TRC Takes Manhattan

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Ilene Kanoff, Strafford, VT
Penny Smits, De Pere, WI
Thor Tillberg, Brooklyn, NY

As a new school year begins to unfold, each one of us dreams about what our year will look like. We ponder all the possibilities and begin thinking about how those possibilities can become reality in our classrooms. Like thousands of other teachers, the group of Teaching Redesign Corps ( teachers did the same; however, last school year was a little different. Our classroom dreams and possibilities turned into reality and became contagious as we shared them on a bigger venue.

This past April, three TRC members (Ilene Kanoff, Penny Smits, Thor Tilberg) traveled to New York City to present their paper, “How Can A Growth Mindset Culture be Created That Increases Student Willingness to Investigate Mistakes as Opportunities for Learning? A Further Investigation” at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference.  The conference entitled, “The dreams, possibility, and necessity of public education,” was the catalyst that brought 15,000 educators and researchers from around the world together to share their findings.  It did not matter whether the speaker was a university professor, a classroom teacher, or a researcher, we all had a common goal: to do what is best for students.

According to American Educational Research Association website, AERA’s mission “strives to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good.” Founded in 1916, AERA has 25,000 members, both within the United States and internationally, who work in a variety of research areas. The goal of the organization is to provide a medium for the dissemination of research and this annual conference serves as one way for this to be accomplished.

This was the first time a TRC group’s paper was accepted by AERA and only the second time a paper was submitted for consideration. For CPM, the paper and subsequent presentation represents a milestone, in that AERA is a recognized leader in the field of education research and its application.

At the conference, there were many avenues to share research, from presentations to roundtable discussions to even poster presentations. Our research was presented at a roundtable entitled “Constructing Learning Opportunities Through Teacher Research.” The setting was a large ballroom where multiple round table discussions were occurring simultaneously. At our roundtable, there were two other teacher researchers that were presenting their research like us along with observers that were listening to our findings.

Our presentation began with sharing a common occurrence that inevitably happens in many of our classrooms when a student makes a mistake.  Students crumple up their paper, hide their mistakes in a folder, or discard them as if they never happened. Student do not like making mistakes; in fact they dislike it so much that in many cases they would rather not even try. The new mantra for some is that it better to not try at all than to try and risk failure in view of their peers.  Mistakes are viewed in these cases not as essential tools of learning, but as failures, something to cover up or discard. This view can be crippling in a math classroom where mistakes are inherent to the learning process.

In came the “possibility” to change this and our findings on growth mindset and mistakes.

Our group of TRC teachers set out to change not only how students felt about making mistakes, but also empower them with tools to handle mistakes once they were encountered. Our purpose was to create a culture that views mistakes as essential tools for learning by providing students with a variety of opportunities to productively learn from their own mistakes and the mistakes of others. We taught students about growth mindset and infused it into our classroom culture throughout the entire school year. When students were ready, we broached the subject of mistakes and created activities that helped students harness the power of mistakes to utilize them as a learning tool. This combination of growth mindset information and harnessing the power of mistakes transformed each one of our classrooms. No longer were valuable learning opportunities lost when students made a mistake. The possibility of transforming the classroom was no longer a dream, it was a reality. Students were embracing their mistakes and learning from them in a powerful way.

Both during and after our presentation, many who heard our message about growth mindset and mistakes urged us to “get the word out” to other teachers and organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), either through journal articles or speaking at their conferences. The fellow researchers at our table communicated that our research delved into an important area for mathematical learning. Since then, Smits and Kanoff have submitted a proposal to speak about the paper at the 2019 NCTM national conference.

In addition, each of us attended sessions held through the various venues. In those talks, we learned about the work other researchers were doing and the impact on students. For example, one presentation that was attended was “What is the value of classroom talk?” presented by researcher from the University of Melbourne. With each new session we attended, we were constantly reminded of the possibilities in education that are still out there to explore in an effort to improve our teaching practice.

AERA was just the beginning of the “dream or possibility of what there is to come.” Long live the TRC as it has allowed us to continue to investigate teaching practices that are best for our students. It continues to let us dream of the possibilities, explore them and put them into practice. What an energizing platform to be a part of with others who share the same passion.

As all three researchers dream of the possibility for this upcoming school year, there is one common thread that will happen in our classrooms; the power of creating a classroom culture that involves a growth mindset and promotes mistakes as an opportunity to learn will continue to thrive in each of our classrooms. As you prepare for the upcoming school year, we challenge you to act on the dreams you have in store for your students and turn them into reality.

A special thank you to Mark Coté and Judy Kysh for their help in editing the paper so that it was AERA ready and accepted. You made the dream a possibility!

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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.


Building on Instructional Practice Series

This series contains three different courses, taken in either order. The courses are designed for schools and teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM curriculum materials. Teachers will develop further understanding of strategies and tools for instructional practices and assessment.

Building on Equity

In this course, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their  classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for implementing Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Follow-up during the school year will support ongoing implementation of equitable classroom practices.

Building on Assessment

In this course, participants will apply assessment research to develop methods to provide feedback to students and to inform equitable assessment decisions. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

This professional learning builds upon the Foundations for Implementation Series by improving teachers’ 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 rigorous, team-worthy tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices.