Principals Leading Change

More than 30 engaged, collaborative-minded elementary school principals made for a lot of fun last Thursday in Indianapolis. I was there to help them do some thinking about how their teachers might incorporate more hands-on mathematics into their classrooms with the end goal of increasing math achievement scores in their district.

At AIMS, we believe students need time to build knowledge to help create a clear understanding of what they learn. For students to create strong conceptual, representational, and abstract understandings of mathematics they must first start with experiences using hands-on manipulatives. Students understand and conceptualize math better when given the opportunity to learn it in a “real world” way. Last Thursday, I wanted to give those elementary school principals that same opportunity. They got to experience building mathematics understanding with manipulatives. We worked on four different AIMS math lessons so that they could experience how to maintain the rigor and cognitive complexity of math with the use of manipulatives.

I wanted the principals to work together and collaborate on their thinking about increasing math achievement scores. To start, I asked them to work in groups on the ever-popular Marshmallow Challenge. It was an opportunity for them to actively collaborate, have fun, and problem solve. The 18-minute challenge flew by, and was definitely a fun, collaborative problem to solve.

Next came the hand-on AIMS lessons. The principals were blown away by how much they learned while using manipulatives to explore mathematics. They were excited to think about how math instruction might change in their schools. They saw that making math concepts relatable and understandable for students is done with manipulatives. They saw how teachers can add ways for students to conceptually understand math better by supplementing the math curriculums that they have. Best of all, they saw that math is not about memorizing facts.

Before I left the principals I asked them to think about what their theory of change might be to successfully increase math achievement scores. I encouraged them to take time to process, reflect, and plan for that. I was excited to email the whole group this morning so I can continue this conversation with them. Indianapolis public elementary math is in good hands with this group of principals. We look forward to helping them bring their changes to life and collaborating more with them.

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