Week 1: Welcome and Introductions

07 Jan 2014 7:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
Welcome to the 2014 ATOMIM Book Group:  The 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions
We are thrilled by the response to this year's book group offering.  As of this past Friday, we have 29 registered participants and are ready to begin exploring ideas about how to improve the mathematical conversations in our own classrooms or in our work as coaches and leaders as we support teachers enacting these ideas.
We are looking forward to some excellent conversations and learning over the next 12 weeks together in our professional learning network.
We believe that we have paced out the readings and activities in a way that is both manageable and will support our regular work of teaching.  We are aware that "life happens" and that from time to time, you may not be able to complete an activity or a reading and might fall behind.   DON'T GIVE UP!   Remember...Mathematical Practice #1 is all about problem solving and perseverence.  Use one of those tough weeks when things are piling up as an opportunity to read other posts, pose a good question or use your comments to push someone's thinking.   We are all a work in progress!
This activity is being coordinated by ATOMIM Board members Shawn Towle, Mary Belisle, and Pam Rawson with the support of the full ATOMIM board.  
Let's begin...
1)  Please introduce yourself to the group by responding to the following:  
Where do you live/work?  
What is your role in mathematics education?  
What is your best hope for this book group?  
What is your worst fear?
2)  What challenges have you encountered in your efforts to engage students in talking about mathematics?


  • 07 Jan 2014 12:13 PM | Anonymous member
    I live in Farmington, and work at Mallett, a K-3 elementary school in Mt. Blue RSD. My role in school is "math interventionist," which is loosely defined as the person who both teaches/coaches/supports teachers in math, and also works with at-risk students. My best hope for this group is that I improve how I do the student debrief part of class. I think I'm pretty good with doing a lesson and with working one-on-one or in small groups, but I'd like to get much better with the way I do a whole class discussion that focuses on student thinking and methods. Worst fear? That the book study takes too much time and makes me feel overwhelmed! As for challenges, the main issue I notice is that during a discussion, often what happens is that the students who are doing well and are getting the lesson are the ones actually listening and participating, whereas the at-risk students are showing all the usual work-avoidance behaviors because they might not be able to learn well in that environment. I do all the usual "turn and talk" to try to get everyone involved, but I'm not convinced it works as well as I'd like.
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  • 07 Jan 2014 12:15 PM | Anonymous member
    I teach in the Graduate/Outreach Office of UMF. Currently, I co-teach a 4-graduate course series in Mathematics Leadership that results in a mathematics certificate. Before that I taught undergraduate mathematics methods with a field experience.

    Communication is a very large part of mathematics content knowledge and CCSS-Mathematical Practices. This book study will offer a great avenue for hearing about mathematical reasoning & proof and communication to advance study understanding of math.

    Can't wait to begin and Happy New Year.
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  • 07 Jan 2014 12:36 PM | Deleted user
    I live and work in North Yarmouth. I am a classroom teacher for sixth and seventh graders who have been accelerated in math. I also am the math coach in the building.
    I am honored to work in the classroom with students and in the school building with all the math teachers. I am part of the district task force to look towards full implementation of CCSS for all students and support for teachers to get this done. This semester I am also co-teaching a course on middle school geometry for pre-service teachers through USM.
    The book chosen for the book study makes some very good points. I hope that I will have time to examine my teaching to be sure that that I am incorporating the type of questioning ( as delineated by the book) in my practice. My worst fear is that I think I am doing it but really have not done this and really needed this group.

    Students and parents are always happy to talk but need redirection to covering the appropriate subjects at the appropriate depth. When it come to taking these verbal idesa and putting them on paper, it becomes very hard since they (students)do not see the connection.
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  • 07 Jan 2014 1:00 PM | Deleted user
    Hi, I live in Spruce Head and work in RSU 13 as the K-5 Math Coach. This is my first year as a math coach. Previously I was a 3rd grade classroom teacher, and I also taught math to the 4th grade students. My hope is to find various avenues to encourage students to communicate mathematically. Then I can support classroom teachers to try some of these methods, incorporating the 8 Mathematical Practices as well. This book study will provide concrete examples that I can share with teachers too.

    My worst fear- always time- quality time to read the book and not just skim!
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  • 07 Jan 2014 7:48 PM | Deleted user
    I live in Waterville and work in Skowhegan-based MSAD 54 as the K-6 math specialist. My primary responsibility is PD for the K-6 teachers, and I also work with some students to assist with their mathematical journeys. My hope for the book group is that I learn both how to encourage students to discuss their thinking and learning in math and how to help teachers to do the same. I've been working to promote discussions in math for a few years, but I think progress is slow. I'm hoping that this book and the group will help advance the effort. My fear is that teachers will not embrace the move to discussions, especially those with a not-too-rich math background. One challenge that I have encountered with discussions is the classroom atmosphere and culture which can subvert risk-taking and open communication.
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    • 08 Jan 2014 1:52 PM | Anonymous member
      You're right, that the classroom atmosphere and culture can make or break discussions. Today I was observing in a K class when a question was asked to which one of the students gave a wrong answer. Another classmate disagreed and explained why, to which the first classmate said, "Oh, I was wrong, and this is why." Beautiful moment--to be so free and comfortable with himself and his classmates to be able to say, "I was wrong."
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  • 07 Jan 2014 7:59 PM | Deleted user
    Hi, I live in Falmouth and work in MSAD 51 (Cumberland/North Yarmouth). I am a new K-5 math coach in the district. So far this has been a wonderful, and overwhelming, experience. I'm hoping this book group will help me support our teachers to better at reaching all their students. I will be a member of the math Task force team with Mary Belisle (see below) and hoping this book will help us guide our decisions.

    I'm a bit frustrated at the moment as I ordered my book 2 weeks ago and I'm guessing it is stuck in a deep freeze somewhere. Hopefully, it will turn up before too long. My worst fear, similar to Donna's, is that I end up skimming it more than giving it the appropriate time needed.
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  • 07 Jan 2014 8:22 PM | Deleted user
    1) I live in Portland and work in South Portland. It took many years and another career before I understood that my urge was to teach. My 7-12 math certification is officially five months old, though meanwhile, since 2012, I have been fortunate to be ed teching at Memorial Middle School. This year I am supporting students in all three grade levels. Since September, I have been teaching South Portland's Adult Ed math class.
    I joined this group in hopes of being motivated to read the text in greater depth than I could have mustered on my own, to have my perspectives and assumptions challenged, to learn from experienced educators, and to add voices and contacts to the circle of critical colleagues that I am trying to draw. I hope I am not disappointed in my efforts to be a reflective participant, and that I pretty-much-nearly-always make the time and effort that a group with this purpose deserves.

    2) Right. Well, I haven't had a lot of experience engaging students in mathematical talk, but I have learned that the quality of prior exposure, current levels of skill and understanding, and disposition-- not only for math but for curiosity and the unknown-- are all important aspects that I should understand about the students I hope to engage. I do have enough experience to know that classroom discussion, or any other instructional strategy, can only be as effective as are students motivated to learn. I think that understanding how to design and use compelling strategies-- which we will learn more about here!-- are important for motivating and sustaining learning mindsets in our students.
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  • 08 Jan 2014 6:31 AM | Anonymous member
    Hello, I'm Gi and I've been teaching 4th grade at the Albert S. Hall School in Waterville, ME for 5 years. Prior to that I was a secondary education and English Literature major and I've taught experiential education pre-K through senior adults.

    Best hope: to dialogue with experienced math educators and beginning teachers as well. I look forward to learning about ideas that work and ideas that don't work! I want to add to my resources to help students share their ideas and teach and learn from each other.

    I worry about having time to complete the reading and contribute to the group in a meaningful way.

    Challenges I've encountered: getting students to feel comfortable and safe sharing their ideas on a regular basis.
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    • 08 Jan 2014 8:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
      I'd love to get together to think through some lessons together. I really feel I need someone to help me think lessons through the way it is described in the first chapter. I am hoping to do a "workshop like" lesson every couple of weeks. Are you interested?
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  • 08 Jan 2014 9:55 AM | Anonymous member
    I am Principal at Miller School in Waldoboro and Friendship Village School in Friendship. It's my job to supervise math instruction and ensure that students are getting the best math instruction possible. My best hope for this group is that I will improve my skills as a math supervisor and can pass ideas along to my staff that improve student learning.

    The challenges I have encountered are getting teachers to engage students in discussions about math instead of just allowing them to give an answer without explanation. For the most part teachers want to do all the talking.
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    • 08 Jan 2014 10:00 AM | Deleted user
      ...as I work with teachers in my building I also have the experience of watching the "sage on the stage." ...I wish we could re direct the learning experience to questioning and socratic methods - hoping that this will give me some pointers to help our teachers.
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    • 08 Jan 2014 11:06 AM | Deleted user
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  • 08 Jan 2014 9:57 AM | Deleted user
    I live in Gorham and work in Gray/New Gloucester as the "Math Specialist" for the middle school. ...I am hoping that they change my title to "Math Interventionist," which would be a better job description! I am hoping to further develop skills in engaging students in discussion - as I work with the struggling students I find it difficult to get them to discuss their ideas or hypotheses about the math that they are doing.

    My fear is being timely in my reading and posting - last year I worked in chunks and sometimes did not have the time to read some of my colleagues posts...time management will be my goal...as well as making sure I connect with the group.
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  • 08 Jan 2014 10:15 AM | Anonymous member
    I live and work in Falmouth Maine. I teach 8th grade mathematics. My best hope for this book group is that I get excited about what I am learning and try out some new ideas in my classroom. My worst fear is that I am overwhelmed with trying to keep up with everything, and end up doing nothing well. Challenges I have encountered in engaging students in talking about mathematics include getting to hear from ALL students, helping students overcome the idea that they always have to be "right" and not wanting to share an idea that they are not 100 percent confident with.
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  • 08 Jan 2014 10:16 AM | Anonymous member
    I am Darlene Ulrickson. I am a math specialist at Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield Maine. I also teach our high school level courses, one course of Algebra one, one course of Geometry. I am a career changer to teaching. I have a degree in Economics and a Masters in Business from the University of Maine. After a career in banking and insurance, I was a stay at home mom for several years. 10 years ago, I was lucky enough to work my way into a teaching position at SeDoMoCha Middle School in Dover-Foxcroft. After 5 years there, I changed positions to Warsaw. This is my fifth year at Warsaw. Last year I became the region 2 rep for ATOMIM. I enjoy this role very much and look forward to possibly being President-Elect after the election this spring. Warsaw is its second year of becoming an Expeditionary Learning School. The 5 practices will tie in well with EL’s workshop 2.0 model. I am hopeful that this book discussion will help me help teachers in my school that are transitioning their classrooms to this model.
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  • 08 Jan 2014 11:54 AM | Deleted user
    I live in Troy and work at Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield. I am currently a 7 and 8 math and science teacher but I have been teaching math for 13 years. I am hoping to gain another method to reach all the students that I teach. My worst fear is that I will get behind in the reading because of time constraints. What I have found the most challenging about talking to students about math is a fear of being wrong. They are scared to take risks and learn from their mistakes, they just want the right answer and to move on.
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  • 08 Jan 2014 12:20 PM | Deleted user
    I live and work in Pittsfield, Maine in MSAD 53 which includes the Manson Park, Vickery, and Warsaw Middle schools. I am the Curriculum Coordinator for PK-8 and support the math teachers in curriculum, instruction, and assessment decisions. Having never taught math (I am a former English teacher and Library/Media Specialist), I hope to deepen my understanding of mathematical practices and the Common Core shifts so that I can better support our teachers. My worst fear is simply not keeping up with the reading and discussion. I am looking forward to learning from everyone!
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  • 08 Jan 2014 6:50 PM | Deleted user
    I live in Waldoboro and teach sixth grade math at Miller School in Waldoboro. Teaching math for many years, I find the movement from teaching procedures and processes to helping students understand, discuss and communicate mathematically exciting and challenging. Exciting, watching low level students engaged in class discussing their ideas, while higher level students listen. Challenging, because teaching with the CCSSM Practices promotes growth, but is difficult and progressing more slowly than I want. This book study brings high hopes for many ideas and strategies to be learned to incorporate into my practice.
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  • 08 Jan 2014 8:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    I teach 5th grade in Waterville, where I also live. I love teaching Math, and believe context and discussion make all the difference for students.
    I am the current ATOMIM representative for District IV: Androscoggin and Kennebec Counties. I am also Co-Chair for the Instruction and Professional Development Committee with the Maine Education Association.
    My hope for this book group is to change my practice by planning how I want to lead a discussion prior to teaching the lesson. Right now I listen carefully and try to lead students toward efficient practices, but I think I get lost in trying to honor my students and where they are. I want more focused direction to our discourse.
    My worst fear is that I will have no idea how to plan the right sequence of sharing to help students arrive at the essence of the learning. Right now our sharing is hap-hazard, so I want to change that.
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  • 09 Jan 2014 3:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Where do you live/work?
    I live in Frankfort and work at Wagner Middle School in Winterport teaching 7th grade math. This is my first year in 7th grade after having taught for six years in 6th grade.

    What is your role in mathematics education?
    I am a 7th grade classroom teacher. Our groups are heterogeneously grouped. I group and regroup for instruction as needed within these groups.

    What is your best hope for this book group?
    I hope to come away with immediately useful ways of increasing meaningful math discussion and questioning and communicating in my classroom. I hope to increase the productivity of the math discussions in my group and be able to facilitate meaningful discourse and guide the discussions towards the desired outcomes and meaning making.

    What is your worst fear?
    Keeping up with the reading and engaging in the discussions along with day to day teacher stuff and taking a graduate course this spring.

    Encountered Challenges--
    I would say my biggest challenge is with holding all students in a class accountable for participation. What are some strategies to monitor student engagement/participation in a discussion?
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  • 10 Jan 2014 12:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    I enjoy living in W. Bath with my husband and wonderful cat! I have a sometimes tedious commute to work at F. H. Harrison Middle School (grades 5-8)in Yarmouth. As the Math Lead Teacher I provide professional development to the math teachers and special education teachers at the middle school. I also provide the Tier 2 math support for the students at the school.
    My best hope for this book is to increase my ability to "orchestrate" discussions as well as be able to help other teachers with this skill. I also look forward to reading the posts from other participants - this was a huge benefit for me in the last on line book group.
    My worry (not really a fear) is to keep up with the on line book group expectations and to write quality responses/comments.
    Challenges for engaging students in talking about math has certainly been to have the class silent after I've asked a question. Sometimes having students turn and talk and then ask the question again helps. I hope to pick up other ideas as a result of the book group. The other challenge can sometimes be keeping the student talk focused on the math topic. I have also experienced students who are so focused on what they want to share that they miss what is shared by their classmates.
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  • 12 Jan 2014 12:17 AM | Anonymous member
    I live in Sebago and work at Falmouth Elementary School. I teach accelerated math for 4 & 5 grade students, teaching 5 and 6th grade content. I am also to the G&T teacher for grades k-5 providing direct services to 4th and 5th graders, coordinating identification and providing consult to teachers for students who have academic or social and emotional needs. That includes helping teachers find challenge for their advanced mathematicians. Discussion is key in all my classes and with all the teachers I consult with. My best hope for this book is it will help me by increasing my skills in leading discussions and being better at listening to what is said and by whom. That should inform my next leads better. I have very few fears about books. One of my challenges is that I work with students who are both use to being "the correct" one and at the same time are very sensitive. Because they often view math as a right or wrong content area, risk taking can be difficult. The other issue that comes up sometimes is that the most self assured often drown out the most elegant thinkers.
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  • 12 Jan 2014 12:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    I live in Portland and work in Falmouth at Falmouth Middle School. In addition to teaching 8th grade mathematics in Falmouth, I serve on the Affiliate Services Committee for NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Math) and I am the web-editor for NCSM (the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics). I am a presenter at local, state and national conferences and am a math consultant during the summer months. I stay pretty busy.

    My best hope for this book group is that I will learn how to have more focused and productive discussions in my math classroom and really increase the student/student interaction. My big goal is to "talk less and listen more." I am hopeful to participate both as a facilitator and a participant. My fear is that folks will drop out due to falling a bit behind. I really want to encourage everyone to stick with the study. I know I will learn a great deal from each of you in our discussions over the next several weeks. I have read the book at least twice before, but haven't really taken the opportunity to dig in and carry out some of the tasks that we will be including over the next few weeks. If I learn at least one new thing during this study, I will be happy.

    2) My major challenge in class discussions has been to orchestrate them in such a way that students take on the majority of the responsibility for engaging one another in conversation and pressing for more justification and proof from their classmates without my needing to prompt that engagement. A classroom conversation is where "Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others" can really come to life, provided that students feel safe to engage in discussion of mathematical ideas.
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  • 12 Jan 2014 1:35 PM | Deleted user
    I live in Bowdoinham, am a semi-retired superintendent; and from 2000 until last year, was employed as an assistant for curriculum and instruction in three different districts - each at the request of a superintendent. Those opportunities gave me a chance to observe a lot of mathematics instruction and engage staff in comprehensive discussions - especially at the elementary level. As part of my role in each of the systems, I coordinated and arranged a ton of mathematics PD for teaching staff. One of my concerns for a long time has been the minimal amount of math training that elementary teachers bring to their career, and the difficulties that issue raises for them as they work overtime to do a good job in an area where they have little background. Thus, my commitment for a long time to help support their improvement/knowledge in that domain. I participated in the ATOMIM book study last year and found the commentary of colleagues in that experience to be delightful - willing to put themselves out there as we learned together, willing to take risks to try new strategies, and willing to share with everyone else. It was a great experience; and I learned a ton. The one major difficulty I have right now (because I'm taking this year off to study a couple of major interests, this being one) is that I don't have a classroom to work with. That will be my greatest challenge in this. But, I sure am looking forward to hearing from all of you each week.
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  • 12 Jan 2014 3:06 PM | Anonymous member
    Hi everyone. I live in Portland and do a lot of traveling to different math classes as part of my research for a PD math book. I'm writing specifically for the teacher who has some negative feelings about math, usually stemming from experiences as a student. I'm always on the lookout for discussions around classroom climate, etc.

    I have skimmed and liked this book before, and look forward to digging into it. I love a similar book called Classroom Discussions, Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn. http://www.amazon.com/Classroom-Discussions-Using-Students-Learn/dp/1935099019/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389556910&sr=8-1&keywords=classroom+discussions+using+math+talk+to+help+students+learn In general, I feel like the ideas around academically productive math talk have not penetrated in Maine as much as I would hope, so there's a lot of PD work to be done in this area. I'm happy to join in!

    I hope we're able to communicate and grow together through this work.

    I fear that technology, while making this group happen, will also limit the effectiveness. I like face-to-face conversations about meaningful ideas.

    As for challenges, I teach intermediate elementary, and it's sometimes hard to undo what's come before me. Students arrive with fixed mindsets, hyper-focused on right answers, and afraid to take risks and make mistakes.

    And the other big challenge is districts that have adopted truly awful math curriculum that works at cross purposes to this kind of teaching. My daughter's teacher is young and wants to teach math well, but she's being told she has to implement this terrible curriculum "with fidelity." She doesn't have the political chops (as a new hire) to go to the office and say what she's doing and why the way more senior teachers can...
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  • 12 Jan 2014 5:43 PM | Anonymous member
    I work in Waterville and teach sixth grade math and science. I am new to teaching and hope to learn from the other teachers in this discussion group.
    I find my students shy about discussing math. They expect math questions to be answered with only one 'right' answer.
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  • 14 Jan 2014 10:25 PM | Anonymous member
    Hi, I teach 5/6 math and science at the Oxford Elementary School in the Oxford Hills School District. I am also a member of our district math committee currently focused on supporting the implementation of the common core across all grade levels. My hope for this book study is to find out that I am successful using the techniques that this book presents. However, realistically I hope that I will learn new strategies to engage all of the learners in my classroom.
    The biggest challenge that I face in my teaching is having all students equally engaged in discussions. Too often conversations are dominated by a small percentage of the class while there is another group that sits by quietly without taking the risk of getting involved.
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  • 21 Jan 2014 11:40 AM | Deleted user
    Sorry, I am late coming to the party, but I was stuck in northern Maine caring for my mother (who has no internet). My name is Jes Crowell, and I live in Winslow,but teach Gifted and Talented for MSAD #54 - Skowhegan Schools. As for my role, I currently teach Gifted Math to grades 4 - 6 and I am on the district Math Curriculum team. Since starting at MSAD #54, I have helped write and rewrite the sixth grade curriculum the past two summers, as well as pilot and test new curriculum, so that we could choose the one that best fit our district, alignment with the Common Core, and our strengths/weaknesses as teachers.

    My hope, in completing this book discussion, it to begin networking and discussing current math issues, generate ideas for classroom discussions, and to gather new information to help my students and my colleagues' students.

    I am not sure what the worst fear question is about - math? the group discussion? math discussions? teaching?

    As for challenges, the biggest challenge is to create a classroom where students feel comfortable to take risks. Luckily, most of my classrooms are of 10 or less students, so for me, this is not usually a major issue, but the worst issue when it comes to math discussions or when trying out new math concepts and ideas.
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  • 21 Jan 2014 5:45 PM | Anonymous member
    I am a 7th grade math and science teacher at Whittier Middle School in Poland. Our school also serves the surrounding towns of Minot and Mechanic Falls. Our school uses the Connected Mathematics program in conjunction with other Common Core resources to meet the diverse needs of our students. One word that continues to pop out at me is transparent. My hope is that students continue to engage, think, defend, analyze and make their thinking transparent so others can learn or change the way they think. My worst fear is being the lone ranger - meaning the only one try to carry this valuable foundation for student engagement in mathematics.
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