I started this blog in 2009 as a way to journal my way through a year-long high school teaching experience while on sabbatical leave from my home institution. It was mainly a way to record my successes, frustrations, thoughts and feelings. All of the posts from 2009 to 2010 had to do with that experience. If you’re wanting to know more about that experience, you might start at the beginning of the story with this first post, or you might read a paper that I wrote for the Notices of the American Mathematical Society.
More recent posts here relate more generally to teaching mathematics, both at the secondary school and college level, and the quest toward greater equity and justice in our world. I firmly believe that teaching is one of the most (if not the most) intellectually and emotionally demanding jobs. It is worthy of study.
Based on encouragement by Lani Horn during her excellent keynote at TMC2015, I thought it would be helpful to others out there to know a bit about the context in which I teach and work. What works for one teacher will probably not work for another, and it is the understanding of overlapping contexts that will help us teachers talk to one another with “ecological thinking.”
Harvey Mudd College is a small, private, liberal arts college specializing in science, mathematics, and engineering. I am really blessed to get to teach here: we have amazing students who value learning, love mathematics, and generally have very high self-efficacy as mathematics learners. The environment here is highly collaborative–there are few situations in which students don’t collaborate on their learning with each other. It’s encouraged and valued. The mathematics department here is also very collegial. We’ve been honored (ex1, ex2) for the work that we do.
Harvey Mudd College is part of the Claremont Consortium of schools. I have also served as founding director of the Claremont Colleges Center for Teaching and Learning where I was responsible for creating infrastructure to support Claremont Colleges faculty in enhancing their teaching and to strengthen each college’s capacity to improve instruction.
Math for America Los Angeles is a non-profit organization that aims to increase the number of secondary school mathematics and computer science teacher leaders in the greater Los Angeles area. I helped to start MfA LA in 2008 and remain actively involved in it. When I taught high school in 2009-10, I worked alongside three other MfA LA Teaching Fellows.
School systems in Los Angeles are complicated, I think more so than in many other places. Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school district in the country after New York Public Schools, but in addition to this huge district there are lots of tiny districts throughout the greater Los Angeles area. It is also area is home to more charter schools than anywhere else in the United States (see CCSA). As a result, there is a complicated patchwork of systems and procedures in place to support and regulate the work of teachers.
In addition to working with MfA LA Teaching Fellows, I am also an instructor for the Teacher Leadership Program of the IAS/Park City Mathematics Institute. This professional development program is unique in that teachers work and learn with each other in a highly collaborative environment over three weeks in Park City, Utah.
My thoughts on teaching are informed by all of these experiences: teaching mathematics at various institutions, designing and delivering professional development for both higher-ed faculty and secondary school teachers. Please note that my comments here are personal reflections and do not represent any official positions or stances of Harvey Mudd College, Math for America Los Angeles, or IAS/PCMI.