It can be challenging to plan activities for workshops with secondary math teachers. I like to have teachers first experience learning mathematics as my students do. There’s the rub – if I share an activity from my classroom, teachers already know the math. They can opt out of explorations designed to construct understanding – they know how the story ends.

Marc Garneau (@314Piman) and I have two strategies to deal with this. First, we can have teachers look at a familiar topic in a new light. For example, have teachers:

- use an area model to represent multiplication of fractions
- use pattern blocks to explore quotative division of fractions (and using common denominators)
- use colour tiles to visualize multiple expressions for a linear or quadratic function
- use a visual approach to simplify radicals (my favorite)

*too*similar, to something they teach. For example, I wanted to model how I use expert groups to have students develop the exponent laws in Math 9. Having teachers do this would be iffy. Instead, Marc and I came up with this:

Each expert group of teachers was responsible for learning and teaching one set of ‘pop’ rules. For example,

(a + c) ‘pop’ (b + d)

= 2(a + c) + (b + d)

= 2a + 2c + b + d

= 2a + b + 2c + d

= (a ‘pop’ b) + (c ‘pop’ d)

0 ‘pop’ a

= 2(0) + a

= a

Later, we asked “Okay, so ‘pop-ifying’ is not in the WNCP curriculum, but where could you use this teaching strategy?” Teachers answered “It would be great for teaching exponent rules or log laws.”

Mission accomplished.