George Lucas Educational Foundation

Ruth M.

As an elementary student, I never gave much thought to math. Teachers would demonstrate the steps to an algorithm, I would copy them down, and then I would practice those steps by completing 20 practice problems. Sadly, I never thought to ask why or how. Math was taught that way back in the day.
In college, after completing community service at a local urban elementary school, I decided to pursue a teaching career. My preparation in college was adequate, and student teaching was a positive experience for me. We did analyze mathematical mistakes in math methods class, but for me my explanation was "the student forgot to carry the 1."Sadly, none of my students, none of my colleagues, not even myself thought to ask why or how.
My first day of being a certified, employed teacher arrived. Quickly those days numbered 8 years. I taught math as I had been taught. None of my students, including the most curious ones, ever asked why or how.
There is a happy ending to this story....my school district, who strongly believes in professional development, sent a group of us to a Marlyn Burns workshop. Mathematically life changing! We had to reflect each night on our thoughts and learnings. Suddenly, I began to make connections about conservation of number and how and why the base ten system we primarily use works! Thus began a personal journey to learn more about the conceptual understanding of mathematics. My math class evolved into small groups, much like guided math. Rich conversations among students occur on a regular basis, manipulatives are easily accessible and always in use. Each day, the students and I work to build understanding and I believe I've built an community of learners who regularly ask "why/how does that work?

Areas of Interest: 
instructional coaching, growth mindset, math intervention

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