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Creating A Community Annual Report

submitter: Creating A Community of Mathematics Learners
published: 12/16/1999
posted to site: 12/17/1999

Creating a Community of Mathematics Learners (CCML) is a five-year local systemic change project targeting all teachers of mathematics (middle/junior high and high school teachers) from six districts: Bellevue, Lake Washington, Mercer Island, Northshore, Seattle, and Shoreline. The project is based on the belief that creating a community which supports ongoing exploration and improvement in teaching of mathematics is critical to making significant progress towards meeting national, state and district goals in mathematics education. Professional development activities focus on increasing teachers' understanding of mathematics and issues related to curriculum, instruction and assessment; on preparing them to use exemplary curriculum materials; and on fostering a sense of a functioning community. Faculty from the University of Washington's Departments of Mathematics and Statistics and College of Education partner with teachers and school district personnel in planning and faci! litating project activities.

The project offers 132 hours of professional development activities in the form of workshops and summer institutes. Activities for middle/junior high school teachers began in 1996 and continued through 1999. Activities for high school teachers of mathematics began in 1998 and will extend through 2001. CCML expects to work with approximately 600 teachers over the five years of the project.

The third year of CCML was a transition year with the primary focus moving from middle school teachers to high school teachers. Three one-day workshops formed the core of professional development for middle school teachers during the academic year. The project also offered optional workshops, Geometry Saturdays, and a summer institute for teachers who joined the project in the second or third year. The main events for the high school teachers included an overnight orientation, a one-day workshop, and summer institutes, focusing on content, pedagogy, and leadership.

Meetings with middle school department chairs and their principals were the first activities of the middle school component for 1998-1999. The purpose of these meetings was to invite these leaders to identify ways that the project and their schools might collaborate in nurturing and sustaining the work of the local learning communities forming within the middle and junior high schools. As a result of these meetings, the project designed activities to help the local learning communities develop, implement, and evaluate community action plans. In addition to these activities, the three core workshops engaged teachers in investigations to deepen their understanding of several geometric topics: similarity, transformations, symmetry, and constructions. The project utilized resources developed by the Washington Commission on Student Learning to increase teachers' understanding of mathematical communication, mathematical reasoning and assessment.

Conversations with district representatives and prospective participants during the summer and fall of 1998 encouraged the project to consider a format for the high school component that would give more flexibility in choice of dates for participation than had been offered in the middle school component. Several schools anticipated a number of retirements and they were given the choice of starting the project in the fall of 1999 rather than in the spring, to maximize participation. Also, the summer institutes were scheduled at three different times during the summer in order to accommodate differing schedules. Those departments choosing to begin the project in the spring of 1999 attended an orientation in March, which gave participants an opportunity to engage in experiences that demonstrated the goals of the project. They participated in an inquiry-based activity in which the mathematical content was transformations. The draft of the NCTM's Principles & Standards was used to help participants reexamine assumptions that underlie their current work with high school students. The participants had been encouraged to attend as a department so that they could begin considering working together as a local learning community. Activities to help them assess the current level of community were shared. To encourage articulation with their feeder schools, they were invited to invite representative middle/junior high school teachers to participate in the orientation with them.

Activities for a one-day workshop in April and the summer institute were designed to continue the emphasis on the inquiry method. The workshop offered a hands-on investigation of the functioning of gears on a multiple-speed bicycle. Mathematical concepts such as relationship between variables, particularly directly proportional, inversely proportional, and linear relationships, and various representations of these relationships provided the foci for this experience. The mathematical content of the summer institute focused on probability/data analysis and geometry/spatial relationships. Several participants said that the type of mathematical enrichment that the project offered was the best they had experienced in their entire careers as teachers.

In addition to the probability and geometry institute during the summer, participants had the option to attend an inquiry-based learning experience related to calculus. Professor Steve Monk from the UW Department of Mathematics offered a six-day institute entitled "Mathematics of Motion: A Hands-on Approach to Calculus." Dr. Monk designed an interactive setup using miniature cars moving on inclined tracks. The motion of the cars can be controlled and measured instantaneously. Multiple representations are utilized in order to identify and explore misconceptions that are commonly held about motion.

The second cohort of high school participants started project activities this fall with an orientation similar to the one held last spring. A meeting with all the high school department chairs provided the project with an opportunity to receive feedback on the proposed plan for 1999-2000 and to learn more about their most pressing needs. The implications of education reform in Washington State became more real for high school teachers fall 1999 as they received scores on the 10th grade Washington Assessment on Student Learning.