This Week at Global Math – 12/15/20


Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions


Wonder, Plan, Run, Reflect: Action Research in the Math Classroom

Presented by Theresa Hickey

Being a responsive educator means getting to know your learners, leveraging their strengths, and tailoring your approaches so that the highest level of learning can take place. To do this, you need to try new things. But how will you know if your adjustments are making a difference?…. Action research! Join us for some great tips on designing and running this research in your own classroom!

To register for this webinar, click here.

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.


We Who Believe
By: Hema Khodai (@HKhodai)

Why do I write for the Global Math Department Newsletter? When I’m stuck in life and unsure of the next right thing I turn to the children, who never fail to lead the way even as they are continually failed by us.
Bean leads me daily and I marvel at the decisions she makes, the ways she engages with this world, and her resolve to be a part of the good this life has to offer. As I write this, she is leading me in a graduate-level seminar on writing (she knows I’m only half listening); selecting a font that captures her mood and sets the context for her story, authentically representing the essence of the characters and their lives, and illuminating the harsh and beautiful truths of the world we live in.
“Do you ever write to share information or convince others of an important idea?”, I ask.
Her response is precise, “I want my writing to reflect the person I am.” She continues generously, “My stories remind you that people who do bad things aren’t bad people. My characters and I, we’re not afraid to do things to help people.  The system is garbage sometimes. (It’s important for my writing to bring that to light.)”
So here I am, sharing with you a story that is true in mathematics councils and associations across the continent. I am tired of being the only. In this story, folx rigorously defend the superiority of mathematics over people while performing a charade of “wokeness”. I tell you the people “leading” the work have not done the work and have no interest in the work beyond maintaining their status and power as leaders in mathematics. They have not studied Black scholars nor invested time and energy into authentic relationships with racialized folx whose demands for humane experiences in the teaching and learning of mathematics are largely ignored. They merely apply thick layers of whiteness onto calls for liberation and abolition and parrot quotations from Dr. Dena Simmons that we can’t let SEL turn into “White Supremacy with a hug”. They continue to center the curriculum (standards in America) rooted in settler colonialism and anti-Blackness and promote resources (curriculum in America) that are not created by Indigenous, Black, and racialized (PoC in America) folx. These are not bad people. They just do incredibly bad things. 

The characters in this story, of whom I am one, are not afraid to name the mathematical processes of gatekeeping in mathematics education. Processes that stop short at representation and continue to silence voices that seek justice for entire generations and communities of children underserved and disempowered in mathematics classrooms. These are the folx who would argue with me about whether Rochelle Gutierrez is actually Dr. Gutiérrez rather than read her work to understand how mathematics education in its current form is dehumanizing. The ones who flinch at the suggestion of using the seminal works of a Black scholar.  Help me understand, an article from 2009 by a Black scholar is “outdated” but a mathematical trajectory from thirty years ago is “timeless”? I’m kidding, I don’t care to understand your racism.
Systems of mathematics education are garbage most times and especially so during a pandemic that mocks your repeated attempts at “academic integrity”, “abolition of streaming”, and all the other things that keep you from doing the real work of loving kids. But off you go to prepare your Slides, activities, and cool Bitmoji classrooms, the trappings of an ‘anti-racist’ mathematics education that hasn’t liberated you or the kids.
I’ll tell you this folx, I’ll be back in 2021 to continue this story of we who believe in freedom.

Lessons for the After Times
These last nine months have been…not normal. We’ve changed and adapted almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives and dealt with immeasurable loss and grief. At times, it seems like everything is awful (and truly, many things are awful).
But throughout these Corona Times, I’ve wondered: Are there things that we’re doing now that we can hold onto, even after the pandemic is over? Things that will serve us well in the After Times?
An obvious answer is that we’re learning to use technology to capture students’ thinking. I teach pre-service math teachers, and my students have been learning how to use all sorts of new technology in their student-teaching placements. They’re using video tools like SeeSaw and FlipGrid to capture students’ mathematical thinking. This has given them more thorough explanations than when students were working with just pencil and paper, especially for early elementary students who can say a lot more than they tend to write. They’re also planning interactive and exploratory lessons with PearDeck and Desmos, especially in secondary placements. Tools like these show us what students are thinking about during the lesson, and they give students multiple ways of engaging (even with their videos off). 
We’re turning to these technologies out of necessity — because it’s so much harder to know what students are thinking when we only see them in a little Zoom box. But even when we can see each other face-to-face, what insights into student thinking can tech tools offer? What new learning opportunities can we foster?
But even beyond the tech, I think (I hope?) we’re learning to cut each other (and ourselves!) some slack. Everyone is experiencing the pandemic differently — and struggling in different ways — but it’s been a hard year for everyone. As a result, I’ve noticed that, when assignments are missing or emails go unread, folks are starting to ask “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?” We’re checking in with empathy, instead of assuming that others are being negligent or lazy. Perhaps because we’re going through a collective trauma, we’re more likely to give others the benefit of the doubt. 
I hope that we can continue doing that, even when there’s not a global pandemic. Even in “normal” times, students and colleagues are dealing with death and loss, racism and other systems of oppression, food and housing insecurity, physical and mental health crises, and existential dread. What would the world look like if our default was to reach out with kindness and concern?
We’re also learning to connect in new ways — and to disconnect when we need to. Personally and professionally, we’ve been able to connect with folks from afar. We can join webinars and conferences without worrying about the cost or time of travel. We’ve been celebrating birthdays and graduations and weddings (and funerals) with loved ones that we don’t usually get to see. And the flip side of spending so much time online is that we have to disconnect, too. It’s become even more important than ever before to take breaks from the screen and to get some fresh air. 
Some of these have come out of sheer necessity — singing “Happy Birthday” on Zoom because it’s too dangerous to gather together or taking a tech break because we simply can’t bear to look at a screen for another moment. But what if we can continue having joyful moments with far-flung friends and family? What if we can maintain boundaries for our work-life balance?
Of course, none of this negates what we’ve been through, what we’re going through, or what is yet to come before the pandemic is over.
But I’m holding onto hope: Hope that we can let go of practices that weren’t really serving us in the Before Times. Hope that we will make it through these Corona Times. Hope that we can re-imagine and build a more humane After Times.

Written by Brette Garner (@brettegarner

Encountering Boundaries of Human and STEM: 
Some Wonderings as Told Through Six Panels

Two tweets caught my attention this week (images are linked): 

Inspired by these tweets and a few other thoughts I’ve been sitting with for a while, I wanted to process some wonderings through six panels.
Thanks for reading the GMD in 2020. See you next year.

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