This year’s NCTM conference has come and gone, but not without some meaningful math education experiences! We know it’s not always easy to miss school and travel far and wide to make it to the conference, which is why we’re sharing some of our favorite moments from NCTM. Here are our top five:
1. Jo Boaler’s talk on mathematical mindsets was worth running to.
I can’t tell you how amazing (and slightly terrifying) it felt to be in a crowd of hundreds running to Jo Boaler’s talk about mathematical mindsets. The enthusiasm for math education was palpable as Boaler—a Stanford University math education professor—shared her work on brain research and its connections to developing an open approach to math.
Like so many of us, Boaler advocates for a growth mindset in every student in every classroom. This means going against traditional teaching methods, like allowing kids to count on their fingers, not tracking students, and making education research more accessible to the masses.
2. Not all manipulatives are created equal.
I think I can speak for most of us when I say I believe in modeling and using manipulatives—especially when it comes to teaching fractions. Models help students see fractions as a number as well as support their ability to estimate relative size, and make mental representations.
But which models should you use (and when)? That is the perennial question. Debra Monson and Kathleen Cramer researched which models best support fraction instruction and in what sequence.
Their winners: fraction circles, paper folding, chips, and number lines. Fraction circles were best for supporting initial understanding of fractions and their values. Later they can be used to understand equivalence. Folding rectangular strips of paper is important for moving beyond fractions as circles. Chips are great for showing fractions of a set. Number lines best support estimating sums and differences when adding and subtracting fractions. Folding square patty paper (the kind that’s used to separate burger patties) is optimal for showing fraction multiplication.
3. Need math intervention ideas for struggling students?
Elementary teacher Laurie Kilts gave a great presentation about Response to Intervention (RtI) instruction and mathematics. For many teachers, this can be a tough area to know how to approach and where to begin. Kilts shared current free RtI research from the Institute of Education Sciences with eight recommendations to identify and reach students struggling in math; she also described how she’s implementing these recommendations in her instruction.
4. You can make any moment a math moment.
Lining your kids up for lunch? Calling your classroom to order? Or maybe you just need a new idea for a vocabulary lesson? Whatever it is, educators Joann Barnett, Emily Combs, and Ann McCoy had some great ideas on how to use the spare moments between activities to reinforce math.
For example, have your students line up in factors or multiples of a certain number. Or use a math phrase to call your classroom to order (the example I heard was “1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, these are unit fractions”). Another idea: Have students think of a math vocabulary term for each letter of the alphabet. All of these are ways you can create engaging routines using the Standards for Mathematical Practices in your classroom.
5. Meeting math educators is the bomb!
We editors don’t travel as much as we’d like to. Especially when it comes to meeting math teachers in classrooms around the country. That’s why it was wonderful to talk to so many math educators during the conference. From the conference floor, to group discussions during sessions, to an impromptu chat in the elevator about the real-world application of MATH (had to insert my shameless plug somewhere!), I appreciated talking to each and every one of you about how you approach math in your classroom.
Did you attend the conference? Do you have an experience you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear from you! E-mail me.
Hope to see you next year!