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Did you know that math teachers pass their anxiety along to their students (especially girls)? Are your teachers concerned about a lack of engagement in their classes? Do teachers need to learn the tools to foster socioemotional learning (SEL) in their math classroom? Professional development with Compassionate Math discusses the negative emotions anyone, including teachers, have towards math and the results that occur. One result is the unconscious messaging that teachers send students; Compassionate Math helps teachers expand their pedagogical skills, eliminate negative messages in class, and support any necessary content development. A more confident teacher results in students who are more successful and comfortable in an engaging mathematical environment.

How anyone feels about math isn’t based on their own abilities, how smart they are, or how hard they work. It’s based on whether he or she is a victim of the Cycle of Benign Neglect. This cycle affects the way we currently teach and learn math. The Cycle of Benign Neglect says that we are where we are as a country in math learning because of radical shifts in policy from generation to generation, not poor teaching. The consequences of the Cycle of Benign Neglect are felt every day in the classroom when negative emotions get in the way of our ability to do math. Other factors, such as the student of math anxious teachers who develop math anxiety, perpetuate this cycle. SEL in the math class can be tied directly to the Cycle of Benign Neglect. Learn more about the Cycle of Benign Neglect through professional development with Compassionate Math.

A note about rigor

What’s the difference between painting your nails and getting a manicure? A manicure starts off with cleaning the nails and hands. Nails are filed. The nail bed is buffed and cuticles are pushed back. Only after all that (and more) does paint get applied. By then, it goes on quickly and it looks beautiful. A manicure isn’t just painting nails; it’s doing the hard work to make sure the paint sticks well to the surface. Professional development with Compassionate Math is similar. Spending time addressing the classroom environment results in stronger outcomes because students are primed to learn rigorous mathematics.

My perspective on supporting teachers is that affect and socioemotional factors are critically important and often neglected when thinking about teaching math. However, this does not mean that rigor should ever be compromised. SUCCESS COMES FROM RIGOROUS CONTENT PROVIDED IN A NURTURING ENVIRONMENT. Too often in our math classes, we focus on rigor without nurturing the learner. We need both since mathematics is an intensive and difficult field with lots of baggage. Professional development with Compassionate Math BALANCES RIGOR with an emotionally nurturing learning environment supporting SEL in the math class. Math is hard but anyone can succeed with the right supports.

What to expect from professional development with compassionate math

  • Connect with me to discuss your needs and expectations.
  • Experience a personalized workshop for your team based on rigorous research. Professional Development can be live or via remote workshops depending on your location, budget, and current health needs.
  • Implement your plan and transform math learning in your classes.

Professional development with Compassionate Math caters each workshop to the teachers’ needs. A good example of this is my personal needs workshop where I work with teachers over at least three meetings. In each step, teachers have a hand in shaping this program.

  • Meeting 1: I observe teachers’ classes and hold a listening session to hear first-hand what their needs and desires are to improving their craft.
  • Meeting 2: This could last more than one session, contains pedagogical tools and content support to address these needs.
  • Meeting 3: Debrief and I provide tips on how to maintain and expand on what teachers learned.

Compassionate Math was the 2021 Institute for Education Innovation’s Supes’ Choice winner in the Most Innovative Professional Development Category.

Topics for professional development with compassionate math

Professional development with Compassionate Math is personalized to the institution and audience using research-based methods. Each session fosters SEL in the math classroom. Best practices are always emphasized. Classroom observation and protocols where classroom interactions are measured to reduce implicit biases and foster a more equitable math classroom of diverse learners can also be conducted.

  • Supporting math learning in a “post”-COVID world.
    • Outlines a three-pronged framework where teachers can leverage the experiences of students and engage them in authentic mathematics.
    • Where’s the rigor: content is redesigned to allow students to close the learning gap.
    • Results: Presented at several institutions. Student engagement and outcomes increased.
  • Helping students with word problems.
    • A strategy to help students write and proofread their algebraic equations using what I call “equality of thought”.
    • Where’s the rigor: this model helps solidify equality as a relation and not an operator. Students learn to write and proofread the equations they write.
    • Results: Presented at the 2022 NE-COMMIT annual conference to strong reception.
  • Overcoming your own math trauma to help your students.
    Defines the Cycle of Benign Neglect, how it affects current teachers or students, and how to overcome its effects.
    • Where’s the rigor: Recognizing your own math traumas helps bring empathy to the classroom. It also allows teachers to be willing to engage students in more rigorous learning environment, leading to stronger outcomes.
    • Results: This workshop has been presented to incoming undergraduate TRIO students (preservice teachers) with fantastic results.
  • Fostering mathematical discourse.
    • Activities to increase mathematical discourse among students and increasing student outcomes.
    • Where’s the rigor: Research shows that increasing mathematical discourse strengthens conceptual understanding and increases outcomes.
    • Results: Developed into an ongoing workshop. Increased engagement and outcomes shown.
  • Equity and social justice / diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in mathematics education.
    • Why equity and social justice are necessary ideas to consider in a math classroom. How to incorporate topics or projects related to equity and social justice in your math classroom.
    • Where’s the rigor: An inclusive classroom engages students which leads to decreased disciplinary problems and increased outcomes.
      Results: Presented to Math for America teacher fellows.
  • Small changes, big impacts in the math classroom.
    • Not all change has to be sweeping, small modifications in how problems are presented can make a huge difference in engagement and outcomes.
    • Where’s the rigor: Modifying problems to engage students and increase mathematical expectations results in increased conceptual understanding.
  • Using Math Affirmations to increase student confidence.
    • An activity to include in classes which raises students’ confidence and grades.
    • Where’s the rigor: The Math Affirmations activity provided a way for students to work through their own challenges in classroom and be open to trying challenging problems.
    • Results: This work was published in the February 2018 edition of MathAMATYC Educator.
  • SEL in the math classroom.
    • Explore socioemotional learning (SEL) in the math class and how to better support teachers and students.
    • Where’s the rigor: Research has shown that supporting SEL in the math class supports the whole student and increases outcomes.
    • Results: Presented the Compassionate Math framework at several conferences and workshops.
  • Reviewing content.
    • Workshops to support teachers’ content knowledge.
    • Where’s the rigor: Having stronger content knowledge helps teachers be more confident, and more willing to increase the mathematical demand made on students.
  • Filling the learning gap.
    • Learn “just in time” strategies to help fill the gaps left after more than a year of online and remote learning.
    • Where’s the rigor: similar to a corequisite model in the K-12 level, lessons are modified to support prerequisite topics.
  • Implicit motivation in the mathematics classroom.
    • Why implicit motivation is more necessary than ever and how to incorporate activities and policies to increase implicit motivation.
    • Where’s the rigor: Motivation is the cornerstone to engaging students. Motivation can often be in the form of “difficult” or rigorous mathematics which challenges students.
  • Overcoming the fear of teaching math.
    • Strategies to use in and out of the classroom to help new and/or math-phobic teachers respond to math questions they can’t answer in the moment.
    • Where’s the rigor: Teachers who have low math anxiety are willing to engage students in more authentic mathematical activities, leading to a more rigorous learning environment and stronger outcomes.
  • Creating a compassionate math learning space.
    • Defines what a compassionate learning space is and offers classroom policies and activities to foster this space.
    • Where’s the rigor: Oftentimes the most successful mathematics classes incorporate compassion in the classroom.
  • Reducing your implicit bias to affect student success.
    • How implicit bias affects mathematical achievement and strategies to reduce it.
    • Where’s the rigor: Implicit bias may alienate students, leading to disengagement in class and lower outcomes.
  • Mathematics anxiety in teachers or students.
    • Understanding math anxiety, how it affects mathematical achievement and strategies to reduce it.
    • Where’s the rigor: Mathematics anxiety is tied to achievement. Reducing mathematics anxiety often results in stronger outcomes.
  • Fostering a strong mathematical identity in students.
    • Helping students see that they are “math people”.
    • Where’s the rigor: A stronger mathematical identity increases engagement and resilience in mathematics. This often leads to stronger outcomes.

Recent Clients

  • Argosy Collegiate Charter High School (Fall River, MA)
  • University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
  • Math for America (New York, NY)
  • University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
  • Qore Insights Community of Practice (a free online resource and networking space for teachers)
  • Waterbury School District (Waterbury, CT)

reviews and comments on professional development with compassionate math

“Throughout all sessions, I felt incredibly seen & heard, not only when sharing challenges or highlights, but also when discussing & brainstorming, especially when there is a need for background knowledge we have been afforded that opportunity.”

“I felt like the presenter was very educated and made me think different about different approaches to teaching math.”

“In 2 sessions, my coteacher and I walk away with techniques to transfer the class to the students. I went from being a talking head to a facilitator. I am hopeful that test scores will reflect up due to increase work completion.”

“I have felt motivated to return to my passions & roots from studying pedagogy. Loving returning to inquiry-based teaching, even in a content I am not well-versed in.”

“After this workshop, we as a whole I think have acknowledge the trauma and I am back to taking steps as an ‘actual’ math teacher. I am looking to be creative and engage with my students in new ways that motivate them.”

“I am really focusing on transferring power and control to my students. We have seen with the transfer of power and control a strong increase if in-class work completion. Thank you so much.”