So Long, D.C.: ASSM Annual Meeting Day 4

Diana Suddreth

Today was a quick half-day to wrap up the ASSM Annual Meeting. We began with another portion of our business meeting where we honored Joleigh Honey as she achieved emeritus status, recognized the work of ASSMs many committees and interest groups, and previewed some of ASSM's works in progress. That transitioned nicely to a half hour looking at the work of our assessment SIG, led by Andy Byerley and Mary Pittman.

Eboney McKinney, Joleigh Honey, and Lisa Ashe

We then got over an hour to spend with Nafeesa Owens from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Although it seems like the White House OSTP just updated our national STEM strategic plan, that was 2018 and the White House tries to update this plan every 5 years. The OSTP is organizing itself around a 5-part framework that includes STEM education, STEM engagement, STEM research and innovation, STEM workforce issues, and STEM workforce development. Nafeesa very patiently listened to a whole host of concerns and suggestions across a wide range of STEM-related issues.

Nafeesa Owens

We wrapped up our meeting with the end of the business meeting. This included details about next year's meeting in Chicago, recognizing members leaving the board, and acknowledging those who are either starting or continuing their service as board members.

Arlene Crum

2022-2023 Board of Directors

2023-2024 Board of Directors

A Packed Day: ASSM Annual Meeting Day 3

Today was the 3rd day of ASSM and 6th day of travel overall. Despite having done a ton today, I'm going to keep these notes as short as I can so I can get some rest before the last day of ASSM tomorrow and heading back to Colorado.

Fun and Games

We kicked off the morning with math tasks and games. It wasn't a lot of time, but generally enough that people got to try two or three tasks if they wanted.

Gideon Hertz

Next, we got some advice about communications strategies from Gideon Hertz of Burness Group. It's always good to get some pointers on effective communication in our roles as state employees.

Anthony Purcell

We spent about a half hour back in our breakout groups for standards and high-quality teaching, but this time we focused our conversations on communication as a way of tying it to the previous session.

Charles Steinhorn

In our final session of the morning, we heard from Charles Steinhorn, Director of the Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences. If you've never heard of CBMS, they're the umbrella organization that brings together almost every math and math education organization you're probably familiar with.

John SanGiovanni

Much of the afternoon was focused on elementary mathematics, specifically fluency. John SanGiovanni spent an hour helping us understand his 10 "big ideas" for figuring out fluency, such as "fluency isn't basic" and "strategies are for each and every student."

Jennifer Bay-Williams

Following John, Jennifer Bay-Williams talked to us about going beyond accuracy and ways we can assess procedural fluency. There are ways of explicitly teaching strategies without resorting to direct instruction, and ways for students to know facts from memory without relying on memorization to know the facts.

Zarek Drazda

Our last session of the day featured Zarek Drazda of Data Science 4 Everyone. We live in a world with an enormous amount of data and data will drive work and wealth in this century the same way property and physical resources drove work and wealth the past few centuries. K-12 data science education is a rapidly developing field and new projects, new courses, new curricula, new legislation, and new professional development are popping up all the time.

Carrying the Torch
I met my CDE colleagues for dinner. They're in town to attend the NCSM Conference and we swapped notes and stories while we ate. After dinner, we headed to the National Mall and took some pictures in front of the Capitol. Members of our office are taking turns taking a plastic torch around with us in preparation for an Olympic-like theme for an event next summer. And then it rained, which definitely wasn't part of our plan.

L'Enfant Plaza
I've gotten around D.C. now for a week using nothing but the Washington Metro train system and my own two feet. ,For a Midwest country boy like myself, I find big city public transportation to be a great use of public dollars and well-worth using by an out-of-towner. $58 for a week-long pass to go anywhere in the system can't be beat.

Reporting for Duty: ASSM Annual Meeting Day 2

Lisa Ashe

Today was the first full day of the 2023 ASSM Annual Meeting. After the first portion of our business meeting, we heard a talk about culturally responsive school leadership from Dr. Muhammad Khalifa of Ohio State University. The part that struck me most was his tracing of racist attitudes back to the early explorers of our continent, who either believed that the natives they encountered were (a) sub-human or (b) human but only capable of being "de-savage-ized" through Christianity. And they did so with the blessing of the Pope. It was a wide-ranging presentation, and that was just a little slice of it, but together it helped explain why schools and school leaders reproduce some of the discriminatory practices that are entrenched in our history.

Muhammad Khalifa

One of the reasons to attend the ASSM Annual Meeting is that we invite leaders of other organizations to come report their current activities to us. The first such report came from NCSM President Paul Gray. Paul's report began with the highlights from one of NCTM's most recent publications, their book on culturally relevant leadership. Paul also described two new position papers NCSM has published, with one about how we position multilingual learners and the other giving guidance about flexible grouping practices. The second one is a response to their detracking paper from a few years ago, and should help schools navigate when some grouping by ability is okay and supported by research.

Paul Gray

The next session was a report from the U.S. Department of Education. USDOE presenters usually have long job titles, and today's speakers were no exception: Glenna Gallo, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, and her colleague Dr. Kortne Edogun, Senior Advisor for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. Much of this talk centered on aspects of USDOE's "Raise the Bar" initiative, as well as summarizing some of the ways the USDOE has been supporting schools, such as with discretionary and formula grants. I will say, as someone who has seen a variety of these reports from the USDOE, these presenters did better to connect to classroom issues than what I've seen in other years.

Kortne Edogun

After some lunch, we headed into breakout sessions to discuss either (a) standards or (b) high-quality instruction. I hopped around to take photos, but spent a bit more time with the standards group. It is interesting to hear about the expectations, structures, resources, and constraints that are faced in each state.

Andy Byerley

Our last big session of the day was a report from NCTM President Kevin Dykema. Kevin spent considerable time giving us the details about a number of projects, most of which are still in progress and not publicly available.The first was an update on their high school project. That writing group produced a draft, got considerable feedback, then produced a second, significantly revised draft. Now, with more feedback, they're working on the final manuscript which will be available to the public by next year's annual meeting in Chicago. The next part of Kevin's report described position papers that the Council has either published or is preparing to publish. One of them will address how math learning should be recognized and credited in data science courses, and that was is being co-written by NCTM, NCSM, NCSS (social studies), NSTA (science), and the ASA (the American Statistical Association).

Kevin Dykema

The third part of Kevin's report described a set of one-page infographics that NCTM is producing to help promote and clearly communicate high-quality math instruction. These should be on the advocacy portion of the NCTM website next week, if they aren't there already. The Council is also making clear how different teacher and student actions are tied to the 5 strands of mathematical proficiency. The final of Kevin's reports announced the joint NCTM + NCTE (English) conference to be held next June 17-19 in New Orleans. This is the first joint conference from the two organizations and will be specifically for teachers of grades K-5. NCTM is also planning a Winter Institute in Nashville for January 22-23. That event is being titled, "Engaging Students Who Struggle: Tools for Effective Instruction."

2023 ASSM Annual Meeting Attendees

The day wrapped up with an update on our emeritus members and a group photo. Attendance is pretty strong this year, and I'm going to have a heck of a time identifying all the faces in the photo.

The Struggle to Mend Divides: NCTM Annual Meeting Day 3 and ASSM Annual Meeting Day 1

Today I spent the morning at the NCTM Annual Meeting and then took a detour to check out the National Archives before making my way to Pentagon City for the start of the ASSM Annual Meeting.

Rachel Lambert
I started at 8:00 with Rachel Lambert of the University of California Santa Barbara. This talk shared ideas with her research plenary, but she had a co-presenter, Erica Mason, from the University of Illinois, and the two of them had a full hour to make their case. The overall message is that we (as regular classroom educators, or as systems of educators) too often "other" special education students and prescribe different kinds of instruction, spaces, and expectations for "those kids." Furthermore, some of the reasons we do this are rooted in research, or more specifically, divides in our research communities.

Erica Mason
Mathematics education rarely takes much of an interest in disabled students, but generally, as a field, math ed relies on a broad selection of theories and methods and no one really dominates over the others. Meanwhile, in special education, it's relatively rare to see studies focused on the learning of math, and as a field, special ed researchers use a more limited set of theories and methods. Most are focused on information processing or behaviorist theories and the methodology is almost all quantitative. So not only are we "othering" special education students, we have divides in our academic communities that is creating some "othering" there, too. This has led to some recent fights and misrepresentations of each others' positions and thinking. Rachel offered a critique in this session, specifically focused on some claims made by a group of special education researchers who are using some citations rather recklessly to misrepresent constructivism and teaching that promotes productive struggle.

I then went off to the NCTM Business Meeting. This is maybe my most policy wonkish session choice I make each year, but I like getting an update about the overall health of the Council and to get some insights about things on the horizon. It was another year of NCTM running a deficit budget, and it sounded like a substantial portion of that was due to lower-than-expected attendance at last year's Annual Meeting. (This year's registration figures are much better but still below pre-COVID totals.) NCTM also hired an external diversity consultant to help evaluate and support the Council, and they are discussing affinity groups or a similar structure for members to help increase the sense of belonging people have as members. The last bit of big news concerned the conference next July being co-organized by NCTM and the National Council of Teachers of English. It will be K-5 only, and the program committee intends to offer math-focused, literacy-focused, and math+literacy-focused sessions. It will be held at a hotel with limited space, so something more modest than an Annual Meeting, but it is something they'd like to continue annually.

Julia Aguirre and Karen Mayfield-Ingram
I made my last NCTM session the Iris M. Carl Equity Address, this year given by Julia Aguirre of the University of Washington, Tacoma, and Karen Mayfield-Ingram of the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California Berkeley. I think this is the first time I've seen this address given by a pair of presenters and it was a wise choice to put two close colleagues together in an almost mini-panel format. Their session focused mostly on structural barriers to equitable math education. Perhaps the dominant barrier continues to be tracking practices. Even at the earliest ages, students are tracked by perceived ability and the effect is a sort of educational apartheid, and anyone who observes these classes and usually tell right away which class is for the "high" kids (where students are often white) and the "low" kids (where students are Black and Brown). So long as our course placements are predictable by demographic factors, we are maintaining inequitable systems and we all know it. The trick is finding the courage and a shared commitment to stop.

At noon, I walked south to the National Archives. Big parts of it were closed for renovations, which was a disappointment, but it's still amazing to think about how I was able to go from my everyday life thinking about inequity in math ed to, about 20 minutes later, standing in front of an original copy of the Magna Carta, which represents a struggle against inequity from another place and another era. It's all part of the same long struggle. I got to see the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, all of which are quite faded and encased in a lot of protective glass and dim lighting, but ultimately the visit is worth it not because of the items but what they represent.

I caught a train to Pentagon City where the ASSM Annual Meeting is being held. The Friday program was extra light: A one-hour meeting for PAEMST state coordinators, a brief welcome, and then a social gathering. I stepped out early as this kind of social stuff is not for me, and besides, some of us have blog posts to write!

I C U N D C: NCTM Annual Meeting Day 2

Today began with a presentation I really didn't want to miss: Mine! I joined up with Lisa Ashe and Denise Schulz from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to deliver a session on advocacy. We talked about governance structures, sources for strengthening your argument, and where to find allies before giving participants about 30 minutes to discuss advocacy strategies in small groups. We had some scenarios for them to consider but they were welcome to bring up their own topics, too. Special thanks to April Pforts, our Iowa colleague, for joining us and helping with the small group facilitation.

W Gary Martin

I next moved to a session from W. Gary Martin and Mariya Rosenhammer from Auburn University. They presented data that they collected about what math is needed for different college majors and the results add to the really strong argument that high school math should include more and better opportunities for students to learn statistics. It was a really solid presentation and the room was near capacity.

John Seelke

I then caught a 30-minute session by John Seelke, a PAEMST awardee who wished to talk about the current state of discourse in our profession and some ways we can try to remain open to others' ideas. It's awfully easy these days to quickly determine that someone's views might not align with your own and to shut them out before really trying to understand where they are coming from.

Steve Leinwand

After a great lunch with Ralph Pantozzi (another PAEMST awardee -- so nice to be in good company), I checked in with Steve Leinwand's session about high school math. I suspected it was going to be things I was mostly familiar with, and it was, but it seemed like the right place to be after having a head full of morning ideas and a stomach full of noontime lunch.

From there, I decided to head to the exhibit hall. As someone who isn't in the classroom and who isn't in a position to purchase anything, a lot of what's in the exhibit hall isn't for me. But that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to learn and people to catch up with. I checked in with PhET, who I've always held in high regard since I learned about them and got to know the team while I was in grad school at CU Boulder. I also spent a lot of time at the PAEMST booth, just to talk about the program and some of the work we're collectively doing to keep it going and try to improve it each year. I caught up with Leslie Dietiker, a math educator at Boston University who I was in a working group with years ago at an ISDDE conference. She works with CPM, and visiting their booth is always interesting since those are the texts I began my teaching career with 20 years ago. I moved on and heard about some new work from Math Recovery which might introduce their approaches to elementary math intervention to a larger number of teachers who wouldn't otherwise attend their regular workshops. Lastly, I spent a long time with Cathy Fosnot and Ryan Dent at the New Perspectives booth. I've known of Cathy and her work for a long time now through our shared relationship with the curriculum designers at the Freudenthal Institute and their extension in the U.S. at CU Boulder. We chatted about the state of curriculum development and reviewing and what might be on the horizon and Ryan showed off an innovative approach they're taking to assessment and progress tracking.

This is where the NCTM Annual Meeting becomes more than just a chance to attend sessions and keynotes and browse products in person. It's a chance to talk to people all day long and hear their ideas and ask them your questions and do the same in return. Some of those people are new to me, some I've seen year after year. One moment I'm in the hallway with a teacher from Glenwood Springs whom I've never met, but we have a shared passion for making high school math better, and the next moment I'm chatting with NCTM President Kevin Dykema and he's volunteering to join one of our book study sessions for a book he co-authored. NCTM's not the only place math educators can find a professional community, but it sure can be a good place for it when you spend multiple days in a conference space with other members.

Research and Practice: NCTM Research Conference Day 2 and NCTM Annual Meeting Day 1

Today started at 8 am and I snuck in a little late to see Charles Honensee and Sara Gartland of the University of Delaware present about backward transfer. It's an interesting phenomenon when something students learn later has an impact -- sometimes intentional, sometimes not, and sometimes negative -- on something learned earlier. They reported on a high school quadratics unit that was taught in such a way to improve earlier learning on linear functions, which was a nice result to see.

Sara Gartland

I then went to a series of talks about language and discourse in secondary math. First, a group including Jonathan Foster, Laura Singletary, AnnaMarie Conner, and Hyejin Park (from a variety of universities) described a framework for describing displays. What's a display? It took me a moment to wrap my head around it, but it could be a lot of things, but in most classrooms you're thinking about how teachers and students use whiteboards, Smartboards, posters, and artifacts of student work to display information. I could kind of get a sense for how having a framework to describe these things could help future research studies organize some of their work.

Sarah Roberts

Sarah Roberts of the University of Santa Barbara went next and talked about how to support teachers in including language routines into the curriculum that they develop and find when it isn't there already. With more than 70% of high school teachers reporting that they create their own materials on a nearly daily basis, this kind of work is needed in the secondary grades. The last presentation was from Madeleine Chowdhury from Mesa Community College, and she talked about the role of discourse she's observing in a research study with some of her students.

Madeleine Chowdhury

I went to a research in progress session and heard from some folks from Cal State Sacramento who are working on some quantitative reasoning courses and research to support them. That went well with another researcher at the table, Veronica Cambra-Faraci, who is following up with and learning from former students who took Geometry and Algebra 2 together at the same time in her high school as a way of accelerating to calculus their senior year.

Kyndall Brown

The plenary session was a combination of talks. First, Kyndall Brown from the California Mathematics Project talked about how research informed California's math frameworks.Next, Joleigh Honey from Utah talked about the importance of working across stakeholder groups to affect change in mathematics education. Lastly, and clearly the highlight of the day, was Rachel Lambert from The University of California, Santa Barbara. She's positioned herself and her work at the intersection of special education and mathematics education, and had A LOT of things to say about how these two worlds have traditionally been separated and the impacts it has on how we conduct and interpret research and, more importantly, what it does for the experiences of special education students in mathematics. This talk was well-timed with recent campaigns to come up with a "science of math" that seems to grossly misinterpret research to make claims about teaching all students. The talk wasn't really long enough to work patiently through all the details, but this is an important topic and I hope it encourages more researchers to work beyond those traditional boundaries to find consensus solutions.

In one final session, I joined five people from NC State who are working on a microcredentialing system. As the only participant in the session, I got all the attention I could have wanted, for sure. Sometimes that's just how conference sessions work out.

Jamila Dugan

The NCTM Annual Meeting kicked off with the usual Wednesday night ceremonies, including recognizing the service of the NCTM Board, the program committee, the local hosting affiliates, and honoring the newest NCTM Lifetime Achievement Awardees. This year, that was Joan Ferrini-Mundy and Betty Phillips. I talked about Joan Ferrini-Mundy yesterday, and if you've ever used the Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) materials from Michigan State, then you've benefited directly from Betty Phillips's work. That was followed by the keynote address, delivered by Jamila Dugan, co-author of the book Street Data. She encouraged us to get past "traps and tropes" when talking about equity and listen more to the people and signals closest to our students, and better recognize how it can compliment and make up for the limitations of our larger-scale data collection, such as with state and national testing.

Making Math Education Matter: NCTM Research Conference Day 1, Washington D.C.

It's so good to be back at the NCTM Research Conference! This is one of my favorite conferences: it's a mostly no-frills, just the facts, math ed nerdfest with an amount of academic awkwardness that I find really welcoming.

Abi Leaf, Chair of the NCTM Research Committee

Day 1 of the Research Conference got off to a great start. Our opening session featured Joan Ferrini-Mundy. She's the current President of the University of Maine, a former chief operating officer of the National Science Foundation, a former director at the National Academy of Sciences, and long-time mathematics education researcher. Very few people have held the variety of high-level positions that Joan has, and that helped her craft some perspectives for her opening session.

This talk started in familiar territory, with reminders that it's foolish to think that we'll ever get the "perfect study" that answers our questions about math education once and for all. Joan also noted the flawed logic that researchers need only push out their work in traditional outlets and depend on educators to soak up those ideas and know how to use them. Instead, Joan said, math educators need to use new and varied approaches to research (shout-out to some I've done, like research-practice partnerships and design-based implementation research) and insert themselves in spaces where decisions are made about math education. The rest of the talk went into details about what those spaces look like and the kind of contributions we could make, including spaces for university administrators, state and federal policymakers, assessment and standards developers, funders, higher education STEM faculty, the business sector, and teacher educators.

Joan Ferrini-Mundy

My next session was a panel called "Supporting Elementary Teachers' Mathematics Classroom Discussion Practices." It was good to see the newest work from some researchers I admire and enjoy watching present, and some of what they said had a lot of relevance for me. 

Lynsey Gibbons

First up was Lynsey Gibbons from the University of Delaware. In working with teachers at a couple elementary schools during the pandemic, she noted the need for schools to be true learning spaces -- not just spaces to organize typical learning for students, but spaces for adults to learn, too, as challenges of the pandemic brought about the need to try new and different things, and to do so while considering all the local and not-so-local contexts in which schooling happens. While her study didn't appear to set out to be about Zearn, we heard a lot about Zearn. The schools in her study adopted Zearn as part of a statewide program that gave schools easy and free access, and the schools expected Zearn to be used as part of regular instruction. Some teachers found it frustrating; instead of teaching themselves, they monitored students sitting at computers wearing headphones who were getting taught by videos of teaching. When students got stuck they raised their hand, and then it became the job of the teacher in the room to figure out what had been shown to the student in the videos they'd been shown and then re-teach that content or otherwise get the student back on track. Some teachers quietly (or maybe not-so-quietly) rebelled and switched to using a "regular" classroom curriculum by the year's end.

Annie Garrison-Wilhelm
Next up was Annie Garrison-Wilhelm, now faculty at Washington State University. She looked at what could be learned about improving math teaching by examining teaching practices across multiple content areas, and how that shaped what she called "a vision for dialogic disciplinary discussion." One of her results was that teachers tended to make a stronger case for preparing students to engage in the disciplinary community in math and science than they do when teaching literacy, which seems like a good thing for math.

Sam Prough and Rebecca Memmolo
Sam Prough and Rebecca Memmolo from the University of Delaware continued this theme of looking across content areas. Their research identified some struggles, like when teachers or school administrators see math as not something that requires debate and discussion since there's only "one right answer" to elementary math problems.

Temple Walkowiak
Temple Walkowiak from NC State served as the discussant and brought some of the ideas together across the sessions. There was a lot to think about here, and Lynsey's thinking at the beginning about local and beyond-local context reminded me about the role I play to normalize some positive practices and perceptions about math education and the need to work across disciplines to help elementary teachers make sense of the practices that work best in different content areas.

Robert Krakehl
I checked into a "research in progress" session where we sat at roundables with researchers in the midst of figuring out their latest work. I enjoyed hearing from two researchers from Amplify, Heather West and Sandra Pappas, who are developing screeners and diagnostic assessment tools for K-8 mathematics. We're doing some similar work in Colorado and it's good to know we're not alone. I then moved rooms and caught the end of Robert Krakehl's session about AP Mathematics Enrollment and Performance. In short, AP tests consistently favor White and Asian students. This wasn't new news, and it's wasn't Robert's talk to try to explain all the reasons why. Instead, he focused on making sense of the data, and one thing we did observe was that the Calculus BC exam has significantly higher pass rates across the board when compared to Calculus AB and AP Statistics. Perhaps it's a self-selection issue, where only the best-prepared students are encouraged to take it.

Pat Herbst
Next was a panel comparing innovative models for mathematics teacher learning. Pat Herbst from Michigan started off with what he's learning from their StoryCircles project, which uses cartoon-like classroom simulations to develop teacher thinking and decision-making skills.

Hilda Borko
Next up was Hilda Borko of Stanford, who reflected on two different teacher learning models that she's helped establish, the problem-solving cycle and the teacher leadership preparation model. These have been developed in research-practice partnerships and make use of classroom video to generate discussion and reflection on teaching practice.

Hollylynn Lee
Hollylynn Lee from NC State is working on online professional development models for statistics and data science as part of their initiative.

Gil Schwarts

The discussant for this session was Gil Schwarts from the University of Michigan. She helped us think about these teacher learning programs as either content-oriented or process-oriented, as well as adaptive or specified, and how goals and tensions of each project are served by their different designs.

Whew! If that wasn't enough, the day ended with a poster session. If you remember social distancing from the pandemic, this was certainly not that. We were all crammed into a too-small and too-noisy space but I got a few things from the posters I visited. My highlight was probably meeting Jinfa Cai. He was the editor of JRME and NCTM's research compendium, and I have a lot of admiration for people who can take on those kinds of big editing projects.