7 Questions For Coaching Math Teachers

Coaching teachers, particularly in the nuanced field of mathematics, requires more than just a deep understanding of mathematics proficiency, effective teaching strategies, equitably based teaching strategies; it requires a tailored approach that addresses the unique challenges and needs of each educator. As math coordinators and leaders of math programming in K-12 schools, the transition from classroom excellence to effective coaching can often be as challenging as it is critical.


The Coaching Transition:

Many educators step into coaching roles due to their success in the classroom. This transition, from being front-line educators to supporting peers behind the scenes, involves leveraging their skills to enhance teaching practices across the board. However, the shift isn’t just about imparting knowledge; it’s fundamentally about fostering growth and development through a supportive, understanding approach.


Understanding the Coaching Role:

Effective coaching goes beyond giving advice. It involves guiding teachers to identify their own areas of need, which can significantly enhance their development. This process requires patience, insight, and the ability to ask the right questions. A coach’s role isn’t to provide all the answers but to facilitate the discovery of solutions by the teachers themselves.

In this episode, we speak with one of our mentor’s, Jim Strachan. Jim authored the work Mentoring For All and has been instrumental in developing successful mentorship programs here in Ontario.

Strategic Questioning in Coaching:

 One effective strategy discussed is the use of targeted questioning to help teachers articulate their challenges and needs. Questions such as “What’s a pebble in your shoe?” or “What barriers are in your way to achieve X?” open the door to meaningful dialogue. These are not just inquiries; they are tools that help teachers reflect on their practices and identify areas where they need support.


The Seven Key Questions:

Borrowed from the coaching methodology outlined in “The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay Stanier, these questions serve as a powerful toolkit for math coaches:


  • What’s on your mind? – Opens the dialogue and invites teachers to share their current concerns.
    • Teacher Version: “What’s a pebble in your shoe right now that we could pluck out today?”
  • And what else? – Encourages deeper reflection and additional details, providing a fuller picture of the situation.
  • What’s the real challenge here for you? – Helps pinpoint the exact nature of the difficulty, focusing the discussion on specific obstacles.
    • Teacher Version: “What are the barriers that are holding you back?”
  • What do you want? – Asks teachers to articulate their desired outcomes or solutions, fostering a sense of ownership and direction in the coaching process.
    • Teacher Version: “If this were easy, what would it look like?”
  • How can I help? – Positions the coach as a supportive ally ready to assist in addressing the challenges identified.
  • If you’re saying yes to this, what must you say No to?
    • Teacher Version: “If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change?”
  • What was the most valuable part of our conversation today? – A reflective question that helps solidify learning and value from the coaching session.
    • Teacher Version: “What was your biggest takeaway today?”


Building Trust and Reflective Practice:

The ultimate goal of these questions and the coaching interaction is not just problem-solving but fostering a reflective practice that encourages continuous growth and development. By steering the conversation with thoughtful questions, coaches can help teachers make substantial gains in their instructional strategies and classroom management.


For math coordinators and educational leaders, adopting a coaching approach that emphasizes questioning, listening, and reflection can transform the typical oversight role into a dynamic support system that genuinely enhances teacher capability and classroom effectiveness. As we navigate the complexities of educational demands, remembering that our role is to facilitate and inspire rather than direct and dictate can lead to profound impacts on both teacher satisfaction and student outcomes.

Focus Your Math Professional Development On What Matters


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Each lesson consists of:

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson consists of a Teacher Guide to lead you step-by-step through the planning process to ensure your lesson runs without a hitch!

Each Teacher Guide consists of:

  • Intentionality of the lesson;
  • A step-by-step walk through of each phase of the lesson;
  • Visuals, animations, and videos unpacking big ideas, strategies, and models we intend to emerge during the lesson;
  • Sample student approaches to assist in anticipating what your students might do;
  • Resources and downloads including Keynote, Powerpoint, Media Files, and Teacher Guide printable PDF; and,
  • Much more!

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson begins with a story, visual, video, or other method to Spark Curiosity through context.

Students will often Notice and Wonder before making an estimate to draw them in and invest in the problem.

After student voice has been heard and acknowledged, we will set students off on a Productive Struggle via a prompt related to the Spark context.

These prompts are given each lesson with the following conditions:

  • No calculators are to be used; and,
  • Students are to focus on how they can convince their math community that their solution is valid.

Students are left to engage in a productive struggle as the facilitator circulates to observe and engage in conversation as a means of assessing formatively.

The facilitator is instructed through the Teacher Guide on what specific strategies and models could be used to make connections and consolidate the learning from the lesson.

Often times, animations and walk through videos are provided in the Teacher Guide to assist with planning and delivering the consolidation.

A review image, video, or animation is provided as a conclusion to the task from the lesson.

While this might feel like a natural ending to the context students have been exploring, it is just the beginning as we look to leverage this context via extensions and additional lessons to dig deeper.

At the end of each lesson, consolidation prompts and/or extensions are crafted for students to purposefully practice and demonstrate their current understanding. 

Facilitators are encouraged to collect these consolidation prompts as a means to engage in the assessment process and inform next moves for instruction.

In multi-day units of study, Math Talks are crafted to help build on the thinking from the previous day and build towards the next step in the developmental progression of the concept(s) we are exploring.

Each Math Talk is constructed as a string of related problems that build with intentionality to emerge specific big ideas, strategies, and mathematical models. 

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

MMM Unit - Snack Time Fractions Unit


Partitive Division Resulting in a Fraction

Shot Put Multi Day Problem Based Unit - Algebraic Substitution


Equivalence and Algebraic Substitution

Wooly Worm Race - Representing and Adding Fractions


Fractions and Metric Units


Scavenger Hunt - Data Management and Finding The Mean


Represent Categorical Data & Explore Mean

Downloadable resources including blackline mastershandouts, printable Tips Sheetsslide shows, and media files do require a Make Math Moments Academy Membership.

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!