“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.” Lambdin, 2003*
Introduction to CAMI
Founded in November 2014, the New York City Community of Adult Math Instructors meets once a month to do math and talk about teaching. We provide a place for exploring problems, expanding content knowledge and promoting problem-posing in the teaching of mathematics in adult education. Our members come from adult education programs all over the city: community-based organizations, libraries, the City University of New York (CUNY), and the New York City Department of Education. Each meeting is facilitated by a different member and hosted by a different adult education program.
Each meeting typically revolves around an open-ended, non-routine problem. After a launch designed to generate interest and background knowledge, we each work individually to try out different strategies, then work in pairs and small groups to develop our ideas. We conclude our meetings by looking at different strategies, seeking to understand each other’s perspectives and the underlying mathematics of the problem.
As we work on interesting math problems together, discussing our approaches and teaching implications, we consider fundamental questions in mathematics education: What does it mean to do math? What makes a good math problem? How and why should we teach problem solving? How do we build trust and communication in a community of mathematical problem solvers?
Why a Math Community Circle?
- to build a sense of community
- to meet and connect with teachers from different programs
- because doing and teaching math need not always be in isolation
- to experience struggle in a supportive environment
- to have the experience of being adult learners in a group
- to continue to learn and understand how we learn
- to expand our mathematical knowledge
- to slow down and reflect on our practice
- to have grounded conversations about teaching
- to produce alternative resources and help our field
What Are Our Meetings Like?
- We welcome teachers with different levels of math ability and experience teaching math
- We present problems that appeal to a range of teachers and students
- We use non-routine problems without obvious solutions
- We believe in productive struggle and give each other space to find our own solutions (which sometimes means that we leave meetings without knowing if we have solved the problem)
- We explore multiple solution methods without judgment
- We try to anticipate how our students will approach and solve these problems
Problem Posing and Problem Solving in a Math Teachers’ Circle
In addition to working within our circle, we are committed to bringing the work we do to a larger community of adult education teachers. Towards that end, we share our math problems, discussion notes, problem solving approaches, and articles that come out of our meetings. We invite online participation from teachers through our Twitter feed, Facebook page and through comments on this site.
We were inspired to start CAMI because of our experience with the New York City Math Exchange Group (MEG). Learn more about MEG.
*from Teaching Mathematics through Problem Solving, by Diana Lambdin