Author Archives: Tiffany Friesen
I am very excited that Dr. Leslie P. Steffe is going to be the speaker at this month’s AIMS colloquia on January 22. The Research Division of the AIMS Center has chosen to deeply study Dr. Steffe’s work so that we can share it with teachers here in the Central San Joaquin Valley. While Dr. Steffe has visited the AIMS Center before, I still somehow find myself giddy with excitement about him directly sharing his work with our community.
I’m excited about Dr. Steffe’s visit because of the man that he is and the work that he has done. While he began his career as a secondary school mathematics teacher, most of his professional life has been spent in the arena of mathematics education research. Surprisingly, he did not spend his time researching secondary students or university students and their mathematics, but rather pursued an interest in how young children learn. He has worked with elementary children (and some four-year-olds) since the mid-1960s. This means that he obviously has lots to share about how children learn, but what’s most exciting to me is the passion that he exudes and the curiosity that he maintains about how children learn.
His love for students is contagious. His respect for students is unquestionable. Over the past two years I have had many opportunities to speak with Dr. Steffe either in person or via email and am always challenged to think less about myself and more about the students. He has a kind and gentle spirit that becomes pronounced when he sits before a young student and discusses their mathematics. He is curious and affirming. He is gentle and yet he is relentless in his pursuit of understanding their point of view.
Dr. Steffe has taught me to look at mathematics through the eyes of the student. He challenges me to know the student’s mathematics deeply enough that I can, for all practical purposes, predict just how that child might respond to the given task. What’s more, I can also understand something about why the child responded the way she did and what we could possibly do together that would deepen her understanding of the situation. This is different than the way I often thought of teaching.
I have taught junior high, high school, community college, and university mathematics. Most of the courses that I taught were somehow related to algebra. The courses were either preparing a student for algebra, introducing algebraic concepts, or building on the algebra that they already “knew.” I thoroughly enjoyed these topics and was overjoyed when students exhibited some satisfaction at their abilities or some additional curiosity about the mathematics. Strangely, it was clearly the algebra that had students baffled and confused. But I didn’t always realize that.
While it has not always been easy to make sense of all of the findings and observations contained with in Dr. Steffe’s work, I have gained a deep appreciation for the role of counting in a student’s development of number. Number is a rich and sophisticated topic that has often been oversimplified in the typical classroom curriculum. Hindsight is 20/20. I often reflect on my years of teaching and view them through the lens of the new information I have about children’s construction of number. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that more than half of all of my students lacked a rich understanding of our number sequence. Over and over again I think of the students who were unable to make sense of addition, multiplication, and equations because of an inability to abstract the concept of number. Had I, and their other teachers, been more aware of the types of experiences that students required to develop this concept of number, I believe – no, I know – that mathematics would have been a much more pleasant and successful topic for them.
I hope that you will join us in the Richard Thiessen Conference Center (WEC 114) on the campus of Fresno Pacific University on January 22, 2018 from 4:30 – 6:00 PM. You can also follow our Facebook Page to watch for the accompanying live-stream. Come hear about children’s mathematics from “the man himself.” If you teach, bring a colleague, and I promise that you will be inspired and will have plenty to discuss in the days that follow.
We all know the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. When Goldilocks entered the home she kept finding things that were not quite right; they were too hot, too small, too hard, or too soft. It took a while before she would find the item that was just right for her. Sometimes I feel… Continue Reading
Stef was born out of the desire to put Steffe in every classroom. After several conversations with Dr. Leslie Steffe (the originator of much of the research we study at AIMS and longtime researcher at the University of Georgia), the AIMS Research Associates brainstormed ways to encourage children to see the math in their world.… Continue Reading
I have heard the claim “calculus is easy, algebra is difficult, and arithmetic is impossible,” but if that is true, then what does that make counting? We often hear little ones proudly singing the alphabet song or reciting a string of numbers from 1 to 20. Have you ever asked one of those who now… Continue Reading
August is the month when educators return to work. Many of you have spent days preparing for the start of school and are now in full swing in your classrooms. It’s almost like we never had a vacation right? While I work year round, I am still feeling the excitement of the start of school… Continue Reading
Most of us, when hear the word reflection, think about what we see when we look in a mirror, but it can also mean to think back on an event. For example, if I asked you to reflect on the food choices you made today, you would have to think back on the meals that… Continue Reading
I will never be the strongest woman in the room. I don’t mean that in any kind of cognitive or social-emotional way. I mean that I am physically not a very strong person. Nevertheless, I work out as often as I can and I have spent most of my life in physical therapy. A few… Continue Reading
You have probably all heard the statement, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” Generally this statement is used to convince ourselves that we can trust what we see, or that we can make sense of our world by gathering evidence… Continue Reading
This week my team is together in San Antonio, TX at the NCTM National Conference (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). The conference provides teachers with a plethora of seminar choices and a variety of topics. It is a great place for teachers to interact with other teachers from around the nation and exchange ideas… Continue Reading
Things are really hopping around the AIMS Center. Everyday becomes better than the last. I wake up and I’m challenged and excited by what I get to do during the day. As most people know, we really want to find a way to share what research tells us about children’s construction of number with classroom… Continue Reading