Empathy education. Is it valuable? Should teachers set aside precious time and resources to have students learn to appreciate one another? What about teachers in schools where the performance is not high? Can they afford to focus on social-emotional learning? I got my answer last week when I visited a public elementary school on Chicago’s southwest side. I saw rigorous, top-tier teaching that centered around building empathy and enacted best-practices that will likely raise student test scores in the near term and give them life-supporting skills for the long term.
I recently became involved in The Nora Project, teaching children empathy for peers who have disabilities and based in a Chicago suburb just miles from where I was raised. I have been reflecting on my childhood influences that once steered me to invent special education technologies and now attract me to this project. The block where I was raised happened to be home to many people who lived with disabilities. My dad, who played the role of neighborhood Santa Claus, helped one such person to secure a nice job at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. In this holiday season, I offer my story. It is a story of empathy, making a difference, and helping others to make the world a better place.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Years ago, I flew through a whirlwind theatrical experience with Robin Williams that left an indelible impression on me. Today, with his tragic passing, I share this story to offer an intimate glimpse into a brilliant and compelling man.
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.