Learning to Teach Math in Guatemala

by Katie Korsyn, T2TGlobal Leadership Coordinator

Because in Guatemala the school year lines up with the calendar year, November brings opportunities to celebrate months of learning in the festive spirit of the imminent holidays. The end of the year is a particularly exciting time for one of T2TGlobal’s most successful programs—the Math Leadership Team (MLT). This group of classroom teachers spends ten months in hands-on workshops about how to make math engaging and culturally relevant for their students. They finish by taking everything they’ve learned and stepping into leadership roles.

The MLT, located in Antigua, Guatemala, allows math teachers to develop their understanding of math content, teaching pedagogy, and leadership skills. Members of the team—

  • participate in a workshop each month
  • host two classroom observations
  • create a portfolio to document their own and their students’ learning and thinking

The finale of the program is planning and giving a workshop for other educators either at their own school or at T2TGlobal’s annual math education conference.

Outstanding Outcomes

Members of the Math Leadership Team use pattern blocks to explore the concepts of area and perimeter.

Twenty teachers comprised 2018’s MLT. Ten of them were local teachers who had graduated from the first year’s program and asked to return to participate for a second year. We were thrilled by their interest and designed a curriculum to further their skills. Ten new teachers also joined the program.

The first months went by quickly and before we knew it, August had arrived, and it was time to start designing workshops.

This year we were proud to have all 20 teachers in the MLT decide to offer workshops at the annual math conference, a significant increase from the eight MLT participants who presented in November of 2017. They split into small groups of two or three, each one choosing a topic of interest for their presentations. Their experiences and observations from their own classrooms informed their plans.

Designing Workshops

This process is not highly structured or directed. It’s amazing to see the teachers use their freedom to both choose interesting topics as well as to plan their workshops. As the facilitator of the program, I am always excited when they share their first drafts with me. How did they think of an activity that so perfectly teaches a concept?

Here are some examples—

  • El uso de representaciones matemáticas para lograr una comprension concreta (Using concrete representations to facilitate mathematical understanding)
  • Matemática, un lenguaje por descubrir (Mathematics, a language of discovery)
  • Aprendizaje basado en juegos para estimular el calculo mental de las operaciones básicas (Game-based learning to stimulate mental calculation of basic operations)

 

Two MLT members (standing) lead a workshop for their colleagues at the 2017 annual math conference in Antigua

Grade? A+

According one of the visiting educators from the US who attended the MLT workshops—

These teachers truly understand the value of student-centered instruction, allowing students the space to think for themselves to build understanding. In some cases, they demonstrated teaching knowledge that we don’t often see in the US.

Plans are underway for next year’s MLT to build on this success by continuing to develop math teaching and leadership skills. I’m sure once again I’ll walk away feeling like they bring so many more ideas to the table than I could ever teach them!

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