This Week at Global Math – 2/11/20


Edited By Nate Goza  @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions


Building Human Themes into your Teaching of Math

Presented by Francis Su

Doing mathematical work sometimes feels like drudgery, and that’s often because we’ve taken ‘real math’ out of math homework. Mathematics isn’t memorization or calculation (though those can be helpful to do doing math)… rather, math is exploration, and that’s a deep human desire we all have. Students will be more motivated to learn mathematics if you appeal to their basic human desires, such as: for exploration, for play, for beauty, for truth, for struggle, for community. We’ll explore practical ways to build human themes into the teaching of mathematics. Bring one example of a lesson or a homework that you’d like to modify.

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!

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From the World of Math Ed

In Memory of Dr. Karen King

The mathematics education community has lost a giant in the field. Dr. Karen King was a program director at the National Science Foundation and was a former research director at NCTM. Her research focused on, among other things, urban mathematics reform, the mathematics preparation of teachers, and mathematics teacher professional development. I had the pleasure to work with Dr. King on several occasions, and her commitment to equity and justice in mathematics education shone through her passion and insight. The Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE) recently announced an advocacy award in honor of Dr. Karen King and posted a link for anyone to share reflections on what they have learned from Dr. King


Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators Conference

This past weekend was the annual AMTE conference, which took place in Phoenix AZ. I was not able to attend, but based on posts on Twitter, there appeared to be a strong showing of presentations centering work on equity and social justice in mathematics education:

Whiteness in Mathematics

It’s amazing to see so many researchers, reformers, and teachers focused on the work of equity and social justice in mathematics education. It’s imperative that we continue to push this work forward through critical self-reflection and identity work and that we strive toward explicitness, clarification, providing examples, and giving critiques when it comes to the work already being done. For instance, what exactly do we mean when we use the terms “equity” and “social justice”? 
One approach to this question would be to highlight the ways by which mathematics operates as whiteness. This is precisely what Dr. Laurie Rubel (@LaurieRubel), among others, has sought to do in her research. As Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) explains, Dr. Rubel has been caught up in an alt-right firestorm for explaining how meritocracy is a tool for whiteness. The controversy is centered around a 2017 paper entitled Equity-Directed Instructional Practices: Beyond the Dominant Perspective. Links to the original publisher’s website do not appear to be working, so I’ll post this one here. Dr. Rubel was featured on a podcast in which she explains the paper in greater detail.

Anti-Racist Mathematics

On the American Mathematical Society’s inclusion/exclusion blog, Dr. Tian An Wong poses the question: can mathematics be anti-racist? He describes a class he’s developed called Inequalities: Numbers and Justice, where he and the class explore notions of fairness and equality from the point of view of mathematics and economics. Topics covered include gerrymandering, racial capitalism, and climate change. 
Dr. Chanda Prescott-Weinstein (@IBJIYONGI) points out an improper citation in the blog post connected with her own work (which poses the same question) and highlighted the work of Black women who have been talking about anti-racist approaches to mathematics and mathematics education for a long time. References can be found in Dr. Prescott-Weinstein’s Twitter thread as well as in an editor’s note at the end of Dr. Wong’s blog post.


(Teachers and) SWBAT: Thrive
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between student learning and teacher learning, and students’ sense of thriving and teachers’ sense of thriving…
A couple of years ago, I found myself going down a research rabbit hole on the construct of thriving. Thriving, as it is defined in psychological literature, is related to personal growth and has dual dimensions of vitality (affect) and learning (cognitive). While the construct of thriving has not made it into my own research, I keep coming back to it like an itch that I can’t quite scratch. I think what fascinates me about this seemingly simple construct is that it is so hard to find working adults –– especially in the teaching profession –– who would describe themselves as thriving. 
Teaching, as most of you know, is a very high stakes profession: Teachers have the futures of not only individual young people but our entire nation and world in their hands. Teachers today might feel this more acutely than ever before thanks to standardized testing that (albeit problematically) quantifies how successful they are at their jobs and how successful their students will be going forward in their lives. Unsurprisingly, this can make the vitality dimension of thriving something that many teachers find lacking in their professional lives.
Beyond this, opportunities for purposeful, teacher-driven learning can also be fairly scarce in teaching. Not only is there a cultural expectation that teachers are supposed to “already know everything” (afterall, they already went to high school, and anyone who was successful in school can teach!), but they are often isolated inside of their own classroom, with little to no opportunity to receive feedback, observe others, or have adequate time to collaborate. 
So, if thriving is hindered by high stakes and the sense of imminent failure, accompanied by little opportunity for purposeful and personally meaningful learning (as I have described for teachers), then aren’t students experiencing the same crisis as teachers?  Where do students have opportunities for purposeful, personally-driven learning in math class?
I think my obsession with the construct of thriving is rooted in the idea that teacher thriving and student thriving are inextricably connected, and that until we address issues of teacher vitality and learning, we might be somewhat chasing our tails with all of our focus on student learning (of course, we cannot stop worrying about student learning and JUST focus on teachers!). 
I wonder about how to consistently open up vitality-giving (i.e., enjoyable, rejuvenating) learning opportunities for teachers. Here are a few ideas:  
What about virtual coaching, where teachers record their classrooms and have coaches or peers watch and give them feedback through digital conferencing? New technologies (e.g., Swivl) exist to make this process streamlined, and researchers (the SIGMa group at Vanderbilt, the Project SyncOn at the University of Rochester) have been exploring this as a viable means to support teachers in learning how to grow their teaching in ways that matter to them. This is also being explored in the field by people who do the work of teaching and coaching everyday (e.g., CPM’s coaches are beginning to explore virtual coaching with Swivl technologies in order to reach rural teachers).
What about supporting teachers to develop and/or use rubrics to assess their students instead of assigning mastery grades to many required projects/assignments, so that the stakes are lowered and interest and learning might be raised for both students and teachers. How can we help teachers easily navigate the tension between assessing in ways that support their own and their students’ sense of thriving (without diminishing rigor) and creating grades that are required by the system? 
What about approaching remediation as a task of re-invigorating student curiosity through rich tasks that invite exploration rather than going back-to-the basics? This last one might sound very pie-in-the-sky, but there are math programs (such as CPM for 8th grade and Carnegie Pathways for post-secondary) that are trying out such ideas, creating entire curriculums for math intervention courses that centralize exploring the big ideas of mathematics and start with sparking student curiosity. 
When do you feel a sense of thriving in your teaching? Does the connection between teacher and student thriving resonate with you? What ideas do you have to support both teachers and students to experience both a sense of personal growth along dimensions of both vitality and learning in their daily rounds in the school house? 
Written by Lara Jasien

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