Our vision. We envision a future, in which all elementary and secondary teachers of mathematics in the Philadelphia area participate regularly in an engaging professional community that involves doing mathematics collaboratively. By doing mathematics collaboratively, we mean tackling authentic problems together, drawing on a range of strategies and offering explanations of our thinking. Authentic mathematical problems, we believe, are those that are ill-defined and do not have monolithic solution paths, nor singular answers. The essence of collaborating on mathematics is found within our discussions and negotiations, as we work to clarify assumptions, explain terminology, suggest ideas, ask questions, and provide evidence, in order to arrive at mutual understanding. Through this work, we aim to enhance our relationship with mathematics, to appreciate its connectedness as a discipline and its emphasis on investigation and justification. In reshaping our relationship with mathematics and in building ties with each other, as educators, we likewise endeavor to alter the impoverished relationship with mathematics often maintained by our students and within our school communities. We believe, fundamentally, that mathematics is exciting, fun, and relevant, and that it can be pursued for enjoyment both inside and outside of school. In short, we intend to promote the idea that everyone is a mathematician.

Our mission. We believe that the essence of mathematics is investigation. Authentic mathematical inquiry involves asking what if…? and why…?, as well as modeling, explaining, and collaborating. We also believe that everyone is a mathematician. In other words, we believe that everyone is capable of discovering and doing mathematics, because everyone is capable of thinking quantitatively, spatially, and logically. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a “math person” or a “non-math person.” Finally, we believe that mathematics can be pursued for fun, just like reading, art, music, or other pursuits. All too often, though, our mathematical experiences in schools promote negative beliefs about mathematics and our own mathematical abilities–by concentrating on following recipes and rules blindly or memorizing jargon thoughtlessly. We aim to support K-12 teachers in transforming their students’ perceptions of mathematics, to oppose the bad rap it gets, so that it is seen as engaging, exciting, and creative.

Who we are. We are a group of professional mathematicians, math teachers, and math education researchers, who first met in the summer of 2011 to support math teachers and math education in our area. See our Leadership Team page for biographies. Each month during the school year, we are privileged to be joined by dozens of committed K-12 teachers of mathematics and other key stakeholders for our workshops. We have built a warm, welcoming community that serves as a great networking and resource-sharing opportunity for teachers in our area. Teachers, professional mathematicians, and math education scholars in the greater Philadelphia area are welcome to join or support us! (Register for our upcoming workshops and see our Contact page.)

Additional background. The PAMTC is part of the Math Teachers’ Circle Network of the American Institutes of Mathematics (AIM). MTCs have been endorsed as a high-quality, ongoing professional learning opportunity by a blue-ribbon panel of mathematics and education experts, the Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences (CBMS). To improve U.S. mathematics education, the panel recommended (CBMS, 2012, p. 21, emphasis added):

More explicit efforts are needed to bridge current communities [of educational stakeholders] in ways that build upon mutual respect and the recognition that these initiatives provide opportunities for professional growth for higher education faculty in mathematics, statistics, and education as well as for the mathematics teachers, coaches, and supervisors in the PreK–12 community….Also needed are more opportunities for observation and discussion of the work of teaching, including professional learning communities, math teachers’ circles, conferences, and publications, from newsletters to scholarly articles.

Unfortunately, teachers’ lives are overscheduled and frenetic. They don’t have much space within their professional lives to collaborate and to engage in mathematical exploration. On the other hand, when schools and teachers make space for such work, there is a real, tangible benefit. A growing body of research shows that when teachers have opportunities to work together and do mathematics, they learn from one another, develop greater enthusiasm for the subject, see their students as budding mathematicians, provide more authentic problem-solving opportunities in their classrooms, and have greater confidence and comfort in facilitating open-ended, student-centered discussions.

Testimonials. Recent attendees of our workshops have said the following:

Thank you for leading an awesome session yesterday. The community of math folks you’ve helped build is so great to see.elementary & middle school math lead

You all do a really terrific job. Fun math + great food + coming away with improved teaching skills and a positive viewpoint on math = EXCELLENT!high school math teacher

Today, I gave my 5th graders the Order of Operation exercise that we had completed in your workshop…they really got into it. I had them working in groups of 2, 3, or 4 students, and I used the exact same rules…Once they understood exactly what to do, they became completely engaged. Several of the students that usually struggle with math were having a good amount of success with this…I thought it was a great reinforcement of the Order of Operations, and I plan to use it next year when I am teaching that concept. Thanks so much!!!5th grade teacher

What a wonderful job you did on Saturday! You are thanking us and really we should be thanking you….Everyone who attended your workshops rated them as “very satisfactory,” which is the highest rating you can get!  And….It was obvious to me that teachers who sat at your table for the Sharing Session were totally engaged in what was going on! Thank you for all this and for your outpouring of resources and support for teachers in all the ways that you do it….I’m so glad that [our group] is now part of your “circle” and you a part of ours!director of a multi-university teacher-leader program grant

This is my 1st meeting. It was fun! Plenty of food, great parking, good people to meet here.middle school math department chair and teacher

Being put in our student’s position. This was an incredible PD!elementary school teacher

We had fun completing math problems! I also learned that it is okay to leave things open-ended with students—you can solve problems with students and not come up with an answer in the end and promise to come back to it.middle school math teacher

Workshop agenda. A typical agenda at our workshops consists of the following:
5:00-5:15p—socializing and dinner
5:15-5:30p—introduction to the problem of the day
5:30-6:30p—collaborative problem-solving (in groups of 2-5)
6:30-6:40p—de-brief on problem strategies
6:40-7:00p—discussion of standards, curriculum, and teaching tools