Meet David Tranter, a Content Specialist in Math on the Instructional Services team. Among his many roles, he leads workshops and webinars for teachers, co-teaches, and works one-on-one and in small groups with students in K-6 to improve their skills and change their perceptions of math. He does this by implementing math activities and lessons "that facilitate a more open-ended, collaborative experience.” In short, he helps make math fun.
“The traditional way of teaching math tended to focus on ‘the right answer,' and was a very individual activity,” he says. “The strategy I try to promote is to create learning experiences that are more inclusive and engaging.”
David has been in education for 19 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from Hamilton College, as well as a master’s degree in Education from Hunter College, and a second master’s degree in Philosophy from the New School for Social Research. Before coming to Ulster BOCES in 2016, David taught high school mathematics in New York City public schools.
Often students may feel they aren’t capable of succeeding in math, David explains. So, he helps teachers remove that negative messaging we receive that says only some people can be “good at it,” while “others aren’t.”
Rather than relying mainly on direct instruction, David focuses on peer-to-peer discussions, small-group collaborations, games, and math centers, where students are presented with a problem to work through together. All of these activities promote what David calls a “growth mindset,” a way of thinking that can prepare students not only for college and careers, but for life.
“A growth mindset is the idea that everyone can learn, everyone can improve. There is no such thing as being born with a ‘fixed ability.’ We can all continue to learn and grow,” he says.
David encourages students to view math as something that can be debated and discussed. “In open-ended problems and activities, students are free to think more deeply,” he observes. “They discover patterns and structures. More importantly, they make connections.”
For instance, a teacher may begin a lesson by showing a visual image. He or she allows the students to look at it, observe its patterns, and make observations about what they are seeing. Then students may pair up and share their ideas with each other. The teacher might present a question about the image and have students form small groups, where they can further process their ideas and work together to problem-solve. All of these activities engage students in critical thinking, he explains.
“Education should prepare us to be life-long learners and collaborative problem-solvers,” he says, “so that we can be critically engaged global citizens and improve our world and communities. It’s an opportunity to develop talents and abilities, and explore new potentials for self-improvement.”
In his spare time, David enjoys playing soccer, hiking, and practicing tai chi. He continues to read and study philosophy, and thinks that one day he may pursue that even further. He also hopes to have future opportunities with Ulster BOCES to work with secondary students.