Collaborating Around Math: Before, During, and After Lessons

Collaborating To Develop Math Ideas
As a teacher, I was lucky to work consistently with teaching partners that pushed my thinking and helped me become a better educator. Out of our collaboration sessions came lessons that engaged our students in deeper thinking. But beyond just lesson planning, these sessions nourished me. They gave me the opportunity to ask questions, get advice, and feel connected in a world that often felt isolating.

In a new video series we’ve produced with Illustrative Mathematics and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, we get to see the power of collaboration across grade levels and settings. Working in elementary, middle school, and high school groups, teams of educators come together to plan, teach, and reflect on student learning. Though many collaboration sessions often focus on planning lessons, this series shows how helpful it can be to come back together with colleagues after lessons to assess student learning.

Elementary Group: Teaching & Learning About Fractions

The elementary Illustrative Mathematics group consists of teachers from both Washington and Delaware. Alicia Farmer teaches fifth grade in Anacortes, Washington and receives support from math coach Jennie Beltramini. Through mostly virtual collaboration, Alicia and Jennie work with Kristin Gray, a fifth grade math teacher in Delaware.

After collaborating with the Washington educators to plan a lesson introducing students to fraction multiplication, Kristin taught the lesson to her students in Delaware. She filmed herself teaching and uploaded the video to Teaching Channel Teams. The other team members were able to watch Kristin’s lesson before coming back together to brainstorm revisions before Alicia taught the same lesson to her students.

In this video, we get to see Alicia teaching the revised lesson. Kristin was able to fly out to watch the lesson, and once the lesson is complete, Alicia, Jennie, and Kristin come together to reflect and look at student work. Watching their post-lesson collaboration, it’s so interesting to see the teachers reflect on both Alicia and Kristin’s lessons. How often do we have a chance to see a lesson we taught in both our classroom and a colleague’s classroom? All the teachers have such deep knowledge of the lesson, which is evident as they look closely at student work, examining common misconceptions and brainstorming on how those misconceptions could be addressed.

Middle School Group: Teaching & Learning About Ratios

With the elementary group, it’s so interesting to hear how the same lesson went in two different classrooms. Watching the middle school group gives us another opportunity to see the same lesson in different contexts. In the videos from this group, we see Crystal Morey teach a lesson about ratios and proportional relationships to both a sixth grade class and a seventh grade class.

When Crystal teaches the lesson to sixth graders, it’s more of an introduction to ratios. She has students develop a basic understanding of proportional relationships by having them work with a real-world task about making purple paint using a ratio of blue and red paint. When teaching seventh graders, Crystal again presents the purple paint task, but this time students apply their knowledge of ratios to solve problems involving fractions.

After teaching both lessons, Crystal comes together with colleagues Jana Dean and Wendy Hughes. Jana and Wendy each taught the lessons in different contexts. Together, they reflect on what worked in each classroom, what could have been improved, and examine student work. It’s great to see the teachers all bring different ideas to the table, helping each other push their thinking.

High School Group: Teaching & Learning About Modeling & Graphing

With the high school group, we get to see teachers learning at a summer PD session, then collaboratively planning, teaching, and reflecting on their lessons. It’s enlightening to see how collaboration enriches each step of the process.

Jon Southam, Krista McAtee, and Chris Anspach teach high school math at Sonoma High School in Sonoma, California. As part of their work with Illustrative Mathematics, they attended a summer PD session on mathematical modeling. During the PD session, they also spent time collaboratively planning a lesson about modeling and graphing real-world situations.

After the summer PD session, the teachers taught the lesson they planned in their different classes. Chris taught the lesson to his Algebra 1 class, Jon to his Algebra 2 class, and Krista to her Bridge to Geometry class. Watch how Krista modified the lesson for the kids in her class, then see the teachers reflect on how the lessons looked differently in each context.

These three different collaborative groups engage in similar processes: plan, teach, reflect. Though they could have participated in a similar cycle individually, collaboration enriched these teachers’ practices by allowing them to see outside their own classrooms. By looking at other students’ work and planning lessons with teachers who work in different contexts, the teachers each came away with new ideas to bring back to their classrooms.

Lily Jones taught K/1 for seven years in Northern California. She has experience as a curriculum developer, instructional coach, teacher trainer, and is also a contributing writer for Teaching Channel.


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