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Career Story: Math Director In A Large Urban School District

Math Director In A Large Urban School District

Job Title: Math Director

Type of Company: I work in the math office of the Boston Public Schools.

Education: BA in Liberal Arts with focus on history of math and science, University of Texas; MEd in Mathematics Education, University of Washington; PhD in Mathematics Education and Bilingual Education, University of Washington

Previous Experience: Teaching junior high and high school math, working for a bilingual education service center, teaching at Portland State University, directing projects at Education Development Center

Job Tasks: My office is responsible for supporting math teaching and learning in all our elementary schools. That means helping teachers use our curriculum materials thoughtfully with their students, providing them with formative assessments they can use to examine their students' learning, offering professional development that deepens their mathematics content knowledge for teaching, and otherwise working with them to help them become stronger teachers of mathematics. In all of this work we also partner with principals who are directly responsible for supervising and supporting the teachers in their buildings.

We also talk with parents and district administrators about our goals for mathematics teaching and learning so we can all work together to meet those goals. But we also spend a lot of time directly in schools, visiting classroom and talking with teachers and administrators, so we know more about the kinds of supports they need. We also meet with many teacher leader groups so we can talk together about how things are going in their classrooms and schools. We are committed to working hard to help ensure that students are making sense of important mathematics, come to see themselves as good mathematical thinkers, and are prepared to go on to study more mathematics.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is knowing that what you do makes an important difference for teachers and students. It is very exciting to see mathematics lessons that are taught well, students are excited about solving non-routine math problems, and where students are talking together and with the teacher about their mathematical thinking.

The worst part of the job is that we are understaffed and underfunded so we all work really hard all of the time because the needs are so great.

Job Tips: Take math courses in which you have opportunities to make sense of what you are doing, using models and representations, talking about your thinking, solving problems in many different ways.

Cultivate a curiosity about the mathematical thinking of others and routinely ask what they are thinking.

Develop an appreciation for the complexity that is often embedded in what we think of as "basic math."

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