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For Math Teachers by Math Teachers

Archive for August, 2013

Cheers for the RUSMP Vertical Teams!

August 8th, 2013 by Alice Fisher

What is a vertical team?

The Texas Leadership Center (1998)  defines a vertical team as “a small number of people from different levels within an organization who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable” (p. 18).

Beautiful idea, isn’t it?

However, vertical teaming is not easy for obvious reasons….the time available for implementing and sustaining an effective vertical teaming program is often scarce.

RUSMP has offered its Summer Campus Program (SCP) for 27 years.  The SCP has gone through many changes over the years but, in general, teachers have been continued to be grouped by grade level.  For the past few years, there have been four different classes: elementary, intermediate, middle school, and high school.  Having attended the SCP program back in 1996 and 1997, I honestly do not remember interacting more than a couple times with teachers outside of my grade band.

RUSMP wanted to change this, and so we created opportunities for teachers from different grade levels to interact with one another through problem-solving activities and five common book share discussion sessions.

How did it go?  Marvelous!  The vertical team activities facilitated an exchange of ideas and information among people who operate on different levels and have very different organizational perspectives, but who all share a common purpose.

One of the activities of the vertical teams was to photograph spots on Rice University campus and create short videos discussing the mathematics at the different grade level in the photos.  One of groups took a photo of the installation, “Unwoven Light”, being exhibited in the Rice Gallery.

Cam Watkins (middle school) and Diane Wu (high school) discuss the mathematics underlying this art piece.
Alma Adams (elementary) and Elizabeth Ayala (intermediate) discuss the mathematics of a stairwell on campus.

A teacher participant wrote about the vertical team efforts:

“The learning community that is established throughout the program is amazing.  It is a teaching model I believe all districts should embrace and adopt.  From working as a team in your grade level and then working with a separate group with the vertical alignment, it has opened my eyes to what kids should know and how they look at it to what they are expected to know after me and what that looks like.”

An iBook with more details about the 2013 RUSMP vertical team activities is available to download here.  It includes the four short videos created by teachers from the different grade levels so it is a hefty file.  You can read it on an Apple device/MacBook through the iBooks app.  If you don’t have access to an iOS device or just want to watch video of the iBook, click here.