Changing Hearts and Math Mindsets

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When it comes to teaching math, there’s strength in numbers. Those words ring especially true for Alison Hernandez, M.Ed., ASU Prep Digital’s Professional Development Manager.

She’s one of the brains behind the Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute’s (AZVTI) new Math Institute, an online professional development series designed to unite Arizona’s math teachers in how they teach today’s students.

For various reasons, math is a core area of curriculum many young learners struggle to master. A lot of students start high school with gaps in their middle school math education, leading to semesters of frustration, confusion and, as a result, a negative perception of math subject matter. AZVTI’s program is aimed at changing that from the top down.

“The Math Institute will support math teachers in harnessing strategies, best practices and research to nurture a math mindset in their students,” Hernandez explained. “We’re empowering our teachers by giving them the tools to respond to the ‘I can’t do this’ mentality so many of their students have. Our goal as math teachers isn’t to make students into mathematicians, but to help them understand—and not fear—foundational math, and learn strategies for test-taking on the path to graduation.”

The Math Institute is funded by a grant from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), which allows ASU Prep Digital to make the program free to all educators throughout the state of Arizona. And it requires very little commitment from participants. Teachers will meet online once a month after school and earn professional development credit for each session they attend.

Math teachers are encouraged to sign up for the entire series, set to run through May 2022, but those who aren’t able to attend regularly can watch recordings of past sessions and review presentation materials at their leisure.

The format is more of an online forum (less of a webinar or lecture) where teachers can collaborate and participate in real-time virtual breakout sessions to share co-teaching methods. 

Topics are informed by survey responses from ADE Math Momentum teachers and leaders at ASU Prep Digital’s partner schools, with content covering: co-teaching models, inquiry mindsets, using data to guide instruction, fostering productive struggle, teacher talk moves, and using relevant technology tools to teach math. 

Participants will follow a cycle to learn, create a target focus for implementation, and then reflect, collaborate and iterate their implementation. 

“We’ve seen a shift over the past few years,” added Hernandez. “Teachers want to open doors and collaborate more. This is an opportunity for teachers across the state of Arizona to build their own group of experts among colleagues they may not otherwise meet. It’s about forging relationships with like-minded math teachers beyond your own school.”

Click here for more information and to register for sessions.