"What's the problem?"
Problem solving workshops for Math Teachers
Teachers in Greeley, Colorado are going back to school - not as teachers, as students.
The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) Math Department is burning the midnight oil helping local middle school math teachers stay sharp. Formed in 2013, a team of math professors, passionate about teaching, became the Northern Colorado Math Teachers' Circle (NoCOMTC).
"Our goal as a Math Circle, is for teachers to use the problem-solving skills learned in the workshops and return to their classrooms excited about mathematics, increasing student learning as a result," shares Dr. Gulden Karakok, co-director of NoCOMTC, and UNC School of Mathematical Sciences faculty member.
Teacher/participants sign-up for the evening workshops that focus on problem-solving activities. They go once a month for three hours of intensive work.
“As a ‘teacher-student’ in the workshops, I see math from my students’ point of view,” shared one teacher/participant.
This type of program is not a new concept, but Dr. Karakok believes their program is truly unique.
“Our participants are not just learning how to administer tasks more strategically, they’re actually completing the work,” says Karakok. “Our goal as Mathematicians and Circle leaders is to create a culture of problem-solving.”
Surveys are sent home to participants after each session. Comments are overwhelmingly positive. The results show an increase in teacher confidence and a heightened comfort level with problem-solving strategies in the classroom.
“I enjoyed doing real math again and returned to my students with a lot of practical classroom management ideas with an expanded network of other math teachers!” another participant stated.
In addition to the activities, the participants share ideas and create new professional relationships.
“The workshops, supported by State Farm, really focus on putting the participant in the role of learner. This experience has been a point for reflection and planning for me as a teacher,” said another participant.
Dr. Karakok shared, because of the success workshop series, NoCOMTC expanded the program to include a week-long workshop series away from home and distractions. Slots filled up quick and there’s already a waiting list for next year. It’s a good problem to have!
What kind of problems do the teachers-turned-students solve?
Folding Triangles: A triangle is cut, at random, from a piece of paper and a vertex is folded to the midpoint of the opposite side.
What shapes can result, and what determines which one appears?