Archive for November, 2011

Recommended Read

I have a goal to read at least one professional book a month.  In order to fulfill this lofty goal, I have to find literature about teaching math that is worthwhile.  By worthwhile, I mean engaging, inspiring, and full of useful thoughts that I can either put into practice, or help teachers put into practice.

I’ve just completed my first book, and  I highly recommend it to every elementary teacher who wants students to develop critical thinking and conceptual understanding in math!  Math Exchanges; Guiding  Young Mathematicians in Small-Group Meetings by Kassia Omohundro Wedekind.

 In the book, Ms. Wedekind describes the different types of problems based on Cognitively Guided Instruction, which I actually have read. She also writes about how we should assess what students CAN do mathematically, and how to encourage students to find the math in their own lives.  The book is a quick read, allows educators to immediately put into practice “Mathematician Statements”, as well as provides strategies to become more reflective in our own  mathematical thinking.

As I began reading the book, I kept thinking, “I wish I could buy a copy for every teacher I work with”!  It’s THAT good!  Our district has been implementing a Math Workshop approach over the past 3 years, and even though we’ve done some professional development on what that is, we still have some work to do.  And as I’ve tried to Google things for Math Workshop, everything seems to come up looking like what is known as Guided Math.  Although I think the two have parallels, there are some slight differences.  There’s even some differences in this book, however, the guiding principles are the same. 

Teach for conceptual understanding.

Assess students to find out where they are in their mathematical thinking.

Teach through problem solving.

TALK about math.

WRITE about math. 

I often have the challenge of helping “reading” teachers become “math” teachers.  By sharing my own personal story of always feeling like a reading and writing teacher, but never feeling like a math teacher, I think I start to chip away at the fears many elementary teachers have when it comes to math. (Hello, I’m now a district MATH COACH.. ironic? )  Math Exchanges helped me look at math through the same lens that I used to only look at reading and writing. It also took me on a journey of learning math the way I wished I would have as a child.  Imagine the money my parents would have saved on tutors!  This is my wish for students today.  Learn how math applies to your life. Find joy in the rigor of problem solving. Look at math problems as a story, and you have to comprehend the story before you can finish it!

 With every professional book and  article I read, every conference or workshop I attend, and with every Tweet I follow, I learn something new. The selection of  professional books about Reading and Writing trumps Math, but the list is growing and I recommend this one be at the top of yours! If you’re curious how to create young mathematicians in your own classroom, run… seriously, run out and get this book.

Thank you Kassia for writing this book and taking the necessary steps to share it with others. What a gift!


November 30, 2011 at 2:36 am Leave a comment

Inspire Me

What inspires you?  I think of all the ways I’d like to inpsire others, teachers, administrators, students, anyone.  As of late, I’ve been incredibly inspired in my role.  For those of you that don’t personally know me, I’ll fill you in on my background.  I began my career as a classroom teacher, third grade to be exact.  After two years and some staffing issues, I moved onto  another district, only to find myself teaching first grade.  FIRST GRADE.. isn’t that the year we’re supposed to teach students how to read?  I panicked, looked to my former principal to mentor me through this and tell me that yes, I had it in me to not only teach children HOW to read, but to INSPIRE them to be great readers!  After four years of growing and thriving and soaking it up as much as my students, I was given an inspiring send off by the parents of my last group of first graders to continue to challenge and inspire students when I moved across the country.  Upon landing in my current home of South Carolina, I found myself in a fifth grade classroom, with a group of students so smart, and so willing to think outside the box, I became inspired even more!  Three years of that and I decided my time in the classroom was coming to end, I was thirsty for inspiration from great leadership and needed to move on.  A former principal saw something in me, that I really wasn’t sure I had, and recommended me as a Math coach to another principal.  A MATH COACH…. I was horrible in math, I didn’t like it, I failed at it, and I failed my students when it came to teaching math.  But nonetheless, my former principal saw in me that I had what it took to coach teachers, to inspire them to do better.  For three years I was at the school level as a math coach, learning right along with the teachers what best practices in math are, learning the problem solving that I had lost somewhere along the way while I got caught up in the right answers I thought I was supposed to have. Now I’m a district math coach.  Everyday the students I talk to, the teachers I collaborate with, and the “fresh” leaders I follow  truly do inspire me. 

Last week I attended a Leaders of Mathematics conference where I became inspired again.  I am passionate about looking at student data and looking at student work to get to the root of their thinking and learning.  Often this is thought of as being “touchy feely”, but to me it’s just having the conversation with a student to find out HOW  I can inspire him/her.   Today I listened to Yong Zhao present to our inspiring minds in the district.  When he spoke of “What really matters?” I wanted to kneel down on my knees and sing his praises!  I have always instilled in my students that greatness is an attitude and test scores don’t always reflect true greatness and that that is NOT all that matters.  No one has asked me for my SAT scores since I applied for college, yet here I am with less initials behind my name than some of my colleagues and more people listening to me and being inspired by what really matters.  So here’s something to ponder whether you are an educator, a business person, a parent, or a student:  What inspires you to teach students what really matters?  Are students inspired by test scores and grades, or are they inspired by teachers who ask the tough questions, who make them think , and who help them find inspiration? 


November 3, 2011 at 1:18 am Leave a comment

Kristen Hahn

November 2011
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Math Minds

In Math, the Journey IS the Destination.

Catching Readers Before They Fall

Supporting Readers Who Struggle, K-4


My journey from a Math-a-Phobe to a Mathematics Coach