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  • Writer's pictureMadaline Dunn

Ingrid Wagner: Understanding the power of group work and math discussions

Ingrid Wagner always wanted to work in a profession where she could help others. Now a teacher at Pleasant Ridge Montessori School, she prides herself on her dynamic approach to teaching and believes that group work can be transformative for students' comprehension and enthusiasm for math.

Ingrid Wagner didn't always envision herself as an educator. She started out enrolled in speech pathology and audiology at college. However, after shadowing a speech pathologist and a teacher in a first-grade classroom, she realized that teaching was the path that she wanted to take. She changed her major that day and hasn't looked back since.

Ingrid now has a degree in early childhood education and is in her third year as a teacher while pursuing a master's in curriculum instruction in STEM. This, she said, will give her greater insight into the value of group work and help her create more rich math discussions in the classroom. Ingrid explained that often in math, teachers have to tell students that they're either right or wrong, but she wants to approach math questions from a different angle and encourage students to think about the different possibilities and pathways they can take.

This focus on different approaches shapes the way Ingrid teaches. Whether it's encouraging students to use blocks to understand fractions or getting students to take part in a math game, she employs a range of strategies to keep her students engaged and excited about math. "It's all about giving them what they need to use to solve a problem." Likewise, she always listens to students' learning preferences and makes sure she gives them the option to use what works best for them, too. "I give them a survey: a math 'this or that'. They choose whether they prefer hands-on material, pen to paper, manipulatives, or drawing pictures," she said. "I then group them based on their preferences."

As an educator, Ingrid also takes inspiration from the teachers that taught her when she was at school. She said that her favorite teacher always used individualized instruction, explaining a math problem in one way to one student and a completely different way to another. She now emulates this in her own classroom. "I think getting to know my students and what they like and dislike helps me to be a better teacher. We have a relationship where they know I have their back, and they have mine."

Photos courtesy of Ingrid Wagner

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