GS Math Coordinator Kate Smallberg '04 Shares Insights from Distance Learning
Julian Corbett

Grammar School math coordinator and CGPS alumna Kate Smallberg ’04 discussed her distance learning experiences with Number Strings, a mathematics education blog. In her recently published interview, Ms. Smallberg reflects on the challenges and unexpected rewards of adapting her teaching methods to distance learning. 

Looking for ways to recreate in virtual reality the “moments of discourse” that arise in the physical classroom – such as students sharing strategies with each other and jumping in with “Ooh, I heard you say that; can you say more about that?” – Ms. Smallberg says she was forced to get creative. “Something that I’ve tried is getting kids to respond to questions with physical gestures,” she says in the interview. “Or I might ask some yes or no questions and they can use their thumb to respond [. . .] Any kind of question that forces everybody to answer in that way is the best mode that I can use for checking for understanding as we go.”

But Ms. Smallberg says going virtual has also presented an unexpected opportunity to reinforce her students’ learning. Take the problem of the whiteboard: while students in her physical classroom could point out a number or a drawing Ms. Smallberg had put up on the board, in the virtual classroom students have to use their words to describe what they’re looking at. “Now we’ve rediscovered the importance of precision in our math language,” Ms. Smallberg says. “I know you’re pointing at something and it’s gotta be good, but can you tell me specifically what you’re pointing at? And so it’s actually forced us to use precise math language in a way that we might have gotten away with in the classroom.”

Click here to read the rest of Ms. Smallberg’s interview and watch a video from her math classes!

  • Grammar School

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