The joys of Middle School Mathematics. Really.

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Imagine dedicating your life to Mathematics. Or rather, to teaching Mathematics. And trying to get other teachers enthusiastic about it.

A couple of weeks ago Victoria welcomed Mathematics teachers for the 51st Annual Northwest Mathematics Conference. Over one thousand teachers came together to share ideas, experiences, strategies and the latest technologies used in mathematics education. The theme of the conference was Math in Bloom, with a focus on topics that encourage teaching practice to “flourish and blossom” to improve student learning. Speakers at the conference included Dan Meyer (http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover.html), Catherine Fosnot (http://www.contextsforlearning.com/), Patric Vennebush (http://www.mathjokes4mathyfolks.com/) as well as two SMUS Middle School teachers Lucia MacKenzie and Richard DeMerchant. Catherine Cade and Elise Hoeppner also attended providing lots of opportunity to bring ideas presented at the conference back to SMUS. Some Senior School teachers also attended.

My focus here is on the work of our Middle School, a division of school that one thinks is a little distant from higher Mathematics, and therefore from a life-long love of it. However as you can see from the list above, we have a healthy list of teachers in the Middle School who are working to spread their enthusiasm. Richard DeMerchant gave two presentations. The first presentation was called “Stuck in the Middle”, pursuing this theme: “Mathematics in the middle school links the mathematical concepts learned in elementary with those learned in high school and beyond. This session will look at these links tracing the development of mathematics concepts through the grades. This session aims to answer the questions: “When will I ever use this stuff?”, “Why is this important?” and “Have we done this before?”. Important questions.

In the second presentation Richard partnered with colleague Lucia MacKenzie and it was called “Middle School Math Projects That Worked”. The purpose of this session was to provide some examples of projects that worked for Grades 7 and 8 students.

One of the pieces of evidence that one looks for in an excellent staff is that they are considered examples for their colleagues outside the school, communicating their experience and expertise. Our teachers do this often – at AP conferences, Assessment conferences, or in books that they publish. This just happens to be the most recent example. Well done.

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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden was Head of School at St. Michaels University School for 22 years, from 1995-2017.

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