Online Professional Development Sessions
Feedback without Fatigue
Presented by Christine Koerner
We know that feedback is essential for student learning, but how do we provide it without constantly giving up hours of our time? In this presentation, educators will learn about providing meaningful feedback and explore resources that help provide instant/ timely feedback. Considerations will be made for school-based, hybrid, and distance learning environments.
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!
You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.
Beauty and Justice in Mathematics Education
With schools and universities opening back up, how do educators get back to business as usual? If we turn on the news, we hear about the shooting of Jacob Blake (among countless told and untold stories of police violence in the U.S. and around the world), the deaths of protestors on all sides of the political spectrum, the effects of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, the passing away of a hero, Chadwick Boseman, for many children and adults, the ongoing lack of justice for Breonna Taylor, and now reports that many teachers are leaving the profession due to coronavirus and remote teaching concerns.
How do any of us—educators, staff, students, parents, administrators—get back to business as usual given the conflicts, tensions, and ecological crises we face?
Maybe the answer is: we don’t.
To be sure, we have students in front of us physically or in little boxes and we have to teach them. But the current climate also affords us an opportunity to rethink our priorities. Francis Su (@mathyawp) and Jordan Ellenberg (@JSEllenberg), for example, invite us to reconsider the time we spend training students to rationalize the denominator.
Instead of going back to the usual routine of guiding students through a minefield of mindless computation and standardized test prep (which many teachers, in all fairness, are under great pressure to do), we might allow ourselves to envision a more purposeful role of math education in the lives of our students and our communities. What part should math and math classrooms play during times of crisis?
Over the summer, two trends in Math Ed Twitter captured my attention:
(1) the promotion of art and beauty in mathematics, most notably through the Math Art Challenges posed by Annie Perkins (@anniek_p), and
(2) the promotion of social justice and anti-racism through math education, notably Dr. Nicole Joseph’s (@projnicolej) work on Black Feminist Mathematics Pedagogies, Benjamin Dickman’s (@benjamindickman) algebra 2 social justice curriculum, Dr. Kari Kokka’s (@karikokka) compilation of social justice mathematics and science resources, and former NCTM president Dr. Robert Berry’s (@robertqberry) ongoing work with mathematics for social justice (among the contributions of many others who I have missed).
Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) and Francis Su (@mathyawp) remind us that justice (and injustice) and beauty (and the lack of beauty) occur every day in classrooms and are within our reach. Knowing that justice and beauty, or the lack thereof, are always evident in our classrooms, we can ask ourselves: how can we be more purposeful in the roles that our math classrooms play toward helping students recognize and create beauty and justice in our world?
This is one of the things that I study in my grad school program in education. How can the aesthetics of math and math education, including but not limited to notions of beauty, be both reimagined and deployed in service of a more just and sustainable world?
I don’t have all of the answers, and I probably never will. But I believe that math teachers are at the forefront of addressing this question and other questions like it due to a dual commitment and love toward students and mathematics as a field.
p.s. I love this tweet:
bye, bye, bye
Assessment: A Practice of Care
By: Hema Khodai (@HKhodai)
The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1 – 8: Mathematics
(2020) includes a new strand; Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Skills and the Mathematical Processes
“This strand focuses on students’ development and application of social-emotional learning skills to support their learning of math concepts and skills, foster their overall well-being and ability to learn, and help them build resilience and thrive as math learners. As they develop SEL skills, students demonstrate a greater ability to understand and apply the mathematical processes, which are critical to supporting learning in mathematics. In all grades of the mathematics program, the learning related to this strand takes place in the context of learning related to all other strands, and it should be assessed and evaluated within these contexts.
Here is some context: I am an Instructional Resource Teacher for Mathematics, K-12 for the second largest school board in Ontario (Canada). I am a South Asian woman. I am the mother of a soon-to-be fifth grader.
At its release, respected colleagues, male colleagues, sometimes racialized, sometimes not, threaded entire scarves of their thoughts and opinions on the new curriculum. They were featured on radio and television sharing their initial reflections. Of course, there also were blog posts* written by white supremacists who decried this new strand as echoing the “discovery math” ideology and capitalized on the opportunity to jab at racialized women in mathematics education who research math anxiety.
I did not engage. I retreated into silence. I waited…
Here’s what they didn’t say:
- We do not know how to do this in a culturally relevant way
- We are directed to implement the new curriculum starting in September, while navigating unsafe return to school plans
- We are untrained and ill-equipped to assess and evaluate Social-Emotional Learning
I firmly believe teaching SEL skills can foster student overall well-being and ability to learn and applaud the desire to create these conditions for growth for our young mathematicians. I acknowledge the potential in this strand of teaching to challenge the supremacy of mathematics and I advocate ardently for us to provide learning opportunities that develop students’ identities and agency as mathematicians. I vociferously object to the lack of training, planning, and processes in place for teachers to achieve this outcome. Glaring at me from the page are the words, “assess and evaluate”. All I see right now is the tremendous potential for the continued policing of Black and racialized children in classrooms and continued dissociation of their identities as we force white norms of social skills on young mathematicians.
(Do not download a free copy from Angie at Lucky Little Learners)
Here’s what I have to say:
- Black and Brown children will be harmed
- Children with special education needs will be harmed
- Children whose identities do not conform with white, heteronormative, cis-gendered values will be harmed
The well-founded fear I and other educators and parents of colour have is that teachers who are minimally identifying and managing their own emotions will place the onus on students to develop these skills independently. What do we know about teaching SEL skills to children? How will we disrupt deficit mindsets that frame some children as lacking resilience and adultify other children? What is to keep us from reporting a child as lacking perseverance when they are unable to cope with new learning in unsafe learning conditions? Are we so confident in our assessment and evaluation practices that we can guarantee no harm?
are triggering to me as an adult in the ways they have been weaponized against me and other students and educators of colour in educational settings, particularly mathematics spaces. There is no escape from the racial trauma inflicted on me as an individual and the racial violence that imbues the socio-political context of my communities.
As Dena Simmons
asked in her 2019 article Why We Can’t Afford Whitewashed Social- Emotional Learning
“Why teach relationship skills
if the lessons do not reflect on the interpersonal conflicts that result from racism?”
Teachers, how meaningful and deep is your self-awareness and sense of identity if we do not deeply examine the power we hold in teaching spaces? How often are we recognizing sources of stress and coping with challenges that arise from the power differential between us and our students? How effective is our teaching practice if it isn’t informed by the understanding that assessment and evaluation is an expression of power and grades and streaming (tracking) are the reward and punishment are manifestations of it?
What is your plan for the teaching and assessment of the Social-Emotional Learning strand in Mathematics? How do you know the elements of your plan will not cause harm? Who will you be accountable to?
Tell me how your assessment practices are rooted in care.
*I am intentionally choosing to not link to harmful blog posts.
Our students are going through a lot right now. When I asked a few students in my community what they wanted their math teachers to know or do, though, they recognized that teachers, too, have a really hard year ahead of them. These students have been doing online instruction since March, and are now in the third week of school for the fall 2020 semester. Two main themes came up in their responses over and over: First, give students grace, because they are facing very trying circumstances, and second, give yourself grace.
As Black students face an onslaught of video-recorded terrorism, Black, Indigenous, and Latin* students face disproportionate losses from COVID-19, and Asian American students face increased racism, an extra measure of grace in the learning of math this year is really important. Students appreciated teachers who recognize the specific challenges of their communities. A student who wanted us to call him “No” asks teachers to understand that many are “dealing with other home problems and personal problems” so please allow for absences, late assignments, or even just small concessions like cameras off when such things come up. He lists many challenges burdening students, such as financial hardships, lack of WiFi, added work hours to help the family, and worries about the pandemic. “No” adds, “Have an abundance of leeway for students. You never know the other factors going on in their life.” Almost all students mentioned slow or inconsistent internet access, and “Ren” requested that teachers keep synchronous assignments concise for this reason.
After asking for this grace, though, students extended the same to teachers. Ren responded, “To every math teacher, you are doing absolutely fantastic and patient with dealing with people who are trying their best to succeed.” “MM” added, “As hard as it is for students to adapt to all of this I cannot imagine coordinating online lessons and having blank faces stare back at you on a zoom screen. Us students really do appreciate all your hard work!” Teaching is hard under the best of circumstances, and this year, it is herculean. I hope that these student voices remind you to be understanding and empathetic as students deal with these challenges, and also remind you to extend yourself the same grace. This is an unprecedented challenge, but they see and appreciate your efforts. Ren concludes, “Every teacher has done everything they can to keep us safe and secure.”
Written by Samantha Marshall (@sammieamarshall)
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