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Workshop Circles in on Better Ways to Teach Math

By: Kathleen Tuck   Published 9:41 am / July 2, 2015

The halcyon days of summer lend themselves to biking along the Greenbelt, hiking in the foothills, lazily floating down the river and earnestly solving challenging math problems. Well, OK, that last one may be targeted primarily to mathematicians and math educators planning to attend the first-ever Boise Math Teachers’ Circle July 29-31.

Boise State University organizers are preparing for the gathering of numbers enthusiasts focused on improving the teaching experience. Events on the Boise State campus will kick off with a workshop for local secondary mathematics teachers.

The three-day workshop will unite these teachers with Boise State math and education faculty for creative explorations of a variety of topics, including the mathematics of soap bubbles. Nature’s perfect spheres showcase the concept of a minimal surface and provide wonderful opportunities to explore geometric concepts such as volume and angles.

Workshop participants will follow up with a series of Saturday morning sessions throughout the upcoming school year. According to the organizers, these regular face-to-face meetings throughout the school year will facilitate ongoing, productive working relationships between teachers and university faculty.

The ultimate goal of the Boise Math Teachers’ Circle is to promote teacher mentorship of students who could benefit from additional outlets for scientific curiosity and to encourage students to study science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) in college. Program activities will emphasize experimentation, discovery, data-collection, pattern recognition and explanation of observations.

“All too often, the work of universities and local school districts are conducted separately, without input or collaboration between one another,” said Laurie Cavey, mathematics educator in the Department of Mathematics. “These types of connections are important because the members of each community have an influence on the work of the other.”

Following the workshop, the circle plans to meet Sept. 12, Oct. 24, Nov. 7, Dec. 5, Jan. 30 and April 9. To learn more or to apply, visit math.boisestate.edu/circle.

“Teachers are craving opportunities to learn more about math and the ways that other individuals think about math, especially at the secondary level,” Cavey said. “We expect the Boise Math Teachers’ Circle to generate interest among teachers that may result in the demand to start additional circles in the future.”

In addition to Cavey, the Boise Math Teachers’ Circle leadership team includes Bryce Gillespie of Heritage Middle School, Denise Mirich of East Valley Middle School, and Boise State mathematician Zach Teitler. Other Boise State faculty participants include Joe Champion, mathematics educator; Samuel Coskey, mathematician; and Tatia Totorica, IDoTeach master teacher.

The Boise Math Teachers’ Circle is supported through funding from the American Institute for Mathematics and the Boise State Concurrent Enrollment program.