BWBB Week 6

bike-logoAfter six weeks of learning how to ride a Backwards Brain Bicycle, I am able to go about 100 feet without putting my feet down to catch myself. It is not pretty and definitely not smooth. I have decided my definition of being successful riding the bike, would be to ride it without “thinking” about steering for balance. At this point I am definitely having to think hard about turning into the fall, “in the opposite direction”. I want my brain to take over the balancing. I am having to really concentrate to steer to balance. If I get distracted, I revert back to what I have done on a bike for the past 50 years, and need to catch myself with my feet.

I am going a bit faster, which helps with the balance. As I go faster I feel strange not wearing a helmet, so I am going to start wearing a helmet. I don’t want to send the wrong message about safety.

One of my goals of this project is to actively study the learning process. I don’t know if this is the same thing, but my observation of other people is much more intriguing. Many students are convinced that it is going to be easy to ride the bike before they try. Some try a very short amount of time and want to walk way. Some try for a longer time and before they leave they promise to come back. I teach Algebra 1 to 9th grade students and Honors Algebra 2 to 9th-11th grade students. Interestly, lots of Algebra 1 students have tried and continue to try to ride the bike. Very few Honors Algebra 2 have tried to ride the bike. At this point, I am of the belief that people that are not used to failing don’t want to try things that their chance of success is low. Most of the Honors Algebra 2 students are also much more reserved and don’t want to “look bad” in front of their peers. I do not want to generalize this situation too much, but I do see huge differences in how the high academic achievers react differently than other students. Along the same lines, the Algebra 1 students that don’t give up in class, are more likely to try riding the bike (and try other things).

I would like more teachers to ride the bike and will make that one of my goals. I am taking my bike to our state teacher conference in three weeks and will courage people to try it. It is not on the agenda anywhere, but we have a great group of math teachers in Montana and I am sure it will get lots of interest.

 

Week 6 Video – I am getting better, but it really takes concentration and it doesn’t look smooth, yet.

Learning is Hard: Backwards Brain Bicycle Update

I have been learning to ride a backwards brainbike-logo bicycle now for 4 weeks. I try to ride it two laps (about 400 feet per lap) in the morning before school, again at noon and sometimes after school. At this time it is mentally exhausting to make it the two laps. I am also out of breath after about 100 feet. Someone pointed out to me that I was holding my breath the entire time, but I didn’t notice. Now that I try to breath, it has been a little easier to concentrate on balancing.

I have the bike parked just outside my classroom door, so that many students see it daily. The comments have been very amazing and lots of students are very encouraging in my struggle. I also allow any students that wish to try it, ride when the halls are not crowed. That usually happens early morning or after school.

I think students are afraid that others might see them fail, but they are really very curious. I have not gotten many teachers to spend much time on it, YET. One of my next goals is to get more teachers to experience the struggle of learning.

I had parent Open House this week and quickly explained what I was doing with the bike. There was a real high interest about the bike and how the learning was progressing. I think they understood why I was learning to ride the backwards brain bike.

I am gaining each day/week and will continue to update videos on my progress. The odd thing is that some days are worse than the day before, and that is discouraging. BOY THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR. I am trying to relate the discouraging days to a reason why. I suspect that it has something to do with the rest I had the night before or maybe the time of day. I have noticed the past several years that when I don’t stay hydrated I don’t think as clearly, and that may be affecting me on the bike. How can I use this information with my students?

I really understand the learning process better since this journey began!

 Week 2 Video

 Week 4 Video This was my best distance, not my average distance.

Update: Both bikes developed cracks on the welding, so we had to redo the welds. On the blue bike we welded (brazed) the full length of the metal plates (thanks Fred!). On the green/black bike we welded additional metal straps (thanks Kirk!). For those of you thinking of making a backwards brain bicycle, here is a picture of the new green/black bike weld. This is four 1/8 inch straps bent to fit and welded to the bike.

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Backwards Brain Bikes – Knowledge Does Not Equal Understanding

Another journey begins. The idea of a backwards bike intrigued me since I saw one on @smartereveryday. Then when I saw @saravdwerf tweet about her experience, I became driven. I describe it to non-believers that it is like the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. I can’t explain all the reasons but I am drawn to do this. I did see Sara and Morgan Fierst @MsFierst present their journey at TMC16.

My daughter @jwbrackney teaches math as well, and wanted to do the same thing. We are taking these to our schools and will use them throughout the year to demonstrate perseverance and to experience re-wiring our brains. We hope to work on this daily and journal the learning experience. We already have colleagues in both buildings excited about this.

This is just the beginning but I want to get this blogged while I remember the details.

So the first challenge was to find four bikes, two that we would use as the main parts and two that we just need the front shafts….

IMG_1660   IMG_1617   IMG_1609 (1)

The second challenge was much more difficult, to find four gears. After weeks of searching on the Internet (mainly because I wanted to get them cheap), decided that we could bore the center to the necessary size and didn’t need the exact center bore. I found some on Amazon for about $9.00 each. I had to buy them at two different times to find them at that price.  The prices change daily, today they are $42.00, I am sure the price will continue to fluctuate.

Boston Gear NB32-5/8 Spur Gear, 14.5 Pressure Angle, Steel, Inch, 16 Pitch, 0.625″ Bore, 2.125″ OD, 0.500″ Face Width, 32 Teeth

IMG_1645   IMG_1647

Then to find someone that could weld everything for us. My brother-in-law, had the necessary tools and skills to do this for us. He actually brazed them instead of welding which works much better on this type of metal.

IMG_1701   IMG_1690   IMG_1691

IMG_1708   IMG_1702 (1)   IMG_1704   IMG_1716    IMG_1714

IMG_1721   IMG_1717

We still need to get them all cleaned up and painted. Jennifer’s bike is the purple one and she wants to paint it her school colors. My bike is green with a black front fork and I decided to just paint the new pieces black, for now.

Here they are cleaned up and painted.

IMG_1827    IMG_1822

IMG_1786    IMG_1815

IMG_1830IMG_1789

Backwards Brain Bicycle

Why?

  • Demonstrate perseverance
  • Learn to learn
  • Demonstrate the struggle
  • Develop new brain connectors
  • Add some excitement in education
  • Cure Alzheimer’s ???

The Planning Begins

It is that time of the summer when I start to think about changes I want to make in my classroom and class procedures. I am attending a #desmos conference and #tmc16 in a few days. That will be a great environment to generate ideas. I am also be attending these with colleagues that give me the incentive and desire to take me out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone includes doing the same things that I have done in the past. When I am taken out of my comfort zone, great things happen.

comfortzone

So off to Minneapolis Minnesota for the rejuvenation that I need and the ideas that will make the next school year the best year yet.

End of the year reflection.

My school year ended on Friday and as I sit here Sunday night (when my teaching week usually begins) I am reflecting on my year.

I has been an interesting year. My “year” began last July at TMC15. I say that it started at TMC15 because that has shaped many of the things that I did this year. I was completely rejuvenated with TMC and the ideas generated there.

  • Twitter – What a wonder community and generator of ideas. So much food for thought and so many ideas, many of which I used in my classroom.
  • Desmos – I have always been a big fan of Desmos and attending TMC sessions last summer and having Eli Luberoff come to Montana to speak at our MCTM annual conference in October was amazing. I presented workshops on using Desmos in the classroom at the last three MCTM annual conferences and it is constantly changing for the better. This year Desmos Activity Builder was a great addition to my classroom
  • New textbook – This maybe wasn’t such a positive thing. I wanted to give the textbook a good shot, so I tried to use it the way the author intended. Then I spent a lot of time creating things to keep the students interested and energized. Now I know that I have some work to do to readjust for next year.
  • I tried Standards Based Grading (actually Objective Based Grading) and was pleased with it, but I need to refine my system.
  • I used Google Classroom several times this year and discovered its potential.
  • I did not give enough positive feedback to my students. This is a goal mine every year and I think I slipped a bit this year.

OK…to make improvements for next year.

  • I am attending TMC16 and MCubed (Montana version of TMC) this summer. I am co-presenting “5 Practices” at TMC and Desmos at MCubed. I am looking forward to getting more great ideas from both of them.
  • My colleagues and I will work this summer to put a better plan together to create thinkers and to make math more interesting and pertinent.
  • My daughter (also a math teacher) and I are going to build two “backward bicycles” to use in our respective schools. Thanks to Destin at  @smartereveryday and Sara @saravdwerf . We really need to teach our students about learning and perseverance.

More ideas to follow…

 

Do Amazing Teachers Teach from a Textbook?

Last week started with a colleague/daughter of mine (@jwbrackney) making an observation that all the really amazing teachers that are recognized, because they are making a difference, don’t appear to be teaching out of a textbook. At that point it hit me that my classroom was in a slump and I needed to get out of the textbook more.

Recent background: About five years ago our district adopted a CCSS curriculum without resources to support it. The next two years my colleagues and I spent an enormous amount of time searching for good math materials and creating many great lessons (and some we won’t claim). At about the same time we were attending summer training on the Mathematics Vision Project (MVP) from Utah. After a few years of tirelessly trying to gather and create our materials, a few colleagues and I went rogue and used the MVP materials for our Algebra 1 classes. Since we ditched our very old, non-CCSS aligned textbook, it wasn’t that rogue.

Last summer we adopted a new textbook. Raised to be a “rule follower”, I decided to give the textbook a good shot. Many, many times during the school year I questioned my recent choice. My students just weren’t developing to be the readers and “thinkers” that I was able to nurture in the past years. Was it me? Could I do something different with the textbook?

My current analysis told me I need to get out of the textbook and my comfort zone. With all the resources from the Internet, @MTBos, @TMC, etc. I can do better. There were so many ideas in my career that I thought were great things, but I didn’t know when/how to incorporate them in my classroom. The WHEN is NOW!

I work closely with a colleague (@KGruizenga) and once again we jumped in. Between ideas we get from many sources and ideas we develop, we will reclaim our mathematical destiny.

THE TIME IS NOW: Friday we started with “Which One Doesn’t Belong”  and then did an activity (@KGruizenga idea) where a graph of a parabola was displayed and all students went to the board and listed one thing about the parabola, and put their initials by the statement. As a class we discussed the statements, fixed the statements that were “close” but not correct and looked for the most challenging and unique true statements,  and rewarded those students. GREAT day!

WODB by Mary Bourassa

So much work to do, so little time…

This will work with the help of ideas from:

classroomchef.com – John Stevens and Matt Vaudrey

http://wodb.ca/ – Which One Doesn’t Belong – Mary Bourassa

desmos.com and teacher.desmos.com

visualpatterns.org – started by Fawn Nguyen

http://www.mathematicsvisionproject.org/

https://www.engageny.org/

and many many more…

My Heroes

I have many heroes in my life. I would like to tell you about two of them and why they are my heroes.

My daughter @jwbrackney is one of my heroes. She is a middle school math teacher that has an impressive number of success at a relatively early stage in her career. Since she was a young girl, I always thought she tried to take on too much. Even now as she has twin 6 year old girls, she continues to take on too much, but somehow accomplishes everything she tries to do with great success and finesse. We have had countless hours of conversations about teaching math and I know that I have learned as much from her as she has from me. Our time together reflecting on what works for kids has benefited hundreds of our students. The latest professional concept that I am stealing from her is Objective Based Grading. It all makes so much sense and I would have never made the change if it wasn’t for her trying it first and talking me into trying it. For more on that see my blog post on Objective Based Grading.

My son @stevenriehl is another one of my heroes. What he does with computers is nothing short of amazing and the attitude he has towards manipulating computers to benefit others is beyond amazing. His gift for computers started at a young age. I am the kind of person that people come to when they have computer questions, but my son’s computer ability surpassed me when he was in middle school. While in high school he designed our school district website that was used for about 5 years. After two or three different professional web designers re-designed it, I still hear teachers saying they wish they had the old design back. He is currently our school district’s Information Specialist in charge of many of our student databases. He makes Powerschool, our district’s grades and information system,  dance to the tune of everyone in the district. If you want it to happen, he makes it happen. His positive and “can do” attitude impresses everyone that has contact with him. I am so glad to have him on speed dial for tech assistance.

My daughter and son are my heroes for many other more personal reasons, but I wanted to share how proud I am of them as they became colleagues and professionals. Makes a father proud!