My name is Heather Johnson. I study students’ math reasoning. I design tasks to provide students opportunities to expand their math reasoning, and I teach teachers to grow their students’ math reasoning.
I think two of the hardest things to do when teaching students math are (1) to understand students’ ways of math reasoning, which likely are very different from our own, and (2) to help students start from their own ways of math reasoning to build new math ideas, rather than trying to “fix” our students’ thinking.
I think we know far too much about what students cannot do mathematically and far too little about what students CAN do mathematically. By knowing more about our students’ math reasoning, we can teach math in ways that meaningfully engage more students.
To study students’ math reasoning, I spend time interacting with small groups of students. We usually work on tasks that I have developed, which often involve a computer. I typically video record our conversations. Later, I go back and analyze what students say and do to better understand their perspectives.
I currently work at the University of Colorado Denver, as an associate professor of mathematics education. I spent the first 13 years of my career teaching math to high school students in south central Pennsylvania. I earned all of my degrees from Penn State University. I have received awards for both my teaching and research.
When I am not studying students’ math reasoning, I enjoy the Colorado outdoors. My favorite activities are hiking and cycling, and recently I started downhill skiing.