Leading the Way: Principals and Superintendents Look at Math Instruction


This collection of essays provides a firsthand glimpse into the challenges administrators face and the efforts they've made to promote the best in mathematics education. This book is a must for superintendents, principals, math coordinators, teacher leaders, math coaches, and other administrators who are supporting high-quality, standards-based mathematics instruction in their schools and districts.

Edited by Marilyn Burns
128 Pages

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Review by Gail Gibson, Principal, Mapleton Elementary School (Pre K–5), Mapleton, Maine; adjunct professor, University of Maine at Presque Isle, from the January 2001 issue of  Intersection. Reprinted with permission from Intersection, © 2001, by ExxonMobil Corporation.

The consortium our district is a part of was recently awarded an Exxon Mobil Mathematics Grant. During the past summer, four teachers from Mapleton Elementary School, the building of which I am principal, attended a week-long math institute. The timing was perfect since we are in the process of creating a new math curriculum. I was not able to attend the institute but because I am anxious to support the teachers as they work to improve their math instruction, I spent some time perusing articles and trade books the teachers shared.

Martha LaPointe introduced me to Leading the Way: Principals and Superintendents Look at Math Instruction (Math Solutions, 1999). Edited by Marilyn Burns, this book contains only seven chapters, but they are filled with many helpful hints. The first is an introduction by Marilyn where she states: “Just as there’s no one way for teachers to teach math effectively, there isn’t one right way for principals to be instructional leaders in this area [math].”

The other six chapters, written by administrators from across the United States, tell the unique stories of how they worked to improve mathematics instruction in their districts. Each district represented has been involved with Math Solutions inservice. Each district approached staff development in a unique way that met the needs of its teachers. Because I have spent the majority of my career teaching language arts, I was especially interested in Bob Workman’s chapter entitled “Building Community through Mathematics: The Principal’s Role.” Bob used the framework from Brian Tambourine’s model for how children learn language as the basis for reflecting on the teacher as learner and on learning in general. He told the story of his school’s staff development practices using Tambourine’s conditions for learning as a framework. Since I am very familiar with this model, it was easy for me to identify with this chapter. I felt very comfortable using these ideas to help me analyze our school’s needs.

Although I enjoyed the other chapters, most of my reflection was based on this chapter. Interestingly, when I reread the book to complete this review, I found that the other chapters also contained helpful and meaningful information. So, in short, this is a useful reference book that I want to keep on my desk. Each chapter stands independently. The introduction reminds administrators of the importance and the complexity of effective staff development in improving math instruction, as well as in other curricular areas. This is definitely a book that I would recommend to other administrators.

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