Math Literacy for the Information Age: A Proposal for Social Change

It is time to take a bold step that will dramatically increase the number of confident and competent mathematicians in our country. It is time to define math literacy and acknowledge our students’ achievements in becoming math literate. We currently use Algebra I proficiency as a placeholder, and this is a big mistake. The time has come for us to find earlier benchmarks in which students have acquired the math skills that are essential for success in life, and to celebrate gaining those skills under the banner of math literacy. Doing so will change our national dialogue about mathematics and will expand the pool of students who pursue higher-level math.

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Unraveling the Number Line

I want to share four important strategies for using number lines effectively in upper elementary grades. I have been concerned about the use of the number line, especially in upper elementary grades, because I’ve seen mixed results. There are times when I’ve seen teachers and students using the number line very effectively. And there are other times where it seems that the use of the number line can lead to complicated results and a lot of frustration.

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Lean On!

The script of Arjan’s Ignite! speech delivered at the NCSM National Conference on April 13, 2016:

So—it’s 1980 and I get my first teaching job, and I’m loving it.

I go to the principal. “I’d like to go into a class with a really experienced teacher and learn,” I say. He agrees; we talk with the teacher. It’s set.

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The Cognitive Sequence of Place Value Models

Upper elementary students must master place value in order to understand large numbers, and visual models can play a pivotal role. Grasping the base ten system is a big cognitive step from the one-to-one correspondence of counting and ordinance. By the fourth grade, students are working with numbers so large that counting is completely impractical. They must understand groups of ten, one hundred, and beyond by learning the value of each place in the base ten system.

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Elementary Math Teachers: Are They Missing Out?

A wonderful Twitter Math Camp brought enlightened and energized educators together this summer. Witnessing the event through the lens of social media, I saw charismatic teachers, mission-driven organizations, and thoughtful publishers taking bold steps to promote problem solving and achievement for all students.

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Books about Professional Coaching and Instructional Rounds

I love being coached, especially when the coaching is really good. Over the last five years, I have benefited from 1:1 coaching in musical performance, cycling, meditation, business leadership, working with educators, and more. From my perspective, coaching is a natural fit for the noble and challenging careers of teaching and school administration. Think about one teacher, alone in a room with 25 children, for 180 days a year. This is a perfect scenario for professional coaching.

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Harry Potter and the Math Demon

It is 9:30 pm. A sixth-grader is curled around the pages of Harry Potter while his mother cajoles him to turn off the light. This youngster will apply his reading skills for the rest of his life. He will slay demons, travel to worlds real and fictional, and communicate with friends near and far – all through the gift of literacy. What will be his tangible rewards for developing strong sixth-grade mathematics skills? Is he, as an emerging young man, confident that math will play a meaningful role in his future? We, as educators, need to show students their true math powers at an early age. If we give them the chance, these youngsters can slay some big demons.

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Let the Kids Dance!

I am sitting on an airplane with the movie Footloose playing in the background. True to my nature, watching the movie makes me think about math education. In the film, teens are unhappy about rules and expectations imposed on them. In the math classroom, students are similarly unhappy with the requirements. Are there any real parallels here? Let’s see.

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