This Week at Global Math – 11/5/19


Edited By Nate Goza  @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions

GMD Rewind

There’s no new session this week which provides an opportunity to watch a session that you wanted to see, but did not or re-watch one of the sessions you attended!

Next Week 

Assessing for Understanding

Presented by Daniel Kauffman

During this webinar, we will explore the value of assessing for understanding. We will discuss methods to shift our assessments so that students have an opportunity to showcase their understanding of concepts, not just an ability to produce answers. Additional discussion will be focused on tools and strategies to utilize in the classroom to promote understanding.

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

Why It’s Okay to Cry At Work

Teaching is HARD. This should come as a surprise to no one reading this, but it is important to name, to accept, and to take a deep breath and remember every once in a while. Not only is teaching hard, it can also be a deeply personal, vulnerable, and emotional profession. On top of that, it’s November – you have almost three months of school under your belt, you are about to enter into the exciting but grueling holiday months, and you are tired.
For some teachers, it is in this time of extra-tiredness that our emotions are heightened. Most teachers reflect – or judge themselves – after each class they teach on whether they’ve hit the high bar they set for themselves, considering questions like Did my kids learn as much as I had planned for them to? Did I check in with all my students? Do I know what they’re understanding (or not)? Teachers are constantly comparing their pedagogical actions – what they do in the classroom – with their pedagogical responsibility – the expectations they set for themselves. When teachers identify that their actions and sense of responsibility aren’t aligned, we refer to this as the introduction of a conflict. It is this conflict that has the potential to contribute to an array of negative emotions like discomfort or frustration.
Our research team has found that identifying this conflict – and all the emotions that come with it – may actually make you a better teacher.  First, these emotions can act as a signal to you that what is actually happening in your classroom isn’t exactly what you had wanted to happen. By addressing your feelings head on, you can make sense of what the nature of this conflict is, including potential causes or solutions. In this sense, emotions can be a powerful motivator to help you make sense of your current teaching practice and make necessary adjustments so you can continue to grow as a teacher.
So the next time you are at school and your class didn’t go perfectly and you feel upset or discouraged or maybe even that you want to cry, lean into those emotions instead of suppressing it. It means you are doing something right. Use that feeling or those tears to clue you into the conflict and motivate you to think about ways you could address it. Try something different tomorrow, seek out a colleague for support, or leave school a little earlier than planned to take time to process your day. Most importantly, give yourself a little grace and find comfort in knowing that it’s okay to cry at work.
Written by Katherine Schneeberger McGugan (@kath_schnee)
with support from Brette Garner (@brettegarner) & Ilana Horn (@ilana_horn).

Math Ethnic Studies Framework

In early October, the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) released a draft ethnic studies framework for K-12 mathematics. The framework seeks to situate mathematics in its historical and cultural contexts and highlight mathematics as a site of power, oppression, identification, and resistance. The framework is built off work to extend ethnic studies to other subjects within the K-12 curriculum. According to Tracy Castro-Gill, the ethnic studies program manager at SPS, the framework is not a legal mandate on schools but rather suggestions for teachers to have new types of conversations in their classrooms.

I was curious about the story behind the framework. This is what I’ve pieced together so far. In 2017, the Seattle King County chapter of the NAACP passed a resolution calling on SPS to adopt an ethnic studies requirement for elementary and secondary schools. This led to the development of an ethnic studies task force and, eventually, a working group to support and implement the development of an ethnic studies curriculum. Information on the resolution and task force can be found here: Ethnic Studies – Seattle Public Schools. In 2019, Senators Hasegawa, Conway, Frockt, Wellman, Wilson, and Saldaña sponsored a bill to:

  1. “adopt essential academic learning requirements and grade-level expectations that identify the knowledge and skills that all public school students need to be global citizens in a global society with an appreciation for the contributions of diverse cultures” (SB 5023(2)), and 
  2. “identify and make available ethnic studies materials and resources for use in grades seven through twelve” (SB 5023(3)).

The bill also created an Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee. The draft mathematics framework grew out of these efforts.
The framework has been met with much controversy. One criticism comes from those that ridicule the idea that 2 + 2 = 4 and the quadratic formula can be racist. This, I believe, is a misunderstanding of the framework. In my reading, the framework would suggest that reciting the quadratic formula without knowing some kind of derivation of it represents just as much an incomplete understanding of the concept as not understanding its roots (no pun intended) in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Just as a culture of rote memorization has prevented many people from entering the mathematics community, a culture of decontextualized mathematics can prevent many students from seeing themselves as potential contributors to the subject. The question, of course, becomes whether cultural and historical knowledge belongs in a mathematics classroom. It raises the questions: what, exactly, counts as mathematics? And what are the purposes and uses of mathematics education? At the very least, this is a deeper conversation worth having than simply shouting that the authors of the framework are themselves racist.

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