3/22/18: What I learned from CMC Central 2018

I love going to CMCs so I was looking forward to this one in Visalia.

I was first greeted by Duane Habecker (@dhabecker) asking “Are you Howie?” and he said that he loves the things I post on Twitter, which was shocking because I thought the same about him. He is actually the first person to say that to me and that reiterates how powerful Twitter is.

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I sat at a table with Alice Keeler, Mong Kon Mo, and Chris Brownell and it was indeed a party table.

Here is what I learned from the conference:

Leslie Hamburger – Developing Teacher Expertise to Work with English Language Learners

Leslie talked about English Learners and how we can help these students in our classrooms. Here are some of my favorite quotes from her talk:

“We need to engage and capture all students. Demographics are not destiny. We can definitely make a change. It depends on the quality of the education.”

“Less focus on vocabulary but more on conversation.”

“You don’t learn language by memorizing words in isolation. You learn language by doing and experiencing.”

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I learned that I need to provide abundant language practice and that I should not grade grammatical errors and I loved the language continuum and the question if our class is more of a monologue or dialogue. 

Jeanie Behrend – The Power of Student Thinking

In Jeanie’s talk, I learned about Cognitively Guided Instruction. She had the idea that “Kids bring a lot of knowledge with them. We teach it out of them”  and showed us examples of how students can solve the problem without the teacher really teaching them the concept. For example, first graders can already solve 9+_=7 which was extremely surprising since 1st graders are not expected to know negative numbers. Jeanie also showed us how 3rd graders can already solve this problem: It costs $40 to buy a child’s ticket to the San Diego Zoo. If you have a coupon for $1 off per ticket, how much would it cost for 12 children to go to the zoo?

We were all impressed with how students came up with the solution.

One student did 30+30+30+…(12 times) and 9+9+9…(12 times) and added the sums up.

One student even did an area model with (30+9) and (10+2), one used extended distributive property, one did (40-1)x12, one wrote 12 39s as 6 78s, and kept doubling and halving. All of these were impressive and our group couldn’t believe that the teacher didn’t talk about any of these methods. The speaker suggested that perhaps an older brother/sister taught them the more advanced methods like the extended distributive property. One concern that our table had though, was “What if students don’t come up with a way that we wanted to talk about? Could we rely on older brothers/sisters to teach them a method so we can then talk about it?”

Lastly, I learned to put more context into problems. For example, 1200 divided by 20 means nothing to them, but if we talk about 1200 candies divided for 20 people, or 1200 eggs in 20 baskets, that makes problems more attainable for students.

Duane Habecker – Success by a thousand nudgesScreen Shot 2018-03-22 at 10.47.02 AM.png


Duane talked about effect size and how we can’t really change their home life, but we can change what happens in the classroom by nudging them in the right direction. Having student self-efficacy, student discussion, problem-solving instruction, and integrating prior knowledge mitigates the negative effect sizes that a  student’s home environment or motivation might have. The biggest takeaway that I got from Duane’s talk is the Bansho/5 practices method, which is basically You Do, We Do, I do (aka Upside-down teaching) and that I should read “5 practices for orchestrating productive mathematics discussions.”

Duane gave us an interesting fact:

Percent of class time 8th graders spent inventing their own methods…

Japan: 45%

America: 1%

This shows that we need kids to be in discovery mode. The very act of trying to discover opens up what math can mean to our students.

I loved how Duane prepared his presentation so we are all learning something. He had 38 slides without the intention of covering all the slides, but instead, being prepared to talk about something else just in case we already know the material. For example, he asked us if we all knew what a Number Talk was, and when he found out we all did, he decided to talk about something else. That is the flexibility that I would love to have when I teach.


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I got the Margaret DeArmond scholarship which provided a reimbursement for the conference as well as gas money. I HIGHLY recommend everyone who is a newer teacher to apply, especially if the school doesn’t provide that much funding.

Overall, the main takeaways that I got from this CMC that is affecting my teaching now boils to 3 things: 1. Let students practice speaking and focus on the intent, not spelling. 2. Students will amaze you with their way of thinking if you let them try to figure it out on their own. 3. Always have some sort of back-up to a lesson so students can learn at least one thing new. It’s always nice to meet other educators, especially when you have seen their work on Twitter, so I can’t wait for the next CMC.

Thanks for reading.