Message from NCSM President, Paul Gray


The Road Less Traveled


This past summer, I attended the TODOS: Mathematics for ALL conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My husband, Gary, came with me and afterwards we drove up the Turquoise Trail to spend some time in Santa Fe. I’ve been to New Mexico before and fully understand why it’s called the Land of Enchantment. But both Albuquerque and Santa Fe were new territory for me.

And, y’all, I loved it.


I think one of the highlights was the Black Bird Saloon in Los Cerrillos, an old mining town south of Santa Fe. The miners are long gone, replaced with eccentrics, tourists, and artists. But that dusty Old West spirit permeated the town and the restaurant. The food was delicious and I kept expecting Yosemite Sam to walk through the saloon door at any moment.

Part of what made that afternoon so magical was that instead of driving up the interstate that connects Albuquerque and Santa Fe, we made a conscious choice to take our time driving up the back roads. Not only did we find the perfect lunch stop but we also got to enjoy some outstanding scenery as we wound through the desert hills.


Our journeys as educators and mathematics leaders present us with similar choices. We can stay on the main road that everyone’s traveling. It’s well-tended, we know where it goes, and it has the guard rails that keep us safe. When things go south, we can dust off our Fred Jones or Harry Wong books and use those time-honored travel guides to help us figure out what to do.


But sometimes, the main road has entrenched structures that can trap us. Because the path is so established and well-traveled, we don’t have to think a whole lot. We can just fall into comfortable rhythms of the way we do school. We just do it the way those before us did and expect those after us to. But do those entrenched structures really serve the children and teachers who are placed in our care as leaders?


What would happen if we took Robert Frost’s advice and followed the road less traveled? Might we find new and innovative ways to serve our children and teachers? If we slow down in our journey, we might find that we have time to get to know the students and teachers with whom we are traveling. When we do, then we can really personalize the learning and make it so much more relevant for everyone. In my own experience working with teachers and students, I have found that sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. Investing some time up front pays off in large ways down the road.


Did you ever notice that I’ve concluded each presidents’ message with “y’all be careful”? That was intentional. “Y’all be careful” is southern speak for expressing your care or love for someone. Teaching and learning is a human enterprise. When we decide to sit down together and learn about mathematics or how to teach mathematics more effectively and equitably, we are engaging with our fellow humans. Powerful learning occurs when we care about one another. We are creating the future of mathematics education together. And it has been my privilege to spend the past two years joining you on your leadership journey.


Y’all be careful. I’ll see you in Washington, DC!



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