Aug. 15—Crystal Adams, eighth-grade algebra and pre-algebra teacher at Owensboro Innovation Middle School, is one of 14 teachers worldwide who participated in the Rosenthal Prize Summer Institute on July 21-23 in New York City.
Adams said the Rosenthal Prize is an annual award for creative and engaging lessons in math.
"Each year, (Saul) Rosenthal would open up this prize, and he would give first place so much and second place and third place," she said. "The lessons are free to the public and are available on the National Museum of Mathematics website, and they're all all math-based lessons, usually for the middle school level."
This was the first year for the institute, Adams said. It was created to expose participants to the lessons and ideology behind what they are looking for in the lessons and to spread the word about the lessons.
"Participants were there from Canada and the United States," Adams said. "Some were curriculum coaches, college professors, middle and elementary school teachers."
During the institute, Adams said the participants went over mathematical practices, how to engage students, how to empower students to see themselves as a mathematicians and to not build a wall between math and themselves.
"It was about building relationships with students in a mathematics classroom," she said. "We looked at productive struggle and problem-solving strategies."
Adams has already implemented one of the strategies learned at the institute in her classroom.
"I took bulletin board paper and I lined the walls in my room and they had to put their name on the wall, draw a picture of themselves and write as many verbs as they could that involved or related to mathematics," she said.
Add, subtract, multiply and divide were some of the more obvious ones, but Adams said some students wrote terms like "thinking" and "constructing."
"After we experience a few activities with successes, then we're going to go back and evaluate some emotions connected with mathematics, once they feel that safety in successes with the activities," she said.
Adams said it's all about the changing mindset of a mathematics classroom.
"It's extremely important to teach students they can achieve anything they put their mind to in math," she said. "It doesn't even have to be with math. If you go in to it with the mindset of 'it's not something I'm good at,' you're not going to push through to where you can and enjoy doing it."
One of the lessons Adams and the other participants learned at the institute involved a heads-tails coin flip, conducted by former Rosenthal Prize winner Ralph Pantozzi.
"He took us outside to the park across the street and on each flip, you had to move forward if it was heads and backward if it was tails," she said. "We did that and through several activities, we ended up with everyone in different positions. Then he had everyone turn sideways and walk together."
Adams said if someone were to look at the group from above, they would see that the participants created a frequency graph.
Part of the institute included selecting at least one of the lessons to introduce into their classrooms, and Adams said she is still figuring out which one she would want to implement based on her grade level.
"We wrapped it up with working on those lessons to personalize them and make them fit not only our personality in the content, but also the students we're going to have, which I would need to modify now that I'm beginning to know my students for this year," Adams said.
Adams said the institute made her feel energized, inspired and ready to go for the school year.