I am part of a group of inspiring K-12 teachers in my district who just embarked on a crazy yearlong professional development journey together. We designed a collaborative professional development certificate that will earn us the equivalent of three credits for re-certification. Here is our plan:

We are going to meet monthly to choose a task that has a low floor and a high ceiling. We are going to do the task together and anticipate what our students will do and how we will push their thinking without stepping on it. Then, after we do the activity with our students, we are going to blog about it. Before we meet next, we will all read each other’s blogs. Next month, we meet again and start the cycle again. Who are we?

- A District Math Coach
- A Life Skills Teacher
- 2 Middle School Math Teachers
- A Middle School Special Ed. Teacher
- 3 Fourth Grade Teachers who teach in different Elementary Schools
- A High School Math Interventionist
- An Elementary School Teacher who teaches a combined 2/3 classroom
- An Elementary School Math Interventionist
- A High School Math Teacher

We had our first meeting this week. We all set up our blogs and Twitter accounts. We chose our first task from the fantastic math site, Math Pickle.

We chose to play A Little Bit of Aggression with our students.

After we played the game ourselves, we wondered :

- Is it an advantage to spread your armies out so they are not bordering each other?
- Is it good to put a high number of armies in the middle territory?
- If you put a big number of armies in the mix, should you get rid of your armies quickly so you can go first?
- Does the first or second person always win on a certain map?
- Could you play with multiplication instead of addition?
- Could you use fractions of armies?
- Is there a rule you could use to determine how to win, given a certain board and a certain number of armies?
- Is it ever an advantage to put one army in a territory?

This is what we wonder about our students:

- Will they stay with it long enough to develop a strategy?
- How will they decide where to put their armies?
- Should I introduce it as a whole class or in small groups?
- How can I scaffold it so my kids can access the reasoning part of the task?
- What happens to the student who doesn’t persevere when their classmate steps up and takes over?

My favorite part of our meetings, besides getting everyone into the blogoshpere of course, was when we all started to organically help each other plan.

“Could you use blocks for the armies so the kids could manipulate them easier?”

“You could introduce the game over a week – a little bit at a time to build anticipation.”

“We could ask our students, ‘what would you do differently next time'”

“Yes! Or maybe ask them to write down questions they are thinking about as they are playing.”

“Or what if you paused throughout the game and asked them what they notice and wonder.”

“How did you decide where to put your armies?”

“Maybe you could make a bigger game board – like poster size”

Finally, I asked them, how does this activity fit in with math?

Somebody said, “It build perseverance.” Yup. “It also builds community because they will be talking about their reasoning.” Hmmmm. Building community by talking through our reasoning. What a fantastic idea.