March 1, 2016

Math Fellows Solving Big Problems

Dream Big. Be Creative. Implement Practically.

math fellows news feature
Math fellows collaborating at a recent convening

Those are the marching orders for the 2016-2017 Zeroing in on Math Teaching Fellows. The Math Teaching Fellowship is one element of EdVestors’ Zeroing in on Math initiative. As of June 2014, only 7 of the 50 public schools in Boston serving eighth graders, district and charter, have reached the benchmark of educating at least 75% of their students to proficiency. Yet, we know that proficiency in eighth grade math provides access to rigorous high school courses, predicts college completion and increases access to high-demand jobs. In response to this quiet crisis in our schools, EdVestors announced Zeroing in on Math: a new initiative to dramatically improve student proficiency in middle grades (4-8) math across Boston.

In December, a call for Math Fellows elicited nearly 40 applications from math teachers and math coaches who sought to make a difference in how we approach math education in the city of Boston. The response demonstrated that math teachers and coaches feel a sense of urgency to respond to this quiet crisis.

Last month, sixteen Math Fellows were selected for the year long Fellowship. The teachers and coaches demonstrated a deep knowledge of mathematics in their subject or grade level, have a vision and track record of implementing positive changes in their schools, and believe that teachers can make a difference beyond their classroom.

At the Math Fellows’ first meeting in late February, the electric feeling in the room transcended the lame math jokes (‘never discuss infinity with a mathematician. You’ll never hear the end of it’) and reached into the depths of what makes the Fellowship special: sixteen math teachers and coaches coming together to try and overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of many more students learning and loving math. Creative problem solving by the teachers involved in math education hold the key to a city-wide improvements.

This year’s Math Fellows hope to take on some big issues over the 12 month Fellowship. Fellows are considering working around the themes of sustainable coaching, teacher, and school leader supports; the culture of math; and improving math instruction. Whatever topics the Math Fellows ultimately decide to address, the power of the Fellowship is that those presenting solutions are the frontline educators who work with students daily and who now have the time, space, and group of committed colleagues to dream big, think creatively, and implement practically.

What we’re reading and listening to

Why do Americans Stink at Math?
Improving Mathematics Teaching
Jo Boaler’s Podcast
How Culture Shapes Math Instruction in Japan, Germany, and the United States