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2017 FAME Program Inspires Math Teachers to Rethink Their Classrooms

September 13, 2017

FAME students taking measurements of tape on floor using iPad

Student math proficiency, especially in algebra and geometry, is still proving to be difficult for many schools and districts, and success in algebra is a strong indicator of whether or not a student will attend and complete college. Hence, the KCI has continued to offer and evolve the FAME (Faculty Academy for Mathematics Excellence) program, which is geared toward 6th through 10th grade math teachers. The program goals include improving teacher content knowledge in the pre-algebra, algebra, and geometry topics that are most difficult to teach and learn, as well as training them in technology-enhanced learning activities to motivate, challenge and inspire students.

This is the second year KCI has offered two FAME programs: blended FAME and traditional, face-to-face FAME. FAME is a nine-month commitment regardless of program style—math teachers attend an intensive summer institute along with four follow-up sessions during the school year. For blended FAME, the summer institute is comprised of five in-person days and 30 hours of online work. Traditional FAME meets for 60 hours over two weeks. The KCI has strived to keep the curriculum for the two programs in sync since the two cohorts will meet together for the follow-up sessions. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of program directors Cristina Bustamante and Ed Campos, along with their instructional teams, the program is more creative and
relevant than ever.

What separates FAME from other math professional development is the focus on problem solving from different perspectives and collaborative activities that stimulate student engagement. One participant stated, “I learned how to structure group math problems to stimulate thinking and conversation; how to get my students up and moving; how to incorporate some great technology into my teaching; and how to search for great online tools to use in my teaching. I learned how to rethink my entire math curriculum!”

The two FAME cohorts included participants who were brand new to teaching and veterans who have taught for over 30 years. This alone creates a unique environment where teachers can collaborate to support and learn from each other. A new teacher wrote, “I was incredibly nervous since I have no teaching experience. I truly thought I was the weakest link. Soon after we started, I began to feel accepted as a teacher, and my feelings were validated about being in the right spot at the right time.”

Teachers are put in the place of students as they tackle daily math problems and learn new activities, teaching approaches, and skills. One of the biggest hits of the program is the introduction to Spheros, robotic balls that bring coding to life. Teams of teachers were challenged to run Spheros through a pre-determined course (see picture). The teams enthusiastically used every part of the KCI building during this activity.

The teachers particularly enjoy the environment created for the program, which allows for time to learn, play, and plan. A participant commented, “I valued the instruction—the manner in which we were taught, managed, and encouraged, the availability of materials and the access to the instructors. Our time was valued. The environment created and modeled for us was incredibly helpful.” FAME is made possible by a grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and other family foundations.

Note: Our Math PD has been updated. You may be interested in our STEAM Leadership program, designed for educators who want to grow as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) leaders in their schools, districts, and/or counties. Or, Math Best Practices, focused on classrooms for grades 3-6. If you have questions, reach out to

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