I was super lucky to do the Reimagining High School Math morning session with Sadie Estrella. This session first came to be with a conversation on the eve of the TMC deadline.
We spent the next 20 minutes polishing up a draft proposal. A few weeks later we found out we were accepted and we started planning.
As we started to plan we had one overarching goal: to have people leave prepared to DO something. Reaching that goal meant a few things would have to happen. Participants would have to talk honestly about their schools or districts and what needed to be reimagined there. Everyone’s school is different, and we’d find it impossible to predict what changes were needed in each school. Schools are also full of people, and any change is going to involve getting people on board. This meant that we wanted people to practice the experience of pitching their idea at TMC before they go home while thinking about all of their social dynamics.
We started planning early to get an idea of how to make this unstructured session happen. In trying to build a session around ideas that we don’t know, it’s kind of like trying to plan a meal for Chopped without knowing what the secret ingredient will be. We did a couple of twitter chats ahead of time, just so we could harvest some ideas from people in the #MTBoS. The more we talked with other people, however, the more it became clear that we couldn’t really gather enough information to pretend to be the experts about any of the possible ideas. My list of potential ideas went from 5 to 15 to 50+. It was clear that we couldn’t expect to narrow the focus to a central idea like de-tracking, for example. Instead we focused on giving people lots of time to think about their situation and their idea, and how they can go about making change there while we’d do our best to help them feel supported.
On the first day we did an affinity mapping activity with post-it notes. Our group used as many post-its as they could to answer the question above, and then we moved them all around into groups afterwards. We took pictures of these and put them on this google doc:
We called it a twitter storm because we wanted twitter to help us brainstorm resources. If you look in there you will see each of the clusters and then some relevant resources below it.
On day 2 people thought about their school and the ideas that would make the most difference there. The next day everyone wrote out descriptions of their idea and took turns giving each other feedback. Ideas were as a varied as we’d expected. Everyone had a different idea for their school which reflected their different backgrounds (private, public, urban, rural, etc). A thread emerged connecting the ideas. Each idea was just the first step towards some larger cultural change. The larger change that everyone wanted was some different. Maybe a shift away from forcing everyone towards calculus, or a shift towards more collaboration, or a space for teachers to do more risk-taking. These cultural shifts echoed the conversations we have on twitter and in a number of places about how math education should change. It was probably predictable that larger culture change was beneath the surface of each idea, just as it was predictable that the ideas would be unpredictable. However these unique, unpredictable ideas created by each individual represented a realistic set of first steps towards the kind of larger math changes that fill all of our imaginations.
People left preparing plans to meet with teachers at their schools, or to start online initiatives, or to create math jams where teachers could get to know each other. The last idea already happened:
Checked out my first (and not last) @ChicagoMathJam! #rehsmath @carloliwitter @wahedahbug pic.twitter.com/tdsZ14lSgp
— chris nho (@nhoskee) July 25, 2018
Every person had a different way to get people back home to start to think differently about high school math, and I’m excited to hear what happens with them. I’m also excited to help more people think about the change that needs to happen in their school/district some in the future.
Here are our slides:
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