Program Spotlight - Wcef funded TK-8 Math COach alexandra thomas
Work hard. Persevere. Learn more. It’s called growth mindset. The term, coined by psychologist Carol Dweck following recent scientific discoveries about the plasticity of the brain, is embraced at the Walnut Creek School District (WCSD) and school districts across the country. It may sound like the latest buzzword in education, but for Alexandra Thomas, the newly hired district-wide TK-8 Math Coach at WCSD funded by donations to WCEF, growth mindset is a must for students, teachers and parents to remove stress associated with math and math homework.
"The district is very excited that WCEF has funded the new position of a TK-8 math coach to help our schools and students excel in math. If you have ever played sports, you know that great coaches can help you change the way you play the game. Alexandra is coaching our teachers, the majority of which teach math. Even though she just started this fall, she is already helping our teachers and students think about math in new and deeper ways."
Thomas comes to WCSD with more than six years of experience, most recently in the Mt. Diablo School District, teaching at almost every grade level. She enjoys working with teachers on curriculum, modeling or training them on new teaching techniques, and observing and exploring ways to support their growth as math teachers. She also analyzes district-wide data to identify areas for improvement.
“Education is shifting. We need to be educating students to solve for problems that we can’t even conceive of yet,” Thomas said. “We need to help them develop skills to ‘think out of the box’ and to use multiple methods. And most importantly, we need them to appreciate that ‘mistakes’ are opportunities for learning, not dead ends.”
Thomas said one of her early areas of emphasis is problem-solving. Rather than memorizing formulas or drilling students on computation, Thomas hopes to see more teachers focus on building students’ abilities to solve problems in new and dynamic scenarios.
“We want students to break problems into pieces, and then persevere through the pieces to get to a solution,” Thomas said.
Thomas has already begun working with individual teachers at the middle school level, and soon will begin working at the elementary level. Since about 85% of WCSD teachers teach math, Thomas will also deliver district-wide training to teachers. She also helped conduct an assessment of 6th graders that led to creation of a transitional math support elective for students struggling with math.
“I did not like math as a kid,” Thomas, a mother of two young children, said. “But then, I had a fantastic calculus teacher who connected math to my life,” Thomas said. “We were learning about acceleration. He took pictures of my car and used them in an example in class, and really made connections between things in my life and math. That experience really shaped me as a teacher. So, now when I walk into a classroom and see students who don’t think they like math or aren’t good at math, I know I can help engage them because I was that kid. So maybe we connect math to whatever they are into – soccer, coding, whatever will reach them.”
Follow what Alexandra and the teachers she is working with by going to her handle on Twitter: @WCSD_MathCoach
I did not like math as a kid. But then, I had a fantastic calculus teacher who connected math to my life.
Walnut Creek School District Schools Funded
SEPTEMBER MATH TIP: PLAY A BOARD GAME! BOARD GAMES DEVELOP MANY IMPORTANT MATH SKILLS: MANCALA CAN HELP K-2 STUDENTS WITH ONE-TO-ONE CORRESPONDENCE; MONOPOLY HELPS 3-5 STUDENTS WITH MONEY CONCEPTS AND STRATEGY; CHESS OR CHECKERS IN GREAT FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS IN DEVELOPING THE MATHEMATICAL PRACTICES LIKE ‘MAKING SENSE OF A PROBLEM AND PERSEVERE IN SOLVING’; ‘USE APPROPRIATE TOOLS AND STRATEGIES’; AND ‘ATTENDING TO PRECISION.