Author Archives: Tiffany Friesen

Meraki [may-rah-kee]

meraki [may-rah-kee] (adjective) This is a word that modern Greeks often use to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love — when you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing, whatever it may be.

Do you love your work? Is it more than just a job? The above word (as defined in Christopher J. Moore’s book “In Other Words: A Language Lover’s Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World” perfectly describes how I feel about my work. That is not to say that the work is not difficult or that it doesn’t sometimes cause me stress. I specifically chose the word work rather than job because the work that I do is much bigger than just a job.

The work I do is rooted in the belief that children are rational beings that have complex ways and means of operating mathematically. Sometimes children are criticized or even punished for their ways of operating, and their ways are identified as “wrong” or as “misconceptions.” But children perceive mathematical situations differently than adults, and that does not preclude those perceptions from being meaningful and powerful. The process of coming to understand number is far more sophisticated than adults may realize.

My work for the past three years has been learning more about how children construct their ways and means of operating mathematically. Historically, school mathematics has been conceived of in terms of how adults understand mathematics. It has been the mission of my work to understand more about how children learn and to help teachers understand those ways as well. By learning to view the mathematics from the eyes of the student, teachers can interpret the student actions and make significant decisions in adapting their instruction to the mathematics of the student.

What could be more important than starting young children off in an educational system that believes in their thinking and values their contributions to the learning environment? I am so honored to contribute to an educational model that believes in opening doors and opportunities and maximizing students learning potential. We can create opportunities for students to modify, reorganize, and enlarge their mathematical concepts just by placing more value in their thinking. This values not only their mathematical thinking but also the culture and context in which it was constructed.

What do you do with heart? Do you leave a little of yourself in your work? I hope your answer is “yes.” Please write to me below and tell me why you engage in the work that you do?



Usually one would see that exclamation as “Represent!” and it conjures up images of fans in team colors, a spirited school group or some other proud group member.  The individual (or individuals) is recognized as a part of the larger group, and while the whole group is not present, this individual should perform or act… Continue Reading

Seven Blind Mice

“A snake!” “A tree!” “A spear!” All are descriptions of the same item.  Do you know what it is? Have you read Ed Young’s children’s story about the adventures of seven blind mice? Adapted from an old Indian fable about several sojourners and an elephant, Young crafts a wonderfully simple and elegant tale of how… Continue Reading

What comes after 3?

During a recent professional learning day, I sat in a circle with my co-workers and counted. By “counted,” I mean that we spoke number words in a standard order, not that we physically counted objects. In succession, we spoke the number word that came immediately after the one previously spoken. If anyone made a mistake… Continue Reading

Experts Are Made, Not Born

Teachers are incredibly busy. They need to be the experts on a variety of curricular topics, especially in the elementary years, and for a variety of learners. Most teachers have earned a bachelor’s degree and spent additional time studying pedagogy and curriculum to earn their teaching credential. Further, they have all the wisdom gained from… Continue Reading

Meet Stef the Moose

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