Advocating for what matters. 

I wrote this post January 20, 2017. I am grateful for the experiences I have had in serving as a postdoctoral research fellow on an Institute of Education Sciences training grant hosted by scholars at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison. I am grateful to share what I learned with you.

This is not a time for silencing your voice. This is a time to advocate for what matters. In my professional career, the teaching and learning of mathematics matters. As I think about the current state and future of our nation, and the national leaders with political power to enact change, I feel compelled to share my story on why public education matters. I’ll focus on mathematics education in K-12 schools.

As a student, I was inspired to study mathematics because I found it challenging, interesting, and enjoyable. I had a 7th grade math teacher who – as a woman – served as important role model for my career aspirations. Girls weren’t always supported in the same ways that boys were in math class – often boys were much more vocal about their accomplishments, and I took it on as a personal charge to stand up to the plate, work hard, and excel in this subject.

Now as a mathematics educator and education researcher, I am devoted to understanding how students learn, with particular attention to how curriculum and instruction support student learning. I care deeply that all students have rich opportunities to learn mathematics in ways that sparks interest, curiosity, and problem solving in challenging ways. I believe that given a supportive (caring and non-judgemental) environment individuals can learn to engage in mathematics in powerful and personally enjoyable ways.
From years of graduate level study, teaching, and postdoctoral research training, this is what I advocate for in (mathematics) education.

  1. Curriculum matters. Math textbooks determine what and in what order ideas are taught. They have a great effect on students’ opportunities to learn. We must continue to invest in the development and refinement of research-based materials informed by classroom practice and research on student learning.
  2. Teaching is an artful craft.
  3. Learning is a long process. We cannot expect learners to become masters in a day, week, semester, or year. True mastery takes a lifetime. We must support students to see themselves as lifelong learners with some important milestones along the way.
  4. Mathematical mindsets matter. The all too common “I’m not a math person” or “I’m not good at math” are rooted in a fixed mindsets. Such closed mindedness about who can do mathematics and what mathematics is severely limit opportunities. Said simply, disbelief and doubt impede learning.
  5. Teachers are professionals. Teacher training, ongoing professional development, access to up to date information and materials for teaching, informative evaluation that supports improvement in ones professional craft, and resources (time) to network in community — these are basic needs for teachers as professionals.
  6. Teaching matters. From science, and experience, and intuition about the nature of human relationships – teaching can have a profound effect on learning.

It is time to take a stance. To let your voice be heard. What matters to you? Be aware of it. Share your ideas with others. And do something about it.



Nicole L. Fonger, Lindsay Reiten, Susanne Strachota, & Zekiye Ozgur. (2017). Engaging in Research: Why? How? Now! The Mathematics Teacher, 110(6), 462-465. doi:10.5951/mathteacher.110.6.0462 Stable URL NCTM JSTOR Research Gate
In this article, teachers’ roles as participant, collaborator, and researcher are examined and encouraged.

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