Since I left the classroom in 2018 to found CollaboratEd Consulting, I’ve been hired by over 45 schools and provided high quality math professional development for over 1300 secondary math teachers.
I’ve also learned a thing or two about clues it might be a good time to bring in a math consultant to help the math teachers at your school or district. Whether you look into a partnership with myself or another independent math consultant, education consulting firm, or a math textbook consultant, I hope you find this post helpful in addressing your needs.
#1) Equity Gap
Very early on I realized most schools were hiring me because their black and brown students were failing math at disproportionately higher rates than their white peers. Also students with special needs, on 504 plans, and English language learners were failing math at higher rates in their school or district. Math is a gatekeeper subject. Teaching math needs to be deeply rooted in equity and it’s time that we intentionally address our implicit bias and inequities as math teachers. But math teachers need help with this. As a former classroom math teacher in historically underserved communities myself, I get it. Math teachers need a consultant who has been in their shoes and can help them bring to light and address inequities. It’s a delicate balance. A sensitive topic. But we must start having these vulnerable conversations if we’re to move math instruction forward. A math consultant who is passionate about equity can help facilitate these conversations and equip teachers with tools to make changes in their practice towards equity.
Tip: Elena Aguilar’s, Coaching for Equity, is the best resource I have found for this type of work.
#2) Toxic Math Department Culture
There’s something about math departments that make them different from any other subject area. It can also be challenging to find a math department chair that is interested in educational leadership. As a result, many math departments have a toxic culture that contributes to high math teacher turnover. I know, because I have been part of one. At the end of one school year I still didn’t even know all the math teachers' names because the department chair had done absolutely nothing to build community. I felt isolated. And so did many of the other teachers. Hiring a math consultant to help rebuild your math department culture is a great remedy to this problem. Schools have hired me to do this by coaching their department chairs in a service I call, Math Leadership Coaching. We read a common text together to empower their educational leadership abilities and we co-plan department meetings to help implement what they’re learning.
Tip: Elena Aguilar’s, Art of Coaching Teams, is a must read for any math department chair.
#3) New Math Curriculum
This is probably the most popular clue it’s time for a math consultant. My first year of teaching I was given a problem based curriculum with absolutely no professional development on how to implement it and it was a disaster. When schools purchase a new curriculum, they are often encouraged to also purchase professional development from the textbook company, but there are two issues with this. One, it’s usually incredibly expensive and some math departments are so small the cost feels difficult to justify. Two, the math consultants used by these huge textbook companies have sometimes never even been a math teacher. When a consultant comes in that has never taught math, but is teaching math teachers how to teach math, it does not go well. Many independent math consultants like myself are familiar with a plethora of math curricula and can help teachers implement your newly adopted textbook with fidelity and excitement. I encourage you to reach out to the math consultants you’re considering and ask if they have any experience with your new curriculum.
#4) No Math Curriculum
Textbooks are expensive. I get it. In my previous role as a district math coach and TOSA I was heavily involved with my district’s textbook adoption and seeing those invoices was alarming. In order to save money, lots of schools and districts opt for no math curriculum and allow teachers to find their own resources on teachers pay teachers or use free, open source curriculum websites. Utilizing a math consultant when your teachers have no math curriculum is incredibly beneficial. For one, math consultants can help you find and adopt a math curriculum if that’s what you need. Many independent math consultants like myself are familiar with a plethora of math curricula and can help you find a math curriculum that meets your needs, your math teachers' wants, and your students' needs, as well as walk you through the textbook adoption process with your staff. Secondly, hiring a math consultant when teachers are using multiple different curricula can help unify the math department around instructional strategies instead of following a curriculum to a tee. Independent math consultants are often experts in certain strategies or pedagogical approaches to math instruction. For me personally, I’m passionate about increasing student engagement in math and show teachers easy to implement strategies that get all (and I mean all) students participating in our math classrooms. Other math consultants will have other specialities like project based learning, problem based learning, etc. I encourage you to ask math consultants what their passion is and see if it’s in line with your wants and needs.
#5) Teachers Aren’t Taking Your Advice
Many district admin and math subject area coordinators hire me because my beliefs about math instruction and pedagogy are similar to their own. They’ve modeled the strategies at their all staff math professional development days and have seen no implementation, no change in teacher practice. Then they hire me and I share very similar strategies that get implemented immediately. Sometimes bringing in someone from the outside of your organization brings a fresh perspective that your teachers need. Don’t be afraid to share this with your prospective math consultants. Share what you’ve tried with your staff, what changes you want to see in the math classrooms in your school or district, and see if they’re a good fit with your pedagogy. Bringing in a math consultant to provide math professional development for teachers is the most popular service I personally provide for clients. Consultants that specialize in professional development for math teachers often have done extensive research on adult learning theory and that along with their content area expertise makes them a fantastic option for providing your teachers with engaging math professional development.
Tip: If you run professional development for math teachers, check out this blog post on what math teachers want in their PD.
I hope you’ve found this list helpful. If you’d like to get in touch with me about my services and pricing, contact me today. I can’t wait to hear about your unique needs and challenges as we create a plan to change math instruction at your site. If I’m not the right math consultant for you, I’ll be happy to share other colleagues' information as well.
Curious about my facilitation style?
Download a video clip of me facilitating virtual PD as well as a printable PDF guide to use with your staff at your next PD meeting.