The Official Blog of Julia Morgan School for Girls

Jazzed About Math

I attended the California Mathematics Council’s Northern Chapter conference in early December and came back (just like last year) SUPER jazzed about every single session and speaker.

The annual conference, held at Asilomar, was an inspiring weekend with passionate educators unpacking the details of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMP) and sharing incredible resources and in-depth conversations on how to help students build deep conceptual understanding, rather than just fluency with algorithms and procedures (though procedural fluency is, of course important, too!).

Every session was packed (literally, with floor-sitters and doorway-standers!) with amazing teachers. I went to great sessions including topics like:

  • strategies for maximizing the use of number lines and other visual methods to help students conceptualize topics from fractions to integers (number lines are a big deal in the new CCSS, and they are so cool!)
  • sharing online resources for activities to get kids noticing real-world applications of Math and to get them invested in the problem-solving process
  • strategies for structuring and sequencing a lesson so the students do most of the talking and derive procedures on their own
  • helping support student to work effectively to in groups to solve problems in groups
  • building students’ willingness to see math in different ways, and to make mistakes and persevere to a deeper understanding

One presenter made a great analogy comparing students’ experience learning math to the experience of working hard to improve in a sport, or at playing an instrument; it takes practice and effort, and as teachers and parents, if we can normalize the effort instead of clinging to outdated ideas about being “good” or “bad” at Math, we can effect a culture shift that makes the idea of playing with numbers and applying math concepts to solve a problem as a class as fun and rewarding as playing sports and music together.