My name is Heather Johnson. I study students’ math reasoning, and I design tasks to help students to expand their math reasoning. I study how instructors and departments transform practices to grow students’ math reasoning, and I develop and teach fully online asynchronous courses to promote teachers’ learning.
I think two challenging 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 develop 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. When we know 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.
To study how instructors and departments transform practices, I collaborate with colleagues. We spend time learning the needs of instructors and departments. Then we interact during professional development experiences (either face to face or via video conference), and we share our practice. Later, we go back and analyze our conversations to better understand processes that contribute to change in practice.
I currently work at the University of Colorado Denver, as a professor of mathematics education. I started in 2010. Before that, 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 research, teaching, and service.
My hobbies include hiking in the Colorado mountains, furthering my yoga practice, gardening in the backyard, and solving New York Times crossword puzzles.