When Jim Matthews, a math professor at Siena College, asked Mr. Lawrence if he would present at the New³ summer conference, Mr. Lawrence couldn’t refuse. After all, Professor Matthews is a math hero to Mr. Lawrence, and a recent inductee into the New York State Mathematics Educators Hall of Fame. (Did you know that there’s such a thing?) Mr. Matthew’s also the inspiration behind Mustard Seed’s I LOVE Math Day celebration.
Mr. Lawrence sent proposals for three different presentations with material that aligned with Common Core practice standards. And was surprised to learn that Professor Matthews wanted him to teach all three sessions! That’s just what happened earlier this week at the conference at Siena college.
The audience included teachers from New York, New Jersey, and New England. Here’s a look at Mr. Lawrence’s sessions:
- Developing Persistence and Creativity through Problem Solving
- Developing a Math Culture in the Middle School: I Love Math Day
- Problems, Problems: My Favorite Problems to use with Middle School students
Uniting each of these presentations was a focus on giving students difficult problems to grapple with over time. Collaboration. And displaying solutions and mathematical thinking in creative ways.
In his MSS pre-algebra and algebra classes, Mr. Lawrence will often give students a week to solve a challenging problem in small groups. Once they solve the problem, students are required to find beautiful ways to make their thinking clear to others. This often takes the form of puzzles. Games. Dioramas. Booklets. Bound books. Essays. Posters. Foam board constructions. And electronic presentations using programs such as Emaze, PowerPoint, Prezi, and iMovie.
When preparing for the New³ conference, Mr. Lawrence looked back over student work from the last several years. Overwhelmed by the volume of high quality work produced by MSS students, he found it difficult to choose what to bring along with him. Here’s just a sampling:
Adding student work made for impressive presentations. Attendees were astonished by the quality and level of work that our middle school students are capable of. And, we hope, caught a vision for what their students can do.
“We’re so fortunate that Mustard Seed provides a setting where our students have time and space to build these skills,” says Mr. Lawrence. “I look at all of my students as mathematicians. And these are the 21st century skills they need.”