Vail Valley math educator Dr. Jill Rubinstein wins statewide leadership award for math instruction work | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley math educator Dr. Jill Rubinstein wins statewide leadership award for math instruction work

Dr. Jill Rubinstein, a learning and instruction specialist with Eagle County schools, has been honored with the 2018 Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics Leadership Award.

EAGLE — Educators need to believe that all kids are capable of being mathematicians.

Dr. Jill Rubinstein is in charge of instilling that mindset and so much more in Eagle County Schools.

Rubinstein, a learning and instruction specialist with the local school district, has been honored with the 2018 Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics Leadership Award.

The award goes to educators who contribute to mathematics education by improving instruction, and helping others improve their teaching.

"It's an honor of being recognized, along with people who are working hard to improve the learning experience for today's kids," Rubinstein said.

What makes a great math teacher

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Rubinstein is quick to point out that she was not a math major. She studied philosophy and religion as an undergrad, which is why she's constantly asking why things are as they are, and why people learn as they do.

Sure, you need to be competent at math to be an effective math teacher, but it's more important to be a great communicator.

"To be a good teacher of math, you don't need to be a great mathematician. It's important to understand how people learn, not necessarily how people who are good at math did it," Rubinstein explained.

Some kids need to see things in different ways. If we're not providing that, we should be, she said.

"We all use math all the time, every day," Rubinstein said.

You'll answer questions about which car is your better value, or understanding taxes or leases and any number of other number-related issues.

"We need people to feel comfortable and confident," Rubinstein said.

Math, she says, has been called a college gatekeeper, as well as a college gateway. That's because your success in higher math, such as algebra, depends on your ability to understand patterns and structures in number systems, as well as place values and proportional relationships, according to research by the Math Educators Stack Exchange.

"We're looking at the kinds of learning opportunity we are presenting. If students are only asked to do low level tasks, that's what they'll do," Rubinstein said.

The Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics is a professional organization that supports math teachers across the state. It is an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the largest professional organization of math teachers in the country.

The Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics honors those who contribute to math education, but do not teach full-time in classrooms, such as mathematics coaches, coordinators, administrators or higher education personnel.

"Jill has been an advocate for mathematics in Eagle County Schools and she is proud of the work the district has done to create a culture of access and equity in mathematics," the school district said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.