Friday, May 15, 2015

May 2015

Busy Busy Busy!  We are all racing to the finish line of the school year, but here are some things that you might want to consider and make note of:  

  • Presidents' Report
  • VCTM 2015 Fall Conference: Save the Date!  
  • Call for Proposals
  • Math Morsels Round 3
  • NCTM Boston
  • Math Educators's Night at Fenway Park
  • Looking Down the Road…(I-89):  New Hampshire Teachers of Mathematics are starting to plan for the ATMNE 2016 Fall Conference
  • Common Core Statistics for Secondary Educators
  • Free Mathematics Teacher Magazines

Presidents' Report

Hello, and Happy Spring!  

Please read this newsletter for information about our VCTM 2015 Fall Conference (October 16th—mark your calendars!) and our presence at the NCTM Annual Meeting in Boston last month.

VCTM is collaborating with the Vermont Agency of Education to support their “Math Morsels” series of workshops. Through our Liaison with the Vermont Agency of Education, Lara White, VCTM is providing financial support throughout the 2014-2015 school year. These events are geared toward teachers of grades 6-12, and typically take place from 4 to 6pm with ½ hour of socializing and snacking followed by a workshop.  The first round of Math Morsels took place in November/December 2014, with a topic of Proficiency Based Learning. The second round of Math Morsels took place in January/February 2015, with a topic of SBAC summative assessment. Keep your eyes and ears open (or contact Lara White at for the final round of Math Morsels will be hosted in May/June 2015, around the topic of assessment in a proficiency-based system.

It was wonderful to have the NCTM Annual Meeting and Expo in the northeast this spring.  NCTM provided 60 complimentary registrations to ATMIM (Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Massachusetts); ATMIM then voted to share those equally across the ATMNE affiliates.  VCTM gladly gave away free registrations to Sally Conway (Vergennes Union Elementary School), Marlene Allen (Springfield High School), Jennifer Ericson (Riverside Middle School), and VCTM board members: Jean McKenny, Harvie Porter, Sue Abrams, David Rome, Mary Calder, Patty Kelly, Sean Sullivan.

Most exciting is that we have been adding to our VCTM Board of Directors this winter/spring and are still welcoming more members to join us. If you would like to take on a leadership role and share in our work with math teachers around Vermont, please reach out to us. Responsibilities large and small are available, especially related to conference planning!

Best wishes from your VCTM Co-Presidents,
Christine Latulippe and Kate McCann,

VCTM 2015 Fall Conference: Save the Date!

VCTM invites you to our Annual Mathematics Conference, “Growing Math Minds”, which will be held on Friday, October 16 at Vermont Technical College in Randolph.  We will welcome Dr. Michael Shaughnessy, NCTM Past President 2010-2012, as our keynote speaker. 

“Growing Math Minds” will have presentations focused on instructional strategies to promote the Common Core Mathematical Practices; Growth mindset: mathematical discourse in the mathematics classroom; and Proficiency Based Learning for career and college readiness.
What are YOU doing in your classroom today? Feel the energy that comes with organizing your thoughts for others, getting feedback from colleagues, and taking your professional development beyond the walls of your school.

Join us for a day of conversation, presentations, idea sharing, and resource gathering. Network with mathematics educators from across the state and learn about what’s working well in other teachers’ classrooms.

Call for Proposals

Volunteer to present at the VCTM conference, and share your ideas with colleagues from across the state in a 60-minute session. Sessions traditionally involve a speaker or speakers relating ideas to an audience, and often include handouts and audience participation. Presentations might also take the form of a panel discussion where multiple teachers share ideas and experiences on a particular topic; VCTM welcomes groups of teachers to present their ideas together.
All presenters are encouraged to share and utilize manipulatives, curricula, and effective pedagogical strategies during their presentations. However, conference presentations are not intended to be commercials or promotions of particular products by individuals who may benefit financially from sale of the products.
The deadline for proposals is July 15, 2015. Speakers will be notified by August 15, 2015. Please complete the form linked here:
Multiple submissions are allowed, but priority will be given to including a wide variety of presenters.
Email Kate McCann at with questions.


Math Morsels Round 3

We want to develop discussion networks for math educators in grades 6-12, regionally and state-wide.   Share what you are doing; hear what is happening near you.
May/June Regional Meetings: Sharing Assessment Strategies, Grading, Reporting and Retakes (link to registration) Join us for a conversation about assessment in a proficiency-based system.  Educators will share ideas about assessments and discuss important issues around grading and reporting.  How do you know when a student is proficient? What is the retake philosophy? How are you reporting proficiency to students and parents? (Check out our seven regional venues and a virtual option as well!)

Find the place and date that work best for you.
            May 20, South Burlington High School, 4-6 p.m.
May 21, North Country Career Center (Newport), 4-6 p.m.
May 28, Montpelier High School, 4-6 p.m.
June 4, Rutland Intermediate School, 4-6 p.m.

Would you rather join a virtual conversation? I will arrange a GoTo Meeting option.
(Please place a checkmark on the virtual option within the registration form.)

Lara White, M.Ed.;  Secondary Mathematics Program and School Effectiveness Coordinator
Vermont Agency of Education  (802) 479-1364 –


NCTM Boston

I had the pleasure of representing the Vermont Council of Teachers of Mathematics at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Meeting & Exposition in Boston, MA from April 15-18, 2015 . During this conference time I attended the Eastern Caucus Meeting, the Delegate Assembly, and many conference workshops.

During the Eastern Caucus Meeting we discussed several issues that NCTM is currently navigating. These issues included affiliate (for example, VCTM) membership, creating diverse affiliate and NCTM leadership, computer science and/or coding courses replacing high school math courses, and high stakes testing across the country. We brainstormed what our affiliates are doing to support these issues within our areas. We also shared work that is going on in our affiliates and new ways that we are bringing conferences and new learning to our geographic areas.

The conference itself was an amazing experience! Having the opportunity to be among  many math educators and national leaders such as Jo Boaler, Dan Meyer, and Diana Briars provided me with numerous opportunities for rich discussions and professional development. One of the  conference themes that was overarching many sessions was using the resource, Principles to Actions (published by NCTM in 2014), within schools and districts as a professional development tool to inform instructional practices and drive the shifts in our teaching of mathematics. This resource is available at in either book or e-book formats.

Another overarching theme of the workshops that I attended was the importance of making use of teaching strategies that foster the student mathematical practices of the CCSSM. This included providing students with open-ended tasks that can be differentiated and that support deep mathematical discourse. The student-centered practices of engaging in a mathematical task and then expressing reasoning to others provides for a higher level of thinking and embeds a student’s understanding into long-term memory. These tasks are also often hands-on, use manipulatives, and provide students with an engaging classroom experience.

I’m looking forward to using the tools and resources that I gained from the conference and thank VCTM for supporting our learning as math professionals in Vermont.

Patty Kelly
VCTM Board of Directors
K-5 Math Coach, Springfield School District, Springfield, VT


Math Educators's Night at Fenway Park 

New England Finalists for the 2014 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching  were honored with certificates and small gifts from ATMIM and ATMNE 
on Friday April 17, 2015.  Vermont was represented by Laura Botte Fretz (Edmunds Middle School, Burlington) and Tom Young (Waitsfield Elementary School) represented Vemont. Also honored were the 2014 Father Stanley J. Bezsuzka Award Winner from ATMIM (Lisa Mikus from Newton Public Schools) and from ATMNE Dr. Anne Collins from Lesley University.  The night at Fenway coincided with the NCTM Conference that drew over 500 attendees to the game ( which the Red Sox won 3-2 over the Orioles)


Looking Down the Road…(I-89):  New Hampshire Teachers of Mathematics are Planning the ATMNE 2016 Fall Conference

NHTM is beginning to plan and prepare for the conference and are looking for some willing folks to assist on their committees.  They are looking for an individual who is willing to work on the program committee who would serve by identifying potential speakers from Vermont and then to be available to review speaker proposals.  If you are interested in assisting, please send your name, grade level(s) and email address to Harvie Porter at, your ATMNE Representative from VCTM. 

If you would like to get involved in a different committee (Exhibits; Hospitality and Special Events; NCTM Bookstore; Registration and Membership; Session and Workshop Support; Signs and Printing; and Student Hosts), let Harvie know as well and he will pass along the information. 


Common Core Statistics for Secondary Educators

Stacey Anthony of Essex HS is offering a 3-credit UVM course this summer designed for secondary math teachers desiring a thorough review of all standards included in the Probability and Statistics conceptual category of CCSS.  The course will take place June 22-26, with pre- and post-class readings and discussions.  For more information, contact:


Free Mathematics Teacher Magazines

Former Hartland Elementary teacher (and VCTM Board Member) Mary-Anne Johnson Boyce has about twenty years’ worth of Mathematics teacher and Middle School Math Teacher magazines that she would like for someone to adopt them, as well as some math books as well.  If you are interested in them, drop her a line at 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

February/March 2015

In this issue:
  • Co-Presidents’ Message and Invitation 
  • How to win one of four FREE registrations to the NCTM National Conference in Boston in April 
  • Math Morsels are making us SBAC our lips! Informal after school meetings around the state to help us understand the SBAC that is soon to be given
  • Presidential Award Finalists 
  • Graduate Study on Effective Programs for Mathematically Talented Youth
  • CCSS Training on the TI-84C Dates in June---and get a free calculator by attending
  • The Talent Search of the Vermont State Mathematics Coalition continues

Co-Presidents’ Message and Invitation

Hello, and Happy New Year!  Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to become more involved, volunteer, take on a leadership role, or strengthen your ties to the community of mathematics teachers in Vermont? If any of these are on your list, the VCTM Board is the perfect opportunity for you to follow through on those resolutions!  All VCTM members are eligible to serve on the VCTM Board of Directors. We currently have openings for the following positions:
    • NCTM Representative
    • Zone 4 Rep (see attached map)
    • Zone 5 Rep (see attached map)
    • Zone 6 Rep (see attached map)
    • Elementary Rep for Conference Program Committee
    • Middle School Rep for Conference Program Committee
    • Webmaster
Our next meeting is Tuesday, March 24th, 5:00-7:30pm in Montpelier. Would you like to join us? Dinner is provided and mileage is reimbursed—this is a great way to find out more about what the Board does.

In general, the Vermont Council of Teachers of Mathematics (VCTM) is trying to offer more as an organization.  We are looking for active and enthusiastic Board members to help share in the decision making, planning, and execution of that goal. We welcome you to attend the March 24th meeting to better inform you about what we do and how you can help make a difference in shaping the future of Vermont mathematics education.  

Please reply to Christine Latulippe ( or Kate McCann ( for more information if you are interested in attending the meeting and joining the board.

Happy 2015!
Christine Latulippe and Kate McCann
VCTM Co-Presidents 

How to win one of four FREE registrations to the NCTM National Conference in Boston in April

Are you a VCTM member? Would you like to attend the NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition in Boston this April and save $365?

VCTM will be giving away 4 free registrations for the NCTM annual meeting in a raffle for interested VCTM members. If anyone wants to join VCTM (or renew a lapsed membership) in time to enter the drawing, you need to do so by PayPal at so that you will have your receipt immediately as proof of being a member. Your $15 VCTM membership could save you over $300 in registration fees if you are a lucky winner!  For more membeship information, contact Harvie Porter.

To enter, simply complete this brief online form this special NCTM registration giveaway. All entries must be received by 5:00pm EST on Monday 2/2/15. Winners will be notified by Friday 2/6/15.


Math Morsels are making us SBAC our lips! 

Informal after school meetings around the state to help us understand and clarify the SBAC

This conversation will begin by looking at the SBAC summative assessment and what teachers and students should know about the new testing format.  We will also explore other resources offered by SBAC, such as the Digital Library of formative assessment practices and professional learning resources for educators. This conversation will emphasize SBAC as one part of a balanced assessment system that provides data for teachers to assess proficiency in mathematics.  Based on feedback from our first meetings, a portion of each Math Morsel event will be reserved for strategy and resource sharing.

Find the place and date that work best for you.

January 28, Rutland High School, 4-6 p.m.
February 3, Montpelier High School, 4-6 p.m.
February 4, North Country Career Center (Newport), 4:30-6:30 p.m.
February 5, Northwest Technical Center (St. Albans), 4-6 p.m.
February 10, Brattleboro Area Middle School, 4-6 p.m.
February 11, Burlington High School, 4-6 p.m.

Please RSVP here.

Refreshments provided by Vermont Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Please bring a friend.
Questions? Contact Lara White at or (802)479-1364

Lara White, M.Ed.
Secondary Mathematics Program and School Effectiveness Coordinator
Vermont Agency of Education, 219 North Main Street, Barre, VT 05641


Presidential Award Finalists 

Incredible as it might seem, the 2013 Presidential Award in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST) awards for 2013 have not yet been named (yes, this IS 2015), but the organization has named its K-8 finalists for 2014.  So while 2013 finalists Susan Abrams (Montpelier HS), Erin Danner (Woodstock HS), David Rome (Burlington HS), and Julie Martin (Mt. Abraham/CVU) eagerly await word from Washington, 2014 finalists have begun their wait as well.  Congratulations to Laura Botte Fretz (Edmunds Middle School, Burlington), Linda Gilbert (Dothan Brook School,White River Junction), and Thomas Young (Waitsfield Elementary School, Waitsfield). You can read more about the PAEMST luncheon that took place this fall in Montpelier, and find out more about PAEMST as they are now taking 2015 nominations.  The winners (one from math, one from science) each get a trip to DC for Recognition Week, a trip to the White House, and a $10,000 award.

Graduate Study on Effective Programs for Mathematically Talented Youth

The following letter came to us recently:  
Hello- My name is Michael Poli. I am a doctoral student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and am currently conducting my dissertation's study on effective programs for mathematically talented youth. I am in need of mathematics instructors to participate in the study and would greatly appreciate the Detroit Area Council of Teachers of Mathematics being a valued contributor. Completion of a brief ten-minute survey is all that is asked of a participating teacher. I truly believe that through collaboration such as yours this study has the potential to greatly benefit our Nation's mathematics students, and optimistically anticipate your participation. At your request, I will be happy to provide my IRB and any additional information you may require. You can also contact me at my IUP email address: or find more information about me in my electronic portfolio (created as a graduation requirement) at

Sincerest Thanks,
Mike Poli

CCSS Training on the TI-84C Dates in June---and get a free calculator by attending

Implementing Common Core State Standards for Mathematics with the TI-84 Plus Family
Designed to give middle grades and high school educators strategies to excite and engage students using the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics, this workshop models rich tasks using in-depth discussions about task analysis, questioning strategies and essential TI-84 Plus technology skills to enhance student learning.

The dates to save are June 18 and 19, 2015 at North Country Union High School in Newport, VT. Each participating teacher will get the TI-84 plus C (C is for color) and the emulator software for this handheld.  Contact info is for interested teachers.  


The Talent Search of the Vermont State Mathematics Coalition continues

The third test is now posted on the web site and all talented math students are invited to participate.  

The Vermont State Mathematics Coalition has sponsored a statewide "Mathematics Talent Search Program" every year since 1993. The Talent Search is conducted in the following manner. Four times during the school year early October, mid November, early January, mid February) eight challenging math problems are posted on this website. Topics covered on the tests are from arithmetic, Geometry, algebra, and pre-calculus. Copies of the test are given to interested students at each of the schools. The students have four weeks to solve the eight problems and then each student submits his/her solutions to the director of the program for grading. If students are only able to solve one or two problems, they are still encouraged to submit their solutions. During the following two week period the tests are scored, statistics are gathered, results are returned to the students, and solutions and top scorers are posted on this website. At the end of the year the top students in the state are given prizes and are honored at a Coalition dinner along with their parents. High school students are also invited to attend a week-long Governor's Institute in Mathematical Sciences at the University of Vermont.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

May must be Latin for 'Hectic'

May 2014 Update

In this issue:  

  • Fall VCTM Conference Date Set
  • Common Core Statistics Course Offering
  • Failing Schools, Again?  Really?
  • 2048 Update


Mark Your Calendar- the VCTM Fall Conference Date is set;  The Vermont Council of Teachers of Mathematics (VCTM) invites you to our Annual Conference, “Teaching Mathematics Today” to be held on Friday, October 17 at St. Michael’s College in Colchester.

Join us for a day of conversation, presentations, idea sharing, and resource gathering. Network with mathematics educators from across the state and learn about what’s working well in other teachers’ classrooms. If you have ideas to share related to the topics of teaching and assessing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics; SBAC; Project-based instruction; and Heterogeneous grouping K-12, please keep an eye out for our forthcoming call for presentation proposals. Registration will open in late summer. We hope to see you in October!


Common Core Stats Course Offering

Common Core Statistics for Secondary Education Teachers (61074  EDCI 200 Z1); Meeting Dates & Times: June 23-27 (8 AM - 4 PM)

The latest research on purposes for including probability and statistics in a mathematics curriculum will be reviewed and discussed.  Methods for employing best practices with respect to teaching probability and statistics will be presented throughout this course.  Participants will explore problems that require them to formulate questions, gather, display, summarize, examine and interpret data.  We will model data and use probability models and random processes to discover patterns and deviations from patterns.

Participants will investigate how students’ learning of statistics and probability is different than mathematics.  Teachers in this course will be given various instructional resources, including lesson plans and activities, technology resources, web applets, data sets and appropriate investigative assignments. At the conclusion of the course, teachers will be familiar with the Common Core probability and statistics standards for high school students and develop an appropriate investigation with a scoring guideline to use for assessment.

UVM Summer University registration can be found using this link.  Or contact Stacey Anthony from Essex HS ( if you would like any additional information.


The sky is allegedly falling.  Again.  *Sigh*   
Newsflash:  Recent NAEP data reveals that schools are not improving in math.  Again.  Really?  Are teachers really failing?  Or are students failing? Is everyone failing, or is this a measure that is not in sync with the changes that we have and are making in today's schools?  

What's your opinion about what needs to be measured?  Creativity?  Problem solving?  Basic skills?  Our ability to solve pure math problems against the rest of the world?   What is it that will really show the public that we are doing our jobs well?   [And, if we are really failing, then why are most of the new cutting edge computer companies here in the US?] 

We'd love for you to comment on this!!


2048 Update:  In the last month, 2048 went completely viral and it became cool to tell someone that you reached the 4096 or 8192 level.  Believe it or not, I have a student who reached the 2^17 level- scoring an incredible 2.85 million points!!  Personally, I'm a bit more pedestrian at about 59,000 points- how about you?

In case you are wondering, 2048 is a free app that is way too addictive, but lots of fun.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 2014

April Update:

Vermont Council of Teachers of Math eNewsletter....   so much is going on in the world of math education, and if you are like me, it all seems a little overwhelming at times.  There are various course and workshop offerings in this posting and being offered by the state.  I encourage you to take the time and go to one or more of them.   The more we know and understand about the changes, the easier they will be in the long run.  

As always, if you have any comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to send it along to me .  - David Rome, VCTM eNewsletter Editor

In this issue:
  • VCTM Looking to Meet your Needs At a Fall 2014 Conference
  • Interview article:  Looking at math more globally
  • Middle School Free Space!
  • How To Learn Math:  For Parents and Teachers
  • 2048:  The Latest Game Craze 'Crushes' the Competition

VCTM Looking to Meet your Needs At a Fall 2014 Conference.    The VCTM conference committee is looking for your input as to what you would like to hear about at the upcoming fall conference- would you take just one or two minutes and fill out this brief questionnaire?  


Interview article:  Looking at math more globally.  This interview with math professor Steven Strogatz recently appeared in Math Horizons.  It speaks to the needs of the common core quite nicely.  A good read, for sure. 


Middle School Free Space!   A free seminar is available for either May 5, May 15, or May 29th in the comfort of your home from 6:30 to 7:30 EST.  

Engineering (the 'E' in STEM) is a new way to get students engaged in designing their own hands-on projects, and in this webinar you will learn how to make it easier for teachers to do this using everyday materials to keep down that cost. 
Log in from home or from school on your own computer and join this chat-friendly presentation about a satellite engineering hands-on activity (math based and fun for all ages, focused on grades 6-8).  All you need is internet!  The presentation will also focus on best teaching practices aligned with current standards, and provide many NASA resources for hands-on activities for educators K-12.  You receive a certificate for attending plus 1.5 pd hours sent directly to your registered email address.


How To Learn Math:  For Parents and Teachers  Explore the new research ideas on mathematics learning and student mindsets that can transform students' experiences with math.  Whether you are a teacher preparing to implement the new Common Core State Standards, a parent wanting to give your children the best math start in life, and administrator wanting to know ways to encourage math teachers or another helper of math learners, this course will help you.  The sessions are all interactive and include various thinking tasks to promote active engagement- such as reflecting on videos, designing lessons, and discussing ideas with peers.  Taught by Jo Boaler, professor of mathematics education, Stanford University, you will learn useful ideas and practices that you can apply immediately, for example. 
The course will be self-paced, you can start and end the course at any time in the months it is open.

In the first run of the course many school districts in the US gave 16 professional development hours to the teachers who took the course - which means finishing the course and completing most of the assignments. Stanford University makes no representations that participation in the course, including participation leading to a record of completion, will be accepted by any school district or other entity as evidence of professional development. Participants are solely responsible for determining whether participation in the course, including obtaining a record of completion, will be accepted by a school district, or any other entity, as evidence of professional development coursework.  The course costs $125..  No other materials or textbooks need to be purchased.  Sign up or find more information at this site. 


2048:  The Latest Game Craze 'Crushes' the Competition  

If you are like me and have all kinds of time to spend on silly video games (this is sarcasm), you might want to check out the new free app on iPhones and iPads '2048'.  Why, you ask?  Is this not just another Angry Birds or Candy Crush?  Well, yes, from a time-waste perspective.....but this one is mathematical!  Invented recently (in one weekend!) by Gabriele Cirulli, a 19 year-old Italian student, it is sweeping the globe in popularity, so stay ahead of your students and boast your personal best  score!  It takes about 1 minute to learn, and one game to figure out ways to get better.  If you do have strategies for getting better scores, make comments below and we'll see who is the first to get to 2048!

Friday, February 21, 2014

February Update

A couple of things to share with you all this month.  A 'full' posting in Mid March to follow....

1.  A workshop offering in mid-MarchMcGraw Hill

2.  Governors Institute Offering: 
Do you know a high school student who is interested in math, but unsure what a career in math would look like? At the Governor's Institute on Mathematical Sciences, students get to find out! The Mathematical Sciences Institute, held at UVM from June 22-27, gives students hands-on experience with advanced math, the chance to explore mathematical concepts alongside other talented math students, and receive valuable mentorship from leading mathematicians. Throughout the week, students make friends from all across Vermont who share the same academic passions while living on the UVM campus and experiencing college life.
Here is what some recent GIV Mathematical Sciences grads have to say about the Institute:
“The lectures were very insightful and intellectually stimulating, and they also offered several career possibilities if we choose to study math beyond high school. Overall, it was an amazing experience… I enjoy math but I never knew about all the possibilities math has to offer. This camp made me realize that I could make a life out of this subject, something I had never considered before.”
“Having the opportunity to delve into interesting fields of mathematics with equally interested and passionate peers was a rare and precious experience.  It was awesome to be in an environment where everyone loved learning and working with math.”
All motivated Vermont students should apply to the Governor's Institutes. Other Institutes offered by GIV include Arts, Asian Cultures, Information Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Science and Technology, and Food, Farms, and Your Future. Students apply by visiting our website at and completing the application method chosen by their school. 
Please encourage interested students to apply!
Valerie Russell
Administrative Coordinator
The Governor's Institutes of Vermont
4049 Williston Rd. #4
South Burlington, VT 05403
Phone:  802-865-4448

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January 2014 eNewsletter

Vermont Council of Teachers of Math eNewsletter!  This newsletter is now being seen by about 700 math educators all around VT, and many have registered since the first issue last month.  If you know someone who might benefit from this newsletter or blog, please feel free to forward this along to them and have them visit  our blog site 'Math in Vermont'. Our mission is to have Vermont be one interconnected math network, sharing our ideas and strategies, and showing how we should all be cognizant of each others work in all grade levels.  To date, about 40% of those on the mailing list work with students under age 11 and this gives us all an opportunity to appreciate what they are doing in the classroom.  So if you would like to submit an article (as a few members have done in this newsletter) or have comments or suggestions, please send it along to me .  - David Rome, VCTM eNewsletter Editor


In this issue:
  • President's Message- Jason Cushner
  • The Myth of Lagging U.S. Schools by Alfie Kohn
  • A Device to Identify and Calm Math Anxiety
  • Presidential Award Winners and Finalists Announced
  • The Price is Right- Free Mathematicians in Your Classroom
  • The Greater Burlington Math League
  • Book Review:  The Impact of Identity in K-8 Mathematics; Rethinking Equity -Based Practices
  • Profile:  Q&A with VCTM President Jason Cushner
  • Article:  Helping Students Work Through Mathematical Conjectures
  • Special Winter Offer for Girls by the Governors Institute 

President's Message    January 2014

Happy New Year to you all!  As I work with different folks around implementing the Common Core State Standards, I am struck by the gravitational pull towards the content standards instead of the Mathematical Practices.  So much of our curriculum and resources have been focused on content, while part of the shift of Common Core in theory is to reduce the amount of content in a year to have the space to focus on the Math Practices .
Content may be more aligned with what most of us have been doing and is easier to measure.  That being said, it’s not necessarily what is best in preparing our students for their futures.  The question is how to go about emphasizing the Mathematical Practices.  If you have great methods,  please share.
One method I learned about through reading Ben Blumsmith’s Blog is getting students to summarize each others ideas and critique them, as opposed to the teacher jumping in as the expert and saying whether something is right or not.  Having students summarize each others theories both increases skills in mathematical communication and can serve as an easy lead in to mathematical discourse.
Have  a great new year and stay in touch about how we can support you in math excellence for all.

Jason Cushner
VCTM President
Program Coordinator Big Picture South Burlington
Rowland Fellow


We're Number Umpteenth!  The Myth of Lagging U.S. Schools  Copyright 2013 by Alfie Kohn.  Reprinted with the author's permission.  For more, please visit

Attacking the quality of education in America has become a sport that has been spreading for decades.  Educational topic writer Alfie Kohn recently put several of the critics arguments in context, and should give us all a moment to step back and contemplate the larger picture of what is really going on.  To read the full article, go to the posting following this one below and please feel free to comment at the bottom of the article and even get a response back from the author himself.  A brief excerpt from the article:  
"A dedicated group of education experts has been challenging this canard for years, but their writings rarely appear in popular publications, and each of their efforts at debunking typically focuses on just one of the many problems with the claim.  Here, then, is the big picture:  a concise overview of the multiple responses you might offer the next time someone declares that American kids come up short.  (First, though, I’d suggest politely inquiring as to the evidence for his or her statement.  The wholly unsatisfactory reply you’re likely to receive may constitute a rebuttal in its own right.)


A Tool for Taming Fear and Anxiety in Learning Math, Submitted by Sue Abrams, Montpelier High School 

We all know that in the ideal world of math instruction, good lessons are those in which students construct their understanding of math concepts based on experiences with models, engaging real world problems, etc. Good, probing questions by the teacher or classmates can also help a student attain those "aha" moments that are essential for true learning.
However, students arrive at our doors with emotional barriers that can shut down their openness to engaging in the learning process in any meaningful way. Some students have had years of accumulated negative feelings associated with learning math, and others appear successful but are extremely anxious about their math ability nonetheless.

With this in mind, I was prompted to tickle the edge of this math anxiety by trying a new tool that is often used by people in the medical field to help people with anxiety and stress. It's called the Inner Balance Trainer sold by the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California. This module attaches to an iPad or iPhone to activate an app which allows a student to monitor in real time their HRV, heart rate variability, as they practice breathing techniques with the aid of a breath pacer. The strength of this is the very visible feedback students get when they see their HRV change from very random jumping around to looking much like a smooth sine wave in a matter of minutes. Furthermore, it takes only about five minutes or so per day to make a significant impact.

With the help of a sizable grant from the Institute of HeartMath and another grant from the Montpelier High School Boosters Club, I was able to purchase a set of 22 Inner Balance Trainers and have begun to introduce them to students in math classes. Our students will have the option to participate in a research project over a few months, while others will drop in during our 15 minute recess to try them out or just use them before assessments or even regular math lessons. Sue Beem, another member of the math department, is a collaborator on the project, and although the results are not yet known, we are excited to get right to the heart of the anxiousness or stress students can feel in math class by potentially helping them feel the inner balance needed to open the door to learning. You are welcome to get in touch with me if you have questions at


Two Vermont Math Teachers Chosen for Presidential Teaching Award for 2012 as 2013 Finalists are Announced
Joy Dobson and Mary Ellis were selected for the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST) for teachers in grades K-6 for 2012.  Joy Dobson has served as an educator at Weybridge Elementary in the Addison Central Supervisory Union for 20 years. She has taught single and multigraded classrooms of kindergarten through second grade.   Mary Ellis has been an educator at Enosburg Elementary School for the past 15 years. Currently a fourth grade teacher, Mary teaches science, social studies, and mathematics to her homeroom class and provides mathematics instruction to another fourth grade class each day. She has taught fifth and sixth grade and served as the school’s Mathematics Coach. In her role as coach, she modeled lessons, collected and organized classroom data for analysis, and collaborated with teachers to improve instruction.
Joy provides an exceptionally strong mathematics program and ensures that students have the mathematical language, concepts, skills, and models to approach and apply mathematics with confidence and clear thinking. She is dedicated to not only addressing the needs of all students, but also to ensuring that their learning meets the very highest expectations. This work is founded on her unfailing belief in each child as a capable thinker and learner.  As a teacher leader, Joy is held in high regard throughout the supervisory union. She serves as a district-level Math Leader, collaboratively designing and implementing professional development for teachers, developing curriculum, and serving as a studio teacher. As a mathematics mentor, Joy is known for her open-door policy, encouraging teachers to observe, ask questions, and grow professionally while experiencing a multigraded classroom and differentiated instruction with high academic expectations. She has a B.S. in elementary education from Nyack College and an M.Ed. in education from the University of Vermont. She is certified in elementary education
A lifelong learner, has participated in many mathematics and technology professional development opportunities. She has a deep understanding of elementary mathematics content and research-based instructional strategies. She is very involved in the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union. She has served on task forces to develop mathematics curriculum and assessments, has facilitated districtwide in-service meetings, and is part of a district committee focused on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. Mary has a B.A. in psychology from Boston College and an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Vermont through the Vermont Mathematics Initiative. She is certified in elementary education.
Each year, a national committee of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators recommends up to 108 teachers to receive PAEMST awards - up to two teachers –mathematics or science- from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. territories as a group, and the schools operated in the United States and overseas by the Department of Defense Education Activity. The awards program is administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the White House.   PAEMST awardees receive a $10,000 award, a Presidential certificate and a trip to Washington, DC, for a series of recognition events, professional development activities and an awards ceremony.  Congratulations to Joy and Mary!
Meanwhile, the VCTM has announced the Vermont state finalists for the 2013 PAEMST awards for grades 7-12.  They are Sue Abrams  (Montpelier High School),  Erin Danner (Mill River Union High School), Julie St. Martin (Champlain Valley Union High School), and David Rome (Burlington High School).   All four finalists were recognized at the Association for Teachers of Mathematics of New England fall conference in November.   They are now eligible to receive a PAEMST award, the nation’s highest honor for U.S. mathematics and science teachers for grades K-12. 
The 2014 PAEMST will honor mathematics and science (including computer science) teachers working in grades K-6 and nominations are open right now, but will close on April 1, 2014,  Visit the PAEMST website for more details.


The Price is Right- Free Mathematicians in Your Classroom    from John Devino of the Vermont Math Coalition

As classroom teachers, we are continually looking for ways to make mathematics relevant and meaningful to our students.  This would be a good time to bring a mathematician to your classroom, who is capable of reaching your students.  With the weather being a “hot topic” (sorry!) lately, Janel Hanrahan’s presentation entitled “Mathematics and the Atmosphere” seems like a natural.  

The Vermont State Mathematics Coalition has 26 programs available for you and your students.  It all begins with an e-mail or phone call to one of the presenters.
Go to and click on the link for Expanding Horizons.  If you have questions or comments, contact me or call me.    Phone:  (802) 863-5403


The Greater Burlington Math League  by Janet Soltau, Colchester High School

The Greater Burlington Math League has been competing in the greater Chittenden County area for over 50 years.  The league,  founded by Tony Trono of Burlington High School in 1961 has had a varying number of teams of the years, but currently has 12 schools participating with approximately 240 participants.  Every month teams gather at a different school to compete in 5 different categories: Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, Advanced Math, and Team.  Topics within the categories vary from meet to meet, with the team test including topics from each of the categories, which 5 students get to work on together. The majority of the season students do all math with out a calculator (with the exception of the team test), which is a great mental challenge.

In recent history, Essex and South Burlington, have traded the title back and forth. Awards are given to the top students in each category at the end of the season, and the top ten individuals overall. The top team this year will win $150 sponsored by the Mu Alpha Theta, a mathematical honor society.

Current participating high schools are BFA St. Albans, Burlington, Colchester, CVU, Essex, Milton, Missisquoi, Mt. Abe, Mt. Mansfield, Rice, South Burlington, and Vergennes. Past participants have included BFA Fairfax, Middlebury and Winooski.  For more information, contact Janet 

Math league coaches also encourage students to participate in the Vermont Mathematics Coalition Talent Search ( Top students from the talent search, math league, the UVM math test and the AMC math test are recruited to represent the state of Vermont in the American Regional Math League.


The Impact of Identity in K-8 Mathematics; Rethinking Equity   Copyright © 2013 by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc.,

In this book by authors Julia Aguirre, Karne Mayfield-ingram, and Danny Bernard Martin, the math community of parents and teachers, rather than just the latter, in the success of the students. Among the highlights of the book: 
  • Mathematics Identity is the dispositions and deeply held beliefs that students develop about their ability to participate and perform effectively in mathematical contexts and to use mathematics in powerful ways across the contexts of their lives.
  •  Mathematics is both the gateway and the gatekeeper to learning opportunities in school and beyond
  • It is critical to focus on finding ways to build on the resilience created by a child’s life conditions rather than on the conditions themselves; focus on learning not labeling.
  • Feedback that students receive on assessments can contribute positively or negatively to a child’s disposition about his/her ability to learn mathematics based on how the feedback is delivered, what information is shared with the student, and  whether or not the students is involved in self-reflection.
  • How a child’s progress is communicated to parents can affect how they see their child as a learner of mathematics.
  • Regardless of family income, education, or cultural background  if parents are involved in their child’s education those students experience higher academic achievements than those whose parents are not involved
  • Additional Authors to consider on this topic: Jo Boaler, Vi Hart, and Robert Q. Berry, III 


Profile:  Q&A with VCTM President Jason Cushner 
In an effort to better know the people involved with math in Vermont, we being offering interviews with VCTM Board members in each issue of our eNewsletter.  

David Rome (DR):  Tell us a  little bit about yourself- where are you from and where have you taught?
Jason Cushner (JC) :I love to find innovative ways to teach math.  I’ve taught math through building a low income health clinic, calculating water flow for the Colorado River, building a boat, and studying discrimination.  I’ve taught in multiple schools in Colorado and Vermont (and even taught English in Turkey for a while).  I also enjoy rock climbing, backpacking, and going on adventures with my kids (2 & 5).  I have been on an international climbing expedition to climb an unclimbed peak in Pakistan.  I met my wife teaching an integrated Calculus and Physics course

DR:  You are also involved with the PAEMST (see above article) - have you been a recipient?
JC:  Yes I won the Presidential Award in 2003 in Colorado and was one of 4 teachers asked to testify for congress on STEM education.  I had no idea how nice you had to dress for all the events until a few days before when they sent me the descriptions and realized that I didn’t own nice enough clothes for the events.  So I went to the thrift store and bought some nice clothes.  Right before leaving for the opening events and possibly meeting the president my wife called me back and realized I had the $4.99 price tag still stapled to my suit.

I also am National Board Certified, Outstanding Mathematics Teacher for the State of Colorado, and a current Rowland Fellow.

DR:  Tell us why you are involved with the VCTM and what  you see as its role for Vermont math teachers.
JC:  I’m involved with VCTM because it’s great professional development for me and I think it’s key to have a support network for engaging and inspiring students in math.  The role of VCTM for Vermont math teachers is to:
·       Connect math teachers to provide professional support
·       Be a hub of resources for math education
·       Support teachers and administrators in improving math education in the state
 DR:  What is the program that you implement at South Burlington HS, and what type of student does it reach?
 JC:  I’m currently program coordinator for the Big Picture program at South Burlington.  It’s where student create individuated curriculum around their interests and internships.  So we have students interning at a Biomedical lab at UVM, elementary school math classes, graphic design studios, farms, computer networking firms, and much more.  Students have an adviser who then helps them create individualized learning plans to deepen learning. 
The program attracts the full spectrum of students. Last year we got students who got a 4.0 GPA in AP classes and we had a student who came in with a 0.4 GPA (not easy to do & that student is a nationally published blogger and has presented at multiple education conferences).

DR:  What do you see as the biggest challenge for teachers in general, with the rolling out of the Common Core?
JC:  Part of the philosophy of the Common Core is a reduction in content so that there is space to work on the Mathematical practices (problem solving, persistence…) and those skills are not as easily measured in content.  I think schools and the media need to give teachers the time to work on how to better integrate the Mathematical Practices into curriculum and share success that are happening in these areas across the state.


Article: Helping Students Work Through Mathematical Conjectures
In this thoughtful article in Teaching Children Mathematics, Amy Hillen and Tad Watanabe (Kennesaw State University) say that an important Common Core math reasoning skill is making conjectures and assessing them based on evidence. They suggest the following 60-minute lesson for elementary students:
-   The teacher displays 1-9 on the board: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
-   The teacher picks the number 4 and writes it on another part of the board.
-   The teacher calls on a student to pick another number – 8 is chosen.
-   The teacher writes the 8 by the 4.
-   “With these two numbers, which two-digit numbers can we make?” the teacher asks.
-   48 and 84
-   “Which is larger?” 84. The teacher writes the numbers using vertical notation:  84 - 48
-   The teacher asks students to subtract, and the answer is 36.
-   “Let’s try this with some other numbers.” This time, a student picks the first number, 7. The teacher picks the second number, 3 (making sure the difference is going to be 36).
-   The teacher again sets up the subtraction problem:  73 – 37, and the answer is 36.
-   “It’s the same!” students exclaim. “It’s always going to be 36!”
-   The teacher explains that this is a conjecture and writes it on the board – “If two different numerals are picked randomly to form 2 two-digit numbers, the difference will always be 36.”
-   “I wonder if this will always be true,” says the teacher. “How can we find this out?” Students suggest some ideas, and the teacher has students spend ten minutes working with a partner – just enough time for them to come up with only one or two possible combinations (students were given a template to set up the subtraction problems).
-   Students post their subtraction problems on the board.
-   Everyone looks at the examples (duplicates are removed), and students notice that some problems have answers other than 36. Their initial conjecture was not true.
-   Now students are asked to work in pairs to revise their initial conjecture and formulate new conjectures based on the set of subtraction problems posted on the board.
-   Some students are boggled by the number of problems on the board and are prompted to sort them into groups with the same answer and asked, “What do you notice about the problems whose difference is 36?”
-   Now the whole class discusses different conjectures. One student says that when the numbers chosen are next to each other, the answer is always 9. The teacher has the student clarify what “next to each other” means.
-   Another student says that when the chosen numbers are separated by one number, the answer is always 18.
-   Now students work in pairs again to try to refine the conjecture. Students often notice that the difference will always be a “nine fact” – a multiple of nine; that all the problems that have the same difference involve numerals whose difference is the same; and the difference will always be a product of 9 and the difference between the two.
-   Students are challenged to explain to a skeptic why these conjectures will always be true. The teacher asks, “How do we know that there is not a problem that we don’t have on the board whose difference is not a multiple of 9?” One approach is “proof by exhaustion” – trying all the possible problems. But is there another way? This might lead to organizing examples in a systematic way.
-   The teacher concludes the lesson by pointing out the important reasoning-and-proving work they have done, the importance of perseverance when the initial conjecture proved false, and how that led to a more sophisticated finding. In fact, conjecturing and proving (and disproving) are the essence of doing mathematics.

To see a delightful video of a Japanese teacher teaching this lesson, go to (free registration)

“Mysterious Subtraction” by Amy Hillen and Tad Watanabe in Teaching Children Mathematics, December 2013/January 2014 (Vol. 20, #5 p. 294-301),; the authors can be reached at and


Special Winter Offer for Girls by the Governors Institute 
If you are not on the MathNet mailing list, then you might not have heard about this offering from the Governor's Institute that was circulated recently:  
Hello and Happy New Year!  I’m writing from the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont.  Because we always have so many Math Institute applicants we can’t serve in the summer, we are holding a winter event just for high school advanced math fans.   This residential weekend exploration of math is just for girls and will be held at Goddard College February 7-9, 2014 (Marlboro, VT) with lead faculty member Marlboro professor Julie Rana.  Student applications are being accepted now on a first come-first serve basis. 

Young math lovers (male and female) may also be interested in our brand new Astronomy strand at the second Winter Weekend, where participants will learn how to apply math, computer science, and graphic design to map the stars. We will also offer Engineering and Information Technology topicals.  More information about GIV is available at, and information about Winter Weekend specifically can be found at

The registration process for GIV Winter Weekends is much briefer than our summer programs, since they are weekend-long programs, and as always, scholarships are provided to any students with financial need.  Interested students may apply directly to GIV (rather than through their schools as they do in the summer).  Please encourage your students to register quickly since we do expect the program to fill up!   Applications can be mailed to the address below or emailed to

Karen Taylor Mitchell, MPA, Executive Director Governor's Institutes of Vermont, 4049 Williston Road, #4, South Burlington, VT  05403, 802-865-4GIV,