100Kin10 Begins Second High-Leverage Focus Area: Early Math Proficiency

March 26, 2019

100Kin10 is dedicated to solving the Grand Challenges, the underlying challenges of the STEM teacher shortage. In particular, we are mobilizing our network to tackle the “catalysts”, the issues identified through the analysis of thousands of data points that, if improved, would generate a positive domino-like effect and most improvement across the system.

We began by focusing on three catalysts related to work environment for teachers in schools. This year we will build on this progress by activating the network to tackle a second catalyst issue focused on improving early math proficiency.

Research shows that a strong grasp of math concepts at an early age is a major predictor of success later in school and in life. Math is foundational not only to increasing access to STEM for all students, but also to increasing the number of people able to contribute to the STEM workforce, especially those traditionally underrepresented. Moreover, we know from extensive data that teacher anxiety and discomfort with math is one of the leading causes of low levels of math learning in the early grades and of increased student apprehension of math, especially for girls, making it a critical place for intervention in striving for equity and growing the number of women working in STEM fields.

We also know from research that students learn best when they are responsible for their own learning and construct their own understanding of concepts. Doing so builds on students’, especially young students’, natural curiosity while also recentering learning around joy - a core part of education that has been forgotten in many schools. It also helps students build the softer skills associated with social emotional learning that are critical for success, such as teamwork, growth mindset, and perseverance.

Recognizing this, 100Kin10 is mobilizing our network to tackle issues of early math proficiency. Specifically, how might we equip elementary (PreK-5th grade) teachers to enable authentic and joyful math learning for all students? In particular, we are exploring strategies across pre-service and in-service that build and support teachers’ foundational skills in and comfort with math; lead to student engagement, critical thinking, love and respect for, and independence in math and applied or integrated math; and result in a coherent and connected math experience across the elementary experience.

This effort will focus on addressing the high-leverage catalyst at the center of this issue - teaching faculty who have expertise specifically in elementary STEM education. Based on deep quantitative and qualitative data, we are also exploring several related challenges that are relevant to the topic. For each, we are centered on the math element of STEM, which could include applied or integrated math.

Over the coming years, we will mobilize our network and beyond to collaboratively improve early math proficiency. To begin, we are “getting smart” on the challenges at the core of this issue, enabling the network to begin from a deep understanding of what is and isn’t working to address early math proficiency and target their efforts accordingly. We are inviting 100Kin10 partners and select teachers to join the Early Math Brain Trust to guide this research.

Alongside the focus on early math proficiency, we will continue to activate and support 100Kin10 partners and allies to nurture positive work environment in schools. Together, we aim to reverse the misimpression that schools must choose between student learning and teacher learning and address the challenges underlying work environment to enable schools to be places where both students and teachers can thrive. When teachers flourish as professionals in schools, they leave the classroom far less frequently and have significantly higher satisfaction, which results in better student learning.

Over the past year, our network has made impressive, collaborative progress to effect lasting change against the catalysts related to work environment. A brain trust of 20 partners and teachers guided the development of an action-oriented report titled Teachers at Work, an analysis of the research surrounding teacher work environment in schools, what is and isn’t working to improve work environment, and the greatest opportunities for action. The report was featured heavily by the press, including EdWeek, Politico New York, and eSchool News. Building on that research, four Project Teams with a total of 28 members are now each tackling an issue related to work environment. Click on the links to learn more about how these teams are working to integrate professional growth into the school day, measure positive work environment and culture in schools, partner with schools to nurture positive working environment, and support holistic frameworks for mentoring teacher leaders.

We’re now eager to build on this energy and invite more people to contribute. Later this year, we will launch a micro-network focused on improving work environment for teachers. This micro-network will be a group for 100Kin10 partners and allies to share resources, find collaboration partners, and seek advice on challenges they face while working to nurture positive work environments for teachers.