Episode #161: – Creating Thinkers Despite Time Pressure – A Math Mentoring Moment
Kyle and Jon speak with Tyson Banker, a senior high school teacher from Calgary, Alberta. Like many of us teachers Tyson wonders how to change his assessment routines and structures without compromising his timelines and content standards. In this chat we share with Tyson some practical ideas that we’ve implemented in our classrooms that help with Tyson’s real struggle.
This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we talk with a member of the Math Moment Maker Community who is working through problems of practice and together we brainstorm possible next steps and strategies to overcome them.
- How do I change my assessment practices without blowing up my timelines?
- How can I create a classroom of thinkers instead of mimickers?
- Where does practice time fit in my daily lesson?
- How can I structure my lesson so students perform better on assessments?
Tyson Banker: Well, I have outcome based exams. So when my kids take their exams, I know exactly which outcome was asked. So I know exactly what they're doing wrong, and that test takes an hour and 20 minutes. And so I get the data that, I don't want to say that I need, but I get really good data in terms of how they are doing on those outcomes in one day. But if I'm doing a conversation, or if I'm doing a Flipgrid, or if I'm, like you said, posing to them a bit in terms of questions, it doesn't feel like I can hit those outcomes in that type of efficient way. And so then it just feels like crosstalk.
Kyle Pearce: Today we speak with Tyson Banker, a senior high school teacher from Calgary, Alberta. Like many of us teachers, especially those in the senior grades, Tyson's wondering how he be able to change his lesson structure and routine into more of a problem solving, thinking-type lesson, without compromising timelines and content standards.
Jon Orr: In this chat, we shared with Tyson some practical ideas that we've implemented in our classrooms that help with Tyson's real struggle. 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 some problems of practice, and together, we brainstorm next steps and strategies to overcome them. Kyle, are you ready?
Kyle Pearce: Let's do it. Welcome to the Making Math Moments that Matter podcast. I'm Kyle Pierce.
Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr. We are two math teachers from makemathmoments.com who together-
Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of math moment makers worldwide who want to create and deliver problem-based math lessons that spark curiosity, fuel sense making, and ignite your teacher moves. Yes, as we mentioned, we've got an awesome math moment maker in Tyson Banker today. crosstalk Who's from Calgary, Alberta, but has actually spent a little bit of time teaching in different parts of North America. So yeah, it's going to be a great conversation. He is working with secondary senior crosstalk students and finds himself in a common struggle that crosstalk I know John and I have both found ourselves in. We have a lot of math moment makers in the community who also find themselves wondering, how do I change from a lecture based lesson and still get it all in?
Jon Orr: Yeah. The interesting thing I found after we thought about the discussion we had with Tyson is, as recording this after the interview, is that he came to us with his problem was he wanted to change his assessment practices. And actually, when we dug a little deeper, we realized there was an underlying, another struggle that I think we addressed here in this episode. So stick with us so you know what that underlying struggle is and how we can overcome that. But also helps with that struggle that he originally shared with us, which is changing some of his assessment practices. So here we go.
Kyle Pearce: Hey there, Tyson, thanks for joining us here on the Making Math Moments that Matter podcast. We are pretty excited to bring you on. We love chatting with members of the Math Moment Maker Community, and hearing what they're working through, just like we're working through things, being practicing educators. We're really curious to dive into what you're thinking about, worrying about, discussing with other teachers. But before we get into all of that, hey, do us a favor. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're coming from, and what's your teaching role?
Tyson Banker: Perfect. Thanks a lot for having me on. It's fun to be on and attack these issues together. It's just fun to do that part. The collaboration's fun for teaching. But yeah, I've been a teacher 14 years now. I'm currently in Calgary, Alberta, teaching at Edge school. I am the math lead of my school. I teach 11th and 12th grade math. So for up here, that's 20-1 and 30-1. It's a little bit of calculus as well when they need me. I've taught, my other seven years besides up here, I've in the U.S. I'm actually from Oregon, originally. So I've taught in Oregon for two years, Kentucky for three years, and Hawaii for a year. So I've quite the gambit of places that I've taught. It's been fun. But yeah, in terms of, that's my teaching career in general, you could say. And now I'm just excited just to keep progressing through where I'm at now.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. And I notice, I see your mic is pretty sophisticated for someone coming on for a Math Mastering Moment episode. So you got to let us in on the secret here. Why such great mic? Did you just go all out for remote teaching or is there something else going on here?
Tyson Banker: So I should probably say yes, I went out for remote teaching. But no, I also have my little fun podcast I do on sports cards. And I write and do podcasting on sports cards for Bench Clear Media. A friend of mine just got together, we talk about card values and different things. It's numbers. So I love numbers, obviously, because of my profession. So yeah, definitely have the mic to participate with you guys, your nice mics.
Kyle Pearce: Super. Yeah. It's, we're all a big happy mic family here. So, awesome stuff. I wanted to definitely give you an opportunity to share that. There's probably some sport fans out there. So check that out and you'll get to see a different side of Tyson. But Tyson, let's not waste any time. So you've got a variety of locations that you've had an opportunity to teach in. That's a huge benefit that not many teachers get. I got hired by my board and I'm still with my board. So to be able to see different places, get different legislation, different rules and policies, all of those things, that's definitely helpful. Let's go all the way back, though. And when we ask you to share a math moment, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? And we'll dive into how that might influence you as a teacher today.
Tyson Banker: Yeah. And mine's not maybe an actual, in your guys' terms, a math moment. It's more of what sparked me a bit was that, I don't know why, but, well, I do know why. When I was 17, I just decided I wanted to teach. My grandfather was a teacher and I was really passionate about it. And I wanted to coach, I was pretty heavy into sports. I ended up playing football in college. And I told my teacher at the time, Miss Weight, who was at the end of her teaching career, she was very much older. Very dry. Everybody just assumed she didn't like them. She was that kind of teacher. And I told her, "Hey, I'm going to be a math teacher." And I just couldn't believe it. She opened a cupboard and gave me four binders of resources and just said, "You're going to love it." And I just, whoa, Miss Weight has a heart? So, I just couldn't believe how she just said, "You're going to love it." And, "Go for it." And I just, wow. And so just seeing Miss Weight spark me in that way is my math moment that I really enjoyed. So I just, yeah.
Jon Orr: Awesome. I was just going to say, that's that weird moment where you realize teachers are human beings, right? It's, you walk into class every day, either in high school or elementary school, and you're, okay, there's this person who, when you were a kid you think lives there. And that's their only role in life is to be a teacher. And then all of a sudden you see them outside of school and it's weird. Right? And then have a moment like you had where it's, hey, this is going to be amazing for you. Let me turn my teacher hat off for a moment and talk to you like a colleague. It's the same type of feeling you get when you teach alongside your own teachers, which is, I actually have never had, but I've ran into some at a conference before. And I thought that was super weird too. So super cool.
I'm wondering, now you've talked about this humanizing moment for an educator, how did that moment say, now influence? You've obviously remembered that all these years later, how does that influence your teaching today? Or how did that influence your teaching when you started teaching as well?
Tyson Banker: I think that was just the spark that I could do it, that it was going to fit for me as profession. My grandpa that was a teacher, he just said, I asked him why he was a teacher, and he just always said, "It's true. You got to do what you love." My grandpa had a lot of different jobs. He owned a store, different things. And he said do what you love. And he loved teaching. And I just felt like spending time with kids, teaching kids, coaching sports, I just couldn't think of a better job. And so that's what inspired me. And that's why I like math so much. I do approach it a lot from a coaching perspective, a lot of techniques and just trying to see the vision, and just those different things. So I think for me, my passion of math comes from sports and coaching. I would say.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. That's awesome. And I was going to ask, did you try to maybe emulate your teacher that you referenced there and be this maybe mysterious or quiet guy until somebody asks you, "Hey, I want to be a teacher," and then all of a sudden you're their best friend? Or does that influence how you structure maybe even the culture of your class or helping connect with students? Has that influenced you? Because we just recorded another episode this morning and we were just referencing the idea that I remember the first few years of teaching, it's almost like I forgot there were kids in front of me, because I was so concerned about the math. I was so concerned about planning my lesson and making sure I covered stuff. Did that have an early influence on you or did you fall into the trap I fell into, which is, whoa, I just got to get my lesson plans done and get through this lesson?
Tyson Banker: No, I think, in terms of what was important to me probably came actually from my mentor, Garth Lind at my school. He was also a track coach and coached me a little bit. And I ended up coming back to that, my high school that I went to, I ended up coming back to for my first two years. So I had that colleague to colleague thing you're talking about. And he was definitely more of the relationship guy and building that trust guy. And I think that's where a lot of my strengths or a lot of things that I work on with my students is, building that relationship and trust to work with me on, with concepts or the things I'm trying to get across. So I think in terms of my approach, I'm the open door teacher. I have Remind text app. My kids text me at 9:30, 9:45 at night, sometimes, for math questions. And I love it. Because I just see that they're engaged, that they're trying.
Even, as they study, just screenshot me a picture and I'll have my math book on me. It's always funny. I'll get a text, I'm out with lunch with my family or something, and I'll get a Remind text message from a student and be, "Hey, I don't get number seven." I was, "Okay, well, can you tell me the page number or send me a screenshot? Because I don't have the book memorized." So, just to different...
Jon Orr: Sometimes things like that-
Tyson Banker: But I would say, yeah, sometimes I do. So I think, for me, it's been mostly relationship building and the mass of the driving force of the coaching for me of building those relationships.
Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. Let's dig a little deeper here. What's the current pebble in your shoe, in your classroom, or in your teaching, or you as you're getting ready for school, what is that thing that keeps you, that irks you a little bit? What's happening in your day to day that you want to chat with us about, and then we can riff on it here and maybe brainstorm some ideas?
Tyson Banker: Yeah. I think the biggest thing for me is just trying to navigate or improve all possible assessment strategies. I feel like in my current situation with grade 11 and grade 12 math, I'm in Alberta, our Achilles heels is the Diploma. We have a Diploma exam up here for all grade 12 students. It's basically pre-calculus, for those that are U.S. listeners. And it's a test that the government puts together that's 30% of their grade right now. And it could be as much as 50%, has been 50% in the past. So it's a very stressful, it's a very nervewracking time. Even for the teacher. When I come into that morning, get the kids donuts, try to make them happy. And they take the exam. I can't be in the room for the exam. That's not allowed, so I have to go and I actually go write and myself and see, okay, it might be tough on that one. Then the kids come talk to me afterwards.
And I definitely, from a math teacher's perspective, I loved it in the terms of analytical. When I get my results, I see every question we missed and I see the things that we needed to work on conceptually, which is awesome. But I also think we all can agree that that type of test isn't the true value of the knowledge sometimes. I can tell you that some of my better students haven't done as well as they normally would. And some of my students that are, I don't want to say robotic, but they're really good test takers, they do really well.
And so for me, it's just, I want to try to, I can't go all project based. My principal is really into project based. I'm with him, him and I talk all the time. And some of my PD is to try to, that's why I came to you guys and have been listening to your stuff, is that I want to try to move into some more making math moments and getting some more meaningful stuff besides lecture, quiz, tests, and that routine that's very easy for us to fall into. So I'm just trying to broaden my assessment, but also know that I have to respect what I have at the end of the day for my kids to accomplish.
Kyle Pearce: Nice. I'm wondering if we were to go and dive a little deeper. So you've given us the overview, the macro view, we'll say, of the reality, right? The reality is that they have to do this thing. We're going to do this, regardless. Can you bring us to more of a micro view as to, what does assessment and evaluation maybe look like? It sounds like you're probably tinkering with some ideas. So maybe you've got a few changes over the past little while. And I guess a big question for me is what are the maybe main concerns, when you do go to make a change, what, that little, the red devil on your shoulder who's giving you bad advice, what's it saying to you not to do or why you don't want to do certain changes?
Tyson Banker: I think the biggest thing's the time, because everybody's worried because you have to have the content covered before that big exam. And so if you don't have the content covered before the exam, your kids are going in ill prepared. And so that's the biggest thing on my shoulder is that if I take time to outline or do a week long project for one of my 25 outcomes, okay, now I'm against it and we're going to have to really press forward. So trying to find things that can weave in good in terms of time.
The things that have tried, things that I really enjoy, I enjoy Flipgrid. I really like when my kids can verbalize the processes or the problems that they're working on. Flipgrid, if you're unfamiliar is a recording app, which they record themselves. A lot of times my kids record themselves doing a problem out and just talking through it. Everything I tried in terms of through COVID with online teaching, the validity is really hard online for assessing kids when you're sitting a quiz or sitting on a paper. I use ShowMe quite a bit, which is a paperless tool I use for formative as well.
But anyways, sorry. In terms of that, the oral stuff, I did an oral quiz one time where I had the quiz, I did all my kids and it took five days doing an oral quiz. And so I feel like a lot of my other ideas take a lot of time. And so then how can I condense it so that I get... I loved the oral quiz. I got what I wanted, but then I'm, okay, I used five days for...I had to cut a 12 question quiz to four questions each, so it's, I'm really sacrificing a lot of data, you could say.
Jon Orr: Right. And I would definitely agree that time is definitely an issue when you have to, especially in grade 11 and 12, those kids are taking those graduate exams and there's a lot of stress there because we got to cover things and we got to make sure that they're prepared. You're not creating that test yourself. And it sounds like some of the approaches do take some time. And I think that is definitely an issue. I think we can come back to that for sure.
I'm wondering, to dig a little deeper here, you've shared some tools you've used. I'm wondering if we keep going down this path of you painting us a picture is, not only how do your assessments look now? You described a couple of different approaches there, but I'm wondering, is it you want to stick to paper and pencil standardized tests? Not standardized tests, but standard, traditional testing? Sounds like you've tried a couple different things, but it's not, what do you want it to look like, but what does it regularly look like for you?
Tyson Banker: Yeah, sure. So what I think the picture I'll probably illustrate regularly, you'll see why I have this pebble in my shoe. It's because a lot of my thing is a lot of pencil to paper. But really, I think one of my strengths is that over my years teaching I've continually, gradually just kept increasing my formative feedback. And I think that's been really key to my kids' success and the things they want.
But sure, the tools that I use, when I talk about Reminder Ready, and that's basically how I use it, just a easy way for my kids to reach me outside the classroom. I use ShowMe for a lot of my formative, paperless stuff. It's just less paper in and out. And it's easy for me to mark on my iPad, different things. And what I do a lot with that is, I do Monday concept quizzes. So whatever we learned that last week, I just put a concept quiz on there. It's formative, so the kids know it's risk free just to see where we're at in terms of concepts. And so then they get feedback that Monday. So that week, that next week, we can touch up what we need touch up as we move forward, because we're always moving forward. We basically have to have a new content every day to reach where we have to go, in terms of content for the course.
So that's my day to day. I always start with the warmup, go through the concept about 25, 30 minutes. Then we have a practice or I use Desmos quite a bit for some visualization, especially for translations and transformations of graphs and stuff like that. Find that fun. My kids really like the marble slide. If you've ever seen the marble slide games on Desmos, they're pretty fun. So different things like that.
And then, in terms of my assessments I do, as a school, when I first got there, we're having a lot of conversations right now, but cumulative is the question. How much cumulative stuff do you want versus specific stuff? And so, with the Diploma at the end, it's always nice to have cumulative checks. And so, currently that's still a push. And so I have six cumulative quizzes, and I throw on four objectives per quiz. And those are, obviously, they have to have been taught it. But it mixes up so I can hit different objectives and gives them a little bit of a cumulative approach to see how they're doing.
And then the other ones I do, I used to do, we had eight units. I used to do eight unit exams and I didn't like that. I thought it was way too much. And so I cut it down to three section exams. So those would be your basic, almost you could say midterms. Like a three chapter test, a two chapter test and another three chapter test to clump it a little bit better, so that they can... I just didn't like having a test every two weeks that they were worried about. So I like spacing it out a bit. So, that's my current setup. I don't know if that completely answers your question, but that's-
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. And I think too, it's good to hear as well, some of this idea of the cumulative piece. John and I definitely promote that idea, having some things from the past. It can really help you see where maybe some of those gaps are in terms of things that didn't stick. Or maybe you thought that they understood it and maybe they didn't understand it as clearly as we might have thought when it was familiar. But if we go back to thinking about the...let's go into the lesson structure. Because something that I think we've struggled with a lot early on when we were trying to make some changes in how we were teaching and delivering our lessons, was this idea of assessment actually drives how I teach oftentimes. But it's a chicken versus the egg thing, right? It's, okay, well I could do my lessons this way and then maybe I'll assess that way. But assessment and evaluation, in particular, so what we're aiming for, can dictate how I introduce and how I explore concepts based on the approach that I take there.
So it sounds like you're really doing a great job getting a sense of where are students, that formative assessment piece. I've heard you mention it, and this idea of figuring out where students are and where they need to go. How about from a lesson structure? You are teaching senior grades. And I do know one of the challenges we hear from senior level teachers is they look at middle grades and they go, I see how a problem-based lesson could fit here. But then as we get into more abstract concepts, it feels less in reach for educators.
So I'm wondering if you're entering into a new concept, are you using the model that John and I were taught and the way we taught for many years, which is a, hey, I'm going to give you a summary of what it is we're going to do today. I'm going to show you why it works and how it works, and then students are going to go off and do that. Or have you been playing with a problem based approach? What does that look like when you're day to day, trying to introduce new concepts to your students?
Tyson Banker: Yeah, I think right now it's probably still maybe the dry lecture a bit. Mostly because, and I actually we'll see what you guys think, but we have a workbook in Alberta that has lessons with examples that tailors right to a concept with the practice problem. So it's nice to have a 20, 25 minutes of basically working through examples together. The, "you try, I try" that I've heard you guys talk about before. And then they have a nice basis for what they're going to be asked to do on the practice work. Because of COVID, I have been restricted on some of my group work ideas and whatnot, but I like to get kids on the whiteboard and have us all check out each other's work and do those type of things. But in terms of just basic instruction and having a, like you said, a problem based approach, I would say it's, I'm a little more tied to my workbook, which is part of what I wanted this conversation to be as well.
Kyle Pearce: You're not alone in that. Don't you worry?
Tyson Banker: Yeah.
Jon Orr: Yeah. I think, I teach seniors as well. And I think, common question is that, we get, and we've chatted about here on the podcast before too, is, how do I get that thinking classroom with a senior group versus, say, a grade nine group or grade eight group? It's, how do I, I've got to teach these abstract concepts and ideas? How do I get them to do that? And then also, how does the assessment there look? And I think it sounds like you're doing some really great stuff. You talked about using the whiteboards, you talked about some Desmos activities. There's lots of great things here happening in your classroom. And you're tied, you're saying tied to a workbook, but also trying these other things. So, I'm wondering, I'm going to toss it back to you here is, you've also mentioned time as an issue. I'm going to say, Tyson, what's the real challenge here? What underlying, what do you feel is the real challenge here that's preventing you from doing what you really want to do?
Tyson Banker: So What I've noticed and I think in this conversation I've had with my principal about quite a bit is that, unfortunately, a lot of traditional ways are the most efficient. And the most efficient ways isn't how I necessarily want to teach. And so, I'm really battling efficiency versus real learning. And I feel like, as a teacher right now, and I've a teacher for 14 years. I don't want to be the teacher that is in that routine that I just keep doing that routine the rest of my career and calling it a day. And I feel like right now I'm in that point where my kids are really good at doing what I tell them to do, but I also want them to think for themselves and I don't want to be necessarily them going through my checklist, okay, this is how we get through this. I want them to have that critical thinking. I want them to have that next ability to work through something without being handholding, which I've gotten better at, through my career of not doing that. But I think that's my biggest mind blowing question of where I'm trying to go.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. And I'm hearing a few things. Because I think we all, I think every teacher out there wants those same things, right? Just like you said, we don't want students to be reliant on us for everything. And something that it took me a long time, probably close to 10 years, before I started to truly think differently about how I was approaching things, was just how often I was helping students along, anytime anything got difficult, anytime anything got different than what I had shown them. Right? Because I would show them, I would pre-teach a lesson, and then we'd do some examples together. And why do we do that? Well, I think we all want to help kids. So we want to help them love math. We want to help them feel confident in it. So we try to give them all of those things.
But then, at the same time, on the other hand, it's almost like we're also training them to not really be thinking for themselves. So when I think about that efficiency piece that you had mentioned, I wonder if thinking about, efficient at what? And I might argue, and this is my own definition from how I was teaching, I was super efficient at helping kids be successful at doing exactly what I showed them. But I wasn't very efficient at helping them become resilient problem solvers or to struggle through.
And something that really hit me way later was some of my, what I deemed my strongest students, my memorizers. I think you said they were robotic was how you referenced, how it appeared to you. Some of those students, I thought, I would've said, wow, these students work really hard. They persevere, they do all these things. But if I ever changed something and put a question that didn't look anything like what they crammed the night before out of all my notes, they were the ones who almost gave up first. They were the ones storming to my desk and slamming it down. This is unfair. You can't, blah, blah. And this was especially with the older students, right? Your students who are going off to college or university.
And that really made me think. I didn't know what to do about it, but it made me think about, okay, so I'm really efficient at helping them get through these tests. But then I started to maybe zoom out a little bit and think, maybe I've got the wrong efficiency going on here. And that got me thinking about my lesson structure a little more.
And we talk about Peter Lildahall a lot. But you'll see it in so much research, just this idea of, Miriam Small has her, "Open Questions." And, "Good Questions," is another book that she's written. And really, it all comes to, how can I ask students more questions before I take the lead and teach or show them? So I've said a lot there, but I want to throw it back to you and get your thought on that. Where's your head space at when you think about the things that we're doing well, versus maybe what's not so efficient by how we've been doing things for decades, for a century now?
Tyson Banker: Yeah. Well, to spin off what you said there. Definitely, I think my growth as a teacher, I used to be the teacher, they come and say, "How do I do seven?" I show them how to do seven and they leave. That was my first year. So now it's, "How do I do seven?" It's, "Well, why is it asking you this?" My line of questioning I like to pose them is, what's troubling you with this question? And try to get them to actually process that. So I think that's one of the things in terms of turning it back. It's just hard because I feel like to me, I'm trying to answer your question here. But the efficiency of, well I have outcome based exams. So when my kids take their exams, I know exactly which outcome was asked. So I know exactly what they're doing wrong. And that test takes an hour and 20 minutes. And so I get the data that, I don't want to say that I need, but I get really good data, in terms of how they have are doing on those outcomes in one day.
But if I'm doing a conversation or if I'm doing a Flipgrid or if I'm, like you said, posing to them a bit in terms of questions, it doesn't feel like I can hit those outcomes in that type of efficient way. And so then it just feels like I can't really throw the test out or I can't really throw the quiz out as much as I'd like. But I just want to add some more meaningful learning opportunities that they can demonstrate their learning besides that way is really where I want to go,
Jon Orr: Let me ask you this. When you say you're not confident about the outcome, what is it when you are saying those things, those other ways of capturing that information. What is it about with the data you get back that says you're not confident?
Tyson Banker: Well, maybe I misspoke. I'm confident inm when terms of oral stuff. I wasn't confident in terms of online quizzes or stuff like that. I'm not sure if they're working with a tutor or different things like that. But in terms of, I think what I meant by not confident, I'm not confident I can get enough. It's more about, I can do those and I'm confident in what I get. But it, like I said, an oral quiz took a week and I got four outcomes. crosstalk Yeah. It's more. Yeah.
Jon Orr: So I've made these switches in my senior classes and it's different than my grade nine class. But my lesson structure looks different and it's because, when we're reaching grade eight, grade nine, we've got a lot of resources in middle school on our websites about a lot of real world tasks, problem-based tasks, that have these visual aspects to them. But then when we get into grades 11 and 12, it's become tougher because there's so many abstract ideas to, hey, we can't mimic this in the real world. We got to actually build these skills. And they'll also solve problems with these skills.
So my lesson structure, I think, were modified because I went the same way you wanted to go, is that you want better thinkers. And I think when we decided, and it also kept it very narrow, because we're outcome based, because we're on a tight timeline. And when we, I wanted those elements to still be there, but I wanted thinkers first.
And what helped me do all of that is I still, we just talked about this, Kyle, on the last interview we did, is that, we had this very big idea focus, but also narrow focus at the same time. As saying that today, I want my students to have this skill or this outcome by the end of the lesson. And that's the same way I started teaching, right? It's, today, we're going to learn about this.
But the approach that we now take is reversed. So instead of saying today, we're going to learn about this and I'm going to show you how to do it because it's very efficient for me to do that. And then you go off and practice. And those of you who need to practice a lot, practice a lot. And those of you who don't, don't.
But when I've flipped it, it's now this reverse process of, what are the questions? What are the examples I might have done? How can I structure those examples so that one might lead into the next to the next to the next? So by the end, I think Pam Harris, Kyle, calls that a problem string, right? That's, what are this series of questions that are problems to kids to work, on that by the end, right? I've really done all the examples I was going to do anyway, but they were structured on a way that it was easy for the kids to work through them. And then I just walked around and helped different groups at different times. But it was all done vertically, like what Peter Lildahall suggests. And it was all done in group work wo that we're talking about these ideas.
And when we made that switch, that kids were working through these ideas early in the lesson, it gave us an opportunity at the end of a lesson to consolidate and connect and go, hey, we're going to talk about what strategies you took here and why was that strategy better than this strategy? Who dissolved that one? And then, by the end, it's, now we can take a note if we need to. And it's almost the same timeframe as my efficient lesson before, but it's reversed because I had thinkers first and then we consolidated after. And that one rotation switch allowed us to stay in the same timeframe for a senior class, allowed us to cover the same ideas. But as I said, it put thinkers at the forefront. And it wasn't that tough of a switch. The only thing that's tough is deciding what are those, what's that string of questioning that comes along.
Kyle Pearce: And I was going to say, it's like what you're doing, Tyson, is already that. You gave an example of when a student comes to you and says, "Hey, about question seven." It used to be, here's how you do it. And then off they go. It's almost, how do you come up with those same questions you're are asking them, right? That student came in, you're going, well, why are they asking you that. What's important about this? Where are you stuck? It's almost, how do I take, I look at my regular lesson for day four of this unit that I'm going to be teaching, and normally I would probably define some things, I throw up an explanation of the thing we're going to do. And then we do some examples.
It's almost, okay, if this is what I want them to walk away with at the end, right? I want them to have this information some way, somehow. I wonder, how do I take that first example and how do I ask it in a way that students could take what they've already got in their back pocket? Not necessarily a formula, we're not saying just calculate something, but to get them to get at the nuts and bolts of why it's happening.
And an example that is pretty abstract, but something that I know has really shifted our thinking is, when we're working with quadratic and we're factoring. I used to just be, "Hey, it's factoring. We're going to use this thing called product and sum. And the product is this. And the sum is that." And then day two is, well, what happens if there's a number in front of the X, the X squared, and all these things.
But instead now, we give them these algebra tiles and we're, hey, can you make a rectangle? And kids are making rectangles and stuff. They don't know why they're doing it. You're challenging them. Can you make more than one rectangle with these tiles? Oh shoot, you can't, or in this case you can, or, oh my gosh, this one's a square. And then it's, from that, you're emerging this idea of, huh, I wonder what this looks like symbolically? And I can say it two different ways. I can count all the pieces individually. Here's an X squared. There's three X's, and there's six or whatever your numbers are. Or I could look at the dimensions and I can look at it from an area model perspective and say, "Oh, there's an X plus two times an X plus three. Oh my gosh, that's the same thing." And we can make some connections back to multiplying and distribution and all of those things.
So it's, I think the hard part is now, you've got this course, you've got what you want them to walk away from. And now it's, what's going to be the hook. And it doesn't have to be hook like cheesy, suck them in. And then just give them a note later. But it's, what's the question I can ask them that every student could throw out an estimate or a prediction or give, even if it's just a guess as to, what is it that is going to come out when I do this thing? And then lead them down this path towards some mathematical idea that was created by Pythagorean or someone.
Tyson Banker: And I have those moments of thought of what you're saying too. And I try to do those things. For example, I really, in my kids, they get overwhelmed because logarithms just look crazy. Kids just get so overwhelmed with logarithms. But I like saying, "What's log of 30. Just give me a rough estimate." Okay, well it's between 10 and a hundred. What was it closer to 10 or a hundred? And they're, well, it's closer to 10. It's, so then it's probably close to one, isn't it? And they're, what? It's just getting them to understand that it's actually a value and getting that thought process. I think to what you're saying about the quadratics is definitely what I'm going for. I want them to think that way.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. And it's all about, I think the word, for me, is reasoning. And that, to me, I thought I knew what that meant for a long time. But it's, I realize every day that more and more I'm realizing that when I can get students reasoning, it's, I don't have to say a whole lot. It's, what I say is through the form of questioning, purposeful questioning? And it doesn't have to be for a real world purpose. I think sometimes we get mired down by this idea of, it's got to be something I can apply in the real world. And it's, it really doesn't. It just has to be something that students can enter into. Right? So everyone can understand what it is. You're asking them. And then all about approximation, estimating, predicting. And I think that allows everybody to enter into a problem and it gives them, I think in the long run, it also gives them a fail safe when this standardized test comes and they do rely on a calculator.
They can think it through and go, oh, is that reasonable? Is that number reasonable? Well, because Sir had me reasoning throughout this entire course, this totally makes sense. And I would just say holding back on the giving or gifting of information. Not saying we don't give it to them, I'm not saying we don't explicitly share that information. But it's, if I could just hold off on it just a little bit, so everybody enters into the problem and then we make sense of it afterwards. And the word, "logarithm," doesn't come up yet. We name it logarithm later. So it's, what's the question that's going to let us land in that zone?
Jon Orr: Yeah. And I find that, just to build off what Kyle is saying here, is that when you do that, what we found is you are doing the mimicking type lesson, which we've all done, is that, it was, I think a year or two ago where I reflected about, you want better problem solvers. You want better thinkers. You want this reasoning that Kyle is talking about, but at what time during my lesson did I allow kids to actually do that? Right? We didn't create problem solvers. So kids were doing poorly on new problems. Right? So you give them a problem that they had not encountered before. And where do you see that? On tests you didn't create, right? You didn't create this test or you didn't create that resource. Wait, I can't give them that. I found that on the internet. I can't give them that because that's not, I didn't teach them that. Or I didn't show them what that looks like. It's not something that we've done. And, I often reflect that, it's not fair. Right? But we did say that earlier in this episode, and it is because that at no time during my lesson planning, did I give kids the opportunity to experience and solve problems they were not shown in advance.
And when I made that flip to say, hey, we're actually going to do this every day. We're going to experience problems we don't know how to solve. And we're going to work through them and solve them. And then by the end, or the next day, we'll have learned techniques on how to solve these going forward.
And when you communicate that to students too, that lightens the load on them. They'll say the frustration is gone when they don't see a problem or they see a problem that's unfamiliar. And then, when they encounter problems that are unfamiliar, they are in a better position. Like Kyle said, they've got these tools now to solve these unfamiliar problems. And hey, when they see them on a standardized test that you didn't create, that frustration might not be there anymore.
Tyson Banker: Yeah. No more panic. That sounds really good. I think you gave me lot to chew on in terms ofm we do have 90 minute periods. And I think, just listening to you guys talk, I think that my biggest thing is that I maybe put too much ownership on them for practice in those 90 minutes. Rather than, you could think stream. Maybe having a think stream or a stream of, like you said, working through those thoughts and concepts, and then touching up the concept, and then practicing. Having more, I can see that working in my class for sure.
Jon Orr: Yeah. And I'm even thinking too, for when I reflect back on it, I think of all of the, I'll say just missed opportunity for myself, to get, the earlier I can get students truly thinking, because we always say, when I was doing examples, I was asking students to participate. But you get the same students and you're usually throwing these really soft toss questions, right? Help me out with this calculation or whatever. I'm not having them truly reason.
Imagine if, let's say, I'd given four or five examples, if I could set it in such a way where I've given them enough of a runway where they could actually take some time to work through this example with a group, they might not come up with an accurate answer or they might not get it. But it gives me that formative assessment piece, like you were saying.
Because you also mentioned how it was unrealistic to do some of the things that you found you got the most information from, right? Having conferences and sitting down with students or having them record videos. It's like you get that in the moment, and it allows you to be a little bit more nimble to pivot, or proceed, or hey, normally I would give six examples. I'm, why am I going to do example three? I'm going to throw example four at you. And I want you to work with your neighbors and let's see what you come up with. And where are we at? And let's get a sense of where we're at.
And it's almost like now they're getting that homework practice in throughout the lesson, through the experience versus sort of this waiting. I know I was that kid. I would sit in class and I'm, I'm not writing down a single thing until it goes up on the board. Right? I would just wait. And there's students that would wait. They're, I don't want to have to erase it or use white out. So I would wait. And I just realized I'm, oh I actually didn't, personally didn't do any thinking during that experience. So there's probably some other students there as well.
So if we flip that just a little bit, you don't have to change the entire lesson. It's just how we deliver that a little bit. So we've got a lot to chew on here. So I want to flip it back to you. You'd shared a takeaway. What is your next step in terms of what you're going to be thinking about and where you see this developing for yourself? How do you feel and where do you think you're going to head to next with your experimenting here?
Tyson Banker: Yeah. Well I think that coming back, as we get out of the pandemic, I think some of my old tools will be there. So I'll think I'll feel better still. But I think to expand on this conversation, I think that not, I was going to say this when, after your last comment, but I see worst case scenario in my class. the worst case. And as teachers, we always see worst case, even though it's not happening. But I put up a warmup, I do it for them. I do a lesson, I say, "OK, practice." Nobody practices and everybody leaves. And so, I see that as worst case. Right? And I feel with the idea of a think streamer, getting some provoking thought through the lesson, there's even checkpoints. in a lot of my lessons of, try these examples. I think there's a lot of wiggle room to push that back on them some more. And I think I need to be comfortable pushing back on them. And that uncomfortable piece that's going to happen where they aren't sure, I think that as a teacher, I naturally, my kids struggle or they feel uncomfortable, I want to fix it. And I think that just this conversation's helped me realize that I can put my hands back and say, "All right, well, what do you, do want to go on the whiteboard? How are you feeling right now? What's troubling you?" And try to, and make those notes and ideas of how they're, where they're going with we're teaching. So-
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. Sounds like you've got some good steps ahead of you. Get into this school year and we're excited for you to try those out. Which is also, which we wanted to talk about next is we would love to have you back after you've made some of these changes, made some of these improvements or decisions from your classroom and talk about how that's going on in your classroom. Would you open to coming back on and chat with us and crosstalk.
Tyson Banker: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Anytime. Love the collaboration. Yeah, for sure.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff.
Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. Yeah. I would say as well, we'll throw this in the show notes for those who are listening, but a lot of the challenges and the struggles that we've all experienced, especially with our more senior students, senior classes, if you haven't had a chance to check some of Peter Lildahall episodes... episode 21 is an awesome episode where it just popped into my mind because you had mentioned the worst case scenario, right? The worst case scenario. And we've been there. I know it doesn't happen every day, but I think we've all been there where you do a lesson and at the end you're sort of, wow, I don't know if anybody was with me at all. Right? We've had those days Peter references on that episode about how he literally had to leave the classroom to get students to actually start working on something that he didn't already pre-teach them.
So really cool episode. It's one that I reflect on a lot. But Tyson, it's fantastic to have you here with us today. Thanks for being open, being vulnerable with us and the Make Math Moments community. I know that many are listening and nodding their heads in agreement with some of those challenges that we all face. So thank you again for that. And yeah, we're looking forward to having you back on the show in a little ways time to see how things are going.
Tyson Banker: Perfect. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Jon Orr: All right. Awesome stuff. Yeah. Thanks a lot. Talk to you soon.
Kyle Pearce: Cheers.
Tyson Banker: Bye.
Kyle Pearce: As always, both John and I love diving into Math Mentoring Moment episodes because we get a chance to dive into common problems of practice. And I'm going to argue that we've probably all been there or maybe we're currently there and still working on them. So it's great to have someone come on the show, just like Tyson here, be a little vulnerable with us. Let us know where things working out really well. Sounds like Tyson's got an awesome thing going there and obviously has a lot of concern for his students to make sure that they have the best experience they possibly can.
So hopefully you've learned something here. I know we have in this episode. And remember, you got to be reflecting on your end. So how are you going to do that reflection? You going to talk to a colleague on the phone, maybe write something down? Or are you going to do something thing else? Maybe a Sketchnote, right? We don't want to lose what we've learned here, likethose footprints in the sand.
Jon Orr: Yeah, you got it there, Kyle. And another option for you is, head on over to our private Facebook group, or at Math Moment Makers K to 12. We've got an active community in there, helping each other answer questions, pose questions on many different topics. So get on over to our Facebook group. Also, you can tag us on any social media platform @makemathmoments and we can get back to you.
Kyle Pearce: Absolutely. And academy members who are listening in, we've got a lot of active academy members in the community area. So even if, let's say, you're not deep into a course like our, "Transforming Your Textbook Into a Curiosity Machine," course, you might be taking a little bit of time to maybe dive into something else. Be sure to get into that community, share what you're up to in your classroom. What is your pebble in your shoe? And share it with the community members. Lots of active participants in there. And also, remember, hit that subscribe button. I think John's made the switch over to Spotify for his podcasting. You might be on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts or some other platform. Make sure you hit that subscribe button. And remember, many of these are now video interviews on YouTube. Hit that subscribe button, ring that bell. And you'll be notified anytime we release a new YouTube video.
Jon Orr: Show notes and links to resources discussed in this episode and complete transcripts from our episode here is a hosted over at makemathmoments.com.
Kyle Pearce: Well, my Math Moment Maker friends, I'm Kyle Pierce.
Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.
Jon Orr: And high five for you.
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