Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BPP Collaborative Spring Workshop

BPP Collaborative Presents:  
Mathematical Thinking
March 1, 2014 8:30-11:30

Gabriela Groza, SchoolRise Consultant
We all know the relevancy of math to our daily lives, but sometimes have doubts that mathematics is for everyone. With a focus on the critical characteristics of mathematical thinking, this workshop helps teachers and other participants to re-conceptualize how they think about mathematics outside of mathematics classrooms. Moreover, the participants will develop the skills required to design mathematical thinking activities in any discipline and will further have the opportunity to implement those designed activities in their classrooms.

A little more about our guest speaker Gabriela Groza:

For about 4 years after finishing school at DePaul University in Chicago, I worked as a Financial Advisor and Financial Budget Analyst, in Chicago and Miami. In these roles, I had a chance to interact with either clients or key personnel in other departments and explain to them various scenarios that involved math. Soon after working as an analyst, I became a corporate trainer where I had to meet with the leaders of various departments and help them understand the numbers in the financial statements and ways in which they can make sense of them in a way that was relevant to helping them improve their departments. I enjoyed teaching them what I felt very passionate about, mathematics, and decided to pursue a career in teaching. 

Soon after, I had a position at a community college as a Statistics Instructor. The experience here was life changing for me. The first day I asked all the students, who had various concentrations and careers, to tell me how this Statistics class is relevant to their future jobs or to their lives. None of the students said it was relevant. Going forward, I made an effort, in all the classes to relate the materials to any news or everyday world applications, so that the students will start to see its relevance. The result was amazing – students gave me the best reviews, asking for when I will teach statistics again the following semester and wanted to take more classes with me.
This inspired me to apply for Graduate school, where I wanted to do more than learn Math and teach it to others. I was interested in learning more about how people learn and specifically how they learn mathematics. The field I am in currently, Learning Sciences, allows me to do research and learn about these issues. My field is concerned with more than learning Math content. We focus on the entire learning environment – all the conditions and people around the learner – with the hope to maximize their learning experience.
As far as my own research, I am passionate about improving the assessment process in the classroom, with specific attention to the diversity of the learners (racial, social, cultural, linguistic, ability etc). Regarding work experience with teachers, in the past 4 years, I have worked as a Graduate Assistant on a relatively large project that involves hundreds of teachers and students, focusing on the ways that assessments are embedded in two elementary curricula and further, how these are embedded in the classroom practice. Even though I have not taught myself at elementary or high school levels, I have been in the classroom, daily, for 60 days at a time, observing the teachers and the students. I have talked daily with the teacher about the instructional decisions they made and learned a great amount about emerging student learning needs and ways teachers use to accommodate them during class time. In working with teachers for over 4 years, I also learned about their struggles regarding implementation of the curriculum. 

Nonetheless, I was able to witness and talk about the ways they try to accommodate the students’ learning needs and the district pacing pressure, such that they are able to go through the material at a pace that allows them to fulfill both needs. In discussions with the teachers I have observed, I also worked with them on planning for next lessons, specifically on expectations they should be monitoring during the lesson and on possible formative assessments they can use to evaluate students’ progress towards the desired learning goals. This process required that I am not only very familiar with the curriculum materials, but with the state standards and district requirements. In this role, I learned that teachers are constantly working to improve their practice and their students’ learning experiences.

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