The Math Teachers’ Circle of Hawai‘i (MaTCH) is a professional organization of mathematicians, educators, and mathematics educators who meet regularly to engage in mathematical problem-solving activities in order to further their own math knowledge as well as to develop their skills in anticipating students’ struggles, so that they might better mitigate and solve systemic problems in mathematics education.
In 2006 the American Institute for Mathematics (AIM) had its first Math Teachers’ Circle (MTC), the goal of which was to bring together middle school math teachers and professional mathematicians to work on mathematically rich problems that would enhance teachers’ content understanding and problem-solving skills.
In June of 2010, Dr. Michelle Manes and her team from Hawaiʻi—Dr. Linda Venenciano, Seanyelle Yagi, Eric Reckwerdt (UHM Mathematics Ph.D. student and SUPER-M Fellow), and Stephanie Kamakeʻeʻāina (middle school teacher)—traveled to Palo Alto, CA to attend the AIM’s “How to Run a Math Teachers’ Circle” workshop. There they worked with other MTC teams from around the country while doing mathematical problem-solving activities led by university or industry mathematicians. Learning directly from inspiring mathematicians (one of whom worked for Facebook), they were able to see how teachers in Hawaiʻi might greatly benefit from observing the thinking process(es) of mathematicians while developing their own content understanding.
Currently, the national Math Teachers’ Circle Network comprises 115 Math Teachers’ Circles and six regional MTC networks across the U.S.1 These circles each consist of approximately 15-20 teachers who impact thousands of middle school students each year. In just two years after our launch, our own MaTCH expanded to a circumference of over 100 individuals with a diameter that extends the length of the inhabited Hawaiian islands — from Kauaʻi to Hawaiʻi.
MaTCH sessions convene approximately eight times during the school year, on Saturdays 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. We begin each session spending approximately two hours working on challenging mathematics tasks and investigations. These mathematical experiences begin with concrete experiences which allow participants to use their prior knowledge and varied experiences access into the tasks. The mathematics then “ramps up” to more complex levels, sometimes connecting to problems that are as yet unsolved in the field of mathematics! Teachers are encouraged to ask their own questions as they work through the tasks, which often guide the direction of the investigation. We later engage in professional discussions and collaborative activities focused on the teaching of mathematics related to the Common Core State Standards of Mathematical Practices. Teachers gain a deeper understanding of these mathematical processes through the direct experience of doing mathematics, solving problems, and engaging in professional discourse. Each session involves the investigation of a new and interesting mathematics topic–there is never a dull moment!
MaTCH represents a unique venue in which the worlds of K-12 mathematics education, post-secondary mathematics education and research, teacher education, and education research converge with positive and productive results. A nice description of our circle was featured in an AMA 2014 MTCircular (pdf).
- Michelle Manes, PhD, serves as an Associate Professor within the Department of Mathematics at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
- Linda Venenciano, PhD, serves as an Assistant Professor in the CRDG at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
- Seanyelle “Sean” Yagi, PhD, serves as an Assistant Specialist in the CRDG at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
1. http://www.mathteacherscircle.org/about/what-is-a-math-teachers-circle/, viewed 09/23/16