This Week at Global Math – 5/26/2020


Edited By Nate Goza  @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions


Attending to Equity in Mathematics During a Pandemic:
Supporting Inclusion, Access, Fairness and Respect for All

Presented by Ruthmae Sears, Caree Pinder

This presentation will describe means to attend to equity in the era of a pandemic. We will describe factors that can impact equitable learning outcomes, and identify strategies that can address equity when teaching remotely.

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

Next Week 

Revolution is Needed in High School Geometry

Presented by Dr. Jenny Tsankova

Dr. Jenny Tsankova will present an argument in favor of changing the way we communicate to students the following essential ideas: 1) the idea of proof, 2) the language of Geometry, and 3) the traditional topics we teach, such as constructing the perpendicular bisector. The goal is for the mathematical ideas to be accessible to all students, connected to other mathematical ideas, and embedded in relevant context without sacrificing the cognitive demand.

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

From In-Person Education to Disaster Distancing Learning and Back Again

Joni Mitchell and The Counting Crows once sang:
“Don’t it always seem to go \
That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone \
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot”
That’s what I think about when I reflect on how in-person education has melted away and become disaster distance learning
For sure, education has never been “paradise”, especially for marginalized and oppressed students, families, communities, teachers, and staff. But the pandemic brings into sharp relief just how much school does for us as an institution, and just how little the United States does for it:


Next year, I”ll be teaching mathematics teaching methods courses to pre-service teachers who, from today’s vantage point, will be entering an uncertain future. And I’m racking my brain on how things will work and look like. 
The CDC just released some guidance, which include requiring staff to wear masks, encouraging increased ventilation with outside air, turning student desks in the same direction and spacing them six feet apart (I kid you not), and cancelling extracurricular activities. 
The Learning Policy Institute has a summary of what five other countries are actually doing as they reopen schools:


But I’m not a classroom teacher right now, and I doubt many of the people designing school reopening policies are either. As Annie Tan (@AnnieTangent) and Dr. Kristopher J. Childs (@DrKChilds) point out:


Jennifer Gonzalez (@cultofpedagogy) also states in her article Reopening School: What it Might Look Like:
“All of these ideas completely suck compared to pre-pandemic life. They are depressing and repressive and in a lot of schools, not even realistic.”


But let’s come back to Joni Mitchell and the Counting Crows for a minute (a sentence I never imagined I would write). School is not a paradise, and as David E. Kirkland (@davidekirkland) explains in the Guidance on Culturally Responsive-Sustaining School Reopenings authored by the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools (NYU Metro Center):
“We don’t want to “go back” to normal; we want things to improve…A joy-based reimagining of schooling is one where we replicate spaces that center students of the global majority (BIPOC) and let go of anything that continues to marginalize, exclude, and harm them.”
The NYU Metro Center offers up suggestions for reimagining schooling. A few that stood out to me include:

  • Gatherings that occur in circles for all school community members
  • Embracing curricula driven by students and that elevates community histories
  • Eliminating homework
  • Removing metal detectors
  • Eliminating suspensions for non-violent offenses

Yes, COVID-19 has completely paved over in-person education this semester. But it wasn’t and never has been the beautiful, lush garden that reporters, policymakers, and politicians sometimes like to make it out to be.
When schools eventually reopen, we must continue to seek new possibilities for education that (1) center the voices of marginalized students and communities, including BIPOC and students with disabilities, (2) promote rehumanizing curricula such as Seattle’s K-12 Math Ethnic Studies Framework, (3) reduce or eliminate standardized testing, which creates racialized and gendered hierarchies under the guise of a neoliberal myth of meritocracy, and (4) prioritize joy and love above concerns such as accountability and grit.


How Are Teachers Making Sense of Teaching During COVID-19?

Over the last few weeks, our research team has had the opportunity to speak with several secondary mathematics teachers about their experiences moving from in-person teaching to remote teaching. One thing that has become apparent during these conversations is that a lot of teachers are wrestling with the same questions as they continue to navigate the new jobs they find themselves in. Here are some of those questions and the things teachers have said as they think about them:
Is there a way to support students’ mathematical exploration through an online learning platform? 

Teachers that are accustomed to teaching conceptually don’t have access to manipulatives or don’t have the time or the resources to find or create videos that engage in conceptual ideas vs. procedural ideas. Live video platforms like Zoom aren’t set up to support the types of rich, inquiry-based discussions that many math teachers planned for their classroom lessons. Furthermore, students don’t show up to class or don’t turn in assignments for a variety of reasonable and understandable reasons.

One way for teachers or school leaders to support mathematical exploration is to strategically choose topics for learning that lend themselves well to online tools of engagement, such as statistics, probability, or geometry (if possible). Other teachers have found some success combining different online resources, like having students work through a Desmos activity during a live Zoom class, to curate opportunities for engagement that move beyond procedural lectures even with kids’ videos turned off.

Can teachers feel confident claiming what their students know or don’t know? 

Checking for and building on student understanding can be difficult even in the classroom setting. Without the ability to elicit student thinking during remote learning, teachers are forced to provide feedback to students’ finished products and not throughout their process of understanding. Teachers often rely on visual cues like students’ facial expressions for signs of confusion or understanding, a source of information that is no longer available to them now that teaching has moved online. 

Creating a culture of open communication can help students not only feel safe reaching out to teachers when they don’t understand something, it can also support them in explaining the mathematical details of their misunderstanding. Efficiently using feedback features of online resources such as Google Forms, Google Classroom, Desmos, EDpuzzle, etc. can also help cut down on the time of providing students individual feedback. 

How do teachers build and maintain relationships with students if they can’t see them in person?

One thing that is clear is that teachers are constantly trying to balance their role as a math teacher with the reality that their students are people living through a pandemic and may not be able to be students right now. Not only that, but students now have the option to just not show up to class or turn in work with very little, if any, consequences. Teachers are faced with the daunting task of creating an online environment that a middle- or high-school kid wants to come to instead of sleeping in.  Over time, the impersonal nature of online teaching has taken its toll on teachers who enter the profession because of their love of connecting with people and students.

Teachers have begun to use their platforms for learning to support students’ mental and emotional well-being, such as using their schools’ messaging platform to notify students of free meal offerings, or using Desmos to ask how students are feeling. Adjusting conceptions of “good teaching” to include more opportunities to make students laugh and focus less on teaching mathematical formulas is a necessary adaptation in this unique context. We all know that math will always be there and there will always be gaps in students’ understanding, so when faced with the choice of teaching math or teaching kindness, teachers choose kindness time and time again.

Do these questions resonate with you? What are some of the things you have thought about or conversations you have had about these ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Written by Katherine Schneeberger McGugan (@kath_schnee)
with support from Ilana Horn (@ilana_horn) and Jessica Moses (@Jess_Moses1)

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