Some of the many new ideas that I learned at the conference include:

1.

__Open-ended math questions__Teachers, we need to work smarter, not harder! Think about open-ended questions as a natural answer for how to differentiate in the math classroom! Instead of giving students the question all the time, give them the answer and have them become the teacher!

For example:

"The answer is 34. What is the question?"

Oh my goodness! There are so many possible questions! This technique allows students to pick their "just-right" math level and "answer" the "question" accordingly. Some possible solutions are:

1. What is 30+4?

2. What is (2x15)+4?

3. What is (3x10)+4?

4. There are 15 animals in the north end of the zoo. If there are 19 animals in the south end, how many total animals live at the zoo?

There are so many options to this type of problem. I use these all the time and I really feel that I can understand my students better;along with where they stand in their mathematical thinking. I have many open-ended word problems in my tpt store attached to word problem sets. Be sure to check them out!

2.

__Sumoku__This seems like an awesome game for higher order skills while adding numbers. Think "sudoku meets addition in lower elementary" with this crossword-like numbers game. Click here for the full version of the 5 different ways to play. There seems to be a version you can purchase via Amazon and a web-based version.

**3.**

__Hundreds Grid Puzzles__I actually learned about this wonderful technique from a now retired 3rd grade teacher, but having a refresher was helpful. The idea is that you take cardboard copies of a hundreds grid and cut them into 7 or more pieces. Then it is the student's job to reconstruct the hundreds grid.

This is often more difficult than it sounds for students and is a wonderful partner activity for building numeracy and it can be used as a quick individual formative assessment.

I would suggest making a labeling system for each puzzle (and placing that on the back of each piece), laminating each piece, and placing the entire hundreds grid set in one envelope (with the same label) for added durability.

4.

**"Making sense takes time, over time. Do we give our students this time?"**__This quote really got me thinking. I, as a teacher, am always wishing that I had more time to plan, or converse with my colleagues, or make copies, or grade papers, or.....let me stop because my list could go on and on. But seriously, this quote made me wonder if maybe students feel the same way with their thinking and learning within the classroom. Are students secretly wishing they had more time to make sense of what they are expected to learn?__

Dedicated student-teacher preparation courses and best practice documents instruct teachers to use "wait time", but that lasts at most 30 seconds. Students might need an hour, day, or even a week, (or longer) in order to truly make sense of a concept. We, as educators, have to remember that our introduction might be the first time that students are exposed to a concept. It is impossible to become an expert or to say "I've got it!" after one math workshop session with some of the difficult and complex tasks we expect our students to complete.

We owe it to our students to give them the time that they need to be successful and to develop new connections and background knowledge for their learning. We need to slow down and start explicitly planning for this "sense-making time".

I would like to thank all of the presenters at this year's conference for taking a risk and sharing your thinking, passion, and resources with other educators!

I am looking forward to next year's conference!

**Your turn: What are the top 3 "take-aways" from the last conference you attended?**