Chris is joined in the studio by Eric Crantz who is the Partnership Liason at AIMS as well as a Math Coach for the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. They discuss his role as a coach, the teachers he supports, and his connection to AIMS as Partnership Liason. Eric has, as part of his assignment, 20% load dedicated to working with the researchers here at the Center. While he does not read everything as closely as those who work here daily, his knowledge of how children come to know is extensive. His most vital role with us here though is keeping us connected to the teaching community and reminding us about the subtle differences required in helping adult learners, teachers, to change their practices to fit their new knowledge.
Scott Nielsen joined the AIMS research division in June 2017 and joins Chris in the studio this week. They talk about what his work is like, how he got to the place in his career that he finds himself now. He relates an important shift in his thinking about how students interact with mathematics in school. From middle school math and woodshop teacher to a Research Associate was a significant shift in perspective for Scott and he describes it brilliantly.
Chris is joined via Skype by three highly successful and well supported “Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSA).” They chat about how these three women entered into this role, and what their days/lives are like. The passion for good teaching, and the joy of working together as a team are evident in their conversational tone and topics. Clearly these three are passionate about helping children construct meaningful understandings of mathematics and spreading the joy of learning. They discuss the role of the district in making them the successes that they are, providing support and encouragement along the way.
The role of the TOSA is not well understood outside of the confines of a school district. Often they are ignored in negotiations, thought of as elite and therefore separate from, most teachers, and generally most people don’t have an understanding of this role. They provide an important service to teachers and therefore students.
Chris is joined in the studio by two of the AIMS Research Associates and they discuss how children develop the ability to coordinate units. The title of the podcast today is meant to be provocative, not judgmental. We examine some of the evidence they have seen that demonstrates how children can construct their own strategies for coordinating units. The research seems to indicate a linkage between this developmental pathway and stronger algebraic thinking in later years.
Welcome to ZPC Podcast, from time to time I will be interviewing members of the research team here at AIMS. There are many reasons to do this, chief among them is the idea of letting you, our faithful listeners, in on what it is we are “about” here at AIMS these days. Our teams of RAs, as we call them, have been consistently reading important research into how children form number concepts and make meaningful use of these concepts. They also are involved directly in classroom situations where they attempt to put into practice what they are reading. These podcasts then are an attempt to let them tell some stories, stories about what they see, hear, learn and cause in children. So join us as we investigate “The Stories of AIMS”
Research Associate Brook Lewis is in the studio with Chris this week. Brook has been working with students who are in the 6-8 year old range, and she has been working on understanding how these children build their own concepts related to rudimentary multiplication. She relates a story or two about what she observed over time as she watched a child, “Max,” create for himself the ability to “skip count,” by three. What the research indicates is that children who have this type of developmental experience approach multiplication with more robust concepts to build on. A contrast is drawn between this form of instruction and teaching by rote recitation a number pattern like 3, 6, 9, 12...
Joining via Skype, Dr. Hilary Kreisberg describes her passion for helping parents in the US come to grips with the changes in mathematics instruction. She is very passionate about helping people to grapple with how things look different, but that difference is not always a bad thing, and in fact, often represents a better plan. We discuss a recent informal survey she conducted on parent understandings and feelings about mathematics instruction in schools today. While she is quick to point out that it lacks scientific rigor, the results of her study are interesting nonetheless.
Dr. Thiessen joins Chris in the studio they talk more about the Biological underpinnings of the theory. Both Jean Piaget, and Humberto Maturana come at the ideas within Constructivism after earning doctoral degrees in biology. We talk about some connections to neuro and cognitive sciences, finally ending with some allusions to an evocative object Richard used in his Colloquium talk on this subject. There is nothing inherently epistemological within the Reuleaux Triangle; but the process he went through to come to understand this object, his interactions with it, and his own prior knowledge that he brought to bear in exploring it are.
Research Associate Elin Anderson joins Chris in the studio today. They discuss her transition from working with the teams aimed at 5 to 6 year olds to the teams aimed at 7 to 9 year olds. This change has been interesting for her as she has been studying how the things we learn in the earlier years get tagged onto, and built up in the ensuing years. She also relates a story which provides a note of both caution and wonder. Caution to researchers to never forget you are working with human beings, and even in low level investigations we should keep this in mind. Wonder as well about the amazingly complex world of children’s thinking.
Dr. Ron Tzur and his doctoral student Nicola Hodkowski join us in the studio for a discussion of their work related to Student Adaptive Pedagogy in the Upper Elementary Grades. This is a very promising field of enquiry that shows great potential for changing teaching of upper elementary students for the better. With its focus on student conceptualizations of number as its starting point, this theory has shown great success in predicting successful teacher moves that foster and spur on student development of multiplicative and fractional thinking. This team has recently published a well received study with the Psychology of Mathematics Education Association that used a rigorous mixed methodology to demonstrate that the four areas Nicola describes in the interview are strongly predictive of success for students.
Sunil Singh, the Mathematical Jester himself, joins us again via Skype this week. Yes he has a book that is just out (that everyone should read) and has been busy recording webinars and traveling about as a Lead Ambassador to the Global Math Project; but he stops to talk about some deep ideas with Chris. The conversation is a good lead in to the Global Mathematics Project’s Global Math Week coming up in October 2017. Referenced in today’s chat is an article by the former President of the Mathematical Association of America, Francis Su Ph.D. in which he describes “The Mathematics of Human Flourishing” (follow the link to the article itself). This idea that mathematics can, and should be taught as a subject to help children become more fully human pervades the discussion.