This Week at Global Math – 3/3/2020


Edited By Nate Goza  @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions


Catalyzing Change: Engaging in Critical Conversations and Taking Action to Empower and Engage Our Students in Mathematics

Presented by Trena Wilkerson

Participants will learn about NCTM’s 2020 Catalyzing Change in Early Childhood/Elementary and Middle School Mathematics: Initiating Critical Conversations that bridges the conversation begun with the 2018 Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics. It identifies and addresses critical challenges in Pk-12 mathematics to ensure that each and every student has the mathematical experiences necessary to engage successfully in mathematics. We will explore the 4 key recommendations: 1) broadening the purposes of learning mathematics; 2) creating equitable system structures mathematics; 3) implementing equitable instructional practices that transform the teaching and learning experience for Pk-12 students; and 4) developing a deep understanding of mathematics, by examining implications, challenges, and potential actions—all with a goal toward cultivating a positive math identity and strong sense of math agency in each and every student.

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

Next Week 

Meaningful Student Math Reflections That Lead to Action

Presented by Matt Coaty

Students are used to the cycle of participating, studying, testing and then repeating the process all over again. Ending this cycle is a challenge, but it’s possible to give students opportunities to intentionally reflect on their progress, make adjustments, and set actionable goals related to math skills that need strengthening.

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

A Constant Source of Trauma
By: Hema Khodai

At the end of 2019, I was concussed. At the start of 2020, I was ill for weeks with what I now lovingly refer to as the “death flu” (in reality, a long-lasting virus with the generous parting gift of chronic laryngitis). I’ve missed writing for two editions of the GMD Newsletter and truth be told am struggling to write this piece. As the weeks passed and symptoms of illness lingered, I struggled to make sense of needing increasing amounts of rest daily and denied the chronic fatigue and pain that kept me from my usual self-care routines. I had little interest or energy to reflect on my mental health as an IBPOC educator. 
Whether it be in the work of being in solidarity with teachers unions across the province, preparing professional learning for colleagues to disrupt harmful educational practices in the teaching and learning of mathematics, advocating for humanizing mathematics experiences for our students, their families and communities, or showing up to witness the continued oppression of Black communities and Indigenous peoples, I and other educators are living and operating within systems of oppression. A constant source of trauma.
In the release, A socioeconomic portrait of Canada’s Black population (Statistics Canada, February 2020), a heading reads “Black youth have higher educational aspirations than other youth, but lower levels of educational attainment.” This release summarizes the findings of two articles produced as a result of continuing efforts by Statistics Canada to provide a statistical profile of the Black population in Canada. We work in and for a system that has and continues to fail Black children and their families. A constant source of trauma.

By the time you read this, the City of Toronto (Ontario, Canada) will have held its inaugural #BlackMentalHealthDay to raise awareness and increase action to address the impacts of anti-Black racism on mental wellness. Events were held in spaces across the city to drive productive dialogue and acknowledgment of the need for systemic change.

In January, the City acknowledged in an official news release, “Anti-Black racism is a historic, pervasive and systematic issue in Toronto.” This is not news to any educator who has truly served Black children in the Greater Toronto Area. Our District School Boards perpetuate systemic racism. A constant source of trauma.

The Calgary Journal published an article, Decolonizing mental health: The importance of an oppression-focused mental health system in February of 2020.

This particular quote from the article resonated deeply with me,

“We say that somebody is struggling because they visually are depressed or they’re going through their individual grief or individual struggle and we don’t often think about pain in the context of historical forces or social structures or cultural dynamics”.


Our schools are teeming with initiatives for student and staff wellness; everything from colouring pages to strawberry-infused water. How are we addressing the root causes of oppression and racism on the mental health of children and adults alike? What are the initiatives that address the cognitive dissonance of folx who observe harm inflicted on children and communities? 

How are we disrupting the discourse of mental health and illness that demonizes certain communities? What are we doing to ensure schools are not a constant source of trauma?

Mimi Khúc asks, “How do we disrupt those systems of power to have people be able to claim their own knowledge and experiences?”

All of this and we haven’t even considered the work of serving children in special education programs.

In From the margin to the center: A framework for rehumanizing mathematics education for students with dis/abilities (Yeh, Ellis, Mahmood; February 2020), the authors share a culturally responsive and relational framework that combines the following three concepts to “inform a rethinking of dis/ability”:

  • historical-political awareness: the historical and political use of school mathematics as colonized by Western and ableist norms;
  • mathematics as cultural and relational: mathematics as a product of human thought and interaction learned through activity;
  • dis/ability as a cultural identity: the “complex embodiment” (Siebers, 2013) of dis/ability as both corporal and social has implications for notions of mathematical activity and mathematical knowledge.

They pose the question, “What approaches might we take to the study of mathematics education for students with dis/abilites that better value their ways of being and becoming in the world?”
Every day of Black History Month 2020 served as a reminder that educational institutions are a constant source of trauma. What are you doing to ensure your mathematics classroom isn’t?


Vulnerable Moments: Opening Your Classroom to Feedback
Written by Brette Garner

Seeking feedback on teaching can be pretty vulnerable. When we invite someone into our classroom, they could see and hear any number of things — the good, the bad, and the ugly. They might notice things that we don’t like, including some things that we weren’t even aware of. Students might do something unexpected, and the lesson might not go as well as we’d like. 
Teaching is inherently complex and uncertain: Each lesson entails countless interactions between students and the teacher. This can make observations and feedback intimidating, even if we know that it’s also necessary for us to learn and grow as professionals.
For the last few years, Project SIGMa has been partnering with secondary math teachers to: 1) Ask what questions they want feedback on; 2) Videotape their classrooms, including students’ small-group conversations; 3) Review the video with their questions in mind; and 4) Provide feedback around their questions. 
Basically, we’ve been asking teachers to get SUPER vulnerable with us.
When we interviewed teachers about their experiences being videotaped, a number of folks talked about vulnerability, and some even mentioned Brené Brown’s work. Brown is a psychologist who studies shame, that painful feeling that you are flawed and unworthy of belonging and connection (I am bad). She distinguishes this from guilt, which is a feeling of discomfort about your actions, thoughts, or circumstances (I did something bad). The difference is important, since there’s a lot of psychology research that shows how guilt can be a motivator for change, while shame inhibits change. If you did something bad (guilt), you can make amends or change future behavior. But if you are bad (shame), you try to hide your mistakes and avoid change — you might even think it’s not possible to change.
After diving into the Brené Brown corpus — including Dare to Lead, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection — and revisiting our interviews with teachers, I noticed four mindset shifts that can help teachers be more open and vulnerable to feedback. And even though these were themes that came out of interviews with our partner teachers, they’re also things that I have experienced as a teacher and teacher educator. If these resonate with you, I recommend checking out Brown’s books or TED Talks.
Unlearning perfectionism: Try healthy striving
As teachers, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves by trying to be good — or even perfect! — every day. To some teachers, observations (especially with video) felt like being under a microscope, where every flaw was magnified so that their shortcomings were on display. But perfectionism is a trap: There is no such thing as a perfect lesson, much less a perfect teacher. We all have good days and bad days, and we can always tinker with and improve good (and bad) lessons.
Instead of perfectionism, we should try healthy striving, recognizing that reflection and growth are natural parts of teaching. Classrooms are always changing, so we’ll never be “done” learning. Furthemore, every choice we make will be good in some ways and bad in others — so all we can do is strive to be thoughtful about our choices, trying to do the best we can, with what we have, where we are. 
Resisting gremlins: Try self-compassion
Brown writes about shame tapes — the voice in the back of your head that keeps repeating something you feel shameful about — and calls them “gremlins.” These gremlins ruminate on that one mistake you made. They overemphasize critical feedback and downplay positive feedback. After observations, some teachers said that they kept worrying about “all the things that went wrong” and second-guessing themselves. Those were the gremlins talking.
But it’s important to remember that gremlins exaggerate and lie! To combat them, we should try self-compassion. Treat yourself with the kindness and empathy that you would extend to others. This includes reality-checking the gremlins — they’re probably lying — and acknowledging positive and negative feedback together. We wouldn’t tell a student to focus on the 95% correct at the expense of the 5% incorrect, and we shouldn’t do the same to ourselves, either.
Stop avoiding: Shine light on what is darkest
When we feel ashamed of something, we tend to avoid talking about it or getting help to fix it. We might tell ourselves that “that one class” isn’t going great, but it’s a lost cause (there’s no point in trying to fix it). We might even deflect blame onto the students, their parents, or external circumstances. And almost certainly, we avoid asking for feedback. 
But if something isn’t going well, that’s even more of a reason to seek feedback from a trusted colleague. Feedback lets us shine light on the dark spots, which is the first step in finding a solution. This allows us to reflect on our own part in the situation and develop the skills and strategies that will help us grow as professionals. A thought partner can help us think outside the box to come up with a new approach, or reframe the problem in a more productive way. If it matters, it’s worth leaning in to the discomfort.
Building trust: Empathy supports connection
Brown writes about the importance of being vulnerable with those who have earned your trust. Trust is absolutely vital for seeking and giving feedback, but there’s a chicken-and-egg problem: How do you trust someone who hasn’t earned it? But how can they earn trust if you don’t give them a chance? Over and over in our interviews, teachers said that the risk of vulnerability was worth it because we (Project SIGMa team members) worked to earn their trust.

We built trust in a number of ways, but perhaps the most important was empathy. By listening to teachers, withholding judgment, and recognizing where they’re coming from, we built connections with our partner teachers. Importantly, we approached the relationship as a partnership, where we each brought different (but complementary) expertise and experience to the table. Finding a colleague who will respect your perspective and expertise is crucial for building a supportive environment for feedback.

Brette Garner, University of Denver

Educational Justice Analogies

Drawing inspiration from a recent GMD article by Christelle Rocha (@Maestra_Rocha), which was about coded language in education, I’d like to share a Twitter thread by Paul Gorski (@pgorski) in which he asks for “your best educational justice analogy”.

In the image above, he shares the analogy “Grit is to structural racism as sunscreen is to climate change.” That’s dope.
Ms Dillon (@MsDhillon6A) shares the following: “Privilege = Changing lanes without ever having to check your blind spots”.
Gwendolyn Donley (@gwen_donley) says “Thoughts and prayers are to trauma as a can of La Croix is to a forest fire”.
“Rebecca is bad at sleep” (@beccatheteacher) shares “Good intentions are to justice as flapping your arms is to flying”.
What’s your best educational justice analogy in mathematics education? Tweet out to @GlobalMathDept and @melvinmperalta for your thoughts. Here’s mine: “Objectivity is to a standardized math test as beauty is to the cover page of Vogue”.

Millionaires and Billionaires

The recent push by Michael Bloomberg to be the Democrat front runner in the upcoming U.S. presidential election has opened up debates about the difference between being a millionaire (e.g. Bernie Sanders) and a billionaire (e.g. Michael Bloomberg). Dr. Courtney Gibbons (@virtualcourtney), among others, posted a great metaphor that frames the difference in terms of peas. It’s a great use of mathematics to help students and adults truly grasp the difference and feel the levels of inequality that persist in our society. It also highlights how difficult it is to reason about large numbers but also how important (critical) numeracy can be toward helping us become better informed citizens.


In the image above: “If 1 pea represents a million dollars, then most of us are in the 0-1 pea range. Bernie has a few peas. Meanwhile Bloomberg has over *3 liters of peas*”.


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