For anyone collaborating virtually right now, the panel of squares and faces making up the online Math Connect meetings will feel familiar.
While taking work home is familiar territory for many, teaching from home is not. PLACE Outreach Specialist Christina Stefonek has created an accessible online place where math educators can connect, share ideas, and help one another adapt to the current education landscape.
“In a time when educators are being asked to do the almost impossible task of redesigning and reimagining their curricula, and finding opportunities to connect virtually with students with essentially no time to prepare, the Math Connect meetings provide a space each week for math educators to connect with each other for support,” Stefonek said. “Participants join from a variety of districts to share about what’s working for them, to hear from other educators about their successes, to problem-solve together, to access new resources, and have a community to return to each week.”
If you’re considering attending a meeting, here’s how a recent one went.
The meeting began with a couple of questions: “What inequities seem to stand out the most to you right now, and what has changed or become more prevalent during this time?”
After some silence and moments of musing, answers started popping up in the chat sidebar.
“Lack of consistency in student access to learning, especially in terms of scheduling and competing responsibilities.”
“I see the inequity of students and families needing to understand the logistics of how to navigate the school world. How to ask for help. How to be a successful student. How to find materials, etc.”
“The divide between the haves and the have nots has become larger. Whether it’s support at home or access to technology.”
“I think the inequities have become even more visible during this time especially in terms of access.”
“Students and families navigating online platforms, students living in poverty, students providing childcare.”
“Inequities are everywhere and more prominent than ever. Access to internet, family support, time, etc. But also food and shelter. Income. Ability to work from home. Home responsibilities.
Students with limited access to technology, students that are working full time, students with family responsibilities are really struggling.”
“To summarize some of the equity issues, teachers can put content out, but that doesn’t mean all students can access it. Some may share laptops or resources at home, making it difficult to access resources when they can or need to.”
“Stress levels aren’t the same. Some parents may have lost jobs, some students have to work. Not everyone has been affected the same across the class and economic spectrum.”
Then Stefonek posed a more difficult set of questions, “What are we going to do about the inequities we can not ‘unsee?’ What do we do differently and better as a result?”
These are questions every instructor is working to answer.
In addition to talking about a topic issue, attendees are sent into breakout rooms to chat about what is going well with online teaching.
“Even though it’s not in person, it’s good to connect with educators this way,” Stefonek said of working online.
In one room, an attendee shared about the practice-based research she did on the math identities of her students. In her findings, the more confident a child is in their math ability and the more connected they feel, the more they will succeed.
To better connect students to math, this group member has implemented a number of activities in her (now virtual) classroom:
- Math identity surveys
- Mathematician of the week
- Number talks
- Culturally responsive tasks
- Group tests
- Brain breaks
- Student generated questions
Pursuing students’ overall identity, building relationships, and ensuring safety in the classroom has proven to work for her.
At the end of the call, there is a chance to reflect on the material presented. Feedback received from recent attendees suggests that if you’re craving information pertaining to your field, and a place to chat with other teachers and like-minded individuals, the Math Connect is an hour at the end of the day you won’t regret.
“We are responding to the needs of the group to design the upcoming meetings,” Stefonek said. “For now, we plan to continue offering Math Connect meetings each week for the foreseeable future.”
You can find the upcoming meetings and RSVP for them here: https://place.education.wisc.edu/event/math-connect-online/all/.