Summer Break is here, but hundreds of teachers in New Mexico are back in the classroom, only this time as students. They are participating in MathLab at various schools across the state, including Los Lunas Elementary and Los Lunas High School. It is a hands-on program through “Mathematically Connected Communities”, or MC2, where teachers learn to improve student learning while gaining the skills needed to be more effective in the classroom.
Shelly Rice, a veteran teacher at Parkview Elementary School in Socorro, is participating and she says she is excited about MathLab.
“I’m a 37 year veteran in education and I don’t ever want to be too old to learn,” she said.
Each morning, the student volunteers from Los Lunas Elementary and Los Lunas High School, learn from MC2 teacher leaders and mathematicians in a typical classroom setting, while the teacher participants observe via a live video stream in adjacent rooms.
Second grade students are focusing on conceptual place value, fifth graders are learning fractions and measurement, eighth graders are studying ratios, proportions, and rates of change, and Algebra One will focus on conceptual learning of quadratic equations.
Rice says she is thrilled for the opportunity to watch teachers as they work with real students.
“We don’t want the students to think we only care about the answer, but how did you get that answer? What are you going to do with that answer? What are the different strategies you can use to find that answer? And we feel that’s important,” she said.
MC2 Project Director, Wanda Bulger Tamez, said the key is creating an authentic classroom setting.
“We used to do summer academies for teachers where they came in for a week of professional learning and math pedagogy. It was good. We learned math, but it was theological. So we decided to bring the kids in to move it from the theoretical to the tactical, like when it actually happens with children what does that look like and how do you make adjustments along the way depending on the particular needs of the kids you have in the classroom,” Bulger Tamez explained.
The live stream portion of the program is just one tool it uses to teach the teachers. The project director says they also practice with the students.
“What they’re (the teachers) saying is they’ve seen it, they’ve experienced it and so they really know what to do when they go back to the classroom to try to implement what they learned,” Bulger Tamez stated.
In the afternoon, the teachers meet in groups for a debriefing and discuss what they observed, including the learning environment, questioning, discourse, and how the students and teacher leaders interacted.
For the children, it is another opportunity to learn. Especially for a second grader from Los Lunas Elementary School. He talked about how much he loves math.
“It’s a subject that I know I’m good at,” he said. “I know a lot of adding and subtracting equations and I even know multiplication and divide.”
Bulger Tamez said MathLab is also about student progress.
“The kids find the mathematics more meaningful and they really do better overall, not just on tests, but overall in their understanding of math and their application of math,” she said.
This is the fourth year of MathLab in New Mexico, but the first time at Los Lunas Schools. The New Mexico Public Education Department and the New Mexico Higher Education Department funds the program. Next week, MathLab will be taking place in Española. Click here to learn more about Mathematically Connected Communities.
*Written By: Sidney Olivas