Getting Interpersonal: ASSM Day 3, Costa Mesa


Problem solvers solving problems

Today at the ASSM Annual Meeting, we elevated yesterday's theme of personal assets to become a theme of interpersonal assets. We'd get to that soon enough, but first, we started the day with some math. I don't know what it's like in other content areas, but it's seen as good practice to take on a math task or two in any sort of professional development with math teachers and educators, and for the most part, we really enjoy it.

Mary Mooney (WI) and Anne Wallace (NH)

After a break, we transitioned to participating in two Potentials of Practice. This was an opportunity for two members, one in an elementary group and another in a secondary group, to pose an issue that is challenging them while the rest of us listened before participating in a structured discussion to help bring clarity. The secondary group tackled a communication issue while the elementary group (I think, as I wasn't in that group) dealt with negotiating some tensions between teaching practices and assessment practices. It felt like a great example of using our interpersonal assets, as we all share similar challenges yet there's enough diversity across the group that new ideas could come to the surface.

Megan Franke

We stayed in elementary and secondary groups as we moved to breakout sessions, something we used sparingly in this year's program. Both leveraged assets local to the Los Angeles area. Megan Franke of UCLA joined us for a session called "Supporting the Mathematical Brilliance of Young People," in which we watched some amazing examples of student reasoning and learned the results of recent research that involved interviews of almost 500 preschoolers. Some of the key findings: Students are better at counting if there's some purpose to their counting. Researchers assumed that students could count further if asked to simply count out loud than if they were asked to count objects, but the opposite turned out to be true. And when given 8 little plastic bears to count, lined up in a row, the students showed less counting skill than when given 31 pennies to count from a pile. Maybe it shouldn't surprise us at this point, but this feels like another instance where the more authentic the task, the more students seem to shine.

Brian Lawler

In the secondary breakout session, Brian Lawler, Bryan Meyer, and Abi Leaf described their multi-year efforts at high school math reform in a session called, "Designing a System to Provoke Change - in Actions and Beliefs." I've seen them present multiple times before, so I spent more time in Megan's session, but I know they were able to synthesize and reflect on some things and I'm hoping to hear more about what they presented.

Rachel Lambert

The afternoon returned to sharing perspectives about what being an ASSM member means. To some people, it means an awful lot and they seem happy to share it. These moments tend to swing towards the emotional and away from the informational, which doesn't interest me, but not everything at a conference has to be for me. From there, we went right into a session that I think is going to stick with people for a long time. Rachel Lambert presented "Equitable Systems of Mathematics," but it could have been named something like, "Special Education Mathematics Instruction is Broken." Rachel is a great presenter and a straight shooter, and the evidence she presented made it clear that this really isn't a problem inherent in individual educators, either in the regular math classroom or in special education settings. It's really the interaction of many interpersonal and systemic factors, not the least of which is a seemingly incompatible set of theoretical perspectives driving practices on the two sides.

Shannon Olson (UT)

There's just a half day left of this year's ASSM Annual Meeting. It's gone by quickly and I think a lot of that comes from having such a tight program with high-quality sessions. And tomorrow's presenters aren't likely to be any different. Then it's on to Anaheim and NCSM.