Last week, I had an awesome opportunity to learn with educators across the state of Texas at the annual Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching (CAMT). This year’s CAMT conference was hosted in San Antonio at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, right by the famous River Walk and Alamo! The theme, Viva las Mátematicas, was prevalent not only in the bright colors found around the event space, but in the focus of mathematics as something to celebrate as well.
Throughout the conference I noticed a few consistent threads of thought:
How can we better engage everyone (students, parents, and educators) in the learning community for our students?
How can we focus on deeper engagement not only for students but for our own professional development as educators too?
How can we create connections between the concrete, the visual, and the abstract explorations of a concept?
Parents Need Math Education Too
A session from Maria Franshaw at River Oaks Baptist School really stood out to me. It’s not necessarily that parents need concrete math education; it’s that we’re trying to change perceptions about how students should interact with math. The road to deeper conceptual understanding is a process built through many, many experiences—which can look very different to parents depending on how they learned math.
Even when educators aren’t directly communicating with parents, everything that goes home is a communication with parents. Many parents are curious, and they want to help their children succeed. How do we give them the context and tools to help students when the process of learning math looks so different?
One of the key takeaways is letting parents experience productive struggle and the process of developing conceptual understanding through creative problem solving. Let’s give them those experiences then contextualize it, like with these math resources for parents.
My colleague Brandon Smith said it well in his presentation on personalized learning. Learning is an action, and helping parents understand this will give them the mindset to facilitate learning, rather than trying to impart knowledge.
“Learning is not something we impart to students, but something they do for themselves.” — Brandon Smith, MIND Research Institute
Social Media for Professional Development
There were a few sessions focused on social media, from introducing social tools to developing a plan to use the tools more for professional development. Educators were all over social media using the hashtag #CAMT19 to share their notes, takeaways, and insights.
One of my key takeaways included how social media is a tool that enables you to learn from other educators beyond the walls of your school and district.
Looking for some resources to take your social media activity to the next level? Check out my thread on Twitter:
Let's get more professional learning out of social media! Thank you to everyone who attended my session at #CAMT19! Here's a huge thread of resources so we can build great habits for this coming school year. #teacherpd
Visual models were a popular topic at CAMT this year! What I appreciated about many of these sessions was the focus on experiencing math as a student would. In “Building Mathematical Concepts Through Visual Models” with Carol Jean Wallace from the Math Learning Center, “Composing Meaningful Math Discussion for Grades K-2” with Brittney Goerig from Hand2Mind, and “Math Modeling Can Make You Filthy Rich” with Robert Kaplinsky, we did a lot of work with both concrete and visual models.
It’s hard work though! It takes so many of these experiences to build those mathematical connections. It can also be a little discouraging, but many of the presenters acknowledged the need for patience instead of algorithmic shortcuts.
Opportunities like these are also where technology can be used to thoughtfully support the process. What if we could give students a high volume of interactions with concepts wherever they are in their math journey—with immediate and informative feedback at a much faster rate than in a whole class lesson?
At our booth, educators got hands-on experience with the visual and spatial-temporal models from our award-winning ST Math program. Using visual models, students are better equipped to tackle unfamiliar math problems, recognize patterns, and build conceptual understanding. Not only do visual models remove the initial language barrier to learning math, but later, symbols and language can be introduced with context in a way that deepens understanding.
Did you know there are grants available to support your blended learning goals at your school or district? The Texas Education Agency (TEA) funds Math Innovation Zones (MIZ) to help schools get both technology and software. This could include anything from technology infrastructure, to professional development, to software programs that are approved by the state.
I was excited to hear from one of our ST Math district partners, Kimberly Faircloth, the District K-12 Mathematics Specialist at Southside ISD, about how they used the MIZ grant to implement blended learning. Their “perfect storm” to take advantage of this opportunity? The combination of focus on teacher collaboration, teacher support, and blended learning. The MIZ grants will open for applications in the fall, so be on the lookout!