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Clothesline Math

Workshop Spotlight | June 26, 2018

Many teachers teach mathematical concepts, but often wonder if their students “get it.” The clothesline is a hands-on, student-friendly tool to teach these concepts in ways that students understand. In our 2018 MƒA spring semester, more than 30 MƒA teachers participated in the single session workshop “Clothesline Math,” where they played the role of students, engaging in clothesline activities adaptable for all grade levels.

By teaching mathematical ideas, teachers provide equitable access to mathematics for students instead of focusing on rote memorization. “The clothesline allows all students access to the mathematics at hand, making concrete topics that might have previously been too abstract for every student to have a point of entry,” said MƒA Master Teacher Jon Koenig who co-facilitated the workshop.

During the workshop Jon and fellow co-facilitator and MƒA Master Teacher Nina Gribetz ran a variety of activities while pairing teachers together to make clothesline decisions, facilitating inquiry and discussion within the larger group, and eventually having some participants implement their own clothesline lesson on exponents.


“The clothesline offers a physical, hands-on structure to represent an open number line. Students get out of their seats to discuss the placement of the numbers, expressions, and equations,” added Nina. “The placement of the values can often highlight deep conceptual misconceptions and lead to valuable discourse in the classroom.”

Both Jon and Nina were inspired to develop a community, within the MƒA community, of teachers using clothesline after learning about it at last year’s NCTM conference. An integral part of MƒA is teacher-created, teacher-led professional development opportunities, where courses are often inspired by teacher interest. Read more about courses like “Clothesline Math” in our other Workshop Spotlights