It is only the fifth day of school, but it already feels like we have been back for a month. Summer was great, but it just seems to fly by. And before you know it, we are back at work getting ready for the new school year. That is one thing about being a teacher, there is no easing back into it. School preparations hit you full force because you have a classroom of excited and anxious students waiting for you, whether you are ready or not. So teachers spend time preparing for those smiling faces before they even walk in the door.
This summer, the staff of Laurel Mountain spent time being learners. We were very lucky to have Dr. Rachel McAnallen, who is lovingly referred to as Ms. Math, present to the staff on the Wednesday during our staff development week. Rachel is a Keynote Speaker and strand teacher at Confratute at the University of Connecticut each year. That is where we first learned about her and where she first opened up our math eyes. Since we did not send staff to Confratute this year, we used part of our Excellence Fund to bring an expert to us. It was like having a little piece of Confratute right here in Austin, Texas.
Here is a little about Ms. Math taken from her website, Zoid and Company (http://zoidandcompany.com/):
Ms. Math, Dr. Rachel McAnallen
Known simply as "Ms. Math" to children across the country, Rachel McAnallen has devoted her life to sharing the joy and beauty of mathematics with learners of all ages. A professional educator for over half a century, Rachel travels the world teaching her subject at every grade level. In addition to her experience in the classroom, Rachel has served as a department chair, a school board member, and a high school administrator - she claims the latter position is responsible for the majority of her gray hair.
Rachel has a passion for teaching, golf, and mathematical modular origami, though not always in that order. As a life-long learner, Rachel completed her PhD at the University of Connecticut at age 75. Rachel approaches the world around her with a boundless curiosity and a playful sense of humor that is reflected in her teaching style.
Ms. Math was very entertaining and made you ponder about math and question the way you were taught math. You had to call numbers by their right name and respect the decimal. Rachel emphasized using the correct math language across the grade levels and not underestimating what our children can understand and explain. She showed that there are countless ways to add, subtract, multiply and divide. And she encouraged us to be creative with our thinking and problem solving. Rachel gave us time to think through the problems and did not rush the learning process. She respected mistakes because that is how we learn. She exactly thanked us for our mistakes. She showed the staff that algebra is embedded into the math that we teach and demonstrated how we can teach math using algebraic approaches. She made us take an oath promising to call numbers by their correct name and to respect the decimal. Overall, Ms. Math taught us that math is fun, entertaining and all around us (just look at your 10 fingers and toes).
Lots of smiles and laughs as Rachel teaches the teachers.
And the staff LOVED her. Those of us who have listened to her at Confratute knew they would. Here is what one of our 2nd grade teachers, Ms. Kate Fredrickson, had to say about the workshop:
I really enjoy Ms. Math's training yesterday. One of the things I particularly liked about her demeanor was that with her acceptance of mistakes and willingness to explain, she was able to create a safe space where people felt comfortable admitting that they were "hazy." I believe that this is particularly vital in a math setting, since the subject causes anxiety for many people. I also loved how she simplified the algorithms that most of those in the room were accustomed to using, creating a new way of solving problems that opened the door for creativity and made more sense logically. For the first time in quite a while, I felt validated in my understanding of a subject that I do not typically view as a strength. It was empowering and exciting for me, so I can only imagine the effect these mathematical techniques would have on students who are learning and practicing concepts for the first time.
Ms. Math giving teachers time to explain their thoughts and question each other.
So, the staff at LME would like to thank you everyone who supported the Excellence Fund last year. Because of your generosity, we were able to bring Ms. Math to LME. Your children benefit from this training because our teachers take what they learned straight into the classroom and how they teach your child.
This year, when your child comes home talking about respecting the decimal or calling a hundred a hundred or a homework assignment where the teacher gave the answer, but they have to show 10 different ways to solve, you can thank Dr. Math for making math engaging, fun and creative. And give yourself a little pat on the back for supporting the Excellence Fund and making this all possible.
We are teaching our students to understand that "arithmetic is answering the question, whereas mathematics is questioning (McAnallen)." And that is just another way that we develop world-class talent right here at LME.
Everyone was engaged throughout the day. THANK YOU Rachel for making math fun and showing us that there is no need to be scared of math.