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  • 6 Oct 2022 3:13 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    Despite our best efforts to actively engage our students in mathematical thinking, there are times when all you see is a sea of blank stares and the sound of crickets. In Fall 2022, I used an ICTM Travel Grant to attend the NCTM Annual Meeting & Exposition in Los Angeles, California in search for some guidance to increase student engagement. Throughout the conference, I listened to speakers share ideas on how to consistently garner students’ attention - every period. What I learned is not new, but perhaps assembled in a new way for me. I will share some of the highlights.

    Iowa State University Professor Ji-Yeong I adeptly points out that students work best when they are competing and content is delivered hands-on. Their engagement is more natural and curious when the setting doesn’t seem to be a math task. For instance, the launch to one of her Algebra 2 geometric sequence lessons was asking groups of students to fold chart paper as many times as possible. They made predictions about how many times they could fold it and how small they could get the paper. I can visualize just how excited my own students would be to engage in this activity and have tangible results to build mathematical ideas on. Their enthusiasm would get them invested in the task and they would be able to connect the things they were doing in class with mathematical concepts.

    Robert Kaplinsky shared the hallmarks of unforgettable lessons. One such characteristic was problems with unexpected results cause us to shift our thinking, and hence, making the lesson more memorable. Making mathematical ideas “stick” came from Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die… I imagine that in the lesson described above about folding chart paper in half, students are surprised by their limitations and it assists in the memory of the experience.

    As a teacher of many emerging English learners, I appreciated Iowa State University Professor Ji-Yeong I’s guidance on providing 5-Act Tasks. This is a take on Dan Meyer’s 3-Act Tasks, but in addition to Acts 1, 2, and 3, there was a new Act 0 where vocabulary is intentionally discussed or missing prerequisite skills are demonstrated just-in-time for the learning. There is also an Act 4 where students debrief what was learned and spend more time formalizing notes on vocabulary or the mathematics used. I wholeheartedly believe that all students would benefit from this practice and will make plans to incorporate the additional acts into my lessons in the future.

    Finally, Dan Meyer enlightened teachers on his critique of calling errors “mistakes,” when in many cases they were unlearned knowledge about a subject. Especially when students are new to a concept, many of their errors were not mistakes. (Mistakes were defined as not answering the questions in which students were asked to solve.) In many cases, they had oversimplified the problem and weren’t even aware of characteristics or conventions that make some problems unique. He illustrated many examples and used them to explain why students think they are “so bad at math,” when in fact, math education has created a culture where natural inquiry, curiosity, and trials are not prioritized. Students feel a need to be perfectionists because that’s what we have lead them to believe, even though that is not the way we approach science, language arts, or social sciences where questioning, drafts, and experimentation are regularly used and valued. The lesson here is that we don’t want to undo all of the good work we are doing by labeling undeveloped thinking as mistakes.

    Finally, I appreciate the efforts of ICTM for getting math teachers to conferences to be life-long learners to hone a craft that is never going to be perfect, but can be perfected every year and every lesson along the way.

    Brooke Fischels

    Mathematics Department Chair and Mathematics Teacher

    Ottumwa High School

    Ottumwa, Iowa

  • 3 Sep 2022 11:42 AM | April Pforts (Administrator)

    Welcome back to school for the 2022-2023 Iowa school year!

    It is my honor and privilege to serve the state as the mathematics consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. One of the unique privileges this role has, is to belong to the professional organization, the “Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics,” which is also known as ASSM. ASSM is similar to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics or NCTM and National Council of Supervisor of Mathematics or NCSM. Each of these professional organizations provides the collective efficacy for mathematics educators across this nation to improve student outcomes, or as I like to call them, students’ hopes and dreams for their futures.

    Did you know that Iowa has an affiliate of each of these organizations, well not for ASSM because that would be a group of just myself, but they do for NCTM and NCSM, which are known as the Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) and the Iowa Affiliate of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (IA-NCSM). These organizations work in tandem to provide professional learning communities and opportunities for mathematics educators across the state. This means that ICTM and IA-NCSM are the collective efficacy for Iowa mathematics educators to improve student outcomes in mathematics so students can fulfill their hopes and dreams without mathematics being a barrier.

    The collective efficacy of ICTM and IA-NCSM, make these two organizations two of the most important organizations in Iowa mathematics education. This fact is why I serve as the secretary for both ICTM and IA-NCSM and these organizations are so very near and dear to my heart. Another very significant reason that these professional organizations are extremely important is because they help to recognize the state finalists for the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teacher or PAEMST. This is the highest honor and recognition that a mathematics teacher can receive! Did you know that the state awardees, funded from the national level, also get a trip to Washington, D.C., and $10,000 to use any way they choose?

    See the 2022 ICTM Conference information below and my “Call to Action,” and I will look for YOU on October 15 for the best ICTM Conference ever! Lastly, I want to say “THANK YOU!,” for continuing to teach so students can fulfill their hopes and dreams without mathematics being a barrier. “I appreciate YOU!,” and all you do to be part of the collective efficacy! Humbly at your service~April Pforts, IA’s State Supervisor of Mathematics,

    1.ICTM Conference – October 15

    a.Join ICTM

    b.Register for the Conference – 4-nationally recognized speakers

    c.Spread the Word: Flyer, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

    2.IA-NCSM – October 15

    a.Join IA-NCSM

    b.Conference Sessions

    c.Save the Date – Relicensure Credit

    3.PAEMST – Open now

    a.Nominate an educator

    b.Apply yourself

    c.Find Iowa Awardees


    Call to Action:

    1.Join one or both ICTM and IA-NCSM today!

    2.Plan to attend the conference on October 15!

    3.Spread the word on social media!



  • 14 Jun 2022 10:35 AM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    Our students at AHSTW were struggling with learning Number Sense in the Primary (K-3) grades. We were also looking to purchase a new math curriculum. In order to educate our staff and make sound decisions for our students, it was decided that we needed to learn more about the eight mathematical practices. The Primary Building Principal and the three building-level instructional coaches began to build professional development around the book Principles to Actions, Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

    The learning for the leaders of the professional development began by reading the book. Then, we had conversations about what we wanted the goal of the learning for our teaching staff to be. We determined that the target audience would be all primary teachers, those intermediate teachers (grades 4-8) who teach mathematics, plus any high school mathematics instructors. The goal would be to inform teachers about the eight effective mathematical practices as defined by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and help them learn ways to implement the practices into their daily math lessons. It was determined that this learning would take place during the monthly professional development held on-sight at the district level.

    We began in October by sharing the Eight Mathematical Teaching Practices with our group of math teachers. We asked them which, if any, they were using in their classrooms currently, and which they felt would be valuable in a new curriculum. As part of this conversation, we asked teachers to think about their experiences as a learner in mathematics as a child.

    In November, we did a brief review of the 3 Key Shifts in Mathematics. The team determined that we needed to review the Key Shifts in order to assure that all math teachers were keeping those ideas at the forefront of their learning as we integrated the concepts of the effective teaching practices. We wanted to make sure that our teachers were aware of best practices when it came to how students learn mathematics and were able to apply that learning.

    Once we finished that review, we moved into learning about building procedural fluency from conceptual understanding. With the Common Core Standards came a new understanding of the term “fluent”. Several of our teachers were still struggling with this new definition. We determined that this concept needed more exploration to understand. During this month’s professional development, we spent a lot of time using different models and explanations of fluency to help teachers grasp that “fluent” does not simply mean “fast”. About half of the November professional development time was spent focused on the concept of fluency. This is an area that we are still working to develop, district-wide.

    During our January meeting, we determined that we needed to refocus on the “why” behind our professional development for this year. Teachers were hitting that mid-year slump and needed a refresher to motivate them as to why we were pursuing this learning opportunity. After we reviewed that, we touched briefly on the importance of making sure that students were given the opportunity to learn math in a sequential manner. The idea of concrete to pictorial to abstract made a lot of sense to our primary teachers, but was a real stretch, and even met with resistance from our middle school and high school staff. They were not ready to hear that eighth and ninth graders, much less students beyond that, needed to use manipulatives to understand abstract concepts in math class.

    This month we also focused on two more of the instructional strategies. We choose to cover implementing tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving and supporting productive struggle in learning math. We knew these were going to be two difficult ones to grasp, but felt they went well together. We tied in a couple of different ideas to the discussion around productive struggle to help them understand that students NEED to struggle to learn! This is where many teachers want to help students too much, yet it’s where students need to spend some time as that’s where the learning actually happens.

    February professional development was amazing! For whatever reason, maybe it was the one where teachers felt like they had something they could take right back to their classrooms and use, or maybe we, as presenters, were more comfortable with this content, but this was when teachers started making connections and starting giving terrific feedback to us as presenters. The strategies of using and connecting math representations, facilitating meaningful math discourse, and posing purposeful questions, allowed us to pull in a variety of different strategies that our area education association (AEA) professionals had shared with us that we thought were very useful.

    We used a variety of examples of the Lesh Model for teachers to have students share their answers. Our transitional kindergarten and first grade teachers did an outstanding job of using this in their classrooms! We also used the website “Which One Doesn’t Belong?” to model how to facilitate math discourse and pose purposeful questions. At the end of this presentation, we included a resources page that allowed teachers to go back to their classrooms and use some of the tools that we had used throughout the day. Even though it was a dreary day in February, the feedback was terrific, and teachers were getting excited about what they were learning!

    The team felt like we had great momentum going into the professional development day for March, however, we also knew that it was going to be the last day of learning about the effective practices for math for the year. We only had one practice, elicit and use evidence of student thinking, left to cover, but we wanted to make sure that we left on as high a note as last month, and that people were motivated to continue to implement these strategies in their classrooms.

    We spent some time at the beginning of the day discussing and writing learning goals and success criteria. As a district, we follow the CRISS Framework for Teaching and Learning, so throughout the professional development, we wanted to make sure that was also part of the focus as we thought about lessons and how they are laid out. We also wanted to encourage teachers of math to focus not so much on the right answer, but rather on how students arrived at their answer. Did you add first, or multiply? Were you wanting to put things into groups, or separate the groups? Tell me more about what you are thinking … Encouraging students to explain their thinking instead of focusing on the answer is a huge part of the last effective practice. If we can get them to explain their thinking, then we can build on what they already know to help them learn from there. Also, it helps other students to know how they got to their answer, whether the answer is right or wrong.

    The time ended with a review of the eight effective teaching practices. We provided some time to think and discuss about what they had learned and what they were going to do with their new learning, and how they were going to transfer their knowledge to their classroom. Again, we provided a slide of resources, as that seemed to receive a lot of positive responses from the last session.

    I mentioned that teachers did implement some of the strategies that were suggested in our presentations. Several of them have read various parts of the book as we were presenting the strategies throughout the year. Our FAST math results do not reflect whether or not our students are impacted by our professional development this year.

    In the school year 2020-2021, our kindergarten students fell by 10% proficiency from fall to spring on the FAST earlyMath composite. However, the kindergarten only fell by 4% on the same test in the same time period in the 2021-2022 school year. The AHSTW first grade students gained 4% proficiency from fall to spring on the FAST earlyMath composite in the 2020-2021 school year but gained 6% proficiency in the 2021-2022 school year. Similarly, the second grade was 20% more proficient in the spring of 2021 than in the fall of 2020 on the FAST Math automaticity assessment but was 25% more proficient in the spring of 2022 than in the fall of 2021. Third grade however, showed the most loss. They fell by 1% proficiency from fall 2020 to spring of 2021 on the FAST Math automaticity assessment. The scores on the fall of 2021 fell significantly, by 10%, to the spring of 2022 for the third grade.

    Overall, we made growth, however, it is not consistent, and it is not all above 80%. There is also not enough information to tie the results we received to the professional development that we presented. It could have been the changes in something a teacher did or did not do in a classroom. We would need more information to be able to draw a conclusion like that. We have now adopted a new curriculum, and we are eager to see if we see scores above 80% to show that our universal tier is working.

  • 9 Jan 2022 3:56 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    Happy New Year ICTM Members! 

    As the new ICTM President, I want to wish everyone well as we welcome 2022! I thought you would also enjoy a fun fact for ICTM… 2022 marks our 55th anniversary! The organization officially began in October 1967. 

    While our professional and personal lives continue to be disrupted with concerns over the pandemic, the ICTM Board has used the disruption as a space for reflection and envisioning ICTM for the future. We are excited about the future of ICTM and increasing the member benefits through new opportunities for professional growth and collaboration. We would also welcome your suggestions of how to improve our organization! Send your suggestions to

    Thank you for sharing your passion for math learning with students and for being an important part of their education journey.


    Angie Shindelar
    ICTM President

  • 30 Nov 2021 9:09 AM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    NCTM Virtual Conference Highlight

    NCTM held their Virtual Conference Nov 17-20, 2021.  The conference is structured with evening live keynote sessions, live daytime and early evening sessions and video-on-demand sessions. There are also Roundtable events where a person can meet in a Zoom meeting to talk to presenters or vendors.  Vendors have exhibits.  There are usually some social events or games. This year, you could sign up for a murder mystery event.  Live sessions are recorded and those recordings become available within 10 days.  The video-on-demand sessions are available immediately and all of the recordings are available until January 4 this year. 

    One of my favorite sessions this year was the video-on-demand  “Build a Math Community through Social Emotional Learning.”  The presenters were Rachel Mane and Ashley Taplin. You can follow them on Twitter at @ManelyMath and @AshleyPTaplin. Follow on Instagram at @ManelyMath and @TaplinsTeaching. They are both math specialists in San Antonio, TX.

    The content focused on the 3 CASEL signature practices: Welcoming Routines, Engaging Practice, Optimistic Closure. They had designed a very effective recording for the conference participant.  They shared some valuable resources for Welcoming Routines that you might take a peek at, such as Check-ins Compilatio and  Weekly/Daily Check ins

    For Engaging Practice, they shared tools to support student discourse, such as, Try it-Talk it-Color it-Check it, Stand Talk Sit paired with Quick Write, Think-Ink-Combine & Refine, Jigsaw, Numbered Heads and Chat Stations.

    They also shared some strategies for Optimistic Closure.  These were Small Group One-Minute Accolade, 3-2-1 Summary, Reflective Questions, Roll your Roll, and One Word Whip Around.

    Personally, I find some compelling advantages for hosting conferences virtually.  Obviously, there are a number of advantages in terms of eliminating travel expenses for everyone and venue expenses for the organization.   

    A virtual conference sort of levels the playing field in terms of who can present in terms of available travel funds and release from work. Additionally, I do know some popular presenters who are committed to reducing greenhouse gases caused by aircraft.  They have decided to decline speaking at conferences if they would need to travel by air. Another benefit is having the video recordings available for viewing during the weeks following the conference.  A person does have to commit time to watching the recordings.  (Pro tip: You can turn the speed up on the video to decrease the amount of time each recording takes to view.) I hope you consider attending future virtual conferences by NCTM. 

  • 23 Nov 2021 2:49 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    Are you looking for a good place to go for resources for your classroom? Kentucky Center for Mathematics has several resources available to you on their website. There are resources for Algebra including rich mathematical tasks and suggestions for implementing them. As well as instructional routines and lesson exemplars.

    There are three curricular units on learning mathematics through representations. The units cover fractions, positive integers, and negative integers.

    One section is printable items such as dot cards, arrow cards, number lines, and even fun math signs to hang in your room or use as a slide in a slide deck. The list of printable items is way to long to include in this message.

    Those of you that teach online will find their section on virtual math resources to be very helpful, but any teacher would be able to make use of these online resources.

    Also included on this site are resources for Family Math. These are things that can be sent home for families to use, or they can be used for a Family Math Night at the school.

    Coaches will find a section just for them with helpful resources for your instructional coach toolbox.

    This is the link to these resources. Have fun exploring!

  • 9 Aug 2021 2:00 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    ICTM hosted their first book study this summer. We read the book “Seven Doors In” by Beth Rondeau Deacon. Beth is a mathematics teacher in the Keokuk High School. She spent 3 years teaching in prison and the book is about her experiences there. Teachers from all over Iowa joined the book study. The book promoted great discussions about education, diversity and prison reform. Several guest speakers appeared throughout the 6 weeks, including the director for the upcoming movie. This book study will be held again this fall. Watch for more information in future newsletters. Plans are being made for other book studies in the future!

  • 7 Aug 2021 7:15 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    NCTM’s Affiliate Leadership Conference was held in July. There were many great sessions and like all the conferences I have ever attended with NCTM it was high quality and very interesting. The theme this year was, Courageous Actions in Leadership: Turning Talk into Meaning.

    There were several presentations on a wide variety of topics around leadership, but I want to focus on two sessions.

    Social Justice in Mathematics Teaching and Learning

    The first session that was very thought provoking for me was the session by Dr. Robert Berry, Past President of NCTM and the Samuel Braley Gray Professor of Mathematics Education, and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at the University of Virginia. He started out his session titled ‘Social Justice in Mathematics Teaching and Learning’ with a discussion on the difference between social justice and equity. This was a great discussion for me as I wasn’t sure that I knew the difference. This is the definition that Robert shared with us.

    • Access: Ensure access to and the fair distribution of human and material resources.
    • Participation: Creating equitable opportunities for people to access information to be fully participatory in decisions that affect their and others’ lives.
    • Empowerment: Supporting people’s sense of urgency in taking advantage of opportunities society affords as well as working toward eliminating all forms of oppression.
    • Human Rights: Acknowledging the rights inherent to each human being. Human rights include: the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion, and the right to work and education (United Nations, 2006).

    So, it seems that Social Justice is much broader than just equity and that equity comes under the umbrella of social justice. What does this have to do with education? This quote from his book Mathematics Lessons to Explore, Understand, and Respond to Social Injustices gives us an idea of why this is so important.

    Teaching Math for Social Justice (TMSJ) is much more than the lessons teachers might implement in their classrooms. It is about the relationships they build with and among students; the teaching practices that help them do that; and the goals to develop positive social, cultural, and mathematics identities—as authors, actors and doers.” (p.23)

    Robert tells us that by using mathematics to respond to social injustice we can

    1. Build an informed society;
    2. Connect mathematics with students’ cultural and community histories as valuable resources;
    3. Empower students to confront and solve real-world mathematics as a tool to confront unjust contexts, and
    4. Help students learn to use mathematics as a tool for democracy and creating a more just society. These points really hit home for me. If we teach with these goals in mind, we will be creating a better world for everyone.

    Facilitating Transformative Conversations about Race in Education

    The next session was by Jessica Stovall. Jessica Stovall is a doctoral candidate in the Race, Inequality, and Language in Education (RILE) program at Stanford University. She has received the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching grant, the Stanford Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) Fellowship, and the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. Before Stanford, she taught English for 11 years in the Chicagoland area, and her racial equity work is featured on the Starz 10-part documentary series America to Me. 

    Jessica’s session used video clips from the America to Me series to spark conversation around racial inequities. She would show us a clip from the series and then put us into small groups to discuss the racial inequities shown in the clip. Each clip had its own questions. This sparked some very interesting discussions. People in the group noticed things that I didn’t notice, and I noticed things they didn’t. It really helped to bring awareness to issues that I didn’t realize were there. Sometimes we are so busy living life that we don’t stop to reflect on what is happening around us and we miss a lot of things. Jessica’s goal with this presentation was to give us the tools to start a conversation in our own schools and communities. This website, Participant, has the tools to start these discussions. I would encourage you to peruse this site and find all the tools that are available to you. The video clips and well as discussion guides are there for you to use.

    Lori Mueller
    President, Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics

  • 6 Aug 2021 2:31 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    I have recently read Asked and Answered: Dialogues on Advocating for Students of Color in Mathematics, by Drs. Pamela E. Harris and Aris Winger. I stumbled onto this resource through Harris and Winger’s podcast called Mathematically Uncensored. The book is a collection of 5 conversations around the topic of advocating for students of color in mathematics. The conversations (called dialogues) are:

    Dialogue 1: An Introduction

    Dialogue 2: Why Do You Want to Do This Work?

    Dialogue 3: How Do I Even Start?

    Dialogue 4: What Do I Do When....?

    Dialogue 5: Who Do You Want to Be?

    Harris and Winger (2020) wrote the book as the result of being asked the same questions over and over again during professional development workshops they lead on supporting students of color in the mathematical sciences.

    Each dialogue begins with a handful (3 - 5) of pre-dialogue reflection questions. Readers are encouraged to use the space provided to physically write answers to the questions before moving on to read the dialogue. Similarly, at the end of each dialogue Harris and Winger ask post-dialogue reflection questions. In this way, this book is a resource not only of the expertise of Harris and Winger in mathematical spaces, but also a record of my own thoughts and reflections while working through this book. I hope to go back and read the book again (perhaps each summer?) and to use the pre- and post-reflection questions as a way to see my own evolution as a mathematics educator and advocate as well.

    Many times throughout the book, the authors encourage you to stop reading and complete a task (google something, make a list, reflect on a particular experience), making this not just a resource to skim through and check off of your summer reading list, but a way to really reflect and grow as a human being and an educator.

    Two things have stuck with me since I began reading the book. The first is a pre-dialogue question from Dialogue 2: “ Take account of your comfort. What mathematical spaces are you comfortable and uncomfortable in? How is this tied to your privileges and/or to the power you hold within those spaces?” (pg. 22) and the second is the central question for all teachers: “Who do you want to be?” (Dialogue 5).

    The book is great reading for an individual, but I believe it would have a greater impact being read as part of a department or group of interested teachers. Many times I found myself wanting to ask questions relating my own experiences to the ideas addressed in the book. If anyone is interested in reading the book together please reach out via Twitter (@drkkdegner) or Instagram (@drdegnermath).

    The book can be purchased on Amazon.

  • 4 Mar 2021 2:17 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    Divisibility, factoring, composing, decomposing -- these are important themes in mathematics. This article discusses those topics, but the reason I am writing about methods to factor is simply for the fun of it. I mentally factor numbers into primes as a pastime while waiting in line or confined in car. (Yes, I am a math nerd.) As a bonus, I learn as I play. I'll start with basic techniques and then share the 150 Method.

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