Faculty PD: Inquiry, Discovery and Skill Building in Math Education

What is the best way to teach math?

As part of our continuing year long professional development in mathematics, grades 1-8 teachers participated in a full day workshop with Math Solutions, a company founded by renowned math educator Marilyn Burns.

Current state standards call for students to develop knowledge of computational procedures along with knowledge of when and how to use them appropriately. The goal is for students to become skillful in performing computational procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently, and with understanding.

This full day course provides teachers with a deeper understanding of procedural fluency beyond merely the ability to memorize procedures and apply them with little understanding. In addition, teachers learn strategies to support students in representing ideas visually, symbolically, and verbally, as well as strategies for helping students make connections between these different representations. (http://mathsolutions.com/)

The curriculum model developed and implemented by Breakwater allows faculty to concentrate on “power” skills, concepts, content and habits of mind that truly support optimal learning at each age and stage of a child’s life. This requires that teachers continually reflect on our practice, increase our own content knowledge, and explore a variety of instructional techniques that build deep and full toolboxes from which we can pull resources that appropriately address the needs of each student as they arrive in our classrooms.  

In an integrated, inquiry based learning environment, both direct instruction and play have roles in education. At Breakwater we continually investigate how to best balance “mucking about” and instruction to nurture each child’s development in all the ways that are important for them. Good instruction provides for the learning of math facts and skills, and fully understands that to use those skills learners require the conceptual understandings, mindset and character traits that are built from emergent, curiosity-led, authentic explorations. Breakwater teachers bring this understanding to our classrooms everyday, and are excited and committed to better refining our approach.

Supported by a variety of solidly researched teaching ideas and methods - of which Marilyn Burns, Dr. Jo Boaler at Stanford (watch her great TED Talk here) and Dr. Carol Dweck (researcher of “growth mindset”) are contributors - our faculty’s math professional development is all about honing our ability to provide children with the skills they need to feel and be confident and capable agents of their own learning at each stage of development - toddler through eighth grade, and into high school and beyond.