Professional Learning
Professional Learning

Educators are the lead learners in schools. If they are to enable powerful, authentic, deep learning among their students, they need to live that kind of learning and professional culture themselves. When everyone is part of that experiential through-line, that’s when next generation learning thrives.

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A teacher forum to support the pilot of an educational game evolves into a national conference for middle school math educators.

In September of 2012, 20 middle school math teachers journeyed to northern New Mexico for a Teacher Forum – and left invigorated and inspired.

The idea had been that a group gathering would be an ideal way to launch Imagine Education’s Pilot Project funded by Wave II of the Next Generation Learning Challenges. The Pilot Project would examine the impact of our innovation, a story-based online game called Ko’s Journey, designed to teach fractions, ratios, and other key elements of pre-algebra, in 10 schools from across the country.

We’d brought this group of teachers together to create buy-in, comprehension and cohesion for the pilot—but we soon realized that we’d created something much more powerful. This had been a one-of-a-kind opportunity for these middle school math teachers, who face some of the toughest challenges in education, to connect, share, and learn from each other.

Fast-forward to spring of 2014, and you’ll find 500 teachers from across the country will be traveling to northern New Mexico to participate in a gathering directly inspired by this NGLC-supported teacher forum: the MidSchoolMath National Conference.

Set for March 27 through 29, 2014, this conference will be the first national conference of its kind, with an exclusive focus on teaching math for students in grades 5 through 8. The middle school math classroom is a critical place. Students must master the transition from the everyday math of addition and multiplication into the more abstract realms of expressions and equations. Those who succeed are prepared for success in high school, college, and a wide range of STEM careers. The students who struggle in middle school math continue onto high school at a substantially greater risk of dropping out, and those who do manage to complete high school are often ill-prepared for college-level coursework, still struggling to master core concepts from that critical transition period.

The MidSchoolMath National Conference offers an incredibly powerful professional development opportunity for the teachers working in the math classrooms at those middle grades, day in and day out. There will be keynotes and workshops presented by recognized authors, researchers and math scholars. But there will also be numerous sessions presented by math teachers from urban, suburban, and rural middle schools sharing what is working for them. Together, we’ll all join together to share, explore, and create innovations and transformations that work for the middle school math classroom, promoting deeper learning, true comprehension, and Common Core State Standards implementation.

As an NGLC grant recipient, the Imagine Education team had the unique opportunity to inspire, excite and engage a small group of teachers. This was an experience so powerful for these teachers, that it must be replicated, disseminated and shared so that others can be so inspired. This is an opportunity that we believe no middle school math teacher will want to miss.

To learn more about and register for the MidSchoolMath National Conference, visit:

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Scott Laidlaw, Jennifer Lightwood and Martha Riecks