This excellent course presented by Professor Jo Boaler was offered free on the Stanford course platform. The technology used was nearly flawless and the information presented was developed in a coherent and comprehensive fashion. I am incorporating what I have learned about engaging students in math to inform the development of a Math Docent program at our local elementary school.
The Math Docent program was conceived by our school’s Site Council last year after reviewing data indicating the breadth of math ability in the typical classroom, often spanning more than 5 grade levels. Teachers need more curriculum resources and manpower (i.e., volunteer support) to effectively differentiate instruction. The district’s goal is growth for all students, and the Math Docent program aims to provide support to teachers in delivering math education across the learning continuum.
During the summer, the principal and I worked on defining three roles and reviewed approximately 30 books as resources for our docents. We have three docent roles – mentors to help struggling students, volunteers working in the classroom to support the teacher, and docents delivering enrichment to advanced students. The enrichment docents will be engaging advanced students in applied math through number talks and problem solving.
In the fall we began raising awareness about the program and identifying potential recruits. The program started with a kickoff orientation meeting to outline the goals and roles. This was followed by two training sessions. Approximately 50 docents registered with our program, and all docents have gone through a background check and have picture ID cards. I developed a hosted scheduling tool to facilitate scheduling our docents with 17 teachers who typically have two math time slots per day.
We are evaluating the program using qualitative and quantitative data. We are also tracking lessons learned and documenting our process so it can be replicated at other schools should it be effective. The enrichment lessons created by docents are being curated (by me) so that we can share them with other educators interested in doing something similar. So far we have 24 lessons, well on our way to my goal of 36 (one per week of school). The program’s goals are simple: 1) expose students to new topics, and 2) get them to enjoy math! The actual metrics used to measure our outcomes are tied to these two goals.
It is a privilege to serve the school district in this capacity. This work has been keeping me very busy outside of my usual client engagements, but it is very rewarding.