Episode #170: Shifting From Pre-Teaching To Problem Solving – A Math Mentoring Moment

Feb 28, 2022 | Podcast | 0 comments



Today we speak with Janelle Fortmuller, a grade 5/6 teacher from Alberta. Janelle shares insights, key learnings she had around lesson design and planning in her math class. 

Janelle shares her transformation from a teacher who pre-taught all the strategies and algorithms to a confident, flexible teacher who engages her students in problem solving every day. 

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. 

You’ll Learn

  • How to make connections among strategies when consolidating your lessons
  • Reframing the false notion that we have to show students formulas steps and algorithms before they can solve problems
  • How to get out of the way and let your students demonstrate their brilliance




Problem Based Tasks 

Follow Janelle on Twitter @janelle3904 

Listen to Marilyn Burns on Episode 149

Janelle is currently learning how to Transform Her Textbook Into a Curiosity Machine

Follow Janelle’s lead and take the MMM Online Workshop

Start your school year off right by downloading the guide that you can save and print to share with colleagues during your next staff meeting, professional learning community meeting or just for your own reference!


Janelle Fortmuller: But what I've actually found now that we're a few months in is that a lot of these tasks hit on numerous outcomes anyway. And so, it's actually easier to do something as a whole class than it was previously.
Yeah, I've seen a lot of success for some of my students that maybe are not as strong in math. They have been finding ways to tackle these complex problems. Then even just watching my students support one another, my grade sixes-

Kyle Pearce: Today with speak with Janelle Fortmuller-

Janelle Fortmuller: ... "Oh, we learned something last year that I think can help us- "

Kyle Pearce: ... a grade five-six teacher from Alberta. Janelle shares insights, key learnings, and all kinds of lesson design goodness and planning from her math class.

Jon Orr: Janelle shares her transformation from a teacher who pre-taught all strategies and algorithms to a confident, flexible teacher who engages her students in problem-solving every day.

Kyle Pearce: This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we talk with a member of the Make Math Moments community just like you who's working through common math class struggles or problems of practice. Together, we try to brainstorm some possible next steps and strategies to overcome them. But today we're actually going to talk about a bit of a pre-transformation and where she is now, and continuing to do some learning after she's dug into a bunch of awesome, awesome math professional development.

Jon Orr: Before we dive in here, have you submitted a math class pebble in your shoe? Be sure to share a couple sentences with us over at makemathmoments.com/mentor so we can bring you real soon.

Kyle Pearce: All right, my friends. Let's hit it.

Speaker 4: (singing)

Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr. We are two math teachers from makemathmoments.com. Together ...

Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of Math Moment Makers worldwide who want to build and deliver math lessons that spark curiosity ...

Jon Orr: Fuel sense-making ...

Kyle Pearce: And ignite your teacher moves. Well, my friends, we are diving into another Math Mentoring Moment episode. Actually, it's a bit of a before-after transformation session, because we've had the honor of getting to do some learning alongside Janelle. So today we're going to hear about some of the things she was struggling with before she had engaged in some professional learning, including our online workshop, and where she is now, how her students are feeling, and what she's working on next.

Jon Orr: Yeah, it was great to chat with her about some of the pre-struggles, some of the struggles that she had while she was working out some of the key moves to get where she wanted to go, and also see where she is now. So this transformation is amazing. From her own words, you're going to hear about confidence, flexibility, problem-solving. We can't wait to share this one with you because I think you are going to get a lot out of her transformation while you're on your transformation. All right, Kyle, let's get to it.

Kyle Pearce: All right, here we go.

Jon Orr: Hey there, Janelle. Thanks for joining Kyle and I here on the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. We are excited to have you here. Hey, how are you doing?

Janelle Fortmuller: Thank you for having me. I'm doing great things.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff. Well, you know what? The Math Moment Maker community, they're already waiting and, with bated breath, wondering who is Janelle? Where are you coming to us from tonight? Tell us a little bit about yourself, maybe even a little bit of your teaching backstory.

Janelle Fortmuller: So my name's Janelle Fortmuller. I'm a grade five-six teacher at Banded Peak School, which is in Bragg Creek, Alberta. It's this little gym in the middle of the woods. It's a wonderful school to work at. I've been teaching for just over 10 years now with a couple mat leaves slotted in there. Mainly taught middle school, usually Math and Science. In the last few years, I've been more of a generalist, which has been a lovely change.
I did spend one year with our division office working as a design for learning specialist, which was an incredible opportunity to work with teachers from all over our division, designing innovative projects and just getting to know more of the teachers around our division. So that was a very cool opportunity.

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff there. If you've listened to episodes before, then we always ask our guests to share a math moment. So when we say math moment, what pops into your mind? You can stretch back to when you were a student. Usually this is what gets shared. It's like something that has stuck with you all these years that when we say math class, this is like what rings bells for you? What would be your math moment, Janelle?

Janelle Fortmuller: Well, I'd say my K-12 experience with math wasn't super memorable. I wasn't a great math student. I wasn't a horrible math student. I think that sticks out in my mind because I don't really remember much about math K-12, whereas there a lot of other classes that I have memorable projects that stick out, or different experiences that I can think back to. So that's memorable on its own.
Then I think the big one for my teaching career, I just got my very first full-time job with our division. My principal contacted me during the summer and asked me to take part in this week-long math professional development.
It was actually a Marilyn Burns course, which at the time I had no idea who Marilyn Burns was. But I was really inspired going to that course and learning about what math class could look and seeing that it was very different from the experience I had growing up. So that pushed me to want to do things a little bit differently when it came to teaching math myself.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. It's interesting because I think there are a lot of people out there. We hear all ends of the spectrum, and somewhere in between. It sounds like you landed between where it wasn't. Some people have a bad memory. Some people have this really positive memory. But there's also a group of people that it's almost like your memory is, "Eh," there wasn't a whole lot going on there. I mean I'm assuming here.
Now we know that you've done this Marilyn Burns course. You've also taken part in our online workshop. So there's obviously you've got this ambition, this spark in you in order to push your own teaching practice forward, be it pedagogically or maybe the content knowledge side. I guess what's inspired you that maybe ... Is melancholy the right word for your K-12 math?

Janelle Fortmuller: Mediocre.

Kyle Pearce: Your mediocre math experience in K-12. Does that fuel your fire for learning about math and doing it differently than maybe you remember, or what are you thinking when it comes back to that, when you reflect on why you're doing the work you're doing?

Janelle Fortmuller: Yeah, I definitely think it ties to that. I got into teaching because I have a passion for learning and I want to foster a passion for learning with my students. Math is one of those areas where, even for myself personally, I've had to push to get excited about math. It wasn't something that I cared to learn very much. I knew it was important, I knew I was going to use aspects of it later in my life, but it wasn't something I was really excited about.
I think when I started teaching, I decided that it was important to me to try to foster that love of math in my students that I never really had. It was through experiences like the Marilyn Burns workshop, and then most recently through the Math Moments workshop, those types of opportunities where I get really excited about math. And so, then I really feel like it's important for me to try to inspire that excitement in my students.

Jon Orr: Would you be able to paint us a picture? I'm always curious. Listeners who probably have listened to many episodes know that we like to dive back into not only motivations for that kind of learning, but also what did Janelle's teaching look like, say, before taking some of these professional development workshops? You mentioned, and Kyle mentioned, that you took ours in the summer.
I'm curious ... Like two things, I guess. What did Janelle's class look like before taking that class, but also what sparked you to go, "I've got to take this plunge and jump into our particular workshop"? It was like what's happening before that? What did those lessons look like? Then it's like why did you go down that road to say, "Hey, I've got to make some changes here"?

Janelle Fortmuller: Yeah, great question. So I've always been dabbling in different things. I've always tried to incorporate projects into math. I've done the Three-Act math tasks. I'd say most recently when I started in Bragg Creek and I became a generalist. So I got to know my students really well.
I'm teaching a five-six split. So I'm having to do grade five and grade six math at the same time. So there's this other layer of complexity there.
Previous to this summer to taking your course, I was doing the odd Three-Act math task and the odd project, but everything felt disconnected. I wanted to be more purposeful in my planning and integrating these meaningful problems and projects and things.
And so, when I came across your ... I've been following both of you for a while. When I came across your workshop, I thought this was a good opportunity for me to purposefully sit down in the summer and plan out what my year was going to look like with the help of your workshop, to help inspire what those lessons and units would look like.

Kyle Pearce: Very cool. I'm super excited that I feel like a lot of people who come and join us on this journey, we all relate, because Jon and I felt the exact same way for many years. At the time, we were trying our best to engage our students, get them to lean in, and a lot of times we just felt like we were still coming up short and we couldn't quite figure out why.
I'm wondering, what are some of the things that maybe are different now in how you actually go about planning a lesson? Is there anything that you're thinking about differently? Because I know for me, before we started really digging in, it was like I looked for anything to engage and that was sort of like my magnet. What got you into those Three-Act things? Was it the engagement piece? Then I guess what's maybe different now that you've dug in and you're working on shifting to more of that intentional, that purposeful lesson delivery like you've suggested here?

Janelle Fortmuller: Yeah, I really liked using the Three-Act math tasks and I was always looking for different ways to engage my students. I loved the conversations that came out of those types of activities. But I feel like I did them as one-offs. And so, I, "Oh, okay. I've got time. I'm going to slip this in," but then I'm going to go back to the curriculum and back to teaching how to do something and then having them do examples and the traditional way that a lot of us have done that.
And so, then this year, after doing your workshop this summer, what I've done is we already have spiraled our units. So my teammates and I a couple of years ago sat down and looked at the math curriculum, and then we've spiraled all the outcomes so that we are coming back to concepts throughout the year.
And so, what I've done this year that's different from previous years is at the beginning of each outcome, I'm doing a rich task or some sort of problem to launch into that new outcome. And so, I'm trying to be really purposeful about not doing any pre-teaching and just giving them a scenario where it allows me to see where they're at and it allows me to uncover the outcome that we're doing through that problem.
So that's probably been the most intentional piece that I've done. Then I've also tried to incorporate a warmup in every one of my lessons that is not a huge problem or a huge task, but just something to get them either having a math discussion or something just to get them thinking differently. That's where I've used Math is Visual or Would You Rather Math, or those types of things, just to hook them at the beginning of class. So I'd say those are my two biggest changes I've made this year so far.

Jon Orr: Yeah. Some great changes, and taking the workshop and implementing those and using that to plan it out. I'm curious, you mentioned your experience with doing a Three-Act math task. I think Kyle said this, that I also echo, is that was like that for us is that they were like these one thing you slip in and then you move on. I'm wondering if you could elaborate a little bit more on when you started spiraling, how did that help with that disconnect that you were saying that those one-offs had?

Janelle Fortmuller: So how the spiraling was helping with the disconnect? Sorry. I'm-

Jon Orr: You said that you were spiraling, and that was a big thing for you in your planning this year. You said you were putting an exploration or a task at the beginning of your, say, strands or spirals. I'm wondering, did that help with that one-off? Did it feel connected now? How does that make you feel about your planning moving forward?

Janelle Fortmuller: Oh yeah. I definitely feel like it's purposeful now, but I'm planning more purposefully. So when I look at the next outcome that we're going to tackle, the first thing that I do is I go and try to find some sort of problem or task for my students to dig into prior to starting that outcome. So that's just become a new way for me to plan and design what I'm doing.
And so, I do really feel like it's way more connected than it was previously. It's allowing me through those task to start to consolidate that learning or start to pull out those strategies that students already have.
Just with teaching a split class, I was really worried this summer. I was like, "Oh, I want to do all this great tasks, but how am I supposed to make them meet two outcomes at once?" But what I've actually found now that we're a few months in is that a lot of these tasks hit on numerous outcomes anyway. And so, it's actually easier to do something as a whole class than it was previously.
Yeah, I've seen a lot of success for some of my students that maybe are not as strong in math. They have been finding ways to tackle these complex problems. Then even just watching my students support one another, my grade sixes, "Oh, we learned something last year that I think can help us with this problem." So that's been really cool, something that I didn't expect before I started doing these tasks at the beginning of my outcomes.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. That's music to my ears when I hear teachers ... First of all, you hit on the not pre-teaching. When we say pre-teaching, of course, I know some people look into it way too far, like, "What? You don't teach them anything." It's like no, no, no. But it's like you're not setting them up with the magic formula or steps in order to solve a problem. You're letting them actually problem-solve.
What I feel the same way about problem-based tasks is when we select good tasks that have low floors, or if we design them such that they have a low floor, it's like you have some of your sixes that are probably working below grade five level and some of your grade fives are working above grade five level, or maybe even above the grade six.
So having this opportunity for all students to engage and enter with the strategies and the models that they're bringing to the table, and for you to be able to see the brilliance come out, I'm so happy to hear that.
Our next question was how are the students responding? So you've addressed that a little bit. I'm wondering, what about from student perception of math, or maybe even just overall disposition? How do you see your students? Do you see a change there or do you feel like students are just coming along for the ride? Did any students give you a hard time at first?
Sometimes some students get a little anxious when the teacher doesn't tell you what you're supposed to do. They're so used to us doing that. What are your thoughts about how students have responded and how has that helped you, or maybe how has that been difficult for you as you've been on this journey?

Janelle Fortmuller: Yeah. There were definitely some students that I got a bit of pushback from at the beginning, just ... And it's funny. I've heard you talk about this on your show before, but it's usually the students who math comes fairly easily to them. And so, they're coming with, "I'm great at math." Then we've been doing these problems and they have to wrestle with them. It's not as clear cut as they want it to be.
They want me to give them the answer and I'm not willing to give them the answer. So I definitely have had a little bit of pushback there, but it honestly didn't take very long before, I think, even those students got on board.
What I'm loving seeing right now is just the willingness for my students to take risks. I think it's most evident in some of my students that really struggle with math. It just warms my heart when I'm walking around the room and I see these kids that are maybe way below grade level that are just digging into these really complex tasks. They're contributing to their groups in a meaningful way and their groups are responding with, "Oh, I never thought of that idea," like just the confidence that I'm seeing in these kids and their risk-taking ability. I think that that has been a huge change for us.

Jon Orr: I think what you're saying echoes what Kyle and I have experienced with our classes in making these changes, and seeing that confidence in problem-solving was one of the biggest ... For me, to see my students who in the past you would do a problem with students, or they would get to a problem, and it didn't look like an example you had ever done before. All of a sudden kids would shut down and go, "Well, I'm skipping that because you didn't show me how to do that."
When we made these changes, these problems would come up, and we didn't hear or see those excuses anymore. It sounds like the confidence of problem-solving is happening with your students as well, which is amazing to hear.
I'm wondering, you've talked about confidence with your students. I'm actually a little curious about your confidence as well in handling these situations. I know that before I started making changes, I used to have ... You'd have some classroom management issues every day and you'd go in a little bit like, "I wonder what today's going to look like."
I used to feel like my confidence was a little shaky. Then I felt a little bit more confidence when I knew I was on the right track.
I'm curious to see if your confidence has changed. Maybe you're less confident now because you're trying something new, but maybe you're more confident in other ways. I'm curious about your confidence as a teacher right now.

Janelle Fortmuller: I'd say I'm more confident in just letting my students dive into these problems and not feeling like I have to control everything. As many teachers are, I'm a planner and I'm organized. And so, sometimes it's a little bit hard to relinquish that control.
But I think I'm getting a lot more confident in that and I'm enjoying the conversation. I'm enjoying just experiencing the experience with my students. I love being surprised if they come up with something that I didn't think about. That's just a such a wonderful thing.
Maybe the area that I'm not as confident in yet is just still trying to figure out how to take their strategies and then consolidate that learning back into the grade five outcome and the grade six outcome. I think, I don't know, even since the beginning of the year, I definitely feel like I've made some progress there, but something that I know that I still have a lot of work to do with.

Kyle Pearce: It's great to hear. First, I want to back up. When you had talked about students who maybe work in below grade level, it's almost like when you were saying how it brings ... I think you said it warms my heart when you see that their voice is being valued. It's almost like I'm picturing every student has an opportunity to be a hero for a moment. It's like it's not the same student saving the day at all times in math class. It's like it's spreading out, which is so great.
This challenge that you're highlighting, I would say, is something that everybody will always continue to be working on, which is so important. I think the more times we work with an idea in a problem-based way, like so when we deliver math in the way that you are doing and the way we're trying to advocate that we all teach, is an opportunity for us to, again, be surprised by a student. So accepting that. Then almost like working on that teacher move of what do I do when something truly surprises me and I'm not sure where it fits?
I think honesty is one of the biggest, I would say, strategies that we can use, is being honest with students when we are stumped. I think that, for me anyway, was a really hard thing initially, because I came from this place of thinking like if I'm the math teacher, I should know all of this stuff, regardless of the grade level, whether it was grade 10 when I was teaching grade 10, or 12, or six. It's like we're supposed to be these masters.
I think it's helping and reminding ourselves that it's okay to maybe not know where something fits. Sometimes I even wonder about the opportunity when we're consolidating to let students figure out, like, "Where do you feel this goes, this solution that so and so did? Do you see it like this one over here that's maybe more symbolic?" or, "This one matched this strategy over here," like this student used this additive strategy where they were skip counting over ... Is it more like that? What do you think? Talk to your partners."
I'm wondering, when you're in that scenario, is there anything in particular where you feel like you ... Are you hitting a wall there? What exactly is maybe throwing you off there or what's the concern that's holding you up that you're working on there?

Janelle Fortmuller: Yeah, I think it's that I feel I've made this great progress with the beginning of these little mini units, these outcomes. Then when I go to do the consolidation, I find I fall back into, okay, now we did this great thing. We had all these strategies. Now I'm going to go back and just go back to my PowerPoint or go back to my examples on the board, and then we're going to do practice.
And so, it's looking for how to transition in a more authentic way, as you described, having those students be the ones that then start to consolidate their learning instead of me saying, "Okay, we did this and now I'm going to show you what I wanted you to learn," or whatever.

Jon Orr: Explore this a little bit more in the sense of when you're designing these lessons from the start, I'm wondering, what are some of the first moves that you make? Because if we're going to focus on how that connection happens amongst kids' strategies, what would you say you're doing at the very beginning before you walk into class with kids? How does that planning look like for you when you decide, "I'm going to do this lesson in this way"? Could you just maybe paint us a picture of what that planning looks like early on?

Janelle Fortmuller: Sure. Yeah. So I always start with the outcome first. So looking at the ... Based on the way that we spiral our curriculum, we run four different rotations. So number sense, number operations, patterns and relations, and shape and space. And so, I'll look, okay, we're in number sense and I'll look at the outcomes that we're doing for number sense for grade five and grade six. Then I usually go to look for a Three-Act math task or some sort of problem that they can dig into related to those outcomes.
So I do feel like there's connection there. But I think the thing that I'm struggling with a little bit is just because of teaching two grades and the outcomes are different, then I have trouble coming back around afterwards and then fitting them back into their grade levels and then helping to consolidate their understanding at their grade levels.
There's definitely strategies that come out that support both outcomes, but I don't know. For me right now, it just feels a little bit disjointed. I'm sure that after I do ... This is the first year that I've made this really purposeful change, and I know that doing this again next year, I think I'll be tweaking things and I'll be doing things differently. Then after going through it again, I feel like those things might start to come together. But that's just an area where I feel there's a little bit of disconnect right now.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. What's popping into my mind is a couple of things. So being ... Well, a split is hard, as you mentioned. That is forever a challenge, when you get thrown into that situation, because even though five-six ... Here in Ontario, five-six is a better split than a six-seven. We leave what we call the junior division and enter the intermediate division. So I'm not sure out in Alberta if there's these more friendly splits and some maybe inconvenient splits, but we certainly have them here.
So, first of all, I want to congratulate you that you've managed to put a spiraled curriculum in place, a spiraled long-range plan in place, because that can be really challenging, especially when you're dealing with two things, the split, but then also, let's say, a newer grade level. So if you're newer to that curriculum, that could be a real challenge. So you've got that there.
Then the second thing is sometimes it takes a little time for us to make sense of the big pictures and that we call the big ideas when we zoom out. This is something that I'm trying to ... I really struggled doing this when I began this journey. But trying to zoom out and trying to figure out, okay, so what's the point? What's the deal here? Why do I care, and why does the curriculum writer care, about this concept that we're exploring in grade five and six? How are they connected? How are they different? Then thinking about what's the big thing that I hope students walk away with here?
I found for myself, you don't always land on something every single lesson right away. But even just starting that process and then trying to think of like how should I deliver the question or how should I tweak the question in order to get us closer to this emergence of this big idea? That was something that I feel takes a long time and a lot of that intentionality, like you described earlier, in order to draw out. So that's what I'm thinking about.
Then I'm wondering as well, beforehand, I think this might be where Jon was going with his questioning around, thinking about and almost like working with your teaching partner and trying to anticipate and predict what will students do? Then from that, something else that I think is really important, as we anticipate what students might do, if I come up with these different solutions, are they helpful to get me closer to this big idea or am I going down a different road? Then it almost makes you pump the brakes a little bit and go, "Wait a second. Is this where I'm actually hoping we're going to head or are we going to do some fun math, and it's great and all, but we haven't gotten closer to that big idea?"
So I said a lot there. I wonder what are your thoughts on that? Does it help you? Does it overwhelm you with everything I just said? Or does it give you maybe some ideas on how you might be able to get ... Because that word disjointed, we talk about it. It comes up a lot on the podcast, and I feel like it's in this part of the lesson where things can happen. You can be like, "Okay, well we got some solutions, but what did we actually take away? What did we actually walk away with here?"
So what are your thoughts on that? Anything there that you feel might be something worth digging into a little bit more and spending a little time on?

Janelle Fortmuller: Yeah. I love your thought about the big ideas, because I do feel like every time we're doing one of these tasks, we are getting to big ideas. And so, maybe part of it is a bit of me letting go of, okay, this doesn't match this outcome perfectly. However, it is setting them up for that type of thinking, or it is setting them up to start to uncover some of these strategies.
So maybe it's a bit of like, okay, it's okay to not have everything attached to one specific thing. It is okay that a lot of these tasks are going to get them feeling more confident in the big ideas in math that are important and can be applied to a variety of outcomes and a variety of strands. So I do think that that's a helpful way to look at things, for sure.

Jon Orr: Right. I think it can be helpful as well too, like what Kyle said with this big idea in mind, is to also think about, at the beginning of that planning session, on going, okay, what do I want my students to know? What do I want my students to understand? But also what do I want my students to be able to do?
Sometimes putting that down, it's like your success criteria, right? It's like I want my kids to get here. This is the lesson that I'm choosing. Like what Kyle was saying, sometimes when you anticipate the different strategies that might come out in this particular Three-Act math task or problem-based lesson that you found or someone passed around, and when you do those, Kyle had a good point that sometimes you think this is a task on whatever topic you're looking at, but then when you do the strategies on that particular task, it might not lead you in the direction that you want your students to know, understand, and do. So it's like, well, maybe that task isn't the best for this bit. I might have to choose something else to fit that, or design something else to fit that.
I think knowing that at the start and knowing exactly where you want your kids to be at the end can be a helpful ... Like knowing precisely where you want that to happen is that ... For me, to go, okay, we're in the middle of this. I see strategies here, here, and here. I want to get over here. This is my goal. Maybe sometimes we think, "Oh, it's too disconnected. I can't make it happen."
But I think for me, in my class, if maybe I chose a problem that brought us in lots of different places, but we never got close to where we needed to go, for me, because of timing, this is where I might be like, "Okay, my lesson goal needs to be this. This is where we're going to go. Okay. I'm going to make it clear that this strategy is doing that," or I might have to be like, "Hey, guys. We've got really great strategies here. I'm going to model a strategy or I'm going to show the strategy that can help out here."
The nice part about what they've already done, and what I find, is students will see their numbers. They will see their strategies. This is where you get more experience is you'll start to see, okay, I didn't anticipate that kid's strategy. I'm doing my strategy. But then all of a sudden some light bulbs will go on and go, "Oh, that's what they were doing." It's resembling somewhere here and you can make that connection by calling it out explicitly.
So I find that when you make sure that you know where you need to go and you get there yourself, because you're directing it at the end, then with time and practice of doing that, you get more experience going where those connections can happen.

Kyle Pearce: Sometimes it's like you're not sure in that moment, and that's okay, too. It's sometimes you have to think on it. And so, today you might take this and consolidate and take one student solution instead of three students' solutions and work from that to get you a little closer.
It's almost like everything is using your professional judgment in the moment. We talk about it in the online workshop. It's like the more colleagues I can plan this with ... I know not all of us are blessed to have a bunch of teaching partners, or maybe teaching partners that are in the same place as you are in terms of where you want to go with the curriculum. But the more people you could bring into that conversation, I think it's like the more dots align for yourself and it helps you.
Sometimes all it takes is this gap between this solution and that solution. There's this void here and it's like there's something going on there, but I'm not exactly sure what it is yet. It's like in time and with collaboration with our colleagues, we can make sense of that. That to me is like that content knowledge piece that we all will continually be working on.
Marilyn Burns would say ... As you would know from spending some time in learning with her, she's been teaching for many years and she is still learning new ways and new strategies and in-betweens that she never realized was there because a student helps you land on it.
So while there's a little bit of this maybe discomfort at first, I mean, to me, that's part of the excitement now is like now I learned something, or there's this mystery that I have to figure out. Maybe I send it to a colleague at a different school or out to the internet, or the Math Moment Maker group on Facebook, or whatever your community is, but making sure that you look at those opportunities as a way for you to grow. I know you're going to continue to grow. Just having this conversation, being able to learn alongside you in the online workshop, it was fantastic.
So before we let you go here today, the question we have for you is is there any takeaway, big takeaway, from some of your learning over the duration of that online workshop that you would leave with the listeners, like something that maybe really stuck with you and that you used to plan forward in your own teaching practice?

Janelle Fortmuller: I think the biggest piece for me is just helping facilitate my students uncover the math for themselves. Just taking a step back and letting them show what they know through these different tasks. I honestly think that's the biggest piece for me, because I always felt like I had to teach them this strategy and I have to teach them this algorithm and give them this formula, because, otherwise, they won't be able to solve the problem.
Well, that's actually not the case. They actually have a lot of background knowledge and creativity that they can apply to these problems. And so, that to me is for sure the biggest takeaway and something that I know I've started really being purposeful about that this year. But I don't think I'll ever go back to teaching math in a way where I felt like I had to be the one that knew everything from the start. I was giving that information to the students, letting them uncover some of that for themselves. I think that there's so much value in that.

Jon Orr: Yeah. That's a great takeaway for everyone to think about it and see if they are doing that in their class. This is like let's just get out of the way and let kids show us what they can show us before we step in and guide some thinking along the way.
Janelle, this has been a great conversation. We can't thank you enough for joining us here on this episode. We are so excited for you to keep learning and keep applying some of the techniques you've been learning over this last year. Hey, what would you say to us checking in with you in six months, 12 months down the road and see how things are going?

Janelle Fortmuller: Sure. Yeah, no problem at all. I'm doing your Transforming the Textbook sessions right now. And so, that's my new piece that I've been integrating. So, yeah, I definitely feel like I'm always learning and would love to check back later.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. Well, thanks so much. We talk about transforming in the online workshop, but just everything, it's being able to come at it from different angles and trying it a year later or months later, and just constantly coming back and reflecting.
That's truly what is going to continue helping you shape into that awesome Math Moment Maker that you are. I know your students are appreciative of your work. Know that John and I are both appreciative on behalf of the math community for all the hard work that you're doing.
It was an awesome pleasure having you here tonight and we look forward to checking in with you on the podcast, like Jon said, hopefully somewhere from that half a year to a year from now, see where you're at. We'll catch up and see if we can dig a little deeper.

Janelle Fortmuller: Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you for all of the support you guys have provided through your resources and the workshops. It's exciting to be a math educator right now.

Jon Orr: Awesome. Thanks so much.

Janelle Fortmuller: Thanks.

Kyle Pearce: As always, Jon and I both learned so much from every episode of the podcast, but none are as special as opportunities when we get to chat with teachers who are undergoing that transformation. You heard it from Janelle, Jon and I both reminiscing about many of the same struggles we were having in our own classrooms around engagement, around some of the hangups that continue to happen as we continue to teach and dive into concepts that maybe we fully don't understand the complete progression.
Hopefully you at home got some great ideas here today. I know that I have some new ideas to think on. I'm hoping that Jon and Janelle are walking away thinking about how this conversation might impact to their next steps.

Jon Orr: As always Kyle. What we want to encourage you is to how can you consolidate your learning right now? Where are you going so that the ideas that you've heard here don't wash away, like those footprints in the sand that we often talk about here at the end of our episodes? You've got to reflect on what you've learned so it will stick.
A great way to hold yourself accountable is to write it down or share it with someone, your partner. Share it with us at the Math Moment Maker community. Go to the Facebook and join us in our private Facebook group, Math Moment Makers K-12, or connect with us on social media, @MakeMathMoments, Instagram and Twitter, all those things.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff, my friend. Hey, listen, if you want to keep on hearing some of these Math Mentoring Moment episodes, we're going to need to hear from you friends. Let us know, what are you working on?
One thing, Jon. We've had many people reach out to through email before using makemathmoments.com/mentor to submit a Mentoring Moment idea. Oftentimes they're always saying, like, "Yeah, but I'm not sure if my pebble in the shoe is just something I'm having a struggle with." Trust me, my friends, there are educators out there struggling with all aspects. We want to hear from you and I know they want to hear from you, too.
So take a moment, pause, hit that makemathmoments.com/mentor. It'll bring you straight to a quick little form with your name, a couple of sentences about what you're currently working on or what that pebble in your shoe currently is. We'd love to bring you on so we can have a great conversation, and we can all learn and work towards a solution together.

Jon Orr: Yeah. Can't wait. Make sure you head to makemathmoments.com/mentor and we'll chat soon. Also, in order to ensure you don't miss out on next week's episode, or any of the episodes that are coming up, be sure to hit the subscribe on your favorite podcast platform. Which one is it? I'm not sure. I'm liking Spotify. Kyle, I think, he's listening to Apple. But wherever you are, make sure you subscribe.
Also, maybe you're watching us right now on YouTube, because we're on YouTube as well. Get over there, hit the subscribe and the bell so you know when our episodes come out over there as well.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome. All resources that were mentioned in this episode, and all of our episodes, can be found on the show notes pages, which can be found over on our website, makemathmoments.com/episode170. You're going to find complete transcripts. You can read them from the web. You could download them. You can click on some of the resources shared today like Math is Visual or Would You Rather Math, or we talked about Marilyn Burns. So we've got the link to the Marilyn Burns episode when she was up on the podcast. So head on over, makemathmoments.com/episode170.
My friends, hopefully we'll see you on a Math Mentoring Moment episode sometime soon. Well, 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 high five for you.

Speaker 4: (singing)

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