Northwest Math Conference – Tacoma

I was fortunate to travel to Tacoma, Washington to attend and present at the Northwest Math Conference. I loved the theme this year which was “You Are Invited.”  It seemed to be a very inclusive type of theme which was welcomed.   It was at NWMC that I got to see two incredible, dynamic math educators present about how math should be taught.  They reminded me of not only my math journey but my students’ math journeys.  I always get a rush when I come upon others with my sensibility and similar ideologies.  They were both inspiring and gave terrific sessions.

My first session was by Dan Finkel whose session was titled “How Mathematician’s Play: Ownership, Rigor and Joy in Math Class.  He asked the question of “Why do some students own their math learning?  How can they take ownership?”   Dan went on to say that art shouldn’t look the same.  We start with a frame and invite students to work in that space.  Sometimes we may give them frames that are too thick with no room for student’s thoughts/contributions.  Sometimes we give them frames that are too thin with little guidance.  Dan explained that math should be about courage, curiosity, and kindness.  Most importantly, math should be about play meaning that we need students to explore new while giving them an open framework.  What do students learn in math class?  It all depends on what frame we give them. 


Next was Zachary Champagne who I had just met for the first time at NCTM LA via Mike Flynn.  He recognized me at Dan’s session, greeted me with a hug, and we took a quick pic.

I attended 2 sessions of his one of which had me so jazzed because we have the same mentality/platform/ideology in teaching math to our kiddos.  In one hour, there were so many nuggets of info that I couldn’t write them down fast enough.  His session was called The Teaching and Learning of Math is About Ideas.   (He’ll be doing this at CMC–if you can GO SEE IT!!!)

Here are a few of those gold nuggets he shared:

  • Math is for everyone.   (YES!!!)
  • How do we empower our kids to see themselves as math learners?  Not done by focussing on right answers!
  • It’s not about the math problem; it’s about the math learner.
  • When students are learning mathematics, the answer is less critical.
  • How a student arrives at the answer tells us many things.
  • Kids have important mathematical ideas
  • The teaching and learning of mathematics is the LONG game!

Just listening to these two dynamic speakers inspired me, filled me with joy, and most of all purpose.  I sometimes feel like a lone wolf who isn’t heard in her own district about the importance of math.  However, after hearing from Zak, I concluded that I can only control what goes on in my own classroom.  If I can control these ideologies in my own classroom with my own 32 kiddos…then that’s the impact I can have.  I want to help my students on their own math journeys.  I usually tell them that there are a many ways to get from California to NY.  I’m not interested in them being in NY.  I’m most curious about how they choose to get there.  Same goes for math.  I’m not interested in the answer itself, but how they got there.  That’s the fascinating part we all should take notice of.

Until next time,



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