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

This Week at Global Math – 9/29/20







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Curated By Chase Orton @mathgeek76

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Online Professional Development Sessions

No webinar tonight. Join us for our next webinar Tuesday, October 6th.

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!

To register for next week’s webinar, click here!

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

Gender Matters & More

Which tweets in the worlds of math education twitter go viral? Here is a recent example from @YehCathery:

And here is one sample response:

That response was pulled by @Laurie_Rubel, who continues:

The box above is to draw attention, in particular, to gender. (See also this thread for remarks that begin with Laurie Rubel pointing to joint work with Cathery Yeh.)
 
Elsewhere in the world of mathematics, the 2020 International Mathematical Olympiad (“IMO 2020”) has wrapped up. Teams can have up to six competitors; here are as many teams, ranked by score, as I could fit in a single screenshot:

Logos aside, @BristOliver remarks on the United States in a manner that, as evidenced by the above list, applies more widely:

For an item of further reading, check out physicist Athene Donald’s blog post “Of A Retiring Nature.”

(You can also find an earlier thread from me about the 3,000,000 USD Breakthrough Prizes in Mathematics for 2021 and earlier.)
 
Finally, two items around constructive happenings. First, take a look at @xyu119’s Dismantling Mathematics blog post “Virtual engagement strategies that don’t require webcams.”

Second, be aware of this upcoming conference as tweeted below by @JulietteBruce12:

Wishing strength to all who work towards justice as we enter October with a United States election like none other ahead. Register to vote, make a plan to vote; help others register to vote, help others make a plan to vote; and vote for Joe Biden – in the words of Scientific American:

— Benjamin Dickman [@benjamindickman]

 

Shift
Back in August 2019, I wrote a GMD newsletter article about deficit thinking and language. My frame was around calling something a misconception instead of unfinished learning. This week, I read an article by Dr. Daryl Howard (@darylhowardphd) on the Teaching Tolerance (@Tolerance_org) website called “Stop Talking in Code: Call Them Black Boys.” This is about a different type of deficit language.
 
 
 
The article is about changing our language around calling Black boys “Black males” and considerations for the school-based and societal implications if we continue this pattern. This quote from the article really stuck with me.
 
 
 
In the spirit of #PairedTexts from my last writing, I’m pairing them because reading Dr. Howard’s article reminded me of an article I read this summer. The paired article is from Pirette McKamey in The Atlantic called “What Anti-racist Teachers Do Differently,” and I accessed it from Jennifer Gonzalez (@cultofpedagogy) in this really important thread.


This idea of how teachers respond when students don’t learn as expected is called “Views of Students’ Mathematical Capabilities” or VSMC and has research around it. I learned about it mostly from this book and my district’s work with Vanderbilt University. Teachers who make “adjustments to enable students who were currently facing difficulty to participate in rigorous mathematical activities tended to maintain the cognitive demand of high level tasks.” The opposite of this, “teachers who doubted their students’ capabilities tended to decrease the cognitive demand of high level tasks.” (p 57)
 
All of this ties together.

Amber Thienel @amberthienel

NYC Schools: The Fall

Within months of hearing proposals to convert public parks into hospitals and cemeteries for coronavirus victims, teachers throughout New York City returned to our classrooms last week for virtual meetings and in-person cleaning and furniture rearranging. Within two days of our return, one of my coworkers tested positive for the virus – prompting a schoolwide two-week quarantine peppered with bouts of anxiety and daily phone surveys from the health department. Our school was, predictably, one of many schools that reported positive cases those first few days, all before a single student had set foot in the building. 
 
Protecting the hundreds of thousands of school-based NYCDOE employees and their household members should have been enough to warrant full remote instruction for at least the first few months of this school year. Clearly, our own safeties were never truly a major consideration…


… a fact that became all the more apparent last week as some teachers were required to report to work the morning after an employee tested positive. 

Celebrating all-but-mandated teacher exploitation while failing to address the systemic inequalities that we are meant to resolve is hardly new.
 

 
The standard argument for reopening would have us believe that risking teacher safety is another necessary sacrifice for addressing the virus’s disproportionate impact on low-income families of color. Emphasizing both the risk of a potentially widening achievement gap and the need for families with limited financial security to return to work, politicians such as de Blasio and Governor Cuomo have gone as far as to declare teachers essential workers rather than extending services and rent relief to families in need. (And, like other essential workers, we received multiple emails from NYCDOE Chancellor Carranza thanking us for being “heroes” in lieu of PPE and other needed supplies.) 

Without trivializing these deeply problematic financial and educational barriers, disparate educational outcomes for students of color are but one injustice to reckon with in the conversation around school reopening. Over 78% of the 121 Americans under 21 who died from COVID-19 were Black, Latino, or Native American, despite accounting for only 41% of the population, with a similar trend emerging in the total number of virus cases. Disproportionate rates of coronavirus-related illnesses and deaths are of course not limited to students, leaving low-income students of color more likely to grapple with the loss of family members as families make impossible choices between safety and financial security.  Reopening schools further complicates the decision by signaling that it is safe to do so.
 
These disparities may explain why parents opting for remote learning were disproportionately people of color: nearly 46% of black and Latino families completing the survey opted for full remote instruction, in contrast to only 33% of all white families. Over half of all Asian families throughout the city requested fully remote instruction – a result that could perhaps be explained by the ethnic makeups of the neighborhoods most dramatically affected by the virus:
 

Rather than continue to delay the start of hybrid instruction as school-based cases inevitably rise, de Blasio should demonstrate his commitment to not only all school-based staff and our families, but also our most vulnerable students and their families by mandating a fully remote start to the school year.  
 
– Nasriah Morrison [@nasriahmorrison]
 

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This Week at Global Math – 9/22/20







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Curated By Nate Goza  @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions

Tonight!

Hands Down, Speak Out: Exploring the Crossover between Math and Literacy Talk

Presented by Kassia Omohundro Wedekind and Christy Thompson

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.

To join us at 9:00 PM EST for this webinar click here!

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

Modelling Care through Mathematical Routines
By: Hema Khodai (@HKhodai)
 


The thread linked above is reflective of teachings in 
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

 

Amid protests by hundreds of non-Indigenous fishermen, a First Nation in Nova Scotia, Canada launched its own self-managed commercial fishery on September 17, 2020 and issued five lobster licenses to its own members.
 
What? 
 
Mi’kmaw Chiefs have declared a State of Emergency which may be extended by the time you read this article. Trina Roache, a video journalist with APTN Investigates reports, “This is a story about how Canada handles treaty rights.” 
 
In August of 1993, Donald Marshall Jr., a Mi’kmaq man from Membertou, Nova Scotia, caught and sold 210 kg of eel with an “illegal” net and without a licence during closed-season times. He was charged, arrested, and found guilty under the federal Fisheries Act and the Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations in provincial court (1996) and appeals court (1997). 
 
On September 17, 1999 the Supreme Court of Canada reversed Marshall’s conviction in a landmark ruling in Indigenous treaty rights. The Supreme Court recognized the hunting and fishing rights promised in the Peace and Friendship Treaties which were signed between the British and the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, and Peskotomuhkati in 1760–61.


Video clip of a news segment aired on September 18, 2020
(Use the drop down in the upper left corner of the video feed to see 9/18)

Treaty Rights.
 
So What? 

It has been 21 years and Canada hasn’t implemented the Marshall decision which said the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy bands in Eastern Canada could hunt, fish and gather to earn a “moderate livelihood”. Why?  The court followed up with a clarification two months after the initial ruling, saying the treaty right was subject to federal regulation.
                                                                                                                                          
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans only started meeting with First Nation communities covered under the 1760-61 treaties in late 2017 to define what a moderate livelihood fishery means. Meanwhile, Mi’kmaw fishermen continue to fight the same fishery charges their fathers faced 20 years ago.

So, the Sipekne’katik First Nation developed its own management plan for a moderate livelihood fishery and kicked it off with a ceremony on the wharf in Saulnierville. The chief handed out the first license to Randy Sack, the son of the late Donald Marshall, Jr., and the Mi’kmaq headed out into St. Mary’s Bay to drop their lobster traps. The band’s management plan including conservation regulations has been submitted for approval to the federal Fisheries department.
Non-Indigenous fishermen are using intimidation tactics like following them, shooting flares, cutting traps, burning boats, smashing cars, in “protest” of the “illegal” fishery which is “out of season”. Canadian government officials are urging “calm” and “understanding” and expect resolutions that respect “the laws of this country.”


 

Racism.

Now What? 

Writing for the Global Math Department Newsletter has become a family affair in the Khodai household. Every third Sunday, my husband and child find me scowling into my laptop screen, furiously typing away, and often mumbling about the injustices that go unobserved and unnamed. Their breakfast preparations and routines are interrupted by my punctuated exclamations of, “Listen to this!” as I share something I have learned,  another puzzle piece that is correctly fitted to form a more complete picture of racism on this continent.
 
This particular Sunday morning, my husband asks, “What do Mi’kmaw fishermen on the East Coast have to do with Math?”
My prickly response is, “What doesn’t it have to do with Math?”
What he’s really asking (and I’m tired of answering) is how will I convert this into a math lesson? What connection will I make to the curriculum? What practical skill will I teach through this story? Will we count the number of lobster in the sea? I am more interested in these questions: How do we define “moderate”? Who should define “moderate”? Who sets the standards of “livelihood”? What are the geographic boundaries of the First Nations covered in the treaties? 
 
Is antiracism not within the domain of Math? Isn’t that the issue? That we continue to divest ourselves with all the formal education, and ‘rigorous’ training in scientific thought and advanced mathematical modeling, from justice and love? 
 
The conflict is about a definition of what a moderate livelihood means to Mi’kmaw people. It is about imposing standards of time (seasons) on peoples whose lives are not constructed in seasons. It is about imposing capitalistic ideals on peoples who have been and remain water walkers and stewards of the land. Peoples whose lands WE have settled on. Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs Co-Chair Terrance Paul says the DFO should be educating the general public on the treaty right to a moderate livelihood fishery instead of harassing Indigenous fishermen exercising their treaty rights. We proclaim in our land acknowledgements that we are all treaty people, but is anyone honouring the treaties?


 

We are all treaty people.
 
I sign off with this sharp reminder from my brilliant friend, Muna.

Kesalul.

 

References are hyperlinked and additional resources are linked below.


Mi’kmaw language instructor Curtis Michael, of Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, takes us through a few lessons on the language of the Mi’kmaq 

Grieving 
 
I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Supreme Court this past Saturday. When I arrived, a small crowd and several news crews had gathered in front of a barrier erected to prevent visitors from climbing up the broad steps leading up to the building’s entrance. I walked around, reading sidewalk chalk messages of love, hope, and loss, while listening to a group of visitors engaging in prayer. Off to the side were dozens of flowers set up in a memorial. 
 
I am grieving the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, including this loss for her family and friends and for the country. I am grieving the fragility of a political system that can so radically be altered by this event.
 
I am grieving the conditions of teaching and learning that are separate from, but are experienced alongside, my political anxieties. 
 
I am grieving the lack of communication, preparedness, and compassion demonstrated by schools, which have caused many teachers and students to withdraw from education in various ways.  
 
I am grieving the racial and ecological crises that have worsened in the past year. I grieve the fact that although these crises have raised a greater need for compassion and justice-oriented education, education continues to be mired in concerns over standardization, global competitiveness, and efficiency. 
 
I am grieving in the midst of demands on me as a student and teacher. How can I find time, space, and energy to grieve? To what extent do educational institutions allow teachers to sit with and process their grief? In The Disenfranchised Grief of Teachers, Louise Rowling talks about the ways teachers are positioned as supportive adults who can support the grieving of young people. This expectation of them is often centered around issues of control, including an often unstated obligation to control personal grief reactions for the sake of their professional role. The result is a disenfranchisement of teachers’ grief. 
 
Teaching is being. This is one of the reasons I changed careers to enter into teaching. I was looking for a profession that I could pour my being into and that would ask me to awaken my mind, heart, and soul. I see now that this fullness of teaching is inherently neither good nor bad. In the words of Paulo Freire, teaching has helped me raise my consciousness and become more aware of the systems that oppress me, my students, and my communities. However, at some point, teaching became so all-consuming that I’ve had to take a break (by getting a doctorate, no less).
 
To the extent we bind ourselves to our teaching practice willingly and on our own terms, the teaching profession is hard yet liberating. But when an equivalence between teaching and being is imposed on us from the outside–as is the case when administrators, politicians, and society asks teachers to sacrifice themselves because they are “heroes”–then teaching can become dehumanizing. And this becomes just another hurdle that teachers have to resist. 
 
What does this all mean for the politics of education? Normalize teachers’ vulnerability with their students. Pay teachers more. Fix the buildings. Stop pushing a romanticized vision of teaching for personal or political gain. Teaching is messy, uncertain, and riddled with disagreement and difference. Make room for grief, and let that grief be a part of what teachers and students share in their classrooms.
 
@melvinmperalta
 

A Pitch for Intellectual Play
 

In the midst of the pandemic and a myriad of political issues, today, I’m writing about self-care.
 
How much have you played recently? It’s the beginning of the school year, and things are different, harder, take longer, and more hectic. Still, when was the last time that you played?
 
And, in particular, when was the last time that you took the time for yourself to engage in intellectual play that might renew and re-energize your interest in mathematics and teaching mathematics?
 
I recently finished the book, The Second Kind of Impossible: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter by physicist Paul Steinhardt, and it was a much needed energizer for my work, although I am not a physicist nor do I teach physics. This book gave me greater insight into the nature of mathematics and theoretical physics — it sparked my wonder and curiosity and the power of those disciplines, and reinvigorated my passion for sparking joy in the mathematical experiences of mathematics learners.
 
I know that taking the time to do this is important, even when it is hard to find the time amidst all the chaos of work, family, housekeeping, and exercise, especially when TV is so easy. Yet, somehow, I’ve found that I’m less overwhelmed when I slow down, skip TV (or delay it), have a routine, and engage in intellectual play.
 
Here are some suggestions to get you started: “RECREATIONAL MATHEMATICS”

  1. Read a chapter from a STEM novel. You won’t regret the time.
  2. Head over to www.cpm.org/play and check out “Tom’s Problems.” These problems are fun and doable, very open-ended, and not a pinch. I’ve done a few myself and always feel a sense of curiosity and have multiple (sometimes premature) ah-ha moments that make me remember why I love mathematics. If you have a partner who wants do these with you or some friends who would enjoy doing together them over a video call (I know…), the collaboration makes it 10 times more fun. None of these problems require complicated mathematics, so you might even consider inviting a teen in your house to think through these with you (but only if that keeps it fun)!
  3. Talk math with your kids. Or just build a tower or cook with them, using a recipe to experiment with quantity and proportion. Being interested in their thinking is the fun part!
  4. Do some mathematics that remind you of that experience of mathematical uncertainty — embrace the ambiguity and allow yourself to explore different paths that may fizzle out as unproductive. Here are some places to find fun, mind-stretching problems… Maybe best done with a cozy beverage, especially if you live in a zone where the fall chill is setting in:
    1. Do some geometric puzzles! Here’s some by Catriona Agg and some more by Ed Southhall.
    2. Try out some cryptarithms for beginners or try more complex ones!
    3. Join a Math Teachers Circle (here’s one in San Jose), or create your own!

 
Maybe engaging in this kind of mathematical play will help you in your teaching, or maybe not (but, it probably will). Either way, that’s not the point of this post. In my opinion, intellectual play is what helps us move beyond feelings of surviving to feelings of thriving. Right now, the world needs people who are thriving. It can’t hurt to try!
 
Lara Jasien (@LaraJasien)
Researcher at CPM Educational Program

Get Involved with the Newsletter
 
Our team of writers and curators is committed to produce content that is reflective of our Statement of Solidarity and with the goal of moving these words into action.
 
With this in mind we are calling for new volunteers to expand our perspectives and raise our collective voices to move this publication forward. If you are interested in becoming a regular contributor or would like the opportunity to contribute as a guest writer, please fill out this form.

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This Week at Global Math – 9/15/20







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Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions

Tonight at 9:00 EST

Using DeltaMath for Distance Learning

Presented by Zach Korzyk

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.

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

It was never just about the math, but always about the love

There are two quotes that I keep close to my heart and revisit before I begin teaching a math lesson. I don’t always say them, sometimes I recite them in my head less than perfectly, but they are always present in my actions and choices. 

The first: “I have never encountered any children in any group who are not geniuses. There is no mystery on how to teach them. The first thing you do is treat them like human beings and the second thing you do is love them.” – Asa G. Hilliard III

The second: ““The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.” – Paolo Freire 

The first took me years to learn, to fully understand, and I confess that I am understanding what it means still in every interaction I have with a child on a learning journey.

The second is something I’ve felt in my marrow since I started this journey, this way of knowing and being that is in communion with younger souls and on their infinite possibilities. They are still unfurling, they are still growing and finding their own places in the sun. (and if I pause and reflect for more than a minute, so am I)

When I teach, I am in the forever nebulous terrain of learning, of wandering and wondering with my students.

Once upon a time, Robert Frost penned this poem: 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

I think about this in the context of mathematics – of pathways and pickings – that mathematics is not a well-trodden road, on which we set children to carefully and delicately follow. It is in the wildness of things we find possibilities for the most joy. 

Picture
 

It is not a well-paved road, overseen by a monotonous guide intoning highlights in the driest of voices.

Mathematics is a finding. It is a gleaning. My job as head math witch is to show the magic of possibilities. Here – juicy berries burst delicately upon the tongue. There, look, a potential pathway.

But mostly, my job is to whisper softly “Observe. Look at the way the red cardinal flies. What do you find beautiful about it?” or to remark “Goodness, I am so proud of this glen we have stumbled across together, for we could not have found it without you.”

My job is to make the mundane sacred. There is a kind of holiness in exploration and all adventures alike. The delight of a first geometric construction or the hundredth.

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The joy that follows – a shared basket of stolen apricots, a ripening, a mutual endeavor. I look for ways to make this happen – but, with all things, adventures are also not always pleasant; sometimes in the thorns and thickets of our explorations, we fail to find a pathway forward. We get frustrated with one another — what started off as a sunny excursion is full of biting horseflies, that despite our best attempts to wave them away, we cannot get rid of.

The adventure has changed now. We are in a new portal, trekking across a digital realm together. The world, which has not been safe or kind for so many already, especially for those that have been blessed by the sun’s kiss on their dark skin, has become even more precarious. An axis tilted ever further to its side. We who seek balance are spinning off-kilter. 

​So, within this topsy-turvy landscape, some questions must be prepared for, and planned for:

These are my essential questions when I set off upon a new journey. Each and every time:

  1. How do I love you as you explore? How do I demonstrate that love with kindness, with patience, with grace? 
  2. How do I hold my hands, so golden brown these days, as footholds upon which you clamber? To make your own way? 
  3. How do I show you that in failing, there is a lesson? One about yourself and the possible imaginaries of the world around you?
 
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These are not quantifiable questions. They cannot be measured by standardized testing. They cannot be tied to funding. They cannot be visualized in sterilized graphs by those who have never set foot in an educational space.

…and yet they matter just the same. 

​~ Sara Rezvi (@arsinoepi)

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Starting from the Top
 

My goal this season of GMD is to continuously point towards systemic injustices to assist with constructing the vision for seeing these systems as they arise in our daily work of teaching. I’ll be honest: it’s been a little hard to decide what to point to this week, and unfortunately, it’s not due to lack of content. Between the recent attacks on Critical Race Theory from the President, in which the ideal of American exceptionalism bled towards the Federal Department of Education, the death of multiple teachers due to COVID-19, the 2+2=5 insistence on the objectivity of math, or the current attack on teachers “not doing enough” during a pandemic, there is plenty to point to. For this week, I’ve chosen to start at the top of the education chain with the Department of Education, and in particular its relationship with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) during a time of global health crisis. 
 
The day the CDC released their “plan” for opening schools during a pandemic for the general public, I had six close friends and family contact me to talk through options. They were all under distress, having been placed there by federal legislation. Some knew that, while their districts had not made a plan yet, that they would inevitably be face-to-face with students come the start of the fall, and for many of them this choice would put either themselves or their family’s health in jeopardy. Many of these friends were then told, “You have three weeks to declare whether you’re teaching this year or you are planning on taking a leave of absence.” 
 
For many, this choice was stolen from them. There is no way to make a choice when your district has no concrete plan, and the plan the CDC puts in place is completely devoid of the realities of teaching school with young children. The announcement of this plan came after it was shared that the President and Secretary of Education were putting pressure on the CDC to downplay the significance of the pandemic spread in an effort to open schools. Now why would the federal government intentionally place teachers, students, and therefore their loved ones at-risk of novel virus? 
 
Following the timeline of the events of what occurred next brought light to the intentions of the Department of Education: 
 
 
So, how are these timelines related? What system is exposed?
 
The pressure on the CDC to falsify scientific information and misinform the public looks like a federal level decision. But the implications of what happened next occurred most prominently at the local level. Thousands of teachers reacted to this pressure by resigning, taking a leave of absence, or simply leaving the profession altogether. Many public schools are left with a massive number of vacancies. 
 
And these vacancies? They provide evidence for Secretary DeVos to prioritize funding for the privatization of education. 
 
This doesn’t mean that private schools or charter schools do not have vacancies, or that teachers didn’t leave the force in mass exodus across the system. Yet, is that piece of data necessary to redirect funding towards private and charter schools? 
 
Who benefits if public schools are underfunded? Who is oppressed with the underfunding of public schools? How does the underfunding of public education intersect with the constructs of race, gender, and class? 
 
Intuition says that as the year continues we will see more teachers leaving the classroom because of burnout under the pressure of an impossible task of teaching students in face-to-face and virtual environments, all while social distancing and managing the health and wellbeing (physical and mental) of themselves and their family members. As easy as it would be to blame administrators, district plans (or the lack thereof), fellow teachers, students, or parents for the current predicament, we have to look deeper and have clearer vision for where this problem originated and the purpose of this ruse. 
 
While in April and May, teachers were some of the heroes that helped our country survive during dark times, August and September have brought on the attacks that teachers are somehow not doing enough and don’t care enough about their students or the economy to sacrifice their own health. Pay attention to what happens next, to the moves by the Department of Education, especially leading up to the election, and to the way Secretary DeVos describes educators in the months to come. Don’t be fooled when the very evidence used to unravel public education by the Department of Education will stem from a problem they created. 
 
Lauren Baucom
(@LBmathemagician)

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This Week at Global Math – 9/8/20







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Curated By Chase Orton @mathgeek76

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Online Professional Development Sessions

No webinar tonight. Join us for our next webinar Tuesday, September 15th.

Using DeltaMath for Distance Learning

Presented by Zach Korzyk

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.

To register for next week’s webinar, click here!

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

Relationships in a Virtual Space 

As the Fall 2020 school semester blooms, my Twitter feed has been full of different educators mentioning different aspects of teaching during this pandemic. Mostly, it has been teachers airing their frustrations with virtual learning. And rightfully so. Teaching is already a tough job without the added layer of navigating and learning the virtual world. Every time I read a Tweet about how to take virtual attendance or students not turning on their cameras while in a Zoom class, all I can think about is one word – relationship.

Rita Pierson said in her Ted Talk way back in 2013, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” This quote has stuck with me over the years. Over the past few years, sometimes when I was working with teachers, it would pop into my mind. Now, during 2020, I’ve been thinking about it in context of making sure students know they are accepted and that they matter.
 
A person I just recently started following on Twitter, Jennifer Binis (@JennBinis) is the master of #PairedTexts. She always has a way of putting two tweets or articles together that are related. The way she does it always has me thinking and learning. Taking that idea, here are two tweets I saw individually that have me really learning and thinking. I thought they might make good #PairedTexts.
 
The first tweet I saw was from Jose Vilson (@TheJLV) reacting to a news story in Houston where a teacher was put on leave for posting Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ posters in her virtual classroom.

 

Then just the other day I saw this thread from Idil Abdulkadir (@Idil_A_) where she is discussing her experiences with these types of posters and what they mean to the individuals we are trying to welcome by posting them.

Both of these Tweets still have me thinking about that one word again – relationship. Maya Angelou has this quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
 
One last tweet that I saw this past week was from Howie Hua (@howie_hua). In this thread Howie is sharing some things he has been doing in the virtual setting that his students say they appreciate. Perhaps within this thread is an idea for you to help with that one word – relationship.
 

by Amber Thienel (@amberthienel)

 

Who will you speak for & who will speak for you? [@benjamindickman]
 

[Preliminary note: Shout out to Christelle Rocha who is now an “alum” of the GMD Newsletters. Her contributions are worth re-reading through the GMD website; in some sense, her work speaks for itself. In another, I’m happy to speak personally: Christelle’s writing is excellent, and has strengthened the newsletter team that I was a part of last year. Her contributions to the GMD Solidarity Statement were also nontrivial. And: This does mean we need to find another GMD Newsletter writer. Last week, we had one guest contributor on Hollaback!; this week, another group contributes on #TMWYF. I think I have located someone to join this newsletter team thereafter; we will see in 3 weeks!

The title of this entry is a reference to this piece of writing.

About two months ago, Dave Kung tweeted a link to an AMS blog post:

Last week, Ian Agol linked to a Nautilus piece in the following thread:
 
Notice in the second tweet from Agol’s thread that there is a mention of mathematical objects named for a (literal, enthusiastic) nazi. Unlike the Nautilus piece, the AMS blog post mentions Oswald T’s affiliation with nazis quite clearly. This all got me thinking about Laurie Rubel’s tweet from earlier in the summer:
 
What do you think was the response to Agol’s mention of Oswald T the nazi? Here are 4 sample responses (names blurred other than the, IMO, very reasonable suggestion from David Savitt):
Oh.

Oh?
Oh!

Ohhh.

Well, I will go out on a branch here and say: Stop using nazi names & keep speaking out against nazis. This generalizes to other hate groups, too. Speak out! And do it now.

by Benjamin Dickman [@benjamindickman]

#TMWYF: Talk Math with Your Friends 

In March 2020, in response to a sense of loss of both mathematics and community, we created an online math colloquium series we call Talk Math With Your Friends (#TMWYF). Our series features presentations on mathematics, math education, and other topics of interest to the broader math community. We have featured talks on research exposition, course design, pedagogical techniques, mathematical outreach, and more. As organizers, our goal is to cultivate a lively, friendly, interactive environment, and so each talk includes a few “featured friends” who remain unmuted to interact directly with the speaker during the talk. Some talks have utilized breakout rooms, polls, and other forms of interactivity. Many of the talks have been recorded and are available on the TMWYF YouTube channel.

Here’s a brief summary of just three highlights from TMWYF:

  • Disrupting Settler Colonial Mindsets in Mathematics (September 3): In the most recent talk, Dr. Belin Tsinnajinnie (@LoboWithACause) of Santa Fe Community College spoke about how ongoing Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in mathematics perpetuate the settler colonial mindsight by seeing Native people as resources to extract, rather than recognizing the already existing mathematics within or serving the goals of these communities.

 

  • Designing and Deploying “Math that Matters” (May 14): Professor Jessica Libertini (@DrMathL) of Virginia Military Institute spoke about a curriculum redesign project for mathematics courses at her institution. The attendees at TMWYF were able to participate in several group activities from the “Math that Matters” course.
  • From Clocks to Categories (June 25): Andrew Stacey (@mathforge) describes himself as “Mathematician: formally academic (differential topology), currently educational (secondary UK).” One of his aims is to bridge the gap between school mathematics and the mathematical ideas typically introduced in graduate-level coursework. In his talk, he showed how category theory can be accessible to students even early in their mathematical studies and how that perspective helps him and his secondary students.

 
We invite everyone to attend and enjoy TMWYF. At present, we meet over Zoom each Thursday afternoon 12:30PM Pacific/3:30PM Eastern. Information about our upcoming talks, including our Zoom link, abstracts of talks, and speaker information, is available on our website.
 
Additionally, if you have an idea for a talk, please send in an abstract! We welcome talks on any topic for a mathematically interested audience. We particularly encourage submissions from members of underrepresented communities and also from early career mathematicians. You can submit abstracts on our website.
 
The organizing team of TMWYF hopes you’ll join us. Our next talk on September 10th (3:30-4:30 Eastern, 12:30-1:30 Pacific) features Jessie Oehrlin (@numberdance), applied mathematics graduate student at Columbia University

  • Using Climate Models to Understand Stratosphere-Troposphere Interaction

    Earth’s atmosphere is a multi-scale, coupled, nonlinear system. We care about everything from clouds here and now to global temperature in 2100. The state of the atmosphere depends on ocean, land, and ice conditions as well as external factors like emissions. Nonlinearity means that information from initial conditions is near-useless after two weeks. And the atmosphere is really hard to do experiments on. It’s great. I’ll talk briefly about how different kinds of weather and climate models capture various temporal and spatial scales, with predictability coming from different sources. Then I’ll focus on the bottom two layers of the atmosphere, the troposphere and the stratosphere: how they interact, why their interaction affects our winter climate, and how we use models to answer our questions about them.

 
The Zoom link for this talk, and a calendar of future events, can be found on our website.

This article written by the current organizers of TMWYF:

Get Involved with the Newsletter

Our team of writers and curators is committed to produce content that is reflective of our Statement of Solidarity and with the goal of moving these words into action.

With this in mind we are calling for new volunteers to expand our perspectives and raise our collective voices to move this publication forward. If you are interested in becoming a regular contributor or would like the opportunity to contribute as a guest writer, please fill out this form.

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