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Research & Insights / Math Fellows Forum – Dream Big, Think Creatively, Implement Practically

Math Fellows Forum – Dream Big, Think Creatively, Implement Practically

By Karen Levin

Yesterday afternoon the 2017 Zeroing in on Math Teaching Fellows held a math forum for math educators, school leaders, and education advocates from across Boston, generously hosted by [LEGO Education]( The Math Fellows, a group of sixteen Boston math teachers and coaches spanning 2nd to 12th grade, were tasked to identify barriers in math education in their classrooms, schools, and city. Over the past 10 months they have been hard at work problem solving and implementing ideas to address those barriers and improve access to high-quality math instruction across the city. Fellows met monthly, and in addition to collaborating with colleagues across grade levels and school types, they also engaged with experts on topics ranging from diverse math learners to race and equity in math.

The Forum kicked off with a brief introduction from EdVestors staff followed by two fun LEGO-based icebreakers led by LEGO Education staff.  Each of the four Math Fellow teams took the stage to make a 60-second pitch about their projects. They invited attendees to visit their tables to learn more about their work and how to get involved.

It was wonderful to look around the room and see so many people engaged in hands-on math problem-solving, discussions about the state of math-based professional development, conversations about strong math classrooms in Boston, and signing up to participate in cross-school math projects.

Here is a bit more about the 2017 Zeroing in on Math Teaching Fellows’ projects and how each group is tackling their issue of interest:

"Everybody Does Math" Starter Kit

By Sabine Ferdinand, P.A. Shaw Elementary School; Max Kennedy, Margarita Muñiz Academy; Siobahn Mulligan, Urban Science Academy

Math can sometimes be a scary thing not only for our young people, but also for adults.  As math teachers we want to demystify the fright of math and bring joy and fun to the process of problem solving.  We are creating posters with math tasks that will actively engage everyone in the school community and be accessible to all levels. We will distribute these posters to schools to encourage teachers, students, and community members across ALL content areas to make their mathematical thinking public. With the intention that they will be hung in a public and common location, we hope teachers will share in the problem-solving process with their students and their students’ families, demonstrating that everyone CAN do math.

Data Drop: An Inside Peek at What's Happening in Schools

By Michael Garland, Mather Elementary School; Sylvia Garza, Roosevelt K-8 School; Marsha Moller, Lyndon Pilot School; and Niki Whelan, Guild Elementary School

Math classes look very different today than they did even a few years ago.   Standards, pedagogy and curricula have changed dramatically, and are continuing to change at a rapid pace.   But are teachers provided with enough training to implement these initiatives?  Do they have the time, resources and support they need to deliver high quality instruction?

We surveyed teachers and principals across Boston to find out.  We compiled data from various types of schools, across all grade levels to find out the following:

  • How much professional development time is devoted to math?   How is that time used?  Are there sufficient district offering in mathematics for interested teachers?
  • How much of teachers’ Common Planning Time (CPT) is focused on math instruction?
  • Do schools have math intervention blocks in their schedules?  How are students assigned to interventions?
  • What type of professional development do teachers want?

Bridging Classrooms with Peer Learning Partners

By Melissa Frascella, Boston Collegiate Charter School; Heidi Fessenden, Mozart Elementary School; Meredith Hart, Haley Pilot School; Maggie Roth, Match Community Day Charter Public School; Michelle Sirois, Perry K-8 School; Alia Verner, TechBoston Academy

As teachers in Boston, we hear our colleagues asking for math professional development that allows them to deepen their content knowledge and receive feedback from their peers.  Research shows in the United States, teachers of math do not implement cognitively demanding tasks in the way they were intended, often turning making connections problems into lower-level using procedures. (Educational Leadership: “Improving Mathematics Teaching; "How Culture Shapes Math Instruction")  Teachers across different school networks have had PD in identifying and developing rigorous tasks, but lack a diverse toolkit of instructional strategies to facilitate these tasks effectively. Teachers need more opportunities to do math together, explore ways their students might approach a problem, and receive feedback from their colleagues.

We have designed a 5-week teacher-led PD in which pairs of teachers will join a community that engages in math tasks together and reflect on how their students might approach these tasks, deepening their content knowledge. Through these tasks, teachers will learn to experience math as a visual subject that’s about conversation and multiple solution pathways, not just about speed and procedures.  They will also practice instructional strategies that can be immediately implemented in their classrooms.

We hope this will provide time for teachers to think about how to apply the instructional strategies from the course to their own practice and rehearse, as well as debrief, with peers after enacting in their classrooms.

Bright Spots: Finding and Sharing the Rocks Stars of Math Instruction

By Julie Duran, Boston Preparatory Charter Public School; Amanda Hathaway, William J. Ostiguy High School; David Weinstein, Boston Teachers Union K-8 Pilot

Who and where are the rock stars of math in Boston? What are these teachers doing in the classroom that works so well? Have they flipped their classroom from “I, We, You” to “You, You’all, We?” How do these teachers support their students as they struggle through difficult tasks? Do they allow the students’ dialogue to run the lesson? Are they using innovative technology? Do they have stations? Are they able to work with small groups as needed? We are creating a conversation around what works in student-centered math instruction.

Karen Levin is the Director of Zeroing in on Math at EdVestors.