Our mission is threefold: to provide equitable math instruction that engages a diverse community of learners; to help students understand that mathematics is about making sense; and to use public teaching as an engine for growing teacher practice.
Our work as teachers of mathematics is driven by our collective belief in the importance of equity-based instruction -- teaching practices designed to promote mathematical reasoning, conceptual understanding, and discourse for all students. Racial, ethnic and income achievement gaps in math have persisted for far too long, in part due to unequal access to teaching for understanding. From developing and selecting rich mathematical tasks to engaging students in whole-class discussions to providing opportunities for productive struggle, our teaching is imbued with practices designed to promote access for all.
mathematics as SENSE MAKING
We believe that for all children to truly learn mathematics, they must learn to view math as a sense making endeavor. Based on work in our classrooms, we have too often seen students come to believe that to learn math is to memorize steps of discrete procedures. Classrooms must provide appropriately problematic tasks, have a culture in which ideas and methods are valued and mistakes are viewed as learning sites, and encourage students to use tools with intention and purpose.
Finally, we believe that public teaching provides unique opportunities for teachers to develop their teaching practice. Public teaching allows teachers the rare opportunity to view live teaching in the company of others. This shared experience facilitates specific conversations about individual students, their interactions with the content, and the practices and teacher moves that enable or impede students’ understanding. In other words, public teaching allows communities of practitioners to unpack teaching into learnable elements and to develop explicit and useful language for practice. Making rigorous, conceptually-based math instruction visible to teachers is an act intended to promote greater equality in students’ opportunities to learn.
The New York City Math Lab was inspired by the Elementary Math Lab (EML) at the University of Michigan. We are heavily indebted to Deborah Ball and colleagues at the EML, whose ideas on public teaching guided us as we designed the NYC Math Lab. Our work is also an outgrowth of the Math Collective, a group of New York City public school teachers, coaches, and administrators who have collaborated for many years on lesson studies and math professional development focused on teaching for understanding.