Role of a Math a Math Coach
Amy Bilek-Math Instructional Coach FXW School- Chicago
I started a new position this fall, and I feel as if I’ve already learned three years’ worth of information! I’m only months into is my first year as a K-8 math instructional coach but I believe I have landed the best job in the entire school. I spend most of my days visiting math classrooms and learning from the teachers and students there. My job is to support teachers in setting goals that improve student learning and growth in their classrooms. Together, we look at student data and observational notes to see how we can continue to improve instruction.
Our school engaged in a two-year curriculum review through 2017-2019. I’m not sure if your school’s do a formal review cycle, but I highly recommend it. Be forewarned, it is a rigorous, in-depth process, but for us, the effort was so worth the extra work and time. I need to tell the story about the process because it really connects to where we are today and I have no doubt it can help you and your school get to where you’d like to be.
First, and I feel most importantly, the teachers and administrators worked to decide then define what would be our philosophy toward math education. We agreed on ideas that are rooted in research and best practices, such as: everyone can be successful at math, the importance of growth mindset, and valuing mistakes; learning should be an active process that moves from the concrete to the pictorial to the abstract and should be full of mathematical discourse and problem solving; and that students should be flexible in their approach to math and be able to connect math to and see math in the real world. Then, through an in-depth self-study we gathered information, analyzed that data, and had honest conversations about where we were strong and where we could grow.
We then turned to NCTM’s curriculum analysis rubrics so that we could really do a deep dive into various programs and different textbook series. Developing Roots (K) and think! Mathematics (1st-5th) stood out because of how closely they aligned to the philosophy toward math instruction that we laid out when the entire effort began. Of course, the next step was professional development built around the Singapore approaches (as we came from a non-Singapore curriculum Everyday Math). Teachers attended workshops by Singapore math experts, yet it was essential that this PD be ongoing and imbedded.
My passion for supporting teachers as they take a good, hard look at what they’re doing and then to begin to improve their math instruction has only gotten stronger as I’ve engaged in my new job. What we value in our classrooms and how we want to teach kids math looks very different than the classrooms most of us learned in. The instructional approaches we are targeting are a new way of thinking for so many teachers and require a lot of time, practice, and planning. I’m so grateful my school prioritized supporting teachers and made it possible to have a coach available to support our students and teachers as we work to make our philosophy of instruction a reality in every classroom each day. We know that these efforts will have an increasingly positive effect on students’ learning and their development of positive mathematical mindsets.
My goal this year is to help teachers feel empowered to facilitate math instruction that is student-centered, designed around problem-solving and collaboration, creative and visual, growth-mindset aligned, and fosters metacognition. I’m excited to write this blog to share with you goals, successes, pain points, and everything else that comes my way when partnering as a math coach. See you next month and please email firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on twitter @AmyB827 if there are specific topics you’d like to hear more about!