Right before I graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, I was required to write a Teaching Philosophy. This was what I wrote in Spring of 2013: College Teaching Philosophy in 2013
Reflecting on whether much has changed on my teaching philosophy, I recognize there are foundational beliefs that I feel very strongly about. When I stated “I aspire to create a community of active learners,” I truly meant that. I do not believe that students can learn meaningfully through merely taking notes and listening to a teacher lecture for an extended period of time. I find myself very lucky to be in a supportive school district that coincides with a lot of my beliefs in teaching. We use the Connected Mathematics Program (CMP3) which allows students to explore and to think about mathematics deeply through a Launch, Explore, Summary model. Furthermore, I get to teach students for 80 minutes everyday so that they have time to explore and process new mathematical ideas.
Then: From my education, I experienced a lot of direct instruction. I remember going home with 20 practice problems to complete every night; skill and drill was the approach. I recall memorizing the Pythagorean Theorem and the Quadratic formula in 8th grade without really understanding what those equations meant. Math was a lot of rote memorization for me as a child, and I sadly, I was good at memorizing. It was not until I was a college student majoring in mathematics when I started making more connections and thought about mathematics more deeply. Struggling through Abstract Algebra and Abstract Linear Algebra and writing proofs, I began to making deeper connections in foundational mathematics at the secondary level. I made a vow to myself that once I understood the concepts that one day when I teach it to my students, I will not ask them to memorize but to help them understand WHY the mathematical concept works.
Now: As we are wrapping up our unit on finding the shortest distances, students had the opportunity to explore how to find the exact distances and formulated the Pythagorean Theorem through their investigations. I did not start the unit telling them to memorize a^2+b^2=c^2 and it is incredible to see how deeply students understand. Below are some student activities that helped them explore the Pythagorean Theorem.
Area and Perimeter Design Project
Students find exact diagonal distances by drawing area of tilted squares and square rooting the area to find the side length.
Students learn that the square root of the area of a square equals the side length of that square.
This summer I am proud to share that I am on a team of very talented and dedicated educators teaching for social justice. We are 8th grade algebra teachers from a Chicago suburb and use the Connected Mathematics Program (CMP3). All of our algebra classes use the same pacing guide and we appreciate that this curriculum dives deeper into the mathematics and currently 80% of our 8th graders test into Geometry for the high school. However, one struggle is relating the curriculum to our diverse population of learners. We want to embrace students more as many often ask “When are we every going to use this?” Yes, if you teach CMP3, Mugwumps are the cutest! But if we consider whether we are preparing our students for the 21st century through Mugwumps, we have a long way to go.
Our goal this summer is to implement social justice math into the 8 books from CMP3:
- Thinking with Mathematical Models (Linear Functions)
- Looking For Pythagoras (Pythagorean Theorem)
- Growing Growing Growing ( Exponential Functions)
- Frogs Fleas and Painted Cubes (Quadratic Functions)
- Butterflies Pinwheel and Wallpaper (Transformations)
- Say it with Symbols (Solving Equations)
- It’s in the System (Systems of linear Equations and Inequalities)
- Function Junction (All of the Functions and more)
I admit, this is no easy feat. And we are not seeking to perfect this over the summer. We are opening the conversation, collecting resources, and providing frameworks to help teachers figure out how to begin teaching Algebra through a social justice lens.
After our first meeting we have established the following agenda:
- Essential Question: How do you use Algebra to describe equities and inequities locally, state-wide, and globally? (I am considering another question as well…since math is all about proving and justifying ideas, perhaps a broader question is Why? How can you Prove it?)
- Creating Projects for CMP3: We plan to incorporate Project Based Learning using projects to replace some units. Two current units we are developing projects for are: BPW where students learn about transformations after watching this AWESOME video about The Complex Geometry of Islamic Design by Ted ED, research geometry and design in other cultures, code their own design, and 3D print it to create tessellations AND LFP where students analyze the map of Chicago and discuss distances (exact, shortest) , origin, etc.
- Student Created Warm-ups: Instead of the traditional can you do x amount of problems in 5 minutes as a warm-up, how cool would it be for students to create/bring in their own warm-ups for meaningful discussions using graphs and data about current events topics. Of course teachers would need to provide an example and model it for students first. But analyzing data and graphs, determining the relevance and accuracy is a key 21st century skill; my professor Dr. Steven Wolk would totally agree.
- Creating Guide for Teachers: Kind of like a How-To begin or FAQ for teachers interested in implementing bits and pieces.
- Creating a Platform for Teachers to ask Questions and Collaborate: We were thinking about creating a working Google Document, but perhaps this blog maybe the first start!
At the end of this summer, we hope to share our resources for all teachers interested in teaching social justice math.