Join us for a peek inside Aurora classrooms to see how our teachers teach students math. Our lead teachers along with Tony Cifra, Assistant Head of School, will explore questions like: How are students nurtured from concrete to abstract math understanding? patternblocksWhat math skills and habits are being developed? What does this look like in a classroom? You’ll get to see video footage in classrooms and to participate in a group math activity!

Thursday, January 28, 2016
7:00 – 9:00 pm
Aurora School
RSVP here by Tuesday, January 26

In honor of this event. We’re re-posting Tony’s reflections on another parent education event that happened in 2013.
Today’s guest blogger is Aurora’s Curriculum Coordinator, Tony Cifra. Here, he reflects on last week’s parent education night What Happens When We Multiply? which he facilitated. It was a great night and we thank Tony for sharing his thoughts...

I’ll never forget being a quiet, shy 3rd grader in that multiplication bee. Our desks, usually lined in rows, were pushed against one side of the classroom. Asked to stand in a large circle, we nervously awaited our multiplication problem, secretly hoping we’d get one with a 0 or 1 in it. With each error a bell tone was heard and a student quickly descended to sitting position at his or her circle spot. The problems’ levels of difficulty progressed. Nervous giggles, accompanied by furrowed brows, were silenced by stern looks from our teacher. My final problem of the day was 9 x 6. My answer? 56.

Although this happened many years ago, I remember as if it happened just yesterday. In the past, I’ve managed to weave a thread of humor through my retelling of this memory. Now, after years of teaching, the humor has been displaced by regret and dissatisfaction.

This past Thursday, I had the privilege of learning alongside 60+ members of our community for an evening of math with a focus on multiplication. Together, we considered our own personal histories as mathematicians, thought deeply about multiplication’s “big ideas” including its commutative, associative, and distributive properties, and we deconstructed the US multiplication algorithm to extend our understanding of the constructivist approach Aurora students encounter each school day.

It’s now four days later, and I’m still responding to a collection of emails I received from that night. The messages include connections to early math experiences, requests for additional resources, and expressions of gratitude that our children can experience an approach that honors process and depth of understanding.

As I continue to reflect on our evening together, I’m reminded that the hallmarks of a constructivist math approach are so clearly aligned with our broader progressive philosophy. As partners on this path, we share a commitment to:

  • developmentally appropriate curricula;
  • curricula focused on depth over breadth in pursuit of specific habits of mind;
  • active engagement;
  • self-reflection as an integral part of the learning process;
  • opportunities to consider and share multiple perspectives;
  • creativity; and
  • fostering a curiosity that beckons us to ask simple, yet significant questions such as: How? Why?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a progressive philosophy is characterized by a warm, welcoming community in which learners feel comfortable sitting with the disequilibrium that occurs naturally throughout the process. Last Thursday night, on my drive home, I was fixated not so much on the math principles we explored, but on the supportive, collegial energy that pervaded the experience. I look forward to future parent education events so that we may continue learning together and also maintain our strong community as partners on this path.

With admiration,

Tony Cifra