Partnership with Chile: How TRUST can transform math teaching

May 25, 2017

The teaching-research team wraps up a weeklong collaboration exploring fraction representations in Chile.

Two mathematics education scholars from Michigan State University, Higinio Dominguez and Sandra Crespo, are collaborating with Chile’s Universidad Católica Silva Henríques on the project, Teaching Relations: Uniting Students and Teachers (TRUST).

TRUST, or confianza, reflects a quality that a participating teacher from Chile identified as one that is rapidly disappearing from classrooms and yet key to his efforts to establish nurturing relationships with students in a high-needs school in Santiago.

The participatory design-based research project has already united students, teachers and researchers in Chile and the United States around issues of (re)humanizing teaching and learning experiences in elementary mathematics classrooms.

The education systems in both nations serve an increasingly diverse student population, and this requires a transformation in practices.

“The complexity inherent to teaching and learning should profoundly impact how we do educational research, particularly in contexts in which human rights and social justice cannot be ignored,” says Dominguez. “Our approach to this project is collaborative rather than comparative,” adds Crespo.

Reciprocal learning

The project’s purpose is to create and exchange new knowledge about teaching and learning by recognizing and using local resources that current educational systems have long ignored. The recent water contamination affecting local communities in Michigan and the school’s huerto (garden) built on a former landfill in Santiago are just two examples of unrecognized resources that students can use to investigate with mathematics issues that matter in their lives and in their communities.

Along with Dominguez and Crespo, the team includes teachers Melissa Adams and Megan Coupe from Austin, Texas; Tamara del Valle and Gustavo González from UCSH, and Santiago teacher Yordhan Ormazabal.

In November 2016, Dominguez initiated a series of reciprocal classroom visits in Ormazabal’s classroom, where the two of them co-taught a mini-unit on fractions. In March 2017, Dominguez took his team of teachers from Austin, Texas, to visit two more classrooms in Ormazabal’s school, where they co-taught mini-units on place value and fractions. In May 2017, the team from Chile visited a classroom in Austin, Texas to co-teach a fractions operations unit. Both groups of teachers have discussed plans for continuing their work by using online resources.

What unites these teachers and their allied researchers is a strong commitment to transforming the learning opportunities of students while strengthening the research-practice connections. These activities will generate professional development materials and publications that highlight the intellectual, cultural and relational nature of teaching, learning and researching in diverse contexts.