This Week at Global Math – 11/26/19


Edited By Nate Goza  @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions


Blunt Observations and Practical Strategies for Orchestrating Far More Impactful PD in Mathematics

Presented by Steve Leinwand

It is clear that what passes for professional development of teachers of math is seriously underperforming. Rarely does typical PD change teacher knowledge or classroom practice, which is why it so rarely improves student achievement. This presentation will take a careful look at why this is so and then discuss a set of accessible, but radical, changes in what passes for PD.

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

Next Week 


Presented by Adam Yankay

We are more than the givers and takers of tests. “Mathacognition” is an exercise embedded in a pedagogy dedicated to developing the whole learner in your classroom. Mathacognition helps students articulate their emotional associations and goals with math class, identify helpful and impeding habits, advocate for themselves, and self-evaluate. In this session I will share my inspiration for developing Mathacognition, some wins and losses using it over the past few years, and the prompts I’ve been using this year that have helped my students believe that in my class they are more than merely the solvers of math problems.

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

Just Give Me A Reason
Just give me a reason, just a little bit’s enough
Creating Mathematicians

@BamRadioNetwork dropped Teaching Math to Students of Color? Do This, Not That with Rosa Isiah (@RosaIsiah) and Marian Dingle (@DingleTeach) on Saturday, November 23, 2019. In the #WeLeadEd #EdChat, these two brilliant leaders issued the following Call to Action: [let us] put our bias aside and create mathematicians. They proposed we do this by recognizing that all children have mathematical assets and considering student success outside of the standards of performance that center whiteness, by implementing Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in mathematics classes.

Be a Sponge

The Make Math Moments Virtual Summit (#MMMSummit) took place last weekend and was a resounding success with more than 15, 000 participants engaging in self-directed professional learning. The @MakeMathMoments Podcast that dropped last week, Reimagining the work in Math Classrooms, featured José Vilson (@TheJLV).

He shared with co-hosts, Kyle Pearce (@MathletePearce) and Jon Orr (@MrOrr_geek) the importance of building trust to center student voice. José issued the following Call to Action: push the line forward. He shared that in his early years of teaching, he was like a sponge; absorbing new ideas and strategies and fearlessly trying them out. José proposes that despite our years of experience in the classroom, we should keep learning, experimenting, failing, and refining our praxis.

The Perfect Circle

José shared a math moment that mattered to him; a math teacher who could draw a perfect circle, free-hand. Now, when I think of drawing perfect circles, I think of Alex Overwijk (@AlexOverwijk). I had the honour of hearing him speak at a Professional Learning session for Secondary Mathematics Educators in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada on October 31, 2019 and he posed the following questions:

  1. What do you value in your classroom?
  2. How do you evaluate what you value?

Alex shared his journey as an educator and how after two decades of traditional mathematics teaching, he threw it all out to find a way that centered students in their mathematical learning. He shared how he creates the conditions that hold space for and uphold student voice daily.

The Currency of Mathematical Learning

In his presentation, Back to Basics: (Re)-Defining the Currency of Mathematical Learning, at #OAMELeads on November 1, 2019, Nat Banting (@NatBanting) shared the following wisdom with conviction and passion:

  1. “Executing someone else’s decisions and directions is not doing [mathematics].”
  2. “Students have the right to make mathematical sense on their own terms.”

Nat issued the following Call to Action: that as mathematics educators we move towards student decision making as a basic element of our praxis.
By the time you read this, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) will have commenced Phase One Sanctions to protect student learning conditions from K-12. Students are our reason. Rosa. Marian. José. Kyle. Jon. Alex. Nat. Mine. Are they yours? If not, why? Can you find your way back?

Just a second we’re not broken just bent,
And we can learn to love again.


Diversity Statements
Most likely you have heard by now, but in case you haven’t, the most recent issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society (a widely read mathematics publication) published an essay by Professor Abigail Thompson, VP of the American Mathematical Society and chair of the math department at UC Davis. In her essay, Prof. Thompson speaks out against the use of diversity statements in faculty hiring decisions, arguing that the practice amounts to a political litmus test similar to the McCarthy-era loyalty oaths that faculty had to sign to attest they weren’t communists. 
Her words have triggered strong opinions from both those in agreement and those who disagree with her views. In the interest of full transparency, I lie on the side of disagreement and would like to revoice one interesting perspective that I found recently. It comes from an organization called the Institute for the Quantitative Study of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (QSIDE). Last Saturday, they posted an update to the Prof. Thompson controversy that includes: (1) a response from UC Davis to clarify the university’s attitude toward diversity statements, (2) a letter from a group of mathematicians responding to the American Mathematical Society, (3) a response from the American Mathematical Society leadership, (4) a helpful update post from the Inclusion/Exclusion blog of the American Mathematical Society, and (5) steps on some things you can do if you disagree with the content of Prof. Thompson’s post.
Parable of the Polygons
Relatedly, Vi Hart and Nicky Case have created Parable of the Polygons, an interactive post that explores some of the mathematics of diversity (or lack thereof) in a society where individuals hold “bias”. It doesn’t exactly define what is meant by “bias”, but it appears it means when someone only wants to be around people who are like them. For example, a person with a bias of 80% will move to another community if less than 80% of people are like them. Essentially, the post shows that when individuals have only a slight bias, society tends to become segregated. Further, in a society that starts segregated, low bias does not have the intended effect of correcting for such segregation. However, when individuals start demanding diversity—that is, they will move to another community if too many people are like them—society desegregates, even when such demands for diversity are small.
I strongly encourage everyone to check it out. It’s an interesting example of what you can make when you combine mathematics, graphic design, game design, and coding to address social issues. And while it’s certainly a fine start toward thinking about diversity (for a counterexample, see above), it also highlights the limitations of a purely mathematical approach. That is to say, lots of questions remain, and it could be argued that the post does not send a critical enough message about bias and diversity. For instance, is bias simply located within the individual? Is it simply a choice, or is it also constructed and reproduced through institutional and social norms with which even those “without bias” can be complicit? How about diversity—is it always good, or can diversity sometimes be used to benefit mostly dominant groups by giving them surface-level exposure to other cultures without attending to equity and power? 
Solving Quadratics
On a completely tangential note, I wanted to end by sharing this wonderful post by Prof. Pho-Shen Lo at Carnegie Mellon University on an alternative way to solve quadratic equations. Next time I offer an explanation for the proof of the quadratic formula, I will be sure to reference this idea.

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