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.

#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

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

 

Why Relevance Matters

Didn’t Think Ahead…Did You?

Check this out! It’s the Winter Olympics and the New York Times Graphics department is posting amazing pictures of the events, like these!

 

I’m loving seeing these images posted, because they reveal so many of the things math and science teachers try to demonstrate for our students about motion, gravity, quadratics, trigonometry and more. So I graphed them, which I like to do 🙂

 

This one is my total favorite!!!

 

If only there was a good way to model this…hmmm…WAIT!!!!!

See???

Last year we used this same model to engage students in their momentary passion…bottle flipping. Did you?

So here’s the biggest point I have to make…

Relevance matters because when students use real life to engage in learning (bottle flipping) they will answer to the question “When am I going to use this in real life?” all by themselves. I know this because it was as student who said to me “snowboarding looks like bottle flipping.  Cool.”

Instant Relevance is more than just Using Today’s Experiences to Teach Tomorrow’s Lessons…it’s using those lessons to inspire future connections. There’s still time! How will you #MakeItReal for your students every day?

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

 

Winter Olympics 2018 Lessons and Resources

20+ Winter Olympics Lessons and Resources

The Winter Olympics are upon us! And unlike Fidget Spinners, not very many teachers are banning them from their classrooms! So if you’ve been looking for activities in Math, Science, Stem, ELA, Music and more, I’ve compiled many excellent ones for you here. Click the link below for the Hyperdoc of lessons, or scroll through the embedded doc!

NOTE: If you’ve got an excellent activity, share it with me on twitter @MathDenisNJ and I’ll add it to the lessons doc!

 

Hyperdoc Lessons and Resources Link