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Boise teacher wins a national award for using a different equation for teaching math

"Students are a little bit more willing to take a risk if they can share their thinking with someone sitting next to them first."

BOISE, Idaho — Most of us can recall those many times in school when the teacher said, "Keep your eyes on your own paper!"  Those were the days when asking the person next to you, "What did you put for number four?" and sharing your answers, were big "no-no's."

This week's innovative educator is using a different education equation.

Vonda Franklin is encouraging communication and answer-sharing in her classroom, making math lessons more "talkative" and collaborative.

"I got my masters in mathematics education, and I focused on student discourse; student conversation to guide their instruction and push them forward," Vonda Franklin says.

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Students in Mrs. Franklin's class are encouraged to share their work and discuss their process.

"Learning from one another and also clarifying their own thinking," explains Franklin.  "It's one thing to have an understanding of how you solve that problem, but quite another to explain that to someone else."

"I think it's easier to see other people's work, and if I made a mistake, like how I made that mistake," says 4th grader, Penny Andreas.

"She lets everyone have a turn to share what they're thinking," says 5th grader, Charlotte Bryan.

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"Students are a little bit more willing to take a risk if they can share their thinking with someone sitting next to them first," says Franklin.  "So, a lot of times we share it with our 'elbow buddy.'  They can have their thinking validated by a peer, and then they feel a little bit more comfortable with taking that risk and sharing it with the whole class."

"We were all involved, I guess.  So it wasn't just one of us speaking, it was all of us," Bryan says.

Mrs. Franklin recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C., where she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).  This is one of the nation's highest honors for teachers of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.

"I thought like, wow!  My teacher is one of the best math teachers ever!" says Andreas.

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"What do we notice?  What do we see?  Does that always work?  When does that work?  To start those questions in their brain, to explore mathematics on their own terms, because then it doesn't matter where they want to go with it.  If they always have that thinking, they'll own that," says Franklin.

Franklin says she's grateful to be on, what she calls, her "teaching journey."

"Every year, it's slightly different, and you have to do a little bit more fine-tuning," she says.

Franklin's PAEMST award included $10,000 from the National Science Foundation, a certificate signed by the President, and trip to Washington, D.C. to celebrate her accomplishments with the other national award recipients.

If you'd like to nominate a teacher as an Innovative Educator, you can email us at innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.

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