In Session 1, the content leader mentioned that there would be a need for
three teacher volunteers to participate in a math instruction version of ‘Stump the Band’ from the Johnny Carson show.
In the activity, teachers were asked to come forward and describe one of their units that they believed had very little
chance to involve mathematics; the band (consisting of our three math teachers) would then ask questions of the teacher
in hopes of gaining enough information to insert a math connection.
Teachers were told in advance not to let the math department know any details of what they were planning.
They were also told not to expect miracles; this was planned to be much less of a parlor trick and much
more of a demonstration of the planning process.
The math teachers brought some curriculum notes with them to the meeting. They also provided a sealed prize envelope for the day’s three volunteers.
In this specific activity, the volunteers included a social studies teacher planning a unit on Reconstruction,
a resource teacher planning a unit on nouns and plural nouns,
and a choir teacher planning a unit on vocal health.
As warned, the math department didn’t exactly hit any of them out of the park,
but it did come up with some ideas involving economics, math vocabulary, and data collection that were reasonable.
After the volunteers were through, the content leader closed by reiterating some of the points that were central to the purpose of the activity:
 Math does not need to be involved in everything. Even though we might be able to push a connection, if it adds nothing to the lesson, it is best left out.
 Connections must be gradelevel appropriate. If the associated level of math is too high, we teach kids that math makes things worse. If the associated level of math is too low, we teach kids that they only really need the math they studied a couple of years ago … what the current math teacher is selling is useless.

Making these connections requires a good deal of backandforth between teachers. Math teachers don’t know everything about what happens in other classes; if a nonmath teacher simply asks a math teacher what to do, it’s hard to give a useful answer. At the same time, math teachers don’t expect nonmath teachers to know what skills are being learned at each grade. Good connections come from good communication … and often, when both parties have had some time to think for a while.
In closing, one of the best comments about the session was from an English teacher who said, “I liked that the math teachers seemed vulnerable.” It was important to her that the math teachers looked like partners in the process, not as people commanding compliance.