10 Problems: Our First Meeting!

“No matter how kindly, clearly, patiently, or slowly teachers explain, they cannot make students understand. Understanding takes place in the students’ minds as they connect new information with previously developed ideas, and teaching through problem solving is a powerful way to promote this kind of thinking. Teachers can help and guide their students, but understanding occurs as a by-product of solving problems and reflecting on the thinking that went into those problem solutions”

(Lambdin, 2003)

Facilitator(s): Eric
Date of Meeting: November 12, 2014
Problem: pdf
Further Reading: pdf · url

This was our first meeting, with a lot of time spent on process and trying to define the scope of the group. We did look at a packet of problems, do some math, and use those problems to begin to build a shared understanding of the kind of math we want to work on during these meetings.

It all began with…

 A Call to Action

Hi everyone,

Mark and I would like to invite to the first meeting (of many, hopefully) of a new math teachers group. This would be a place for us to do math together and talk about teaching math, in a similar way to how the Math Exchange Group has supported us for so many years. We are not seeking to replace MEG, but we have missed it during its hiatus and are looking for a way to continue learning and be part of a sustained conversation on math education for adults.

In the first meeting, we thought we would reach out to you all, people who might be interested in helping to organize a group, then open future meetings up to more people. We hope you are able to attend.

Along with your RSVP, could you reply to a couple questions?

  • What would you like to get out of a NYC math teachers’ group?
  • Do you have any resources for good problems?
  • Are you able to host meetings?

We will come with some activities for the first meeting, but please send suggestions if you think we should do something specific.

See you soon!

Eric and Mark


The First Math Group Meeting!: What Did we Do


Introductions and one reason why we’re each excited by the idea of a new math circle for adult educators.

 10 Problems

Skim the problems in the packet. Decide with a partner which problem/s you would like to solve.

Work to solve a couple of the problems on your own (without your partner).

Discuss strategies and solutions with your partner.

Together with your partner, write a short description of each problem that defines how it is different from typical math problems and the other problems in this packet.

Present solutions on butcher paper and talk about definitions/categories/criteria for these kinds of problems.

One question interviews: Q and A

Each person gets a different question and asks everyone and takes notes on the responses.

Why are we starting a new math circle?

● a sense of community, the experience of being a learner in a group, to help the field ● continuing to learn, expand my knowledge while working with peers ● not many places where people come together to talk about teaching and learning ● community and collaboration in CBO world ● miss MEG, miss teaching math, excited to be in a group of people doing math ● never been part of a group that sits together and talks about problem­solving and how to take it to the classroom; my experience doing math has been in isolation ● producing some alternative resources; teachers are going to review books for resources and maybe this is a better way ● getting to work with others from different programs; it can be isolating, even among my peers at my campus ● working on problems together, and pull back for talking about teaching

What should the name of our group be?

● “math” should be in it ● MAPS, math _ _ _ _ problem solvers ● SPAM, solve problems adult math ● MPH ● circle ● Maybe we can do an opening exercise next month to brainstorm words associated with our values and the activities we’ll be involved with

When and where should we meet? How often?

● every other week or Monthly ● rotate the days (Weds/Fri, for example) ● afternoon/Evening ● we decided to send out a Doodle poll to find out when most people are available. ● central location, find out where most people are traveling from and find a central location ● rotate locations, not just CUNY, though CUNY can host ● how should we communicate in between meetings? What should we record/document from our meetings?

How should we communicate in between meetings? What should we record/document from our meetings?

● email, first, but eventually wiki in order to produce materials for the field ● photos of individual work/strategies, audio recording of discussions?

Should our meetings be open? When should we open up to others? Should they remain invite only?

● We decided that we won’t advertise our meetings yet, but if new people come, they will be welcome. There was some concern that we don’t know what this is yet, but others said that it was okay, since new people can come and help us figure it out.

What roles are necessary to keep the group going?

● hosting meetings ● planning meetings (choosing problems set, facilitating conversation) ● documentation of meetings (take photos, record audio?) ● secretary (recap the meetings, send out the problems discussed, share solution methods, etc.) ● maintain web presence ● come to meetings!

What should the criteria be for choosing problems for us to work on?

● fun, depends on if the group has a particular area people want to explore (algebra­geometry, for example) ● open­ended, expansive problems ● problems that are different from typical problems, favor conceptual vs. procedural ● multiple solution strategies, things that invite multiple approaches (challenging, but attenuated) ● approach and solve in multiple ways ● multiple entry points

What norms should we use while problem solving, discussing strategies and talking about teaching?

● we should let each other struggle ● always include/anticipate how students will approach and solve problem ● support productive struggle and critical thinking and non­routine problems → allow different solution strategies → problem posing/solving at the heart ● welcoming, look for different strategies, problems that appeal to a wide range of teachers with regards to levels ● multiple solution methods: challenging for us, but also things we should do in class ­ directly relate to class to work through all the different ways students might see it

What should the balance be between solving problems and talking about teaching?

● 3/4 solving, 1/4 teaching (depending on the problem, since some problems may require more talking about teaching and less problem solving time) ● 1/2 and 1/2? ● 2/5 solving, more time talking about teaching ● 60/40 because in past similar meetings, there was often not enough time to reflect ● 40/60 same reason ● We need time to critique problems and focus on teaching. Reflection is important. ● Solving is fun, but you have to make time to think about teaching. How to scaffold, what will happen in the classroom, how you will respond to what happens in the classroom

Additional Questions

  • Ask the group, “These are the questions a few of us brainstormed before today’s meeting. Are there other questions that we need to answer? What do we need to decide today? What should wait for other meetings?”
  • Next Meeting: When should our next meeting be? Who can host? Who can plan?
  • Documentation: What should happen with the problems, solutions, articles and notes from today’s meeting? Who can take responsibility for making this happen?
  • Closing: Rate today’s meeting 1-10 and why.

In attendance: John, Billy, Tyler, Solange, Mark, Kevin, Ramon, Brian, Eric

Programs represented: Fortune Society, Fifth Avenue Committee, Lehman College Adult Learning Center, CUNY Adult Language and Literacy Program, CUNY Start, Borough of Manhattan Community College Adult Learning Center

Location: CUNY Central, 205 E. 42nd Street, 9th floor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *