Today during our Math Team meeting, I taught my colleagues how to play the game of Poison. I had recently taught the members of the Math Club how to play and thought it would be fun...

(To be continued...)

What am I learning about collaboration?

Sometimes something as simple as a Nim game can be a great way to get students and adults to start talking about math. Who knew?

## Wednesday, December 7, 2011

## Wednesday, November 30, 2011

### Making time for Math

The math team met again this evening. Like last time, I set up an agenda on Google Docs and encouraged the other math teachers to add on to it. This time, however, I set aside the first half of the meeting to do some math together. I asked everyone to bring their laptops, so that I could introduce them to the Peg Puzzle ( http://nlvm.usu.edu/en/nav/frames_asid_182_g_3_t_1.html?from=category_g_3_t_1.html) When we started, I directed everyone to NLVM website and asked them to play around for a bit, and then suggested that we come back together and share what we learned....

(To be continued...)

## Monday, November 14, 2011

### Setting up Meeting #2

I sent out an email earlier this afternoon, asking our JBA math team when the next availble date to meet that works for everyone is. Because of PDs and Thanksgiving, I suggested Monday, November 21st or Wednesday the 30th, but opened it up to the group. Within an hour, the AP, ICT teacher, and 6th grade teacher got back to me! This was encouraging!

It looks like we may have a Faculty meeting on Monday the 21st, so I asked the AP if we could possibly have that time to meet and I am waiting to hear back from her. If not, it looks like Wednesday the 30th will be our 2nd meeting. I have already revised the agenda on Google Docs slightly to reflect this.

The feeling that I get from my colleagues is that they do want to meet and want to collaborate, but that isn't always easy. We all take our job and responsibilities very seriously and teaching comes first. I completely agree, and hope that future meetings can tie into what we are teaching. Again, I want these meetings to be practical and as useful for my colleagues and I as possible.

It looks like we may have a Faculty meeting on Monday the 21st, so I asked the AP if we could possibly have that time to meet and I am waiting to hear back from her. If not, it looks like Wednesday the 30th will be our 2nd meeting. I have already revised the agenda on Google Docs slightly to reflect this.

**What am I learning about collaboration?**The feeling that I get from my colleagues is that they do want to meet and want to collaborate, but that isn't always easy. We all take our job and responsibilities very seriously and teaching comes first. I completely agree, and hope that future meetings can tie into what we are teaching. Again, I want these meetings to be practical and as useful for my colleagues and I as possible.

## Wednesday, November 9, 2011

### A Minor Setback

Unfortunately, at the last minute, the math team meeting that we were supposed to have today, didn't happen. The 6th grade teacher had a personal reason, the ICT teacher had an after school club, and the AP was called into a meeting. The 7th grade teacher and I debated whether or not to meet "officially" and thought it would be best to reschedule for a date when the whole team could meet.

I was a little disappointed, but I understand that things do come up and that it's important to be flexible. So far I haven't gotten the vibe from my colleagues that they don't want to be these meetings to happen, so I will be optimistic that this is just a minor temporary setback.

In the meantime, I created the agenda so that when we do meet, our meetings would have a focus. Nobody else has added to the agenda specifically, but the 6th grade teacher did add a document to our Google Collection.

The good news is that the 6th grade teacher, ICT teacher, and AP said that they were glad that they didn't miss anything, which makes me feel like they want to be a part of these meetings also. I just don't want our group to slowly happen less frequently as the school year goes by.

**What am I learning about collaboration?**

It's not easy to get, even a well-meaning group of people, together. I am a little disappointed, but am still looking at this as only a minor set back. It has been a crazy week at JBA with grades being due, Benchmark Assessments, and the schedule changing for the new marking period. I will be sure to send out an email asking for the next best available dates for people so that we can get our math team back on focus.

## Wednesday, November 2, 2011

### Our First Meeting

So we just had our first math team meeting. Originally we planned to meet for an hour, but ended up meeting for an hour and a half after school, in my classroom. The 6th grade math teacher, assistant principal, and I (and briefly our ICT teacher) were the only ones in attendance. The 7th grade teacher was unable to make it, and at the last minute the ICT teacher was unable to either. The three us us decided to meet either way and take notes on our Google Doc so that we could share it with the others.

Our agenda consisted of:

Our agenda consisted of:

- Discussing Math Portfolios (the principal had asked the AP to talk to us about this)
- Teaching strategies that should be used across all grades so they are ready for Algebra I
- What are our department goals?
- Where are we now? Where do we want to be?
- Looking at our data?
- How often do we want to meet?

Together the three of us went though each of these points and discussed our responses. We had the agenda up on the Smart Board and as we collaborated, we added to the document. For each of the points, we discussed next steps. This was important to me because (1) we had an "official" working document from our meeting, and (2) our next steps were practical things that we would bring or do during our next meeting. (I can attach our "final" agenda in another post.)

We decided that Wednesdays overall seemed to work best for everyone, and meeting every other week would be a good start for us. Due to upcoming PDs, we decided to meet the following Wednesday, November 9th.

**What am I learning about collaboration?**

It feel really good to actually get the chance to meet. I think our agenda also helped to keep us focused, so that we didn't get off topic. We had specific goals to accomplish and we were able to speak about all of them. For our next meeting, in addition to addressing our next steps, I want to actually do some math with my colleagues. Using the "Teaching Math in the Middle School" article about Teaching Circles, I have decided to use the Frog and Toad problem. I even found a website that we can all go do.

I am a little worried that we might be trying to do too much during our meetings. Personally I would rather do less deeply, than try to cover too much, however I want everyone to feel like they are contributing to these meetings, and it's not just me. I think the Google Doc agendas that everyone can add too will help with that.

Looking forward to our meeting next week!

## Sunday, October 30, 2011

### Preparing for Our First Math Team Meeting

I am very happy to announce that the JBA Math Team will be having their first meeting on Wednesday, November 2nd. Unfortunately it doesn't look like everyone one will be able to attend, but my fellow colleagues have shown a real interest in meeting an a regular basis to make the Math Department as coherent as possible.

So how did this all happen?

Well, around the middle of October I sent out an email to the 6th and 7th grade math teachers, our ICT teacher, both assistant principals, and the principal, asking if they would be willing to meet as a department. The overall response I got (not from everyone) was positive, so I followed up asking everyone what days specifically worked best. We realized that there was no real time during the day that we were all free to meet, so we decided that it would have to be after school. Since we would be meeting after school, I emailed the principal and asked if we could get paid for any collaboration that we did, and she agreed.

Deciding on a date that worked for everyone wasn't easy, even with a department as small as ours, between after school clubs, grad school, and other commitments. Eventually we decided on Wednesday, November 2nd, and everyone except the 7th grade math teacher would be able to attend. Since it was our first meeting, we felt that we could fill her in.

In order to prepare for our meeting this week, I set up a Google Collection as a place to keep our team meeting agendas and any other resources we might out together. I chose Google Collection because this year the Faculty and scholars all have their own Google email addresses, and I felt that this would be a good place to centralize our materials. In our collection, I set up a Google Document with a tentative agenda, and encouraged, via email, the math team to add to it. I emphasized that I wanted our meetings to be as useful for us as possible. So far, one teacher as added to it.

I am excited to be setting up our math team meetings. I feel like I am being productive, and it feels good to have the support of my colleagues. As of right now, I don't plan on doing any math in our first meeting, but I do plan to do some math with my colleagues in future meetings. I am happy to see this finally happening! My assistant principal even commented that she is looking forward to seeing someone else besides her run the meeting, and that she happy she can focus on math once again (she was teaching Social Studies in the beginning of the year briefly).

So how did this all happen?

Well, around the middle of October I sent out an email to the 6th and 7th grade math teachers, our ICT teacher, both assistant principals, and the principal, asking if they would be willing to meet as a department. The overall response I got (not from everyone) was positive, so I followed up asking everyone what days specifically worked best. We realized that there was no real time during the day that we were all free to meet, so we decided that it would have to be after school. Since we would be meeting after school, I emailed the principal and asked if we could get paid for any collaboration that we did, and she agreed.

Deciding on a date that worked for everyone wasn't easy, even with a department as small as ours, between after school clubs, grad school, and other commitments. Eventually we decided on Wednesday, November 2nd, and everyone except the 7th grade math teacher would be able to attend. Since it was our first meeting, we felt that we could fill her in.

In order to prepare for our meeting this week, I set up a Google Collection as a place to keep our team meeting agendas and any other resources we might out together. I chose Google Collection because this year the Faculty and scholars all have their own Google email addresses, and I felt that this would be a good place to centralize our materials. In our collection, I set up a Google Document with a tentative agenda, and encouraged, via email, the math team to add to it. I emphasized that I wanted our meetings to be as useful for us as possible. So far, one teacher as added to it.

**What am I learning about collaboration?**I am excited to be setting up our math team meetings. I feel like I am being productive, and it feels good to have the support of my colleagues. As of right now, I don't plan on doing any math in our first meeting, but I do plan to do some math with my colleagues in future meetings. I am happy to see this finally happening! My assistant principal even commented that she is looking forward to seeing someone else besides her run the meeting, and that she happy she can focus on math once again (she was teaching Social Studies in the beginning of the year briefly).

## Sunday, October 16, 2011

### Literature Review

Fernandes, A, Keohler, J, & Reiter, H. (2011). Mathematics teachers circle around problem solving.

*Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School. 17(2)*, 109-115.The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards “recommend that students should have frequent opportunities to formulate, grapple with, and solve complex problems that require a significant amount of effort and should be encouraged to reflect on their thinking” (NCTM, 2000, p. 52) My action research last year focused on my own instruction of problem solving. Some of the challenges that I encountered came from my limited experience teaching problem solving in a constructivist way. Fernandez, Keohler, & Reiter (2011) state that “making problem solving a central part of teaching may be challenging to teachers who have limited experiences in learning and teaching mathematics in this way” (p. 109). From my experiences the last two summers at Bank Street, I believe that by collaborating with other math teachers at my school, I can bring richer problem solving experiences into my own classroom.

In their article, they examine the key features of Math Teachers’ Circles, which “were developed with the aim of establishing a “culture of problem solving” among middle school mathematics teachers” (p. 109). The authors use a vignette of a Math Teachers’ Circle as they attempt to work on the Frogs and Toad problem, to describe how teachers coming together to do math can be an enriching and inspiring experience. “By making problem solving the central focus of the Circles, the teachers are provided with opportunities to engage in nonroutine problems and get firsthand experience of the challenge and thrill of finding a solution (Fernandez, Keohler, & Reiter, 2011, p 114). I hope to use their article as a framework for my own collaboration with math teachers at JBA.

Hiebert, J., et al. (1997).

*Making sense: Teaching and learning mathematics with understanding.*New Hampshire: Heinmann*.*In this book, Hiebert emphasizes the importance of teaching and learning mathematics with understanding. He uses one definition of understanding that “says that we understand something if we see how it is related or connected to other things we know” (Brownell 1935; Heibert and Carpenter 1992). Heibert (1997) states that “To help think about how people make connections in mathematics and how they make connections that are useful, it is helpful to consider two processes that play an important role in the making of connections: reflection and communication” (p. 5). I believe that getting together with math colleagues and doing math problems together will give teachers an opportunity to reflect and communicate on the math.

Little, J. W. (1993).

*Teachers’ professional development in a climate of education reform, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.*15, 129 – 151.“Collaboration is increasingly identified as a key aspect in teachers’ professional growth. Education reformers have recommended placing more attention on collegial relations of teachers for the purpose of professional growth” (Little, 1992, as cited in Syn-Jong, 2006, p. 178). This article describes how teacher collaboration is an essential part of their professional development practice and school reform. What I hope to learn from this experience of getting together with math colleagues and doing math problems together, I am curious about what I will learn about collaborative professional development.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). 2000.

*Principles and Standards for School Mathematics*. Reston, VA: NCTMAccording to the Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1991), an essential factor in teachers’ professional development is the degree to which they “reflect on learning and teaching individually and with colleagues” (p. 168). Unfortunately JBA does not have weekly or even monthly departmental math team meeting, therefore there was very limited collaboration between the teachers. According to Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics (NCTM 1991, p. 128), teachers need opportunities to experience mathematics instruction that will “enable all learners to experience mathematics as a dynamic engagement in solving problems. These experiences should be designed deliberately to help teachers rethink their conceptions of what mathematics is, what a mathematics class is like, and how mathematics is learned.” I believe that in order to be a stronger department, we need a space for the math teachers to come together to learn more about big math ideas and reflect on how their own mathematical understandings influence their practice. I am interested in how doing math problems together will influence my own thoughts of collaboration and professional development.

Smith, M. S. (2001).

Smith (2001) states that “Professional development must provide teachers with the opportunity to improve their understanding of mathematics content and to reflect critically on their learning experiences” (p. 42). Math teachers need the opportunity to not just reflect on what they want their students to know, but what they themselves know about math. “Teachers must begin by making sense of mathematics. In considering how students solved the problems, teachers must engage with the mathematical ideas that are at the heart of the tasks (Smith 2001, p. 43) I believe that by doing math problems together with my colleagues, I will get a better understanding of the mathematical ideas that are at the heart of the tasks that I give my students and will result in a deeper mathematical understanding.*Practice-based professional development for teachers of mathematics*. Reston, VA: NCTM

## Monday, October 10, 2011

### Research Document 2011

**1.**

**The Question**

**2.**

**The Statement of Purpose**

In my previous school, part of my teaching schedule included a weekly meeting with the whole math department. Either the math coach or the assistant principal led the meetings, and during my first years of teaching, these meeting were especially valuable because they gave me the chance to collaborate with and learn from my colleagues in a formal setting. This past year was my first year at my current school, Jonas Bronck Academy, and we didn’t have weekly math team meetings. As a result, one of my biggest challenges this year was finding time to collaborate with the other math teachers at JBA. “Collaboration is increasingly identified as a key aspect in teachers’ professional growth. Education reformers have recommended placing more attention on collegial relations of teachers for the purpose of professional growth” (Little, 1992, as cited in Syn-Jong, 2006, p. 178). Through this research, I want to create a math learning group at JBA that will engage in constructivist mathematical problem solving. I hope that by getting together with other math colleagues at my school and doing math together, I can get a deeper understanding of what it means to participate in professional development and we can improve our math department at JBA.

**3.**

**Methodology**

I will take notes during our meetings to keep track of our discussions. I will also keep a reflective ongoing blog on my own observations on what I am learning about collaborative professional development with my math colleagues. I will also ask for feedback from my colleagues participating in the group, on their thoughts on collaboration before, during, and after participating in our learning group. In the analysis, I will look for concrete examples of any shifts in my thoughts on collaborative professional development.

**4.**

**Resources**

Boalar, J., & Humphreys. (2005).

*Connecting mathematical ideas: Middle school video cases to support teaching and learning.*Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Fernandes, A, Keohler, J, & Reiter, H. (2011). Mathematics teachers circle around problem solving.

*Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School. 17(2)*, 109-115.Hiebert, J., et al. (1997).

*Making sense: Teaching and learning mathematics with understanding.*New Hampshire: Heinmann*.*Little, J. W. (1993).

*Teachers’ professional development in a climate of education reform,**Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.*15, 129 – 151.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). 2000.

*Principles and Standards for School Mathematics*. Reston, VA: NCTMSmith, M. S. (2001).

*Practice-based professional development for teachers of mathematics*. Reston, VA: NCTM**5.**

**Sharing my Research**

I intend to share my research by documenting my observations on a Google Blog. I will post my thoughts and what I am learning about collaborative professional development after each math learning group meeting. I will also comment on if and how participating in this group is influencing my practice and my growth as a professional and leader. By sharing my research on a blog on the internet, I hope to also share collaborate with other teachers outside JBA.

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