Leadership guidance

GPS for Mathematics Leadership

Do you love Google Maps as much as we do?  This one app has changed how the world travels.  When we are traveling, whether for business or family vacation, we rely heavily on this amazing app to get us where we want to go using the most direct route possible. We no longer have to bring a stack of maps and lists of all addresses needed for our trip.  Instead, when preparing for trips, we click the Google Maps’ “magical star” to save our addresses for future reference.  Then, as we travel with Google Maps, that soothing voice happily announces, “Here is the fastest route given the current traffic.”

A decade ago, as new mathematics leaders, Bill and I wished there was an app that provided us the same specificity in feedback to avoid the gridlock associated with the daily routines of mathematics leadership. Feedback that guided us to the “most effective and efficient pathways” to ensure mathematical success for all students in our district. Looking back, we wondered, “Where might mathematics leaders turn to assist their leadership journey? What turns, detours, and stop signs should we, as mathematics leaders, heed as we navigate the ever-changing leadership landscape?”  Bill and I have collaborated to support mathematics leaders by giving you the KEYS to answer your leadership questions and provide you and your team support as you navigate the leadership highways.

Mathematics leaders come in many forms, from department chair, grade-level leaders, team leaders, site-level leadership, coaches, curriculum specialists, to district-level leadership.  Activating the Vision: The Four Keys of Mathematics Leadership is your new GPS tool for Mathematics Leadership.

The four keys are as follows.

  1. Establish a clear vision for mathematics teaching and learning.
  2. Support visionary professional learning for teachers and teacher leaders.
  3. Develop systems for activating the vision.
  4. Empower the vision of family and community engagement.

Before you put the keys in the ignition, do you know where you are going? 

The first KEY to successful mathematical leadership is to ensure that everyone has a strong understanding of the vision for effective teaching and learning. If someone were to ask you, “How healthy is your mathematics program?” would everyone on your team, in your school, or throughout your district have the same response?  Effective mathematics leaders develop a plan for creating a culture of transparency, trust, and creative problem solving that will create a system committed to equity and excellence for all students. The collaboratively developed vision becomes the roadmap to all of the facets of a well-oiled mathematics machine!

What gas do you use to fuel the engine?

With the vision in place, the second KEY to successful mathematics leadership is to build capacity within your system. Effective mathematics leaders provide worthwhile professional learning to all stakeholders to successfully “drive the engine.” Collaboration within all levels of mathematics is a vital element to Activate the Vision. Mathematics leaders guarantee continual job-embedded learning opportunities for all stakeholders and ensure alignment of the professional learning to the vision. Another aspect of the second KEY is to foster mathematics leadership for grade-level, course-level, and site-level leaders.

Do you maintain all the moving parts in your engine?

To successfully Activate the Vision, the third KEY to mathematics leaders is to create supportive conditions to ensure all of the “moving parts” are well-oiled and headed in the right direction. Leaders must establish supportive structures so that collaborative teams can effectively engage in high-quality, research-affirmed actions and develop a culture focused on learning, through a visible curriculum and meaningful mathematics assessment processes with feedback and action.

Does every passenger in the car have a voice on the journey?

And finally, on your journey to successful mathematics learning for all, it is important to remember the voices of those we serve- the students, parents and community.  Are those voices being served well by the current route or might we need to re-route their journey or even take a pit stop to reassess their needs? Or, maybe the best course of action results from them taking the wheel and charting the path for a time.  The fourth KEY is dedicated to sharing how to engage all the stakeholders, as partners and leaders, in Activating your Vision.

The four KEYS will support mathematics leaders as they strive to create a highly effective mathematics program. Mathematics leadership is a complex endeavor. In Activating the Vision, we set out to provide you with the tools, resources, and practical examples to help you along your journey.  Safe travels and we look forward to learning about your journey!

 

Bill Barnes

Bill Barnes is chief academic officer for the Howard County Public School System in Maryland. He is also director of Eastern Region 2 for the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics and an adjunct professor.

Mona Toncheff

Mona Toncheff, an education consultant and author, is project manager for the Arizona Mathematics Partnership (a National Science Foundation-funded grant). She is a former mathematics content specialist.

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