Beliefs of successful math teachers

Note: The following are beliefs that underlie the training and support that we provide to teachers in the Mississippi region of Teach For America.


  • Students learn through exploration, challenge, and dialogue. Real learning happens when we think deeply. That kind of deep thought is encouraged through communication and exploration.


  • My students are able to solve problems, given the opportunity. All students are sense-makers. They may not know the prescribed ways of solving a problem, but they all have ways of thinking mathematically.


  • Math is based on concrete principles made abstract. Math uses symbols and logic to describe relationships. Even the number “2” is an abstract thing—but we can make it concrete by thinking about 2 apples, 2 houses, 2 people, etc.


  • Math is a body of knowledge, not a checklist of skills. Deeply understanding math requires being able to see the connections between various ideas, and move back and forth between representations. When we reduce math to just a list of different kinds of problems students should be able to complete, we’re taking away their chance to make connections.


  • Math is beautiful, useful, and exciting. We don’t just teach this because it’s a class, and there are tests align to it. The process of abstracting the world allows us to make fascinating, even beautiful, conclusions about the world.