Posts tagged ‘math’

January 28, 2013

Q&A: Investigations Workshops Talks Online Courses & Taking Elementary Math PD to the Web

In response to the need for quality math professional development that is available anytime and anywhere, TERC’s Investigations Workshops team has gone to the web. In 2012, they launched their online program to great success, with a full-house first group of participants completing a 6-week online course. On January 23rd, they debuted their second online course offering. I had the opportunity to sit down with Myriam Steinback, Project Director of the Workshops, and Cynthia Garland Dore, Sr. Research Associate on the project and a veteran Investigations Workshops leader, to chat about the history of the Workshops, their current ruminations on online models for delivering targeted PD, and their hopes for the future of elementary math professional development.

TERCTalks: Myriam, can you tell me how you got started with the Investigations Workshops?

Myriam: When I first began leading elementary math PD workshops back in 1996, the typical programs available to teachers were one-time, less-than-half-a-day sessions. Many teachers wanted more from their professional development, but for a variety of reasons, districts were not as focused on providing in-depth PD offerings. We established the Investigations Workshops with the goal of providing intensive programs focused on augmenting mathematical content knowledge. We really wanted to develop a resource for continuous improvement in math teaching and teacher learning.

Our first offerings were summer institutes in Massachusetts and Michigan but that soon expanded. We have provided support to schools and districts in 48 states and we run our programs throughout the year. We offer several content-specific workshops; targeted PD Institutes for district leaders and school administrators; and an institute for stakeholders who are designing Investigations-focused PD sessions themselves. Recently, we’ve started offering a blended Common Core Institute (including face-to-face work and follow-up webinars) to help leaders with the implementation of the CCSS. We also create customized programs for districts.

TERCTalks: It has been a busy year for you with the launch of the online course. Could you tell me about the first class of teachers, and any observations and findings you have from the first iteration of the course?

Myriam: I have to say we hesitated going online for a while, mainly because we wanted to do it right. A real strength of our face-to-face program is the collaborative inquiry into the math. You just can’t deny the incredible collective impact of a group of math educators fully engaged and excited about solving math problems together! We wanted to make sure we didn’t lose the kinds of meaningful interactions we saw in our face-to-face workshops.

Fortunately,  we had the right development team that included the curriculum authors and ETLO (EdTech Leaders Online). In the fall of 2012, we offered our first course—we ran five full sections—and the feedback was very gratifying. One participant told us that this course was the 8th online course she had taken and she had never had one that was so interactive and well set-up. She specifically mentioned loving the way she could view and interact with student work. Others mentioned how they appreciated being able to take the course with other teachers from their schools and how the time to reflect allowed them to get a better understanding of Common Core standards.

Q: What have you been able to incorporate from what you learned in this course about Investigations and about the Common Core, into your classroom? Wordled responses from course participants...

Q: What have you been able to incorporate from what you learned in this course about Investigations and about the Common Core, into your classroom? Wordled responses from course participants…

TERCTalks: You have now both led face-to-face workshops and the online course. Can you talk about how they compare?

Myriam: For those of us facilitating the course, comparisons with our face-to-face experiences were inevitable. Surprisingly, we realized that interactions among participants were not only possible, but also very reflective, engaging, and, in some cases—eloquently articulated. The asynchronous nature of the course prompted some participants to say, “I love that I can do this in my PJs whenever I want!” We even had a participant in one of our sections say—upon introducing herself—that she was due to give birth “any time now”, and would continue the course to completion, which is exactly what she did.

Cynthia: While some participants ‘came’ to the course alone, some administrators registered groups of teachers from their schools and had them meet weekly to go through the week’s session together and discuss and debrief. We realize that this situation is not one that all schools can do, and we are in fact happy to have people from schools across the country in attendance.—however, the model of registering multiple teachers from the same school is a nice way to add a blended, face-to-face aspect to the programming. So we definitely can say it was a big success—the interactions among participating educators across grade levels, backgrounds, and differing geographic regions were powerful.

TERCTalks: Can you elaborate on some of the cool tools and features of the online course?

Myriam: The online course has ‘Voice Threads’, video, a sorting feature that allows participants to search and sort student work, and also ‘Key Learnings’ e-guides for each session. And the Discussion Forum includes prompts so that participants can address and respond to issues pertinent to each course session.

Cynthia: I think the way we can archive the course experience is a wonderful feature. The course sections will be available for participants to return to for up to a year after they complete the course. The first course finished up in December, and already,  I am impressed with the number of participants who have returned to the resources and conversations.

TERCTalks: What’s next on the horizon for Investigations Workshops?

 Myriam: We are committed to offering a full suite of online programs to complement our face-to-face programs. New courses will be rolled out this spring. Our online course offerings allow us to strengthen a professional learning community of math educators that—in many ways—grew out of our institutes throughout the years. We’re able to continue the mission we established when we began—to provide resources that support continuous learning in mathematics education—and we couldn’t be happier that the response to our online program has been so enthusiastic.

 Thanks Myriam and Cynthia!

For more information about the Investigations Workshops PD offerings or to register, please visit:


September 19, 2012

Now Showing: A ‘Mixing in Math’ Webinar!

Mixing in Math (“MiM” for short) is a set of over 200 free, easy-to-use, and Common Core-aligned activities that situate math in the context of everyday experience. Aimed at ‘informal educators’ of children in grades preK-6 (including librarians, after-school providers, and parents), MiM activities comprise craft projects, posters, calendars, and games and span the topics of arithmetic, measurement, time, money, and patterns. MiM activities can be incorporated into an array of afterschool and informal settings, including game nights, story-times, or project times and adapted to groups of varying sizes—from 1 to one dozen. The MiM activity catalog has been developed with the input of hundreds of librarians and informal educators across the country.

MiM Senior Research Associate Nuria Jaumot-Pascual and the White Plains (NY) Public Library’s Children’s Librarian Deb Gaffey have presented many interactive MiM webinars. These hour-long offerings engage adult participants in doing MiM activities together and propel sharing of implementation and adaptation techniques. You can view one of their most recent webinars below, or by clicking here:

Full of great—and duly, accessible—tools and tips, this webinar helps kids AND the adults who work with them gain confidence and competence in math. If that’s not a compelling enough reason to tune in and give MiM a try—external evaluations found that after using MiM for an average of 1-2 years, 90% of librarians cited math as a “strong priority” in children’s library programming vs. 25% at baseline. AND MiM helped 75% of afterschool educators improve their abilities to engage children in math—with the same percentage reporting that children improved their math skills, enjoyment, and comfort. Looks like MiM got the “mix” of math and fun just right!

To learn more about MiM impact, download activities for free, or pick up a training guide, please visit:

April 5, 2012

Sometimes, You Judge a Book by Its Cover…

…and it wins!

TERC’s staff is comprised of researchers, developers, evaluators, mathematicians, scientists, educators, designers and—authors. In addition to the array of deliverables borne of the research endeavors here, the list of STEM-related books by TERC staff is substantive—and downright comprehensive.

That said, it might surprise you to learn that a TERC-authored book recently won an award for its cover design. But that’s exactly what happened with Susan Jo Russell’s (TERC), Deborah Schifter’s (EDC), and Virginia Bastable’s (SummerMath for Teachers) Connecting Arithmetic to Algebra, recently published by Heinemann. The book cover below was a Bookbuilders of Boston winner in the ‘Professional Covers’ category and will be featured at the 55th Annual New England Book Show on Wednesday, May 2nd, at Boston’s Symphony Hall.



Be sure to check out this great accompanying essay (or click on the image below) by Susan Jo appearing in the Heinemann catalog. She examines one classroom technique for connecting a 2nd grade addition and subtraction lesson to the properties of operations—AND the Common Core State Standards. For many more of those helpful classroom examples of connecting arithmetic to algebra in the elementary and middle grades, pick up a copy of Connecting Arithmetic to Algebra at Heinemann.


March 7, 2012

To Drink or Not To Drink the Water? That is the Question…

Statistics for Action has some answers.

Environmental organizers and citizen groups encounter math-dense technical documents in their day-to-day livelihoods—including test results, permit applications, environmental impact statements, and risk assessments. How often do they read them and help their communities make sense of them? Because of Statistics for Action (SfA)—now, more than ever.

Thankfully, too. I recently moved to Cambridge and became painfully aware of my own rusty data analysis skills when I perused a copy of the 2010 Drinking Water Quality Report. I tried to imagine if the ‘high reading’ of 2.6 ppm (parts per million) of chlorine in Cambridge tap water would be discernible by taste—and how this 2.6 ppm might compare to the 4.0 ppm of chlorine that is the MRDL (maximum residual disinfectant level) and how that 4.0 might compare to the ppm chlorine content of—let’s say—pool water. And what I really didn’t get was whether or not that 2.6 ppm of chlorine recorded in Cambridge water was definitively a good number or a bad one. Stay with me here—2.6 ppm seemed relatively good as compared to 4.0 ppm, but was there an optimal proportion of chlorine to water? Should I still drink the water?*

Needless to say, my ruminations left me with way more questions than answers. My analysis skills were not just rusty—they were fully oxidized. And I know from talking to my peers and colleagues that most of us were in the same boat of not being quite able to recall those “quick math” techniques that would help us make sense of unfamiliar units.

The good news? SfA offers a downloadable activity dedicated to understanding and quantifying units  and another one dedicated just to measuring, along with a lots more statistical analysis activities that help to elucidate things like—oh—parts per million. Also, SfA has content-rich downloadable guides on water quality, soil quality, and hazardous waste. Though they are designed primarily for environmental organizers, I found them helpful and readable too.

*And in case you were curious—thanks to SfA’s guides and activities, I have determined 2.6 ppm of chlorine in tap water is still drinkable, and doesn’t pose any known toxic risk at under 4.0 ppm.

Check out this video on one of my favorite topics of late—yes, that would be water. Martha weighs in contamination in surface water and concerns about tap water vs. bottled water quality.

Another great tool SfA offers—video! And now the truly exciting bit of this blog—SfA’s Project Director, Martha Merson, is featured on a panel for the Eco-AlertTV with Nadine Patrice series, 3 episodes of which are airing on Miami’s WLRN (public television station) twice weekly, from March 4th-24th with a premiere date of Wednesday, March 7th. For all you Floridians, these episodes will air on Wednesday evenings from 8:30-9:30 p.m.(EST) and Saturday evenings from 10:00-11:00 p.m.(EST). And for all you other citizens of the world, the videos are available on the Statistics for Action website here.

See you next week with thoughts from the “EdGE” of TERC!


SfA is made possible by funding from the National Science Foundation (grant #DRL-0812954). SfA Partners include the Toxics Action Center, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, the New England Literacy Resource Center, Pesticide Watch, the River Network, and Operation Green Leaves.