CAMT 2016: Cultivating Mathematical Affections through Service-Learning


This week I am leading a workshop at the 2016 Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching in San Antonio, TX on “Cultivating Mathematical Affections through Service-Learning.” The talk is on integrating service-learning projects into mathematics curriculum, specifically with the goal of impacting students on an affective level. Since this is my dissertation topic, I’ve written about it numerous times before here on In addition to the resources that you will find below, feel free to check out some of the prior posts on service learning:


This session will equip participants to design, implement, and evaluate service-learning projects in which students partner with non-profit organizations. Through these projects, students integrate their conceptual understanding of math with the practical functioning of their local community, ultimately gaining deeper knowledge of content and a deeper appreciation for the role math plays in society. Examples from geometry and statistics will be provided.


You can click the image below to find the PowerPoint that accompanied my presentation.

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For many of the service-learning projects that my students have completed I am indebted to the willing partnership of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. Here is some introductory information on this great ministry:

Community First! Village Goes Beyond Housing for Austin Homeless, from the Austinot


The following are the foundational questions that you as an instructor should consider and reflect upon prior to implementing a service-learning project. This list is not meant to be chronological though some aspects will naturally precede others. Start by considering the course learning objectives and your method of assessing those objectives and then go from there.

1.What are the major learning objectives/big ideas/enduring understandings for your course?

2. What are real-world situations where students can apply the concepts studied in your course?

3. List some potential community partners along with some basic descriptors that may impact how your students work with each partner (ex: What is the size of the organization? What issues does the organization address? Is the organization non-profit, governmental, religiously affiliated? Etc.) In lieu of a partner organization you can also consider a general community need for students to address. List some general descriptors of the project involved in addressing this community need.

4. Look for potential matches between organizations on your list from question 3 and your responses to questions 1 and 2. If there are multiple potential matches then consider the pros/cons of each and list them. Be sure to recognize how your matching affects the organization of the project (large scale as a class v. small scale as groups), which in turn may affect your response to question 5 below.

5. Once you have begun narrowing potential community partners that offer opportunities for students to interact with course content, consider how will you assess students? What will be the final product? What expectations will you have for students throughout the project and how will you communicate that to the students?

6. How will students be organized to meet the objectives that they will be assessed on? Will students work as individuals, teams, as a whole class?

7. How will students be equipped to complete the project successfully? What will they have gained from the course up to the point of assigning the project that will aid them? What additional tools/skills/knowledge will students need as the project proceeds?

8. What will be the timeframe for the project? How will students be held accountable to the timeframe? At what points will students receive feedback on their progress?

9. Why should students care about the project? What will you do as an instructor to get student buy-in on the project?

10. How will students reflect throughout the project? What opportunities will you provide for students to pause and consider the work they have done?


From my AP Statistics Project:

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From my Geometry project:

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CAMT 2012 Presentation

Please read my previous post on Serving Through Statistics for a summary of the concept behind this class project. Below you will find the presentation that I gave at CAMT 2012 over this project as well as links to resources and project details.

Click the image above for the complete PowerPoint presentation on “Serving Through Statistics.”

Service-Learning Resources:

Mathematics Resources from the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse

An Introduction to Statistics Syllabus with a Service Component

The journal PRIMUS announces an issue dedicated to service-learning resources

General Project-Based Learning Resources from Edutopia

Serving Through Statistics Project Components:

Overview of Serving Through Statistics on the Navasota ISD Teaching and Learning Blog

My initial proposal to students on the idea of a service-learning project (much borrowed from the Intro to Stat syllabus linked above)

Voting form for subject of project and project managers

Proposal developed by project managers

Initial article on the project in the Navasota paper

Survey on Google Forms: English Version   Spanish Version

Results from Google Forms

Presentation Students Gave to Navasota ISD School Board

Presentation Students Gave to Navasota City Council

Publication of results in the Navasota paper

Student Self-Evaluation Form

Project Manager Evaluation Form

Guidelines for Final Write-Up

Reflections from CAMT 2011: Math as Story

It has been a while (at least longer than I would have liked) since I posted. I have been involved with several writing projects this summer that have taken more of my time than I initially anticipated. But the upside is that once they have been completed and publish I will be able to share the fruit of that labor here. In the meantime, back to our regularly(ish) scheduled programming.

A few weeks back I was privileged to attend CAMT 2011 (Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching). The main reasons that I made time for it on my schedule was that it was being held in my hometown of Grapevine, TX (=money saved by staying with family) and the featured speaker was Dan Meyer (=my hero in math education).

Overall it was a good experience. Not bad, not great. Good. Being a conference designed for primary and secondary teachers, I was expecting presentations that were practical for me to take back to my classroom. On the whole, I didn’t quite get what I expected. Some presentations were psychological/research driven, meaning they went along the lines of, “the numbers show that kids are failing at (blank) and possible reasons include (blank), and we can correct this by creating a culture of (blank) in education.” It was all good information, but the solution strategy seemed more speculative than practical. On the flip-side, some presentations were too practical. By that I mean that the presenter essentially gave a quasi-lesson and left me to go copy it without really fleshing out the philosophy behind why it is a good lesson, so I can then develop other lessons in a similar philosophical vein.

Of course, this could just be representative of the talks I chose to attend and not the conference as a whole.

There were of course several presentations that perfectly blended (at least for my taste) the philosophical and the practical aspects of teaching. Naturally Dan Meyer’s talks fall in this category and this why I am such a big fan of his. The main point of both his talks: a good (read engaging) math problem is like a good story. A good problem grabs your interest (usually with a powerful image), equips you to solve the problem which is different than just giving you a bunch of information, and it finally relieves the tension that was initially presented by confirming the solution (ideally with an image again, not just revealing the answer key). It also sets the stage for a sequel.

It seems so intuitive, but yet it clearly goes against the grain of how most of us were taught mathematics. It also fits into our evolving, media-saturated world better than word problems in a textbook.

The concept of a good “story” I think is also essential to our understanding of the Biblical text. As I reflect on this understanding in my own spiritual life, I see clear parallels. Narratives in Scripture often present an initial conflict that I naturally want to see resolved. This is usually followed by a coming to terms with this conflict, where characters are equipped to handle their problem (which is NOT the same as God intervening and just giving them all the answers). Then the narrative closes with an act of redemption, revealing the nature of God, and bringing satisfaction to the problem. But, just like the description of a good math story above, the Bible leaves way for a sequel. Whatever redemption we experience now, though miraculous, is temporary and incomplete. In the narrative’s attempt to resolve the conflict, to borrow a line from a song, we still haven’t found what we’re looking for.