Are you a math fan? I consider myself a literacy person, but I just attended one of the best professional development opportunities. Ever. And it was about math.
The 3-day course I took was Mathematically Productive Engagement.
This professional development was fantastic for many reasons, but here are the big ones:
- Research based best practices in math
Here is what the research says about routines that are productive (not just fun, cute, Pinterest-worthy):
- Structure students’ mathematical talk
- Work with selected and sequenced student ideas during mathematical discussion
- Work with public records of students’ mathematical thinking
- Confer with student mathematicians
- Work with students’ mathematical errors
- Tools to align practice to the Common Core
- Habits of Mind and Habits of Interaction were the founation. While not a one-to-one correlation with the Mathematical Practices Standards in the Common Core, if I weave the Habits of Mind and Habits of Interaction into my instruction, all Practice Standards will be fully met in a deep way. I even walked away with super-helpful posters I can hang in my room to teach the Habits.
- We used a mind-blowing lesson planning tool with more metacognitive questions to ponder than you can fathom. While I find the tool overwhelming, the concept of intentionally planning a lesson head of time is an excellent practice.
- An instrument called a Select and Sequence Tool helped me think about what student work I should bring forward. I don’t ask the students who always have the right answer, the students who are perceived as ‘smart’, or who are the extroverts in the class. Instead, I consider which student work will move the mathematical thinking forward.
- Facilitators ‘walked the talk’
- As discussed above, research shows allowing students to engage in mathematically productive talk (that’s math-teacher-speak for staying on topic) increases their understanding of math concepts. Rather than just telling us, “The kids should talk! About Math! This is really important!”, the session facilitators model what this looks like. Throughout the day, I engaged in structured math talk in a way that made me feel both like a learner and an adult. This activated all parts of my learning self: my math brain and my teacher brain.
- Focused on math content development
- Let’s face it: not all of us are great mathematicians. I have room to grow. My facilitator calls this math ‘soft spots’. In a room of 30 teachers, there are 30 different math identities, math backgrounds, and content knowledge. Without making me feel either stupid or like a preschooler, the session engaged me in actual mathematics. I worked on problems using the teaching routines shown by research to be effective. I learn about math content and grow my own thinking.
- Addressed needs of adult learners
- As someone who has presented countless hours of professional development to my peers, I know teachers can be more off task than the squirreliest student. In my time I’ve seen knitting, scrapbooking (!!), facebook-ing, Zappos shopping, and general off task whispering and giggling. But not at TDG. I didn’t even have time to whip out my laptop and check my work related e-mail. Throughout the day, our facilitator kept me engaged in math, professional readings, partner discussion, and group work. Just like she modeled math talk, she also modeled keeping a group on task and engaged in math learning. I was exhausted and exhilarated.
- Opportunities for reflection and action planning
- Following each activity, our facilitator asked each of us to pull out an “Important Moments” tool. On this, we recorded big Aha moments we didn’t want to forget. This time of reflection allowed me to consider the previous learning and how I might incorporate it into my practice. This opportunity for reflection is often missing from professional development in the effort to cram more information into the time allotted.
- At the end of the 3 day session, we spent time creating action plans. Our facilitator reminded us the plans mean nothing without specificity. So my team added dates for implementation and specific and targeted goals. Metacognition and reflection are essential to learning, for all learners.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to engage my mind, to reflect with my peers, and develop the math part of my brain.