K-5 Math Professional Learning Communities: Year Two Review

As part of our commitment to advancing math and science education in our schools, we have been pleased to fund Strategic Impact Grants for K-5 Math Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for the past two years. One of these PLCs was for all Math Teacher Leads (MTLs) in the District; the other was for Malcolm X staff.

Base 10 MathA PLC is an “extended learning opportunity to foster collaborative learning among colleagues within a particular work environment of field.” Teachers and staff meet at regular intervals to discuss, analyze, and improve upon a specific question or goal. The purpose of the Malcolm X Math PLC, for instance, was to “Develop teacher strategies to facilitate math conversations that reach students who are at different levels thus helping to create more equitable classrooms…and to deepen [their] understanding of Common Core Standards in Mathematics.”


The Malcolm X PLC met five times as a whole staff last year; the PLC for Math Teacher Leaders met an additional six times. They established a specific second year goal: “Use the California Common Core Content and Practice Standards to create mathematics classroom culture where all children have access and all voices are encouraged, valued, and heard.” In addition to discussion, study of the standards, and classroom observation, teachers prioritized doing math together in groups during meetings in order to model how things work in a classroom and to “deepen our understanding of students’ experiences in our classrooms.”

By the end of this past year, the Math PLC Committee created the MX Math PLC Resource Guide 2015, based on their agendas, related documents, and year-end reports.

P1010228Team leaders, Anna Speiglman and Lila Wilkinson wrote, “We are truly so grateful for the Berkeley Public Schools Fund grant which allowed us to begin this work at Malcolm X. We believe this work and these discussions will continue for many years to come, and continue to benefit the staff and students at Malcolm X. Teacher knowledge about how to promote student engagement, conversations (including both explaining and listening skills), and problem solving have all improved across our school.”


The purpose of this PLC was to “increase the capacity in our district math leaders to maximize critical thinking and problem solving in open-ended discussions in their own classrooms through the methodology of Math Talks, and to develop the MTL’s capabilities to train others in their methodology.” This year, seven MTLs incorporated these methods into their classrooms on a weekly or daily basis; the other four have tried Math Talks and will continue to implement them.

K-5 Math Coach Lori MacDonald writes, “The investment in this group has great potential to ramify throughout the district in the coming few years as the same MTLs continue to work together to develop training and coaching mechanisms for their colleagues to improve everyone’s math instruction…we have exceeded our hopes for our work from 2013-2015. Without the faithful support of the Schools Fund, BUSD would not be positioned as strategically as it is to strengthen its mathematics classrooms with both strong standards instruction and rich critical thinking that students will carry with them throughout their school careers.”

Both PLCs have set goals for the 2015-2016 school year, continuing their work and improving their methodology. We look forward to seeing how this exciting work grows and enhances our math classrooms throughout the district!

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