I Guess I Don’t Know as Much as I Thought I Did!
Donna Curry


    It was a true gift to be able to hear Donna speak at #ANNunder10. I love that she spoke about rules, tricks, and common misconceptions! Many students want to know these tricks but it just reinforces the idea that tricks do not help create meaning and understanding. Her personal story about why she “doesn’t teach to the test” truly hits right at the heart. I hope all educators watch this and realize that teaching to the test is not the more important part of the work they are doing in Adult Education! Good Job, Donna!

    My spark was coming to adult education and realizing that I didn’t have a textbook or a curriculum. As a mathematics professor, I was scared not knowing what or how to teach to my group of adult learners. As time went by, I met a great good of people through the Adult Numeracy Network. They helped me to re-think this idea of mathematics instruction and they pushed me to go beyond a book and curriculum and focus on the whole learner and not just parts of mathematics. Being a part of ANN has been my spark that has made me a better teacher and each year I continue to grow and develop along with my colleagues in ANN!

    What a powerful video! I loved the basketball analogy, but more than that, the message that Donna conveyed through her stories resonated with me in so many ways. When I started teaching in adult education, I taught much as Donna described; relying heavily on resources designed to teach how to add, subtract, multiply, divide and then on to fractions decimals and percents. Some students never got past division and certainly most never got to the algebra or geometry resources.

    I was fortunate enough to be one of Donna’s “Pattys”, as a participant in a series of trainings that Donna facilitated, where I had to think about why procedures worked and how to teach students so that they learn the “whys” before the procedures. These trainings did spark a significant change in the way I taught mathematics, so that now I refer to teaching math as “numeracy adventures”. I’m very grateful to Donna, and other members of the Adult Numeracy Network, who have mentored me, challenged me, worked side-by-side with me on many projects, and who strive to continue those conversations that the founding members of ANN started 25 years ago; always on the lookout for innovative instructional strategies that will prepare our students for the math of life. Yes. I’ve learned a lot; but, how can my teaching improve?

    Thanks, Donna, for those stories and your call to action that underscores the value of continuing to have conversations about how to provide instruction in our classrooms that will serve our students beyond “the test”. Every teacher in adult education should watch this video!

    In basketball terminology, Donna’s video was a slam dunk! Her journey through teaching math was much like mine. I memorized every math course I took to earn a BS in mathematics but never could take the “skills” to apply them to real life situations. When I first starting teaching in high school, I started exploring math labs and tried a measurement lab in my ninth grade class. Unfortunately my room was above the principal’s office and soon he appeared angrily at my door asking for the noise to cease. That ended any thought of trying to teach math differently.
    Fortunately for me, I left K-12 and started in adult education where I had the freedom to explore and try to teach math more conceptually. I took many courses and then, like Donna, was lucky enough to meet Mary Jane Schmidt and participate in the first ANN call to action in 1994. The giants like Donna, Mary Jane, Lynda Ginsburg and Myrna Manly forged my path to improve my teaching practice. Now 25 years later, I can say I haven’t stopped learning. Every time I facilitate ANI or (AR)^2 I gain a deeper understanding of the mathematics involved. Thank you Donna for your persistence and unwavering battle cry to teach math differently.

    I shared the post below on LINCS but wanted to post it here, too. Thanks, ANN, for hosting this amazing event and for continuing the dialogue started at #ANNunder10!

    I was fortunate enough to participate in the ANI pilot in Georgia in 2010 and even more fortunate to have Donna Curry as the facilitator. She inspired me with her teaching techniques then and continues to do so today. This short talk is the epitome of what makes her a great teacher to us all but also an enormously important math practitioner blazing a trail each one of us likely is walking along at some point in our careers. My own instructional style has been informed by her dedication and passion for teaching beyond the test and emboldened to never settle for just offering a rule or procedure to a student. As Mark Trushkowsky says in his introduction of Donna and the impact she’s had on adult numeracy, “Let that be said of me in however long it would take to accomplish.” Thanks for raising the bar higher than most would ever dare to go, Donna.

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