I had the pleasure of meeting Jamila Riser a few years ago at NCSM and seeing her presentation about P-Cubed: Powerful Pedagogical Practices. P-Cubed was a program implemented jointly by the Delaware Mathematics Coalition and the University of Delaware (and funded by some federal money) with the goal of “improving secondary math education by ‘problematizing’ the manner in which secondary teachers approach mathematics instruction.” As part of “problematizing,” participants worked on rich math problems together, and also discussed and worked together on solutions for teaching problems.
Their approach intrigued me. Organizing professional development for math teachers around rich problems is not as common as perhaps it should be, but many of us who taught from the reform mathematics programs in the 90′s participated in such PD. However, the Delaware math folks upped the game by including administrators in the professional development. Yes, school principals sat with math teachers and solved rich math problems together. Amazing and wonderful! That opened up trust and communication between the teachers and administrators and showed the commitment of the administrators to changing practice.
Another important component to their approach was that the teachers (and administrators) participated in the problem-based PD for several years before adopting new math textbooks. After experiencing the mathematical challenges and the resulting benefits of their problem-based professional development, teachers began to bring the rich problems into their classrooms. However, they were frustrated by having to reach outside their curriculum to incorporate the rich content. In the end, 90% of the high schools in Delaware decided to adopt either the Interactive Mathematics Program or Core Plus Mathematics, both of which are integrated curriculum built around rich problems.
I met Jamila again at a conference last year and was impressed by her energy and her positive and respectful approach to effecting change. So I was super excited when I found out she would be doing an Ignite presentation for us at NCSM this year, and I wasn’t at all surprised when she knocked it out of the park! Her five-minute talk is worth 1000 more words, so without further ado, heeeeeeere’s Jamila Riser!