Episode #173: Emphasizing Communication In Math Class – A Math Mentoring Moment

Mar 21, 2022 | Podcast | 0 comments



In this “where are they now” episode, we speak with Caitlyn Sloan, a high school math teacher from Georgia is back to update us on how she has managed since sharing struggles to bring a problem based approach to her support students.

After sharing the changes she’s made in her approach, we then dig into her most recent focus for her math classroom: communication. How can we emphasize communication so we can build 21st century mathematicians? Listen in to hear some of the ideas and strategies!

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

  • Assessing and or evaluating communication in the math classroom; 
  • How we can address the student question: “does this count for marks?”
  • How to prepare students to be mathematicians for today;
  • Where you can use a jigsaw structure in math class?
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!


Caitlyn Sloan: Recently, I've been trying to refine that into building mathematicians for the world today, whatever that may mean, a world where they have a calculator in their pocket all the time. And the biggest piece of that for me has been communication, which recently has also been a big focus on the AP exam. I know not everyone's an AP teacher, but the communication of ideas is really important to me.
And so I've been trying to intentionally build questions within the practice in activities throughout the day and assessments that help build that crosstalk.

Kyle Pearce: In this where are they now episode, we speak with Caitlyn Sloan, a high school math teacher from Georgia, who's back to update us on how she's managed since sharing some struggles to bring a problem-based approach to some of her support students.

Jon Orr: After sharing the changes she's made in her approach, we then dig into her most recent focus for her math classroom, communication. How can we emphasize communication, so we can build 21st century mathematicians? Listen in and hear some of the ideas and strategies.

Kyle Pearce: This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we chat with an educator, just like you, who's working through some of those common problems of practice. And together, we work to brainstorm some ways to overcome them.

Jon Orr: And before we dive into the conversation with Caitlyn, have you submitted math class pebble in your shoe? Be sure to share a couple sentences with us over at makemathmoments.com/mentor. That's makemathmoments.com/mentor, so we can bring you on an episode and chat real soon about your pebble in your shoe. Caitlyn did it, and we're chatting with her today.

Kyle Pearce: We can't wait to bring on some other Math Moment Makers just like you. So before we get going, let's bring in the intro.
Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I'm Kyle Pierce.

Jon Orr: I'm John Orr. We are two math teaches from makemathmoments.com who together-

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

Jon Orr: Fuel sense making-

Kyle Pearce: And ignite your teacher moves. Welcome everyone to another Math Mentoring Moment episode. And it's not just a regular Math Mentoring Moment episode. It is a where are they now episode. And these are some of our favorite, because not only do we get to go back down memory lane and relive that experience, but then we actually get to have that conversation and see where things are now.

Jon Orr: It's great to hear the journey from before into now and keep that journey going. And like Kyle said, they are some of our favorite episodes or just conversations to chat with the math moment maker community folks, just like you. And in this episode, we talk with Caitlyn who was battling with some ideas about how to teach math in her class, versus what was happening in the on class or on grade level classes. And she was trying to figure that out to help best support her students.
A recommendation here for you is to head on over to episode 132. If you listened to her previous episode, you're going to want to do that, so you can benefit the most here from her journey. You can hear episode 132 by heading on over to makemathmoments.com/episode132 or scrolling down. Oh, Kyle, we better say the title, because sometimes your podcast platform might not show you the episode number anymore. So we just had the title.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, it's I'm a math support teacher and I feel trapped, help.

Jon Orr: That's it.

Kyle Pearce: And you know what, in that episode, you hear all about a pebble that was in her shoe then. In today's episode, we're going to hear how things are going now. We're going to learn about her current focus, which has shifted a little bit further away from that idea, which is just a great reminder for all of us to think about the struggle that you have now, or what you're focusing on in your classroom right this moment, a year from now may be very different. And that's the beauty of this profession, is the constant growth that we have.
And if you're listening to this podcast right now, then obviously you're all about growing and getting better in your practice. We're sure you're going to learn something. We did. We will see you on the other side of this episode. Let's dig in.

Jon Orr: Hey there, Caitlyn, thanks again for joining us on another episode of the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. Caitlyn, you were with us way back, actually, it wasn't too far away. Over a year ago, we chatted with you and we're welcoming you back around episode 132 you were with us, but hey, we're glad to have you back.

Caitlyn Sloan: I'm excited to be back.

Kyle Pearce: I have a funny feeling, Caitlyn, that when we were chatting about a year ago, that we were probably having this conversation about how hopefully COVID would be over and done with and all of these things. And then look at us, because that was a year into the whole COVID thing. And now we're a year removed from that. I don't know if I should be proud to say it, but friends, I'm COVID positive as we record this. We are all in different rooms. We are separate.

Jon Orr: You messaged me the other day and said, "Hey, I got it." And then I had it the week before. I don't think I gave it to you Kyle.

Caitlyn Sloan: Oh, wow.

Kyle Pearce: Exactly. I'm just saying it because it's like who would've thought that this is where we would be? I've dodged it for two years and here we are. But Caitlyn you know what, let everybody know just a little bit about yourself. I know that there's many people out there who may have already heard that episode, but they might need to brush up on their memory a little bit and help them remember a little bit about who you are and where you're from. So let them have it again.

Caitlyn Sloan: I'm Caitlyn Sloan. I am a high school math teacher in the state of Georgia in the US, and a little bit north of Atlanta. I actually teach at the high school that I graduated from. That's super cool.
And last year, I taught geometry, honor's geometry, geometry support and virtual geometry.

Jon Orr: Just a couple.

Caitlyn Sloan: Just a few things. And this year we've actually changed it up. I still teach geometry and honor's geometry, but I also teach AP calculus now. A little bit different. I've taught middle school before and I've taught in the college setting before. I've seen a little bit of everything.

Jon Orr: You have seen a little bit of everything. Caitlyn, when we chatted last time, you were the support geometry teacher. And some of the things that I remember talking to you about were that you had that group of support students, and you were trying to help them see that math could be fun and different and try to help those students as best you can. But they also had this disconnect, if I remember correctly, where they were going to their other classroom for geometry and then coming to you. And then they were like, "Wait a minute, that teacher's teaching me these rules that I'm supposed to follow, but you're trying to help me." And the kids weren't seeing how that went.
I remember us chatting about trying to dive in deeper about trying to make that connection and show kids that, "Hey, you might have that rule already, but if you don't know how it works, I can show you a better method on how to do that." I remember chatting about all those things, but I'm curious about what happened after.
So we chatted about all those things and if the listener right now wants a little recap, go back and listen to episode 132, we chatted with Caitlyn. But Caitlyn, after that conversation, I'm curious, what happened? Did you go and try some of those things? Fill us in on the journey since then.

Caitlyn Sloan: I was really struggling with this idea of, I wanted them to be able to discover and see math as deeper than a set of rules and procedures. I think that's where we all are, but that's all they were getting in their regular math class. So like you said, there was this disconnect. I actually see that a lot with my high level students too, because they're so quick to go back to what they always know and they look for that algorithm or whatever online.
We talked about focusing more on making sure that they're understanding the rationale. I went back to my core goal, which is to build mathematicians and that's always been my goal, teaching math. I want kids to engage genuinely with the mathematics.
I started teaching them the way that I would tutor them, which we also talked about that, where I'm like, let's break down how this works. How could I generalize this idea so that I don't have to remember so many things? So I don't have to remember so many rules, and that really did I feel like help a lot of my kids. And taking on that perspective and adding some layers to it has really benefited my teaching this year as well, I think.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome. Very cool. So it sounds like I remember that conversation and it happens with my own kids where they might come home with something and I'm sure there's many other parents out there as well, where you're not there in the classroom with your kids to know exactly how it was presented. And it doesn't necessarily mean it was a bad thing or a good thing in how they were shown, but it's like if we're not sure where that starting point, that could be difficult.
I'm wondering when students are coming to you, you had mentioned doing it like how you might tutor a student, how do you approach that situation? A student would come to you let's say in a tutoring scenario, or in this remediation role, how do you get a sense as to where students are and where you want to pick things up, in order to start making that connection? Or is that something maybe that you're still working on or still grappling with?

Caitlyn Sloan: No, that's a really good question. I actually start every day in all of my classes with a Desmos warmup. And it's usually just a quick little check-in and I use it to help facilitate the conversations of where I want to go today. I don't really do it for correctness necessarily. I try to see, how are they annotating on the pictures? How are they commenting on them? I can see what language they're using, because it's probably what language they've seen, either heard from their teachers or seen in their looking ahead online. I use that to figure out where they are.
And also even if it's just to connect yesterday's lesson with today's lesson to help them build that intuition, if that makes sense. So that tends to be, I start every day with that Desmos warmup and a healthy discussion around those problems.

Jon Orr: I'm curious about some of those things that you changed and then you continue to do here with your new groups. I remember that when we chatted, there was that disconnect between kids not feeling that success when they went back, because they feel it was the same math, and they felt like this wasn't exactly what's happening over there. I'm curious, after making some of these changes and approaching it from that end, did you start to see a change in the kids, how they were reviewing your class versus the other class?

Caitlyn Sloan: A little bit, not a ton, or not with all of the students more specifically. But a lot of them I focused more on, now let's think about it this way. Now let's go back to your geometry homework that your teacher gave you. And let's think about it this way, and trying to really intentionally bridge the gap between those things. Let's go back to these problems that you were struggling with, and let's see if we can puzzle through them, rather than trying to remember step two and three or whatever it is.
I think that intentionality with the connection, because before, I think I was almost doing my own thing and because I was previewing, I was on a different timeline that they weren't seeing that connection. That intentionality, I think really brought it together for some of the kids. I won't lie and say it was all of them, but...

Kyle Pearce: Totally.

Jon Orr: It never is.

Kyle Pearce: And something I'm thinking about as well, as we're chatting here too is how you're taking a look at maybe what they're working on. And then almost thinking this would really force you to be pretty nimble in the moment. But to be able to look at that and feel like you know the concept well enough that you might be able to give them a prompt, almost like we would in a problem-based lesson, but maybe less visual or maybe not focusing on the curiosity piece as much. But more or less asking them a question that is related to what's happening here, but maybe the student doesn't necessarily realize right away, in order to get them back to that area.
I know that's something I try with my daughter sometimes, because if we try to just tackle her homework, and then I'm trying to help her conceptualize what we're doing at the same time, she's like let's just get to what I was supposed to do. Whereas if I ask her a completely different problem-

Jon Orr: You're taking too much time, dad.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. I'm like put that away for a second. Put this over here, and I ask this problem and I just want you to think about this one for a second. I know we're going to get back to this and make that connection, but she doesn't know that at the time. That's something that pops into my mind as something to maybe consider.
I'm wondering if you were to look over this past year, maybe related or unrelated to what we had a conversation about last time, what might be a recent success for you in your education role? If you had to look back and say, here's the thing with educators, we are so hard on ourselves. We're always thinking about the things that don't go right. But there's always things going well every single day, but we just to ignore them.
I'm wondering, is there any recent success that pops into your mind that you might be interested in sharing with the community?

Caitlyn Sloan: I don't know, what we were just talking about made me think about, recently at the beginning of this unit in AP calculus, which is infinite series, I structured it like a jigsaw, because I have been really working on embracing the fact that students are very curious, and they like to look ahead, and jigsaws don't happen very often in math. I feel like it went extremely well, because they were teaching themselves all these things and they had to learn it so deeply in order to explain it.
I've put a lot of emphasis this year on communication of math, because I feel like I'm a mathematician at heart. I have advanced degrees in math, and the field itself is moving a lot towards communication. I feel like they really developed that deep understanding and were able to very well communicate those things. And they themselves within their groups were able to make the connections that I was trying to help them make. It was really cool to see.

Kyle Pearce: That's awesome.

Jon Orr: At the risk of alienating some of our listeners, I wouldn't mind hearing what topic you were doing the jigsaw with.

Caitlyn Sloan: It was for convergence of infinite series.

Jon Orr: I think I missed it.

Caitlyn Sloan: There's all the tests.

Kyle Pearce: He's like now that you said it again-

Jon Orr: Now that you said it, I remember you saying that.

Caitlyn Sloan: I felt like a lot of math requires a lot of interwoven-ness and doesn't lend itself well to a jigsaw structure. But I thought it would be really nice to enhance that deep understanding and communication piece. This particular unit, there's a bunch of tests for people that don't know to determine if an infinite series converges or diverges.
And it was interesting to see, especially when someone was presenting to them and their topic related to the topic that was being presented, they were so, oh my gosh, they just saw it. It was really cool.

Kyle Pearce: That's awesome. What pops into my mind out of the five math proficiencies is this idea of the adaptive reasoning piece, where it's like being able to actually articulate your thinking. It takes that conceptualizing to a deeper level. I always find this when I listen to a podcast or I listen to books, I'm not much of an actual reader, I'm a listener. And when I learn something and I think I know about it, and then you start to have a conversation with someone else about it, and then you start fumbling and you start to realize that, "Oh, wait a second. I actually don't understand this as well as I thought."
And it forces you to self-reflect and maybe rethink on it or maybe re-listen or look it up. Students get put in that scenario through a jigsaw. But like you had said, in math, as you said that, I was trying to think of other maybe topics where a jigsaw would fit well.
Because like you had said, it's not like in a geography class where it's like, "Hey, this group, focus on Canada, and this group, focus on the United States, and then we'll come back and we'll share."

Jon Orr: It can be a good review activity where say, almost like a, I've used it as a course review when we're solving equations for different functions and advanced functions. And sometimes we had a section where we're solving polynomial functions, and logarithmic functions. So then one group is reviewing and relearning and practicing and being an expert on solving polynomial. And then they branch off and join the groups, one's doing logarithmic and another group is doing exponential and another group is doing rational functions. And then all of a sudden, sharing starts to happen. It's a nice review structure, but it's tough to sometimes fit that in.

Caitlyn Sloan: I've done it as a review when I was teaching at the middle school. And then I'm actually thinking about doing it with my geometry kids next unit for segments in a circle, there's the intersecting chords, intersecting tangents, and all of those. I felt like it could go there too. I'm playing around with the idea, haven't solidified anything.

Kyle Pearce: I love it.

Jon Orr: It just made me think now that we're hashing on this, that in geometry or we teach it in grade 10, we don't call it geometry, ours is called more of an integrated program. But we could have one group that's all about the shortest distance between a point and a line. But another group is finding the equations of right bisectors and another group is doing altitudes. And it's like finding those triangle centers.

Kyle Pearce: That's actually a really good idea, because I know that could become incredibly dry.

Jon Orr: So when you got one group focusing on, hey, we're going to find the orthocenter and one group's going to find the circumcenter, and then all of a sudden now you've got a reteaching of different strategies for all the different centers.

Caitlyn Sloan: I like it for that too. And like you said, it helps when you have something that's really boring.

Kyle Pearce: It spreads out the monotony a little bit. It's got my wheels turning and hopefully people are listening. Whether you're a high school teacher or not, hopefully you're thinking about it. What in your course is something that maybe isn't the most interesting, or is maybe that topic that sometimes... There's always that topic where you're like, nah, you're not super stoked to dive into it. So, great idea for that. So thanks to Caitlyn for that.
Caitlyn, it's been amazing catching up with you. We're wondering, what's on your mind lately? We heard about obviously the jigsaw idea. I love that. Hopefully that'll get you thinking of some other ideas on that. Is there anything that's been, we always say that pebble in your shoe that you're working on currently, that we might be able to hash out a little bit here before we wrap up our check-in call?

Caitlyn Sloan: Like I said, I've always focused on building mathematicians, but I think recently I've been trying to refine that into building mathematicians for the world today, whatever that may mean, a world where they have a calculator in their pocket all the time. And the biggest piece of that for me has been communication, which recently has also been a big focus on the AP exam. I know not everyone's an AP teacher, but the communication of ideas is really important to me.
I see it in my husband's industry, because he's a mathematician, he's a quantitative risk analyst. And a huge part of his job that he didn't expect was having to articulate the math and the modeling that he was doing. I've been trying to intentionally build questions within the practice, and activities throughout the days and assessments that help build that communication piece, where they have to justify what they're doing. Because I think that's a really important part of the math.

Kyle Pearce: Now I'm curious, are there any maybe intentional moves that you've changed in your lessons? Like when you approach your lesson, I'm going to just go on a limb and say you're intentionally making sure to ask kids to communicate more. So I know that, but is there anything that you're doing in your lesson that you're shifting or thinking about changing, in order to encourage more of that, or to make that more accessible? Just paint us a little picture of what that might look like and sound like.

Caitlyn Sloan: So the biggest thing that I've been changing, or I guess the easiest thing was that I've started adding these what I've called curveball questions. I've been throwing them in on practices and everything, questions that require them to think really deeply, but because of that, and make different connections. But because of that, those curve balls, they have to puzzle it out and work it out in a way that enforces that communication piece and that analysis piece.
And then also changing the phrasing of questions to include, explain what this means in context kind of thing, that kind of wording. What does this mean on your picture? That type of thing. So just building those curveball questions to encourage them to have to articulate things better. I'm not sure if that makes sense.

Jon Orr: I think it makes sense. I'm wondering also, is there any structural things during your lesson, so you've brought up some ideas of questioning. You've changed the way you've asked questions or structured questions for them to write about or discuss. Is there any specific structural pieces of your lesson flow that you've modified as well, to encourage communication with your students maybe verbally or it could be written?

Caitlyn Sloan: I guess I tend towards a lot of small group work, because then I can go and talk with individual groups. I can do that really intentional questioning and really seeing where they're coming from. I do that pairing technique. I'm pretty sure I learned that at one of your online, what are they called?

Jon Orr: Webinars?

Kyle Pearce: Webinar. There you go.

Caitlyn Sloan: The webinars. The pairing technique where they say something like, oh, this line, and then I'm like, oh, the leg of the triangle? And we parrot it back, just to repeat back and refine that language, and then gearing the questions towards encouraging them to share how they're thinking about things. I've put a really big emphasis on that, I think, really just the small group work.

Kyle Pearce: So it sounds like you've made some intentional moves there. Have you hit any roadblocks in terms of trying to bring that communication out? Are there any areas where you're like, "I want it to work well here."

Jon Orr: Because it's sounding like it's working, the way you're describing it, it sounds like what you're doing is working well. Maybe we're missing that part.

Caitlyn Sloan: It works well verbally. And so the roadblock is when they're having to write it in, especially when they have to go individually, it goes one of two ways. Either they say something, they just write me a super long paragraph and talk themselves in circles, or they mix up the words and end up saying something that they didn't intend to say. Where I know that they intended something that is correct, they end up saying something that's not correct, if that makes sense. It's like the logic piece.

Jon Orr: That happens to me when I have questions like that on say my written assessments or my written, turn this in. I actually love seeing those. I think it's so great that you're changing to ask for more communication, because you get to see more, you get to see more thinking in the sense that you thought that you knew what you were talking about. But the fact that you wrote this thing also in relation to that thing, we got some changes to make, or we got some help to make with this connection. And it's important to see those.
I'm wondering also, I know Kyle's going to... actually I'll just stop because I was going to keep going. But I think you want to jump in. Because I know that we were going to say something at the same time.

Kyle Pearce: Actually, so pretty much everything you said. And then also I guess my thought is that is maybe feeling like a bit of a roadblock or a struggle. But I think as Jon was mentioning, it's almost like a necessary evil, it's almost necessary. And through that iteration of them continually refining and you encouraging them to refine.
So something that is really easy for us as educators to do when we're actually evaluating something, so assessing is one thing. You assess an observation conversation. Sometimes you even, students submit it and I'm assessing it and giving it back. It's more for feedback. But at some point, it's like you're going to evaluate and it might be used for the report card or whatever it's being used for.
And oftentimes, what we do, and I should look to see if there's any research on this, because I know the teachers that I've worked with and I know I've done it, you catch yourself filling in the blanks for kids. When they write something, and you said it, Caitlyn, this is what popped into my mind, where you were like I know what they wanted to say, but they didn't say that. They said this over here, which is good for you. You wish that they said what they were supposed to say, but what it's telling you is that they likely know more, you know that they know more because you saw them demonstrate this somewhere.

Caitlyn Sloan: I've conversed with them about it.

Kyle Pearce: And you've had these conversations, and through the conversation, it molds and that's fantastic. But then it goes down on paper and it's like, is that really what you want to say? And if you even go out of math class and go and read an essay by a student, or read a story by an elementary student, my daughter will write a story and I'll say, "Read that back." And then she reads it and then I'm like, "Is that really what you wanted to say?" And oftentimes she'll be like, "Yes." And I'm like, "Read it again." She said, "Yes." And then I'll read-

Caitlyn Sloan: Read it out loud.

Kyle Pearce: And then I'll read it. And then she's like, "Oh, no, that's not what I wanted to say."
I think that is maybe one of the reasons why so many of us in mathematics sometimes maybe push communication to the side, is because I think it's hard. To communicate is, it's like you have to have a really deep understanding in order to actually communicate it. And something that's also interesting is that if students have been learning in a very procedure first method throughout all of their learning, you'll notice that any communication that they've done previously is likely just reciting steps.
They're just saying, okay, first I did this, and then second I did that. And you're communicating a procedure, which is good, but the communication I'm getting from you is you're looking for, I want you to explain how this works and that is hard, hard stuff.
I'm going to pause there, and Jon, you want to crosstalk too. I can tell.

Jon Orr: I want to ask one question. We've been chatting about this idea and I guess my one question back to you, Caitlyn is, why is this a roadblock? Why is reading that a roadblock to you?

Caitlyn Sloan: Well, it's more that I want them to get to that place where they could be effective in that communication, because I think the logic required is important for all areas. I think it's just a useful skill.
But also it shows me where their misconceptions are, I think. And in that way, it is a strength. I think that it's important to see those things. But I guess I want to know how can I get them to where they're understanding things to a point where they can communicate it? That's my goal.

Jon Orr: I guess I'm wondering, are you seeing maybe, is it a roadblock because it comes in the form of an evaluation and you're like, I know-

Caitlyn Sloan: That too.

Jon Orr: So it was like I know that the kids, they said this to me, I've heard good things about this topic. They wrote this thing down, not so great here. And they're like, oh, I wish that was better. Sometimes I read that too. I'm like, this is an instance where I want my observations and conversations to be an input on how I say grade a student. But also I want that student to fix it.
I'm at this place where I want all my tests, all my evaluations, I want to throw them back at them and say, "Look, let's make this better." We've talked I think on the podcast here about this first draft idea. When you're writing essays, you're writing other classes. Teachers will say, "This is your first draft. Let me give you some feedback and then we'll do it again." I haven't figured all of that out yet in mathematics, especially come evaluation time when you have certain rules to follow in your say department, but I definitely want that say first draft aspect to go back to students and go, "Let's fix this up and resubmit this. Let's make sure that this is what you wanted to say. Let's see how we can fix this to write this more clearly."
Because my evidence shows that when I do that with my students, the next time they go to write something, it's a little bit better.

Caitlyn Sloan: I have recently done test corrections with my kids. I always find that is a huge learning experience for them. I think it's really valuable. It also allows them to fix on this line of communication, the symbolic communication of what they're actually saying. What does an equals sign mean? Can I put an equals sign here or here? That piece of the communication as well.
When they're looking back at their paper, I'm like, did you really mean to say that Y over five was equal to Y? No, you didn't mean to say that.

Kyle Pearce: It sounded good in your head at the time.

Caitlyn Sloan: I think that's a huge thing, that not enough math teachers do is the idea of the first draft or the test corrections.

Kyle Pearce: It almost makes me wonder too, and I've never thought of it this way, but I even wonder if we reference this idea, like Jon had said it, it's like you read, especially if it's a written communication piece in this assessment or evaluation and you read it and you're like, I know they know more. So it's almost like maybe looking at that section, maybe that section is evaluated maybe differently than other parts of the evaluation.
Or maybe there are these sections, but maybe it's almost expected that students are going to have an opportunity to, okay, so all these other pieces have been assessed and everything, and maybe it's almost an expectation that I'm going to feedback you, and then you're going to resubmit. And almost like this iterative process taking place.
Because at the end too, it's like we can stress the importance of communication without it necessarily negatively impacting say grade, which I think is always the scary part. I think especially in secondary, we think that the way to make something important is to make it worth more. I wonder if it's like, is there some sort of happy medium where obviously it's worth something, because you want students to feel like their time is being well spent.
But at the same time that it's not going to bring them down or that you don't find yourself in this position, like I said, where you're like, I know they know this. Okay, I'll give it to them or whatever it is. Because you truly want the communication skill, because you're evaluating that. You're not necessarily evaluating the math concept itself.
I don't know if you have any thoughts about that. Maybe it's the last question or something where they can take it. And then it's like an expectation that it's going to be iterated a few times for them to create this better draft, this good draft, this publishable piece.

Caitlyn Sloan: I like the idea of them being able to keep at it until they get it right. And like you said, I think it helps them remember it so that the next time that they encounter something that looks like that, maybe they'll... And if they repeat it, there's a higher chance that they'll remember how to do it, because they fixed their own thing.
And I also like what you said about it being worth, not all of the points, for sure. Maybe it's one of the four points on that part of a problem or whatever.

Jon Orr: You know what, I think it depends on grade level. It depends on course. I've had courses and grade levels where I always just tell kids, especially in younger grades, everything you do will count, because everything that you show me or every conversation, everything we hear in the room should influence you as a teacher on how they are progressing. Therefore, that should translate or can translate into a grade of where they are at a snapshot, in a moment when you have to go down to put a report card mark down.
I tell kids that everything you do is going to count. So when the kids say, "Does this count for marks?" Yes, it counts, because everything you show me will influence the number I put down on that page, because I need a sense of where you are on all these concepts.
So when I ask kids to turn it in, it's a mandatory thing. We got to turn that back in after you fix with feedback. Does it count? Yes. It counts. Now, some classes I don't tell them how much it counts. We just hand it in until it's perfect. And I'm not going to say you get two more marks on it or one more mark on it. It just counts and it will help if you do you it that way. Go ahead.

Caitlyn Sloan: Well, I was just going to say that's how I've structured support, and to a lesser degree on level classes, just because they need that to have the motivation a lot of the time. I love the, we're going to keep at this until you get it, because I know it almost conveys a sense of confidence. I know that you can get it, you will get there. A lot of those kids really need that.
I definitely don't feel the need to count everything in a class like AP calculus, where they have opted into this more challenging math class. It's just a different environment.

Kyle Pearce: What they're expecting to be up against is very different than say a remediation class or something like that. So it's going to vary, for sure. That's awesome. And lots of really good thoughts here.
I know for me, even I was even just thinking too is if let's say you have this assessment and maybe every part has a communication piece to the side where it's almost like you can see. So there's less questioning where I know I've done it where sometimes it'll be a question that I'm focusing on communication, but the rest of the test is I'm focusing on, okay, show me that you can calculate, show me your strategy and so on and so forth. It's almost like you can have maybe almost like a side by side.
So it's like where they communicate, you can see over here what they did. That's communication as well. But if let's say you wanted more of a verbal explanation or something to the side, you can have a side by side there, where you can see, oh, I see that over here. It looks like you got a good strategy and it makes sense. But over here, you're having a hard time articulating why you did what you did or how you did what you did.
That could also be helpful too, because you go, okay, so the issue specifically is communication itself, and articulate that adaptive reasoning skill that we want to work on. You seem to conceptually get it over here and procedurally get it. And even your strategic competence is showing here, but it's like again, being able to convey the why behind it is a bit of a struggle. That could be an option too, when you're setting up some of those questions.

Caitlyn Sloan: I like that. So in my class, I also use this self-assessment guide that I made a long time ago, where it's like a one is I can't do this and a two is I could do this, I just need a tiny bit of support. A three is, I can do this thing. And then a four is, I could explain it, so it would help. What you just said would really align with that. Are you at a two, three or four?

Kyle Pearce: Oh yeah, that's great. That's a really-

Caitlyn Sloan: That parallel. I like that a lot.

Kyle Pearce: That's a great connection, for sure.

Jon Orr: Along that lines, this is just a little tidbit. I was looking at some resources online from one of our friends from Waterloo, Kyle, Alita Klassen's resources that they've been working with grade nine and they have fire emojis for one, two, three.

Kyle Pearce: Yes, spicy.

Jon Orr: Like how spicy is this? How spicy are you on this particular topic? Are you on a one spice or are you on hot? So it's the same one, two, three, four, but it's just your spicy level.

Caitlyn Sloan: That's awesome.

Jon Orr: Caitlyn, we've had a great conversation here tonight and also learned a lot about what's happening with you. I'm curious about what would you say is your say biggest takeaway from this past year or tonight's conversation?

Caitlyn Sloan: Oh, that's a hard one. Biggest takeaway from the last year is, honestly that's a hard question.

Kyle Pearce: We won't throw that big of a time span next time. We're going to yank that question, for sure. How about from tonight's conversation?

Caitlyn Sloan: Well, there's a lot of takeaways from the last year, but this conversation, I think that with all this talk of communication and everything, that it doesn't have to be all the time or everything. It can just be a way for me to gather information and it doesn't have to necessarily negatively impact the students.
I love the idea of iterating it until we get it right. Both because it gives them the chance to not have that negatively impact their grade, but also the sense of confidence and accomplishment that they'll get when they do finally get it. I really like that.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome. Very cool. I'm picturing too, your groupings, like you were saying, you have small groups. Students could be having that conversation with one another, like how could I improve this? And having another student as well iterate through that with them as well. So, very cool. This has been an awesome conversation. It's so great when we get an opportunity to bring people on to check in, see where people are at.
It's always awesome as well, I don't know if you did re-listen to the original episode, but I know when we go back a year and listen to things, just thinking of how your thinking evolves and how things change. It's much like in the math class, we want students to see that growth, see that change. And us as educators as well, there's so much growth happening all the time. It really easy to miss.
So hopefully if you haven't gone back and listened to that episode again there, Cait, you should definitely do that. And my friend, it's been an honor. Maybe we'll be able to get you back in about a year's time, where can I cross fingers and say for sure, COVID is not going to be an issue by then? It might still be around.

Caitlyn Sloan: Why would you say that out loud?

Jon Orr: You wrecked it.

Kyle Pearce: I know. I know, here we go for another year, but it's been awesome. Thanks so much for hanging out with us and we hope to catch up with you again sometime soon.

Caitlyn Sloan: Thank you. It's been great.

Kyle Pearce: Well, Math Moment Makers, as always, we learn so much from these episodes, and again, how awesome is it to be able to hear how someone's learning, how far they've come, their growth from where they were just a short year ago? It's just been just over a year when we chatted with Caitlyn, and now she's onto some completely different ideas right now, all around communication.
It was great to have that conversation, try to figure out how does communication fit in when we want to emphasize it in our classrooms? But then also, how might it impact or influence our assessments, our evaluations and of course that ultimate final grade? I think we had a lot of really great ideas flourishing here. I hope you just like us are going to walk away from this episode, thinking more about, "Hey, how can we ensure that we are helping our students to become better communicators?"

Jon Orr: Thanks for that good summary there, Kyle. And we also want to remind you about how you can ensure that the learning here that you've taken away from this episode sticks with you. We've often recommended journaling about it, drawing a sketch note or drawing some notes in maybe your day planner, talking about it with a colleague or a friend. Any way that you can communicate some of the ideas that you're battling with, because maybe you heard something here that you want to implement or maybe you have questions.
Find someone to do that with you. You could reach out to anyone in our free private Facebook Group, Math Moment Makers K-12, we've got a great community over there to support you. Or you can tag us on Twitter or Instagram at makemathmoments. But think about what you want to do. If you need support, hey, we're here for you.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff. And have you head over to makemathmoments.com/mentor yet? If not, you should head on over there. Enter in, really it's just more or less a one liner, but you can elaborate if you'd like on the current pebble that's kicking around in your shoe right now, something that you're grappling with in your classroom. It might be a classroom struggle, or maybe it's just a goal that you have and you're just trying to work towards that goal and you're not so certain on where to go next.
You know what? Three brains are better than one. So come on the podcast with us, let's have a chat about it. And who knows, maybe a year from now, you'll be coming back on like Caitlyn to have a where are they now episode.

Jon Orr: In order to ensure you don't miss out on new episodes as we put one out each Monday morning, subscribe over on your favorite podcast platform. Also, hey, jump on over to YouTube and subscribe over there as well. We have our weekly episodes go there to see video versions, and I should say, Kyle, and we also will put out another video that's a helpful teacher tip or teacher idea or a lesson idea. So check out and subscribe over on YouTube.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome. Head over to makemathmoments.com/episode173, if you want to check out the show notes, the resources, even our complete downloadable transcripts. You can grab them and take them with you. Once again, that's at makemathmoments.com/episode173. Well, until next time, Math Moment Maker friends, I'm Kyle Pierce.

Jon Orr: I'm Jon Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us...

Jon Orr: And high five for you.

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