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  • Writer's pictureM. Cherise Harrington

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Fray - [fraࠢ] (noun) : a usually disorderly or protracted fight, struggle, or dispute


For decades I have been supporting math instruction; first as a math coach, then as an educational consultant. Since I started my first math coach position in 2006, I have always noticed that there are at LEAST twice the number of English language arts coaches as math coaches! Even when I moved into serving as an educational consultant with a math specialty, with any company or organization I worked with, there were ALWAYS significantly more consultants hired to support ELA than math. This has always perplexed me as I can see nothing but opportunities for support for teachers of mathematics everywhere I go!

I think I have some ideas as to why there is such disparity among the support offered to teachers of math vs. teachers of language arts and there are many. I will follow this post with a series of posts spelling these reasons out along with solutions for how to remedy this disparity. But suffice it to say, there really is as great, if not greater, need for instructional support for math instruction and partly because of the sheer disparity.

Something I have been saying for years is that most elementary school teachers didn't choose teaching because they like math. They usually are lovers of reading or have a favorite unit of social studies that they like to build into year-long projects or just love teaching younger children in general. But, loving math, is not the reason. As a matter of fact, some elementary school teachers (if not checked) will short their classrooms math time to get to teaching what they are more comfortable with. In our middle and high schools, is where we have lovers of math, however, what is sometimes missing from their classrooms is the instructional skills to engage students who may not love math as much as they do and are therefore less successful.

So, why, when we have elementary school teachers who don't like math and therefore don't teach it as often or as well as needed and middle and high school teachers who know and love math, but are lacking the skills to transfer their knowledge to students who may not come to them ready to learn, do we have only half the support as ELA. If there is one thing every school teacher is likely to be able to do; it's read! I mean, we all went to college and have read and written many a paper; we can read and write!

Before you start talking about how, "just because you can do it, it doesn't mean you can teach it," I just want to thank you for making my point for me. In our middle and high school math classes, we have teachers who, themselves, may be great at math. But, being an expert at a particular subject or skill does not guarantee that you will teach it well.


"Expertise in a particular domain does not guarantee that one is good at

helping others learn it. In fact, expertise can sometimes hurt teaching because

many experts forget what is easy and what is difficult for students."

~ How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School


Please do not let me leave anyone with the impression that our teachers of math at level do not know what they are doing; that is not my goal (please read any of my other posts to gain a true idea of the level of respect I have for teachers of mathematics). My goal is to fight for the support I know teacher of mathematics need as I have since I was a beginning teacher and had no idea how to teach sixth grade math. That was the beginning of the fray.

I continue to struggle with the disparity between the amount of time, human resources and money that is spent on supporting teachers in how to teach English language arts when there is just as much if not more need for support for teachers of mathematics. I see nothing but opportunities for professional development in the effective instruction of mathematics. At the elementary level, I see the high need for support with content and at the middle and high school levels, I see a high need for support with instructional strategies that will lead to teachers being able to transfer their knowledge to help students understand and therefore learn mathematics. Not to mention develop an actual joy for teaching and learning mathematics.

I choose not to stay "above the fray". I stay IN the fray. I will continue to fight for, at the very least, equal portions of time, human resources and money spent on providing quality professional development for teachers of mathematics as are allocated to ELA. I will speak up, speak out, call it out when I see less time and attention being payed to supporting effective math instruction and will continue to lend my time, talent and resources to this fight.

I stay a Frayed; very a-Frayed.


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