Pennridge Central Middle School Teacher Presents at National Math Conference

Getting stu­dents to approach learn­ing math with a growth mind­set can be a chal­lenge for many teach­ers. Failure breeds frus­tra­tion which turns into apa­thy and an oth­er­wise engaged stu­dent does just enough to get by, or worse, fails to mas­ter even basic skills.

Sandy Miller believes it does­n’t have to be that way.

The Penn Central teacher recent­ly gave a pre­sen­ta­tion at the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics Regional Conference designed to give her peers the tools they need to encour­age their stu­dents to embrace a growth mind­set when it comes to learn­ing math. Using a com­bi­na­tion of data and cre­ative hands-on activ­i­ties, Miller’s pre­sen­ta­tion left about 80 teach­ers in atten­dance with new ideas, strate­gies and lessons to put in place in their class­rooms.

Miller said her pre­sen­ta­tion could not have gone any bet­ter.

Group of adults around a table working on a math problem.

Sandy Miller enlist­ed the help of teach­ers and admin­is­tra­tors, includ­ing Superintendent David Bolton, as she rehearsed her pre­sen­ta­tion at the National Conference of Teachers of Math recent­ly.

They enjoyed the brain research and the ‘what to say in the class­room’ por­tion of the work­shop,” said Miller, who has been at Pennridge for 15 years. “But they total­ly enjoyed the hands-on activ­i­ties. There were rich math con­ver­sa­tions, feel­ings of suc­cess and at times frus­tra­tion.”

The hands-on activ­i­ties includ­ed build­ing shapes with ropes, “paint­ing” sug­ar cubes, and a “four-fours” chal­lenge. In each case, teach­ers worked in groups to come up with solu­tions, often engag­ing in math­e­mat­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions and spir­it­ed debate.

Group work is ben­e­fi­cial to a growth mind­set,” said Miller.

Miller recalled one teacher who said she gained insight into how a stu­dent frus­trat­ed by a task might feel and then the sat­is­fac­tion of suc­cess after per­se­ver­ing to find the solu­tion.

They assured me they would take these activ­i­ties back to their class­rooms,” said Miller.

While she was­n’t pre­sent­ing, Miller attend­ed sev­er­al work­shops to pick up more tips for mak­ing math rel­e­vant for her stu­dents.

I came home feel­ing phys­i­cal­ly worn out but emo­tion­al­ly ener­gized to reen­ter the class­room,” she said.

Superintendent David Bolton thanked Miller for rep­re­sent­ing Pennridge on the nation­al lev­el for the sec­ond time in three years. In 2015, she teamed up with Deanna Januzzi on their “Go for the Gold” work­shop to show teach­ers how to con­nect the Golden Ratio with the real world to make math fun and rel­e­vant for young­sters.
“Conferences are often a won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn new ideas to improve our class­rooms,” he said. “Pennridge is proud to have teach­ers like you who are will­ing to present at the nation­al lev­el.”