Episode 127: How A Rockstar Found His Calling To Teach – A Math Mentoring Moment
That there is Jason Garner, a veteran teacher of 13 years and currently teaching 5th grade. Jason has been diving deep into changing his classroom over the last year. He’s taken the Making Math Moments That Matter Workshop and is currently applying what he’s learned with great success. He chats with us about how to take his learning to the next level.
This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we talk with a member of the Math Moment Maker Community who is working through struggles and together we brainstorm possible next steps and strategies to overcome them.
- The most important thing when choosing a task for your class;
- How to effectively use the curiosity path;
- Where to look for problem based lessons and full units;
- Why you should enroll in the Making Math Moments That Matter Online Workshop.
Jason Garner: One of the biggest things as our discussion is going on has been just the reiteration and review. Review for me, I think of going back to that workshop and thinking about, like you said, with the intentionality of the task. I think moving forward for me, one of the biggest things I know I can keep working on is, just I want to say, not being afraid to keep going with it if I know it's working-
Kyle Pearce: That's there is Jason Garner, a veteran teacher of 13 years and currently teaching fifth grade. Jason has been diving deep into changing his classroom over the last year. He's taken the Making Math Moments That Matter Workshop and is currently applying what he's learned with great success. He chats with us about how to take his learning to the next level. This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we talk with a member of the Math Moment Maker community, a person just like you, who is working through struggles and together we brainstorm possible next steps and strategies to overcome them. All right, my friends. Let's do this. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr and we're from makemathmoments.com. We are two math teachers who together-
Kyle Pearce: With you the community of Math Moment Makers worldwide who want to build and deliver problem based math lessons that spark curiosity, fuel sense making and ignite your teacher moves. Welcome to another Math Mentoring Moment episode. This is number 127. My friends, we get to dive deep with a past participant in our online workshop, Jason Garner, and we're really excited to dive in with him today.
Jon Orr: We don't want to waste any more time, so let's jump right into that conversation with Jason.
Kyle Pearce: Hey there, Jason. Thanks for joining us here on the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. We are super excited to be chatting with you. Actually, we're doing it a little differently tonight because our first method wasn't working out so well, so we're actually on a video Zoom call and it's actually a little different. I don't think Jon and I have ever done a video call for ...
Jon Orr: I don't think so.
Kyle Pearce: ... an episode. Actually ...
Jon Orr: We've done some.
Kyle Pearce: Michael Rubin.
Jon Orr: We've done some where we plan it that way.
Kyle Pearce: We do one with Michael Rubin. Absolutely, how you doing tonight there, Jason? How's things in your world?
Jason Garner: I am doing well. We just got back from winter break and so this week has been back to remote learning.
Jon Orr: For a lot of us too, both Kyle and I, our districts have just gone into remote learning. We've pretty much been in the classroom since September, but we've just moved into remote learning around the break time. Awesome stuff there, Jason. I know there's a lot of struggles there, but do us a favor and tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you coming to us from? The usual, how long you've been teaching? What's your journey look like? What's your teaching role right now? Give us a snapshot.
Jason Garner: I live in Ottawa, Illinois.
Kyle Pearce: I was going to say, I know you threw a curveball out there. crosstalk. I think he was a Canadian.
Jon Orr: That actually doesn't sound Canadian.
Jason Garner: I'd planned I had to say that one. I've lived here my whole life. This is my 13th year teaching. I teach fifth grade. Always been teaching elementary. I taught for 11 years in a district about 40 minutes away from where I live and then I finally actually just last year got in here in my hometown. Instead of 40-minute commute, four-minute commute, so it's been nice.
Kyle Pearce: Good for your life but not good for your podcast listening out here, right?
Jason Garner: 13th year and I taught fourth grade for nine years and then transferred to fifth grade in the previous district. This is my second year teaching fifth grade here. Fifth grade for four years. I teach everything except social studies. My partner teacher across the hall teaches social studies to my kids. I teach science to hers. Just like on some of your other podcasts I've heard, those elementary teachers were spread pretty thin with everything.
Jon Orr: I've always got such admiration for elementary teachers. I teach one subject all day. Imagine having to intermix and teach all subjects always just scares me, especially the same group with kids all day, that actually scared me. When we moved to this pandemic teaching that we were going to have the same group of kids all day and I was like-
Kyle Pearce: "What am I going do?"
Jon Orr: Well, I've been used in teaching kids for an hour a day and then I had another group of kids and then another group of kids. All day? Oh, my gosh. I was pretty scared, but lots of admiration for elementary teachers.
Jason Garner: Like I said, we just got back after break this week remote. We were in trimesters. First trimester was a hybrid schedule. Our kids were here first half of the day for about three hours and they go home for remote learning. Then we have the kids who have the full option of staying home, a few kids that are full remote. Then second trimester, we all went home because of the rise in numbers here in our area. Then we are actually planning on coming back to our old schedule from the first trimester next week. It'll be nice to see the kids back here in the classroom for the first half of the school day.
Jon Orr: Jason, I'm wondering if you could give us a background on your what say ... We always like to dig in a little deep on what teaching look like early for you. We know that you've taken a lot of learning over the last little bit. You dove in last summer to the Make Math Moments That Matter Online Workshop. You became an academy member. You've been doing obviously a lot of learning. I'm curious to hear about what Jason looked like before all that learning. What did teaching look like for you before that? Then we'll get into your Math Moment, that kind of stuff that we typically get into.
Jason Garner: Going back before teaching, I did not have a lot of great math learning when I was growing up through school. As a teacher, in the past 13 years, when I started back in 2008, we used Saxon Math. I used that as my first year, had no rhyme or reason to what I was doing. Quickly after a few years, I realized that wasn't really math. Even coming from someone who didn't really have a great math experience as a kid and growing up even high school and college, as a teacher, I think I gained that new perspective of this is watching the other kids go through what I went through and thinking, "This is not what this should be like in class with timed tests," and things like that. Every day was timed tests with that program and things like that and seeing kids just shut down and kids with anxiety and things like that.
Then we transitioned a few years into my teaching with another program, GO Math! with the Common Core shift. That was no training, nothing like that. That went okay for a little bit and then that got same thing. It was like, " I don't know if this is ..."
Kyle Pearce: "Is this what it's supposed to be?"
Jason Garner: Exactly. I really started to change things around for myself close to my last year teaching fourth grade and decided myself, "I needed to change things up." I'll be honest, it wasn't the greatest change up. It was more like, "I'm going to take what I'm doing and try to just make it more fun."
Kyle Pearce: We were there. We know what's that all about.
Jon Orr: That's how we started.
Jason Garner: Playing games like, "Hey, you get to shoot a basket if you get this right or if you can show your work," trying to get kids to work together more and not just sit at their desks isolated. Actually all really changed when I read Jo Boaler's book, The Mathematical Mindset. That really shifted my thinking and was reading that and thinking, "This is how I wish I learned mass and this is what math really is," not just teaching math and learning like, "This is what math is," and so that really changed my mindset and that's what really started to where I'm at today.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. We want to dive even deeper in there. You had mentioned that your math experience, it sounded like it wasn't something to call home about. I'm wondering, do you have a math moment that pops into your mind, maybe it's a moment that was one of those positive moments that you hung on to or maybe it's one of those moments that summarizes that experience that you said was maybe less than inspirational in terms of what mathematics really is and how we go about learning it? What's your math moment there, Jason?
Jason Garner: Yeah, I can give you two quick ones. One, like I said, from growing up I think. Because I can't think of a lot of great moments from when I was a kid, I think that sums it up right there. It was strictly, "Here's how you do the work. Practice it." I got by I think, though I was never, just like a lot of people that might come on your show and say, "I was never thought of myself as math person. I never really cared about it," there wasn't really ever a teacher I had, unfortunately, that got me excited about math. There were a couple projects I remember from second grade. I remember in second grade, we were learning about money and change. The teachers gave us the play money in that and they set up a store with slushies. I remember the slushies. We got to practice saving money, buying things and change, real world. That's one thing I remember from my childhood as a math moment.
Kyle Pearce: It was an active moment too. This is the part too. When we think of those positive activities or those positive experiences that are about the actual learning of math. They tend to be more of an active task or lesson-
Jason Garner: crosstalk script.
Kyle Pearce: Yet, we traditionally rarely do those things. Yet, you're proving it to us that it actually sticks a whole lot better when we're actually engaged in the actual learning and you're intrigued by it. That's cool that you can remember that all the way back from primary.
Jason Garner: I think to the teachers I had, I don't blame them. That's how it was and unfortunately how it is today in many cases, but then I think going into my teaching, I think one of the moments besides the Jo Boaler book that I mentioned, I think one of the moments I had that really sparked me and kept me going, because there's always those doubts that creep in when you're trying something new, whether it's math or something else, and I'm not afraid to try something new, but it's a daunting task when you've done math one way your whole life and then you try to shift. I'm not a math major. I'm an elementary teacher. That's what I majored in.
Trying to shift has been a huge issue, but I tried some of Jo Boaler's tasks from one of the books that she came up with and when I was started teaching fifth grade and it was the box of boxes tasks that she has to go along with volume and I thought, "Well, I'm going to try this." It was towards the end of the year and the kids were disengaged. I tried that, got the cubes out and gave them the task and just to see them playing with the cubes and putting together the figures and trying to figure out how to organize them to fit in the box to be shipped was the task. Just to see the thinking and then to transfer that to learning about volume and then a couple other of her tasks, I think that really was a moment for me that was like, "Okay, this might be something. This might work," but then I think the challenge that stem from there still are thorns in my side. I think that was a big one as a teacher too.
Kyle Pearce: I can see this stemming from your math moment. When you say your math moment was, "I didn't have any moments," and then we usually try to ask teachers, like you'd reflect on, "How did that influence your teaching?" but we can clearly see that. You want to create these moments for your students. You sought that out, looking for Jo Boaler's book, found it, looking to create these moments for your students by changing the script of what math class should look like or was looking like.
I can see that now, you've done some learning on that, you're making that happen for your kids. I know that we asked what it looked like before, but I'm wondering, if we keep going on this journey that you're on, we love hearing both teachers' journeys and once you captured that book, you tried these tasks, what did it look like next? What other, say, big learnings did you have along the way here? Then what was the result of that in your classroom? Then we'll dive into some challenges that some of these things bring up.
Jason Garner: I think what happened from that year, that first year of fifth grade, it was what you just said, it was trying things. There was no rhyme or reason for some of the things. It was just like, "I've got to try some of these tasks and see what this is like," because I had seen some of her videos, I participated in a couple of her courses or webinars one summer and to see how I could implement them. I was really just trying them that year. Then the next year, I actually started my year more in a cognizant way of, "This is how I'm going to start the year with about, "Making mistakes is okay and I want you to make mistakes," things like that that I really wanted my kids to know at the beginning like, "This is going to be different. This year is going to not be like the past. We're not going to just give answers and take timed tests and things like that."
Again, it was the first time trying that. It was a rocky start. We were piloting another curriculum that year, the Engage New York. These are the things over the years those things I wanted to try that I really believed in and then, "We're going to pilot this," so I had to balance the efficacy of doing that program to see if it was actually working, so we could relay that to the administrators, but then also still trying to weave in what I really wanted to do. I tried to weave some things in to some success and some failure. At some point, and this has been the balance here, is I really got more into the Engage New York and followed that a lot. Again tried to supplement with some things.
Then the next year, same thing. Now here I am in my new district starting last year. Of course starting a new district is not easy, so I'm learning. It wasn't my first year teaching, but it's your first year in a new school with new teachers with new curriculum. Didn't really have a set curriculum when I was here. It was actually nice not to have just like, "Here's this book that you have to use." I really was able to pull some things. Of course, then COVID hit and there went all of that. Now, we got an updated version of the book they had for previous years, and well, it' not the greatest math in my opinion and again the way this year started. I don't know if I answered your question, but I guess it's been rocky the past four years because of different fluctuations in-
Kyle Pearce: What I'm hearing what I know trends and listening to this journey is you had like ... Well, with us, we always talk about our three-part framework and this idea that you got sparked and mathematical mindsets that we've talked about a number of times on the podcast, definitely one of those reads that if you've come from a traditional, and our definition of traditional math classes, the way we learned it, the way we taught it for a very long time which is very procedural, very mimic-y, where students are mimicking steps and we're looking to see if kids can get answers, "Can you get answers? Give me this next answer. Give me this next answer."
If you're going from that, that book really helps to open your eyes to this idea that there's something more, "There's something bigger here that maybe I just haven't been exposed to." I remember having that reflection or that experience myself, that epiphany, when I read that book. You've gotten on this path. I'm sensing though that along that journey, you had mentioned you're trying these different tasks. Oftentimes, we do that, right? Usually, we're looking for engagement first, right? Your kids aren't engaged, so you had mentioned you're like, "Hey, I was trying to keep them engaged until the end of the school year. Tried this task to get them more active, get them to engage in it," but it sounds like you ran into a few little hiccups along the way.
I'm going to argue that it is a forever journey. It's one thing to feel like you've perfected your resources when you're teaching steps and procedures and when the expectation is kids are going to just mimic what you're doing. That is like you feel like you've gotten there, but when you start to go down this other path, this path of engaging students in active and constructing their own learning and really trying to help them merge the mathematics, helping them see that through the tasks through the problems that we're giving them, it's a lot more difficult, I would argue. It is something it's an art and that science combined.
I know that you, along the way, joined in and did some work in our workshop. Where do you see yourself, I guess, before entering the workshop? What inspired you to get into the workshop? Then where do you feel you are now? What's changed since then? Then I guess, we'll lead into, what are you currently working on? Because again, at the end of the workshop, we always say, "There's so much more work to be done, but hopefully you've got some steps, some plans to help you along that journey and you can start hacking away at it a little more efficiently and a little more effectively."
Jason Garner: Getting into the workshop, I listened to your podcast weekly, not on my commute, of course, but my exercising and things like that, some downtime. That got me hooked and I appreciate all of your efforts and things like that with really getting your message out there and the community that you've built. I just heard about your workshop from your podcast and that and wanting to join because like I said with some other things, I wanted to find ... I've been in pursuit. The Jo Boaler book was great and other books that I had bought with the tasks are great, but they are tasks.
My biggest challenge has always been, "How do you take the task? How do you take those math problems-solving types of tasks and transition them into units and learning?" When I took your course and joined your academy, I can say that it was like, "Okay, this is what I've been looking for, something tangible that doesn't just present a task but also has a follow up to it, where we're going with this." That conceptual to procedural I think was the thing that's always in this rocky journey I've been on. It's been one of the biggest things, is going from the task to the process of the procedures and things like that and connecting them as well. I took the workshop with the intent of coming into this year thinking I'm going to really try to implement all these things.
Then of course, in the back of my mind, not knowing how we were going to start the school year until a few weeks before the school year and then finding out we were going to be in this hybrid model to start, but who knows how long it's going to last and we could be out any day. I tried sporadically. The kids are here. I have to give you the scenario. When they're here, they'll start to be back next week, I have math with them. It's a very condensed schedule. Every day, we get through every subject, but it's about 20 some minutes. Math, we actually have doubled that. It's nice. We have about 40-ish minutes. They can't work together-
Kyle Pearce: Still not a lot though. For sure.
Jason Garner: They can't work together. They're in rows. They're separated. It poses a lot of challenges for trying to use some of those methods and strategies with the Curiosity Path and that, but I have tinkered with it. I've had to do it. I tried to take a textbook problem. Like I said, the textbook is not great in my opinion, but it's a resource. That's how I look at it. It's a resource. I took this problem we were learning about, oh, gosh, I can't remember exactly what the actual math was, but it was about robots. It was decimals in there and we were ... Multiplication, sorry. I take it back. It was multiplication. It was about some robots. It had a picture of these robots, small robots, big robots.
The problem was just one of those old textbooks straightforward problems like, "So and so is making large robots and small robots. How many robots are there altogether if we can make this many in one week or in one day? How many can he make in one week?" I was thinking, "Okay, well, this is old school type of problems." I tried to tinker with that and I took the picture of the robots and clipped it out of the online textbook and put it in a Google slide and just said, "What do you notice and what do you wonder?" They had done a couple things like that before, so they knew what I was talking about with notice and wonder and they wrote a whole bunch of things down just like in your workshops, some silly things. Somebody said, "Why are they making robots?"
Kyle Pearce: "Great question. I have no idea."
Jason Garner: Some mathematical ones. Somebody even came up with a question that I was getting close to the question I was going to be getting to and then we went from there. I posed the question. Again, they couldn't really work in groups, try to have them turn around and talk but don't get too close, at least talk to a partner and show your thinking. What was really cool about that was, even though I wanted them, it was something with multiplication that we were doing. There was this one girl in my class, who really was from what I could tell from the middle time I've had to work with them, being only here for such a short time struggled with math sometimes like everybody does, but seem to have a difficult time getting started knowing where to start with things.
It was really neat when I was walking around the room, I looked over her shoulder and she was making a list of like, "He can make this many in one day, and two days, he can make this much." It wasn't totally what the purpose of that problem was in that particular textbook lesson, but I even told her, I said, "Oh, that's really cool. Can I take a picture of that?" I kept the picture because I want to remember this was a different way that she was solving it and I made sure she had an opportunity to walk me through her method at the board wall. Many of them were just doing this times this.
Jon Orr: Standard algorithm.
Jason Garner: She was going through her thinking with that and it was really cool to see just different methods. I've really been trying, since the Jo Boaler experience and all that, and this goes back to your previous question, so I apologize, but one thing that's really shifted in my mindset is trying to really purposefully acknowledge different methods and different strategies and not saying, "Oh, that's awesome. That's a great way to do it," but say, "Okay, great. That's one way to do it," and somebody else have another way and really acknowledging that there's different ways of doing math and things like that. That's been one big thing that I've consistently done over the last few years, even with challenges along the way.
Kyle Pearce: It sounds like you've taken some of the biggest ideas we wanted to bring out in the workshop into your classroom which is amazing to hear because when you said you started off with thinking all of these books and research and there's a lot of resources out there that say to do these things, but there's not a lot of exactly, "How does it look in my classroom? How does it look from start to end? How does it look before we start, in the middle, while we're running the lesson, at the end?" There's not a lot out there. When you say see seeing some of these tasks online, you're like, "Okay, that's the task, but what do I do in the middle or at the beginning?" in that reason and then also like, "How does it fit in the bigger picture? How does it work with vertical nonpermanent services? How does it work with grouping?"
There's a lot of things floating around and that was really why we built the workshop and the course. It was to pull these things together and we put a framework together because of it. It's great to hear that you've pulled those big ideas from the course and are implementing it in your classroom. It sounds like with some good success, some great success. That's awesome. I'm wondering and the purpose of this call, the purpose of this call is to dig a little deeper on how to help you next. You've gone through this learning. You've got a handle on how the big things fit together on the Curiosity Path and the framework, but we're wondering, like, what's a pebble in your shoe lately? What can we dig into here now and push you along the way a little bit more?
Jason Garner: In particular, obviously now with remote learning, who knows what it's going to be like next year? I don't know how to expect going into next year, but right now, the challenge I think is, like I said, I've been tinkering with the strategies from the workshop, here and there. Right now, the challenges with all the kids have been home, I coteach with special education teachers. I say we've been really trying to just do our best with the kids because they're not required to be on all of our Google Meets that we have. We're required to have at least one every week. We've been offering three a day like, "Come on, let's meet and let's do our lessons."
We've been trying to do live math lessons each morning, and then got a lot of kids that come to it and enjoy being there. I have tried a curiosity task just for fun one day, "How many cans of Pepsi are in all these cases?" It was in array, but for the most part, and I don't feel good about it every time I do it, but it's been a lot of, "We're going to multiply a couple decimals together." I still though try, even though it's not what I would love it to be, like I said before, "What do you think about solving this problem? Can we estimate this first?" and try to use some of those estimating that you guys really emphasize in the workshop. It's not what I want it to be.
Next week, my goal is hopefully to try to get into more of the notice and wonder, starting out a unit on a certain skill to try to get back to that since they'll be here, but it's always difficult not knowing, "Are we going to be back for two weeks and then back to remote?" That's a current thing, just in general, but I think it also trickles over to just a normal school year too. If we're back full time next year, hopefully, I think that's one of the biggest challenges I have is trying to go from ... You don't know where the kids have been in math, they've had a great teacher, no doubt from where they've come from and I shouldn't say no doubt, but hopefully they've had a good teacher from where they come from and then in sixth grade, because I teach fifth and sixth, I don't know where they're going in that case either.
What I mean by that is, well, the thing that's always been challenging for me is I have them for one year, so trying to put something next year, my goal is to try to really do more with the Curiosity Path and more of that types of teaching, but then in the back of my mind, it's always second guessing myself like, "Okay, next year, they're not going to have a teacher necessarily teaching in that way. How do I make sure that I'm doing what I need to do to make sure that when they go there, they can be successful there?" Then I go back and think, "Well, but maybe the way that I'm trying is I'm going to actually help them even more because they'll be not afraid to make those mistakes and they'll be looking at things differently." 9I think that's really one of the biggest things I've always struggled with over these last few years is that balance.
Kyle Pearce: Listening through this conversation and hearing some of the things that you shared, it's like when you look at the workshop, the online workshop is six modules and we always find that first module is that, we'll call it almost like your Jo Boaler moment. It's what we do to try to get everyone in the workshop on the same page. We try to get everybody into this mindset. We have them share their math moments. We talk about what do they want students to remember five years from now if you were to bump into them. I don't say it in the workshop, but I'll say it here with you, but seems like always at the beer store, here in Ontario, there's a beer store and we can't buy it at the grocery. Well, now you can, so that's new.
Jon Orr: No, now you can.
Kyle Pearce: That is new, but it used to only be the beer store where you could purchase beer. It would be like bumping to old students there all the time and I would ask them, "What do you remember?" Early in this workshop, we're really working on that mindset, on trying to get teachers thinking differently about how to do that. You had that coming in. The part that I'm hearing that really had an impact or an influence on you is about how you can take your resources you have and transform them with the Curiosity Path. The part that I'm hearing, and I could be wrong, correct me if I'm wrong, I don't want to put any words in your mouth here, but it sounds like when we get into Module Five and Six, we get into this idea of planning, the igniting your teacher moves.
What I'm wondering about, I'm hearing something happening here. There's like this way that is stuck in your brain as the way you learned, it's the way you taught for many years. Now that we're up against this challenge, this online learning, this remote learning thing, it's so easy to fall back into this place. I've had this discussion with many, many educators, both in my district and beyond. Over here, you've got this idea of you want to use curious problems. I'm wondering, and this is something that we do cover in and we explore in Module Five and Six when we get into planning is, I wonder if you were to maybe think about from just a slightly different perspective about right now you're feeling this tug from where students are going to go off to next year, you have no idea or maybe you have a very good idea of whose class they'll end up in and how that will be laid out.
It sensed this worry that will they have what they need to survive in that learning environment and I wonder, do you think about those things and start looking at planning your lesson? When you were talking about decimals just a moment ago, you're like, "All right, I just had them work with these decimals," maybe it was adding, multiplying, whatever. What if you were to still start there, but then you go back to that resource and you look in the resource and you try to find whatever problem is there, that you can still add some curiosity to it? Whereas what I'm wondering, and this is very common, we have this discussion with a lot of Math Moment Makers where they look for the curiosity first and try to figure out where it fits versus starting with the intentionality of the math.
You're like, "I want to do this and that might bring me to my resource. I'm looking through it. I'm trying to find any context out of that section of the textbook," and you're going, "You know what? This one, I can tweak it just slightly to make it a little more curious and will still be able to get to the math concept that we're after," because if we go all the way back to your Jo Boaler experience, a lot of people will start that, a lot of people go to Jon's website and they just grab any task. They're like, "I'm going to do a three-act math task today," and they do it. Kids enjoy it, but at the end, it's like, "I didn't really know what I was hoping to get out of this lesson," and that's common. It's not anything to beat ourselves up over, but now it's like, how do we kind of flip that order a little bit and go, "This is what I'm after. Let's not necessarily go and look for a specific task. Maybe there's one out there, but don't spend a ton of time doing that"?
Now you're looking and going, "Okay, how do I take what that traditional lesson may have looked like and I just grab one problem that I can use as the bait, it's going to be the investigation we're going to use and then I can start focusing in on the consolidation of my lesson?" because that's where the meat and potatoes of a problem-based lesson are going to be going on, is getting students to kind of make the connections that we were after, and again, really hard to do that if I wasn't sure why I picked the task in the first place. I'm going to flip it back to you. I know that was a huge mouthful, but what are your thoughts on that? Are we on the right path when we talk about where that struggle is or is there anything else that you want to articulate about that?
Jason Garner: Yeah, I think that plays a role in it. My mindset as far as choosing the problems I think has changed since taking the workshop over the summer. I have been, what you were saying, it's a good reminder about that and that's where I see myself going, is like I said about that robot task and even actually, as you were talking, since we are going to be back with the half day next week, there was a problem in the book that was about multiplying two decimals together. That was again set up like a standard word problem with a little chart, two missing numbers in it, missing prices, and then in the problem, it gives them all the information and then they have to figure out how to use it.
My plan was to use that, and just, again, give the picture of the chart with the missing numbers and that's it and let them think, "What do you see? What are you wondering?" and then build from there. I've already taught the multiplication with the two decimals, like I said, with a remote learning. We're trying to make it as simplified as possible, just based on the way we're set up, but again, that's that pull that I have to come back next week and like, "All right, we're going to do this Curiosity Path," like as a review to make sure that what they were doing at home, "All right, we're going to go back and start this over a little bit for a couple of days and it will give me a good idea of who can maybe think of applying that."
Again, not ideal, I'd rather start with that and then build from there. That's what really my plan is moving forward, like you were saying, is to take the resource wherever it's from, but with more purpose in planning. Yeah, for sure, I would say, as I was going through the course, that Module Five was the part where there was an eye openers to me as far as you know what I could do, as far as things like spiraling, not trying to hit on different tasks or different concepts instead of just plowing through from Unit One to Unit 500 or whatever, but that, I had to put on the backburner for this school year just because I really needed to work tightly with my team.
One thing I forgot to mention is we're working together as a house. All of our kids were home, like totally home and not coming to school at all. Each of us is putting out a subject for them like lessons daily for them, so I'm doing math. Sometimes, my hands are tied because I'm putting out for them what I'm doing here. A Curiosity Path lesson isn't great when I don't really have a lot of contact with them outside of just my video and that. Plus, here, the way we have it is, again, it will change next week, but the kids don't always show up for the lessons. They aren't necessarily required to be there. Some kids are at the lesson. Some kids are not. Some kids don't do it until two weeks later unfortunately.
Those have been the challenges, but yes, what you said about the intentionality of choosing the task is something I'm really trying to work on moving forward and trying to change those scrolling through the math textbook, looking for a problem that might encourage that curiosity. That to kick things off is what I'm hoping for moving forward. Yeah, I don't know. Did I answer your question?
Kyle Pearce: I think you've set your own goal right now. You've articulated what you are struggling with? Kyle suggested thinking about, which is something that I think we definitely did when we saw different tasks. We had those sparkly eyes when we looked over at these tasks. We're like that looks fun. Let's do that. Then we forgot about like, "Well, what's the real focus here?" As we got more focus and focus and focus, we had looked at what's going on in the middle of the lesson, right? That's the most important part. It sounds like you know to look for that, you know to start thinking about that. Basically, you're setting your own steps up for your next steps like what to tackle next.
I'm wondering, when you set your own goals like this, what, right now, are you anticipating being tough moving forward with those things and maybe we can share a little bit about that before we say or give you a couple suggestions because we want to suggest a couple tasks that we have because the tasks on the academy right now, we've been putting a lot of work into those because the first thing you read on a task on the academy is the intentionality on like, "What is this task about? What are we hoping to pull from this?"
We're going to go that way, but I'm just wondering, what do you see as a stumbling block on the path that you're setting for yourself which is trying to be more focused with your lessons?
Jason Garner: I think moving forward, getting my feet wet with the curiosity types of tasks I think is the first step that I've realized, "Okay, I can do this." It actually does work because of the tasks that we've done like that, which throughout the year have been scattered, are always the tasks that the kids are way more engaged and interested in. I know that something moving forward, "Okay, I need to do more of this. This needs to be in here." One of the things is I coteach to with my special education teacher and we really work well together. I think she's willing to go on the journey as well. She likes to learn new things which is awesome.
I think a lot of it as far as like the stumbling blocks moving forward, for me, stems back to taking the task and then the notice the wonder, the estimating and then going into, "What's the question? What more questions do you have?" and then going into the group work, when I'm able to have the kids collaborate will be great, and so that point, the challenge for me is, whenever I've done like group work types of things is ensuring that in one group, when they're done with that task and when we've consolidated like we're in that consolidation phase, "What methods I can use or in what ways can I make sure that all those students are taking away what the intention of that lesson was in that consolidation phase?"
I think that's been something that's always been a challenge for me. I think moving forward, like I said, notice and wonder and that beginning part to get them into the task and working, I think is, I don't want to say that easier part, but it's the part where they're already having fun tackling a problem, but then the part was to make sure that, "Okay, two days later or three days later or two months later, do you understand that skill, that concept, taking that conceptual to the more procedural now?" I don't know. I'm hoping I'm making sense, but that's the-
Kyle Pearce: You totally are. Jason, what I'm hearing is well, and I just shared my screen here, so anyone who's listening to the podcast, again as we mentioned in the beginning, we did this over a Zoom call. I've got the screen share. We're going to probably put this up on YouTube. If you're really curious, you can look at our Math Moments YouTube channel to those who are listening and check it out, but this is what Jon was talking about, is our different problem based units which is something that we've been working on for quite some time now. Some are single day lessons, but mostly now we're working on full units.
I heard you talking about decimals. Few things are firing in my mind here before we wrap things up and just some things for you to think about is thinking about how the mathematics develops is so key. It's so important. I also heard you talking about and I think this is part of the struggle of being online is like feeling like you've got to almost teach and pre teach before we dive into some of these tasks. What we've done is we've tried to take these units and designed them in a way where it guides you through and in the teacher guide section, so you had mentioned decimals. When decimals come to mind, I'm constantly thinking about fractions because decimals are abstract representations. They're almost like very limiting fractions where you can only have denominators of 10, 100 1000 and so on. That's like what a decimal is.
Making sure kids are really comfortable with fractions conceptually is really, really important. Here's one example. This is the sixth day Woolly Worm Race. It's a newer unit. We've been talking about it a lot lately, but it's got the context there set, so the Curiosity Path is all set, but the part that I think might be really helpful for you in the journey and the phase of the journey you're in right now, not only are these online and you can run them out online in an online environment in this scenario you're in, but again like Jon said, our intentionality is listed here, the spark it takes us all through that process, which again sounds like you're getting the hang of that through the workshop, but the part that I'm really hearing about for you is the sense making piece.
What's the productive struggle going to be? In this particular case, we give students the total distance in meters that these Woolly Worms, these caterpillars travel in this race and essentially whoever goes the furthest wins. We were trying to be strategic about this, so that students would have to actually represent the fractions in order to determine who won the race. Now, the part that I think is really helpful for you is this anticipating piece and really setting you up for the consolidation. Not only do we tell you what to look for, as you're monitoring and selecting and sequencing for students, but we also give you some possible student approaches.
When we call it an approach, we're really talking about the strategy and the model that students are using in order to solve. We give you a student sample, we explain it and usually use like the students thinking, how the student might share that with you, what you might look for. Here's a paper folding example. Here's a number line example. These aren't the only things that might emerge, but what we're trying to do is help students see fractions on a linear model. We start with this bar model and work our way to the number line. Then finally, we give you the moves in your consolidation. We actually give you your facilitator notes. We even give you some visuals, usually a couple minute video to unpack the big ideas for you.
That to me is what's jumping out to me as maybe a place you might want to start exploring. Again, got to pick your intentionality first. You don't want to go and find the unit and decide that's what you're going to start teaching, but with these units, I think they would fit really nicely, especially when you're working in. If you're multiplying decimals, multiplying fractions is going to be really important, right? Dividing fractions is going to be really important. When you get in that land of working with multiplying and dividing decimals, you definitely want to go there.
The snack time unit would be a great one for you to check out its whole numbers and we divide and reveal fractions as the quotient. That heads through a really interesting unit as well. I just wanted to share that and give you a snapshot of that. We'll put these links into the show notes as well for those who are listening, but I'm wondering now, if we were to flip back to you. We're looking at the time now and we're wondering like, if you were to think back to everything we've discussed here, are there any big takeaways and how are you feeling after this conversation in terms of where you might go next in your journey, knowing that again, nothing is solved or fixed immediately, but just in terms of what's going through your mind now as you try to take that next move?
Jason Garner: I think one of the biggest things, as our discussion is going on, has been just the reiteration and review. Review for me, I think, of going back to that workshop and thinking about, like you said, with the intentionality of the task. I think moving forward, for me, one of the biggest things I know I can keep working on is just, I want to say not being afraid to keep going with it if I know it's working, I'm seeing some good things and to try not to fall back on that, that old approach that we're all so used to and so many others are.
I think really keeping going with looking for something that is purposeful and meaningful to start that unit would be a key for me moving forward too because I do know that in the past, it was a lot of the, "Ooh, look at this task. This is really fun." Just like you guys said before, you hit it on the head with that, but just I think with my over the last five years, just a passion I've developed, again not being a math major, but having more of a passion for teaching math in elementary school, I really think that I can use a lot of those resources from the workshop on that to help out.
I really wanted to try to, with my fellow colleagues here, I want to try to expose them to some of this too, and say, "This is something we can do in addition to what we have as resources. We can use those resources and not just do the problems in the book. We could pull a problem from the book and turn it around like you guys were saying and start with something different and just use as resource." I think just you guys reaffirming that I might be on the right track with some things and trying to grow from there, I think is just key. As the school year continues now, I want to try more and more to take those textbooks problems and turn them around.
Jon Orr: That's great. I'm sure that your path is going to continue and you're going to continue to do great things. From our discussion, we've been thinking about some of the things that you've been mentioning about the topics that you've talked about and being intentional with your tasks, but also we have another course that is called the Concepts Holding Your Students Back which is all about proportional reasoning. It's perfectly for your grade level. It's great for helping develop mentally thinking about the trajectory of these tasks, but also how one concept flows into the other and how proportional reasoning connects so many things together.
We would love for you to continue that learning and we're going to send you access to that course after we're done here talking. You'll have that to kind of continue on with your learning but also to help inform your staff and the teachers that you work with. This has been a great conversation. We always love chatting with you and lots of folks from our Make Math Moments community, but we want to thank you so much, Jason, for joining us here on the podcast. We're really hoping to connect with you in the next six to nine months. We usually reach out and connect back up to see how things are going after this conversation, maybe after you've taken the next course to further that learning. Looking forward to that and hope you take care.
Jason Garner: Thank you very much. I appreciate you guys meeting with me.
Kyle Pearce: As always, both Jon and I learned so much from these math-mentoring moment episodes, but in order to ensure we hang on to this new learning, so it doesn't wash away like footprints in the sand, we've got to reflect on what we've learned. Figure out what works best for you. For me, sometimes it's actually in the car. I'll actually click on the voice record button and I will just talk into my phone and then I'll listen to it a little bit later in the week. What's your way, your plan for taking action here on something that you've learned from this episode today?
Jon Orr: Another great way to hold yourself accountable is to write it down like I do, or even better, share with someone, your partner, colleagues or with a member of the Math Moment Maker community by getting on over to our free private Facebook group, Math Moment Makers K Through 12. Lots of great folks sharing lots of ideas on math education over there. Get yourself over there or you can head to any social media on Twitter or Instagram @MakeMathMoments. Send us a tweet or a message.
Kyle Pearce: That's right, Jon. Remember, we are on YouTube quite a bit now. We are sharing and we're getting a lot of traction over there. A lot of people are loving and commenting on some of our videos, like for example, when we break down how we can teach the measurement of circles, circumference and area of a circle using problem-based tasks and we also give you the links and the resources to go do this yourself in your own classroom. Head over to YouTube and search for Make Math Moments and give that channel a subscribe, hit that notification bell. You know what? Do us a solid. If there's any videos there that you're enjoying, make sure you hit that like button and leave us a comment. It certainly helps us reach more Math Moment Makers from around the world.
Jon Orr: If you are interested in joining us for an upcoming math mentoring moment episode just like Jason did here, you can apply over at makemathmoments.com/mentor. That's makemathmoments.com/mentor.
Kyle Pearce: All right my friends, show notes, links to resources and complete transcripts that you can read from the web or download and take with you, head over to makemathmoments.com/episode127. Again, that's makemathmoments.com/episode127. Until next time my Math Moment Maker friends, I'm Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.
Jon Orr: And a big high five for you. Ooh.
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