This Week at the Global Math Department

Edited By Nate Goza  @thegozaway
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Online Professional Development Sessions


Catalysing a Culture of Curiosity in Mathematics

Presented by John Rowe

Doing mathematics is an amazing way to truly harness the curiosity we naturally bring to things that capture our attention. We play with ideas to explore our intuition and attempt to reason the way the world works. We create models that tell stories of patterns and relationships between what we can see and what we cannot, between what we understand and what we do not.

Teachers can be a catalyst for creating a culture of curiosity in mathematics, serving as a model for working mathematically conducive to learning experiences where students are captivated by the beauty of mathematics.

This webinar will provide participants with examples of how we might foster a classroom culture where students ask more questions than their teacher and where learning is a process of reflection, sharing the insights made and resolutions reached.

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

Next Week

Building Visual Patterns Into Your Warmup Routine

Presented by Fawn Nguyen

Calling all teachers (grades 1 through 12+) who are new to visual patterns! I’d love to share with you how I use visual patterns as one of my warmup routines. I’ll share key questions to ask students, helpful structures to build algebraic reasoning, and ways to kick it up a few notches once your students are familiar with working with patterns. With faithful implementation, using visual patterns provides a powerful tool to build confidence and flexibility in writing equations.

Register ahead of time by clicking 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!

From the World of Math Ed

Readings for Pleasure

One of the symptoms of beginning the school year is that I sometimes find myself with less time or energy to read or study mathematics purely for pleasure. It’s a shame, really, because one of the sources from which I draw strength and joy in teaching mathematics is the joy I feel when I do mathematics for its own sake either at home or in community with others.

Instead of sharing resources dealing directly with the classroom this week, I’ll shout out a few longer-form resources and recent articles about STEM, which can be read with students or read simply for fun. Maybe you will find some of these articles enticing or, at least, a respite from the demands and excitement of the new school year.

Quanta Magazine

If you haven’t already, spend some time seeing if you enjoy the articles in Quanta Magazine. The publication dives into current science and math research in an accessible way through what they describe as “public service journalism.” Just as many math educators strive to spread the message that everyone is a math person, Quanta approaches math and science journalism with a similar lens: that all readers are STEM people capable of accessing the forefronts of the field in meaningful ways.

Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (@IBJIYONGI) teaches us about Ann Nelson, a theoretical particle physicist who passed away last month and who fought against misogyny and racism in the scientific profession.

Kevin Hartnett (@KSHartnett), in A Mathematical Model Unlocks the Secrets of Vision, helps us understand how mathematics can be used to explain how our brains create images of the world despite receiving very little actual information from our visual system.

Erica Klarreich (@EricaKlarreich), in Decades-Old Computer Science Conjecture Solved in Two Pages, breaks down a proof about the structure of computer circuits using analogies and beautifully crafted diagrams.

Symmetry Magazine

Symmetry Magazine is about particle physics with links to outside resources but also many articles of its own. I only learned about the magazine recently through the article Channeling Shuri as a physicist at Wakandacon, which talks about Wakandacon, a 3-day Afro-Futuristic celebration that took place in Chicago last July.

AMS Blogs

The American Mathematical Society website hosts a diverse body of blogs about mathematics and the mathematics profession. I have recently enjoyed reading entries from inclusion/exclusion, a blog about underrepresented groups in mathematics. In particular, read Decolonize Academia #KūKiaʻiMauna, which takes up the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project planned on Mauna Kea and which challenges readers to think about ones research as also impacting the world outside the explicit inquiry of the researcher.

The passion we feel for the math and science we teach is one way in which we continue to push ourselves as educators, but that passion must be nourished and sustained. Whatever you do to sustain your passion—whether it’s doing math on your own, with adults, or with your students—just make sure that passion drives you to love your students for who they are, regardless of whether they share your same love for the field.

Melvin Peralta

Problems of Practice

As researchers, we spend a lot of time with experienced secondary math teachers thinking about, well, math teaching. In the context of a larger study, we’ve been looking at conversations with small groups of teachers where they reflect on their practice with the help of video and audio from one of their recent lessons. We’ve discovered that these conversations are full of rich problems of practice –– questions and concerns that these experienced teachers grapple with in their everyday work. Across the groups, it became clear that many teachers faced similar problems, despite teaching in different schools and having varied backgrounds. Here are some of the challenges they are facing in their classrooms (out of 33 conversations with 15 different experienced math  teachers):

This chart shows the top six most commonly surfaced problems of practice in the context of these conversations. Across these discussions, there were 1,331 instances where teachers or facilitators problematized the practice of teaching. Of these instances, teachers wondered about setting up effective group work 193 times, making this particular problem of practice the most frequently named. Clearly, facilitating group work is incredibly complex, dynamic, and challenging. The second most frequent issue involved preserving instruction to the intended lesson goals. The prevalence of this challenge indicates how hard it is to make decisions that preserve the intent of instruction in the realities of the classroom. Although it did not make the top five, we found it noteworthy that the question  ‘How do I manage the constraints and demands of being a teacher’, came in sixth place. This suggests that what teachers are able to do does not entirely depend on them: teaching goes far beyond the classroom and into navigating a complicated world.

The entire process of cataloging problems of practice, as well as the sheer number that we found, indicates that even the most experienced of teachers face a multitude of challenges over the course of their days in planning, implementation, and in-the-moment decision making.

As the new school year begins, what problems of practice are you facing? What are you discussing with colleagues as you head back to school?

Ilana Horn (@ilana_horn)
Jessica Moses
Patricia Buenrostro
Samantha Marshall (@sammieamarshall)
Vanderbilt University

* All teachers had at least 5 years experience and were a part of a professional development program.

Back to Work

It’s back to school time for educators in Ontario, Canada and this long weekend I am looking ahead and accepting what promises to be an adventurous school year. Teacher contracts expired yesterday, and provincial leaders continue to undermine public education; yet I know many educators who are preparing to return to classrooms and supporting roles not with trepidation but a renewed commitment to better serve students and their communities.

In her closing keynote for the Virtual Conference on Humanizing Mathematics (#VConHM) hosted by Sameer Shah (@SamJShah2) and myself, Dr. Rochelle Gutiérrez offers her insightful thoughts on rehumanizing mathematics and invites us to take stock of our praxis with the following reflexive questions:

  1. In mathematics, what feels dehumanizing to my students?
  2. In mathematics, what feels dehumanizing to me, other teachers, or families/communities?
  3. What might feel more rehumanizing?
  4. Who can help me rehumanize this space?

Let it be known this is not entry-level Equity 101 Work. This Work requires continual reading, processing, collaborating and most importantly dialogue with critical thought partners to push through cognitive dissonance.

Upcoming this week is a new chat #GhostsInTheSchoolyard led by @DingleTeach@MochaMomma, and @TeachNext_TMB to prepare #MTBoS for the Centennial Annual Exposition and Meeting of NCTM in Chicago in April of 2020. Please check out Marian’s latest blog post, Mathematical Ghosts.

By the time you read these words, Ontario educators will be almost halfway through the first day of the 2019-2020 scholastic year and in Dr. Gutiérrez’s words,

“I am hopeful about where we are as a field in being willing to acknowledge the violence that is regularly perpetuated (knowingly and unknowingly) against students, teachers, faculty, and members of society through mathematical practices, policies, and structures.” 

Wishing you a scholastic year of discomfort, unlearning, and relearning.


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