Paula Ganzeveld | Assistant Professor of Education

Paula Ganzeveld

Q&A with Paula Ganzeveld, assistant professor of education.

MMU: I understand you presented at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Convention, how did you become involved with this conference?

PG: NCTM is one of the leading education organizations in the nation. I became familiar with them when I was a practicing teacher. The organization provides support for PK-12 teachers, particularly with research and standards for teaching mathematics. A colleague of mine, Lisa Smith, who teaches the math preparation courses here at Mount Mercy, has been a member of the organization for many years. As we were concluding the action research we completed last year, she suggested that we present our findings at the national conference. We worked together to complete the proposal and were very happy when it was accepted. This is one of the more competitive conferences to present at.

MMU: Can you give a quick synopsis of your presentation? What were you hoping conference attendees would walk away with?

PG: Our presentation focused on research we had completed with third and fourth graders. The instruction was part of an intervention for students struggling in math. We focused primarily on building conceptional knowledge through sense-making tasks. We wanted the attendees to see how they could use this type of instruction, with struggling students in an intervention setting. We also wanted to give them opportunities to think about how they could apply these concepts in their own schools. We were thrilled with the number of participants we had (the space was full—some participants even sat on the floor) and their engagement with the topic.

MMU: How did you become interested in the topic? Where does your passion for the subject come from?

PG: I teach courses here at MMU for students gaining special education endorsements. Sometimes our students think that PK-12 grade students that are struggling or have disabilities are not capable of conceptual and higher-order thinking. With Lisa, I often talked about this misconception and discussed ways that we could help students see that this type of instruction is beneficial for all students with the necessary supports. We decided that we needed to not just talk about it, but do something about it. We worked with some local elementary schools to implement these interventions. We also had research assistants join us through MMU’s Pathways Scholarship.

MMU: How does your research or work outside of MMU inform what you teach in the classroom? In what ways do students benefit?

PG: As we talk about our experience, it serves as a model for our students for when they are practicing teachers. First, it shows how teachers can conduct action research in their own classroom. Second, it shows that collaboration that can occur between special education teachers and content area teachers. Lastly, it shows the power of a strong intervention focused on sense-making and higher-order thinking.

MMU:  Was there an idea or bit of research you learned during the conference and found especially interesting? What did you walk away with?

PG: I always appreciate attending conferences for what I learn from the experience and can learn from other sessions I attend. It is also a great way to network with others. I attended a session where adults with learning disabilities described how they visualize mathematics. It was quite fascinating and I came back and shared it with my students. I also learned a new questioning strategy that I have started to model with my students.