Discussion: Keynote Part 2

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posted by: Soo-Young Lee on May 20, 2003 at 2:25PM
subject: Implications for professional development
I have found these tasks are very interesting to think about
"mathematics for teaching." I was so amazed by how many important opportunities for learning "mathematics for teaching" can be provided by carefully observing such a short classroom vignette and by realizing how difficult it is to learn "mathematics for teaching." Of course I know what 3/4 of twelve is, i.e., mathematical content knowledge, but I felt that it was very challenging to answer the six tasks Deborah asked. Partly because I have not practiced this kind of task before and partly because I feel that there must be "good" answers, if not "the right" answers, for these tasks so that I don't want to sound less knowledgeable about mathematics or teaching mathematics. It makes me wonder how comfortable I would be if I were a 3rd grade math teacherwho was asked to solve these six tasks at a workshop.

Teachers are often overwhelmed by the amount of content knowledge they need to learn to understand concepts. In addition to that, teachers also need to learn content knowledge for teaching. To talk about what they do not know or are less confident about is very challenging.
Therefore, I think it is critical to first create an environment where teachers feel safe and are not intimidated to talk about what they do not know or are uncertain about.
This also brings up another important issue regarding professional development. As professional developers -- either math educators or mathematicians -- do we have enough understanding of content knowledge for teaching? Throughout our education and practice, where and when
can we develop the understanding of content knowledge for teaching if we are not actually teaching in a classroom? How can we, as professional developers, take a full advantage of teachers' classroom experiences and work with them to develop better understandings of content knowledge for teaching, instead of telling teachers about "mathematics for teaching" they need to know?
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