Helping Math Teachers to Shift

Someone recently posted a question on the NCTM Community Forum, “How do we get our high school staff to understand the shifts in (Common Core) math? They do not like the strategies taught at the elementary levels.”  I’m thinking they don’t ever “notice and wonder,” use “Kagan” strategies, have blown off McREL, and never heard of “Open Middle,” …yikes!    I reflected on my pedagogical journey which has yet to slow down and offered these thoughts.


The most powerful education discussions and growth experiences I have had started in Twitter.  Unlike force-fed professional development, on Twitter I read and respond to thoughtful questions.  Here are some questions that might get the ball rolling toward pedagogical shift:

1)  Are our students retaining more or less than they did in previous years?
2)  How have electronics changed students’ strengths and weaknesses in terms of experiences and thinking processes?
3)  What are the success rates for our students as they enroll in post high work such as in colleges?
4)  Are teachers in general getting worse? better? or staying the same in terms of effectiveness?
5)  How are the post-high applications of mathematics different since the arrival of the Internet?

When teachers start thinking about the questions, it is crucial to move them away from blaming 3rd parties and toward a vision for growing and making a difference.  Sometimes it may feel like we are on the Titanic:  then we just focus on saving as many as we can.  But we really want to get to the place where we start feeling like superheroes.  Most of us went into the profession to make a difference. We need to revive that mission.

Practical and Compelling Information

Here are some of powerful pieces for teachers who are ready to consider possible pathways to change:

One of the arguments I heard over and over as my district began rolling out expectations for collaborative learning was about how progressive math content and methods transition to college lectures.  So I sent out emails to ten math different college math departments in my state (Missouri).  Of the eight respondents, four stated they had started moving in that direction as well.  Patricia Vandenberg gives a powerful workshop to argue  the case for collaborative teams. (Please ask me for her contact info.)  I also do presentations for how to integrate STEM without compromising content and how to wade into inquiry by replacing a single direct instruction lesson with an exploration.

Most teachers would like to be treated as professionals.  Good professionals keep up with their professions.  Are they willing to consider what professional math-education organizations are promoting?  Maybe a book or document study might be helpful:

In many circumstances, teachers may be so overwhelmed and frustrated that they may not have the energy or even hope to invest in change.  That would need to be addressed first.  But I would be highly interested in what steps you make or have made in the direction of 21st Century Instruction in your mathematics classroom.  Please tweet or leave a comment!


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