Retiring This Blog

I was just looking at the stats for this blog and was amazed to see that I am still getting upwards of 300 views a month. Of course, that is only a tenth of the views I used to get back in this blog’s heyday.

The reality is that I am no longer serving as the elementary mathematics specialist for the Utah State Board of Education. Therefore, I have no right to be writing a blog called Utah Elementary Mathematics. So I am going to retire this blog. That doesn’t mean I am going to delete it. Evidently there are some of you who still think there is value here, as do I.

I have started a new blog. It is called Leading Imagination and the URL is It will be a mixture of mathematics, school leadership, and other thoughts about education in general. It will have no connection to the Utah State Board of Education. It will just be my private thoughts on education.

I am going to import my old posts from this blog into the new one. So feel free to stay here and look for math entries or go to the new blog. Thanks to those who have read my thoughts over the years. I apologize that I have not written anything new for over a year! I’ll do better in the new blog.

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Success Stories

I love hearing Success Stories and this is one of the best. I was reading my email on Monday (just like every day) and was blown out of the water by the e-mail I got from Karen Oliver, a teacher in Utah.

As background, I offered Jo Boaler’s MOOC called How to Learn Math for Teachers and Parents for USOE credit three summers ago when the class was brand new and free. Karen was one of the teachers who took me up on that offer. She took and finished the class. This summer we once again offered the class for credit. The course now has a registration fee but we offered to pay the fee for the first 100, then 125. then another 100 teachers. We have 232 Utah teachers taking the MOOC this year for USOE credit.

The e-mails about Jo Boaler’s class spurred Karen to write me an e-mail about her experience in the class and how it has changed her teaching. With Karen’s permission, I am quoting her e-mail here.

Karen says:

I don’t know if you remember me, but I took the Jo Boaler class three summers ago when you offered it for the first time and have since implemented a “Growth Mindset” classroom for my fourth graders.  The first year implementing it my student scores were terrific. However I thought it was probably just because they were high level students in the French Immersion class at Morningside. The second year implementing this math “mindset” I taught the traditional class at Morningside with a lot of “lower” students. Their scores were excellent!  80+% proficiency. This year I moved to Oakwood Elementary and my students were 90% proficiency. (Another teacher had the “gifted” cluster.)

Jo Boaler’s research and approach to teaching has had a profound impact on my teaching. I wanted to share with you the poster (see below) I made for the class as well as my “bullet” points for setting up my math instruction.

  • Introduce the poster and celebrate “math mistakes”
  • No tests throughout the year. End of Chapter tests are referred to as “reviews.”
  • No timed math facts tests, but a lot of work on strategies for knowing math facts.
  • Fix up all math problems. The expectation is 100% on all math problems for all students.
  • Ring the classroom bell for learning from mistakes.
  • A lot of problem based learning with group or partner work to start a math lesson. – High engagement

Students have loved learning math  – Thank you for that opportunity to take Jo Boaler’s class!!

Very best, Karen Oliver

Double Black Diamond Mathematician

Needless to say, I am extremely proud of Karen and her hard work in changing her students’ math mindsets. Teaching mathematics can be very difficult. But if other teachers can do as Karen has done, and I know they can, their students will love mathematics as well! Keep up the great work, Karen. I have your back.

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Elementary 3-Act Math Tasks

Many of you (some of you? Maybe just one of you?) have heard me talk about and/or use one of Dan Meyer’s 3-Act Math Tasks (see them here: ). I love those tasks, but most of them are for secondary school math.

Well, when I was in Atlanta in October I met Graham Fletcher, who is a math specialist in a school district in Georgia. He is very active on the Math Twitter Blogosphere (#MTBOS on Twitter) and gives presentations at math conferences all over the world. I was impressed with his presentation and have since followed him on Twitter (@gfletchy) and on his blog. ( I just found, to my delight, that Graham has created a whole series of 3-Act Math Tasks Lessons for grades K-6, coded to the core standards. They are available here: .

I was excited, so I thought I would let you know. Now you can be excited and share with all your geeky math friends!



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All Students Can Learn Mathematics At a High Level

Our country has a problem with math. Too many people say they are no good at it, were never any good at it, and never will be any good at it. One study, done by Marilyn Burns of Math Solutions, suggested that about 2/3 of American adults have some kind of math phobia. (Math: An American Phobia, Math Solutions, 1998). I’ve seen this phenomenon first hand. When I tell someone I am the Elementary Mathematics Specialist for the Utah State Office of Education I get mostly negative responses. They range from, “I’m sorry…” to “Oh, I’ve never been good at math.”

There is also a wide spread belief that the ability to learn math is somehow innate. Some people are math people, others are not. The result is many students don’t learn mathematics because they don’t believe they can, because their parents don’t believe they can, and because their teachers don’t believe they can. Educational research is replete with studies on how teacher attitudes effect student achievement.

It is far past time to change these attitudes and beliefs. Part of any vision for mathematics teaching and learning in Utah must include the fact that all students can learn mathematics at a high level. That assertion is not wishful thinking nor empty rhetoric. It is based on research (see, for example, Adding it Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics, National Research Council, 2001). It is attainable if the conditions, structures, and policies in mathematics education necessary for success exist.

This blog will be focused on those conditions, structures, and policies for the remainder of this school year. These ideas are taken from Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in 2014. Readers are encouraged to obtain a copy of the book from NCTM and to participate in the Principles to Actions course in the Utah Professional Learning Series. The next course begins in January. Registration is free and will be available soon at The course is only open to Utah educators.

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Revised Utah Core State Standards in Elementary Mathematics

One more announcement before the big first post of the New Era of Elementary Mathematics Newsletter Blogging Renaissance:

The Utah Core State Standards in Elementary Mathematics have been under a revision process for the last year. They have now been released for a 90-day review. Go to for more information and to give your feedback. There will be five public review meetings held in the next two months, as follows:

Core Standards Review Public Meetings

October 7, 2015
Utah State Office of Education
Board Room
250 East 500 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

October 22, 2015
The Grandview Learning Center
1591 Jordan Avenue
Provo, Utah 84604
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

November 12, 2015
Iron County School District
District Office Board Room
2077 West Royal Hunt Drive
Cedar City, Utah 84720
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

November 19, 2015
Uintah School District
District Office Moon Room
635 West 200 South
Vernal, Utah 84078
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

December 2, 2015
Box Elder School District
District Board Room
960 South Main
Brigham City, Utah 84302
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

I hope you can make it to one of the meetings!

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Apology and Announcement

Apology: To those of you who followed this blog in the past: my abject and sincere apology. I have only posted once in the last 18 months. I got many comments from teachers in my travels around the state that they read the blog, they enjoyed the blog, and they learned from the blog. And then I disappeared. My duties at the office grew exponentially a year ago in August and I had to drop something. So, the blog went away. I am sorry. I missed writing it.

Announcement: I am restarting the blog! As of today. I am going to write shorter blog entries once a week instead of the long drawn out essays I used to write. I hope you will enjoy them and learn from them and even comment back to me once in a while.

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USOE Professional Learning Series

PLS+GraphicMany of you will (may?) remember that, at the end of the Utah Standards Academy last year we said the Core/Standards Academies were all over, done, never to appear again. While that is true, at least in terms of the four day experience in different locations around the state, we at the USOE have been hard at work designing what is a unique professional learning system for Utah.  Here is what it says on the Professional Learning Series page on our website:

“For 2015, we are transitioning to an online interface via Utah Education Network (UEN) for opportunities for teachers to engage in professional learning.  Interactive webinars, self-guided modules, and teacher-facilitated courses will be made available starting in May 2015. The 2015 Professional Learning Series will provide high quality instruction in English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, World Languages, and Fine Arts throughout the year to complement and support the integration of the Utah Core Standards and to ensure that all Utah students are college and career ready.  Utah State Office of Education (USOE) and/or Southern Utah University (SUU) credit will be available for all formats.

The webinars, courses, and modules could be done independently, in professional learning communities, in district professional development sessions, and other professional learning settings.  The possibilities are endless.”

All the courses available for the summer semester are listed in a course catalog you can download here: .

Let me give you a heads-up about the elementary mathematics courses. They were developed by teachers who understand the Utah State Core Standards thoroughly, who are master teachers in their own right and are acknowledged as such in their districts or charter schools, and who have experience designing and conducting professional learning for elementary teachers. All of the courses are on-line. They are innovative in their design and are varied in their approach. Just to give you a flavor of what we are offering, here are the course titles:

Principles to Actions for teachers in grades K-12

Laying a Rigorous Foundation in K-1 Mathematics 

Extreme Math Makeover for 2nd Grade r

Laying the Groundwork for Fractions, Multiplication, and Division in 3rd Grade 

You Can Read, Write, and Speak Math (Grades 3-5) 

Using Technology to Teach in Math (Grades 3-5) 

Teaching Kids How to Think (Grades 3-5)

Bringing Math to Life Through Science (Grades 4-6) 

Understanding and Implementing the 5th Grade Mathematics Standards 

6th Grade Fractions: A Rational Approach 

What and How Do I Teach Math: Components of Math Lessons to Enhance Understanding (Grades K-6)

See the course catalog for more details and sign up for a course today!

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