Saturday, April 23, 2016

Why it is an Exciting Time to be a Mathematics Teacher

Greetings students of Math 371!

I first want to mention how honored I am to be a guest blogger.  I am envious of you being students of this class.  I wish my undergraduate degree would have included a course title “Technology for Math Educators”.  I hope that you are enjoying this class.

When I started to brainstorm what I wanted to blog about, a number of topics came to mind:
·         Things a person heading into the teaching profession should know.
·         What technologies I frequently use my classroom.
·         How much technology is too much?
None of these topics were quite right.  This blog deserves better.  So here we go…

Why it is an exciting time to be a mathematics teacher.
There is a revolution sweeping across the nation.  A mathematics revolution.  A mathematics teaching revolution.  A growing number of mathematics teachers are breaking away from traditional, teacher-centered instructional methods.  Instead, these teachers are implementing inquiry based, student-centered strategies.  These innovative strategies and techniques are re-defining “best practice” and giving a makeover to what a mathematics classroom should look and sound like.
It is difficult to pinpoint one specific event that triggered the revolution.  Dan Meyer’s 2010 TED talk was what pulled me into the battle.  If you have not seen the video, your first homework assignment from me is to watch it.
Not only did Dan call for mathematics teachers to change the way they conducted business in their classrooms, he also began to share free resources to all who wanted them.  His popular 3-ACT tasks provide teachers with ammunition for change.
Around the same time as Dan’s TED talk, a little something called the Common Core State Standards were being adopted by 46 states across the nation.  Whether you love or hate the CCSS, three very important consequences have ensued…
First, the CCSS included the eight Standards of Mathematical Practice.  The SMP are at the heart of the revolution.  Read about them here if you haven’t heard of them.  Know them; they are critical.  Second, mathematics teachers across the nation are all focused on the same set of standards.  Because of this, I’m much more likely to be interested in what Dan from California is talking about because we are expected to teach the same standards.  Which leads to number three: Mathematics teachers across the nation are collaborating at a much higher rate than prior to the CCSS. 
Technology and social media are playing a huge role in the collaboration.  Twitter (#MTBoS), blogging, and websites provide environments where mathematics teachers can freely share resources and ideas, provide and collect feedback, and stay up to date on the latest technology. 
Dan has since taken his talents to a little place called Desmos, where he helps create some of the coolest math resources I have experienced.  He, along with other extremely talented mathematics teachers such as AndrewStadel, Fawn Nguyen, Michael Fenton, among others continue to create and share excellent resources.  But the crazy thing about Desmos is that there are now thousands of mathematics teachers creating and sharing activities via the activity builder tool.
Just two weeks ago, NCTM held their annual conference in San Francisco.  Over 1,500 mathematics teachers from across the nation attended; over 25,000 were unable to attend.  A couple of hours ago, Dan posted his presentation on his blog.  It already has 147 views.  Within a month, I’m guessing that number will be closer to 1,000.  Dan has also already responded to a few of the blog post comments as well as to the following tweet. 

My second assignment for you is to watch the video.  I’m certain you haven’t seen it yet.  It is excellent and is a must see for all mathematics teachers.  The unfortunate news is that there is a faction of mathematics teachers who will never see that video.  These teachers are unwilling or unable to implement changes in their classrooms.  Maybe they won’t change because they are too set in their ways and only have a few years to go before retirement; maybe they are not comfortable with technology; maybe they are not sure where or how to begin.  Whatever the reason may be, they have not yet joined the revolution.

Therefore, I challenge you to join the revolution.  According to my crude calculations, most of you attended high school prior to 2014.  I’m willing to bet that 95% of your high school mathematics teachers weren’t integrating 3-ACT tasks or focused on the 8SMP.  I’m certain they weren’t using the Desmos Teacher activities before then because they weren’t created yet!  Chances are likely that you didn’t learn in a student-centered, inquiry-based classroom.  Therefore, you must unlearn what you have learned.  (Luckily for you, Dr. Vestal can serve as your Jedi Master.)  It is an exciting time to be a mathematics teacher.  The revolution has begun!

Please feel free to contact me if you ever have a question or need resources.  Thank you once again for allowing me to be your guest blogger.

I would strongly recommend signing up for a account while it still remains free.  Rumor has it that there will soon be a fee to create an account, but those that already have accounts will be grandfathered in.

Mark Kreie
Brookings HS Mathematics Teacher