Hello Blogosphere, I Accept the Challenge!

My name is Melynee Naegele, and I have been teaching in some capacity since 1985.  I have been graciously invited by Brian Stockus to participate in the FFISD Math Rocks 2015 Challenge, and I couldn’t be more excited and thankful!  Currently I am a special education teacher in Claremore, Oklahoma and will be teaching K-3 direct instruction/self-contained.  This means I have all eight to ten of my students, all day, for all subjects, except specials.  I am also an Elementary Mathematics Specialist and will graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Master’s in Teaching, Learning and Leadership in December 2015.

In my studies I have come to passionately embrace the ideals of constructivist pedagogy and the philosophies of Lev Vegostsky and Jerome Bruner.  I have been influenced by great mathematicians such as John Van de Walle, Marilyn Burns, Grayson Wheatley, Max Ray, Annie Fetter, Sherry Parrish and many more.  For the last two years I have been teaching constructively and using problem centered learning coupled with productive discourse in my  K-5  special education pull out sessions, and my students have made off the chart progress!   The learning in my master’s program and the teaching experience for the last two years has left me forever changed as a person and a teacher.  Every day I see the difference my metamorphosis is making in my life as well as my student’s lives.  I am in love with teaching and on fire to keep this passion alive within me.

This year my goal as a math teacher is to find a way to incorporate whole group problem centered learning in an classroom where students are developmentally separated by several years and places on the learning trajectory.  I feel that by incorporating dialogue rich, problem centered learning my students will come to conceptually understand math.  I tell my students on the first day of school that I am a math nerd and that one of my goals for the year is to help them discover that they are math nerds too!    In all honesty, at this point, I am a little worried about successfully  incorporating problem centered lessons and their facilitation.  While I have used these practices and pedagogy before, my students have always been very close in their developmental stages.  I have reached out to many experts for advice and ideas, and I have formed a tentative plan, but right now I keep telling myself that I will be flexible and adapt as needed.  I am strongly committed to making this work, but right now I am treading on new ground and am a little nervous!

The biggest obstacle I will face in reaching my goal will be the vast range of ability that my students will bring to our learning community.  In addition, finding problems that are high cognitive demand tasks suited for all learners will also be a challenge.  To address these obstacles I am planning to conduct thorough assessments so as to understand where each of my students is on the learning trajectory.  I will then plan creative ways to group my students when we are discussing our problems so that each student is coupled with at least one peer who will engage with them in productive struggle toward constructively understanding the math at hand.  Currently I envision implementing problem centered learning by incorporating an Estimation Station ( Estimation Station ) as well as using the prompts:  The Answer Is ______; What could the question be?  To foster discourse, spatial sense and vocabulary development I plan to use  Quick Draw ( Quick Draw ) and Subitizing Quick Looks (Subitizing Quick Look Ideas).  On the horizon I will plan to incorporate activities such as What’s My Rule, Which One Doesn’t Belong and more, but for now I think this is a good start.  In order to keep myself bolstered and supported I have reached out to many math friends through my social media network.  I have discussed my ideas with fellow educators, and I plan to keep myself surrounded by people who can provide ideas and feedback throughout the school year.

I am excited to meet my students, get to know them, establish a relationship so that we can get down the the excitement  of constructive, discourse rich, problem centered learning.  I am also greatly anticipating the moment when each of my students declares, “I am a math nerd!”


10 thoughts on “Hello Blogosphere, I Accept the Challenge!

  1. Yay! We’re so happy to have you join us on this journey! I’m especially happy to have a perspective of someone who works with students who are in the Special Education program. It warms my heart to hear about the great instruction you want to provide these students. You’re setting high expectations for them, and it is so powerful that they have a teacher who *knows* they can learn and do mathematics.

    You definitely have an interesting obstacle having students with such broad ability levels in your room, but it looks like you’re embracing it as a challenge you can overcome more than a problem. I look forward to hearing about what works and what doesn’t, and I hope you’ll share some stories of how your students are interacting with the problems and activities you have planned.

    Thank you again for joining us! We’re so happy to have you.


    1. I am thrilled to be a part of this great group of educators! I definitely will keep everyone informed as to how the year progresses and how I facilitate problem centered learning with such a diverse group of students who are also cognitively challenged. I can’t wait to see my kiddos become lovers of math and math nerds!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I really like the website http://www.estimation180.com/ but I am not sure my students are cognitively ready for it yet. I feel if I control the amount and objects we are estimating I will be able to meet my students at their level while also being able to differentiate for my wide range of learners. I hope I am correct in this, and if not I will go back to the drawing board. I got the little gumball looking estimation station from Amazon. It is super cute and reminds me of the hot cocoa estimation activity on estimation180. I will scaffold my estimations like that lesson at first and see where we can go with it. 🙂


  2. Quick Draw is a cool activity I haven’t heard of. So many students reach high school geometry unable to draw the figures we are studying accurately enough to see their properties. Teaching special ed students who sometimes lack fine motor skills I always struggle with whether I can accept their drawing of a rhombus when the sides look so uneven – more practice throughout the grades is exactly what they need!


    1. Hi Tina! I don’t focus on the accuracy of the drawings, but more on the talks that we have throughout the process. If the students don’t use math vocabulary when describing what they saw and what they drew then I restate using the targeted vocabulary. The kids pick up on this real quick and start using the vocabulary too. We talk about angles, diagonals, horizontal, vertical, rotations, vertices, edges…… I also ask the kiddos if they are able to see the image in 2D and 3D and how that changes their descriptions. Grayson Wheatley has published some books and cds with ready to use images. You can find them here http://www.mathematicslearning.org/index.cfm?ref=30505 They are great for multiple ability levels and differentiate themselves depending on the students readiness level. Brian shared this site with us last night on #Elemmathchat and I see there is a quick image link on this site too! http://tedd.org/?tedd_subject=mathematics If you try some of these out, let me know what you think! Happy Mathing!


  3. I feel like you are describing my math teaching philosophy! I love problem centered learning and I also read work from most of your math mentor favorites. I just recently discovered Annie Fetter and have started reading her blog.


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