A bit over a year ago, I first heard about a form of professional development for maths teachers that sparked my interest. The Maths Teacher Circles model is ongoing PD that sees teachers, mathematicians and other maths enthusiasts come together over a love of maths and to share great ideas.
It's not about telling teachers to blindly implement certain practices and it's not a one-off seminar with a 'guru'. Instead, Maths Teacher Circles recognise that everyone has valuable insights and, by coming together in a warm and collegiate environment, we can support one another and build our own understanding of maths and teaching over the long-term.
For the past 20 years, this model has been running successfully in the United States. Together, with primary educator Alex Box, in 2020 we launched Maths Teacher Circles in Australia for the first time. Here are some of the highlights:
Given the year that's passed, there have certainly been some challenges as well! We had to cancel events when COVID hit and figure out how to run interactive online workshops that stay true to the Maths Teacher Circles model. We also spent time identifying who Maths Teacher Circles can best serve and how to reach out to them. We've found that there are two things that people are typically looking for when they come to our events. They want to:
access a range of new and inspiring maths problems and know how they can be used and adapted in the classroom
form meaningful connections and learn from others about maths and maths teaching practices.
While we've learned a huge amount from these challenges, there's still much more to do. In 2021, we are focusing on two areas for building mathematical communities and bringing people together to do maths and talk teaching:
1. Regular online Maths Teacher Circle sessions
Throughout 2021, we are holding online Maths Teacher Circle sessions for anyone, wherever they're based, who wants to learn about great maths problems and connect with others in a welcoming environment. Sessions are carefully pitched to be relevant for primary and secondary teachers and their classroom contexts.
I'm particularly excited about the upcoming topics (including 'Building mathematical thinking with games') and range of speakers (such as thought-provoking mathematician David Butler and effervescent primary educator Jennifer Bowden).
2. Supporting Local Circles to get started
Local Circles meet regularly throughout the school year and are part of an Australia-wide network of independently-run Maths Teacher Circles. In November, we hosted a webinar that was attended by 30 teachers and academics who are looking to get started. We will be further supporting new Local Circles to get started, to understand the ingredients for successful sessions and to know how to maintain and run their Circle sustainably.
If you'd like to build your professional network and engage with others over a love of maths, be sure to get involved with Maths Teacher Circles. You can find out more at MathsTeacherCircles.org.