I would like to encourage each and every one of you to plan to join us this October for the ICTM conference.  The conference is an important way for teachers of mathematics at all levels to come together and share of our successes and challenges in teaching and the learning of mathematics.  And, of course you are bound to come away with new insights and some newfound energy and optimism to bring back to share with your students and colleagues!

My own attendance at the ICTM conference in recent years has given me the opportunity to learn about the various ways teachers at all levels are expanding the use of mathematical discourse in their classrooms. Doing so has allowed me to adapt and re-energize my own use of dialogue and infuse practices such as number talks and number strings into classes I teach even at the college level.

Along the way, I’ve also had the opportunity to teach a number of 3rd-5th grade classes over the past two years using number talks, number strings, and a 3 Act Lesson I created on measurement and volume. Just a month ago, I opened a lesson for a class of 5th graders by saying “Today we’re going to work on multiplication of decimal numbers,” after which I heard a number of audible “Ugghhs.”   Nevertheless, I had faith that the number string approach I had planned would positively impact both their mathematical understanding and their attitude.  Indeed, after the lesson, students were abuzz with excitement and had shared several new understandings of how to compute expressions such as 5.5 x 6.2 mentally.

While I’ve always been passionate about encouraging students to speak and write mathematics, I’ve learned to appreciate this is a critical practice in addressing issues of access and equity in mathematics education.  As teachers it is our job to structure a learning environment and craft lessons that support all learners.  In my own teaching, I have found that when each and every learner is given voice in a classroom functioning as a “community of learners,” it is through healthy dialogue and collaboration then that they grow confidence and persistence.

As you wind up the academic year, add some fun to your classes. Check out the Mathematical Association of America’s (MAA’s) Fun Math: http://www.maa.org/programs/students/fun-math.

As you think about summer, why not add some award winning mathematics article to your summer reading? Go to http://www.maa.org/programs/maa-awards/writing-awards to explore different awards. Or, explore articles on Jo Boaler’s youcubed site: https://www.youcubed.org/. I also highly recommend her book “Mathematical Mindsets”. The book is loaded with great resources. I’m using several of her ideas in my Mathematical Concepts (for prospective elementary teachers) course.

What interesting things are you doing in your classroom? We’d love to hear about it and see you share it with others, maybe at the 2017 Math Fall Conference at Valley West High School on Monday, October 9. You have until May 15, 2017 to propose a session for this fall’s conference: https://www.iowamath.org/conference/.

                                                                                                   —Robert Keller