Mathematicians in Residence
On July 21, 2016, the three-year professional development program Mathematicians in Residence II (MIR II) program wrapped up its final summer session. The program was held for two weeks each July, beginning in 2014. The federally funded math science partnership (MSP) project was a collaboration between Parkway, Hazelwood, and Valley Park teachers of grades 1-5.
Consultants from New York’s renowned Math in the City and the University of Missouri-Columbia mentored teachers in the most current teaching and learning theories. Teachers learned to foster deep, critical thinking strategies for solving mathematical problems that students apply to real-world investigations. Teachers put the methods into practice with students from participating districts, culminating in the Math Museum at the end of the two weeks, where students presented and defended their work.
Valley Park teachers who attended the program will continue to provide intensive content-based, job-embedded professional development by coaching their peers. VPES teachers Julie Kulik and Michelle Wirick were selected as teacher partners in the program to help implement and guide the methodologies.
“These methods are about building a math community,” says Kulik. “The teacher presents you with a problem, you go do some investigation, you come back to the community, state your work, and defend and justify you answer. And the other kids have some really good questions for you, and you’re provoked to say, ‘That’s a good point I should try that.'” She adds, “It’s the process. We’re not about final answers. We call it mathematizing your world; these kids find questions that they find interesting, and they investigate that.”
“It’s putting learning on a mathematical landscape,” explained Wirick. “We’re teaching them to support their ideas, rather than memorize the answers. So, progress is measured by the big ideas; students use strategies to get to the big ideas that move them forward.”
As they move through the program, students gain courage and excitement about sharing their methods and work.
“We have students who were nervous in math class before coming to this math community and sharing their ideas with confidence,” says Kulik. “It’s not about the teacher putting their math into someone else’s head, it’s about the kids deciding what’s the problem, what tools will I use to solve it, what friends have ideas that can help. It’s not math as they knew it.”