“When I try to explain this project to others I get frustrated because I know what I’m saying sounds, now, like many other professional development projects. Terms like “growth mindset”, “productive struggle”, “cognitive dissonance”, and “active learning” have, happily, become popular ideas in education. However, these goals can be reached for in widely diverse ways and with varying level of effectiveness. I have been a part of several projects that all aim for similarly worded goals. For me, this project stands far apart from the others in these ways:
- My practice has radically changed/improved in holistic and authentic ways.
- I have a complete vision of what I’m trying to create in my classroom as opposed to a nice new piece to “plug in”. And this vision is not about reaching an ultimate end; it’s about continually deepening my mathematical and pedagogical knowledge as well as continually seeking to understand my students’ thinking. This no longer feels like repeatedly shooting in the dark.
- I am honored as a learner in this process in exactly the same way I need to honor my students as learners – I have lived this experience thoroughly through the workshops as opposed to talking about what it might look like in a classroom. This respect for me as a learner has resulted in so much growth for me outside the classroom as well. I now approach challenges in my life with much less fear and worry about not being able to “figure it all out”.
- Living these experiences has also made me realize that I always said (and thought) that I truly believed all students were capable of powerful mathematical thinking, but now I know it is true and my practice reflects that. Once you see what your students are capable of, you can’t go back to a place where your practice doesn’t fully honor that ability. I’ve had moments when I’ve thought it would be easier to go back to teaching the way I used to, but it’s just not an option. I can no longer “rescue” a student from their own thinking and feel OK about it, because I know they are capable of sense-making and of being “havers” of mathematical ideas. I simply can’t send messages about mathematics to students that I no longer believe, because I’ve lived it.
- We are treated as professionals both in our learning and monetarily.”
Mathematics Instructor, Spokane Falls Community College
“Since I am a newcomer to this project, I feel like I’m still learning about the various components and what has happened over the last 2 1/2 years. But, based on my experiences with other projects, I am able to identify some things that make this project unique. What sticks out to me is:
- Including folks who work in elementary through college
- Including folks who have lots of different roles (teachers, coaches, math coordinators, university faculty in both mathematics and education)
I’m also struck by the fact that there are parents in the room, so while we are here primarily in a professional capacity, I have been thinking a lot about how I advocate for quality mathematics learning in my own children’s school. . . I am leaving with some ideas to take to my son’s principal as our family navigates kindergarten next year!
- The amount of time spent together in the institutes – 4 full days (+2 more days for some people)
- The mathematical content – both depth and breadth as well as quality of tasks
- Supports (webinars and studio days) between the workshops”
University of Washington Math Educator
Invited guest to the Expressions and Equations workshop and leadership follow-up
“[The MEC MSP] has been unique in staff development that I have taken in that it was taught in a way that modeled how my classroom should look. I was confronted with problems and questions that made me examine my understanding and my thinking and realize in many cases that these were not as solid as I thought they were and gave me the desire to dig deeper so that my understanding was solidified. I found it exciting to authentically be a learner.”
Regional Math Support Team Teacher, Middle School
“Content Knowledge: As a result of being in MEC workshops, I have grown to understand the difference between carrying out a procedure and conceptually understanding an idea. Ruth shared a quote from Walter Denham with us, “When you talk about mastery in mathematics, you are talking about the trivial aspects of math. The ‘big ideas’ are never fully mastered; they deepen in complexity over time.” That quote really captures what happens in MEC workshops in terms of content knowledge growth. As a participant your thinking is continually stretched in different directions, explorations lead to new curiosities, which lead into more explorations. This pattern of working, which occurs because of the culture created, allows us as participants to genuinely make connections between mathematical ideas resulting in increased complexity of understanding. The “tool kit” that I have been able to construct as a participant in this project has allowed me access into mathematics that would have been far beyond my reach in the past. I now believe that though I will come across questions that I cannot answer, I have developed the reasoning skills I need in order to productively struggle towards a solution.
Educational Research: MEC workshops include the reading and analysis of many research articles. This helps us as educators ensure that we are making instructional decisions based on a strong and varied foundation of educational research about the construction of mathematical ideas and the cognitive demand of tasks.
Classroom Culture and Environment: Classroom culture is the hardest part to talk about in a concise way because of the many decisions that are made in the moment to ensure that our environment is one where all students feel safe. I have never thought so deeply about my choices in my classroom and their impacts on the classroom environment as I have as a result of participating in the MEC/MSP grant.”
Regional Math Support Team Teacher, Middle School
“The most unique aspect of the MEC MSP project is the passion that it invokes in educators. It is transformative. Literally. The workshop transforms your views on how kids learn, how to best meet the demands of student learning, and how to re-design your teaching practice to best meet these needs.”
Regional Math Support Team Teacher, Elementary