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Changing the Equation: Moving Math Education Forward

How do we measure success? How do we acquire learning? And who leads that learning?

How do we move math education forward?

These are some of the questions that educators from across Ohio and beyond came together to discuss this spring. On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, MIND Research Institute hosted an event for thought leaders to gather and have deep conversations around how to change the face of math education.

The day kicked off with Brian Coffey, Senior Academic Director for MIND. Brian set the stage for what was to come with a chat about belief. As a former elementary school principal, Brian has a lot of experience with empowering students and educators to believe in themselves. Attendees were encouraged to believe in their ability to affect change and to look for opportunities to innovate at their own schools and districts.

Keynote speaker, Nigel Nisbet, Vice President of Content Creation for MIND, really got the ball rolling with The Neuroscience of Deeper Learning. He relayed how neuroscience has the power to transform mathematics and learning for all: students, teachers and parents.

Nigel also spoke about the importance of moving beyond procedural math and into creative and rigorous problem solving. He left the audience with insights on how to create engaging classroom environments to promote student success in the 21st century.

Then, it was time for the first breakout sessions of the day. Guests were able to choose from three different themes for a more focused conversation. In the different sessions, participants discussed how to move beyond “right answers” and focus on mathematics, opportunities for teachers and students to be co-learners, and the impact on learning when we give students the freedom to fail.

Take Jim Bruner, Project Manager for The Past Foundation, and Dr. Steve Lewis, Assistant Professor of STEM at Marietta College’s session, for example. They hosted a discussion around how we think students acquire learning. Jim and Steve had us participate in a lesson on tai chi. Before any math was mentioned, they had us up and moving around the room—learning different tai chi moves.

Once we sat back down, Jim and Steve had us lead our own learning. What mathematical concepts could we relate back to the moves we had just demonstrated? Each group naturally came up with a different answer and we all learned from each other. Pretty interesting way to learn about math, right? We thought so!

In the afternoon, Brandon Smith, Lead Mathematician and Product Director for MIND, got the crowd thinking about building true enjoyment in math. And he did it in true MIND fashion—through games! While attendees were in their breakout sessions, Brandon laid out all sorts of puzzles and our MathMINDs Games for guests to experience.

50+ adults in business attire laughing and playing is quite a sight to behold. But it’s actually a fairly common scene when MIND is involved. Everywhere you looked, participants were collaborating, concentrating, exploring different solutions, and celebrating when they discovered answers. Brandon brought everyone back together to reinforce that this is what creative mathematical problem solving can look like for students and teachers alike.

As the event wound down, attendees had the opportunity to break into discussion groups again. They joined with facilitators to ignite the ideas they’d formed during the day to move math education forward. Lots of great conversations were had around what immediate actions could be taken once individuals returned to their schools and districts.

We had one last surprise for everyone at the end of the day—3rd and 4th grade students from Toll Gate Elementary joined us! The students sat with our guests while Meagan Erwin, an educator with Columbus City Schools, introduced ST Math Chats. Students then participated in a live lesson and our guests got to see creative and rigorous problem solving through the kids’ eyes.

Watching students think deeply, try solutions, receive informative feedback, and then try a different solution reiterated the themes attendees had experienced throughout the day. It’s amazing to see what kids can teach themselves, their peers and even their teachers when given the opportunity!

Thanks to all of our attendees, our venue sponsor, The Past Foundation, and our event partners, Pickerington Schools and Olentangy Local School District.

And a huge thank you to all of our wonderful guest speakers: Jim Bruner, Steve Lewis, Dr. Jodie Bailey, Jonily Zupancic, Keisha Slaughter, Theodore Chao, Annika Moore, Holly Lavender, Dr. Sheli Smith, Marcy Raymond, Kayla Mickens, Meagan Erwin and Kim Faulk!

Together, and with continued opportunities to collaborate, we’ll continue to move math education forward.

To see more coverage of the Changing the Equation: Moving Math Education Forward event, check out #ChangeMathEd on Twitter.

Kelsey Skaggs

About the Author

Kelsey Skaggs is the Public Relations and Communications Specialist at MIND Research Institute. She enjoys highlighting the work of colleagues and partners who champion MIND's mission.

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