“Math = Fun” was one of the final comments as our teacher cohort from the PIMMS Intel Math Institute finished their summer class. We brought together a mathematician, Dr. Christopher Rasmussen, and a math education specialist, Sharon Heyman, to bring deep understanding of core K-8 math concepts to 30 Middletown and Meriden teachers. The intensive 10-day class had long days, working lunches, and homework but we had a great group of enthusiastic teachers who truly loved math. Their feedback shows the value of the Intel Math class for increasing their understanding, improving their confidence in math, and also in preparation for Common Core implementation.
Each session of the class starts with the Intel-trained instructors going over a core math concept at the front of the class. Then, the teachers work in small groups or partners to do problem sets on that concept. The whole idea is to find multiple ways to find solutions by pulling from other concept areas and working with other people. Each group shares their strategies and ideas with the cohort and everyone learns new ways to approach problems in their classrooms. The teachers also review examples of student work in each concept to address common student misconceptions around math.
“I have learned a lot about myself as a learner and about how others learn. I have also learned a lot about math as well – more than I have learned going through my formal education.” Teacher Feedback.
Math is Interconnected
The main idea behind the Intel Math course is to teach core math concepts from the most basic to the more complex while calling out the connections along the way. Many of us who are strong in math go along and find solutions without ever questioning why the answers make sense. Intel Math helps show the teachers WHY math concepts work and WHY the ways we solve them make sense.
“This class indicated even more than I realized how interconnected math is.” Teacher Feedback.
“Today’s session is really building on interconnectivity of geometry, algebra, and arithmetic. It’s helping me find more way to keep manipulatives relevant to intermediate students.” Teacher Feedback.
“The breakdown of concepts can be confusing but they help me to have a better understanding of the concepts. I definitely need to do more of this to show my students WHY!” Teacher Feedback.
“I realized today that I have always just blindly followed the rules for math, never questioning why the work or are used.” Teacher Feedback.
“I’m starting to really tie together the abstract models of my formal math education and really see how interconnected it all is.” Teacher Feedback.
“Math is interconnected and should be taught with constant looping and connecting of topics.” Teacher Feedback.
In the Shoes of Students
Teachers go through the useful but sometimes uncomfortable experience of struggling through math problem sets in the class. They get to feel the way their students do in class and that helps them figure out new ways to approach students who may be struggling with a concept. By working in groups and reviewing student work, they can hear about multiple experiences with a concept and get ideas for new approaches beyond what they may have thought of themselves.
“I enjoyed getting down to the basics in math because that is where most people’s problems originate.” Teacher Feedback.
“When working on the number systems, I realized how the frustration I felt was similar to the frustration my students felt when working on concepts new to them.” Teacher Feedback.
“Looking at student work helps to understand how common mistakes happen and student understanding behind their mistakes.” Teacher Feedback.
“Working through the problems was great to think about the “productive struggle” of problem solving. I really got the feeling of what my students feel.” Teacher Feedback.
“Analyzing student work as a group and the reporting back helped me to see a variety of new ways to aid us in fixing problems students had.” Teacher Feedback.
Building Math Confidence
Math anxiety is a real problem for students, as well as some teachers. By going through the connections and the WHY of math concepts, teachers build their own confidence in math. This translates into their classrooms and to their students.
“The quiz highlighted my weaknesses, the class highlighted my strengths.” Teacher Feedback.
“I completely understand the division of fractions J for the first time ever!” Teacher Feedback.
“Being successful with slope was a confidence booster. I was proud that I was able to remember so much.” Teacher Feedback.
“I felt successful today so my confidence is building.” Teacher Feedback.
“Because I am understanding most of the math, I feel mathematically much smarter.” Teacher Feedback.
“I was overwhelmed at first and now I have realized that I know more than I thought.” Teacher Feedback.
“My outlook on my ability to solve math problems has changed. I feel like I can make attempts at solving problems on my own.” Teacher Feedback.
“I will teach with more confidence knowing the whys and the hows.” Teacher Feedback.
The Intel Math class provides the teachers with a variety of manipulatives that can be used to solve problems in visual ways. This Intel Math Institute is unique because PIMMS is developing follow up activities for the teachers using arts integration to reach students who may learn in different ways. We had a visual artist and a movement artist take the Intel Math class alongside the classroom teachers to deepen their own math content knowledge before developing their teacher workshops.
“I learned that I am more of a visual learner and building, drawing, and discussing via these modes helped me understand.” Teacher Feedback.
“Showing math concepts visually first is so crucial for many learners.” Teacher Feedback.
“I learned new strategies to teach multiple concepts to help all students.” Teacher Feedback.
Taking it to the Classroom
Teachers left with a stronger understanding of math concepts and connections as well as a sense of better preparedness to implement the Common Core in their classrooms (Intel Math is a Common Core aligned class). The class is mostly about content but with the strong instructor team, there is also modeling of a successful math classroom going on at all times. Teachers noticed and picked up ideas on how to better bring math to their students.
“I have great ideas to bring to my teaching. I will use more team and partner work instead of constantly modeling.” Teacher Feedback.
“It was helpful to see the full scope and sequence for Common Core.” Teacher Feedback.
“Math is connected. You solve the problem how you see it…need to solve it multiple ways for multiple students so they can see it too.” Teacher Feedback.
“I feel more prepared to face the challenge of Common Core in my classroom.” Teacher Feedback.
“The course was great! I can’t wait to try some of the techniques and approaches in my classroom.” Teacher Feedback.