K12 Momentum | April 2024

Students raising their hands

Dear friends,

Here’s one of the questions I have been thinking about lately: Should we more intentionally and explicitly introduce more algebraic thinking to elementary students earlier than many might assume? The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) suggests we should: By fostering a mindset that recognizes patterns, understands equality, and conceptualizes the idea of variables in concrete and accessible ways, teachers and students can build conceptual understandings of math and increase engagement early in their academic careers. And one of my new favorite quick resources, Cambridge Math’s Espresso, reaches a similar conclusion.

This line of inquiry led me to discover the Dear Data Project. By observing simple day-to-day events, Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec, great data scientists and artists, first recorded observations about their daily actions on a particular subject, then they created analysis and visualizations and exchanged postcards every week for a year. Their topics ran from how many times they said thank you, to whether natural or man-made objects made them happier, to how often they looked for the time in a day. In turn, this led to new insights about their lives and even deepened their friendship.

As they describe in videos (short here and charmingly longer here) and their book suggests, these adult drawings underscore how patterns are the heart and soul of mathematics. Even young students can improve their algebraic thinking by using objects, drawing pictures, using numbers and symbols, and studying solved problems to understand even basic arithmetic much better. Math enables all students to recognize patterns that can then be abstracted to understand greater truths about math, but ultimately about themselves and others.

The Dear Data project reminds us that math is about the classroom, but over time it is about what it can do for us throughout our lives. So many opportunities, so many questions, so much potential!

In partnership,

Bob Hughes
Director, K-12 Education

Quick takes

Learning Math is Emotional

The brand-new Math Narrative Project website is live with findings, videos, insights, and recommendations from hundreds of hours of interviews and research with teachers, students, parents and math experts. Two years ago, this project set out to learn how students, teachers, and parents think and feel about learning math. Visit mathnarrative.org to check out the materials and apply them to your work.

RFI: Tell Us How You’re Using AI to Transform Math Instruction

Do you have an innovative approach to transform mathematics learning and instruction using AI-powered technologies? We want to hear from you. We launched a new Request for Information opportunity last week to learn more about innovative, research-based approaches that leverage AI-powered technologies to revolutionize instructional materials and teacher supports with the potential for scalable impact. Responses are due by May 20, 2024. Learn more.

New Reports: Envisioning Math Futures

Two new reports are out this week looking at math futures. These forward-looking pieces from our partners at Knowledge Works and Substantial (now known as Optimistic Design) explore the possibilities for stakeholders, such as teachers, students, and caregivers, to work collectively toward the future of math learning. The research is intended to spark the conversations and actions necessary to support all students to thrive, and lead as equal designers in math education.

Report: Curriculum Selection Trends in California

With the upcoming math materials adoption slated in California, the Center for Education Market Dynamics (CEMD) is out with a new report looking at the choices districts are making now, with a particular focus on K-12 core curriculum materials. Moving Ahead: Mapping Recent K-5 Curriculum Selection Trends in California is out now to download and explore the findings. And check out coverage in Ed Week Market Brief available here.