View from an Innovative Math Classroom

If you don’t come from an education background, the concept of a student-centered or discussion-based classroom can be confusing to you, especially when it comes to math. Your idea of a “good” or “rigorous” math class might be one that is traditionally teacher-centered and requires a passive stance from students. Even many educators haven’t been exposed to the latest educational research, recent pedagogical initiatives, or the need to support greater neurodiversity. Every school should prepare to have, and to revisit regularly, the conversations about what best suits their school’s idea of an innovative mathematics program. Those conversations will form the foundation of curricular commitments and changes in teaching practices, in support of our shared values about the subject of mathematics.

The Innovative Math Classroom of 2024

What does today’s innovative math classroom look like? Is it an abundance of technology use, including AI for student learning? Is it students seated in groups doing explorations of traditional mathematics topics?

I would say that it can be seen from this perspective, but the innovation that needs to occur is even more basic than this. As AI becomes more and more normalized in student work, it will be more important than ever in the classroom to filter out the parts of mathematics that are redundant or procedure-based. Instead of factoring complex polynomials in an Algebra II class, students should understand the reasoning behind what factoring tells you about the polynomial and why it’s important. An innovative classroom will value the parts of mathematics that allow for higher order thinking – deciding on strategies, comparing, conjecturing and critiquing different processes.

Understanding the processes and procedures of what most people consider “math” today will be superseded by critical thinking and overarching reasoning skills. Mathematics will be the topic for the study of writing algorithms and engineering prompts for AI. It will become the discipline of study for scholarly communication with artificial intelligence.  

As AI becomes more and more normalized in student work, it will be more important than ever to filter out the parts of mathematics that are redundant or procedure-based.

Leading Towards an Innovative Math Program

How do schools decide to innovate in their mathematics program? How do they identify where the program is in the transition to an effective, innovative math classroom

First, teachers must be aware and supportive of making changechanges to what texts they use, their familiarity with support services for students, and incorporating updated pedagogical practices that enhance and value specific higher-order student thinking skills. Students need to be taught how to become better mathematical communicators, and how to present mathematical ideas in a clear and engaging way for their peers. Instead of a classroom where students sit passively asking questions of the teacher that only relate to their individual understanding of a problemstudents should be more actively doing mathematics, conjecturing with peers and judging for themselves which problem-solving methods are optimal in different circumstances.

Next, a deep and rigorous curriculum review of the mathematics program needs to be complete for all grades. Here, we seek to discover whether there is alignment between curricula for lower grades, middle grades and upper grades. Are learning outcomes and prerequisites clearly outlined for each course in the sequence? Are teaching practices aligned so students have similar experiences in their courses across the program? These are the types of questions that a department chair or academic dean should consider before attempting to make changes in innovation.

Evolve Your Math Programming

All change comes with trepidation and consequences in the community. Teachers will need professional learning, and students will need help accepting different methods of instruction. However, reinventing a school’s mathematics program is essential to remaining relevant and innovative. These ideas are the future of mathematics education and should be explored to keep a school’s mathematics program modern and creative. 

If a curriculum review (in any subject, including math), program delivery changes, or shifting the pedagogies in play is on your to-do list for the coming academic year, Aptonym can help. Contact us today to learn more.