Marc Husband is the Program Coordinator for Mathematics, Science/STEM & Robotics for the Toronto District School Board. His classroom-based research investigates using student ideas as a resource for learning mathematics in schools, teacher education and professional learning settings. Marc earned his PhD in Mathematics Education from York University in 2019.
Here is In Conversation With Marc Husband
1) Congratulations on completing your PhD! Can you tell us about the focus of your research?
Asking teachers to support their students in making mathematical connections is an unreasonable request when teachers themselves have not had opportunities to connect their own understandings. The outstanding question is: how can teachers actually acquire the knowledge and experiences needed to support their students in learning elementary mathematics? My PhD research investigates how newly graduated elementary teachers can deepen their mathematical understanding using tools and strategies similar to those researchers recommend for teaching school students. My case study was conducted in a 10-day Additional Qualification course, where 15 newly graduated teachers worked on elementary mathematics tasks and acted as co-teachers. The video data and student journals were analyzed using Pirie-Kieren’s (1994) Theory for the Dynamical Growth of Mathematical Understanding. Tracking participants’ learning pathway revealed the connection-making process that deepened their understanding of elementary mathematics.
2) What was your experience with math as a student? How did you become interested in mathematics teaching and learning?
I became interested in mathematics education as a practicing teacher. My own experiences learning mathematics were, like many, tied to being correct or incorrect. And the delivery of content was what I refer to as show, tell and do. My math learning was best described as passive. I looked to the teacher for direction and did my best to replicate what was being demonstrated. Like the literature in mathematics education suggests, I too fell into this mode of instructing when I first started teaching, but I soon noticed that a division existed between those students who could regurgitate facts and answers and those who couldn’t. I was indeed perpetuating the cycle of show, tell and do. It became clear to me that students need to engage in inquiry, grapple with questions, explore their ideas and describe their thinking.
3) What are the conditions that educators can establish that foster students being able to build upon existing mathematical thinking?
- The selection of the task/question is super important. Imagine the responses we can get from students in the two different scenarios: A) pose the question what’s 7 +8 ? and B) True or False: 7 + 8 = 15, how do you know? These are going to be entirely different experiences for both the teacher and the student! If you can anticipate students approaching the task/question in more than one way then it’s likely a good task.
- Anticipating students’ ideas allows for rich mathematical discussions. I also think that anticipating what students might say and do frees us up to really listen to students’ ideas that we have not anticipated. Essentially, the more we anticipate the more we can be with students' ideas in the moment and be open to listening to ideas that we didn't anticipate. By imagining how our students would approach the task we can consider possible misconceptions as well as strategies that they may use to solve the problem. This work is crucial and places the educator in a much better position to make decisions during a mathematical discussion. This leads into the most challenging practice for teachers and students: making connections
- Making connections is essential when building understanding. When we elicit more than one way of doing mathematics, it helps set us up to make connections (such as, investigating similarities and differences between the two solution strategies). Fostering classroom norms that encourage students to compare and analyze peer’s math solution strategies is key. Sharing solutions and thinking supports students to develop deeper mathematical understandings through connections made with and by their peers.
4) For Fall reading and viewing, what Math resources can you recommend?
I am really excited about a new web-based resource called Mental Math 4 All. Full-disclosure: I have actually been a part of the development of this resource! The reason I’m excited about sharing this resource is because it’s addressing a big gap in resources for teachers, while, at the same time, using research in Math Ed to inform the materials. The resource supports teachers by providing weekly lessons which include short video clips that illustrate a mental math strategy and shows how the idea looks visually. The videos are grade specific and are super easy to use.
Continue Your Learning