Updated: Jan 10
“When am I ever going to use this?” is a question every math teacher has faced, but it’s also a question a lot of math teachers ask after sitting through professional development that feels irrelevant and disconnected from what they actually want and need to increase student achievement.
Since leaving my own high school math classroom in 2018 to found CollaboratEd, I’ve provided over 90 workshops to over 1200 secondary math teachers through my client work with schools, districts, and state departments of education. The most common feedback I get from teachers is
"These strategies are so easy to implement in my classroom tomorrow"
"Thank you for making this relevant for me as a secondary teacher"
So often math teachers have been asked to sit through generic all school PD that doesn’t quite connect to their math classroom. Or the district brought in a math consultant, but all the strategies are elementary focused and irrelevant for them as secondary teachers. More often, I have found that professional development is often too heavily theory based and while full of good ideas and intentions, lacks the experiential component and leaves teachers wondering, “how do I actually use and apply this in my own classroom?”
In this post, I’m sharing my top 4 tips for math PD. Please note, the support and resources math teachers need in 2021 is different. We’ve had a very disrupted last few years of school and the PD we provide for our teachers needs to reflect those changes. I personally feel that our focus for Fall 21-22 should be on helping students enjoy mathematics and enjoy being in our math classrooms again, regaining a sense of normalcy and belonging. It’s vital that our PD experiences provide exemplars of how to do this well.
#1) Content prioritization
In 21-22 we need to prioritize major content and let some of the other content go. But what is the major content of each grade level? And what was the major content of the prior grade level (or two) that my students might need some extra support with? The resources at achievethecore.org are incredible to answer this question! You can check out the Focus by Grade Level docs on their website or let me take you through a process to use and understand the docs in my 3-part blog series, Planning for Unfinished Learning in Mathematics for 21-22.
#2) Student Engagement Strategies
I strongly believe that our focus for Fall 21-22 should be on helping students enjoy mathematics and enjoy being in our math classrooms again, regaining a sense of normalcy and belonging. Engagement will be the key to this. Register for the Math Engagement Workshop to learn six engagement activity structures you can use with any math content to spark discussion and participation from each and every student. In this 90 minute virtual workshop you’ll walk away with multiple strategies you can implement tomorrow that will
Get students to feel comfortable talking in the classroom with their peers
Help 6th-12th grade students who struggle have a more positive relationship with math
Make math approachable for ALL students
This is one of the most incredible online math workshops for teachers. The strategies are specific for grade 6-12 teachers who work with students who struggle with math (students with IEPs, students who are historically underserved, ELLs) so whether you’re looking for math workshops for middle school teachers or math workshops for high school teachers, this has got you covered! Click here to register for the Math Engagement Workshop!
#3) Student Motivation Strategies
The last two years have been disruptive. We need to help motivate our students even more than usual. I cannot recommend the YouCubed.org website enough for this! It’s cofounded by math education guru and Stanford Professor, Dr. Jo Boaler. It’s filled with activities, tasks, and growth mindset student friendly videos. What more could you ask for? Oh and it’s free.
#4) Strategies That Are Immediately Applicable
I recently polled my email list of math teachers to ask what their biggest frustrations were with PD. Here were the top 3 responses
No time for implementation.
I would love to see it in action rather than be told about it
I have been teaching for a long time, so my biggest frustration is that I hear the same thing over and over. Teach me something new that I can use today!
If you are leading your math PD, please keep these teacher frustrations in mind. When planning your math PD make sure you’re modeling the strategies you want teachers to use and giving them time to fit it into their plan. These ideals guide each and every math workshop I provide for teachers, whether in my client work or independent workshops.
Do you agree or disagree with anything on this list? Let me know over on instagram where I share my blog posts and so much more!