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  • 29 Nov 2023 6:18 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    How an Algebra/Finance Course

    Can Compound Interest

    The circumstances of peoples’ economic struggles are complex and systemic, as are the potential solutions. But there is one simple solution to prepare the next generation for economic adulthood: Teach financial literacy in high schools.   (Hertenstein, 2023).

          A recent survey conducted by The TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index reports that there is a tendency for financial literacy knowledge to be low among all of the US adult generations but the level of financial knowledge is at its worse in young adults.  (Yakoboski et al., 2023). State education departments across the nation have been grappling with this problem over the last decade and recently many, including Iowa, have instituted new financial literacy curriculum standards and graduation course requirements.  As of the 2022-23 school year, Iowa students need a personal finance course to graduate from high school. While some schools offer these courses under the business or social studies departmental umbrellas, the mathematics department is really the best fit.

    How can math departments take the lead in helping students meet this new finance requirement?

    This was a question that we faced years ago in our home school districts, and to answer it, we created, field-tested, and revised a curriculum, Advanced Algebra with Financial Applications, that is currently used in all 50 states. Advanced Algebra with Financial Applications is a mathematical modeling course with an Algebra 1 prerequisite. It is algebra-based, applications-oriented, and technology-dependent. The course addresses college preparatory mathematics topics from Algebra 2, Statistics, Probability, and Precalculus, under eight financial umbrellas:  Discretionary Expenses, Banking, Investing, Employment and Income Taxes, Automobile Ownership, Consumer Credit, Independent Living, and Retirement Planning and Budgeting.  

    It is our contention that students should take a quantitative financial literacy course as a mathematics requirement before graduating because finance and mathematics are inextricably tied together.

    Which students can benefit from taking a financial algebra course?

    • Students who might not be ready to take Algebra 2 
    • Students interested in a financial algebra course after taking Algebra 2 
    • Students who must pass a financial literacy course graduation requirement 
    • Students looking to take a core course alternative to Algebra 2
    • Students in need of a 3rd or 4th year math credit
    • Students looking to take a mathematics elective concurrently with another mathematics course

    How does the course meet both the mathematical and financial needs of these student populations?

    The mathematics topics contained in this course are introduced, developed, and applied in an as-needed format in the financial settings covered. Students are encouraged to use a variety of problem-solving skills and strategies in real-world contexts, and to question outcomes using mathematical analysis and data to support their findings.  The course offers students multiple opportunities to use, construct, question, model, and interpret financial situations through symbolic algebraic representations, graphical representations, geometric representations, and verbal representations. It provides students a motivating, young-adult centered financial context for understanding and applying the mathematics they are guaranteed to use in the future.

    What resources are available for creating your Advanced Algebra with Financial Applications course?

    In all likelihood, your college math education courses did not equip you with specific financial algebra teaching methods in the manner that they addressed the algebra and geometry teaching methodologies. Consequently, you will need access to resources that help you design and teach your course. Let's take a look at some key resources.

    • Next Generation Personal Finance ( NGPF has a financial algebra curriculum, worksheets, lesson plans, videos, and professional development materials, all available for no charge.
    • Jump Start Coalition ( JumpStart is a coalition of corporations that offer finance-related PDF print materials, videos, professional development and other resources for educational purposes. Some are available for free and others have a cost.
    • This website is a gold mine of videos and teaching resources created by the authors of the article you are reading. There are ten links that teachers all across the country have found to be very helpful for curriculum writing and teaching strategies.
    • Google Searches The Internal Revenue Service, NY Stock Exchange, Federal Reserve Bank, Insurance Information Institute, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have websites that offer free materials for teachers. The FDIC website has a financial education program called "How Money Smart Are You?"
    • Money Experience ( Money Experience software is an online simulation that helps students make financial decisions. A short video on their website explains how the simulation works.
    • Foundations of Money ( Their Foundations of Money initiative offers free written and video material to teachers.
    • Financial Life Cycle Math ( FICYCLE provides lessons, for-sale workbooks, and teacher training.
    • Financial Algebra: Advanced Algebra with Financial Applications This is a comprehensive textbook that contains material for a full-year financial algebra course. The package has many teacher resources.
    • Institute for Educational Development ( The Institute offers 5-hour virtual professional development seminars on teaching a financial algebra course, PD hours and college credit is available.
    • The Truth About Your Future ( Finance guru Ric Edelman offers videos, a newsletter, master class articles and more about financial issues.
    • The Stock Market Game (  The SIFMA Foundation's Stock Market Game is an online simulation about investing. Since its inception in 1977, over 20 million students worldwide have participated.
    • Data is Beautiful ( This site has many fascinating non-routine graphs on real-life data. It is a great source for problems that can help keep your course current.

    Undoubtedly your own personal Internet search could produce even more resources. Once you get a skeleton for your curriculum, you can use any or all of the resources to supplement your program. This vast collection of material assures the financial algebra teacher that there are plenty of places to turn to for lessons, ideas, projects, videos, and activities.

    What is the suggested course content?

    Here is a brief overview of the 8 units in the course. A more detailed explanation of the units can be a on the “Course Proposal” page.

    Unit 1: Discretionary Expenses

    In this unit, students will learn about essential and discretionary expenses, with a focus on the latter. Statistics will be used as a means of modeling, analyzing and describing trends in non-essential spending. Students will:

    • compute measures of central tendency, measures of dispersion, and compare the advantages and disadvantage of each.
    • study the normal curve and calculate z-scores.  
    • plot and interpret bivariate spending data through the use of scatterplots and linear regression equations as well as interpret the Pearson Product-Moment Coefficient of Correlation. 

    This accessible introduction to statistical analysis in the context of spending will be broadened and made transferable to other financial topics throughout the course.

    Unit 2: Banking Services

    This unit answers the question “Where can people keep the money that they earn?” as students explore:

    • checking and savings accounts, bank statements, debit cards, and certificates of deposit
    • simple interest, compound interest, continuous compounding, and how to use logarithms as a tool to determine the term of any type of savings account 
    • present and future value of a savings account

    This allows students to evaluate the relative risk of bank accounts as compared to other types of investments they will be studying in the course.

    Unit 3: Investing

    Students are introduced to basic business organization terminology in order to read, interpret, chart, algebraically model stock ownership and transaction data, and identify trends. In this unit, students will:

    • use algebraic ratios and proportions to model percent increases, decreases, moving averages, stock splits, and dividend yields
    • learn how entrepreneurs use randomized designs, matched-pair designs, observational studies, hypothesis testing, and inferential statistics to make decisions in the development of new businesses and products
    • determine the efficacy of producing a product, by creating and interpreting supply and demand curves, expense equations, revenue equations, and profit equations
    • find optimal outcomes through the use of linear programming techniques   

    Throughout this unit, students identify investment trends using mathematics.

    Unit 4: Employment and Income Taxes

    High school students are at the age where they are beginning to work, and have lots of questions about our tax system. In this unit, students will:

    • learn about employment, salaries, paychecks, deductions, benefits, and Social Security payments. 
    • use piecewise functions to model commissions, royalties, and piecework pay.
    • model the FICA tax function using the graph of a piecewise function with cusps.
    • explore, model, graph and interpret the Internal Revenue Service’s tax tables, schedules, and worksheets

    Students learn how these piecewise functions and polygonal graphs can be used when filing the IRS tax form 1040 package.

    Unit 5: Automobile Ownership

    Most high school students anticipate getting a driver's licenses in the near future. In this unit, students will:

    • use various functions, their graphs, and data analysis as a tool in the responsible purchase and operation of an automobile 
    • model auto sales and purchases using logarithms, frequency distributions, modified box and whisker plots, stem and leaf plots, and linear and curvilinear regression 
    • model auto deprecation using arithmetic and geometric sequences
    • examine the probability inherent in auto insurance by using conditional probability, two-way tables, independent events and Venn diagrams
    • explore projectile motion, irrational functions and parabolas in the context of accident deconstruction

    This unit helps students answer the many questions they have about becoming a responsible driver.

    Unit 6: Consumer Credit

    Credit raises a person's standard of living, but it comes at a price. In this unit, students will:

    • learn how to use mathematics to make wise credit choices that fit their needs, current financial situation, and future goals.
    • explore loan information and model that data using regression analysis to find the linear, quadratic, cubic, and exponential equation of best fit 
    • use exponential and rational functions in the forms of the simple interest formula and the monthly payment formula to determine the total cost of borrowing for an education and large purchases

    This unit helps students make sound choices when they borrow money.

    Unit 7: Independent Living

    "Leaving the nest" is in the not-to-distant future of all high school students. In this unit, students will:

    • explore moving, renting, and purchasing a place to live
    • analyze the geometric demands of floor plans, areas of shaded and irregular figures, apothem, and discover the relationship between area and probability
    • employ trigonometric functions, the Pythagorean theorem, slope, and similar triangles to model ladder safety, deck building, and proximity to falling trees
    • use rational functions with multiple independent variables to model air conditioning BTU requirements

    Students come to the realization that housing is extremely expensive, and requires planning and a knowledge of mathematics.

    Unit 8:  Retirement Planning and Budgeting

    The focus of this unit is on the mathematics of fiscal plans that workers can make years ahead of their retirement. Here, students will:

    • explore retirement savings plans, both personal and Federal, employee pension programs, and life insurance
    • use rational functions to model present value, future value, and periodic investments
    • compute Social Security benefits
    • use graphs to model investment diversification
    • employ probability and expected value to compute how life insurance companies can earn a profit
    • explore how rational functions can be used to model average costs over time
    • use the greatest integer function as part of a piecewise function that is used to model household expenses over time
    • use matrices to model budget situations, and organize budget information

    The unit culminates with the creation of a budget, incorporating categories that reflect all of the units in the course.

    Why will you be excited to teach Advanced Algebra with Financial Applications?                          

    The relationship between fiscal responsibility and financial education is undeniable. Offering financial education in a mathematics course builds fiscal confidence and responsibility. It is rewarding to students see, enjoy, and implement mathematics they will use in their everyday lives.  And as for their perpetual question of “when are we ever going to use this?”, the real-world answer is “the rest of your lives!”


    Hertenstein, Isaac. “ ‘Young People Know More About TikTok and Minecraft Than Money.’ Teenagers Want To Be Smarter About Finances – Teach Them.”, MarketWatch, 21 January 2023, Accessed 17 April 2023.

    Yakoboski, P., Lusardi, A., Hasler, A. “Financial Literacy, Longevity Literacy and Retirement Readiness”, TIAA Institute, 12 January 2023,   /2023/financial_literacy_longevity_literacy_and_retirement_readiness. Accessed 17 April 2023.

  • 29 Nov 2023 3:47 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    Artificial Intelligence, Data Literacy, and Preservice Mathematics Teacher Training

    Heather Gallivan, University of Northern Iowa

    Eric Weber, Iowa State University

    The rise of Artificial Intelligence.  The advent of ChatGPT – an interactive artificial intelligence (AI) platform – has started a national and global conversation of what AI does for us and what it can (and cannot yet) do.  These and other AI entities have the potential to touch upon every aspect of the human experience.  Since AIs are built upon data science and machine learning methodologies, data literacy among the populace at large is as crucial to society as ever.  While all disciplines will play a role in developing the data literacy of K-12 students–hence, all disciplines will have contributions to deliver–we believe that mathematics teachers at the primary and secondary levels are best positioned to implement the charge of informing our students of the issues, challenges, and possibilities presented by data literacy, data science methodologies, and AI in general.  In particular, the potential for fundamental transformation of society that AI poses calls for mathematics teacher educators to train mathematics teachers in the relevant data literacy and data science content. This position paper will accomplish the following intertwining objectives: 1) define data science and data literacy; 2) review the current state of data science and literacy education and mathematics teacher training within the State of Iowa and at the national level; 3) our own contributions to mathematics teacher preparation for data science; 4) support our claim that in-service and pre-service mathematics teachers will be at the forefront of nationwide efforts to increase data literacy across all sectors of society as full scale deployment of AI becomes actualized.

    What is Data Science?  As the evolution of data-driven methodologies accelerates, the scope of our efforts to further data science education in Iowa remains in flux–even the terminology itself evolves rapidly.  Despite this constant churning, let us start with the terminology.  Within academia–higher education especially–the dominant term in recent years has been “data science”. Broadly, data science is “the science of learning from data” (Engel, 2017, p. 44).  However, there is no consensus on how to define data science or how it overlaps and/or differs from other terms like artificial intelligence (NASEM, 2018, 2023; Rosenburg & Jones, 2023).  For our purposes here, we shall refer to data science and artificial intelligence interchangeably–not because they are, but rather because we believe that ChatGPT and similar AI platforms will ultimately render the “data science” phrase obsolete.  Data literacy on the other hand, is more well-defined in the field of mathematics and statistics education. Data literacy involves not only being able to analyze, interpret, and evaluate data and statistics (i.e. statistical literacy), but to also be a critical consumer of data (Gould, 2017); recognizing “what we and others can do with data, what data can do to us, and what kind of world we can create with data” (Louie, 2023, p. 1). 

    We emphasize that regardless of how we refer to the content or the discipline, the content itself is a re-coupling of the academic disciplines of mathematics, statistics, and computer science.  This places mathematics teachers at the forefront of delivering data science/literacy content in the nation’s K-12 schools.  Let’s now consider where data science education currently stands at the K-12 level.

    Data Science at the K-12 Levels.  Just as the terms we use for data science are ever changing, the field of data science in K-12 education is “still developing and open to being shaped” (Rosenburg & Jones, 2022, p. 1). However, policy documents and reports from national organizations have made statements regarding what data science and data literacy concepts K-12 students need to know. The Pre-K–12 Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education II: A Framework for Statistics and Data Science Education (GAISE II) report (2020) acknowledges that “the demands for statistical literacy have never been greater” (p. 1). This report provides a framework for how statistical and data literacy should be developed from the early grades through high school. The report highlights new skills for students, including a focus on the entire statistical investigative process, multivariate thinking across all grade levels, and incorporating technological tools to aid in data analysis. The Iowa Core Standards for Mathematics also have standards that reference data analysis and statistics from Kindergarten (Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count; K.MD.B.3.) through high school (e.g. summarize, represent, and interpret data; S-ID.A, S-ID.B, S-ID.C).

    Given this emphasis on developing data and statistical literacy and analysis skills for K-12 students, many states nationally have begun to offer programs and coursework in data science. Currently, there are 14 states which have data science programs of varying depth and size; the majority of which are being taught by mathematics teachers (Drozda, Johnstone, & Van Horne, 2022). All 50 states have standards that reference data, but only 5 states have standards that are data science specific. For example, California released a Mathematics Framework in July 2023 that has an entire chapter devoted to data science across all grade bands from pre-kindergarten to high school (California Department of Education, 2023). There are several data science and statistics curricula that have been developed for high school students in recent years. These include CourseKata, YouCubed, Introduction to Data Science, and Bootstrap: Data Science (web addresses available in the resources below).  All of these web-based resources are freely available for use by teachers. In Iowa, data science has also gained in popularity. Many high schools in Iowa teach coursework in statistics, which has overlapping concepts with data science (e.g. analyzing multivariate data in high school); and at least one high school in Iowa is currently offering coursework in data science utilizing the Skew the Script curriculum materials. Further, the state of Iowa has officially adopted course descriptions for data literacy and data science (you can search for data science and data literacy course descriptions at the link under Resources below), anticipating the desire for high schools to start officially offering such coursework for credit.

    With this increased national and state-wide interest in and need to offer K-12 coursework in data science, there will be a need for teachers to teach these courses. But where do we start? For example, do we need to define state-level standards for data science? Offer professional development for in-service teachers to learn to teach data science? We contend that a good place to start is in teacher preparation, especially at the preservice mathematics teacher level.

    Mathematics Teacher Preparation in Data Science.  Since the goal of K-12 education in data science is to develop students’ ability to develop data literacy and data analysis skills (GAISE II, 2020), teacher preparation needs to focus on current and future teachers developing these skills as well. Teachers need to have experiences where they work with multivariate data sets, ask statistical questions, etc. with data sets that are meaningful in order to be able to give those experiences to their students. In other words, teachers need experience engaging with data themselves before creating these opportunities for students. The vast majority of K-12 data science courses offered in the United States are taught by mathematics teachers (Drozda, Johnstone, & Van Horne, 2023) and thus, are in the best position to continue to move data science education forward. We feel that future mathematics teachers are an important group to target for teacher preparation.

    Our long-term vision is for all future teachers, regardless of discipline, to experience substantial data literacy and data science content in teacher preparation courses.  In STEM fields at the secondary level, “substantial” may involve several courses dedicated to data science. For example, the AMTE Standards document (2017) recommends middle school mathematics teachers having two courses in statistics and data science and high school mathematics teachers to have three to be sufficiently prepared to teach statistics and data science content. However, the current challenge is two-fold: 1) fully developed data science curricula for preservice mathematics teachers do not exist; 2) we do not have space in current teacher preparation programs to introduce new courses to deliver data science content.  Both of these challenges are exacerbated by the shifting specifications of the data science discipline and the associated licensing requirements for teachers.

    Despite these challenges, we feel it is necessary to start, even if in small increments. We argue that the mathematics community has a significant advantage in the form of a fully developed infrastructure–curriculum, educational standards, pipelines from preservice to in-service teaching opportunities–over statistics and computer science (where mathematics teachers often teach coursework in these areas as well).  Thus, we believe that future mathematics teachers are in the best position currently to be trained in teaching data science.  In response to challenge 1), we have created a 6-week data science module to develop preservice secondary mathematics teachers’ data science content knowledge and mathematical knowledge for teaching data science. We have implemented this module with preservice teachers in the state of Iowa during one of their required content courses for the teaching major and licensure. Thus far, we have shown positive results in developing preservice secondary mathematics teachers’ knowledge of a few data science concepts (e.g. data classification and model fitting). The purpose of this module is to begin the conversation on what content knowledge the field believes is important for preservice mathematics teachers to know and how we can best prepare them to teach data science concepts in the future.

    In response to challenge 2), we are beginning to explore how we can deliver content within the existing teacher preparation programs. First, our intent is to design and develop short 4-8 week drop-in data science modules that could be embedded within other teacher education coursework. Further, every course at the post-secondary level has a list of learning objectives that are meant to advance the students’ understanding of the overall program’s objectives.  We contend that within mathematics teaching programs, we can design and deliver data science content that still meets the course learning objectives while also conveying relevant data literacy concepts. For example, within a teaching methods course, our learning objectives are often pedagogical in nature (i.e. how to teach mathematics content). To engage students in meeting those pedagogical goals, data science concepts can be the content in which preservice teachers engage in those pedagogical goals (i.e. writing a lesson plan over a data science concept). Additionally, mathematics teacher education programs often contain content courses that have learning objectives to develop preservice teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching (Ball, Thames, Phelps, 2008); namely, the specialized content knowledge required to teach mathematics. Data science could also be a topic covered to support preservice teachers in developing this knowledge.  Based on our pilot project, course content can be changed moderately to meet both objectives in single courses, and we believe that this approach can be successful in multiple courses.

    To advance our mission of preparing teachers to teach data science in K-12, we intend to further develop our modules as the field of data science and AI evolves to meet the needs of current and future teacher learning. We also intend to expand our modules to a full-length course in data science and create smaller modules that can be used to introduce and develop data science content in other relevant mathematics teacher education coursework. To bring our vision to fruition, we will eventually expand our modules to meet the needs of teachers other than those of mathematics–computer science, general science, elementary, and other content area teachers also will likely have opportunities to teach coursework in data science at the K-12 level and it is important to prepare them as well. Finally, we would like to expand our efforts in the future by providing professional development opportunities or graduate level coursework for in-service mathematics teachers. To reiterate, the conversation needs to start somewhere, and we feel we are in a position as mathematics teacher educators to begin that conversation through the development of curriculum materials for preservice teachers.

    “All-Hands” Approach to Data Literacy.  Because AI has such great potential to transform every aspect of society, data science and data literacy instruction at the primary and secondary levels will require a similar transformation.  We don’t know what the future holds for data scientists in terms of the problems and goals they will have, which means the goals for data science education will have to adapt and change as the field progresses (Rosenburg & Jones, 2023). This will necessitate an “All Hands” approach to accomplish such a sizable task–all disciplines will be affected eventually, and thus teachers across all disciplines will need to be prepared for those changes.  We are beginning the task of adapting preservice mathematics teacher curriculum as the “tip of the spear” effort to accommodate the coming changes due to AI, whatever the scale of those changes may be.  We conclude with a call for partners: we would be delighted to partner with in-service mathematics teachers who desire to join the effort to better prepare our students for the future in which AI is a prevalent reality.


    Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators. (2017). Standards for preparing teachers of mathematics. Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators.

    Ball, D. L., Thames, M. H., & Phelps, G. (2008). Content knowledge for teaching: What makes it special? Journal of Teacher Education, 59(5), 389-407.

    Bargagliotti, A., Franklin, C., Arnold, P., Gould, R., Johnson, S., Perez, L., & Spangler, D. A. (2020). Pre-K–12 guidelines for assessment and instruction in statistics education II (GAISE II): A guideline for precollege statistics and data science education. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

    California Department of Education. (2023). Mathematics framework for California Public Schools: Kindergarten through grade twelve (Mathematics Framework)

    Drozda, Z., Johnstone, D., Van Horne, B. (2023). Previewing the national landscape of K-12 data science implementation (National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and MedicineFoundations of Data Science for Students in Grades K-12: A Workshop).

    Engel, J. (2017). Statistical literacy for active citizenship: A call for data science education. Statistics Education Research Journal, 16(1), 44-49.

    Gould, R. (2017). Data literacy is statistical literacy. Statistics Education Research Journal, 16(1), 22-25.

    Louie, J. (2023).Critical data literacy: Creating a more just world with data (National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Foundations of Data Science for Students in Grades K-12: A Workshop). 3

    National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine [NASEM]. (2018), Data science for undergraduates: Opportunities and options. National Academies Press.

    National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine [NASEM]. (2013), Foundations of data science for students in grades K-12. National Academies Press.

    Rosenburg, J. M. & Jones, R. S. (2023). A secret agent? K-12 data science learning through the lens of agency (National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Foundations of Data Science for Students in Grades K-12: A Workshop).


    Bootstrap: Data Science:


    Introduction to Data Science:

    Iowa Course Descriptions Search:

    Skew the Script:


  • 6 Oct 2022 3:13 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    Despite our best efforts to actively engage our students in mathematical thinking, there are times when all you see is a sea of blank stares and the sound of crickets. In Fall 2022, I used an ICTM Travel Grant to attend the NCTM Annual Meeting & Exposition in Los Angeles, California in search for some guidance to increase student engagement. Throughout the conference, I listened to speakers share ideas on how to consistently garner students’ attention - every period. What I learned is not new, but perhaps assembled in a new way for me. I will share some of the highlights.

    Iowa State University Professor Ji-Yeong I adeptly points out that students work best when they are competing and content is delivered hands-on. Their engagement is more natural and curious when the setting doesn’t seem to be a math task. For instance, the launch to one of her Algebra 2 geometric sequence lessons was asking groups of students to fold chart paper as many times as possible. They made predictions about how many times they could fold it and how small they could get the paper. I can visualize just how excited my own students would be to engage in this activity and have tangible results to build mathematical ideas on. Their enthusiasm would get them invested in the task and they would be able to connect the things they were doing in class with mathematical concepts.

    Robert Kaplinsky shared the hallmarks of unforgettable lessons. One such characteristic was problems with unexpected results cause us to shift our thinking, and hence, making the lesson more memorable. Making mathematical ideas “stick” came from Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die… I imagine that in the lesson described above about folding chart paper in half, students are surprised by their limitations and it assists in the memory of the experience.

    As a teacher of many emerging English learners, I appreciated Iowa State University Professor Ji-Yeong I’s guidance on providing 5-Act Tasks. This is a take on Dan Meyer’s 3-Act Tasks, but in addition to Acts 1, 2, and 3, there was a new Act 0 where vocabulary is intentionally discussed or missing prerequisite skills are demonstrated just-in-time for the learning. There is also an Act 4 where students debrief what was learned and spend more time formalizing notes on vocabulary or the mathematics used. I wholeheartedly believe that all students would benefit from this practice and will make plans to incorporate the additional acts into my lessons in the future.

    Finally, Dan Meyer enlightened teachers on his critique of calling errors “mistakes,” when in many cases they were unlearned knowledge about a subject. Especially when students are new to a concept, many of their errors were not mistakes. (Mistakes were defined as not answering the questions in which students were asked to solve.) In many cases, they had oversimplified the problem and weren’t even aware of characteristics or conventions that make some problems unique. He illustrated many examples and used them to explain why students think they are “so bad at math,” when in fact, math education has created a culture where natural inquiry, curiosity, and trials are not prioritized. Students feel a need to be perfectionists because that’s what we have lead them to believe, even though that is not the way we approach science, language arts, or social sciences where questioning, drafts, and experimentation are regularly used and valued. The lesson here is that we don’t want to undo all of the good work we are doing by labeling undeveloped thinking as mistakes.

    Finally, I appreciate the efforts of ICTM for getting math teachers to conferences to be life-long learners to hone a craft that is never going to be perfect, but can be perfected every year and every lesson along the way.

    Brooke Fischels

    Mathematics Department Chair and Mathematics Teacher

    Ottumwa High School

    Ottumwa, Iowa

  • 3 Sep 2022 11:42 AM | April Pforts (Administrator)

    Welcome back to school for the 2022-2023 Iowa school year!

    It is my honor and privilege to serve the state as the mathematics consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. One of the unique privileges this role has, is to belong to the professional organization, the “Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics,” which is also known as ASSM. ASSM is similar to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics or NCTM and National Council of Supervisor of Mathematics or NCSM. Each of these professional organizations provides the collective efficacy for mathematics educators across this nation to improve student outcomes, or as I like to call them, students’ hopes and dreams for their futures.

    Did you know that Iowa has an affiliate of each of these organizations, well not for ASSM because that would be a group of just myself, but they do for NCTM and NCSM, which are known as the Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) and the Iowa Affiliate of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (IA-NCSM). These organizations work in tandem to provide professional learning communities and opportunities for mathematics educators across the state. This means that ICTM and IA-NCSM are the collective efficacy for Iowa mathematics educators to improve student outcomes in mathematics so students can fulfill their hopes and dreams without mathematics being a barrier.

    The collective efficacy of ICTM and IA-NCSM, make these two organizations two of the most important organizations in Iowa mathematics education. This fact is why I serve as the secretary for both ICTM and IA-NCSM and these organizations are so very near and dear to my heart. Another very significant reason that these professional organizations are extremely important is because they help to recognize the state finalists for the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teacher or PAEMST. This is the highest honor and recognition that a mathematics teacher can receive! Did you know that the state awardees, funded from the national level, also get a trip to Washington, D.C., and $10,000 to use any way they choose?

    See the 2022 ICTM Conference information below and my “Call to Action,” and I will look for YOU on October 15 for the best ICTM Conference ever! Lastly, I want to say “THANK YOU!,” for continuing to teach so students can fulfill their hopes and dreams without mathematics being a barrier. “I appreciate YOU!,” and all you do to be part of the collective efficacy! Humbly at your service~April Pforts, IA’s State Supervisor of Mathematics,

    1.ICTM Conference – October 15

    a.Join ICTM

    b.Register for the Conference – 4-nationally recognized speakers

    c.Spread the Word: Flyer, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

    2.IA-NCSM – October 15

    a.Join IA-NCSM

    b.Conference Sessions

    c.Save the Date – Relicensure Credit

    3.PAEMST – Open now

    a.Nominate an educator

    b.Apply yourself

    c.Find Iowa Awardees


    Call to Action:

    1.Join one or both ICTM and IA-NCSM today!

    2.Plan to attend the conference on October 15!

    3.Spread the word on social media!



  • 14 Jun 2022 10:35 AM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    Our students at AHSTW were struggling with learning Number Sense in the Primary (K-3) grades. We were also looking to purchase a new math curriculum. In order to educate our staff and make sound decisions for our students, it was decided that we needed to learn more about the eight mathematical practices. The Primary Building Principal and the three building-level instructional coaches began to build professional development around the book Principles to Actions, Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

    The learning for the leaders of the professional development began by reading the book. Then, we had conversations about what we wanted the goal of the learning for our teaching staff to be. We determined that the target audience would be all primary teachers, those intermediate teachers (grades 4-8) who teach mathematics, plus any high school mathematics instructors. The goal would be to inform teachers about the eight effective mathematical practices as defined by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and help them learn ways to implement the practices into their daily math lessons. It was determined that this learning would take place during the monthly professional development held on-sight at the district level.

    We began in October by sharing the Eight Mathematical Teaching Practices with our group of math teachers. We asked them which, if any, they were using in their classrooms currently, and which they felt would be valuable in a new curriculum. As part of this conversation, we asked teachers to think about their experiences as a learner in mathematics as a child.

    In November, we did a brief review of the 3 Key Shifts in Mathematics. The team determined that we needed to review the Key Shifts in order to assure that all math teachers were keeping those ideas at the forefront of their learning as we integrated the concepts of the effective teaching practices. We wanted to make sure that our teachers were aware of best practices when it came to how students learn mathematics and were able to apply that learning.

    Once we finished that review, we moved into learning about building procedural fluency from conceptual understanding. With the Common Core Standards came a new understanding of the term “fluent”. Several of our teachers were still struggling with this new definition. We determined that this concept needed more exploration to understand. During this month’s professional development, we spent a lot of time using different models and explanations of fluency to help teachers grasp that “fluent” does not simply mean “fast”. About half of the November professional development time was spent focused on the concept of fluency. This is an area that we are still working to develop, district-wide.

    During our January meeting, we determined that we needed to refocus on the “why” behind our professional development for this year. Teachers were hitting that mid-year slump and needed a refresher to motivate them as to why we were pursuing this learning opportunity. After we reviewed that, we touched briefly on the importance of making sure that students were given the opportunity to learn math in a sequential manner. The idea of concrete to pictorial to abstract made a lot of sense to our primary teachers, but was a real stretch, and even met with resistance from our middle school and high school staff. They were not ready to hear that eighth and ninth graders, much less students beyond that, needed to use manipulatives to understand abstract concepts in math class.

    This month we also focused on two more of the instructional strategies. We choose to cover implementing tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving and supporting productive struggle in learning math. We knew these were going to be two difficult ones to grasp, but felt they went well together. We tied in a couple of different ideas to the discussion around productive struggle to help them understand that students NEED to struggle to learn! This is where many teachers want to help students too much, yet it’s where students need to spend some time as that’s where the learning actually happens.

    February professional development was amazing! For whatever reason, maybe it was the one where teachers felt like they had something they could take right back to their classrooms and use, or maybe we, as presenters, were more comfortable with this content, but this was when teachers started making connections and starting giving terrific feedback to us as presenters. The strategies of using and connecting math representations, facilitating meaningful math discourse, and posing purposeful questions, allowed us to pull in a variety of different strategies that our area education association (AEA) professionals had shared with us that we thought were very useful.

    We used a variety of examples of the Lesh Model for teachers to have students share their answers. Our transitional kindergarten and first grade teachers did an outstanding job of using this in their classrooms! We also used the website “Which One Doesn’t Belong?” to model how to facilitate math discourse and pose purposeful questions. At the end of this presentation, we included a resources page that allowed teachers to go back to their classrooms and use some of the tools that we had used throughout the day. Even though it was a dreary day in February, the feedback was terrific, and teachers were getting excited about what they were learning!

    The team felt like we had great momentum going into the professional development day for March, however, we also knew that it was going to be the last day of learning about the effective practices for math for the year. We only had one practice, elicit and use evidence of student thinking, left to cover, but we wanted to make sure that we left on as high a note as last month, and that people were motivated to continue to implement these strategies in their classrooms.

    We spent some time at the beginning of the day discussing and writing learning goals and success criteria. As a district, we follow the CRISS Framework for Teaching and Learning, so throughout the professional development, we wanted to make sure that was also part of the focus as we thought about lessons and how they are laid out. We also wanted to encourage teachers of math to focus not so much on the right answer, but rather on how students arrived at their answer. Did you add first, or multiply? Were you wanting to put things into groups, or separate the groups? Tell me more about what you are thinking … Encouraging students to explain their thinking instead of focusing on the answer is a huge part of the last effective practice. If we can get them to explain their thinking, then we can build on what they already know to help them learn from there. Also, it helps other students to know how they got to their answer, whether the answer is right or wrong.

    The time ended with a review of the eight effective teaching practices. We provided some time to think and discuss about what they had learned and what they were going to do with their new learning, and how they were going to transfer their knowledge to their classroom. Again, we provided a slide of resources, as that seemed to receive a lot of positive responses from the last session.

    I mentioned that teachers did implement some of the strategies that were suggested in our presentations. Several of them have read various parts of the book as we were presenting the strategies throughout the year. Our FAST math results do not reflect whether or not our students are impacted by our professional development this year.

    In the school year 2020-2021, our kindergarten students fell by 10% proficiency from fall to spring on the FAST earlyMath composite. However, the kindergarten only fell by 4% on the same test in the same time period in the 2021-2022 school year. The AHSTW first grade students gained 4% proficiency from fall to spring on the FAST earlyMath composite in the 2020-2021 school year but gained 6% proficiency in the 2021-2022 school year. Similarly, the second grade was 20% more proficient in the spring of 2021 than in the fall of 2020 on the FAST Math automaticity assessment but was 25% more proficient in the spring of 2022 than in the fall of 2021. Third grade however, showed the most loss. They fell by 1% proficiency from fall 2020 to spring of 2021 on the FAST Math automaticity assessment. The scores on the fall of 2021 fell significantly, by 10%, to the spring of 2022 for the third grade.

    Overall, we made growth, however, it is not consistent, and it is not all above 80%. There is also not enough information to tie the results we received to the professional development that we presented. It could have been the changes in something a teacher did or did not do in a classroom. We would need more information to be able to draw a conclusion like that. We have now adopted a new curriculum, and we are eager to see if we see scores above 80% to show that our universal tier is working.

  • 9 Jan 2022 3:56 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    Happy New Year ICTM Members! 

    As the new ICTM President, I want to wish everyone well as we welcome 2022! I thought you would also enjoy a fun fact for ICTM… 2022 marks our 55th anniversary! The organization officially began in October 1967. 

    While our professional and personal lives continue to be disrupted with concerns over the pandemic, the ICTM Board has used the disruption as a space for reflection and envisioning ICTM for the future. We are excited about the future of ICTM and increasing the member benefits through new opportunities for professional growth and collaboration. We would also welcome your suggestions of how to improve our organization! Send your suggestions to

    Thank you for sharing your passion for math learning with students and for being an important part of their education journey.


    Angie Shindelar
    ICTM President

  • 30 Nov 2021 9:09 AM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    NCTM Virtual Conference Highlight

    NCTM held their Virtual Conference Nov 17-20, 2021.  The conference is structured with evening live keynote sessions, live daytime and early evening sessions and video-on-demand sessions. There are also Roundtable events where a person can meet in a Zoom meeting to talk to presenters or vendors.  Vendors have exhibits.  There are usually some social events or games. This year, you could sign up for a murder mystery event.  Live sessions are recorded and those recordings become available within 10 days.  The video-on-demand sessions are available immediately and all of the recordings are available until January 4 this year. 

    One of my favorite sessions this year was the video-on-demand  “Build a Math Community through Social Emotional Learning.”  The presenters were Rachel Mane and Ashley Taplin. You can follow them on Twitter at @ManelyMath and @AshleyPTaplin. Follow on Instagram at @ManelyMath and @TaplinsTeaching. They are both math specialists in San Antonio, TX.

    The content focused on the 3 CASEL signature practices: Welcoming Routines, Engaging Practice, Optimistic Closure. They had designed a very effective recording for the conference participant.  They shared some valuable resources for Welcoming Routines that you might take a peek at, such as Check-ins Compilatio and  Weekly/Daily Check ins

    For Engaging Practice, they shared tools to support student discourse, such as, Try it-Talk it-Color it-Check it, Stand Talk Sit paired with Quick Write, Think-Ink-Combine & Refine, Jigsaw, Numbered Heads and Chat Stations.

    They also shared some strategies for Optimistic Closure.  These were Small Group One-Minute Accolade, 3-2-1 Summary, Reflective Questions, Roll your Roll, and One Word Whip Around.

    Personally, I find some compelling advantages for hosting conferences virtually.  Obviously, there are a number of advantages in terms of eliminating travel expenses for everyone and venue expenses for the organization.   

    A virtual conference sort of levels the playing field in terms of who can present in terms of available travel funds and release from work. Additionally, I do know some popular presenters who are committed to reducing greenhouse gases caused by aircraft.  They have decided to decline speaking at conferences if they would need to travel by air. Another benefit is having the video recordings available for viewing during the weeks following the conference.  A person does have to commit time to watching the recordings.  (Pro tip: You can turn the speed up on the video to decrease the amount of time each recording takes to view.) I hope you consider attending future virtual conferences by NCTM. 

  • 23 Nov 2021 2:49 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    Are you looking for a good place to go for resources for your classroom? Kentucky Center for Mathematics has several resources available to you on their website. There are resources for Algebra including rich mathematical tasks and suggestions for implementing them. As well as instructional routines and lesson exemplars.

    There are three curricular units on learning mathematics through representations. The units cover fractions, positive integers, and negative integers.

    One section is printable items such as dot cards, arrow cards, number lines, and even fun math signs to hang in your room or use as a slide in a slide deck. The list of printable items is way to long to include in this message.

    Those of you that teach online will find their section on virtual math resources to be very helpful, but any teacher would be able to make use of these online resources.

    Also included on this site are resources for Family Math. These are things that can be sent home for families to use, or they can be used for a Family Math Night at the school.

    Coaches will find a section just for them with helpful resources for your instructional coach toolbox.

    This is the link to these resources. Have fun exploring!

  • 9 Aug 2021 2:00 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    ICTM hosted their first book study this summer. We read the book “Seven Doors In” by Beth Rondeau Deacon. Beth is a mathematics teacher in the Keokuk High School. She spent 3 years teaching in prison and the book is about her experiences there. Teachers from all over Iowa joined the book study. The book promoted great discussions about education, diversity and prison reform. Several guest speakers appeared throughout the 6 weeks, including the director for the upcoming movie. This book study will be held again this fall. Watch for more information in future newsletters. Plans are being made for other book studies in the future!

  • 7 Aug 2021 7:15 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

    NCTM’s Affiliate Leadership Conference was held in July. There were many great sessions and like all the conferences I have ever attended with NCTM it was high quality and very interesting. The theme this year was, Courageous Actions in Leadership: Turning Talk into Meaning.

    There were several presentations on a wide variety of topics around leadership, but I want to focus on two sessions.

    Social Justice in Mathematics Teaching and Learning

    The first session that was very thought provoking for me was the session by Dr. Robert Berry, Past President of NCTM and the Samuel Braley Gray Professor of Mathematics Education, and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at the University of Virginia. He started out his session titled ‘Social Justice in Mathematics Teaching and Learning’ with a discussion on the difference between social justice and equity. This was a great discussion for me as I wasn’t sure that I knew the difference. This is the definition that Robert shared with us.

    • Access: Ensure access to and the fair distribution of human and material resources.
    • Participation: Creating equitable opportunities for people to access information to be fully participatory in decisions that affect their and others’ lives.
    • Empowerment: Supporting people’s sense of urgency in taking advantage of opportunities society affords as well as working toward eliminating all forms of oppression.
    • Human Rights: Acknowledging the rights inherent to each human being. Human rights include: the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion, and the right to work and education (United Nations, 2006).

    So, it seems that Social Justice is much broader than just equity and that equity comes under the umbrella of social justice. What does this have to do with education? This quote from his book Mathematics Lessons to Explore, Understand, and Respond to Social Injustices gives us an idea of why this is so important.

    Teaching Math for Social Justice (TMSJ) is much more than the lessons teachers might implement in their classrooms. It is about the relationships they build with and among students; the teaching practices that help them do that; and the goals to develop positive social, cultural, and mathematics identities—as authors, actors and doers.” (p.23)

    Robert tells us that by using mathematics to respond to social injustice we can

    1. Build an informed society;
    2. Connect mathematics with students’ cultural and community histories as valuable resources;
    3. Empower students to confront and solve real-world mathematics as a tool to confront unjust contexts, and
    4. Help students learn to use mathematics as a tool for democracy and creating a more just society. These points really hit home for me. If we teach with these goals in mind, we will be creating a better world for everyone.

    Facilitating Transformative Conversations about Race in Education

    The next session was by Jessica Stovall. Jessica Stovall is a doctoral candidate in the Race, Inequality, and Language in Education (RILE) program at Stanford University. She has received the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching grant, the Stanford Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) Fellowship, and the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. Before Stanford, she taught English for 11 years in the Chicagoland area, and her racial equity work is featured on the Starz 10-part documentary series America to Me. 

    Jessica’s session used video clips from the America to Me series to spark conversation around racial inequities. She would show us a clip from the series and then put us into small groups to discuss the racial inequities shown in the clip. Each clip had its own questions. This sparked some very interesting discussions. People in the group noticed things that I didn’t notice, and I noticed things they didn’t. It really helped to bring awareness to issues that I didn’t realize were there. Sometimes we are so busy living life that we don’t stop to reflect on what is happening around us and we miss a lot of things. Jessica’s goal with this presentation was to give us the tools to start a conversation in our own schools and communities. This website, Participant, has the tools to start these discussions. I would encourage you to peruse this site and find all the tools that are available to you. The video clips and well as discussion guides are there for you to use.

    Lori Mueller
    President, Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics

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