Numbers game

December 2011

 

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Two Fulbright Scholars are about to depart for the US to further their research into mathematics teaching.

Glenda Anthony

The need to build a more knowledgeable and skilful professional mathematics teaching force is the driving force behind Professor Glenda Anthony’s New Zealand Fulbright-Harkness Fellowship. Anthony’s visit to the United States is focused on exploring ways of teaching prospective teachers of mathematics to engage in ambitious teaching.

Learning to do the work of ambitious teaching involves learning specialised knowledge for teaching and specifically for teaching mathematics, alongside learning skills in orchestrating instructional activities and the relational work involved in creating equitable classroom communities.

During her six-week visit later in the year, Anthony will look closely at teacher education programmes focusing on learning ambitious mathematics teaching by employing deliberate actions to make practice able to be studied by prospective teachers.

Anthony will work with lead researchers in the Learning in, From, and For Teaching Practice (LTP) project led by professors Magdalene Lampert (University of Michigan), Elham Kazemi (University of Washington) and Megan Franke (UCLA). The LTP project is focused on teaching high-leverage practices and principles of ambitious teaching, as well as the more traditional knowledge of students, content and curriculum. A key element of the project is the design, development and research of instructional activities. These activities are centred on tasks enacted in classrooms that structure the relationship between teacher and students around content in ways that consistently maintain high expectations of student learning, while adapting to the contingencies of particular instructional interactions such as sequencing problems, group work and sharing solution strategies.

Anthony says this collaboration is timely, given the common agenda promoting the provision of equitable and productive educational experiences for diverse learners.

“We know that effective teachers are those who teach in response to what students do as they engage in problem-solving performance, while holding students accountable to learning goals including procedural fluency, strategic competence, adaptive reasoning and productive dispositions. And we also know that this intellectually and socially ambitious goal requires a new conception of teachers’ work. Teachers must not only teach diverse learners to do mathematics competently, but also understand it and use it to solve problems within the classroom and their everyday lives.”

Challenging current ways of teaching, this study interrogates both the ‘what is it that is to be learnt when one is learning teaching’ and the role of ‘practice’ in its many forms within teacher education. In looking at new ways to prepare prospective teachers, Anthony will investigate instructional strategies and activities that support beginning teachers not just to be aware of a range of effective pedagogical strategies for the mathematics classroom, but also to have developed a disposition towards ambitious forms of pedagogy that will support ongoing learning in the classroom.

Ngaire Addis

Ngaire Addis is a recipient of a Fulbright-Cognition scholarship. The scholarship will allow her to travel to the United States later this year to research how mathematics achievement data is used by leaders of American high schools to improve teaching and learning.

Addis declares herself “passionate about teaching mathematics”, which is evident from her involvement with the subject. In addition to facilitating for the Secondary Numeracy Project and ATOL/asTTLe projects, Addis has run courses for Massey University and presented papers and workshops at many maths-related conferences.

A senior manager at Havelock North High School, Addis is currently completing her doctorate through Massey University; Professor Glenda Anthony is her supervisor. Her dissertation looked at the use of mathematics assessment data by school leaders. Addis is especially interested in the Data Wise project, conducted by Professor Kathy Boudett at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University and how this could have implications and benefits for the professional development of school leaders in assessment literacy in New Zealand.

The scholarship will enable her to take her research interests to the next level. Addis looks forward to tapping into the experiences of school leaders in America, where educational policy and school management are already focused around systems of standards, testing and public reporting of results. New Zealand schools are faced with the new challenge of how to integrate national standards for mathematics and literacy into daily practice with a view to improving student achievement. “I would like to see more ICT being used in our secondary mathematics classrooms – I think that we are almost lagging behind our primary counterparts,” says Addis.

Addis is immensely proud of her roots, which stem from the Hawke’s Bay. She draws inspiration from her family, which she describes as “matriarchal”, with her mother featuring as a significant influence. Her daughters are also to thank; as children they wrote a screensaver on her computer, “Keep going mum, you can do it” to encourage Addis to complete her master’s thesis.

In addition to furthering her research, Addis is looking forward to some of the lighter aspects of American life with Boston Red Sox games high on the agenda when she is at Harvard University.