This Week at Global Math – 10/20/20







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Curated By Chase Orton @mathgeek76

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Online Professional Development Sessions

No Webinar this Week.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

Coming Next Tuesday: October 27th, 2020!

Promoting Mathematical Literacy:
What our students need to know, why they struggle, how we can help!

 

Learning math is complex and challenging. Participants will have the opportunity to consider what our students really need to know, why math is difficult for many students, from social, emotional, and environmental elements, to the learning profiles for dysgraphia and dyscalculia, and how we can best support our math teachers and diverse learners.

Presented by: Mindy Adair, PhD

To register for this webinar, click here.

From the Writing Team

Editor’s Note: This piece is submitted by a guest writer, Paige, who is a second year graduate student studying mathematics.
 

The Choice to Stay

This piece is inspired by Benjamin Dickman, who reminded me that I am a normal person, and to whom I said the phrase “I have to prioritize my safety and sanity over my learning.” My call to action: If we want to teach and learn math with humanity, we need to recognize the humanity in others, and act with humility ourselves.
 
When I was in undergrad, I read Judd Apatow’s “Sick in the Head”, and I was inspired. I identified a lot with his situation: he was a nobody in the comedy world, and he was staring up at the faces of giants. He could see people where he wanted to be, and getting the chance to talk to them, one-on-one, was like permanently moving to Disneyland. I used to dream about a project where I would go meet mathematicians at conferences and I would interview them. I held on to that dream for a long time. I used to imagine people would know my name as the author of that book, the person who interviewed the greats before they were great, more like an assistant than a fellow mathematician.
 
This book pretty much exists now, in the form of Living Proof, a wonderful book freely available through the AMS and MAA here. It has the stories of so many incredible mathematicians. But there’s something I couldn’t escape in reading it, and that was pain.
 
In the book I envisioned writing, there was mostly joy. The interviewees spoke only of a passion for the purest maths, lives well-lived, dreams fulfilled or nearly so. There was recollection, reflection. There were mostly older, white men. I didn’t realize this until much after the inception of my daydream, and this realization spoiled it for me. I’m still very proud of and impressed by those fictitious mathematicians I crafted life stories for in my head, but this picture I wanted to paint was woefully incomplete. It did what Instagram and other platforms now do to many of us, forcing us to compare ourselves to other people’s highlight reels, and upon the very natural conclusion of our own insufficiency, painting us into a very ugly corner of ‘not good enough’. There’s a reason I always imagined myself as the author of a book about mathematicians and not one of those interviewed – even in my own head, I didn’t – and don’t –  belong here.
 
It’s not that I don’t deserve to be here – I do. It isn’t that I don’t want to be here – I do! But it is undeniable that in most rooms, in most math spaces, I stick out like a sore thumb. And I’m white! I’m a domestic student. I have a supportive family, even if they all don’t know what I do and some of them hate math pretty vehemently. There are so many challenges I don’t ever have to face, and yet in each class I take I feel like there is a target on my back. I can feel eyes when I move or make noise; god forbid I have to leave lecture for any reason. This constant awareness, this hypervigilance, it’s pretty exhausting. Actually, it’s extremely exhausting.
 
You might ask yourself at this point, “Why is she here then? What is the point of this piece? Will she end with a heartwarming message about hope and perseverance?”
 
The answer to the last question is no. I don’t plan to pretend that things are going to get better for me. Statistically they won’t, and the world is (literally) on fire, so my optimism is actually at an historic low. But the answer to the first question I think is the most important: I’m here because I choose, actively and every day, that I want to be. I am not here because I didn’t know what else to do; the truth is to the contrary. I now spend a lot of my daydreaming hours thinking about all of the other easier paths available to me. I talk with my friends about backup plans. If you know me, you know that being a goat farmer somewhere near a National Forest where I bake bread and sell grilled-goat-cheese-sandwiches and coffee to tourists is #1 on the list. But I choose to be here! In this environment so filled with toxicity I often find myself choking on the fumes. WHY?
 
In part, it is my own stubbornness that keeps me here. I have started this degree, so I would like to finish it. But more than this, I love math. I cannot overstate this. It’s gorgeous! It is fun, and complicated, and silly, and technical, and hard! I adore all of those things. I love how deceptively truthful math can be. How obvious, how convoluted, how multifaceted. “Math” to me looks like a Monet, simultaneously chaotic and perfectly concordant. It’s a mess! But it’s *my* mess.
 
This passion, and to a degree loyalty, to math still is not the most important factor in my choice to stay. The biggest reason, the only one I can think of that really matters, is how much I love the people here. This is harder to describe for me. I could name some names, but it would just be a terribly long list of people you could easily find on Twitter. When I think of these people, how they have carried me, helped me, buoyed me, gratitude for them and for those who have laid the foundation on which I stand almost obscures my faculties to describe how much they mean to me. I also feel a very real and ardent responsibility to those who will come after me. How can I help them? How can I make pathways for them to walk, to smooth the cobblestones into cement for a more accessible road? What can I do that will open a window and clear the stale air that permeates our hallways; how can I keep them safe so that they can use all of the space in their hearts for loving the math and the people, instead of having to fill so many chambers with grief and despair?
 
The message in this piece you are looking for is here: we are struggling. Struggling to breathe, to be architects of our fields, to belong, to feel safe. If you take anything away from this, let it be compassion for those around you, and let it be an understanding. When you see the only (blank) in the room, understand that they are brave. They are courageous, and every moment in that room is costing them a great deal. Understand that their daydreams have been subject to so many revisions by an inescapable reality that they are actively dealing with grief. Give deference to all that, and be generous. Be warm. Follow @annegalloway’s poignant advice: “We’re all smart. Distinguish yourself by being kind.”
 
I still want to do that book someday. You can DM me if you want to share a story, or have a vision for how to peel back the Insta filter.

Paige [@paaiiigeee]

On “social justice math” versus math for social justice

 
Several years ago I completed a superintendent-mandated PD series for a curriculum claimed to re-engage students with limited prior success in mathematics through real-world, “social justice-oriented” applications. The first model lesson – an exploration of police brutality incidence using measures of central tendency – was anchored by a video of a handcuffed man, facing a wall, being shoved to the floor and beaten by a police officer.  In the ensuing discussion among the mostly-white group, one teacher posited that the handcuffed man might have “deserved” to be beaten (“we don’t know what he said to the cop”), while another expressed her enthusiasm for the lesson (“I think students of color would feel their negative experiences with police brutality are being validated.”)  I was exhausted: by the video, the conversation, and the prospect of any students being made to complete a series of tedious calculations with the goal of assessing whether their lived experiences were truly “valid.”
 
While recognizing that there are much better curricula (and, frankly, teachers) aiming to dissect issues of social justice and equity through a mathematical lens, I have since become much more ambivalent about the tradeoffs of doing so.  As an undergraduate I gravitated toward math classes and formal logic classes in particular because of the opportunities they provided for temporarily disconnecting from the “real world”; and, through teaching math in summer programs throughout college, I delighted in seeing my own students echo my thrill and frustration of puzzling through new concepts.  It was in seeing my students build critical thinking skills and newfound confidence through these tasks, though, that I first internalized Bob Moses’s views of how math education could also serve as a mechanism for social change – not necessarily through diving into questions of police brutality and disproportionate minority contact with the justice system (although there is, of course, a time and place for this), but through equipping students with reasoning skills, tools, and language for making sense of their experiences. I wonder, now, which students we are potentially losing as we increasingly prioritize math’s practical applications – even purposeful ones – over the creativity and freedom that the field affords.
 
– Nasriah Morrison [@nasriahmorrison]

Strength in Numbers: Building towards Justice in Mathematics Education

On Saturday, October 17, I gave a talk at Elmhurst University with the same title as this GMD entry. You can find a link to the talk here or in the tweets below. (Note: I caution against interpreting the slides too literally; without the words that were spoken, it will be easy to read them out of context. I am looking into the possibility of securing a copy of the recording.)
 

 
Rather than personally expatiating at length, I am using the rest of my entry this week to paste an email, verbatim, that a conference participant sent me. It contains a request around potential collaboration, which I am hopeful that a GMD reader will take up! (The email address is included at the request of the writer.) When I asked this person around permissions for sharing the email, she responded with:
 
“You have my permission to use any and all of my email – feel free to edit it down as needed or keep it in its entirety. I might add to it that I had only just begun to wonder if anti-racist/social justice math was even possible while a colleague in my PhD cohort shared about the Elmhurst NOYCE conference. It was surprising and then… I’m not sure of the right feeling, maybe a relief, to find that it is indeed ‘a thing’ and there are already people working on it.”
 
Here is the email.
 

Hi Benjamin,
Let me start by thanking you for your presentation yesterday. It was so inspiring and useful. I am a (n informal) STEM teacher but I honestly tend more towards Science Education. I tell people I am infinitely creative when it comes to science and zero creative when it comes to math. I’ve been working to change that.
 
I just started my PhD in Diversity and Metropolitan studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I tell people it is essentially social justice through education. I am White and grew up in a liberal family; in the past year or so I’ve finally learned the depth of my privilege and how ignorant I was – thinking that because I am a BIPOC ally, I was not part of the problem. I’m working to fix that too 😊 My 4-month old son is bi-racial, bi-national, and multicultural. I don’t do this work for him, but he is certainly always on my mind as I think about the world I want him to join. It is also because of him that I have to ask you to excuse grammar, spelling, and concision errors here – as a new mom, PhD student, and full-time worker, I have very little free time or mental bandwidth for anything outside of survival mode.
 
I have a project I keep trying to get someone to do and I haven’t found a good setting for it yet. I thought it might appeal to you and I’m sure you could refine it to make it much better. If you’re interested, maybe we could partner, you pilot, I might be able to help fund materials, we co-author a freely available lesson plan and/or paper.
 
The basic idea is students create a 3D soundwave. This can be done with 3D printing, paper, washers, beads, or even these vulcanite discs from Ghana (https://www.etsy.com/listing/486931111/14-mm-african-vulcanite-vinyl-disc-beads?ref=user_profile)
 
There are instructions both for building the wave as a series of discs and as a whole 3D unit – I like the discs because of the opportunity for circle math, ratios, etc.
 
The sound could be anything – a loved one saying “I love you,” a clip of an inspirational speech, their best friend’s laughter. You could go for an environmental justice route and capture the sound of endangered animals, like a whale’s song, or the sound of a mother polar bear humming to her cub to nurse. For social justice you might ask a question like: ‘What does it mean to be powerful?’
 
The waves can be bracelets, necklaces, keychains, or art. Here’s an example of it as jewelry: https://www.instructables.com/Waveform-Necklace-Bracelet/ and here is an art instillation of Obama giving a State of the Union address: https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/obamas-3d-printed-voice-unveiled-3d-printshow-20013/
 
I think it has the potential to be very powerful and meaningful. I think about cultures with traditions of oral histories, how music and speech move us, and stories of people saving voice messages from deceased loved ones. I realized one night while talking to my grandmother that I didn’t have a recording of her voice. I was too shy to just ask her if I could record her saying things, so I took out my phone and secretly recorded our conversation. In the background is the staccato interruption of her oxygen machine, but I treasure it because it is one of the only recordings of her voice. Why didn’t I do it sooner, or more frequently? My dad read me the same stories over and over when I was a kid. One night I woke up crying because I had dreamt he was dead. I wrote him a letter the next day and asked him to record himself reading one or two of the stories so that I could always have it. He wrote back a lovely letter about how he doesn’t expect to die soon, but told me how much he loves being my dad. A couple of years later at Christmas he presented me with a CD of him reading the entire book. As a parent, I will leave my son many things like that to help him deal with the day I go; I don’t know why more people don’t do things like that for their children. Not that this project has to be about adults in your students’ lives considering their own mortality, but I wonder what kinds of treasures like my CD and Nana recording could come out of a project like this.
 
If you’re into it, I’d love to talk/brainstorm more. If not, no worries. Thank you again for sharing your lessons, wisdom, and experience with us. You have no idea of the value and inspiration.
 
Katie Busch [kabusch AT uab DOT edu]
University of Alabama at Birmingham
 

 
It is a wonderful feeling to receive a message like the one that Katie sent above. My thanks to Elmhurst University; conference organizers Dr. Robinson, Dr. Brown, and Dr. Cosgrove; the keynote speaker, Dr. Joseph; and all of the participants who have reached out to me through various channels before, during, and after my talk.
 
Closing remark: By the next time that I am up to contribute to the Global Math Department newsletter, the United States election will have already been held. As you can: Register to vote; plan to vote; cast your vote; and demand the votes be counted.
 
– Benjamin Dickman [@benjamindickman]

 

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This Week at Global Math – 10/13/20







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Curated By Nate Goza  @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions

No Webinar this Week.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

From the Writing Team

Between pandemic life and a (perhaps consequent) twelve-second attention span, I haven’t been on Twitter much these days. But two threads last month did catch my attention.

 

1.  This tweet from Marian Dingle (@DingleTeach) directed me to Dr. Robert Berry’s (@robertqberrytalk entitled “Do Mathematical Practices Put Black Learners At Risk?” which continued a “conversation,” if I could be so bold as to call it that, with Lauren Baucom’s (@LBmathemagician) GMD post from February. They raise powerful examples of how mathematical practices can be used to analyze antiBlack racism but also, how mathematical practices can perpetuate antiBlack racism.

It reminded me of this experiment—a math education equivalent to the classic job applicant resumé studies—where teacher educators gave pre-service teachers a vignette describing a student who is “above grade level” but “disruptive;” when the student was identified as an African American boy, teachers were more likely to suggest that he be removed from the classroom, that he might have a learning disability, that he might need a positive role model, compared to when the student was identified as an African American girl, a White boy, or a White girl. (Aside: in the same book that published that study, Dan Battey (@DanBattey) and Luis Leyva (@LuisLeyvaEdu) have a chapter questioning whether teachers’ implicit racial attitudes might account for students’ mathematics learning as much as, or perhaps even more than, their mathematics instruction).

But more importantly, the question that Dr. Berry’s talk has lodged in my brain is: what else do we take for granted as being “good” in mathematics education—the way we (as teachers, as researchers, as a field) often assume that the Standards for Mathematical Practice can support student learning and also be helpful for teachers in making deliberate instructional choices—that can have consequences that reinforce racism or other systems of oppression?

 

2.  Christina Torres (@biblio_phile) provides a beautiful example of how to respond to someone who is offended by the idea of “politicizing” the classroom (Dan Meyer’s (@ddmeyer) latest blog post offers yet another entry in the lengthy “here’s why all teaching is political” column). I hope that someday I can be as gracious yet unwavering as she is.

 

Finally, if you’re experiencing the October doldrums, I’ve recently been thinking with some teachers about pedagogical responsibility and what matters most to them (as mathematics teachers) in this incredibly trying time. I’ve heard so many amazing teachers struggle with feeling like this year, for all the 2020 reasons, they’re not being the teachers they used to be or are capable of being, and worrying about burnout. First, if you’re feeling this way, you are enough, even though I don’t know how much doubt/frustration an anonymous person on the internet can really alleviate. But second, some of the teachers I’ve worked with have found it meaningful to name their feelings of burnout as actually being demoralization instead, using Dr. Doris Santoro’s (@DorisASantoro) study of veteran teachers (the introduction to her book is available for free here): burnout is an individual problem of individual teachers feeling overwhelmed and like they don’t have the capacity to continue teaching. Demoralization, however, is caused by systems, policies, and constraints that make it impossible for teachers to live up to their values at work. In this blog post, Dr. Santoro points out that demoralization is not a problem that can be solved by self-care, but offers some strategies that teachers in her study have used for re-moralization instead. That said, self-care matters too, so I hope you can find some moments this week for what matters to you, both personally and professionally.

Written by Grace Chen (@graceachen)

I Don’t Care
By: Hema Khodai (@HKhodai)
 

Are you at a level of soul exhaustion that you no longer care? 


when your mind is stressed, your body will begin to show the symptoms.”
 

I mean, let’s be honest:


 

How can we possibly show care when care is not shown to us? 
When joy is not afforded to us? 
When our passion for teaching is suffocated and warped by unethical working conditions that dehumanize our colleagues and our children?


“With just a pencil and paper I can become a mathematician. 
With just one good question I can launch a math class.”

 

How do we continue to care?


 

Maybe we return to making connections. Connecting with the land, the waterways, each other, our bodies, and our minds.


 

Maybe we recognize the humanity of every person we interact with and provide them the access, accommodation, and equity they need to thrive.


 

Maybe we do the same for ourselves.

 

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What Works in Math Intervention – 10/6/20

Presenters: Sarah Powell

Date: October 6, 2020

Many students experience difficulty with math and require targeted math support. In this presentation, we’ll focus on the design and delivery of math intervention. We’ll review how to select critical content to teach in intervention. Then, we’ll highlight five practices (explicit instruction, precise language, multiple representations, fluency building, and problem-solving instruction) with a strong evidence base for improving math outcomes for students who experience math difficulty. By the end of this presentation, you’ll know what works in math intervention!

Recommended Grade Level: K – 8

Hosted by: Leigh Nataro

Watch the full presentation at https://www.bigmarker.com/GlobalMathDept/What-Works-in-Math-Intervention

This Week at Global Math – 10/6/20







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Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions

Tonight at 9:00 EST

What Works in Math Intervention

Presented by Sarah Powell

Many students experience difficulty with math and require targeted math support. In this presentation, we’ll focus on the design and delivery of math intervention. We’ll review how to select critical content to teach in intervention. Then, we’ll highlight five practices (explicit instruction, precise language, multiple representations, fluency building, and problem-solving instruction) with a strong evidence base for improving math outcomes for students who experience math difficulty. By the end of this presentation, you’ll know what works in math intervention!

Join us at 9:00 PM EST.  Click here to register!

You can always check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

From the Writing Team

Hope is a discipline – a reflection by two math educators in Chicago
 

Sara Rezvi (@arsinoepi) and Joseph Ochiltree


 

Hope is a discipline. 
 

When I think of the word ‘discipline’, two meanings come to mind. The first – a practice, a commitment, a promise to keep at it even in spite of precarity and austerity. Not the gimmicky kind, the one that has a veneer of something more but turns out to be disappointingly superficial. No. That is not the discipline I think of, but I ascribe to a definition of practice, a promise that I make daily. To myself, to the students I serve, to the world I envision. 
 
The second definition – a function of control, a formatting power, a hegemonic violence –  what Foucault would call the ‘multiple forms of domination’. The kind that breaks people into particles and retrofits them into harm. 
 
It is the first definition that I choose to ascribe to as we unpack what this feels, sounds, and looks like in our daily teaching practices with our students. We pause and reflect about the importance of hope in our classroom spaces. 
 
Hope is a discipline. These words from Mariame Kabe, an organizer and prison abolitionist in Chicago, resonate with both Joe and I fiercely. Dr. Bettina Love, talks about hope as freedom dreaming, a radical act of imagination to extend beyond the violence of now into liberatory possibilities. These ‘dreams are not whimsical, unattainable daydreams, they are critical and imaginative dreams of critical resistance”, she writes (p. 101, We Want to Do More than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Practice of Freedom).

Joe is a long-time high school math teacher in Chicago, and I am the program director of Math Circles of Chicago, a former high school teacher,  and a current doctoral student at UIC. We have been married for 12 years and counting. =) 
 
In this post, we try to make sense of what it means to practice hope as a discipline in a world that feels so precarious, and so lost. How do we practice this meaningfully, with grace and love for our students? Our communities? Ourselves? When we are splintering? Below are some snippets of our conversation that we recorded and transcribed to share with the GMD community below:
 
Sara: As a white, male educator, what does it mean for you to call yourself an anti-racist educator? What does that look and sound and feel like for you? Why are you choosing to do this? What are spaces in which you are continuously reflecting upon? 
 
Joe: Because I believe in it. I believe that I have to challenge myself to be explicit about it, to name it, to call out white supremacy for what it is, and how whiteness is perpetuated in math. As a teacher, I have to give my students the tools to combat this. At the same time, I have to be really careful and think about how I even make conversations like this possible in the remote setting. How do I make it so that there’s balance and purpose? Where there are moments and opportunities for hard conversations but that we have the ability to have fun and enjoy the beauty of mathematics as well? The number one thing I’m trying to be explicit about is that I value students’ backgrounds and cultures, that their identities and where they’re coming from matter, and that who they are and how they see the world is part of their family and part of the framework for their intellectual identity. 
 
Sara: So, what does that look like in practice? What are some moves you’ve made in class? How might that be hindered in the pandemic teaching we’re experiencing? 
 
Joe: The first thing that is coming to mind is a quote or paraphrase of Dr. King – ‘whatever the problem, the solution is community’. I want my 9th and 10th grade students to feel a sense of community, a sense of belonging, and hope with each other. At the same time, I am thinking about their academic identity development. So, for the last four weeks of school, my focus and emphasis has been on making it clear through the activities and norms we’re establishing that students’ ideas are valued, that their thoughts, even if they’re still forming, are important for the mathematical discussions we’re having. This is harder now that there are 20-35 rectangles that I try to keep track of for 6 hours each day – that I can’t put these norms up on the wall that students can see out of the corner of their eyes, but this has been my focus just the same. 
 
Sara: I know you used the website Mathematically Gifted and Black in your teaching. Can you say more about this? 
 
Joe: One of my students said the following this year, and it’s stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said that as a Black teenager, that he has felt repeatedly that there is this lack of expectation for Black families to be intellectuals, to be thinkers. That he is really proud of all the learning and accomplishments that he’s made over his schooling, but that people seem to make assumptions that this is just not possible or true for kids like him. 
 
To address this, I can’t be performative. I can’t just say “Black Lives Matter” and be done with it. I have to practice that as well, everyday. I have to be in a space of learning with my students. 
 
 So, I had students go to this website,  Mathematically Gifted and Black, and asked students to find a biography of someone that resonated with them, to write a short summary about it, and then to present it to their peers. I did this because I am deliberately trying to combat the notion that mathematics only acknowledges the contributions of white men, and gives the message over and over again that this is the product of the minds of white men. Secondly, I want students to recognize and learn that every culture has mathematics that they’ve used for solving both practical and theoretical problems. That these contributions were critical to developing the mathematics we’re learning about today. 
 
Sara: And I would add that the storytelling that you are engaging in is a counterstory to the dominant perspectives in this country about what it means to be American, what it means to be in power, what it means to be in community with and with whom. Last question, what are three unique and distinct ways that you are showing up for and with your students in your classroom this year? 
 
Joe: Three things that immediately come to mind: 
 

  1. People Over Math
  2. Deliberate Focus on Cultivating Math Discussion
  3. ‘Warm-Calling’ vs Cold-Calling

 
Sara: Sounds interesting! Can you explain briefly what each of these mean?
 
Joe: Sure, so, when I say People Over Math, I mean focus on developing the people side of my classroom before worrying about the curriculum, especially in this moment of great anxiety, grief, and frustration for my students. It’s a balance – I’m not forgetting about the curriculum or disregarding its importance, but if I have to choose between taking time in my class to address students’ needs regarding the Breonna Taylor hearing for example, I choose to do that instead.  I choose to center my students’ needs instead.
 
For the second and third one, I try to be deliberate when giving students a chance to respond. I say “I’m gonna give you three minutes to process”. I try not to talk a lot to respect that time. In pandemic teaching, I don’t know if they’ve heard me say I’m giving them 3 minutes to process – maybe the student stepped away to help a younger sibling, maybe the internet is fuzzy, whatever, so I’ll reiterate this in the chat as well. After the time is up, I use the responses I’ve gotten in Peardeck to ‘stack the deck’ in terms of sequencing a classroom conversation. I’ll ask students to share some of their brilliance with the class by ‘warm-calling’ on students. I think of warm-calling as a way for invitation rather than putting someone on the spot. So, I’ll say things like “I can see what you wrote, (student), would you be willing to read it or share it in the chat? You can say no and that’s OK” and what I’ve found more often than not, by respecting student agency and choice, students are more willing to share their thinking when they know it’s low-stakes and collaborative. 
 

Sara: Thank you for agreeing to co-write this with me, Joe. It means a lot to me to hear you reflecting about this intense school year, and how you are engaging in creating a space for students that is attempting to be warm, loving, and truthful from an anti-racist lens. I’m including what you wrote to your students on the day of the Breonna Taylor hearing, along with a link to the song you shared with them here: Anderson .Paak – Lockdown. I am hoping that we all continue engaging in active freedom dreaming, of collective liberation, of ensuring that mathematics spaces and beyond, as my professor Dr. Danny Martin would say, are worthy of Black & Brown children’s brilliance. 

This last Friday, the Mathematical Association of America shared the following tweet

 
The values statement by MAA, titled the “Anti-science Policy and the Censure of Discourse on Race & Racism” initiated quite a response (just peep the replies and retweets) from the general public. 
 
One theme amidst the responses is the common sentiment towards the objectivity of mathematics. For many, studying mathematics through K-12 education provided a comforting concreteness, one of the only spaces of learning where things felt factual, stable, and unchanging. It wasn’t like English class where you had to write about your feelings, or Social Studies where you had to debate different sides. For many of us, we were taught to view mathematics as a process, a linear trail that if followed would always lead to the correct answer, an answer that was just as the same 200 years ago as it will be 200 years from now. 
 
I resonate with this sentiment as I recall my own mathematical journey. As the child of a military officer, we moved on average every 10 months to a new state. Changing schools meant changing learning pathways, transversing curriculums, and learning maps. I remember in 5th grade that I was tested for being “advanced” in mathematics and english in Virginia, only to relocate to Pennsylvania the following year and being told I was “behind” in both subjects. In 8th grade, I was required to take an assigned 5th grade level course in North Carolina history in order to graduate to attend high school because it wasn’t on my transcript, and apparently the information in that course was life or death for high school.  
 
For me, mathematics classes came as a known comfort throughout my travels. I realized quickly that Kansas math was the same as New York math, that the patterns and thinking associated with the mathematical processes followed me from state to state. Being jostled by the consistent moving from place to place meant that mathematics became a pillar of stability for me that I didn’t know I needed. 
 
That same view was not true for my sister. My older sister viewed mathematics as a position of happenstance. Her experiences in Kansas, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and the many other places we traveled led her to believe that mathematics was in the eye of the beholder. Whoever was the instructor at present, her job was to mimic their behaviors in order to be successful in the course. Unfortunately, these behaviors of the instructors caused her to view mathematics differently in every location we attended. Sometimes, math was rigid while other times math was loose. At one point, math to her was about speed, and when we relocated, math became about understanding. In 9th grade, math was about procedures, and in 10th grade math was about concepts. The constant flipping of the “way of mathematics” became a pillar of instability for her in how she defined math as a whole. 
 
How could we, as two human beings living in the same household and often in the same math classes, arrive at two completely different places about what mathematics is? 
 
In 1989, NCTM published its Curriculum & Evaluation for School Mathematics, which many believe sparked the “Math Wars”. The argument placed traditional mathematics and reform mathematics at odds, one stressing the need for students to use algorithms and procedures before understanding concepts, and the latter using inquiry-based learning and pointing students toward the understanding before the processes. You can read up on the specifics, but the important piece is that NCTM noted a shift in mathematical teaching and learning that was based on research and moved in that direction. 
 
This shift had followed a scientific process for understanding how children learn mathematics (NRC, 2000). Yet, still today the research from the National Research Council is often rejected by the public and many math educators  because “this is not how I was taught” or “this makes me uncomfortable because it is different from my own experience”. For many, rejecting what research has shown us about learning mathematics is about losing the comfort of what is known. This anti-science sentiment perpetuates the ideas found in the MAA responses, as people refuse to shed their view of the “objectivity” of mathematics because of the comfort of the falsity. 
 
As educators, we must be careful not to essentialize the parts of science and research that we like, leaving the remaining components behind. We want our students to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, but we often do not want to recognize that mathematics as a field is still persevering. We want students to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, yet we often don’t want students to realize that mathematics as a field is still being constructed. Mathematics as a field is not finished. 
 
On July 10, 2020 of this year, TODOS held a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Luz Maldonado Rodriguez, with panelists Margarita Barraza, Marian Dingle, Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez, and the TODOS President, Dr. Linda Fulmore. Both this panel as well as the MAA document recognize new research that shows how the field of mathematics is shifting. The field of mathematics is beginning to recognize how our social identities shape not only our view of mathematics, but also the way mathematics is constructed, taught, pursued, and enjoyed. It is beginning to recognize that “mathematics is created by humans and therefore inherently carries human biases” (MAA, 2020). 
 
The replies to the tweet do not surprise me; we are in the middle of another “math war” in which the criticality of mathematics is debated. Familiarly, one side is based on science and research, and the other is based on historical preference and comfort. 
 
And while my sister helped me to experience the difference between the two, we have to ask ourselves as the larger mathematical community, are we shifting towards science and research or towards comfortability? 
 
May you find yourself amongst those who choose to humanize others, who choose discomfort and the unknown in a scientific, research-based effort to expand the field of mathematics. 

 
Lauren Baucom
(@LBmathemagician)

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Hands Down, Speak Out: Exploring the Crossover between Math and Literacy Talk – 9/22/20

Presenters: Kassia Omohundro Wedekind and Christy Thompson

Date: September 22, 2020

Come learn about Hands-Down Conversations, a structure for dialogue in which students take the lead, building agency and understandings as mathematicians and readers. We’ll dig into strategies for engaging in argumentation and explore the crossover between the content areas.

Recommended Grade Level: K – 2

Hosted by: Jill Bemis

Watch the full presentation at https://www.bigmarker.com/GlobalMathDept/Hands-Down-Speak-Out-Exploring-the-Crossover-between-Math-and-Literacy-Talk

Using Delta Math for Distance Learning – 9/15/20

Presenter: Zach Korzyk

Date: September 15, 2020

DeltaMath has long been a free tool used to give automatic and detailed feedback to students for math practice on over 1400 different math problem types. Given the current health crisis, this immediate feedback is more important than ever. This session will cover the basics of creating assignments and viewing student results. We will also discuss the newer features of DeltaMath Plus that give the teachers a lot more flexibility in creating assignments: attaching videos to assignments, creating an online test and writing your own questions on DeltaMath.

Recommended Grade Level: 6 – 12

Hosted by: Leigh Nataro

NOTE: To get a full understanding of Delta Math, the viewing the webinar is recommended over listening to the podcast.  Also, there is a Delta Math Facebook group where Delta Math Users help each other.

Watch the full presentation at https://www.bigmarker.com/GlobalMathDept/Using-DeltaMath-for-Distance-Learning