Why Can’t Math Be Fun? Tips to Shift Mindsets and Push Motivation

math-chat“Math is plenty rigorous, but it’s not really fun!,” teachers so often tell me.  Followed by…you guessed it, “What can I do to make math more fun?” The answer seemed simple enough: do more fun things.  

But there’s more to it. As I reflect on the successful math teachers I’ve coached and observed, a trend emerges:When students are perceived to genuinely enjoy math, it has more to do with the classroom environment and culture of learning that the teacher has established than with the actual math.  

This more nuanced view on “fun” raises several questions. What role does the learning environment have on students’ attitudes towards math?  How much does the lack of motivation or knowledge or even the teachers’ approach to instruction contribute to classrooms where students’ engagement is perceived as lacking in effort, participation and persistence?

To some extent, all of these things are important. So let’s chat about all of them! Read more

Planning engageNY Math: Tips to Remix, Part 2

In case you missed it, you can read the first half of this blog here

Now that we have an understanding of the standard by doing the math and identifying the standard (see Part I), we are ready to move onto the remaining steps in the lesson planning process:



media-blogtwo2Step 3: Review the End Goal

Before customizing the lesson, I want to calibrate the level of rigor I am seeing on a variety of A.APR.1 assessment items. There are no questions on the Mid or End of Module Assessment directly related to this lesson, so we will look at the Exit Ticket, an item from the Regents Exam, and a non-calculator and calculator item from the Fall 2017 PSAT.

  • Exit Ticket:


In the exit ticket, students are asked if the sum of three polynomials will produce a polynomial. In the Teacher’s Lesson, the answer to this question is “yes”, but does this really demonstrate understanding? Read more

Planning engageNY Math: Tips to Remix, Part 1

The EngageNY Lessons for Mathematics grades 6-11 are an excellent interpretation of the Common Core State Standards and the Standards for Mathematical Practice. But often the lessons are dense, progress in complexity too quickly, or assume [a lot!] of prior knowledge.

So how do you customize the lesson to make it accessible for students without compromising the rigor?

In this two-part blog, I will share a lesson planning process that has helped me to remix lessons to make them a hit for teachers and students alike.

Below is an overview of the process. Part 1 will cover the first two steps, and Part 2 will cover the remaining three steps.

media-20180104 Read more

5 I Love: Essential Math Tools for the Overwhelmed


Your week doesn’t have to be like this.

Soon, we will roll out what was easily my favorite TchAUSL contest last year, the 5 I Love. For our Tch Talk blog this week, I want to share the love a little early with my list of 5 tools for you, the overwhelmed teacher.

Everyday Mathematics Virtual Learning Community

This VLC is maintained by the University of Chicago, the developers of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum. It’s free to sign up and once you’re in, you’ll find just about any resource you’ll need to be an EM Rock Star. The VLC has over 30,000 members who have shared videos of their EM practice, planning tools, manipulatives, student work examples and so much more. It’s all well organized around Common Core Standards and Standards of Mathematical Practice and includes tons of resources for English Language Learners. You can learn more about signing up here. Read more

DIY #7 Top Ten Coach Approved Ways to Get Smarter over the Summer

It’s that time of the year again!  You know the time of year when you’re answer to the question, “When does school get out?” is a very detailed, “25 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes and 46 seconds.”coachapproved-angled

Summer can’t get here fast enough and we know why, too:

  • You want to dust off the stack of professional books on your nightstand and read them without falling asleep
  • You want to visit the Chicago museums and plan a purpose-driven field trip for your class
  • You want to finally read some of the young adult fiction from your classroom library so you can start recommending more than that one Walter Dean Meyers’ book to your students
  • You want to bring one of the multi-step math word problems you taught your students to a party and watch your friends struggle to solve it.

Well, we have the right list of resources for you today: Here is an AUSL Coach approved list of the top ten ways you can get smarter over the summer!

1. Stock Up on Classroom Books

Get a group and a van and head out to the next Scholastic Customer Appreciation Warehouse sales and score books at prices up to 80% off.  Or head over to one of the coolest bookstores in Chicago called Open Books.  It has books but it offers so much more!

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Numeracy Blog: Asking Effective Questions


With the school year winding down and the first year of full CCSS implementation under our belts – now is the perfect time to push your instructional practice, take a step or two outside of your comfort zone, and really dive DEEP into the shifts required of the CCSS/M.  Use these next few months to, as Allen Iverson famously ranted, PRACTICE a few new instructional techniques.  You can then reflect and refine your craft and hit the ground running next year!

One of those techniques – ASKING EFFECTIVE QUESTIONS – is the purpose of this post. The goal in effective questioning is to help students identify THEIR thinking about the problem, not to lead them to the answer.

You can find the tips shared below and more great information including the actual questions to ask in THIS ARTICLE.

8 Tips for Asking Effective Questions

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You Know You Love Some 3.14159…Pi!

by Grant Snider

by Grant Snider

March 14th (3/14) also known as “Pi Day” is upon us!  It’s the one day a year math nerds all over the world celebrate an infinite, irrational number that is equal to the ratio of a circles’ circumference to its diameter.  As a fellow math nerd and lover of history, I’m going to drop some knowledge on the history of pi that you can share with your students, family, or even with your friends and co-workers while celebrating the end of ISAT (FOREVER!!) during happy hour on PI DAY! Read more

Bird is the WORD? Word Walls: Operational vs. Interactive

Bird is the word

Disclaimer: This is NOT a blog post intended to freak you out because you don’t have your word walls up nor does it have anything to do with the fact that a certain test that will remain nameless is upon us.  This blog is intended for the sole purpose of ensuring that your classroom is set up DAILY for students to succeed in mathematics by building their vocabulary through discussion and use of visual models.  The timing of this post is purely coincidental.  Finally, the bird is the word.

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This Week in TchAUSL: January 16, 2014

Whenever I walk through hallways of a school, I always love to hear that classroom buzz. You know what I mean–you hear it just as you cross through the doorway; that sweet sound of students engrossed in conversation, engaged in learning to the extent that the teacher simply facilitates. This week, we have some tips in the blog and clips in our library to help you build that buzz. Read more

This Week on TchAUSL: December 5, 2013

Give Thanks!

Blogs: Great Math Lessons and Integrating Science and Literacy

New Video: Inside Look: Classroom Design



Go right now to our Tch Tasty contest from last week, where we asked you to tell us what you are thankful for as an educator and read entries from your AUSL colleagues. Doesn’t it make you feel good about what we do as educators? It’s now your turn to add your own thanks and vote on your favorites in Q&A by Friday, December 13. The most popular entry wins a tasty prize delivered to your school. Read more