Math Resource Teacher, Kindergarten - Grade 5
Dr. Penni Ross joined our faculty in 2015 as Congressional’s Math Specialist, with a focus on:
- Enhancing Teaching
- Enhancing Learning
- Assessing of Mathematics to Boost Student Achievement
She is an experienced math teacher, consultant, and trainer, and works with teachers to help develop lesson plans and supplement learning to prepare students for the rigor of middle school math. She also works with students to provide extra challenge for those who are ready to forge ahead and additional support for students who need it.
Dr. Ross earned her doctorate in Instructional Technology from George Mason University and received both her graduate and undergraduate degrees from George Washington University. She has conducted postgraduate work in Mathematics Education at a number of universities including Princeton and was the President of the Independent School Mathematics Association of Washington, D.C. from 1994 -1996.
“I strive to make math highly engaging for students,” says Dr. Ross. “Active learning makes lessons more meaningful for children.” She uses a range of strategies including Number Talks, games, puzzles, and activities with a combination of individual and small group work.
“The students love playing math games; Four’s a Winner is one of the most popular. It brings out the competitive side of the students,” she said with a big smile. She believes that math games are useful because they help to reinforce number concepts and computational skills being taught in the class. “They are more effective than worksheets because games are motivating and they are fun,” she says. “Children are actively engaged in practicing math and care about doing well because ‘play’ is what children do. Teachers have an opportunity to assess through observation and questioning while the children play.”
Incorporating a blend of teaching approaches, such as Singapore Math and Connected Math, Dr. Ross encourages students to develop problem solving strategies to gain a deep understanding of the concepts. Singapore Math tools such as manipulatives and pictorial representations (bar modeling and number bonds, etc.) help with visualization of the concepts, while Connected Math develops the students’ connections between math and other disciplines.
Dr. Ross designs a flexible learning environment for students giving them choices in how they learn in a way that works best for them. For example, students may choose “math with my iPad,” where they use technology to practice math problems, or “math with myself” where they work independently on targeted tasks. Others may choose “math with my teacher” if they need additional support, or “math with my friends” if they want to collaborate with other students.
“The researchers found that when students were given problems to solve, and they did not know methods to solve them, but they were given opportunity to explore the problems, they became curious, and their brains were primed to learn new methods, so that when teachers taught the methods, students paid greater attention to them and were more motivated to learn them. The researchers published their results with the title ‘A Time for Telling,’ and they argued that the question is not ‘Should we tell or explain methods?’ but ‘When is the best time do this?’”
- Jo Boaler, Stanford University Professor
Dr. Ross’ passion for teaching math is evident when you speak with her. She believes that all students have the ability to master the concepts and takes great pride in reaching every student wherever they may be in the learning process.
“One of the most powerful problem-solving strategies is ‘make a simpler problem,’” she says. “I cannot tell you how often a student says ‘I don’t know how to do this’ when faced with a problem-laden with fractions or decimals. I can cross off the daunting numbers in the problem, replace them with ‘nice numbers’ like 2, 5, 20, and the student will say, for example, ‘multiply 2 by 20 and divide by 5.’ They knew how to do it all along, but may never have solved it without this problem-solving strategy.”
“Learning math helps develop problem-solving skills that can be widely applied in life. Math teaches reasoning, the ability to make sense of the world.”
- Penni Ross
Dr. Penni Ross