two days of learning. You can learn more under ‘Wonder #2“.\

Where to from here? A new SMTS executive that is energetic and raring to go, beginning preparations for next year’s Saskatchewan Math Challenge in March, and SUM Conference in May. And who knows, maybe other adventures in between.