TERC Team Spotlight: Ken Rafanan

By Anna Chiang, December 4, 2020

Q. Will you tell us a little bit about your professional background?

I develop learning activity systems that integrate teacher professional development, curriculum, assessment, and technology to support the learning of critical mathematics. I have been working in math education research for the past 16 years. Prior to working in research, I worked as a math and technology teacher at a school focusing on special education and also worked as the executive director of a youth development organization.

Q. What’s one thing you learned in developing and piloting MPACT that surprised you?

I was pleasantly surprised to learn through piloting how much enthusiasm students show for their projects. In one of our pilot classrooms, students worked on their project to design a board game during their recesses. In another class, fifth-graders debated a whole class period on whether two shapes were the same (essentially discussing the concept of chirality). We know that we are successful when we can really engage students while learning critical mathematics.

Q. What is something you’re excited about working with the MPACT Fellows on this year?

I always say that working with teachers is my second favorite part of my job (my most favorite is working with students). I am most excited to see the MPACT Fellows’ growth in how they lead their students through spatial reasoning aspects of the curriculum, and because I really like design, I can’t wait to see all the designs that the students create.

Q. What would you tell a teacher to expect out of the MPACT program this year?

You can expect the students to really work their brains. Working through a design project is different from typical math classes. The spatial reasoning involved can be really fun, but it can also take a lot of cognitive energy.

Q. How do you think MPACT will benefit teachers and students?

I think teachers will learn a lot about teaching with a different kind of curriculum and I hope that it inspires teachers to try out other projects that combine mathematics and design making. As for the students, I believe that they will enjoy the making and start to see themselves as designers and that mathematics can be fun and useful.