Education Technology

Behind the Scenes of T³™ Summer Workshops

Posted 09/02/2022 by Corey Boby, Virtual Arkansas Math Coach and AP® Calculus Teacher

They say “Time flies when you’re having fun.” You might not believe it, but time also flies when you are delivering math professional development workshops. For those of you who don’t know us, we are a married couple who recently celebrated their 25th anniversary and have been leading Teachers Teaching with Technology™ (T³™) Workshops for almost 20 years. This summer (like many other summers), we organized and led a two-day face-to-face (yay!) T³™ Summer Workshop “Leveraging the TI-84 Plus CE Graphing Calculator for ACT® Test Success” which took place in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Presenter, Corey Boby, engaging with participants during the workshop.
Presenter, Corey Boby, engaging with participants during the workshop.

Thanks to support from Texas Instruments and the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts Director Corey Alderdice, 27 teachers from Arkansas and Louisiana spent two days digging into the ACT® and the TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculator to learn strategies for helping students improve math scores. This is particularly important for teachers in Arkansas because all eleventh graders are provided a free ACT® test, which is then used as part of our state accountability. So needless to say, we had an interested audience.

While we have had the opportunity to lead many summer workshops over the years, this one was different. Typically, we are tasked with teaching participants how to use and integrate TI technology to enrich math teaching and learning in the classroom. This workshop is different in that it focuses on test-taking strategies. We both have Master of Science degrees from Ohio University (we eventually fell in love in graduate school, but that is a story for another blog post). So, our hearts really lie in pure mathematics and the elegance and connections it brings. In the back of our minds, we both want to do the problem using the traditional methods followed with supporting methods to enhance understanding of the concept. But that mindset needs to be put aside when the focus is teaching students about test-prep strategies. To level the playing field for all students, we can teach them some approaches to get problems correct that they might not otherwise be able to solve using traditional methods.

Beth, one of the participants, picked up on one of our favorite ACT® strategies, “usually, figures are drawn to scale.” She stated, “One of my aha moments was when Corey demonstrated the draw-to-scale strategy. I think this could be so enlightening to students. This could get a student in the teens to 21, and maybe get the mid-20s students to upper 20s. This could mean a student gets a scholarship.” This strategy makes use of the fact that the vast majority of diagrams on the ACT® are actually drawn to scale. So, if students don’t know how to do the problem, they can sometimes solve the problem by estimating a distance or an angle. Also, students can use this knowledge to quickly check if their answer makes sense. While the mathematicians in us might cringe at this notion, students love this strategy and can save time or get extra problems right by using it.

As the two days moved along, we had several teachers make many discoveries. It wasn’t uncommon to hear the occasional “No way!” or “Cool” accidentally escape from a teacher’s lips. (We love this!) Jacqueline summarized her feelings after the workshop by saying, “I am so appreciative of this training because it will equip me with some new ideas that can be added to my instruction. It is nice to collaborate and share with colleagues. I particularly enjoyed learning how to be more efficient using the TI graphing calculator with the newer operating system and how I can enhance my students’ understanding of the concepts while prepping for the ACT®. Graphing calculator techniques and ACT® strategies are a great combination for a summer workshop.” This was a particularly rewarding comment for us because Jacqueline was part of a group of teachers who came to the workshop together and will use this session to vertically align their curriculum.

Participants collaborating during the workshop.
Participants collaborating during the workshop.

Of course, delivering professional development can be rewarding, but many times when the workshop is only one or two days you get little feedback as the presenter. That just does not seem to be the case with this workshop. Every time we have presented it, teachers seem so thankful, like Kenya who said, “This was the best PD I have ever attended. I learned so much more about the TI calculator. Also, I now understand there are three parts to the math portion of the ACT®. I will definitely be taking these ACT® shortcuts and strategies back to the classroom.”

Or Chelsea who wrote to us to say, “Out of a decade of teacher PDs, this training was one of the most immediately beneficial to my classroom.”

Or finally Holly who shared, “This was one of the best workshops I’ve ever been to; it was entertaining and informative. I learned so much. Thank you!”

We would like to wrap this post up by thanking the original authors of this workshop: Tom Reardon, Pat Flynn and Jeff McCalla. Also, we would like to thank the T³™ team, and in particular Charlyne Young, for helping make this opportunity available for teachers in our area. Although summer has come to an end (and so have the opportunities for attending T³™ Summer Workshops for 2022), be sure to check out ongoing online learning from Texas Instruments in the form of webinars. Check out the list of upcoming live webinars and sign up, or catch one at your convenience with the on-demand viewing option. You can also sign up for alerts for summer 2023, and plan to catch an ACT® (or SAT® version) next year.

About the authors: Corey Boby has a Master of Science degree in mathematics from Ohio University. He has worked as a teacher and curriculum specialist for over 20 years and taught a range of math classes both in person and virtually at the high school and college levels in Arkansas. He has served as an AB Calculus Reader for eight years and has been a T³™ National Instructor since 2001. Being named a PAEMST Awardee in 2017 was one of the highlights of his career along with performing the marriage ceremony for one of his former students in 2021.

Tracy Watson has a Master of Science degree in mathematics from Ohio University. She has taught at the college level for over 15 years and at the high school level for seven years. During her high school teaching years, she taught AP® Statistics and served as a College Board® AP® Statistics Reader for four years and has been a T³™ National Instructor since 2001. Watson has previously served on the Arkansas Council of Teachers of Mathematics Board in a variety of positions, including president. Watson is currently working at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts as a Mathematics Specialist teaching residential students and supporting a network of Arkansas Statistics teachers.

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