Goals for 2013-2014

I spent the summer alternating between tuning in to and checking out from Twitter and blogs, including my own. Inservice at my school begins in two days, and students will arrive August 12. As the summer winds down I’ve started thinking about my blog-related goals for the school year. This will be my first full year hanging out in the #MTBoS, so I want to be intentional about the ways I engage, particularly in how I use this blog to grow as a teacher.

These are subject to change throughout the year (and possibly even during the course of this post), but right now my framework for getting better has three five categories:

  • Implementing
  • Creating and Sharing
  • Reflecting
  • Collaborating
  • Transitioning

I’ll share a few goals in each category, not only to let others know what’s bouncing around my head as the school year begins, but also to force myself to organize my own thoughts and build in some personal accountability by leaving a paper (er, page) trail.


In the few months I’ve spent engaging with other math teachers through reading blogs and following conversations on Twitter, I’ve been exposed to a wealth of rich mathematical tasks for the classroom. If the members of the #MTBoS are a chorus of angels on one shoulder, urging me to break out of my direct instruction-heavy approach to incorporate more rich problems and tasks, then my own experiences as a student, my initial teaching style, my tendencies toward control and perfectionism, and my at-times overwhelmingly-varied course load (typically four to six different preps) are a drove of naysaying demons on the other shoulder.

However, thanks to what I’m learning in Smith and Stein’s Five Practices (and reading on blogs), I’m gradually working up the nerve to take what I hope will be major strides this year. I’m finding the thoughtful intentionality of the five practices reassuring, as I’ve always feared relinquishing control of the mathematical flow of my classroom and assumed (incorrectly, I now believe) that this was a necessary part of implementing tasks and fostering student solution-centered mathematical discussion. As I try and fail and tweak and try again and retweak and find some measure of success along the way, I’ll reflect on these experiences here on the blog.

If you’ve had rich, engaging mathematical tasks on your “maybe later” list for a while, join me this year in making concrete plans to include them in your classroom on a regular basis. I hope you’ll reflect on your own experience, preferably by blogging about it, or at the very least by leaving the occasional comment on this blog. Speaking of concrete plans (and practicing what one preaches), here’s my goal:

One rich task each month in each course

Given my teaching schedule next year, that means 40 tasks. Excuse my while I go hyperventilate.

Okay, I’m back. And while I’m a bit freaked out by the prospect of shifting a core part of my teaching approach, I’m also excited about these 40 opportunities for growing in my craft next year. I think I’ll keep some paper bags in my desk at school, just so I’m prepared.

Creating and Sharing

The #MTBoS is full of amazing people. I regularly feel out of my league in this diversely awesome group, particularly in two categories: (1) thoughtfulness, completeness, and coherence in educational philosophy and (2) relentlessness in creating (and sharing) amazing resources. This year I want to shift my interaction with this community from primarily receiving to a combination of receiving and sharing. Not only out of a sense of gratitude for all of the excellent things others have made that I’ve enjoyed, but also because I think my quality as a teacher will grow through the practice of creating, sharing, receiving feedback, revising, etc.

As the school year begins, I’ll turn the lights back on at the Better Assessments blog. I have big plans for September (more on that later). I will also begin organizing a series of proportional reasoning challenges (tentatively titled The Running Game) so they’re available to other teachers as I create them throughout the school year for my own students. My 101qs radar will remain up, and I’ll try my hand at a few more Three Act tasks. This is distinct from my first goal since many of the bumps on the “creating and sharing” road will stem from my imperfect tasks (rather than imperfect implementation). At any rate, I’ll blog about both experiences here, and hopefully grow as a teacher through the process.


I suppose most of my posts in the coming year could be filed under this category. But it’s worth mentioning separately. When I started the blog earlier this year and saw a spot for a subtitle, I picked better through reflection. I want to get better at this teaching gig, and I know that reflection is a key means to that end. Over the years I’ve tinkered with different approaches to reflection, but nothing I’ve tried has been as helpful as working through my thoughts in a public forum. Knowing that someone else may read a post in which I reflect on the effectiveness of, say, my approach to homework leads me to be that much more thorough in my self-examination. I look forward to continuing more of the same this school year.


My first real #MTBoS buzz came from collaborating with Justin Lanier and Dan Anderson on Daily Desmos. Inspired by a tweet from Dan, I suggested a daily match-my-graph project. Several days later we had a head of steam, an unofficial endorsement from Desmos, and a growing team of collaborators. The entire Daily Desmos experience has been one of my favorite thus far in my #MTBoS tenure, probably because my involvement on this project fits more on the “give” side of the give-and-take scale.

While this next project has stalled (I’ll blame myself and summertime), I’m excited to kick start Better Assessments back into action. I hope others are interested in joining the conversation, but even if I have to fly solo for a while, I plan to forge ahead with some ambitious Algebra 1 assessment makeovers in September.


I’m looking for other ways to collaborate next year, particularly as I transition our department from the old Mathematics Content Standards for California to CCSSM. I’ll have some prep time set aside specifically for working through this transition (designing our courses, creating and curating tasks, developing SBG and performance assessments, etc.), and I’m hopeful that by collaborating with others on various projects (asynchronously, I assume) I’ll be able to multiply my own productivity and serve other teachers, school, etc., with the materials I/we create.

Join In, or Hold Me To It

So there you have it. My goals for the upcoming year. I invite you to join me in thinking about how to make the most of next year by writing your own Goals for 2013-2014 post, or by dropping a line (or link) in the comments. And I certainly hope people will hold me accountable now and again by asking how things (e.g., The Running Game, the Better Assessments blog, etc.) are coming along.


  1. Michael

    With two weeks to go before I report, this post will be kept nearby as I try to hold myself to similar standards. Thanks for the Better Assessments site and I look forward to seeing it revived in the fall and thanks for an organizational model of individual goals that I’ll be modifying for myself. My big add on is that I am a department chair and I need to figure out to help my department come along for the ride. I’ve been taking Jo Boaler’s class and thinking about ways to share those ideas as well.

    Here’s to an exciting fall!

  2. I signed up for Jo Boaler’s class. Haven’t started yet, but I’m excited to dig in once the school year begins. I imagine I’ll be adding a few items to my list of goals as a result of the course.

    If you’re interested in sharing, I’d love to see your goals once you’ve written them down. I imagine my department is a bit smaller than yours (two, including myself) but I’m also looking for ways to encourage department-wide growth.

    Thanks for dropping by to comment!

  3. Hey Michael, Love reading your blog/tweets, I feel like we’re in the same boat in a lot of ways (private Christian school w/ way too many preps trying to figure everything out all at once). I picked up the Five Practices book per your recommendation. Were there any blogs that pointed you to this book? Good luck this year!

  4. Eric, glad to hear I’m not alone in the land of too-many-preps! I’m excited to to hear you picked up the Five Practices book. I haven’t read all of it yet, but the sections I have read (and the discussions that followed at a workshop I led last week) were very exciting.

    I first heard about the book on Twitter. There are a couple of “reading groups/book studies” that I haven’t participated in, but that I’ve observed once or twice from the sidelines. If you’re not on Twitter yet, get on Twitter. Like, now. Before your next meal. It’s that important (especially for those with small departments, lots of preps, etc.). If I recall correctly, the hashtag they used for the discussion was #fivepracs or #5pracs. I’ll ask around to confirm.

    After hearing about the book (and putting it on my Amazon wishlist, and receiving it for as a Father’s Day from my wife) I saw Fawn Nguyen mention it in a couple of very powerful posts over at her (amazing) blog: http://fawnnguyen.com/

    In particular, look at these two posts:

    I also heard through the grapevine that Christopher Danielson recently led a presentation on the first two practices. His blog (Overthinking My Teaching) is here: http://christopherdanielson.wordpress.com/

    Thanks for the comment!

    Update: Okay, nevermind about the Twitter thing. I see you’re already on. 🙂 And from what I can tell, #5pracs is the place to look.

  5. You will love the world of Rich Math Tasks. When you’ve found a good one, the students can’t resist it. Keep trying with it! It won’t go the way you want the first few times. Be patient with yourself and your students. Don’t forget to process and honor what went well with each task and build from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s