Senior Associate Julie Ryan joined nearly 9,000 educators, school administrators, and professors at the annual Meeting & Exposition for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), this April 4–6th at the San Diego Convention Center.
Julie, assisted by her husband Bill, enjoyed three very busy days at the SEARCH table in Exhibition Hall. They chatted with many visitors—former and current SEARCH candidates as well as conference attendees interested in learning more about international schools and how SEARCH might be able to help them secure a position. Even parents of potential intern candidates stopped by! Julie did manage to slip away to attend two excellent sessions (out of the 250 plus on offer) and a keynote.
Professor Michael Flynn of Mount Holyoke College, MA, led a session called Understanding Resistance in Mathematics Education: Why Change is Hard, and How We Can Make it Easier. In response to the question, “Is resistance always bad?” Professor Flynn pointed out that it isn’t and remarked that it can help shape an organization’s decision making for improvement. Professor Flynn focused on the pitfalls of perception and reminded the audience how important it is to get an understanding of why people resist.
Professor Flynn said one quality of a good leader is intellectual empathy. He then gave an example about an administrator desiring a resistant teacher to implement a certain math curriculum. Using a technique from Taiichi Ohno—industrial engineer, considered the father of the Toyota Production System—Professor Flynn shared a situation, followed by Ohno’s “The Five Whys Root Cause Analysis:”
Situation: Sam refuses to try number talks in his math class.
The Five Whys:
Why? He is not confident in math.
Why? He hasn’t had enough professional development (PD).
Why? The district has not offered PD in math.
Why? District leaders have been using release days to do mandated trainings.
Why? They have to implement mandated curriculum/pedadgogy.
Instead of an initial reaction that this teacher just doesn’t want to implement a new practice, an effective leader would dig deeper to find extenuating circumstances and determine how he or she can offer support that is personalized and effective. Questions good leaders should consider: What experiences has this teacher had? How connected is s/he to the school community? How vulnerable does s/he feel? What other factors may be at play here? Professor Flynn recommended further reading published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) recently.
Julie was thrilled to attend a keynote by one of her education heroines, Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford University. Jo was recently named by the BBC as one of eight educators changing education worldwide. Her talk, “Teaching Mindset Mathematics through Open Creative Mathematics,” described Jo’s professional development for teachers and the new math curriculum developed by youcubed.org at Stanford, Mindset Mathematics, which is being used across the U.S. and beyond in Grades 3-7, with more grades in development.
Jo emphasizes a limitless approach to learning. Evidence that brains continue to grow and change proves that educators need to encourage a growth mindset in their students because those with a limited mindset stop growing. Effective learning is about struggling and making mistakes. Teachers would do best to model curiosity, and they should model how they think and feel when they make mistakes. Since new pathways are formed and connecting every time we learn something, Jo advised teachers to engage with content “with a lens of multiplicity,” by using numbers, words, pictures, and movement. People learn when the information is multi-dimensional and connected to other ideas. Moreover, speed is the enemy of deep and flexible thinking, and anxiety impedes working memory. More of Jo’s ideas and some excellent resources can be found on her website youcubed.org.
Search Associates (SEARCH) was proud to be a Sponsor and, as a result, participated in a fun scavenger hunt. Conference attendees were given clues that sent them to various sponsors’ tables where they scanned a QR code and accumulated points. The winners took home some outstanding prizes, including registration fees for next year’s NCTM meeting in Chicago!
Julie was delighted to meet so many highly qualified math teachers and hopes many will consider registering with SEARCH in the near future.