Math in the Information Age

Principal’s Forum
Thursday, March 10
8:00 am

MCAS In Transition
Update on Lawrence Happenings
Open Q&A

 Math in the Information Age Presentation

Last Tuesday, over 30 parents gathered in the library for an engaging and informative presentation by Math Specialists Laura Koplow and Katy McGraw.  Slides from the presentation will be on the school’s website shortly. Here are a few highlights:

1. The Value of Skills That Can’t Be Automated

Katy McGraw reminded us that certain skills are not able to be automated and will be especially valued in an ever-changing work place, including creative and critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, collaboration and communication.

2.  Shifts in Mathematics

Katy cited the work of mathematician Conrad Wolfram.  Wolfram argues that our focus in teaching math must shift to being both more practical and more conceptual.   We were introduced to his Wolfram/Alpha website by Alan November at last summer’s Building Learning Communities Technology conference (Thank you, BEF, for funding us!).   Students (and parents) can use this website to get assistance with any type of computation. Listen to his TED talk “Stop Teaching Calculating, Start Teaching Math” at

3. Mathematical Standards of Practice

Laura Koplow pointed to the Mathematical Standards or Practice (found in both the Common Core and Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks) as an example of this shift. Among these standards, students need to learn to:

  • Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  • Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  • Model with mathematics.
  • Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • Attend to precision.

Katy reminded us of the habits of mind found in these standards.

4. MCAS in Transition

Laura went on to highlight some of the new types of problems expected as part of this year’s MCAS.  See my February 22 Principal’s Corner for information on these.

5.  Working Sessions

Laura and Katy then put parents to work – challenging us to a fractions problem solving example, a question-generating activity, and a real-life question related to choosing the best birthday party package at an arcade.

6. What Parent Can Do

Katy offered words of advice for parents, including:

  • Help your children be more comfortable with struggling a bit.  Be less helpful.
  • Help them interpret information. Think out loud when you are using math in your daily lives.
  • Help them communicate their thinking. (Ask “What makes you say that?” or “How do you know?”)

Thank you to Laura and Katy for a presentation that was, in the words of Conrad Wolfram, practical and conceptual!

Rick Rogers

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