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Starting Small, Thinking Big: Re-Imagining the Mathematics Curriculum

Starting Small, Thinking Big: Re-Imagining the Mathematics Curriculum

One of the first and foremost duties of the teacher is not to give his students the impression that mathematical problems have little connection with each other, and no connection at all with anything else. We have a natural opportunity to investigate the connections of a problem when looking back at its solution.  – George Polya

Starting Small, Thinking Big

Date: June 22–23

Location: St. Andrew’s Episcopal School


School mathematics does not exist in a vacuum. Rather school mathematics is a part of a larger connected mathematics story. We believe that the aim of instruction is to tell a mathematics story that embraces the natural connections across mathematical topics while simultaneously emphasizing the wonder of the mathematics in engaging ways. Much of the current research in mathematics education is centered about the notion of mathematics storytelling. This coupled with researchers’ interests in bridging research from brain science and mathematical instruction, will influence how practitioners go about telling these mathematical stories in their classrooms. Though the task of telling a simultaneously wonderful, engaging, and connected mathematics story is a difficult one, practitioners committed to re-imagining their pedagogical craft are persistent in their search of ways to make mathematical connections that empower their instruction and empower learners of mathematics.

Purpose of the Workshop

Our primary purpose in this workshop is to use seminal and current research findings from education and brain science to identify and tell a wonderful, engaging, and connected mathematics story.

Workshop Format

We will embark on the following activities throughout the workshop:

1.     Define what we mean by “wonderful, engaging, and connected mathematics story”.

2.     Explore the advantages and challenges of telling a connected mathematics story.

3.     Apply a working framework to identify “mathematical connections” in mathematics instruction.

4.     Analyze case studies and videos of mathematics instruction with the goal of identifying “mathematical connections”.

5.     Develop a series of 4-5 lessons from one unit that is wonderful, engaging, and connected.

6.     Share our constructed mathematical stories.

Preparing for the Workshop

1.     Bring a sample video of your teaching.

2.     Think about and come prepared to discuss the following question:

What would a wonderful, engaging, and connected mathematics story look like in your classroom?

3.     Read Mathematical Mindset by Jo Boaler. (To be provided)

4.     Read a collection of 4-5 research articles and book chapters in education.


Yolanda A. Rolle, PhD: Dr. Rolle currently teaches mathematics at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.  Prior to her time at St. Andrew’s she taught at universities and schools in Massachusetts, Nebraska and Nassau Bahamas. Before arriving at St. Andrew’s she taught in Boston University’s School of Education. She has also worked as a researcher on multiple multi-year funded grants in mathematics education. Her primary research responsibilities involved research studies around the habits of mind for learning mathematics and conducting extended fieldwork in elementary and middle-school classrooms. Her primary research interest is to study classrooms and teachers who seek to nurture mathematical habits of mind in their students. Other research interests include teacher inquiry, research design and equity in mathematics education.

Karen Kaufman: Ms. Kaufman has a B.S. Degree from the University of Maryland and an M.B.A from the George Washington University. Before joining St. Andrew's, Ms. Kaufman worked in private industry as a business and law firm consultant. Since joining St. Andrew's ten years ago, Ms. Kaufman has taught middle and upper school mathematics, chaired and served on numerous St. Andrew's task forces, maintained an active role with the CTTL as a teacher fellow and author of the article 'Effort Matters Most', and is currently head of the mathematics department.

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