Most adults have the same vague recollection of elementary or middle school math class. They remember sitting quietly at a desk working independently on pages of equations in a timed drill.
That was then.
“Today, students might work on one problem for a 60-minute period,” says Amy Morse, EDC project director and author of Cultivating a Math Coaching Practice. “They’d talk about their different strategies and ideas about how to solve a math problem.”
More and more, schools are engaging in this concept-based approach to learning mathematics, which is recommended by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, a leader in setting standards in math education. The result has been a demand for innovative instruction by teachers who can help students develop an understanding of the logic behind mathematics—as opposed to traditional rote memorization.
At EDC, these needs are met through the Mathematics Leadership Program (MLP). The program offers professional development during the summer at Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Massachusetts, and throughout the year on-site in schools all over the country.
These summer institutes are composed of one-week sessions for K–8 teachers (using a curriculum called Developing Mathematical Ideas), for math coaches (using a curriculum called Cultivating a Math Coaching Practice), and for district and school leaders (using a curriculum called Lenses on Learning).
One MLP course, for example, called Building a System of Tens, is designed to help teachers explore the structure of the base-10 number system.
While MLP was established in 2007, EDC summer institutes that prepare facilitators to lead seminars in Developing Mathematical Ideas (DMI) have been underway since 1998. DMI, the text and curriculum that help teachers process the major ideas of K–8 mathematics and examine how children develop those ideas, has sold more than 90,000 copies to date.
Contributing to the popularity of DMI is Boston Public Schools’ Math Plan, which since 2000 has called for K–5 teachers to take three DMI seminars.
“Every Boston teacher attends three DMI institutes,” says Deborah Schifter, coauthor of DMI and principal research scientist at EDC. “Most of the DMI facilitators in Boston worked with us at the summer institutes. I also worked with the Boston coaches during the year, and many of them led DMI seminars. The facilitators were then responsible for leading seminars for teachers in Boston Public Schools. “
The use of DMI in Boston Public Schools eventually led to the creation of MLP.
“When we began to offer the coaching program—Professional Development for Math Coaching—and Lenses on Learning, along with DMI, we created the Math Leadership Program as an umbrella for all three,” says Schifter.
Today, MLP continues to grow, most recently through the launch of its first website. The site provides easy access to details about all three programs, as well as related materials and research about concept-based math. It also outlines the summer program, which saw an enrollment of 250 last year.
“The hope is that teachers, coaches, and administrators will leave with the firm belief that children have ideas about math and with a finely tuned ear to hear those ideas,” says Morse.
Originally published on July 13, 2009