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Research & Insights / Math Teachers Solving Problems

Math Teachers Solving Problems

by Karen Levin and the 2016 Math Teaching Fellows

#### UPDATE by Emily Barr, February 6, 2017

On January 11th, over 60 educators and stakeholders in math education came together at the Roxbury Innovation Center for Zeroing in on Math’s first Math Fellows Forum. The 2016 Math Fellows led a set of interactive sessions to share their learning and demonstrate their solutions to some of the challenges facing math teachers and learners in Boston. In a math-filled evening, attendees grappled with how to make a math problem more cognitively demanding, while others engaged in a station-rotation blended learning classroom. Teachers took the #watchyourself pledge promising to participate in self-observation and reflection of their teaching practices using their smart phones. Educators and non-educators alike discussed how the experience of doing math differs from one another and their students, and how to ensure the experience is meaningful for all students.

Throughout the year, and particularly in this culminating event, our Math Fellows demonstrated their passion as advocates for high-quality math education by encouraging conversations among their peers across the city. With over 20 Boston schools represented at the Forum, the night fulfilled a goal of the Math Teaching Fellowship—to provide an opportunity for cross-school collaboration among teachers and to collectively create change beyond any singular classroom. As one school leader noted, creating a space for educators to work together and share best practices is powerful and critical to creating a stronger network of schools and supporting innovation in Boston. In the reception following the event, participants spoke to the great showcase of strong teaching practices they witnessed and appreciated the opportunity to solve real math problems together.

We can’t wait to see what our next group of Math Fellows chooses to tackle in the coming year!

Emily Barr is Manager of Program Support and Analysis at EdVestors. See more photos from the Forum on our Facebook page.


In February 2016, EdVestors selected 16 Boston teachers and coaches to participate in the first year of our Zeroing in on Math (ZioM) Teaching Fellowship. While continuing to teach full time in their district and charter school classrooms, Math Teaching Fellows have been thinking broadly about the larger issues facing young mathematicians in Boston. The Fellowship is a key component of ZioM’s strategy to engage on-the-ground, solution-oriented educators in generating ideas to increase math achievement across Boston while also building a citywide community of math advocates.

For the past ten months, the 2016 Fellows have had the opportunity to engage with expert guest speakers on topics such as teacher leadership, discourse in mathematics, and race and equity; collaborate with like-minded educators across all types of schools and grade levels; and design and inform strategies to advance math instruction in Boston. Participating in working groups based on topic interest, the Fellows have identified challenges to math achievement and developed potential solutions with broad impact. The four topics they chose to focus on are: instruction, blended learning, coaching and teacher leader supports, and the culture of math.

Keep reading for a sneak peek of their ideas, and join us on January 11th at the first ever Math Fellows Forum. Zero in on math with the Fellows as they lead a set of interactive sessions to demonstrate their solutions to challenges facing math teachers and learners in Boston.

Building a Network: Changing the Way We Teach

by Christina Balkaran, Elyse Maziarz, Anna Kim, Tracy Joseph

Historically, the teaching of mathematics has relied heavily on the teaching of procedures, such as ‘cross multiply’ for ratios or ‘keep change flip’ for dividing fractions. Consequently, the learning of mathematics becomes a passive activity for students. We seek to promote a student led approach to learning where students gain a deeper, more conceptual understanding through the use of cognitively demanding tasks (CDTs). Our goal is to improve students’ math proficiency through supporting teachers in the selection, planning, and implementation of math CDTs.

In order to support teachers, we will create a network of educators across Boston Public Schools (BPS) that will connect teachers from the same grade level committed to developing, scaffolding, and implementing CDTs. By creating this network, we hope to increase consistency in the way that new mathematical ideas are presented to our students. Through the use of CDTs, all students will become creative thinkers, problem solvers and innovators.

Stop by our session to learn more about the cross-school collaboration!

Data-Driven Blended Learning

by Himilcon Inciarte, Giselle Huerta Garcia

Effective blended learning can provide engagement and differentiation in content and mode of learning. Technology affords us the opportunity to provide targeted support for students: it radically transforms the role of the teacher in the classroom from a sage on the stage to a guide on the side.

Come to our session to experience what it's like to be a student in a data-driven blended classroom using the station rotation model. Upon entering, you will be randomly assigned to be a student with a particular misconception about fractions. You will then receive instruction to deepen your understanding of fractions based specifically on your misconception. In the other two centers, you will build fact fluency and practice multiplying multi-digit whole numbers.

DIY Coaching

by James Likis, Elissa Kaufman, Jen Glynn, Christina Kostaras, Darren Burris

If I could turn back time/If I could find a way/I'd take back those words/I don't know why I did the things I did/I don't know why I said the things I said.

Every teacher has been there, wishing a lesson had gone differently but not sure why or where it went wrong. What should I have changed? What could I have done differently? Often teachers have to answer these questions after two to three classes and with partial, unclear, and sometimes incorrect memories. Teachers also rarely have another person, whether it be a colleague, instructional coach, or administrator, as a second set of eyes to help them see what is happening in their classroom. The ability to use a smartphone to easily take video of one’s teaching radically changes how teachers can come to understand their own practice. The ability to rewind and hear and see your class is a critical untapped lever for teachers’ personal professional growth.

During this session, participants will analyze a short classroom video clip and experience three styles of reflection teachers can engage in to move their practice forward.

Culture of Math

by Michelle Allman, Kayla Morse, Janamarie Sunkle, Raul Brown

How does it feel to do math and are our students feeling it?

Join this session to explore the culture of math in Boston. Learn what it means to “do math” for some Boston teachers and students, and discuss ways to better align math educators’ visions with the reality of Boston's math students.

During this session, participants will investigate a math problem and use that experience to examine what we can do to impact the culture of math in our classrooms, schools, and community. Some key questions that will be raised in this session are:

  • What tasks get our kids engaged in doing math?
  • What norms do our students need to fully participate in a math community?
  • Who gets to do math in our classrooms?
  • What do we need to be asking ourselves to make sure our students are doing the math?

Participants will leave with a set of resources to support the development of a culture where all students are engaged in meaningful mathematics, and will join in our effort by becoming part of our social media campaign on Twitter @BostonMath.

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