When Dr. Thiessen first discussed his ideas about launching the AIMS Center for Math and Science Education with me, he suggested that our motto should be:
“Know the Math; Know the Science; Know the Research.”
And, he said, even more importantly, we can never forget that:
“We believe in children’s knowledge!”
I have been working in mathematics education now for over 30 years – as a teacher, as a site principal, as a mentor and provider to other teachers and administrators. I thought that I had always believed in children’s knowledge. I had always believed in children! But… I now realize the difference that Dr. Thiessen was talking about. I had bought into the political, assessment driven curriculum that our schools function around. I, like many well meaning teachers, focused too much on the standards that I was told to teach… on the curriculum that I was using… Many of my students seemed to thrive in that environment. But, too many did not. In fact, every time a student “failed” my class, I feel that I failed them. Why? Because, I did not truly believe in their knowledge. I expected them to be where the curriculum or the textbook indicated they should be.
Teaching is a very demanding vocation. We have tried to make it easier on ourselves as teachers by streamlining our instruction, when in reality we have lost the notion that every child is unique and deserves unique instruction. Believing in children’s knowledge means that we actually gauge our sequencing on where each individual child is and choose appropriate experiences that keep moving each child along their continuum of understanding. It means that our classroom is set up for 100% success – not 75+%. The members of our research division are working hard to incorporate our belief in children’s knowledge into all of the work that we are beginning to translate for teachers.
As the committee planning our 2016 Christmas celebration settled on a Polar Express theme, our 2017 AIMS Center theme emerged quite naturally through our meetings. We were focused on the bell, which only rings for those who believe! We, at the AIMS Center, believe!
- We believe in children’s knowledge.
- We believe that teachers truly want to help their students learn.
- We believe that, by knowing and understanding the research, we can help teachers learn how to change the way children learn mathematics.
- We believe that, by changing students’ experiences as they learn mathematics and science into truly positive ones, we can change their lives forever!
We sincerely believe in the work that we are doing at the AIMS Center. We have accepted a very daunting challenge, but… what an awesome opportunity! In 2017 and beyond… WE BELIEVE!