Chris Confer

Chris has a passion for both mathematics and teaching children.

As a beginning third-grade teacher in a bilingual classroom, a student asked her on the first day, “Does the world look the same through your blue eyes as it does through my brown eyes?”  The question reminded Chris why she chose this profession: to see the world through the eyes of children, and to help them have every possible choice as they grow up.

Chris’s work with Marilyn Burns (including Chris's early work at Math Solutions) opened her eyes to the beauty of mathematics patterns and engaging students in intriguing, high-level questions.  But it was her collaboration with Marco Ramirez in schools with students of poverty, many of whom are second-language learners, that helped Chris learn about school change through the lens of abundance. Chris believes that all children can learn mathematics and literacy, and all teachers have the capacity to build high-level knowledge and skills.  Chris and Marco supported an underperforming, low-income school as it transitioned to a highly performing school, which then became a model for the district and the hub of professional development. District professional development took place at the school, and even teachers from high-income schools would say, “My students can’t do what your students do. Help me learn how to teach this way!”

Chris and Marco’s book, Small Steps, Big Changes: Eight Essential Practices for Transforming Schools Through Mathematics (Stenhouse 2012), outlines their approach that they continue to use; and as cofounders of Associates for Educational Success, they are currently working in fifty-four schools in five states. Whether in Los Angeles, San Jose, Houston, Phoenix, or on the Navajo Nation reservation (Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona), teachers and school leaders research their own practice, and students grow in ways teachers could never have imagined. Success for all is the goal: that all students can think and reason, solve problems, and communicate their math learning—and show their competence on standardized tests.

In addition to her work with schools researching math and literacy success, Chris is a popular presenter at national conferences. She is especially interested in professional development for districts and schools interested in transforming their instructional programs to build their own unique system of practice.