Steamboat Springs Through an intensive nine-day math workshop at Steamboat Springs High School, teachers discovered a new way to teach math.
"I thought we were going to try to do things better, but I came to realize what we have been doing hasn't been working for all children," said Roger Spears, Moffat County High School chemistry teacher.
Kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers from Steamboat Springs, South Routt, Hayden, North Park, West Grand, Kremmling and Craig participated in the workshop from Aug. 6 to 16.
Ruth Parker, CEO of Mathematics Education Collaborative in Ferndale, Wash., and instructor for the course, said many teachers learned math isn't a systematic way of solving problems but an overall way of discovering relationships.
"When I was in college, I had a math course where I didn't understand a thing some children have the same experience," she said.
Parker said teachers should have powerful learning experiences in math to teach it well.
"My hope was if they had nine days to live math, they would have to offer the same in the classroom," she said.
Strawberry Park Elementary teacher Lisa Adams said the course changed her perspective on how math should be taught.
"This student-directed discovery will allow the learner to see patterns, relationships and connections. Honoring this approach will foster student engagement, interest, ownership and confidence," she said.
Adams said she developed a deeper understanding of math through her own investigations during the workshop.
Parker said the teachers were given math problems and asked to solve them. She said the teachers all reached the same answers, but had many different approaches for solving the problems.
Through the workshop, teachers learned how to assess their own work something they hoped to pass on to their students.
Through assessment standards, "students get to reflect on the quality of their work," Parker said. "We can score all of the students' work, but unless a student learns to judge their work, they are not going to benefit," she said.
Parker said math should be accessible and used by people of all ages to see patterns and discover relationships.
She said once students begin to discover the larger applications of math, they do not have to memorize several methods for solving problems. Parker said teaching a student a systematic approach to solving math problems leaves the student at a loss when confronted with problems unfamiliar to him or her.
"I think the real issue is adults have learned math through rules and procedure they can't put it to work," Parker said.
The workshop was funded through a Colorado Department of Education grant for teacher professional development.
Routt County grant writer Lynne Myers said math was a focus area for the district. She said teachers were seeking new methods of instruction with better content assessment standards.
"Math teachers spent the final weeks of summer break becoming excited about mathematics and new ways that they will inspire their students this fall," she said.