The Power of Professional Conferences

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Dr. Lisa Amick
Lexington, KY

Haley Jacobsen
Lexington, KY

Adam Peters
Lexington, KY

Dr. Lara Jasien
Nashville, TN

At first, I was just excited to be able to present and to make some professional connections. I was excited to talk to people who practice the kind of teaching we learn about and who have the same beliefs about mathematics education that we have. A lot more came of it than I thought. The depth of the networking and learning was unexpected.


I was 100% rejuvenated. I got home after a midnight flight and was at school early the next morning ready to go, ready to implement all the things we just learned.


Haley and Adam — seniors in their student-teaching semester at the University of Kentucky — made the statements above about their experiences at their first professional conference, the annual CPM Teacher Conference. Haley and Adam will become high school mathematics teachers this fall, and this professional experience was transformative for them, helping them see how to make the ideals in their teacher education courses come to life in the classroom.

At the conference, Haley and Adam not only attended sessions but also presented research on CPM’s Inspirations & Ideas Course, which they conducted with Dr. Lisa Amick, their program advisor and chair. Both student-teachers felt nervous, worrying no one would attend their session or take them seriously as college students who are not yet in their own classrooms. However, their experiences presenting did not validate their fears. According to Haley, “People cared what we had to say and all of the hard work we did was worth something.” Presenting was a valuable experience for them as future teachers because it inducted them into the professional practice of sharing ideas. As Adam put it, “Presenting made me realize that if I have an idea to share, I should share it.”

Haley and Adam spent most of their time at the conference attending sessions presented by innovative math education professionals. Seeing evidence-based teaching practices in action was exceptionally valuable for them because their student teaching placements are in schools that use more traditional teaching practices and curricula. According to Haley and Adam, “Seeing it in action and reading about it are two different things, and seeing it inspired me to actually do it. It somehow made it accessible” (Haley) because “CPM is the actual embodiment of these practices” (Adam).

These “embodiments” Adam spoke of were concrete, exciting ideas that spilled over into their student-teaching experiences in powerful ways. Some of the strategies the conference led them to try include visibly random groups (VRG), team building activities, student-centered teaching practices, and vertical non-permanent surfaces (VNPS). Here are some examples of how their teaching has grown:

  • “I’ve tried teams before and my students complained the whole hour. When I used VRG they complained initially, but stopped once they sat down and got to work. They accept it now because they know it’s short-term. I was shocked.” (Haley)
  • “I’ve realized that when I give notes, I’m making an assumption that my students don’t know anything. They are disinterested, they don’t want to participate, and they feel like their time is being wasted. Now I give them the opportunity to surprise me with what they know first before delivering any content. Since the conference, I’ve been doing more of that.” (Adam)
  • “Since I started using VNPS my students are far more engaged and they are talking more. There is so much weight off of my shoulders, and I love having the pressure off me. I never even liked being at the front of the room!” (Haley)

Professional conferences, such as the CPM Teacher Conference, can deeply impact teacher practices, as evidenced by the transformative experiences of Haley and Adam. As educators who often invest exorbitant amounts of time and energy into fostering students’ mathematical and personal well-being, we encourage you to make a commitment to engage in some intellectual self-care. Submit your innovative classroom idea as a conference proposal, or be a conference attendee and open yourself to collaborative, professional learning and national networking and see where it takes you. Be prepared to be inspired by new ideas that will innovate your teaching in career-changing ways. The return on your investment will be more than you ever imagined.

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.