MathMemos is a teacher space where adult educators share rich math problems, samples of student work, and practical suggestions for bringing the problems to life in the classroom. We believe that at the heart of every great math class is a great math problem. MathMemos contributors are adult educators who are passionate about teaching math through problem-solving activities.
For some ideas on getting started with Math Memos, click on the CollectEdNY review – Bring Math and Student Thinking Alive in the Adult Education Classroom.
Using MathMemos with Other Teachers
Taking the time to reflect on teaching and learning is a key factor in our growth as teachers. Two leading researchers in the field of math education, Mary K. Stein and Margaret Schwan Smith, argue that “cultivating a habit of systematic and deliberate reflection may hold the key to improving one’s teaching as well as to sustaining lifelong professional development.” In the video below from the Teaching Channel, a group of middle school teachers come together to talk about the work that their students produced in an activity involving ratios and proportional reasoning. Their experience gives them the opportunity to learn from their students’ thinking and, in turn, grow as teachers.
We have listed just a few suggestions below for how you can use the samples of student work on MathMemos for professional development. If you have other ideas for how to use MathMemos with other teachers, let us know!
Plan, Teach, and Reflect
Together with your colleague(s), download one of the MathMemo problems and take some time to solve it using as many different solution methods as you can. After each person has solved the problem, share your solution methods with one another. Next, download the samples of student work and talk about them as a group. This is the planning phase of the activity.
After your initial meeting with your group, each member should give the problem to their students. Make sure to collect or take photos of your students’ work! After the activity, reconvene with your colleagues and discuss how the activity played out in your classroom. Some questions to get your discussion started are:
- What did you notice about the work that your students produced?
- What did you do to ensure that your students were struggling productively?
- What might you change if you did the activity again?
- What do you think your students took away from working on the problem?
Finally, leave a comment on the website. Your comment might be a response to the author, it might summarize how you used the activity with your own students, or it might address something that other MathMemos users might find helpful in planning to use the problem in class.
Structure a Discussion of Student Work
Get together with another teacher, or a group of teachers, and solve one of the problems. Next, download all the samples of student work. Together with your colleagues, think about how you would structure a whole-class discussion based on the samples of work. You should think about your goal for student learning, and how you might order the presentations of student work to best support that goal. (See the CollectEdNY review of a Japanese math lesson on TIMSS for an example of ordering student solutions.)
Using MathMemos for Individual Professional Development
Plan, Teach, and Reflect
We don’t always have the luxury of meeting with other teachers to plan and discuss student thinking; as adult educators, we often need to create and plan lessons on our own. MathMemos allows teachers the opportunity to draw upon the experiences of other teachers and take those experiences into account when planning an activity.
First, download a problem and solve it in as many ways as you can. Make sure that you try solution strategies that your students will use in the classroom. After you have solved the problem, download the samples of student work and spend some time analyzing them. How do they compare to what you expected? What sorts of questions would you ask these students to support them as they solve the problem? Next, read the teacher writeup on mathmemos.org.
Give the problem to your students and collect samples of their work. Analyze their thinking and jot down some notes about how the activity went. What might you do differently next time? What challenges came up that you weren’t expecting? What do you think your students took away from the activity? After you have had some time to reflect on the problem and how your students interacted with it, leave a comment on the website.
Write a MathMemo
Each MathMemos post is the product of a teacher planning for and using a problem-solving activity in class and then reflecting on their experience. Taking the time to write your own post is a great way to pull back and reflect on both your own teaching practice and your students’ thinking. If you’re interested in writing a MathMemos post, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also download the contributor template here.
MathMemos was created by a grant from the New York State Education Department Office of Adult Career and Continuing Education Services.