The SABES PD Center for Mathematics and Adult Numeracy has continued to evolve over the past four years as we solicited input from the field and incorporated what we learned into our practice. We offer a wide variety of courses that provide practitioners with the latest research and promising practices in teaching numeracy.
Early on, the SABES Math Center developed a sequence of PD offerings. We intentionally began with a core foundation course (Building a Solid Foundation), because many teachers have not been trained to teach math at all. For the first two years, we developed and implemented a demographic survey to capture information about participants in our PD. We wanted to get a sense for the math backgrounds of practitioners in MA.
While the sample size was modest (88 participants), we found that almost a third (30.7%) had either never taught math to adults or had done so less than a year. While over half had master’s degrees, very few were in a math-related field; in fact, almost no respondents had any formal training in teaching math (SABES PD Center for Mathematics and Adult Numeracy, 2016). Given the math qualifications of the typical practitioners and given the nature of the new CCRSAE for Mathematics, focusing on helping teachers develop their own content knowledge is critical, especially if they are expected to teach more than procedures. This is the reality that must be addressed in order to ensure that our adult learners are not only well prepared for a high-stakes assessment, but are able to apply what they learn in a variety of situations—including college, careers, and life.
Another reason that we started with the foundational level is because of the materials available for teachers to use. The workbooks found in many classrooms do not reflect what we now know about teaching math in a way that leads to understanding and retention. The sequence of a typical adult education workbook looks very similar to the sequence taught up to the 1980s before the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics developed its set of standards (NCTM, 2000). For example, all of fractions would be taught in order without overlapping related math areas like decimals and percents, and geometry, which often focuses on formulas, would be completely separate from algebra. NCTM was the first to recommend that teachers move away from the traditional approach of a set sequence beginning with complete mastery of whole number operations before allowing students to move, in rigid order, on to fractions (all operations), decimals, proportional reasoning, algebra, and geometry. Instead, NCTM recommended a developmental continuum of all strands at all levels. So, even at level 1, students have an opportunity to learn conceptually about fractions and how they are used in contexts such as data and geometry.
The Common Core State Standards, and therefore, the CCRSAE follow this developmental continuum across the levels. So does Building a Solid Foundation and its follow-up course, Math Concepts. Our shorter courses for bundling, such as the Making Sense series, also follow the CCRSAE’s developmental continuum where algebraic reasoning and proportional reasoning are introduced at the earliest levels along with data, geometry, and number and operations. Introducing algebraic reasoning while students are still learning their “basic facts” is new for most teachers, especially since many think of algebra only as working with variables and equations.
As we have adapted our succession of offerings over the past few years, our model has changed. We now envision this progression of offerings:
As you can see from our present vision, we are not ‘there’ yet. Courses in dotted lines are in the works, but we definitely have a great start on our foundation courses.
We also offer courses that we have roughly organized into two categories: pedagogy and teaching tools. These are appropriate for all practitioners, whether they are new to teaching adult numeracy or not. Our new series on teaching tools are half-day sessions on specific teaching tools that are explicitly addressed in the CCRSAE at several levels. Already open for registration are courses: Number Line Concepts (5/11), Using Visuals to Develop Conceptual Understanding: Singapore Strips (5/11) and Area Models (5/16).
Through our PD offerings, we continue to try to identify exemplary practitioners who we can mentor to become leaders and coaches for newer, less experienced teachers. Let us know if you or someone you know is interested in working with us.
References: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000). Principles and Standards for School Mathematics: An Overview. Reston, VA: Author. SABES PD Center for Mathematics and Adult Numeracy. (2016). Annual Performance Measures Plan.