By Josh Taton

Philly Collaboration of Educators at the McCall School

PAMTC leader Josh Taton and SLA-Beeber teacher and PAMTC regular Elizabeth Houwen facilitated a workshop, entitled “Rescue Me! Fire Trucks, the Pythagorean Theorem, and Promoting Problem-Solving Through Technology,” at the Philly Collaboration of Educators at McCall School in Philadelphia. Inspiration for the problem was drawn from a PAMTC monthly workshop, led by our own Josh Sabloff. We had a great turnout of middle grades teachers, who were interested in doing real-world problem solving that involved new ways of looking at distance and using tools, such as GeoGebra to promote investigation. Email us for details on this workshop or to contact the presenters.

Thank you to the wonderful teachers and staff of the McCall School, who had breakfast, coffee, and snacks for us, and whose organization fostered a great day. Thank you to the School District of Philadelphia for supporting such collaboration and knowledge-sharing!

MTC Network Named a 100kin10 Partner!

100Kin100 Logo

The Math Teachers’ Circle Network of the American Institutes of Mathematics, the umbrella organization of which the PAMTC is part, has been named a 100kin10 Partner! 100Kin10 is a national network coordinating and accelerating efforts to bring 100,000 new excellent science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers into schools by 2021. “Being part of 100Kin10 is a tremendous opportunity for us to share ideas and learn from the experience of other organizations committed to excellent STEM education,” said Brianna Donaldson, Director of the Math Teachers’ Circle Network.

See the press release!

Participating with Curriculum Materials and “Letting Go”

Evidence is growing that curriculum packages and textbooks, claiming to be “Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-aligned,” are really not. The reasons for this are complex, but they can be boiled-down to two takeaways: first, many publishers of such materials are not mathematicians nor education researchers, and they have rushed to complete “CCSS-aligned” versions that also try to accommodate the patchwork system of state standards; second, the CCSS does not intend to standardize how teachers and students tackle content, but rather to trim-down the goals and to inspire greater rigor in math classrooms. And so, the authors of the CCSS necessarily want teachers, schools, and districts to make on-the-ground decisions to suit local needs.

Since there is no such thing as a “Common Core-aligned” set of materials, I argue (among many others, who have made similar arguments) that teachers and schools will need to make adaptations to their curriculum packages and textbooks. The question, then, is how to do so in ways that are effective and preserve the cohesion and structure that curriculum materials afford (via research-based progressions, organized coverage of content, the pilot-testing and ongoing research, etc.).

In addition to being mindful of the level of rigor that appears within your curriculum materials or textbook–and being unafraid to make adjustments–another part of the adaptation process, I think, is “letting go.” I can’t do her post justice, so I’ll just link to Allison Rodman’s heartfelt piece about her daughter and soccer, here. (I think you may need to sign-in to LinkedIn, first.) In sum, Rodman argues that children can do much more than we think they can; they don’t need us to be so quick to “show them how.” Providing opportunities for productive struggle is a real pathway to authentic learning, and decades of research on children’s cognitive development in mathematics supports this idea. By making this comment, I do not intend to downplay the deep-rooted and worthy desire that we, as teachers, have to want to help students. Especially those who are struggling. I do think that understanding this desire, it’s roots and it’s benefits and limitations, can be a real growth-edge for all of us.

In PAMTC workshops, we also discuss tools for facilitating classroom conversations that allow students to grapple more deeply. In deploying such tools, teachers become “guides on the side,” rather than “sages on the stage.” And restructuring our usual approach is important to consider: Elizabeth Green writes about the deep, life-long learning that can occur, when we resist the pull of “I-do-we-do-you-do” lessons. Developing these tools for facilitation, like anything else, takes time and practice–and a version of “letting go” for ourselves, to liberate us from our fears and inhibitions about losing control–but we hope that you will muster your patience and join us for this journey.

TFA Happy Hour at Smokin’ Betty’s

Smokin Betty's
Thanks to Teach for America Philadelphiafor inviting us on Thursday, October 1, to their fall happy hour for alums and current corps members, this past week at Smokin’ Betty’s in Center City! The happy hour was also a resource-fair, a great opportunity for teacher networks and education-related organizations in Philadelphia to showcase their efforts. The food was delicious and we had a great time chatting about math, curriculum standards, and our work in the PAMTC!

Dow Teaching Grants!

The Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition through the generosity of The Dow Chemical Company is offering grants of up to $1000 to enhance math or science classroom instruction to certified math and science teachers in grades K-12 in Philadelphia School District and charter schools.

For more information, click here! If you’d like to partner with the PAMTC–perhaps doing an assessment of your team of teachers, who PAMTC workshops together and trying MTC-type problems and approaches in your classroom–please let us know!

The PAMTC will be presenting at PEF’s Math + Science Coalition!

On October 7, 2015 from 4:30-6:45p, the PAMTC will be participating in the monthly Math + Science Coalition professional development workshops at the Philadelphia Education Fund (presented by FMC). Please tell your colleagues and RSVP before October 5 AT NOON here. FREE! Dinner included.

The topic of our activity will be the order of operations, authentic problem-solving, and an introduction to the PAMTC. Do you remember “Please Excuse My…?” Well, this phrase covers-up a lot of algebraic complexity and introduces confusion that can be very frustrating for students (and their teachers!). We will work to unravel this confusion and present the order of operations via an exploratory problem. We hope to turn the typical order of operations problems on their ear!

The workshops are held at the United Way Building, 1709 Ben Franklin Parkway. All math and science teachers, grades K-12, in Philly are welcome. In addition we welcome pre-service math and science teachers and out-of-school-time staff interested in learning more about STEM and interacting with classroom teachers. PARKING: Note that on-street parking is free after 5 PM on Wednesdays. You can also park in the garage at the Sheraton Hotel for $8. NOTE: CREDIT CARD ONLY PAYMENT ACCEPTED. Enter the garage as usual and get your ticket. The receptionist at the United Way Building will give you a second ticket (called a “chaser”) for the reduced rate. When you return to the garage and exit you will insert your parking ticket, then the chaser and finally your credit card. The Sheraton is located between Race and Vine, with entry to the garage from either 16th St. or 17th St. The M+S Coalition are working to confirm Act 48 credits for this year, so bring your PPID number.

Perspectives in Urban Education Spring 2015

The Spring 2015 edition of Perspectives in Urban Education includes an article by Josh Taton on MTCs. The article argues that math teachers, like their counterparts in English, art, and music, should become practitioners of the discipline in which they teach, and it describes the roles of MTCs in this process.

See the article here.