What It Doesn’t Do

So, I seem to have a thing about blogging when it snows. Today is no different. We had a snow day today and I took out the snowblower to clear out the 8-10 inches of snow in my driveway. Things were going well for a while until, without explanation, the snowblower’s forward moving gear stopped working. For some, this wouldn’t be an issue, but I live on a decently steep hill and have a decently steep driveway, so without forward propulsion, I’m not going to get much snowblowing done. I took out the shovel to get going manually, but as I began to move the snowblower into the garage, I noticed that the Reverse gear was working.

Why on earth would only the REVERSE gear work? No, really, I’m asking. If you know, tweet me instructions to fix my problem @MathDenisNJ.

It was at this point that I remembered something my third grade teacher, Ms. Dalrymple, had said to me. It was January and we little third graders got to bring in one of our Christmas presents for Show ‘n Tell since back in the 80’s you could still talk about Christmas in school. I brought in my favorite gift, a remote control car my parents had gotten me. I was so excited when I opened up that gift that at age 42 I still remember it vividly. BUT…it was one of those remote control cars that wasn’t all that remote. The “remote” was connected to a wire that was connected to the car.

Image result for remote control cars wire remote

The interesting thing about this car is that it goes forward and backward, but only turns when it’s going in reverse. So you race ahead, back up and turn at the same time, then race ahead in a new direction. I complained a bit to Ms. Dalrymple that “it doesn’t turn when it’s driving.” Her response to me was what I remembered this morning in the driveway.

Don’t focus on what it can’t do. Make the most of what it CAN DO!

So I took the snowblower, turned it around, backed it up the driveway and let gravity and some back muscle push it down the driveway until all the snow was gone. Then I did the neighbor’s driveway, too, because even though the forward gear wasn’t working, JUST LOOK WHAT IT COULD DO!!

Teachers, as you look at your students, do you look at them for what they can’t do, or do you celebrate and make the most of what they CAN DO?

Leaders, as you look at your faculty and staff, do you look at them for what they can’t do, or do you celebrate and make the most of what they CAN DO?

What kind of culture will your school have if you focus on what the people who come through your doors every day CAN DO? Think about that, then #MakeItReal

The People We Love

Today I remembered my Nana. She passed away in 1994. I loved her very much and she lived with our family for the last 6 years of her life. I was 17 when she died. Of course I missed her when she died, but I didn’t really think about her life and her choices deeply and thoughtfully until today. I thought about her today because my amazing wife sent me a song that she’d heard and immediately loved, so she wanted me to hear it, too. When I listened to it, I instantly thought of my Nana. Her name is Margaret Corbett. She was born in Ireland in 1899 and came to the United States in 1921. She left her home, where she was the oldest of 13 children, to start a new life in America. She made her home in New York City, worked at an Automat, married, raised my father and his brother and sister, moved to NJ and for as long as I knew her she was the ever present matriarch of the Sheeran Family. But today, when my wife sent me this song, I realized who my Nana really was, what a brave soul she must have been, and what she sacrificed to come here. Without her strength, I would not be here. Without her courage and hope, my family would not exist. She was just 22 years old when she left her family, not sure if she’d ever see them again, to start her new life. She never saw her mother again. She never saw her father again. She never played the role of big sister to her 12 dear siblings again. It takes so much more than a momentary spontaneous decision to leave one’s homeland, family, comfort and history. It takes bravery, passion, hope, and a battle with the fear inside you that requires strength and emotion to win. I wish I’d listened to her as she told stories of her past, but I was young and unaware. She used to sing, though. She’d sing songs we were singing as a family, but when she was alone she’d sing tunes in Gaelic. The song my wife shared with me is called Erin Gra Mo Croi (Ireland of my heart). I’m sure Nana sang these words. I wish I’d listened when she sang them, because she was remembering her home. Read the words, and listen to the song below.

Ohh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes did e’er behold
You’re the land Saint Patrick blessed
You’re the bright star of the west
You’re that dear little isle so far away

At the setting of the sun, when my long day’s work was done
I rambled down the seashore for a walk
And I being all alone I sat down upon a stone
For to gaze upon the scenes of New York

Oh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes have ever seen
And if ever I go home, it’s from you I never will roam
You’re my own native land so far away

With the turf fire burning bright on a cold dark winter’s night
And the snow flakes falling gently to the ground
When Saint Patrick’s Day has come, my thoughts will carry me home
To that dear little isle so far away.

Oh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes have ever seen
You’re the land Saint Patrick blessed
You’re the bright star of the west
You’re that dear little isle so far away

On the day that I did part, well it broke my mother’s heart
Will I never see my dear ones anymore?
Not until my bones are laid in the cold and silent grave
In my own native land so far away

Oh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes have ever seen
And if ever I go home, it’s from you I never will roam
You’re my own native land so far away
You’re my own native land so far away

She knew. I love you, Nana.

2019: What’s Your Slogan?

2019: What’s Your Slogan?

In 2017, I chose the #OneWord “Preflect,” which is a word I made up. It means to picture yourself at the end of the year, looking back on this year. What do you see that you were proud of or excited about? After thinking about that…go make it happen! I’ve decided that my All Time #OneWord will be PREFLECT, and that day by day, week by week, month by month, I’ll picture myself at the end, looking back, setting goals and reflecting on them often. I love that word, so I’m keeping it. 

But, I still recognize that there are things I want to change about myself, too. You see, there were plenty of times this year I could and should have been writing, working, creating, talking, listening, playing with my kids, singing with my wife, and more. But instead, I just didn’t.  So for 2019, I’ve decided not to pick a full resolution, but to narrow it down to a company slogan that applies to me.

I’m done saying phrases like “just a minute” and “right after I finish (insert useless activity here)” and “sorry we never got around to (insert much more important activity here).” 

If you’re interested in picking a slogan for you that supports your goals for your teaching, your students, your classroom, your relationships, your personal growth, or anything else in your life, Just Do It! And here’s a list of a few I like to get you started. 

Nike: Just Do It
Lego: Only The Best is Good Enough.
Apple: Think Different
Zurich: Because Change Happens
Jaguar: Grace, Space, Pace
Audi: Advancement Through Technology
L’Oreal: Because You’re Worth It
Dr Pepper: What’s The Worst That Could Happen
Adidas: Impossible Is Nothing
AT&T: Reach Out And Touch Someone
Disney Land: The Happiest Place On Earth
General Electric: We Bring Good Things To Life
Lexus: The Relentless Pursuit Of Perfection
Nokia: Connecting People
Staples: That Was Easy
The Independent: It is. Are you?
U.S. Army: Be All That You Can Be
Verizon Mobile: Can You Hear Me Now
Volkswagen: Think Small
Philips: Let’s Make Things Better
Microsoft: Where Do You Want To Go Today
Red Cross: The Greatest Tragedy is Indifference
Vodafone: Make The Most of Now
EA Games: Challenge Everything

I could spend more time talking about why I’m doing this, but I’ve got stuff to do. 

BONUS SLOGAN ACTIVITY!!!! Over the course of the year, create a logo that represents you, too. Design it, revise it, be creative. Share your logo anytime or next December 31st! Your students can do the same thing!

Don’t forget to check out

The Instant Relevance Podcast!

Remember to use the #MakeItReal Hashtag for sharing ideas!

Connect with Denis Sheeran at Denissheeran.com

Twitter: @MathDenisNJ and

#MakeItReal Chat Every Wednesday 9:30 pm EST for 30 Minutes.

Read Instant Relevance

#SnowflakesAreHexagons

Snowflakes Are Hexagons

Hi everybody. Let’s just put this out there right now.

Snowflakes

Are

HEXAGONS

In fact, I’m so adamant about that, that I’ve started a hashtag on Twitter and Facebook, and maybe now Instagram called #SnowflakesAreHexagons, where I post pictures of products that use non-hexagonal snowflakes on their materials or advertising. Here are a few examples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please share ones you find with me using the #SnowflakesAreHexagons Hashtag!!!

That being said, feel free to read about why anytime you want to here, here or here. See?!?!

Related image

Now, here’s why I’m writing this. Many of you may be having your students make paper snowflakes in your classrooms for decorations, and many of those snowflakes WILL NOT be hexagons. That’s because your students don’t know HOW to fold them properly to make hexagonal snowflakes when they cut them out. 

So…

For the love of all that is winter, DO NOT just give them instructions like these!!

Instead, make this a true learning opportunity using student creativity, productive struggle, and the Design Process.

  1. Have students take a piece of paper and make any snowflake they want using any type of folding procedure they want.
  2. Reveal to them that likely none of them are hexagonal, but in Real Life…ALL OF THEM ARE!! Even show them the hashtag examples now!
  3. In any good design process, after we develop our first idea, we get feedback, and improve our design. So the next step is to have them consider how they might make their snowflake hexagonal and attempt a redesign.
  4. Lather, Rinse, Repeat…always repeat. Until they’ve gotten to a point where they can make a hexagonal snowflake, all along the way tracking their attempts.
  5. The final goal, have them WRITE INSTRUCTIONS for making a hexagonal snowflake based on their experiences.

If you take this #MakeItReal approach to the #SnowflakesAreHexagons conundrum, your students will come out of it with more than just a craft to hang or take home, but potentially a deep understanding of geometry, the design process, and how learning happens.

 

Don’t forget to check out The Instant Relevance Podcast!

 

Remember to use the #MakeItReal Hashtag for sharing ideas!

Connect with Denis Sheeran at Denissheeran.com

Twitter: @MathDenisNJ and

#MakeItReal Chat Every Wednesday 9:30 pm EST for 30 Minutes.

Read Instant Relevance

Baby Shark: Annoying Song or Gateway to Learning?

Baby Shark: Annoying Song or Gateway to Learning?

 

If you haven’t seen this yet, you’re one of the last few people to be able to say that. But now you’re here, so:

Well, now that Baby Shark is stuck in your head, it’s time to deal with it. Walk into a room and just say “Baby Shark.” It’s a fun little game I play. Whoever is in the room immediately has a strong opinion about it, usually love or deep hatred. But because of that, the Baby Shark song stirs serious passion in people, so on Wednesday October 3rd, the #MakeItReal Chat topic was on using Baby Shark in class! Here’s the transcript for you to check out!.

And, because something that stirs this much passion quickly turns into a great opportunity for lessons and activities, I’ve put together a hyperdoc of

Baby Shark Ideas, Lessons and Activities!

gathered from excellent educators across the globe, to be added to your Lesson Bank! Share it widely, use it often, and more importantly, approach future experiences in your own classroom from this same mindset.

Move away from saying no. Move away from negativity. Move away from stifling curiosity.
The investment will pay larger dividends than you can imagine.

 

Because I Can

Because I Can

 

Yesterday at school, my wife spent the beginning of the day hugging a colleague whose best friend had passed away the day before. Cancer had taken the life of her friend, a 35 year old woman with a 5 year old son. No words needed to be spoken between them, my wife just held her while she cried. They spent first period together talking about her colleague’s friend. For a short time she’d been cancer free and decided to go back to work. When she was asked why she wanted to work again, she replied:

Because I Can


Seven years ago, yesterday, my wife was driving home from Milwaukee with our six month old son when she was hit by a dump truck. Our minivan was smashed and she was brought to the hospital with six broken ribs, a punctured lung lobe, a TBI and cuts all over her hands and arms. Our son was ok, luckily. She was in Milwaukee because she’d dropped off our friend, Jen, at the hospital. Jen’s son, Micah, had Leukemia and Jen had a cold so she’d been home so as not to potentially get Micah sick. She wanted to be back together with him, so my wife drove her to the hospital. On her way home after dropping Jen off, she was hit. The next day, Micah passed away. That was seven years ago, today. Jen has thanked my wife for what she did every year since Micah’s passing. My wife has always responded, “I would do it again in an instant.” How come?

Because I Can


Today, I implore you to think about the lives of those children you teach and colleagues you see every day, and of the lives of those you’ve loved who have passed. When I see my wife each day, and we see our son each day, we know we are lucky. Our friends lost their loved ones. How do we truly honor the lives of those we’ve lost, keep their memories vivid and act on the impact that they’ve had on our lives? By talking about them, sharing their stories, living an impacted life. Why should I honor the lives of those I’ve lost?

Because I Can

When Parents Want To Help

When Parents Want To Help

 

When it comes to math homework, parents often feel that they HAVE TO HELP their kids get everything right. Many parents take on the role of Untrained Math Teacher at home as well and can often undercut well planned lessons and units. This can often cause more damage, frustration and distress than we want. A major message of my book, Hacking Mathematics: 10 Problems That Need Solving, is that questioning is at the heart of learning mathematics, not answering. So here’s an infographic for you to share with parents who want to help their kids that will teach them how to promote questioning and will keep the learning in the hands of their kids and the teaching in the hands of their teachers.

Share and share and share!!!

 

And if you want this in another version, here you go!

Homework Help JPEG

Homework Help PDF

The Instant Relevance Podcast

The Instant Relevance Podcast

I’m excited to announce that Raymond Steinmetz (@blended_math) and I have begun the Instant Relevance Podcast. We will be sharing our thoughts on how to #MakeItReal for your students, your colleagues, your school culture, and more and are excited to welcome excellent guests to the platform to share their expertise and experience. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments here or on the podcast platform. 

The Instant Relevance Podcast is being published via Anchor, so you should be able to find it on Anchor, Stitcher, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Pocketcasts, Spotify and more!

You can follow the podcast on twitter @InstantRel. Click the link below to visit the Anchor page and subscribe through your favorite platform!

So, for you podcast addicts or relevance seekers, here is the first episode of…

The Instant Relevance Podcast!

 

Remember to use the #MakeItReal Hashtag for sharing ideas!

Connect with Denis Sheeran at Denissheeran.com

Twitter: @MathDenisNJ and

#MakeItReal Chat Every Wednesday 9:30 pm EST for 30 Minutes.

Read Instant Relevance

#MakeItReal Moment Number 16: The Funnies

The Funnies

When I was a kid I couldn’t wait for my Dad to come home from the convenience store with the Sunday Morning newspaper. He’d start pulling apart the sections, making a pile of news, sports, store flyers, and then, like a slow motion moment in a movie, he’d pull out…THE FUNNIES! I’m not sure where you’re from or what you called the newspaper comics, but in NJ we called them “the funnies” (insert future #MakeItReal Moment on regional dialect here). I can honestly say that I LOVED the funnies, although I can’t actually remember a time when I laughed out loud at one. Come to think of it, they’re not that funny. But they were a part of a grown up thing, the newspaper, that a child could covet as their very own. And they did approach situations from a different angle, often trying to make a twist ending by the third frame.  Those Sundays of my youth have stuck with me, so now I visit gocomics.com every morning before I read the news to check out two of my favorite comics, Foxtrot Classic and F Minus.

Here is today’s F Minus Comic.

 

See? Not “funny” per se, but this time it made me think about something totally different. I realized we could use comics (funnies) like this as catalyst pieces for teaching students about the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning structure. You see, this comic makes a claim. To many, a totally impossible and outlandish claim. But it’s not outlandish to me, or to my wife. A few years ago we were having a philosophical conversation about why multiplying 2×5 does not equal 12. Her thought was that it only equals 10 because we start with zero. How come the expression 2×5 doesn’t imply that we’ve started with a 2, then brought in 5 more 2s? After a while, we decided to call this method “Mathematatics” and will put it on Wikipedia soon to see if people believe in it (suckers). 

So look back at the F Minus comic. There’s a lot there, and plenty not there, too.

Claim: For a short time, 2 + 2 = 5.

Evidence: missing

Reasoning: missing

It’s time to put this in front of your students to see what they can do. Can they debunk the claim? Can they explain how this could be possible in the real world? Can they create a system like Mathematatics that could explain it instead, all the while citing their evidence (showing their work for math), then sharing their reasoning? I think they can. And I think it would be a lot of fun. 

Let me know if you use The Funnies in your class for Claim, Evidence, Reasoning lessons, or other ways!!! 

Share your ideas and lessons with me at the #MakeItReal Hashtag on twitter!!!

Remember to use the #MakeItReal Hashtag for sharing ideas!

Connect with Denis Sheeran at Denissheeran.com

Twitter: @MathDenisNJ and

#MakeItReal Chat Every Wednesday 9:30 pm EST for 30 Minutes.

Read Instant Relevance

Laurel vs Yanny: An Educational Metaphor We All Need To Hear

Laurel?

Yanny?

Are you caught up in the new “Is it This or Is it That?” debate of 2018 yet? If not, someone played a computer saying the word “Laurel” with regard to the wreath of leaves worn on the head and heard the sound “Yanny” when they did. So, the new version of :is the dress black and white or blue and brown?” came on the scene in the inter-world.

Here, you judge for yourself.

So, if you’re wondering what it really is, the answer is Laurel. That’s not me being a jerk about it and forcing my opinion out there, but it actually is Laurel. Here’s a quick video on why, including the science of sound. 

 

Now, here’s what’s really important…that educational metaphor I mentioned in the title of the post. 

As teachers, we have an obligation to our students that is much bigger than our requirement to “Teach Content” to them. We have an obligation to listen to our students. When we listen to them, we’re assessing them. We’re assessing what they know and don’t know, how they feel about what they know and don’t know, if they can explain what they know and don’t know, and if they need us to teach or listen more.

But…

What if they’re telling us “laurel” and we’re hearing “yanny” instead?

What if we’re convinced that what they’re trying to explain, question, or share is wrong when it actually right and we’re perceiving it incorrectly because of our priming, or our training, or our temporary distractions, or…more interestingly…their pitch and tone of voice and our ability to hear it? What does that mean for how we teach and assess our students?

Now, go back to the original sound clip and listen again, knowing that BOTH words are actually in there and try, really try to hear both, simultaneously, the same way we can hear harmony in music.  If you can hear both, awesome. If you can’t, keep trying. It’s our obligation to our students to hear BOTH what they are actually saying, and what we think they are saying and to meld them together into an opportunity that truly overlaps teaching and learning.

 

And, just for fun, here are a few lesson ideas people have thrown out there to me on twitter so you can #MakeItReal while the debate is still relevant!

Create a debate over which is correct and have students cite evidence for their standpoint.

Use the Virtual Oscilloscope online to record your voice saying Laurel and Yanny, then screenshot it and compare graphs!

Do a statistical observational study (survey) stratified by age, sex, known musical ability and primed introduction (say laurel or yanny first) and present the findings.

Use the New York Times sound slider to identify when the sounds change for you.

Study how sound has been used in the past as a means of confusion, argument, and deterrent (this one’s fun. Back in 2008 a high pitched sound was played outside stores to drive away loitering kids because adults couldn’t hear it!)

Share your ideas and lessons with me at the #MakeItReal Hashtag on twitter!!!

Remember to use the #MakeItReal Hashtag for sharing ideas!

Connect with Denis Sheeran at Denissheeran.com

Twitter: @MathDenisNJ and

#MakeItReal Chat Every Wednesday 9:30 pm EST for 30 Minutes.

Read Instant Relevance