The Math and Science Partnership (MSP) Poster Showcase offers an overview of the current work of 64 MSP projects. Each layer of interaction with a project (i.e., reading the poster, listening to the audio overview, and the online discussion) provides more depth and insight into its work. The showcase also allows one to look across projects and notice common themes, strategies, and challenges, as well as to notice some novel and promising strategies and approaches. Herein I reflect further on two themes and two novel approaches that captured my eye as I interacted with the posters.
Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). Amy Cohen, New Jersey Partnership for Excellence in Middle School Mathematics, described how they engage teachers as learners with the Standards for Mathematical Practice, emphasizing multiple approaches and multiple representations in solving problems. The issue that emerged is how to value these expectations as goals for students in K-12 classrooms when the focus is often on a single-approach that students view as the “right way” and which is based on symbols. As Amy noted, “The avoidance of multiple approaches seems to be a product of the emphasis on speedy solution of short problems on multiple choice tests.”
Master’s Degree Programs for Elementary and Middle School Teachers. Daniel Madden, Arizona Teacher initiative: Institute for Mathematics and Education, discussed the issues in establishing a master’s degree program for middle school teachers in a department of mathematics. Specifically, he addressed the issue of graduate level mathematics content courses for teachers, particularly elementary and middle school teachers, rather than the expectations of graduate courses for mathematics majors. Unfortunately, this is an issue across institutions and is often a barrier to providing needed opportunities for teachers to deepen their own mathematical knowledge while pursuing their professional goals.
Student Perceptions and Ratings of their Teachers. Tara Stevens, West Texas Middle School Math Partnership, discussed a novel approach worth consideration by others. The project is developing the “Student Perceptions of Teachers’ Success” (SPOTS) instrument that will allow repeated student ratings of teachers’ classroom behavior related to classroom implementation of project goals. The initial work is fascinating as both a mechanism for moving knowledge into practice by providing teachers with explicit feedback on their instruction and students’ views on their own learning, and as a tool for project evaluation. Tara described how students rate their teachers’ classroom behavior on items relevant to project goals, such as “My teacher tells me that there is more than one way to solve the same problem” and “My teacher praises me when I am working hard.” The initial work reveals a novel approach to improving classroom practice by engaging students in the evaluation of that practice.
Mathematical Meanings by which Teachers Operate. Patrick Thompson, Project ASPIRE: Defining and Assessing Mathematical Knowledge (Meanings) for Teaching Secondary Mathematics (Arizona), described how they are developing instruments that examine the mathematical meanings by which teachers operate, both the meanings they bring to their work and observed expressions of these meanings in their teaching. They are studying the connection of teacher knowledge to teacher action in classrooms. This work aims to move us beyond vague notions of mathematical knowledge for teaching to better understandings of how knowledge is operationalized and used in the work of teaching. They intend these to provide diagnostic information to teachers and professional developers.