Get To Know Dr. Anne Collins, Keynote Speaker at ATMIM’s Spring Conference

Submitted by Cole Gailus

Anne CollinsDr. Anne Collins, Director of the Mathematic Achievement Center at Lesley University, will be delivering the Keynote at the Spring Conference 2017 on March 24th titled “I taught it...they didn't get it; I taught it again...they still didn't get it; Now What?”

1) How long have you been a teacher? What is your favorite grade level to work with?

2) What is your favorite topic to teach?

3) I know you are a fan of exploratory learning. How would you describe exploratory learning and why do you think it benefits students in the long run?

4) Do you have any resources or manipulatives that you love to recommend to teachers?

5) What do you think is the best type of professional development for teachers and why?

6) What do you see as one of the biggest challenges facing elementary teachers? Middle school teachers? High school teachers

1) How long have you been a teacher? What is your favorite grade level to work with?

2) What is your favorite topic to teach?

3) I know you are a fan of exploratory learning. How would you describe exploratory learning and why do you think it benefits students in the long run?

4) Do you have any resources or manipulatives that you love to recommend to teachers?

5) What do you think is the best type of professional development for teachers and why?

6) What do you see as one of the biggest challenges facing elementary teachers? Middle school teachers? High school teachers

1) How long have you been a teacher? What is your favorite grade level to work with?

2) What is your favorite topic to teach?

3) I know you are a fan of exploratory learning. How would you describe exploratory learning and why do you think it benefits students in the long run?

4) Do you have any resources or manipulatives that you love to recommend to teachers?

5) What do you think is the best type of professional development for teachers and why?

6) What do you see as one of the biggest challenges facing elementary teachers? Middle school teachers? High school teachers

1) How long have you been a teacher? What is your favorite grade level to work with?

2) What is your favorite topic to teach?

3) I know you are a fan of exploratory learning. How would you describe exploratory learning and why do you think it benefits students in the long run?

4) Do you have any resources or manipulatives that you love to recommend to teachers?

5) What do you think is the best type of professional development for teachers and why?

6) What do you see as one of the biggest challenges facing elementary teachers? Middle school teachers? High school teachers

1) How long have you been a teacher? What is your favorite grade level to work with?

2) What is your favorite topic to teach?

3) I know you are a fan of exploratory learning. How would you describe exploratory learning and why do you think it benefits students in the long run?

4) Do you have any resources or manipulatives that you love to recommend to teachers?

5) What do you think is the best type of professional development for teachers and why?

6) What do you see as one of the biggest challenges facing elementary teachers? Middle school teachers? High school teachersHow long have you been a teacher? What is your favorite grade level to teach?

I have been teaching for over forty years. I have taught every grade except grades 2 and 5 and spent time teaching Vocational Technical High School students, undergraduate students, and graduate students. I think my favorite grade was grade 8.


What is your favorite topic to teach?

I really enjoyed teaching trigonometry to high school juniors and seniors. Now I teach it to middle school in-service teachers, and I have the same excitement for the trig.


How would you describe exploratory learning and why do you think it benefits students in the long run?

Exploratory learning is where the teacher poses a problem or an investigation and the students work collaboratively to work through that problem or situation. The role of the teacher is to ask questions and guide the students, but not to tell them what to do or how to do it. The students are the learners, and as they solve all these great problems, they develop confidence in themselves and their ability to solve nonroutine problems.  The greatest advantage to exploratory learning is that each investigation is multi-sensory. Students who are not auditory learners have a wonderful opportunity to make sense of the mathematics being taught when they are working with their hands or modeling a concept with their bodies. I find that if the students do not know the formal mathematics, they will ask how they might find the mathematics and then it is very appropriate to “teach” them the math they need to know to continue with the investigation. This “I need to know the mathematics” is a powerful incentive for students. And yes, I definitely think it benefits all students not only in their school work but also with their everyday challenges.


What do you think is the best type of professional development for teachers and why?

I firmly believe that teachers benefit from sustained, consistent and coherent professional development that focuses on pedagogical-content- knowledge. Most teachers teach the way they were taught so direct instruction or lecturing tends to be the most common mode of instruction. The world has changed drastically since the “factory model” of schooling began in the very early 1900s, and so it makes sense that education should also have changed. But, for the most part, it has not. Before the widespread use of inexpensive calculators in the 1980s, students were trained mainly to complete accurate computation but now those calculators do that and we, teachers, need to focus our instruction on facilitating our students’ abilities to solve problems, to think critically, and to engage in computational thinking, since upon their entry into the workforce they are going to have jobs that have yet to be invented. Teachers need professional development that best prepares them to support this type of learning. I also firmly believe that in-classroom coaching is a critical component of professional development for all teachers regardless of their years of experience.


What do you see as one of the biggest challenges facing elementary teachers? Middle school teachers? High school teachers?

I truly believe, as a former elementary school teacher, that they have the most demanding job in the education field! Mathematics is just one of the disciplines they must teach. Too often they do not have the parental involvement to support them as they work to ensure all students learn their basic facts. We would all agree that if students leave the elementary grades not knowing their addition and multiplication facts they will struggle through the rest of their mathematics courses. I think that when elementary teachers identify children at the end of grade one who are struggling they should look into the strategies that Math Recovery offers to bring those students up to grade level.


Middle school teachers, of which I was one for many years having taught grades 6, 7, and 8, have the challenge of ensuring every student becomes proficient in multiplicative thinking. Very few students at this grade band sit still very well, so I believe it is important to get them up and moving, modeling mathematics, making models of the mathematics they are learning, and talking mathematics with their peers. In terms of content, middle school students must be comfortable with unit rates, scale factors, know the conversions of the most commonly used fractions to decimals and percents, and know the perfect squares to at least 20. These are the basic facts for middle school students. Additionally, middle school teachers must ensure that all students are competent in computing with integers, gathering data, making tables, graphs, and equations with that data and can accurately analyze that data. When students leave middle school, they need to be prepared to generalize all the arithmetic they have previously learned. They need to begin thinking abstractly, and unless they have those experiences on a small scale in middle school, they will struggle with high school and higher-ed mathematics.


High school teachers have the greatest challenge in moving away from directed, lecture-based, or demonstration-based mathematics and moving toward an investigative approach to teaching mathematics. High school students may go to college, OR they may go into the military, OR into the workforce and thus all students need to be proficient problem solvers!!! Overall, most high school teachers are very comfortable with those college-bound students, but do not necessarily know the intricacies that the military requires of many of its recruits, nor the computational thinking and critical thinking the workforce requires of all of its employees. The mathematics in high school does not necessarily need to change, but the way students experience it surely does need to change!


Do you have any resources or manipulatives that you love to recommend to teachers?

The types of resources and manipulatives vary by grade level of course but I think elementary students should be comfortable using Cuisenaire rods, Base Ten blocks, and Geoboards to explore geometry and measurement concepts and a wonderful resource is 50 Leveled Problems for grades 1 – 4 by Linda Dacey, published by Shell Education and Number and Operations for grades Pk -K, 1-2, 3-4 published by Stenhouse and authored collaboratively by Linda Dacey and Anne Collins.


Middle School manipulatives that I could not function without are Algeblocks by ETA Cuisenaire (now ETA hand2mind) for exploring integers, multiplying integers, binomials, and demonstrating the distributive property. Geoboards and polystrips are also incredibly useful. For resources, I recommend Get It Together by Tim Erickson and Rose Craig…a series of problems that must be solved collaboratively by a small group of students. This requires mathematical discourse, a skill crucial for all math students. Additionally, 50 Leveled Problems grades 5 and 6 by Anne Collins published by Shell Education, Number and Operations grades 5-6, 7-8 published by Stenhouse.


High School manipulatives also include Algeblocks, polystrips, and geoboards. Students should also be encouraged to make hypsometers to explore right triangle trigonometry. Algebra teachers will find the upcoming publication of Accessible Algebra by Steve Benson and Anne Collins a wonderful addition to their resources.


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