30 Great Ignitions and Bridges

I am a creature of habit. My grocery list is pretty similar week to week. I have a favorite seat in the living room. Every fall, I begin to crochet. Every January, I pack up my needles and yarn. I am a creature of habit.

But, I fight it. Having a routine gives me peace of mind. Routines give students peace of mind. But a routine can be boring in lesson plans. Sure, my routine in the classroom with transitions and schedules should be consistent, but the content of my plans should be engaging and fun. And here lies the struggle.

Independently, I struggle with opening every lesson with a new, fresh take. I may start a unit out with a big bang, but, five days into a math lesson, I begin to run out of fun intro ideas. I hit a rut, and usually turn to Pinterest. I love Pinterest. But have any of you noticed that some of the ideas on Pinterest are just… cute? Adorable, interactive intros with not much academic meat to it’s bones. It’s simply cute and somewhat related to the subject you are teaching.

I have such a hard time incorporating these activities in the classroom. Where is the critical thinking? Where is the problem solving? What true value does this activity have? Which leaves me back at square one… Until now!

Margie Pearse, co-author of Teaching Numeracy, provided this wonderful list of ignitions and bridges for math lessons! This list will definitely stay next to my plan book as a reference guide for creating engaging and thought-provoking intros. Just click on the picture below to view the file!

ignitions and bridges.001


Glad I Said YES to Reading Unshakeable

unshakeable online book club for teachers

The Unshakeable Summer Book Club

A couple months ago, Angela Watson asked me to co-moderate a summer book study of her newest book, Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching… No Matter What. Well, after reading Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching with The Educator’s Book Club, I knew that this book would be just as amazing, if not, more so! The Unshakeable Summer Book Study officially begins July 6, 2015, and I can’t wait to start discussing with all of the members of the group. (Click on this link or the image above to join. All members will be approved after June 15!)


Order an autographed print copy here! Just click on this image!

I’ve already started reading the book and can I just say that this book is phenomenal?! Angela has really hit so many points and struggles that I deal with daily as a teacher. Teaching is truly a juggling act, and we continue to juggle day and night. Seriously. How many of you go to bed and check Pinterest for any last minute ideas before turning out the light? Or maybe Pinterest IS your night light? How many of you are grading at family get-togethers on Sunday? Or planning your lesson at your son’s baseball game on Saturday?

Our personal-lives and work-lives intertwine so seamlessly that it’s easy to lose sight of our priorities. All of our tasks seem equally important and need equal attention.

As for me, I don’t like to disappoint. Myself, or others. I just finished reading Chapter 6 of Unshakeable, titled oh-so-appropriately, Say “No” Without Guilt and Make Your “Yes” Really Count.

6 Learn to say no without guilt

I have a problem with saying yes. And, when I say no, it is weighed heavily with guilt, and backed with about 100 apologies and 10 reasons why I cannot commit. I hate to disappoint people: my family, my friends, my students, my coworkers, and the families of my students. Unfortunately, what I found by default is that I was disappointing my family by making so many commitments to everyone else. I was tired, grumpy, and no fun to be around at home. No matter what, disappointment was inevitable. I had to re-prioritize my future commitments, and have been improving… slowly.

I’ve learned to say no to commitments that I knew would stress me and take time away from my family. I’ve learned to say no to commitments that I knew would interfere with my lesson planning for my own students. I’ve learned to say yes to plans that fell within my “pre-approved” time slots based on my family and work schedules. I’ve made these adjustments, but the guilt never left. The apologies still haven’t stopped. And the “excuses” are just abundant. The excuses are the worst part of saying “no”…

Is it possible for Angela to have read my mind?! Or do most of us truly feel the same way? This chapter was packed full of practical advice for anyone who struggles with saying “no”. She understands the struggle, relates to it, and offers great tips to truly say no without guilt!

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I can’t wait to use these tips, because, well, I’m not biting my nails to tell the next person “no”. However, I am more confident that I will be able to better prioritize my to-do list, reframe my mindset about “no”, and truly be able to only make commitments that I can handle with my professional and personal life.

I am so excited to discuss with you all the many AHA moments I have had while reading Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching… No Matter What in The Unshakeable Summer Book Study!  Every chapter is incredibly relatable and it is very clear that Angela has, not only, had a lot of personal experience in the classroom, but has worked with and observed many other teachers as well.

20 ways collage

Unshakeable Summer Book Club

Just check out the chapter titles below to see what all Angela covers in Unshakeable!

  • Create curriculum “bright spots” that you can’t wait to teach.
  • Gain energy from kids instead of letting them drain you.
  • Uncover meaning and purpose for every single lesson.
  • Incorporate playfulness and make real connections with kids.
  • Stop letting test scores and evaluations define your success.
  • Construct a self-running classroom that frees you to teach.
  • Establish healthy, balanced habits for bringing work home.
  • Say “no” without guilt and make your “yes” really count.
  • Determine what matters most and let go of the rest.
  • Innovate and adapt to make teaching an adventure.

Can’t wait to start discussing with everyone in the Unshakeable Summer Book Study! I definitely couldn’t say no to this commitment!!

#20ways20days #UnshakeableBook

A Summary of a Great Discussion

Week 1 Live Discussion Tnum Ad.001

Two weeks ago, The Educator’s Book Club and Margie Pearse were able to host our first successful live on-line book study! During this first session, hosted on May 24, 2015, we discussed Habits 1 and Habits 2 of Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking. With a group of excited and dedicated teachers, it’s no wonder that the conversation deepened and we began to discuss how we each can implement these habits and improve our instruction. This is a brief summary of the discussion!

As we discussed number sense, Margie Pearse recommended some great tools for us to use in the classroom. In fact, check out her TPT store! She has some great resources for sale and for free!

confusing math problem

Building number sense is so important for students of all ages, and we need to be mindful of their various learning styles. Providing a variety of tools to learn with is crucial, so Margie provided some great options!

She provided an example of a math rack, aka rekenrek. Personally, I have made and had these in my classroom, but I admit to not using them as often as I should have. Actually, I remember making them, but it was a shared material that I don’t think ever made it to my classroom. Either way, I could have made more for myself. There are a number of ways to make these if you or your school does not have the means to invest in any for you. I made them of foam, pipe cleaners, and beads. But I have found some great tutorials below!

Personally, I’m excited to try making them of blinds! They seem so durable! If you are curious as to how they can be used, check out this video!

How many of you have a 100 chart in your classroom? I am assuming that most of you do. I did and do. So, here is my next question. How many of your students struggle counting or skip counting past 100? I always had several students who struggled. Be careful with this. These students may never build a solid understanding until we teach them. We can’t assume that they will eventually “catch on”. This being said, Margie offered a great solution! Instead of using a 100 chart, use a 120 chart! Why didn’t I think of that!? This seems like such an obvious solution and I can’t wait to chuck my old chart and replace it! Check out this one and it’s free! Or check out the one below!

We, then, continued our conversations into developing mathematical thinking and problem solving skills. I am sure that we can all agree that this is a very imperative skill for our children to learn, but how do we do this? The first step would be to stop providing formulas at the beginning of a lesson. There is a misunderstanding in mathematics that if a student can formulaically solve a problem that the student understands the concept. In fact, this only proves that a student knows how to follow directions, and not think critically.

meq33Instead, Margie recommends providing the students with a real world problem and have them collaborate and solve the problem with the knowledge they already have. This helps them strengthen their prior knowledge and bridge their understanding to the new material. For example, when introducing multiplication, provide a real-world problem like, “Sam just bought 4 packs of candy. Each pack has 7 pieces in it. How many pieces of candy did he buy?” Encourage the students to collaborate and problem solve. Did they choose to draw? Repeated addition? Or did they invent their own solution? When we, as teachers, observe our students collaborate and host focused discussions, we are able to deduce their true understanding of the problem at hand.

We, as teachers, do not need to be at the front of the classroom for extended periods of time. Learning best takes place with engagement and Margie provided this wonderful resource on how to improve that engagement in the classroom. She recommended using Debbie Math Work Stations. This is a great way for students self-monitor their work, collaborate, practice prior skills, and build current ones! All the while, the teacher is able to provide more individualized assistance.

Lastly, I found Habit 1 to be the most impactful. Estimation should not be it’s own unit, but, rather, it should be utilized across the curriculum. Estimation is numerical thinking in action. Teachers can determine a great deal of a student’s understanding based on an estimation and explanation. For example, if the answer to a question is 4500, but the student estimated 2, then we can assume that there is a disconnect in the student’s understanding of a concept. This applies to any math problem, not just the unit on estimation. This is also a great tool to teach students as a means to check their work.

In fact, I have subconsciously used this skill recently! I’m not sure if I can use the word estimate in this instance, but I definitely used number sense to solve my cooking problem! I was following a recipe that called for 4 parts soy sauce and 2 part mirin (a sweet rice wine). I “tastimated” that the taste would be strong with the soy flavor and that the liquid would be a dark brown. Well, I doubled the recipe, and it was neither strong nor dark. Based on my original “tastimate”, something was wrong. I backtracked and realized that I hadn’t doubled the soy sauce portion, though I doubled the mirin. Problem solved and I had no wasted ingredients!

Our students are very good at regurgitation. Most people are. But we need to prepare our students for a future we yet to know. A future full of tools yet to be invented and needs yet to be discovered.

I am so very excited to for our next live discussion with Margie Pearse that will be hosted on Sunday, June 14, 2015 at 7pm EST. Join The Educator’s Book Club on Facebook for more information on entering the on-line discussion room! Or follow @edsbookclub or @Pearse_Margie.

What Great Teachers Do Differently – Book Study is 2 Weeks Away!

As we begin to approach our new, summer book studies, I would like to share information regarding the authors and their books as motivation. I’m excited to announce that Todd Whitaker has joined in on the study! I had wanted to compile a little About Todd post, but see that his website does this and more. Check it out if you are interested in his workshops, other books, credentials, or products.

Since we are reading “What Great Teachers Do Differently”, I do want to share these two videos. I am so excited to read with you all!

Igniting Mathematical Thinking!

In 2 minutes, write down different uses for a brick and a blanket.

Welcome to the new kind of interview question.

Seem easy? Not so for thousands of potential job candidates at companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook. The truth is being really good at memorization and regurgitation doesn’t help much anymore when it comes to preparing for future success.

We are teachers and our goal is to prepare students for the future. The challenge comes in the realization that the jobs they will be seeking probably don’t even exist right now. So how do we get them ready to meet and surpass expectations? We begin by teaching students HOW to think, not just what to think. We cultivate their ability to apply and transfer knowledge, we provide plenty of opportunities to notice similarities, connections and patterns of thought, and we make learning relevant so our students can answer WHY what they are learning is important and how it impacts them.

Numeracy is about making sense of numbers and understanding the effect numbers have in the world around us. Being numerate means having the ability to use mathematics in everyday life and to appreciate information presented in mathematical terms.  It is an approach to teaching mathematics that levels the playing field for all students to approach numbers thoughtfully as they gain access to using them in more sophisticated settings.

I began my research in Numeracy more than 15 years ago. After many years of researching and experimenting with how to empower children to see learning mathematics as meaningful and useful, I am delighted to share the summer with you, Frankie, and The Educator’s Book Club! I am honored.

~ Margie Pearse

Teaching Numeracy Book CoverHow exciting is it to be able to read a book with the author themselves?! Beginning this May, The Educator’s Book Club will begin hosting a live book study with Margie Pearse, author of Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking.

If the title alone doesn’t excite you and make you wonder about those 9 critical habits, then just take a look at these reviews from Amazon.

  • “Margie Pearse and Katie Walton have given us a rich treasury of research-based best math practices. This resource is filled with new tools to enhance the skills of teachers at all grade levels. This book offers practical, engaging, numeracy strategies to support our struggling students, and sets the bar high for our advanced young mathematicians.” (Mary Dunwoody, Director of Secondary Curriculum and Professional Development 2010-11-29)
  • Teaching Numeracy is the book that all math teachers should get their hands on! The authors share their own classroom experiences in an easy-to-read, heartfelt way, and they give readers the opportunity to move from theory to practice the very next day. After reading this book, teachers will understand how to help students actually think through the math instead of just doing the math.” (Elizabeth Ann Moorcones, Educational Consultant 2010-11-29)
  • “This book is for every math teacher who has ever been frustrated and confused about why many math students ‘just don’t get it’. Pearse and Walton have compiled clear, concise techniques in a straightforward approach to teaching math in the 21st century. Teaching Numeracy is a must-read, must-implement guide that teachers can utilize for every math lesson.” (Nancy Paterni, ESE Teacher 2010-12-01)
  • “Much like the efforts undertaken in literacy, we must take students on a journey through the process of mathematics. Pearse and Walton have presented a book to help us develop depth of knowledge and understanding through the practical application of research-based best practices.” (Jeffrey Ryan, Assistant Superintendent 2010-12-13)
  • Teaching Numeracy is refreshing and unique.  Written in a conversational tone, every teacher will at some point see themselves or their classroom situation discussed in this book. It is a well-organized “filing cabinet” of research, methods, activities, suggestions, and lesson plans that align well with every elementary math curriculum.” (Kathleen Eross, Teacher 2011-01-13)

Teaching Numeracy came highly recommended by several teachers on Facebook. After reading the Forward in the book, I, personally, am very excited to begin this study!

So, who is Margie Pearson? Well, here is a little bio.

Margie Pearse Picture

Margie Pearse has over 30 years of teaching experience with certifications in mathematics, elementary education, English as a Second Language (ESL), and Pennsylvania Quality Assurance Systems (Certified Instructor – PQAS 2014). She is presently in higher education training education students how to teach math that is relevant, engaging, and represents best mathematical practice. Margie also works as a math coach helping hundreds of elementary teachers create deeper, more meaningful numeracy based lessons. 
Margie’s educational philosophy can be summed up as such, “Why NOT reinvent the wheel! Yesterday’s lessons will not suffice for students to succeed in tomorrow’s world. We need to meet students, not just where they are, but where they need to be. There is great potential in every child. It is our job to empower students to discover that potential and possess the tenacity and self-efficacy to reach it.”


Published Books: Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking, released by Corwin in 2011; Learning That Never Ends, released by Rowman & Littlefield in 2013; and Passing the Mathematics Test for Elementary Teachers, by Rowman & Littlefield, February 2015.

On Thursday, Margie and I met on-line and discussed how we would like to host the discussions. We have agreed on using the Adobe Connect platform, and will be hosting weekly discussions on Sundays beginning May 24, 2015.

Below are the tentative dates. Each session will begin at 7pm EST.


Stay tuned for more info!

Working with Authors as a By-Product of Stupid Talk

If you had asked me a year ago what I would be doing today, I would have rambled off about dozen education related ideas. I take after my Dad. He’s a dreamer. He’s always concocting a new invention, theory, or idea, in general. Always. He calls it “stupid talk”. Somewhere in the midst of all of the “stupid talk”, something smart and innovative will come about. Not every time, but eventually. I would say that, in this respect, I am much like my dad. I ramble. I dream. And I dream up big ideas that, sometimes, make no sense at all. You should see my husband when I say something completely ridiculous and he is trying to find a polite way to tell me, “no”.

Of all of my ideas, I never thought I’d be working with authors. Authors are, to me, like celebrities of the literate world. They are names splashed across books, much like directors of movies. They are experts in their field, while I am still in a learning-process. In education, many educational authors are mentors. Mentors to their peers and readers.

Imagine my dilemma when authors began ending their messages on a first name basis. Being raised by a southern Dad and Japanese Mom, I was always raised to be respectful of others. You call people Ms. or Mr. and you use last names. A courtesy practiced by both my American and Japanese families. Authors are my literate mentors, the experts. Naturally, I want to use last names, and expect to be referred to by my first name. After all, I am not the expert.

For those of you who may not know, I have had the pleasure and opportunities to communicate with a couple authors regarding book studies hosted by The Educator’s Book Club. Typically, this is a fairly informal process and not time-sensitive. A couple authors, Angela Watson and Dave Burgess, have joined the group and commented alongside the members throughout the book studies. Informal, inviting, and fairly simple.

This morning, I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited. I was going to meet an author for the first time via Adobe Connect. I sent out the link for the meeting room the previous night, and we met this morning at 8:30. I even dreamt that I was preparing for the meeting, so I suppose you could say I was double prepared. I was also very nervous and anxious.

If you are a part of the book club, then I’m sure you know who I am talking about. Margie Pearse, co-author of Teaching Numeracy. We had a couple technology hiccups in the beginning, but, eventually, were able to use the audio, share the whiteboard, and play around on the meeting board. I will be posting more specifics soon regarding the guidelines for the discussions.

The meeting this morning went so wonderfully, and, yet, the whole time I was trying to keep calm and not giggle too much. I giggle when I’m nervous, a trait I don’t typically consider a positive one. I could name a couple moments where giggling was the absolute last thing I should have been doing. And, imagine what I would do when I got nervous about giggling too much? Yup. You guessed it. I’d giggle more. Anyway, I digress.

The Educator’s Book Club began as a means for me to continue my growth as a teacher with fellow educators. We began with a handful of teachers and have grown since. Because of this group of wonderful teachers, eager to learn and grow together, I have had the opportunity to connect with authors in an attempt to bring deeper meaning and understanding to our book studies.

Regarding “stupid talk”, I consider The Educator’s Book Club a very positive by-product of it. Thank you to all of the members of the group who have voted, nominated, and participated in the group! And thank you to all of the authors who have shed so much more light and meaning on the studies we have and will be conducting! I look forward to reaching out and connecting with other authors as we all learn and grow together!

Learning to Teach to Learn


My name is Frankie Robinson and I teach in the Atlanta area. Learning is fascinating to me in all capacities. I’d love to say that I am a sponge, but I also fear that I forget easily. With that in mind, I have decided to take to blogging and archiving my “learning-curve”. I have much to learn, and I have much to remember. I hope that this tool will help me in that process.

So, who am I? What makes me interesting?

I grew up in Georgia about thirty minutes from Atlanta. Born and raised. However, I spent nearly every summer with my grandparents in Osaka, Japan. I grew up bilingual, although English is my native language.

To paint a very small picture of my life, my comfort foods consist of grits and bacon or miso soup and rice. Maybe I should mention that I love food, and I love analogies with food. Insert food emojis here.

Also, I am almost always starting a new hobby. Currently, I am learning how to code websites, use Adobe Captivate, facilitate The Educator’s Book Club, and sew dresses for my baby girl. Oh! And I’m starting this blog. Clearly, I can’t sit still for long.

More information can be found on the About page, as well.

Thanks for reading!