Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School has a new look! What an exciting way to start the new year! Whether you are a student, a teacher, or an administrator, we all get excited about beginning a new school year. Students get a new book bag, fun school supplies, and perhaps new clothes and new hairstyles. Teachers and administrators have worked all summer preparing new lessons, securing and organizing resources, and planning for the new school year. Everyone at NCTM working with MTMS has been busy, as well. You will find updated fonts, new layout styles, additional focused departments, and more ways to address the teaching and learning of mathematics in the classroom.
Trena L. Wilkerson
How has NCTM leadership shaped the evolution of teaching and learning mathematics? What are your expectations for NCTM leadership?
It is with excitement that we bring you volume 14 of Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School (MTMS). You will find articles that offer specific ideas on teaching a variety of topics in middle-grades mathematics, delve into critical issues about curriculum, and engage learners (and teachers) in stimulating mathematical experiences.
Connie Johnsen and Trena L. Wilkerson
Learning how to modify my teaching style and determining successful methods for reaching struggling students in a beginning algebra class has been an eventful journey for me. My journey began fourteen years ago when I altered my teaching style of straight lecturing to one that incorporated handson activity learning with real-world connections, along with the lectures. In a beginning algebra class, using real-world connections is particularly important because the students have great difficulty connecting the abstract concepts of algebra with their everyday lives. Since research has shown that “50 percent of students sixteen and older function at Piaget's concrete operational level” (Gadanidis 1994, p. 93), high school students need the opportunity for hands-on activities. Businesses require that students not only comprehend but also apply mathematics to qualify for jobs.
Trena L. Wilkerson, Tommy Bryan and Jane Curry
Using candy bars as models gives students a taste for learning to represent fractions whose denominators are factors of twelve.
Julia Aguirre, Beth Herbel-Eisenmann, Sylvia Celedón-Pattichis, Marta Civil, Trena Wilkerson, Michelle Stephan, Stephen Pape and Douglas H. Clements
In 2005, the NCTM Research Committee devoted its commentary to exploring how mathematics education research might contribute to a better understanding of equity in school mathematics education (Gutstein et al., 2005). In that commentary, the concept of equity included both conditions and outcomes of learning. Although multiple definitions of equity exist, the authors of that commentary expressed it this way: “The main issue for us is how mathematics education research can contribute to understanding the causes and effects of inequity, as well as the strategies that effectively reduce undesirable inequities of experience and achievement in mathematics education” (p. 94). That research commentary brought to the foreground important questions one might ask about equity in school mathematics and some of the complexities associated with doing that work. It also addressed how mathematics education researchers (MERs) could bring a “critical equity lens” (p. 95, hereafter referred to as an “equity lens”) to the research they do. Fast forward 10 years to now: Where is the mathematics education researcher (MER) community in terms of including an equity lens in mathematics education research? Gutiérrez (2010/2013) argued that a sociopolitical turn in mathematics education enables us to ask and answer harder, more complex questions that include issues of identity, agency, power, and sociocultural and political contexts of mathematics, learning, and teaching. A sociopolitical approach allows us to see the historical legacy of mathematics as a tool of oppression as well as a product of our humanity.
Michelle L. Stephan, Kathryn B. Chval, Jeffrey J. Wanko, Marta Civil, Michael C. Fish, Beth Herbel-Eisenmann, Clifford Konold and Trena L. Wilkerson
Mathematics education researchers seek answers to important questions that will ultimately result in the enhancement of mathematics teaching, learning, curriculum, and assessment, working toward “ensuring that all students attain mathematics proficiency and increasing the numbers of students from all racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic groups who attain the highest levels of mathematics achievement” (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], 2014, p. 61). Although mathematics education is a relatively young field, researchers have made significant progress in advancing the discipline. As Ellerton (2014) explained in her JRME editorial, our field is like a growing tree, stable and strong in its roots yet becoming more vast and diverse because of a number of factors. Such growth begs these questions: Is our research solving significant problems? How do we create a system and infrastructure that will provide an opportunity to accumulate professional knowledge that is storable and shareable as we work together to address significant problems (Hiebert, Gallimore, & Stigler, 2002)? How do we “facilitate research and development that is coordinated, integrated, and accumulated” (Lesh et al., 2014, p. 167)?
Beth Herbel-Eisenmann, Nathalie Sinclair, Kathryn B. Chval, Douglas H. Clements, Marta Civil, Stephen J. Pape, Michelle Stephan, Jeffrey J. Wanko and Trena L. Wilkerson
In this commentary, we identify key influences on mathematics education that are largely outside the domain of the academic world in which most mathematics education researchers live. The groups that we identify–including the media, companies and foundations, and other academic domains–affect the public's perception of mathematics and mathematics education. Identifying this set of influences in particular is important because these groups often shape policymakers' viewpoints and decisions, but there is not always agreement between mathematics education researchers and these groups about the ways in which mathematics and mathematics education are framed. Whenever a conflict is brought to the foreground, it can be difficult to raise issues without appearing defensive or sounding querulous. It is helpful, then, to bring to bear a theory that can help us interpret this reality (Mewborn, 2005); theories can provide a way to encode, read, and examine a problem as well as offer insights into the design of new practices (Silver & Herbst, 2007). In this case, we use positioning theory to examine potential conflicts between mathematics education researchers and other groups because it offers interesting interpretive insights into the phenomenon and because it can lead to potential strategies for working toward different positionings for mathematics education researchers. We begin by explaining relevant ideas from positioning theory, including storylines, positions, and communication actions. We then use these ideas to highlight current storylines underlying communication by the abovementioned groups about mathematics and mathematics education and trace some of their historical and contextual roots. We argue that mathematics education researchers can intervene to shift these storylines and positionings and to have greater impact on policy, practice, and public perception in the future. Finally, we end by offering specific suggestions for beginning this work.