Rich Questions

This month kicked off with a bang! It started with a trip to the beautiful Monterey Peninsula for the California Mathematics Council (CMC), North Section – Asilomar Conference 2016. If you have not been before, switch over to your calendar right now and mark off the first weekend of December for the conference. Then you can finish reading my blog…

During the opening session speakers challenged us to be “rich in questions” and to identify our questions and reflect on them often. More than 1,600 teachers from Northern California (and beyond) gathered to choose from over 180 sessions hosted by Pacific Grove Middle School and the Asilomar Conference grounds. It was difficult to narrow down the choices to just those that my schedule could accommodate. There were many “big” names to choose from, including CUE (Computer Using Educators Conference) Rock Stars, but I focussed my attention on attending sessions led by classroom teachers with potential to become “big.” I realized that it had been more than 15 years since I had last attended CMC-Asilomar. In the years that I worked as a community college instructor, I was not fortunate enough to be able to attend the Asilomar conference. I thoroughly enjoyed being among the teachers and participating in conversations about student learning.

I was particularly pleased to see that there was a significant emphasis on early learning at this year’s conference. Two of the three plenary speakers had an early elementary focus. Each of the sessions that I chose to attend had a focus on K-3 classrooms and/or students. Popular topics included inquiry-based learning, fractions, learning with games, Common Core standards and English Language Development standards. Because I am sort of a statistics geek, I am very curious as to which topics were well attended and had lots of positive feedback, and what kinds of questions teachers had after the weekend was over. Also, what kinds of things excited them and were they ready to try when they were back in their classroom? I was especially inspired by the sessions that focused on student thinking.

On Sunday I was able to hear from two speakers (Champagne and Franke) who analyze student thinking. Each of them has done research on how children learn and has a collection of student interviews on video. I was excited to see this because the sessions were well attended and that means that there are teachers curious about student thinking and learning to pay special attention to the mathematics of children.

It feels good to be part of the AIMS Center as we contribute to the field of education by learning the research on how children “come to know” mathematics and then inspiring teachers to consider how they can change their classroom practice to build on the thoughtful mental constructions of children. My rich questions are:

  1. How do children “come to know” mathematics?
  2. What can teachers do to foster the process of “coming to know?”
  3. How can AIMS support teachers in the work of #2?

What are your rich questions?

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