Math Teachers’ Circle Supports Educators, Students

August 15, 2017 | Joliet, Ill.

Southwest Chicago Math Teachers’ Circle participants work through one of several exercises at the August 2017 meeting held at the University of St. Francis.

Math teachers in the southwest Chicagoland area are encouraged to join the Southwest Chicago Math Teachers’ Circle (SCMTC) for professional development and enrichment. The circle consists of monthly meetings and a summer immersion workshop. Meetings are held at local colleges including the University of St. Francis (USF).

The meetings are designed to model an inquiry-based learning approach to teaching and learning and are participant-centered. With a renewed emphasis on developing deep understanding in the classroom, as well as a push to include more active learning, teachers are often left to themselves to struggle with these new expectations of teaching. By attending the SCMTC, 5th through 12th-grade mathematics teachers and college professors can collaborate in an attempt to resolve some of these struggles. Current participants come from a variety of backgrounds, bringing a new perspective that can connect each topic to a new mathematical concept and audience.

The most recent meeting was held Aug. 2, 2017 at USF. At this meeting, attendees worked through four different activities: freeing clones, hexaflexagons and hyperbolic footballs, exploding dots and Conway’s rational tangles. Reflection and discussion followed completion of the activities.

Teachers who attend the circle are expected to benefit by gaining:

  • a renewed enthusiasm for the challenges and creativity of mathematics,
  • more development and/or refinement of their own problem solving skills,
  • a chance to observe (as a participant) a possible model for student-centered pedagogy,
  • materials, lesson plans, information on connections to the common core state standards, and other resources available through the SCMTC website, and
  • a network of teachers who can collaborate together to determine how to address pedagogical issues.

In the August sessions, participants enjoyed brainstorming as a group as they worked on deep, multi-faceted problems. One teacher noted that she had become “less afraid to try new things” after attending a meeting. Another found that some of the activities helped her to “understand the vast usefulness of productive struggle” and observed that activities like those presented would help her students learn to persevere. Yet another noted that she was learning to ask good leading questions after observing the interaction between the presenters and the participants. For teachers who want to work hands-on and see inquiry based learning in action, this professional development provides a unique opportunity.

The leadership team of the SCMTC, which consists of eight volunteers (including USF professor Dr. Angela Antonou and professors from other local colleges and universities), is currently conducting a study to determine the impact of participation in this program on the teachers’ dispositions toward mathematics, the teaching of mathematics, and their perception of the learning of mathematics.  Teachers who are interested in participating can visit for more information and future meeting dates.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves 3,900 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 48,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.