Professional Development Testimonials

I enjoyed the workshop and facilitator. This [workshop] has given me a boost of energy to begin the new school year. I can't wait to start. Thank you so much!

G. Mack, 4th Grade Teacher, Georgia

I was extremely pleased with the workshop content and the delivery method used.

D. Coffey, Instructional Coach, Texas

Deb [the presenter] was so interesting, inspiring and encouraging‚ she helped me feel as though I could truly do this in my classroom. My students will really benefit from this approach to learning.

K. Dietz, Kindergarten Teacher, Texas

Thank you — to coin a phrase — This old dog learned some new tricks!

W. Koerner, Middle School Teacher, Indiana

Thank you for the great hands-on ideas!

C. Levake, 1st Grade Teacher, West Virginia

The presenter was extremely knowledgeable and has traveled all over the world for the purpose of finding strategies to help students understand numbers!

B. Savage, Lead Math Teacher, Georgia

Hands down the most informative, practical and simply fun professional development session I have attended these past five years!

M. Leopoldi, Special Educator, New York

I have to admit that this workshop was PHENOMENAL... I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend this workshop with my fellow Atlanta Public Schools colleagues. Not only was it insightful and informative, but the presentation of the material covered was creatively done. She [the instructor] allowed us to make many of the activities she discussed. It seems as if both facilitators believe in the educational proverb: 'Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I understand.

B. Cummings, Mathematics Instructional Coach, Georgia

Thank you! You restored my confidence, and gave me great new tools for my toolbox!

A. Brainard, Elementary Teacher, New York

This was a superb presentation - best workshop I've attended in 17 years of teaching. Thank you for providing such helpful information.

B. Reynolds, Elementary Teacher, New York

We have adopted the Exemplars program here in the Kent School District as a supplement to our Everyday Math program. We aligned our Everyday Math lessons with the Essential Learnings for each grade level and then aligned Exemplars to that. Each of our teachers has been given an implementation guide. This guide tells them which lessons in Everyday Math, Problem Solvers, Games and Exemplars to teach during any given month. They can easily cross reference their lessons with the EALRs as well as use it as a guide to their monthly planning.

In order to access specific Exemplars problems for various grade levels we have placed them on an Intranet system by grade and by month. Now all a teacher has to do is open up the Implementation Guide or their grade level, find the month and click on the exact Exemplars task they need to teach. They can print out one copy for themselves or multiple copies for their whole class! We have made using the Exemplars program easy and accessible for the teachers and in turn they are comfortable using it.

Barbara Wood, , Washington

I did not grow up feeling mathematically empowered. I felt that math was a subject for "gifted" students and that average kids like myself would survive required math classes with minimal understanding. I learned quickly that memorization was the key to a passing grade. And after high school, who needed it!

Then I entered the world of classroom teaching and found myself on the opposite side of the teacher's desk. Looking out I saw a room full of smiling faces eager to embrace the subjects of math and science! There was no fear of failure in their eyes. There was no misconception about who can "do math" and who would be just another average Joe. Their [elementary] age did not hinder their enthusiasm to tackle the "hard stuff." They were ready. I wasn't! It was time for me to make some major changes in my whole philosophy about math, kids and learning. The first thing I did was take classes, workshops and training in math instruction. I reached out to colleagues I thought were strong teachers, and eventually learned that my own mathematical education was not a fault of mine, but the result of poor instruction. I had the misfortune of taking high school algebra and geometry [I didn't dare go beyond that!] with teachers who catered to the cream of the class, and failed to recognize I needed their support and attention, too. I was not about to become one of those teachers!

The Alaska Math Consortium offers classes for teachers just like me - math phobics! I signed up and spent three weeks of my summer realizing that I not only could "do math" but I loved it! I took the Advanced Institute the following summer and eventually became a facilitator myself. I searched for other classes, which addressed instruction in a more meaningful and hands-on approach. The more I learned, the more I longed to be stretched and challenged. To this day, I still have my eyes open for workshops or opportunities to further my knowledge in math, even with retirement just around the corner! I was drawn to classes, which broke math concepts down to a concrete level, using manipulatives to develop the visual thinker in me. [Oh, the delight I found when I learned about base ten blocks and algebra tiles!]

While my own mathematical needs were met through these classes, they also shaped my personal philosophy about math instruction. I have become more sensitive to the needs of all my students. The way I teach math is not unlike the way I look at reading instruction. New learning is based on prior knowledge. Students need to explore and manipulate objects in order to make sense of the mathematical world. As a teacher, it is my role to support their learning with as much scaffolding as they require in order to feel successful. As they become more confident learners, the support system is eventually removed - piece-by-piece. Students also learn best when they are guided to make discoveries on their own. "Drill and kill" techniques cannot lead to mastery as effectively as providing children with enough opportunities to practice through exploration and games. Playing "Go Fish For Ten" can help even the youngest students eventually realize that 14 + 6 = 20 "because 4 and 6 are 10 friends and 10 and that other 10 make 20!" I continue to use materials which allow my students "to see" their way through math concepts.

Over the years, I felt that my recipes for math were solid, with just the right ingredients to provide my students with a balanced program. Everyone was happy. Still, there was something missing. I knew that I needed something more - a dessert - involving math problem solving. I went in search of such a recipe on the Internet and came across the site for Exemplars. As I read it over, my mouth began to drool! This is exactly what I needed. So, when I came into some money [The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematical Teaching provided me with a check!] I signed up for the closest Exemplars workshop to Alaska, which happened to be in Texas!

The workshop's presenter was Deb Armitage, a former classroom teacher from Vermont. She literally kept me on the edge of my chair. I even held off "bathroom breaks" for fear I'd miss something she said. First she presented the overall idea behind Exemplars. Then she handed out problems, which had been tried and tested, just like a recipe in a test kitchen! We went over both the problems and the students' work, analyzing what children knew and could explain, and what was still missing. The rubric was invaluable for this! Finally, we got to roll up our sleeves, donned an apron and started cooking ourselves. Using the information Deb taught us and the rubric, we set about scoring problems. The more we did, the more we wanted to do! Who would have thought that sitting for two days in a windowless room could be so wonderful. The time flew!

I dreaded the thought of leaving Texas without the support of another colleague in my own district. I was the only Alaskan among so many Texans! But, I didn't really have to worry. Deb became my email support person. The more we emailed, the more confidence I gained. And so, now I really feel I have the perfect math program, complete with dessert! I felt so excited about my ability to teach students how to solve problems that I initiated a Math Club for third-fifth graders. [I teach a K-1 Multiage program.] We meet once a week after school just to solve math problems. They love it and so do their parents!

I'll be retiring at the end of this school year. While I have lots of plans for my retirement, one is to continue to keep cooking up great math recipes for kids. As a volunteer, I will be excited to work with students in the area of math. When I think about packing up my classroom for the last time, many things will be tossed or given to other teachers. But I will never give up my Exemplars Math binder! That's my recipe book! And whenever anyone asks about math, I hop up on my soapbox and shout the praises of EXEMPLARS!

Barbara Renoux, Teacher, Alaska

In a career of more than 20 years in education and going to professional development meetings, there have only been one or two experiences that have changed the way I approach teaching. The Exemplars workshop has been one of them.

Anonymous, ,

Using the information Deb [the presenter] taught us and the rubric, we set about scoring problems. The more we did, the more we wanted to do! Who would have thought that sitting for two days in a windowless room could be so wonderful. The time flew!

B. Renoux, Multiage Teacher, Alaska

If you walk into a Tacoma classroom during math instruction, you will see kids huddled around an Exemplars task, cooperatively selecting their problem-solving strategy. Rich conversations will follow, in which students will not only defend their solutions, but also get a chance to study alternative strategies unveiled by other groups assigned to solve that very same problem.

In the fall of 1997, Tacoma schools implemented a promotion policy where students in grade 5 are required to demonstrate their proficiency in literacy and mathematical problem solving as a condition for being promoted to the sixth grade. The policy's mathematics component requires students to communicate their thinking as well as work towards an accurate solution to an extended problem. With the increased demand on student performance, it became clear to our personnel that instruction needed to change in order to prepare students for this more rigorous assessment. Yet many staff members lacked training in how to weave problem solving throughout their daily math instruction.

After searching through the myriad of problem-solving materials offered, Exemplars was chosen by Tacoma as one vehicle for helping staff and students move in this new direction.

Knowing the importance of staff development, we offered multiple workshops designed to acquaint the staff with Exemplars and how to teach towards the Exemplars rubric. Sample problems were sent regularly to schools and the Best of Math Exemplars CD-ROM was provided for each of our 46 buildings. We needed to educate the parents as well so we offered workshops around the district to acquaint them with several problem-solving strategies. Ross Brewer flew to Tacoma on two occasions to work with groups of teachers and students as we all struggled to give up some of our tried and true math practices in order to free up time to delve into problem-solving on a more regular basis.

Gaye Lantz, Curriculum Coordinator, Washington

I’ve yet to find any other resource that compares to Exemplars.

D. Reynolds, Curriculum Specialist,