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OISE brings together over 400 teachers across GTA to improve math knowledge for teaching

August 26, 2019

count me in team

Pictured: Student volunteers and organizers of the second Count Me In Math Institute including Christelle Ah Sen, Teresa Gong, Laura McNabb and Supreet Randhawa, with OISE professor Mary Reid.
 

Over 400 educators from across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) came together at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education on August 21 for the second Count Me In Math Institute (styled C(MI)2 for short) to learn about current research in math education and further enhance their teaching skills in math.

The one-day professional development opportunity was organized by OISE in partnership with the University of Toronto’s Department of Mathematics and funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) outreach grant. OISE professor Mary Reid, a co-applicant of the grant, said the event offered teachers “a unique opportunity for math professional development.”

For committed teachers with no budget, the free conference was a welcomed opportunity to learn from some of the top math education researchers and teachers in Ontario. "Significant funding cuts across the province means professional development for teachers is now limited or even non-existent," said Reid. 

Through keynote sessions and workshops throughout the day, K-12 educators were invited to think about math pedagogy in new ways, while being introduced to concrete strategies for teaching, driven by academic research.

Presenters included educational leaders from the field, including professors from U of T’s Department of Math and instructors from OISE’s Master of Teaching program.

Reid led a keynote session for elementary teachers, which provided strategies for navigating pedagogy to help students embrace struggle in ways that maintain and raise cognitive demand so that learning is long lasting and deeply conceptual.

Acknowledging the feeling of doubt or negativity that many experience when faced with a challenging math problem, Reid assured participants that such struggle can advance reasoning skills and ultimately deepen learning. She went on to discuss that effective math instruction requires not only deep math content knowledge, but also a positive attitude towards the subject. And, lucky for teachers, it is possible to cultivate positive ‘socio-mathematical’ norms over time.

Reid gave examples of language teachers can use with students to help create strong learning cultures in math classrooms. She concluded with the notion that math is not about how many answers you know — it’s about how you behave when you don’t know. 

Workshops dove into other areas such as closing achievement gaps, unpacking math computation and using technology to transform learning in the classroom. Presenters were selected in a competitive process to bring a balance of topics at all levels of math teaching and across various math strands.
 

ron lancaster

OISE professor Ron Lancaster during his keynote presentation entitled Recreational Mathematics: Inspiration + Engagement + Enrichment in the OISE Library.
 

The conference also gave teachers the opportunity to network with others with similar goals in math teaching.

“C(MI)2 is important because it provides teachers with face-to-face professional development. It’s an opportunity to meet new teachers who they can contact for more discussions and to share resources,” said keynote presenter OISE professor Ron Lancaster.

In a presentation for secondary teachers, Lancaster spoke about the value of recreational mathematics to increase students’ enjoyment and engagement in math.

Lancaster encouraged teachers to introduce ‘math trails’ in their teaching practice. A walk designed to stimulate interest in math through everyday spaces, such as the park or playground, ‘math trails’ teach learners to have fun with math in order to inspire further study of the subject.

“I want to encourage teachers to consider if there has been too much of an emphasis on applications of mathematics and not enough on the beauty and joy of mathematics,” he said.

With the Ontario government deeming math a major priority in education, high quality math instruction that embeds evidence-based research has the power to ignite students’ curiosity and interest in math – which is important in a world where there is a critical skills gap of STEM workers, Reid said.

“Overall, the C(MI)2 conference has truly been a wonderful opportunity for teachers to experience first-hand OISE’s vision for math teaching excellence.”


The Count Me In Math Institute was supported by 26 student volunteers (Master of Teaching candidates and U of T math students), and an organizing team of six including Christelle Ah SenTeresa GongLaura McNabbSupreet Randhawa, and Mary Reid. Special thanks to sponsors and partners U of T Department of Mathematics, Scholastic Education, Pearson, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).