15 March 2013

Pi and Togas

The year before I left the classroom, I began making a conscious effort to connect literacy and mathematics because it only made sense.  I had already spent the first decade of my teaching career connecting my English classes to various social studies, arts, and science classes, so mathematics was my new subject to conquer.  Now, just like many other English teachers, this was not initially an easy task for me because I had a terrible fear of math.  Fortunately, our high school had a young and innovative teacher who taught me about mathematical literacies.  This was my foray into connecting my discipline to math.

The next year I left the classroom for a new challenge as a literacy consultant at a state education agency, and my work there led to more mathematics connections because I was asked to serve as the “outside content area” participant on a workgroup for developing Characteristics of HighlyEffective Teaching and Learning for mathematics.  It was during this time I met and worked closely with mathematics consultants who possessed a passion for mathematics the same way I possessed a passion for reading, writing, speaking and listening.  I found it truly inspiring, actually, to see educators committed to ensuring students in our state have the best mathematics experiences they need to be successful.  With one particular consultant, I traveled to numerous national convenings as the work toward developing assessments for the Common Core State Standards began.   We were each the subject matter experts for our state’s participation in the PARCC Consortium.  At the same time, our state was rolling out the standards, so our work was not in isolation; we each had numerous other colleagues for mathematics and English Language Arts.  My work with mathematics experts grew.  The more I surrounded myself with these dedicated educators, the more my fear of thinking about math dissipated.   

Last year I spent pi day with this group and experienced their fondness for the day.  One colleague shared a picture with me via twitter as I celebrated pi day for the first time ever in 2012.  This year on pi day, I facilitated a convening of English department chairs from middle and high schools, so I decided to share the pi day enthusiasm and included the image  on the top of our agenda.   Most told me they, too, had celebrated pi day at their respective schools.

When I awoke this morning and gave pause to consider the Ides of March, I tweeted a message to encourage my mathematics colleagues to celebrate the day.  Ah, they know their history and their literature!  One colleague cleverly replied—"Celebrate—aren’t we supposed to beware the Ides of March?”  She’s obviously read Julius Caesar.  Mathematics and literature aren’t so detached, are they?