[NCTMNOLA Processing Session 5] Networks and Silos

This will be the fifth and final NCTMNOLA Processing Session. It’ll be short too, just a quick debrief.

I vacillate between the poles of “math is different” and “math is just like other subjects.” Sometimes I wonder if math teachers use its alleged differentness as an excuse to teach it in an overly linear way. On the other hand, it sure seems different, doesn’t it? I’m not convinced either pole is correct, at least not for more than 72 hours at a time. I will say that math does feel especially silo’ed. I mean, here we were at a conference full of math educators and pretty much only math educators. We have our own vocabulary, our own best practices, our own standards of practice, our own conference, our own software. Yet still, we struggle as a profession to do the basics: get students to talk mathematically. Are we too buffered from other disciplines? I have the incredible opportunity to spend significant time with non-math teachers and much of what I do is taken from them: the way I conduct my debriefs, a See/Think/Wonder routine for interpreting works of art, fishbowls, Critical Friends for peer editing and solution review. These are protocols and facilitation moves usually reserved for non-math disciplines, to math’s detriment. 

In general, I wonder about the long-term sustainability of effective math teaching if single teachers are the unit of change, instead of systems. Here is what I mean: Seattle and University of Washington have an amazing system in place to keep their practice of Complex Instruction rolling, even as teachers move on. Most communities don’t have that systemic approach. When they lose a teacher, they have to start from scratch, hiring, professionally developing, and inducting (or shielding) that teacher into (from) the school culture.

However, what we do have is a network of educators online, on blogs and twitter, all the time at our beck and call. Maybe this is our permanent system that will outlast those of us who gracefully exit the classroom. 

Thank you to all my online collaborators that I got to meet in person and all the online collaborators that I have yet to meet.

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Previous Processing Sessions:

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