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Topic: "Professional Development for K-8 Mathematics Educators - Views on MKT and Mathematical Modeling"

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MSPnet Academy Discussion
October 13th - October 27th, 2017

"MSPnet Academy: Professional Development for K-8 Mathematics Educators - Views on Content Knowledge/MKT and Mathematical Modeling from Two MSP Projects"

Presented by: Rachel Levy, Investigating Mathematical Modeling, Experiential Learning and Research through Professional Development STEM-C and April Strom, Promoting Excellence in Arizona Middle School Mathematics MSP

This is a follow up discussion to today's MSPnet Academy Webinar (which is now available as a recording): Professional Development for K-8 Mathematics Educators - views on content knowledge / MKT and mathematical modeling from two MSP projects.

Professional development for inservice K-8 mathematics teachers is vital to support teachers' growth in the field. This webinar focuses on two NSF projects - a STEM-C project emphasizing mathematical modeling and an MSP project supporting teachers in advancing their knowledge about the teaching and learning of middle school mathematics. The STEM-C project engaged K-6 teachers in California, Montana and Virginia in one week of professional development (PD) followed by teacher study groups and a culminating conference. In this webinar we will focus on parallels between the affordances of mathematical modeling in three contexts: professional development, teaching and learning of mathematics. The MSP project was led by community college faculty to build partnerships among Arizona schools/districts and the colleges. Teachers were supported in shifting their thinking about mathematics as a set of skills and procedures to thinking about mathematics as a collection of well-connected ideas that anchors their curriculum and instruction. Participants will leave with ideas about how they can positively impact teachers' relationships with mathematics through professional development.

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posted by: April Strom on 10/13/2017 5:06 pm

Welcome to the follow-up discussion for today's webinar on professional development for K-8 mathematics educators. For those who attended the webinar, thank you! For those who were unable to attend, please feel free to view the recording.

To get the conversation started, I wanted to pose a couple of questions that we might think about and discuss over the next couple of weeks.

1. What are others finding as most effective when designing meaningful professional development for K-12 teachers?

2. One major challenge in PD models is realizing a shift in teaching practices. In theory, PD should provide models for teachers that can be replicated with students, yet teachers report having difficulty in doing so. How can we further help our teachers in productive ways?

And, of course, we are open to discussing any other topics you have in mind! So, reach out and post!

Thank you!
April Strom


posted by: Rachel Levy on 10/14/2017 2:39 am

I'd like to echo April's welcome. It was great to interact with the attendees and I have already heard from some participants via email. April's questions are quite relevant to both of our projects. I'll add a few more that are focused on mathematical modeling in particular.

3. Because mathematical modeling is about process as much as product, teachers sometimes find it hard to decide how to assign a grade to student work. In addition to using rubric items from the GAIMME report, creating their own assessment strategies or deciding not to assign grades, teachers have found it valuable to use mathematical modeling as formative assessment or as an assessment of multiple subjects, including written and spoken language in addition to mathematics.

What assessment strategies have you found valuable?

4. Our teachers and students have appreciated mathematical modeling tasks that focus on local, relevant problems. Some of these problems have community engagement or social justice connections.

How do you find problems that are meaningful to students?

5. We have found that when tasks are design-oriented, sometimes students make choices that are not mathematically justified. We also have found that teachers sometimes choose to limit the time spent on research because it can be a timesink and a distraction from the focus on mathematics.

What challenges have you experienced when selecting tasks and facilitating mathematical modeling?

Mathematical modeling PD--follow up discussion

posted by: Sara Silver on 10/16/2017 9:21 am

Thanks Rachel and April for kicking off this discussion. Please direct us to working/published papers on the 2 projects.

The notion of shifting teachers' thinking about math is a paradigm change. That is simply not the way math teachers at all levels of the grade spectrum have been traditionally trained.The same is true in science education. The revolution needs to be seeded in preservice education. As for those already in the profession, old habits die hard. Even so, we have seen qualitative shifts in teachers' notions of investigative math and science after 2 or more years of sustained MSP PD. Translating these new beliefs to pedagogy--with fidelity--takes time and support. This is why job embedded coaching is so critical. Unfortunately, we are still not seeing improvements in student achievement but that is the subject of another discussion.
Thanks for all the hard work you are doing.

Published works

posted by: Rachel Levy on 10/17/2017 11:18 am

Thank you, Sara - please feel free to share more about your work.

Here is the paper with the teacher cycle:
A Framework for Teaching Modeling in Elementary Grades
Carlson, Wickstrom, Burroughs, Fulton
Paper at AMTE Annual Meeting. Irvine, CA.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Mathematical Modeling
MH Wickstrom, R Carr, D Lackey
Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School 22 (8), 462-470

Here's one from a special issue of Critical Issues in Mathematics Education:

Best regards,

Additional thoughts...

posted by: April Strom on 10/18/2017 2:36 pm

Hi Sara,

You are exactly right! Realizing gains in student achievement through consistent professional development with teachers take a long time. We are in the middle of analyzing student achievement data from our Arizona state-level test and will hopefully have meaningful quantitative data to report in the coming months. I also agree on a couple of your other points: (1) we need to focus on preservice teacher programs so that we start the change earlier on and (2) we need to also focus on developing instructional coaches. I have experienced a number of challenges with instructional coaches in schools, but the most common issue is that coaches do not have enough time to coach! They are often bogged down with a plethora of administrative tasks that prevent them from visiting classrooms, working with students, and providing discipline-specific feedback to the teachers. We need many more people in the field to help with these challenges, including research findings to better understand the challenges and their implications.

Relative to papers for our AMP project, here are a couple of papers we have published specifically targeting teachers' thinking about middle grade mathematical ideas. Hope they are helpful!

Weber, M. B., Pierone, A., & Strom, A. (2016). The importance of quantitative reasoning in middle school mathematics teachers' proportional reasoning. In Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. Tucson, AZ: PME.

Weber, M. B., Pierone, A., & Strom, A. (2016). Obstacles in developing robust proportional reasoning structures: A story of teachers' thinking about the shape task. In Proceedings of the 19th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education. Pittsburgh, PA: SIGMAA/RUME.

More references

posted by: Padmanabhan Seshaiyer on 10/18/2017 8:17 am


Thank you for your feedback. We live in an era where education is going through a paradigm shift from "students as consumers of information" to "students as producers of information". Mathematical Modeling has provided a great pathway to design programs across grade levels to transform best practices in education and help address this paradigm shift!

Here is another a related article and a textbook reference also.

Suh, J. M. & Seshaiyer, P. (In Press). Co-designing and implementing PBL through Mathematical Modeling in STEM contexts. In Mahnaz, M. & N. Dabbagh (Eds). Handbook of Problem Based Learning. Wiley Publishing.

Suh and Seshaiyer, Modeling Mathematical Ideas: Developing Strategic Competence in Elementary and Middle School, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers