Math Rocks Reflection: July 26, 2017

Today, I had the privilege of co-facilitating the beginning of a new, advanced math teacher’s cohort in my district called “Math Rocks”.  I am working with the most amazing group of 3-5 teachers.  These teachers are courageous, passionate, empathetic math leaders who want to grow as math teachers.

We began our time together thinking and reflecting about our feelings surrounding how we learned math as a child.

I have always, for as long as I can remember, loved playing with numbers.  I was never interested in learning formulas but give me a number, and I could break it apart and find patterns within the number and “play” with the number for days.

In elementary, middle and high school, I didn’t have to study very hard.  Putting the book under my pillow was usually enough.   It wasn’t until college that I encountered experiences that were all to common for the teachers in our cohort.

I had two experiences that stood out in my mind today:   The first was when I told my adviser that I wanted to specialize in math as I earned my credential.  She reached out, took my hand, and said “Oh, Honey.  Girls don’t do math-they do language arts”.  This was in 1995.  The second was in calculus.  It was nothing but learning formulas…I couldn’t make sense of it.  It was HARD.  I kept asking a young man in the class to explain, again, and again.  Finally, he’d had enough.  He grabbed my big, ol’ texbook, snapped it shut and slammed it on my desk saying “You are so stupid”.  Believe it or not, his remark didn’t crush me.  I had already had plenty of positive experiences and I love math.  What I got from that experience is a taste of what it feels like to be a student who struggles with math.  And then someone says “What’s wrong with you—it’s easy?!?!?!?”  Recipe for math anxiety right there!

Teachers today opened their hearts, and allowed themselves to be vulnerable as they shared their early experiences in math.  Some were positive, but for many teachers (and adults) math was a scary experience. Stress and confusion were all too common.  I was heartened to hear how the teachers want the math experiences of their students to be different from their experiences.

Today, we had laughter, hope and a determination that all students will consider math a subject open for them.  It is a journey that we will make together, so that we can guard the tender hearts of our students, and provide them opportunities to make sense of, and love math too!


#MathRocks  #ILOVEMath

CAMT 2017, Fort Worth Texas

I recently attended CAMT, Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching.  Best Conference EVER!

There were two big ideas that ran throughout the workshops that I attended:

The first big idea was that mathematics must make sense.  We can put all the pretty fonts, and cute pictures, but if we are not purposeful with our planning to help our students make sense of the math, we haven’t really helped them grow.   Keynote speaker Sandra Herbst got us giggling, and brought our process standards to life!   But still, the math must make sense.

My personal highlight of the whole event was meeting my math hero, Annie Fetter (@MFAnnie).  Her number one mission in life might be creating opportunities for math to make sense to students.  A dream come true:  I got to attend one of her featured sessions.  She did not disappoint!   Asking students to describe what they notice, inviting them to wonder and ask questions……it was all there!   It turns out that her videos available at the youtube channel “Math Forum” are little glorious little summaries of her important ideas.  Check them out!

A personal favorite:


And finally, my all-time personal favorite:

I love this one because is is about letting our students know what we care about–that we actually like math!


The second Big Idea from CAMT came from the first day Keynote Speaker, Ken Williams.  (@unfoldthesoul) I am so sad that every educator, math or otherwise, could not hear his wisdom.  His whole talk was full of little gems to hold to our teacher hearts: “Every time we base our expectations on limiting labels, we take another step toward land of Ts being obsolete.”  “No teacher has ever referred to a student as ‘low,’ and expected them to learn at high levels.” “Labels are fine until they change our expectations. When we label Ss it is usually to limit them.”


CAMT was an inspiring 3 days and I can’t wait to read more from Ken Williams and hear more from Annie!

#AnnieFetter  #KenWilliams      #CAMT2017inspiration       #mathinspiration