Professional Development Opportunity – “Developing Mathematical Minds: Empowering Educators for Thinking Classrooms”

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Imagine a classroom where students are engaged, where mathematical concepts are not just memorized but deeply understood, and where problem-solving and critical thinking are the norms. ASU Prep believes in the power of such a classroom — a “thinking classroom.” We invite educators to revolutionize their teaching practices with our new professional development series: Developing Mathematical Minds: Empowering Educators for Thinking Classrooms.

This transformative series is designed to equip educators with tools to build a dynamic and engaging learning atmosphere that fosters deep mathematical understanding. We aim to empower educators to create a classroom where students are encouraged to think critically, solve problems creatively, and communicate their ideas effectively.

Participants will delve into the principles and practices of building thinking classrooms, learning how to cultivate a growth mindset in students, nurturing positive mathematical culture, and integrating technology to promote critical thinking. With each session, participants will gain insights into strategies that emphasize student-centered learning, collaboration, and inquiry-based instruction.

Math Institute Information

Our workshops are held Tuesdays from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. MST. For each session, attendees earn one hour of professional development credit.

Here’s a quick look at what to expect:

  • Aug 22: Introduction to Building a Thinking Math Classroom
  • Sep 19: Creating a Supportive Learning Environment
  • Oct 24: Developing Critical Thinking Skills
  • Nov 28: Cultivating Mathematical Communication
  • Jan 23: Enhancing Mathematical Reasoning
  • Feb 20: Integrating Technology for Critical Thinking
  • Mar 26: Assessment Strategies for a Thinking Classroom
  • Apr 23: Sustaining a Thinking Classroom

Are you ready to take the first step toward creating a thinking classroom where every student thrives? Together, let’s revolutionize mathematics education and inspire a new generation of thinkers.

Join us!
Prepare to promote deep mathematical understanding with Developing Mathematical Minds: Empowering Educators for Thinking Classrooms.
Register Now: Click Here

Summer + Boot Camp = Thriving Teachers

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Summer is quickly on its way and you may have vacation on your mind. We don’t blame you. But let’s be honest, even while you’re sipping lemonade poolside or escaping the heat inside your local bookstore, you’ll still be thinking about improving your craft. You’ll spot a new book on the shelf and think, “That would make a great read aloud” and then you’re spending hours on the internet searching tie-in activities from science experiments and art projects to multimedia presentations. 

How do we muster that level of excitement for more formal professional development? Here are five tips for making the most of your next professional learning experience.  

  • Find a topic that interests you. Don’t think of professional development as only a box that needs to be checked off your to-do list. Sure, you’ll earn the PD credits, but peruse the catalog for offerings that you’ll enjoy and learn from, whether it’s incorporating more technology, improving project-based assignments, or engaging your students in the classroom.  Ellie Reich, Professional Development Product Manager at ASU Prep Digital reminds us, “Time flies when you are interested and excited to engage.”
  • Set aside dedicated PD time on your calendar. It’s easy to postpone professional development because of busy schedules, so go ahead and mark it on your calendar, making it a priority. Be sure not to double book with other appointments or responsibilities, like child care. Ms. Reich prefers scheduling professional development early in the summer while the positives and negatives of the school year are still fresh on her mind. Her approach is to apply new learnings to class content for the fall so she can then “focus on family and relaxation the rest of summer.”
  • Get comfortable and be present. Determine where you focus and learn best. This could be a coffee shop with your favorite drink or your home office while in pajamas. Relax, tune out distractions, and prepare to be involved. Alison Hernandez, Director of Professional Development & Learning Initiatives at ASU Prep Digital encourages participants to be present by being “proactive and engaged by asking questions, sharing insights, and engaging in discussions during the sessions.”
  • Find a friend. Invite a peer to register for the same course so that you can exchange ideas, enhancing the learning experience. Ms. Hernandez encourages participants to
    “take advantage of the time to connect with other educators and to build meaningful relationships.” Ms. Reich wholeheartedly agrees, adding that working from a coffee shop with a colleague and bouncing off ideas is a winning combination. 
  • Be sure to reflect. After the training has ended, spend some time reflecting while the concepts are fresh in your mind and you’re feeling inspired to implement new ideas. Jot down some notes or text a colleague to keep the momentum, learning, and collaboration going. “Professional development is an ongoing process,” says Ms. Hernandez, “Stay curious and be proactive about seeking new learning opportunities.”

Ready to seek out your next great professional development opportunity? Browse ASU Prep Digital’s Training Calendar for Summer Bootcamp sessions and register today! 


Equipping Students for Future Success

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With spring break in the rearview mirror, students and educators know that “destination summer” is just ahead. And for many, that anticipation causes a slight slowdown as it’s not uncommon for students to lose focus and motivation at the end of the year.

How can you help your students finish the school year strong?

“With a month and a half to go, many students and teachers are tired. But there are ways to make those last few weeks memorable and meaningful,” said Annabelle Davey, Teacher Trainer at ASU Prep Digital.

Davey, a former middle and high school science teacher, shared the importance of goal setting and the power of developing action plans.

“There are strategies you can use to help students set goals and check if progress is made—whether long-term goal setting for the future, or how to cross the finish line this school year.”   

That’s one of the reasons why the Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute (AZVTI) created the professional training workshop, Equipping Students for Future Success.

College and Career Readiness

The other part of the training focuses on exploring ways to identify students’ interests and strengths, and why career and college readiness is vital.   

Equipping Students for Future Success provides teachers of all grades with strategies they can use to encourage students to think about what is possible. Getting to know the student and building that relationship is the first step. The two-hour course provides resources that can be used to help students identify their strengths.

Additionally, the workshop connects how to build opportunities for students to practice other skills that will be important to them. Soft skills such as creativity, collaboration, adaptation, leadership skills, and time management.

“Hard skills are important, yes, but no matter what job they have, soft skills are applicable,” said Davey, who referred to a recent study that said 75 percent of long-term job success comes down to soft skills.

“Having conversations about future careers, even when only in elementary school, helps students to open their eyes to possibilities,” she added. “It’s hard to imagine, but the jobs for our students in K-8…a lot is changing, and the jobs of the future don’t exist yet.”

Upcoming Workshop: Equipping Students for Future Success 

AZVTI is pleased to offer Equipping Students for Future Success on Saturday, April 1, from 9-11 a.m. (PST). Participants will earn 2.0 hours of Professional Development credit for attending this session. Click here to enroll. 

Educators and leaders can take advantage of AZVTI training resources which are provided at no cost to Arizona K-12 educators through the generous investment of the Arizona Department of Education, the Governor’s Office, Helios Education Foundation and Arizona State University.

“Every kid can take a path to college,” said Davey. “The question is, how can we help make those connections for them to start now and find opportunities based on what they’re interested in?”   

If you’d like to learn more about Equipping Students for Future Success or explore other professional development training opportunities, please visit the ASU Prep Digital Training Calendar.  

Math program at Willis producing impressive results

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This was originally published on the website

A program that was started to help close the learning gap caused by the pandemic is working so well at Willis Junior High School, the principal wants to expand it.

Arizona State University Prep Digital and the state Department of Education came up with the Math Momentum partnership. It was originally expected to last for three years and cost $9 million.

Willis teachers started using the program last school year and say they’ve already seen significant results. As part of the program, each student is required to take three assessments each year.

“So, 14% of students have closed gaps in 10 weeks,” said Sarah Wiese, a pre-algebra teacher at Willis. “I would say maybe of my 80 to 90 kids in there, only one or two didn’t show any sort of growth between August and Thanksgiving.”

Math Momentum is essentially inviting a second teacher into the classroom for more individualized learning. Wiese teaches her pre-algebra class with Jennifer Cooke, who lives in Montana and works for ASU Prep Digital.

After an introductory period of the class, students break up into three groups: Four work with Cooke online in a Zoom classroom. Four work directly with Wiese. And the rest, maybe 10 or so, work on their own. After 15 minutes or so, they switch.

Wiese said the students who do not need as much individualized attention and have passed all the requirements for whatever lesson they are working on, are given more fun things to do. The students who feel they could use some additional help will often sit in her group.

“The reason I’m talking to you, and the reason I was talking to my superintendent, and the reason I will talk to anybody about this is this model is not limited to grant money,” Wiese said. “I think this model is something that you could implement outside of the math subject area and is very feasible and doable.”

Her principal is on board.

“The most effective thing that happens is that they’re continually assessing kids,” Principal Jeff Delp said. “And so through that assessment piece, they have data to see where specifically kids are struggling, and then they’ll group kids based upon what they need.”

“And so we’ve seen some dramatic shifts in terms of gains that kids are making and growth that are that kids are making, just because of that targeted approach.”

Integrating Social-Emotional Learning in the Classroom

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There has been a lot of research conducted to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student achievement and well-being. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress confirms there is a heightened need to continue the integration of social and emotional learning (SEL) to support students.

Research shows that social and emotional learning boosts academic achievement, helps people understand and manage emotions, set goals, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. SEL can help create caring, inclusive, and healthy communities that support all students in reaching their fullest potential.

New Social-Emotional Learning Series K–12

Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute (AZVTI) has created a new 5-part SEL series. Based on the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) framework, these interactive workshops dive into how educators can cultivate skills and environments to advance students’ learning and development.  

Ellie Reich, Professional Development Product Manager for ASU Prep Digital, said the professional development series was designed with all K-12 educators in mind, to address the continued need for SEL integration.

“SEL is very important in the classroom. When we think of the skills needed for college and career readiness…a lot of those skills can be taught, but if we can help students grasp it now, they can build on those skills and apply them to any career,” said Reich.

Each SEL topic in the series will be offered twice and is open to all grade levels. Participants can enroll in one or all based on their level of interest. Each core competency attended earns 1.5 hours of professional development credit. All sessions are from 4-5:30 p.m. (MST) with:

  • Responsible Decision-Making – January 24 | January 30
  • Self-Management – February 16 | February 27
  • Relationship Skills – March 6 | March 16
  • Self-Awareness – March 30 | April 10 
  • Social Awareness – April 25 | May 4 

Reich said by the end of each session, participants will be able to define the competency addressed and explain why it is important, as well as learn and implement strategies in their classrooms.

“These live sessions offer not only the opportunity to engage with our instructors, but provide great collaboration with other educators,” she said.  

Interested in learning more about the Social and Emotional Learning Series?

Visit the ASU Prep Digital Training Calendar to find sessions throughout the semester. 

All AZVTI training is provided at no cost to AZ schools or teachers through the generous investment of the Arizona Department of Education, the Governor’s Office, Helios Education Foundation and Arizona State University.

Why Early Math Matters More Now Than Ever

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From an early age, children learn math skills from home and school through everyday activities and routines such as brushing teeth, eating, and playing. Yet math is a core area of curriculum that many young learners struggle to master. The reasons vary, but we know that math is an important part of learning for children in the early years because it provides vital life skills.

Decline of Math Scores 

There has been a lot of research conducted to learn how students have been affected by the pandemic. The New York Times reported in October 2022 that math scores show the steepest declines ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nation’s report card. The results show that 41 states saw declines in math scores with just 36% of fourth graders demonstrating proficiency in math.

We know that in order to grow, students need to master elementary math skills and concepts—these are fundamentally critical to their success in middle and high school and beyond. 

New Course Offers Math Teaching Methods K-5

Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute (AZVTI) has created a new course, Math Teaching Methods K-5. The interactive course for elementary teachers shares practical strategies for building math fluency while creating a fun and hands-on math classroom.

Caree Heidenreich, Next Gen Learning Coordinator for ASU Preparatory Academy, said the professional development course was created “to support teachers in our current educational climate of learning and social loss.”

Math Fluency and Number Sense

“When people hear the phrase ‘math fluency,’ they probably picture math facts, times tables, and maybe even timed tests with simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems,” said Heidenreich. “But math fluency is a lot more than that. If you think about what it means to be fluent in another language, it means you know not just the basic definitions of words, but you also know how to use those words in different contexts. You understand what words to use in different situations. Math fluency is like that. If you are fluent in math, you know the why behind the rule and you understand how all the rules fit into the bigger picture of math.”

Becoming fluent in math means developing a sense for numbers and how they work together. Students who have number sense and math fluency are able to be flexible in their thinking and are able to solve never-before-seen problems by confidently applying what they’ve learned in the past.

Increasing Growth Mindsets

“Too many people in our society claim they just ‘aren’t good at math’ and as educators, we have the power to foster positive mindsets around math and help students see they can succeed, especially in math,” said Heidenreich. We don’t hear nearly as much negative self-talk when it comes to reading or writing, though everyone has strengths and needs in those areas of education as well. Often, it comes down to meeting students where they are, building their confidence about what they are already able to do, and getting them to push their thinking to the next level.”

Interested in learning more about Math Teaching Methods K-5?

In addition to the Impact of Math Fluency, Number Sense, and Growth Mindset, the modules covered in Math Teaching Methods include Mathematical Progression Models and Conceptual Understanding, Bringing Math to Life in the Classroom, and Planning for Mathematical Impact. Arizona teachers can register and participate in the course for free and earn professional development credit. 


[course link]

For more information on other available teacher trainings, click here or contact Alison Hernandez, Director of Professional Development, at 

Supporting Struggling Readers Through the Science of Reading

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Reading is one of the most fundamental ingredients to life. It provides a window to the world and opens doors. Reading gets your mind working across different areas—stimulates imagination, recounts memories, and uses analytical abilities. Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Yet there are many people who struggle to become proficient readers.  

Literacy Facts 

One in five U.S. adults (21 percent) are illiterate. This translates into 43 million U.S. adults who possess low literacy skills, meaning they do not possess the skills necessary to complete tasks that require comparing and contrasting, paraphrasing, or making low-level inferences.    

In 2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 34 percent of 4th-grade students read below the Average National Assessment of Educational Progress basic reading level.

Have you ever wondered why some children have difficulty learning to read and question why they struggle?  

The Science Behind Reading 

The term “science of reading” refers to the research cognitive scientists and reading experts have conducted for more than 20 years on how we learn to read. This new understanding has helped debunk older methods of reading instruction that were based on tradition and observation, not evidence.

Developed by Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute, the “Science of Reading: Supporting Struggling Readers” is a series that teaches participants how the brain learns to read and what instructional steps are needed to build a “reading” brain.

“One question we get over and over again is, what do I do with students who are reading five levels below the grade level I’m teaching at?” said Heide Morton, Lead Training Specialist at ASU Prep Digital. “Reading is embedded in all aspects of content—whether teaching math or science—we’re all reading teachers.”

In this teacher training series, participants will first be immersed in how the brain works and how it learns to read. There are seven Science of Reading principles, and the first principle is: Reading is not natural; it must be taught. Scarborough’s Reading Rope, which includes word recognition and language comprehension, will also be covered. This professional development session is free for Arizona teachers.

Morton, an educator for 17 years, said this series is especially beneficial for 3rd-8th grade educators, but can be for higher grades as well. “This age in particular is where we see a noticeable gap between proficient and struggling readers.”

Participants will discover why some children have difficulties learning to read and the training then moves into diagnostics and assessments. The last portion of the series is resources and proven strategies to help struggling readers before, during and after reading.

“Science-based reading instruction reduces the need for intervention and allows children to move forward as capable and confident learners,” said Morton. “We have a shared responsibility to help students build their reading skills. It’s all hands on deck. We need to work together.”


National Center for Education Statistics
Adult Literacy in the United States

If you’re interested in bringing ASU Prep Digital Science of Reading: Supporting Struggling Readers teacher training to your school or district, please visit