So I love Math. I know I am a SUPER big nerd. I felt that my prowess in math would allow me to be more marketable in education. And I think the "Minor in Mathematics" label has helped me. I had to take the same math courses as my engineer husband all the way through Calculus 4 and Axiomatic Geometry (don't ask me what that class was about anymore - I don't remember ANYTHING from that class!) I often think about how that level of mathematics has not helped me at all in the education world of TEACHING math to my students.
I also love to teach. I love to open up my classroom to college students and allow them to practice and refine their craft in my classroom. This opportunity is not only beneficial to the student, I also find that I am on my "A" game as a teacher to model exemplary teaching. It also opens up the conversation about what the Education classes "look like" "these days". About 10 years ago, I began hearing about the Teaching Mathematics courses. This course was specifically designed for teachers and taught students how to teach math. "That seems useful and applicable," I thought. However, these students often told me they they did not like math, or were not good at math, and often needed very explicit direction from me on the content of the mathematics we were teaching. That didn't seem so great.
What do teachers need to know to teach math?
So that lead me to a great inquiry - "What do teachers need to know to teach math?" I found a couple good published talks mainly given around 2010 when the Common Core Standards were starting to roll out. The Common Core Standards were a completely different view than current math instruction. As a teacher when the Common Core rolled out, we were told that we needed to teach the standards, but we were not given materials or support to implement instruction. These articles did not place teachers in a favorable light. In brief synopsis, the teachers were complaining that they couldn't, didn't want to, didn't know how to teach math in this way. The researchers were saying figure it out, we need to start teaching it this way. And here we are in the trenches, figuring it out, with very little support and the public doing the finger pointing.
In one talk, "The Mathematics School Teachers Should Know", the author, Wu, states that teacher content knowledge in mathematics often "dictates" what is taught in the classroom. I was particularly interested in this talk because he addressed the opposition I state above. More advanced math classes (that teach fundamentals and understanding and reasoning) are not helpful in teaching elementary students mathematics. Yet the classes that tend to be more relevant to the education of mathematics often lack the complex component of reasoning and understanding of fundamental mathematic principles. So how does a teacher get both???
I think Universities are attempting to balance this division of Education instruction that is both suitable for use by 12-year olds yet does not violate basic mathematical principles. The students that I have had in the past 2 or 3 years especially have shown much more adeptness at effective mathematics instruction.
How can math instruction incorporate precision, definition, reasoning, coherence, and purposefulness?
Then I started thinking about how ZONES Math helps me be the best Math teacher for my students. And it goes right back to the fundamental principles of mathematics. ZONES Math was built on these fundamental principles. Therefore, when I teach using the ZONES math Framework, I am ensuring that my instruction contains the content necessary for the foundation as well as the best instructional practices for math. I am also naturally instilling these fundamental principles in my students. As a reminder the summary of these principles are precision, definition, reasoning, coherence, and purposefulness. They are also laid out in the common core standards and are woven into ZONES Math. I wrote a great blog post on it here.
Here is a great graphic I found to show how the foundation of ZONES specifically embeds all of the Standards of Mathematical Practice and creates the "overarching habits of a mind of a productive mathematical thinker". I believe that ZONES will help us all become better math teachers because it pushes us to present lessons that have this strong basis, even if we were not "trained" by our Universities in education or mathematics to this level.
WHEW! This bit of digging and research just validated once again the value I place in the ZONES Math framework - also note how these practices connect to science & ELA. I believe it makes me a better teacher to both my elementary students and the college students I host in my classroom.
Wu, H. (2010a). The Mathematics School Teachers Should Know. Talk Given at Lisbon, Portugal, on January 29, 2010.
Wu, H. (2010a). What do teachers need to know to teach mathematics well? Talk Given at Washington, DC on October 11, 2010. https://math.berkeley.edu/~wu/CommonCoreII.pdf
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