Summer 2013 Workshop

The Summer 2013 Workshop has finished!

Photo credit: Michelle Felmlee-Gartner

The participants and instructors for the Summer 2013 Workshop

The Summer 2013 Workshop ran July 8 – 19, 2013. The classes ran Monday through Friday, 9am – 4pm, and were held on the University Park campus. They were taught by Dr. Andrew Baxter (Instructor of Mathematics) and Dr. James Sellers (Professor of Mathematics). Eight participants completed the workshop, representing seven elementary schools in three districts (State College Area, Bellefonte Area, and Bald Eagle Area). These participants teach grades ranging from second through fifth, and the group also included an instructional coach and a math specialist. The Outreach and Science Engagement office helped on many of the logistical issues and helped the weeks run smoothly.

Photo credit: Michelle Felmlee-Gartner

Instructor James Sellers listens carefully to a participant’s question.

The first week of the workshop was titled Mathematics as a Second Language. It focused on arithmetic and algebra, looking deeply at the four basic operations, solving equations, and fractions. These are topics which appear directly in elementary mathematics classrooms. The second week of the workshop, titled Functions, Algebra, and Geometry, focused on linear relationships, plotting lines, and linear functions. These topics extend beyond the elementary classroom, and show the teachers first-hand where their students will progress beyond the elementary grades. Exposure to these topics further strengthens computational proficiency as the necessary algebra is built upon the foundation of arithmetic. The intense pacing and time-commitment were intentional, analogous to immersion techniques for learning a foreign language. Participants were forced into contact with challenging subject matter, while showing them they had the tools for success.

There were many "aha moments" throughout the workshop.

There were many “aha moments” throughout the workshop.

Feedback about the 2013 Workshop

Participant comments demonstrate the value of the PMI program in providing a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. “I fully expected to learn what I didn’t remember or learn,” wrote one participant, “but I’ve learned many new things with greater detail in many concepts.” Another wrote, “I think the PMI experience is an extremely valuable experience for ALL teachers and it clearly gave me and others a more definitive realization of the skills and concepts that we in elementary start developing.” As to gaining new views on teaching, one participant wrote, “I learned a lot about math and a lot about teaching. I have a new appreciation for how my students feel when learning new concepts and feel that I have a better understanding to help them work through their misunderstandings.”

Quantifiable gains were made as well. Participants in the summer 2013 workshop were asked to complete a pre-workshop assessment on the first day, and a post-workshop assessment on the last day. Statistically significant improvement was made in computational fluency.

The summer workshop structure was also well-received. “We were so focused, determined, and engaged that time passed quickly. I looked forward to coming back each day.” Another participant wrote, ”The environment at PMI allowed me to learn in a way that made sense to me while still gaining new strategies to add to my bag of tricks.” Perhaps the best summary is the following: “The overall value of PMI was very high. Although applying some of the math concepts was a tremendous struggle, I have no regrets about investing two weeks of my summer vacation to the workshop.”

Participants work hard to solve problems.

Participants work hard to solve problems.

A follow-up session is planned for late October to find how the participants are applying their new expertise in their classrooms.

Direct further questions to Andrew Baxter,


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