KDSL Global recently had an opportunity to interview Nicole Fedio, one of our math consultants based in Saudi Arabia. She recently collaborated with our company in Egypt and was a presenter at the Middle East Maths Teachers Conference in Dubai.
Tell us about Mathematique.
Mathematique is a boutique mathematics consulting business. When I think of it, an image immediately pops into my head. It’s a Venn Diagram that first appeared in the Toronto Star in 2016 (see graphic below). Mathematique sits firmly in the center of the four overlapping circles: ‘What I love’, ‘What the world needs’, ‘What I can be paid for’, and ‘What I’m good at.’ After two decades of math teaching and math coaching experience, launching Mathematique allows me to share my deep and passionate love for exploring the teaching and learning of mathematics with others, centered by those four prompts.
What I bring to mathematics consulting is my dedication to the craft of coaching. It was after working with hundreds of teachers as a coach that I decided I wanted to venture out on my own as an independent consultant. Providing quality professional development to educators is more than just delivering content. It’s about building relationships. It’s about asking participants the right questions so they form their own understanding of the material. It’s coaching adults to answer their own questions. If we want our students to become problem solvers and good questioners, then we must first model this as educators. The mission of Mathematique is to empower educators with the mathematical expertise needed to inspire the problem solvers of the future. And my vision is to live in a world where I never hear, ‘but I can’t do math’ ever again.
What do you say to people who say they aren’t a math person?
When people claim they can’t do math or say, ‘but I’m not a math person’ my first response is to ask why. Too many people carry trauma from the way they were taught math in school. Too often I hear, ‘I used to like math until…’ I think one of the main issues is how narrowly we have defined what it means to ‘do math.’ As a coach, I worked at a school where I would regularly share intriguing math problem solving activities with teachers. The PE teacher loved solving them. Her solutions were unique and showed a complex level of understanding of the problems. Without fail, after finding a solution she would say, ‘but I’m not a maths person. I didn’t take maths past grade 10.’’ In her mind, maths was complicated formulas, algorithms, and something that she still could not access. It was not problem solving, finding patterns, or making meaning out of data. One goal I have is to expand the definition of what it means to be a ‘math person.’
Three things you would share with a new math educator.
When working with new math educators, I first remind them to be kind to themselves and to give themselves some grace. Teaching is such a wonderful profession because it’s never the same day twice. And that is both a blessing and a curse. We are continually growing, learning, and evolving as educators. When I think back to some of the things I did in my first few years of teaching, I cringe and want to write blanket apology letters to all of my former students. Instead, I can reflect on what I would now do differently given the same circumstances and help others not to repeat my mistakes. Secondly, I would advise new math educators to dive into the art of questioning. Questioning is key. Asking the right questions of both their students and themselves is a pathway to growth. When a student asks a math question to which the teacher does not know the answer, consider that a great learning opportunity. It’s OK not to know and to research the question together with the student. Or, it’s perfectly fine to take the time to come back to the student later with an answer. And thirdly, find your positive math community. Surround yourself with people who are excited about the teaching and learning of mathematics and trying new things. Your community might include colleagues at your school, or it might be a virtual community online. Find the people like me who will help nurture your inner mathematician and encourage you to keep asking the necessary questions of both yourself and of your students.
Nicole Fedio is an independent mathematics consultant at Mathematique Consulting. With two decades of experience as an educator, Nicole taught high school mathematics in Ghana, Venezuela, Guatemala, Boston, Seattle, India and China. For four years, she was the K-12 district math coach for a group of six international schools in Saudi Arabia. She earned a B.S. in Mathematics from Penn State University and a M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University. She is a National Board certified teacher.
She holds a deep and passionate love for exploring the teaching and learning of mathematics. She finds joy in helping others find their inner passion for the subject. Her vision is to live in a world where she never hears, “but I can’t do math” ever again by supporting teachers to rewrite their students’ mathematical stories. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleFedio