North Carolina teachers learn from each other, keynote speaker Bonnie Bolada during the 2022 Math Summit.

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Lillian Loftin-Bell, a first-grade teacher at Northside Elementary School in Chapel Hill, learned how to better engage her students’ minds and develop their conceptual understanding through North Carolina’s annual Math Summit.

Now in its sixth year, the Math Summit is sponsored by North Carolina State College and the Triangle Math Alliance, a regional consortium of public schools in Chapel Hill-Carbora, Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties, and funded by the Goodnight Education Foundation. now in his sixth year at NC State. This year is Loftin-Bell’s fourth year at the event.

“I love coming in and learning new ideas and strategies and ways to help my students improve in math,” she said. “The sessions are great and the speakers – especially the keynote speakers – are always great every year.”

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the math summit has been held virtually for the past two years. The 2022 event marked a return to an in-person event for the 800 North Carolina teachers who registered to participate on August 2nd.

Jeremy Ogburn, a fifth-grade teacher at Northridge Elementary School in Raleigh, attended the first in-person event and said he learned valuable information about using number lines that he has integrated into his classroom. This year he came to learn more about using math games in the classroom.

Meanwhile, Jasmine Adams, an eighth-grade math teacher at Rogers-Hare Middle School in Durham, was excited to learn more about how to use data appropriately in the classroom while teaching statistics. Additionally, she was excited about the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from across the state.

“It’s great to be among colleagues and peers and learn different strategies and information that can be used in our classrooms,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful here. Isolation [during COVID] there was a lot, so it’s nice to be around.”

Math Summit keynote speaker Bonnie Bolada, senior math specialist at the NC Center for Teaching Excellence, also encouraged teachers in attendance to collaborate with each other.

During her speech, Bolada took frequent pauses to invite educators to chat with each other and share their first experiences in the classroom, their strengths as educators and areas they hope to develop, and what strategies they look forward to bringing back to the classroom after the event. .

Sharing four key practices for mathematics teachers

Bollad’s keynote address, entitled “Moving Forward: Essential Guidelines for Best Practices”, encouraged educators to connect and be transparent with their students as they engage in learning, and shared four research-based best practices that educators can implement in their instruction.

“I encourage you to take the ones that are best for you. The thing about professional development is that you already have so many strengths when you come to the table. Professional development is not an overhaul, professional development is an addition to what you are already doing well,” she said.

  • Best Practice #1: Give Authentic Feedback: True feedback, Bolada said, should be based on students’ strengths. She encouraged teachers to understand how their students learn mathematics, giving them opportunities to develop and improve their skills, and then offer feedback that points to demonstrated strengths. “Just saying ‘good job’ is no longer enough.” We need to give specific feedback to our children. However, it must be fair, transparent and strengths-based.”
  • Best Practice #2: Mobilize Knowledge: Teachers are seen as the keepers of knowledge in the classroom, but they don’t always have to be, Bolado said. Encourage collaboration by putting students into randomly assigned groups with assigned roles and allowing them to work on a vertical surface, such as a whiteboard, where their work is visible to everyone, but mistakes can also be easily erased. Studies show that students who work this way spend more time on assignments and are more engaged in class compared to working at desks and writing in notebooks. “Making thinking visible allows you as a teacher to be more of a facilitator throughout the classroom; this practice we know is very important. If children are seen in random groups, it gives them the opportunity to think together, to think alternatively.”
  • Best Practice #3: Honoring Basic Knowledge: Sharing handouts before class, which allows students to share what they already know about a topic and see a list of ideas they will be learning in class, can help them activate prior knowledge to better participate in class. In addition, using pictures in lessons that can spark curiosity and give students the opportunity to tell the teacher or their peers what they already know can help reinforce basic knowledge. “Making sure we’re tapping into that surface knowledge is really important because it’s what brings curiosity to learning and increases student engagement.”
  • Best Practice #4: Fluency: Bolada said children learn math at different rates, but every teacher has a responsibility to develop students’ knowledge of facts regardless of grade level. If students don’t know the answer, ask them to share a fact they know and build on it. For example, if a student doesn’t know the answer to 9×7, but they know the answer to 9×2, the teacher can help them gain new information by starting with an equation they’ve already solved. “Honor what kids bring to the table, their strengths-based understanding with derivative facts. Talk one-on-one, no matter what grade they’re in…so they can grow authentically.”

North Carolina teachers learn from each other, keynote speaker Bonnie Bolada during the 2022 Math Summit.

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