Episode 179 – What’s On YOUR Worksheet and How Are You Using It?
In this episode Jon & Kyle outline their experience using worksheets. You’ll hear them outline different styles of worksheets while giving you insight on how to design them to maximize student thinking. You’ll learn when you should use a worksheet, what types of problems should go on the worksheet, and when you should ditch the worksheet altogether.
- The types of problems/questions should go on your worksheet and what you should avoid;
- How to ensure your worksheet supports all levels of learners;
- How you can use your worksheet to enhance your problem-based lessons;
- The difference between a worksheet intended to “get the work done” or a worksheet intended to enhance the learning experience during the lesson; and,
- When to use a worksheet and when to toss it.
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Kyle Pearce: Hey, Hey, Math Moment Makers. In this episode, Jon and I are going to be eager to dive into a discussion about a pretty heated topic in the mathematics world or community. It is all about worksheets. Are they good? Are they bad? Can they be good? Can they be bad? We're going to be talking about it all. Right, Jon?
Jon Orr: Yeah, exactly. And worksheets, Kyle, I think they get this bad reputation. So we want to kind of clear some of the air. We want to talk about what is on or what could be on worksheets that you're using in the classroom. What is on our worksheets? Are we using worksheets? Are we not using worksheets? We're going to talk about all of that in this episode. So stick around. Here we go.
Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr. We are from makemathmoments.com and together...
Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of Math Moment Makers worldwide, we want to build and deliver math lessons that spark curiosity...
Jon Orr: Fuel sense-making...
Kyle Pearce: And ignite your teacher moves. Welcome my friends to another Jon and Kyle episode of the Making Math Moments that Matter Podcast. We are super excited to dive into a topic that, as I mentioned earlier is a little bit heated. And actually I'll be honest and say that there's even people out there that sort of like poo-poo the idea when you say the word, worksheet or handout. And we want to kind of uncover that like pull off the lid on that and really get to the bottom of it.
When people are looking at worksheets and sort of like speaking negatively, sometimes it's just like a tone you hear in the voice like, "Oh, you're going to be using a worksheet?" Sometimes people make it sound like it's a negative thing. And actually we find that there's a way that you can leverage worksheets in a number of different ways that are highly intentional and actually really, really effective. Right?
Jon Orr: Yeah, totally. And I think to start this off, Kyle, we should kind of talk about what we mean by worksheets because actually when we started talking about worksheets, I think we both had different views of what we were calling worksheets. I think there's many forms-
Kyle Pearce: Like even tonight, right?
Jon Orr: Right.
Kyle Pearce: When you're recording this right before, we were sort of like, "Oh, that's what you were thinking? Oh, this is what I was thinking." Right?
Jon Orr: Right. We'll talk a little bit about that because I think there's different forms of worksheets when we talk, because as I said, we specifically had a different idea of what we were calling a worksheet. So Kyle, why don't you start off with how you were defining a worksheet? Because I think we were both using that worksheet when we first started teaching and we also used the version that I was talking about as a worksheet. So why don't you kick it off and talk about what you were calling a worksheet and then we'll talk about what I was calling a worksheet.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. When I hear people speaking negatively about worksheets or you just get, like I said, that tone. There's just like this feeling that, "Oh, I guess we're not supposed to use worksheets anymore." Going on the internet and finding a worksheet is a bad thing. I think when people are doing that, oftentimes it's like when that worksheet is sort of the centerpiece of the math lesson. That was where my head went. And you were looking at it more from like a practice perspective. Am I right?
Jon Orr: Yeah. When you were saying like, "My worksheets were, were going to hand this booklet out or these pages out," you were using them as, "Oh, we're going to do example one and we're going to copy it down on the worksheet." And maybe Kyle, you were using an overhead projector to write in those notes, or maybe you were using your SMART Board to fill in those same notes. And so you were filling them in with students on examples and then maybe near the end of the worksheet, it was like more practice problems.
Whereas when you were talking about worksheets, I think another style of worksheet, because I think the style that you were calling, I would've probably just called lesson pages. Like these are my lesson pages. My worksheet is actually going to come after the lesson pages, which is really just a whole bunch of practice problems.
And I think a lot of folks will recognize that might be their definition of a worksheet is a page full of practice problems. "Hey, we ought get these done." And I think that is important to distinguish because I think we still have versions of those in our lessons today is how do I use my lesson pages to support learning and how do I use my practice pages to support learning?"
What does that look like for us? We want to talk about that here in this particular episode. So Kyle, let's roll back some of the time and think about those first lesson pages or worksheets you were using to fill those things out? And then what happened? How did you progress and realize that, "Hey, you know what, I can start to do this a little bit better. And why would I want to do that better?"
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, for sure. And I feel like this is a pretty natural like progression where, or call it a transformation where when I first started teaching, I did many other high school teachers were doing at the time. And I would like write an note on the board. Right? That's how I remember math class. I remember some of my high school math teachers. Some of them used an overhead. Right? Many of them had the note already done. And it was on like a transparency and they put it on, just cover it.
Jon Orr: Yeah, just peel.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, exactly like create with a piece of paper.
Jon Orr: Pull this down a little bit.
Kyle Pearce: And then pull the piece of paper down. And then we copy it all and copy it all. That's how we thought math class should run. That's how it did run for us in school. And again, by all means, if some of you're listening and you're going like, and you see yourself in some of these examples, don't look at it as like you're a bad person or not a great teacher or all these things.
You're probably doing amazing things. The reason we did those things, and I know the reason I started doing this was because I wasn't having as much success as I would like when I was having students copy down a note. So naturally what did I do? Well, I'm pretty decent with Microsoft Word at the time. So I would type up essentially this note, and I would think long and hard about exactly what I could get in this note.
And then I would like, "Jon, you know what's coming next. I would take some words out and maybe leave a little space for like an example to go in." And then I would print these things off and then I would give them to students. I would use that, like, Jon, you were calling it your lesson template, or your lesson notes or your lesson pages. And I would print them off, and give them the students. And then we would go through it together.
It'd be like I'm doing you a huge favor because you don't have to write down all of these words. We're just going to write down some of these words. I'll be honest, it helped when I was teaching in that fashion, it was better to do it that way than to have students copy down this big note. That was evident and obvious.
Jon Orr: Kyle, I'm just going to jump in here. Like to capitalize or not capitalize, but to kind of help the mindset of our teacher who say may still be using this style of worksheet in their classroom, I think a way to think why we might still be doing that is it also might be thinking about how did you view mathematics in math class at that time, Kyle? What were you thinking? When you were thinking about math class, when you were teaching that way, what did you view the purpose of math class was?
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Well, it's interesting, Jon, because today I was in some classrooms and with one teacher in particular... An amazing teacher, by the way. So again, we are just trying to all move forward here and progress. This particular teacher brought me back because... And it gave me the same feeling I had, which is like, we feel this pressure for students to have everything like have the definitions, have the examples, have everything in their binder. Right?
It's like they want to make sure they have this record of all the mathematics, right? Like all of the content is here. And this teacher was expressing this challenge to kind of break away from that. So the goal for me was I want to make sure that students get the math that they need to do well in my course. However, what I didn't realize at the time was that by doing this, first of all, the lesson wasn't very engaging. Right? I was just trying to be funny in other ways, unrelated to the mathematics. I was just trying to like entertain in between.
Jon Orr: You were very, probably enthusiastic.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Like trying to be sarcastic and dad funny and all that stuff. Right? That was my shtick and everyone has their thing. But then I also realized it was like, "By doing this process, I didn't actually have students intellectually engaged." Right? They were there and they were behaviorally engaged. They did what I asked them to do. And in their mind they were like, "This is the game." And I was continuing to sort of like play that game that, "Hey, if you do all this stuff, and then you just do all the practice I tell you, everything will be okay." And of course, we know that does work out okay for some students. Right?
Like there's a group of students that, that will be just fine for. We call them the math people. Right? And then for the students that it doesn't work so well for, we call them people that don't like math or not great at math. But in reality, it's like, we're all capable of doing math. But we then we realized that by doing that, we weren't actually helping them to think or to actually get better at problem solving and at actually understanding the content. Right?
Jon Orr: Yup, totally. And when I was using those as well, this is where I was thinking like you at that time that math was like a get done subject. We've used that phrase here on the podcast before that it's like, we're going to present the material, we're going to copy it down, we're going to get that piece done, and we're going to get through these sheets. That's the goal today. Let's get through these sheets and we'll move on. If you get through these sheets, awesome. You're done for today. And that was a kind of a get done subject.
So I think what was happening there was us had a mindset around the way we thought math was. And now we've come to realize that we want more thinking happening on a daily basis. We want to take the thinking off our hands and put them on the students, and get their brains going every single day. And we talked about flipping math classes. We've talked about changing our lesson structure. And we now have viewed it in different ways. And Kyle, I think thinking back to your lesson, your worksheets that support some of the stream activities. And I think when you started to venture into teaching through problem-based lessons like I did, we also used a type of worksheet or a lesson pages to support that thinking.
I think you had just talked about candle burning problem before we hit record here as something you did today, and we were reflecting on how we both used that particular problem with students and how we used a worksheet to help support the thinking students are doing while working through that problem. Do you want to give a run through of that particular problem and then what you were using the worksheet for?
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. And I'll actually bring it up. For those who are watching on YouTube, though you should see the screen now and you'll see the worksheet. Now, mind you, this wasn't the first iteration, the first time that I branched away from this like very structured sort of like, "Here's the definitions, here's the examples and fill in all these blanks and then go work on your problems."
We started shifting. Jon and I both pretty much around the same time, we started experimenting with the Dan Meyer 3 Act Math Style problem. And we started to slowly construct sort of like lesson. We call them lesson templates. And the reason I call it a lesson template is because it was just that. We would hand this thing out and this particular problem, I just did it today in a classroom, it's called candle burning.
And it's all about, you see this video of a candle just not slowly. I guess it's slowly burning, but it's giving you like sort of snapshots of it starting as a brand new candle and then a bit is gone, more is gone, more is gone, and it goes all the way down to nothing. And you'll notice too on here, Jon, this is a worksheet or a lesson template that I haven't really touched in probably five years. We haven't revamped the candle burning task yet.
So if you go to my old website, tapintoteenminds.com, it's still up there. I'm going to call it like kind of gimmicky in the way it's presented on that website because it doesn't tell you exactly what to do. It doesn't tell you the exact intentionality. And even here, you'll notice this big yellow box on this template. It says, "What's the question?" And we've talked about this on the podcast before, Jon, where we've said like, we didn't understand how to get the best out of students when they watched the video. So now it's like, I told them. I was like, "What's the question?" I'm like, "Guess. Guess what the question is."
So basically everyone is wrong who doesn't guess exactly the question that I'm thinking in my mind. And that was like such a shutdown experience. So that I digress. That was kind a little off topic, but you can see that now our task would be more... Today, we did a notice and wonder. Back then I would hand them this sheet, Jon, before I played the video. And for those watching on YouTube, you see, it says, "what's the question?" There's an image of the candle burning. It says, "Record your estimates." We use the two low, best guess to high strategy. And then there's a table and a big old grid there.
So my wonder is how much thinking are the students going to be engaging in or how many students are like, "Oh, we're doing a table and a graph."
Jon Orr: Yeah. And I think when you use this, and I think as I use this template the same way when I was teaching this task a long time ago as well, it's, "I'm going to show this video. We're going to be so engaged. We're going to estimate. We're going to guess. We're going to write them down on this template sheet." And then I'm still going to show you how to use a scatter plot to answer the problem instead of having actually students think about how to answer that problem.
So we would fill it out with them just like the lesson. But we were like, "You know what, we're going to make it more engaging here by watching this candle burn," which actually, you know what, doesn't sound that engaging. To watch a candle burn, don't people set that up for punishment or something like that? It's like watching paint dry, Kyle. But we'd fill this out and that we would call that our lesson and then we would have some practice problems as well after that.
But we've still evolved from there. Right, Kyle? Because, again, we're thinking. So right now our worksheet has evolved a little bit into thinking or into a space. It's almost like a place to record some of the learning we're doing. And we did a little bit of thinking by estimating and predicting early in this particular lesson. Kyle, how did it morph from there? Did the worksheet just disappear? What happens after that now?
Kyle Pearce: Honestly for a while, and this is where we talk about humans, the on-off, the one-zero. We're a very digital creatures. We tend to go all the way to one side or the other. So for a while I was like, "I'm doing no lesson template."
Jon Orr: Worksheets are bad all of a sudden.
Kyle Pearce: Worksheets are bad. So then it was like, "I would not use that at all." But then what I found at the end of the lesson was like, some students needed some support on like, "What is important to get down?" And just to give them something to enhance the lesson. So the other thing I was thinking about here too is like the way I used the template, it was almost like I created it as if it was my script as the teacher or the facilitator of the lesson. I don't know. Even going all the way back to my old fill in the blank lessons, it was more or less like my script on like what I was going to talk about.
It was almost like, "I want to make sure that I get everything out and I don't forget anything. So I'm going to put it all on this worksheet. And then of course I'm not going to forget." So it's almost like a cue card for me. And now how this changed, so today when we did this lesson, I brought this exact worksheet because I didn't have any time to modify it.
So it said, "What's the question?" But I just noticed, it says, "What's the question now?" Because this worksheet did not come out until way deeper in the lesson.
Jon Orr: Right. So you didn't like hand it out the beginning. So let's give our listeners a snapshot of what this lesson looked like for you now.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, absolutely. So we began this lesson. First of all, when I go into a classroom I've never been in because this was a new class I had never been in, introduce myself. I tell them why I'm going to ask them to notice and wonder in the video. We talk about like gaining attention and your brain ignores so many things during the day because it can't notice everything. So right now I'm going to ask you to intentionally notice as much as you can. And I find by giving that line, it really gives students the why I'm asking them to do this process. And then I find that students are more willing to do it even with this strange guy here doing a process they've never done.
So we started with that notice and wonder, and they were just doing it on whiteboards. And then they it together, turned and talked and then we shared it out as a group. And I just made a big list on the board, on the old chalkboard. Got that out there. Great. So this video plays, and then I... One of the students actually did wonder how long is it going to burn out? But it doesn't matter if they did or not, because I'm going to say, "I got challenge for you."
The point of noticing and wondering is not to guess what I want to do next. It's like, "I want to answer as many questions as I can." Some students said like, "Why are we using a wrench to hold the candle?" I got to explain that. I said like, "I don't have a candle stick. This was the best thing I could think of." So we answer all those questions. We then get them to estimate. So they turn and talk. And the beauty, Jon, that we do this a lot now for those who are in our webinars. We get them to start with, essentially, it's almost a random guess.
Basically, they don't know much about this candle, but I say I'm like, "Reflect on what you know about candles." Some of you, because it was a very multicultural class of students, some people might burn candles and it might be a part of a religious experience, right, at certain holidays. For some people, they like candles on birthday cakes. Some people just like candles every single time they have a meal. It's just part of what you do.
Take all of that and try when you look at this candle, and I know it's going to be random, throw us a guess. Throw us an estimate. What do you think? We get that going, and then we try to give them more information to hone in on that specific sort of more precise value for how long will it take for the candle to burn out? And the beauty is, Jon, is that, again, we talk about this all the time about how we use these tasks as a way to diagnose and to formatively assess. But to really get a sense of like who has some strategies in their tool belt that they're bringing with us, right?
I don't know about you. I know you run the lesson very similarly now. What are you seeing students do even though they don't have a template to work with? What are they doing in your class?
Jon Orr: So I've started exactly the same way as you. And I've withheld any worksheet or accompaniment sheet for this task. They are completely at their whiteboards, which some of them have grids. Some of them don't. Some of them are white. I've also done it at the desk. Standing at the whiteboards always seems the best. Peter Liljedahl has explained that to us that kids will think better, faster and get their ideas down faster at the whiteboards while standing.
So they're up there. And some of the information that we provide next, right, Kyle, in the lesson is some of the data, right? So you'll see like, oh, after so many minutes, it's now this height. And after so many minutes, it's now this height. So we get a little bit of data out there and we also should bring up, Kyle, that the intentionality of this lesson is extremely important on what happens next, right?
Because I was using this lesson to introduce the idea of using a scatter plot and a line of best fit to help make predictions to extrapolate. And we had not really talked about, say, using a line of best fit before all of this. We had made some scatter plots before, but with many of our lessons, we come into a problem like this that may be different than the problem previously. Right? So we want to keep our kids guessing and problem solving, so I don't always go, "Okay. Yesterday we were doing a scatter plot, guys. Make sure you use a scatter plot to solve this problem."
That's not being said at all, because like you, I want to see what comes out of the thinking here, because seeing their thinking can help us shape the discussion around our learning goal, which is, "Hey, can we use a scatter plot or line of best fit to help make predictions?" And why would we want to do that? Why does that help here? And so when we give the data only, kids will record that in a table or a list. And then what happens is kids will start to make conclusions and going, "Look, I've got to figure out when is this thing going to burn out?"
So what I've seen, Kyle, kids do is so some kids will look at the change, right? They'll look at the change and they'll go, "Okay, it's dropping by this. It's dropping by this. It's dropping by this." And they will start to continue that pattern. "Well, let me just keep making a table," essentially is what they're doing. And it might not even take the form of a table. And they'll just keep writing that table until all of a sudden the height is zero. So they're keeping that going. And so which is one type of solution.
Another type of solution I'll see is kids will look at those changes, that's changing and they'll average them. So they'll go, "Let me look at the average change." And then they'll keep the average change going. I've actually had some students in this problem find that average change and make a linear equation out of that and then solve a linear equation, which sometimes we don't anticipate because we're thinking we're in scatter plot land, but all of a sudden you'll see students formulate a linear equation to solve this. And you're like, "That's so important to use."
Think about the learning you've just learned about that kid and what they know and don't know about, say, linear relations and scatter plots because eventually we are going to draw a line of best fit and they have created an equation pretty much for a line of best fit.
You will also still see kids just looking at some of the numbers and averaging all the numbers and thinking about, "Okay, well, that's another one." Or our kids will say, "Well, it got to this height after this many minutes. And let me just double that. Let me just double that." And which is some really great thinking as well, because now we get to discuss like, if I double that, what am I assuming is true? We're taking all of this in. And so I'm taking all of this in and learning things about my students and the strategies.
Have I had lessons where we did this, where anyone created a scatter plot? No. There's been full lessons of no one will create a scatter plot to solve this problem. And that's fine because what we're going to do is we're going to take all your answers from all your different types of strategies, and then my learning goal is still to talk about scatter plots and lines of best fit. So this is the moment where it's like, "Okay, these are great estimates or narrow down predictions based off your reasoning and thinking."
Now, sometimes my famous line, Kyle is to go, "You know what, guys, these are all great. I want to show you one more strategy that I saw another student in this grade do. Can I show you that strategy?" And you can pair your strategy-
Kyle Pearce: So it's still not like your idea. It's like, "You're capable of this too or you're celebrating students not like I know where we should go next." Right?
Jon Orr: You got it. So then it's like, "Okay, let..." They had made a grid. They'd use a grid and they made a scatter plot. I got a grid here. And this is kind of like where a modified version of your template that you showed there. And again, if you're seeing on a YouTube, you saw that. You can also go to the show notes links, and you can get to the burning candle burning task on Kyle's website from the links and the show notes page. But that's where all of a sudden the scatter plot can come in. And then now this is a little bit of our consolidation stage of our lesson. I want to get the learning goal out.
So we're using this worksheet piece of paper with a scatter plot on it and a table for us to copy the table, make the scatter plot and we can start to see the pattern. And the beautiful part about that is we get to use kids' reasoning and strategies from around the room. Think about the student who used a table to continue the table. You can now visualize that table change on a graph. If we continue this table, you can see the points from almost plot to plot as we continue down in the scatter plot.
Think of the student who averaged all of the changes. Really what are they doing, they're they're finding the average change. They're finding really the slope of the line of best fit. And we can use that in our discussion when we talk about, "Hey, let's see where this trend goes." Think of the student who created the equation of that line and use an equation to predict when it would end or get to zero. They can see that equation happening when you're showing the scatter plot.
So we're making significant connections to their thinking and strategy to the learning goal of the day. And what we're doing, Kyle, is since we're talking today specifically about scatter plots... Or sorry, talking specifically about-
Kyle Pearce: I mean, it sounds like we are talking a lot about scatter plots.
Jon Orr: We have been. You're right. But we're specifically talking today in this episode about worksheets. We are using this sheet to support, learning to support.
Kyle Pearce: To enhance.
Jon Orr: And enhance. Yeah, enhance this.
Kyle Pearce: It's like not the point. The worksheet is not the point of the lesson, whereas the old school me was like, "We got to get this worksheet done." And now it's like, "No, no, we've got to get this learning experience done and we're going to use this tool, this worksheet to enhance that experience." And I love, Jon, how you described the different solution strategies that you've seen. And of course in all of our more recently updated or created units, so on the Math Moment site, people will notice that something we have in there is mapped out. Student approaches are mapped out.
Now, it doesn't mean every time you're going to see that because, Jon, nobody today in this class, no one had averaged out the changes in the table. But that doesn't mean it's not going to happen next time. And it doesn't mean that these students aren't capable of that. That's not the choice that they made, but something I noticed with this group that was really cool, and I think it's worth mentioning when they do these solutions, all these solutions before we share them. One thing that I have done more recently that I think is so awesome is we update that original estimate.
The original estimate was super wide, right? Super wide. Then with these new strategies, they get tighter. And then you go and do the five practice. You show the different student solutions and you essentially consolidate them. And then you let them update again. You see kids start to notice. Well, with that strategy, it becomes really obvious on when it may or may not burn out. And this one is like more of like an approximation.
So for example that student who today in this class said nine and a half centimeters is a little more than half of 17 which was the original height. So he's like, "Since it's like half, I'm going to double." So it was like a doubling and halving strategy. It was like, "I'm going to double the time." So they set 312 minutes. What an awesome strategy. But when somebody else shares a different strategy or when they do the scatter plot, and today, kids did the scatter plot, we didn't tell them what a line of best fit was. Kids just used their pencil and just sort of went and followed it down.
The student who doubled the time, because the candle was half the size, that student went, "Oh, I'd like to update my estimate." And they brought it closer because they saw that this scatter plot was actually more obvious and actually more precise. You could see that averaging that you were talking about. Right? So there's like a huge, huge, epiphany that students can have in terms of it doesn't make your strategy bad. Yours was a great, quick, clever strategy. It's just a little less precise than taking the time to do a scatter plot and analyzing it more to scale in that particular case.
So that is essentially the way we are defining what a lesson worksheet, like a worksheet that's going to support the lesson would look. Jon, what about this other type that you were referencing? What about like why would we use one? Are they bad? Is it bad to use that type that you're talking about? Tell us a little more about that.
Jon Orr: Yeah. So the type of worksheet, I think very common understanding of a worksheet is now like, "After my lesson or after my notes is I now have a set of practice problems." And they are on a sheet. Right? So that's like our worksheet definition is the way I always thought a worksheet was, is like, "Let's hand out a worksheet today and we're going to do these practice problems." Right?
So I think my morphing of what should be on a worksheet these days to saying, "Let me just have a bunch of practice problems has changed over time." This goes back to, Kyle, I think the purpose of our lesson, right? What are we hoping to achieve? What is my learning goal of the day. It always should be the first thing we think about. If today is a day where I'm like, today, I'm going to hand out this worksheet. What is the purpose of that worksheet?
Is it to strengthen a learning goal or a combination of learning goals? And if so, if today's a purposeful practice day or maybe I did the candle burning activity, we consolidated, we did a line of best fit. We did a scatter plot. And now I need some practice problems to strengthen that up. Now, I might use a worksheet.
We create, right Kyle, like we still create worksheets to accompany all of the problem based tasks on our website. And I still use worksheets on a regular basis with my students because we have now connected. We've got our students thinking about the concepts first and now we want some practice, purposeful practice problems. So I think the way I craft a worksheet now is different than just going, "Let me just grab any old worksheet and throw it at them."
I've got a couple pointers of the way I think about my worksheets now like things that I want. I still want the worksheet to drive learning. I still want them to think instead of just regurgitate and get done as fast as you can. So I think a lot of our worksheets, if you're looking at some of them that are not like overloaded with questions. So that's like one tip, Kyle, is that these worksheets that are accompanying our tasks now our purposeful practices is we're asking more pointed questions. We're not asking a bunch of the same type of calculation.
They're still maybe in context. So in this particular example we've been working through, it might be still related to a candle for a little bit. It might be a different candle with a different height. It maybe burns at a different rate and we might want to ask a couple questions. Maybe even some comparison questions to the one we already did.
So I tend to build my worksheets so that they extend that context that we already worked in. And then maybe slowly introduce a couple new context. But it's still text driven for me related to that problem or other problems that involve the same learning goal. I tend to not have a ton of questions that are just... We call them naked problems. And if I do, they might be later in the worksheet because I like to use context and then work towards naked. Whereas when I first started to do was reverse. Right? You would do naked and then you would end with word problem.
Kyle Pearce: The thinking is like, "I don't want to complicate things. I don't want it to be too much for them to handle when in reality it's almost the opposite because they have nothing to really... When we talk about making it really relatable, I think the research about making things relatable in math class gets misinterpreted. We're talking about the relatable is like, "How does it apply to what I know?" It's not what I like, it's like, "What do I know?" So context can be really helpful with that. And that's so key.
I really like how you had mentioned too, if we're going to have a practice worksheet, like a purposeful practice is what we like to call it, worksheet crafted after this experience, what a great opportunity to go, "Hey, listen, there's this other candle from this other store, that's this tall and it burns at a rate of about, whatever. When will this one burn or when will it get to this height?" Or you can extend it to equations. It depends on where you want to go with it, but you want to make it as explicit and as intentional as you possibly can. Right?
Jon Orr: Right. It's intentional. But, Kyle, the way you phrased this problem is actually like an open problem, right? An open type question where it allows some flexibility in how kids can show their learning. And that's actually something I try to craft questions for my worksheets on is I want open questions as much as I can on those. So it can allow kids to go in depth or surface, depending on where they are. And then that also when you're looking at them solving these problems on the worksheet, because that's... Why are we giving kids problems if we're not going to look at what they're doing.
It's not just a time filler is I want to see how they're answering these types of problems. Where are their heads at? It's almost like this exit ticket idea, right? So that might be like, "Here's a new candle. It burns faster than the one before. What does its graph look like?" Right? Or it's taller. How is the graph different? Right? You're asking questions that keep them thinking about what we're trying to get out of the relationship and also the context, but also the learning goal of the day. So creating and crafting open questions allows for different strategies and different representations. Also, really nice there.
One other tip here on these types of worksheets, Kyle, that I'm loving is a little bit of choice and I'm going to call our friend out, Aleda Klassen, who recently has been sharing all of her stuff on her board's website for the new grade nine class, and she's had a lot of choices in some of the work that she's giving her students and she's labeled it. I think we've used this on the podcast before. She's labeled her choice levels like spicy. It's like, "How spicy do you want your math question to be?" So it's like, "I got a little spice, some medium spice, some hot spice."
So we get to choose how much spicy we want and we can progress through the spice level, like build your spice tolerance up for this learning goal. So I've been enjoying seeing some of those examples over there at Aleda's website and using her resource or looking at her resources. So having the choice is really nice for worksheets too.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. We'll make sure to put in the link. We've got a page with all kinds of the new grade nine de-stream course here in Ontario. So we'll put that in the show notes and that link does have a link to Aleda and her board's work. So awesome over there and all the others who are working on that work. Friends, so I think the verdict is in. The Math Moment Makers out there, do not fear. Worksheets are not bad. It is what you're doing with them.
Jon, I forgot to tell you this. I had a teacher come up to me today and sort of, again, gave that, "Oh, I got this from Teachers Pay Teachers. It was an embarrassment." And I'm like, "If it's a good activity, and the intent is there, or maybe you modified it or whatever, awesome." It was almost like they were expecting me to be sad or disappointed when in reality it's like, "No, you go and get the things that you need. And as long as it meets the intent, that is key."
So our big takeaway for you, friends, the Math Moment Maker community from all over the world is that worksheets can be extremely helpful if we are intentional with them. Both, if it's something to enhance our lesson. So for those who are kind of in the during my lesson worksheet mode right now, and they're thinking about that, does your lesson worksheet, or template, or whatever you want to call it, does it take away the thinking from students?
Does it take away maybe the curiosity? The other thing too, Jon, that we had mentioned before that I think is worth mentioning is like, "What would I do instead if I had tomorrow's template is ready and it's very guided and kids are just filling in the blank." And we would say, "Hold off on it. What's the question you're going to ask students?" Maybe it's the first example. Maybe just restructure that question a little bit or maybe go all the way back to our episode on the real flipped classroom on how we can just give students something to chew on first, like we described here in the candle burning task.
So think about what your worksheet is and could we make it into something that enhances instead of making it something that's there to just get done, right? Is it just the note that is to be copied or a shorter form version of the note that you would've had students to copy? Or is it something that actually enhances the learning experience in your class, where it's student-centered. It's problem based. It promotes thinking and curiosity.
So reflect on those things and think about where your worksheets sort of lie and how you might be able to think a little more intentionally as you move forward. And we all try to do better in the math classroom together.
Jon Orr: Totally. Thanks, Kyle, for summarizing some of those tips that we shared here in this episode. And we're looking forward to hearing your ideas on worksheets, like how are you using them? You can always reach out to us. We got a few places that you can reach out to us. One being, probably go right to the Facebook group if you are on Facebook. Head on over to that group. If you're not in that group yet, you can join that group. No problem. Just search Math Moment Makers K to 12 and you can post a question in there about worksheets.
You're like, "Hey guys, I was just listening to the worksheet episode and I got a push back a little bit, and here's my question." We love it. We would love it. So get on over to at Math Moment Makers K to 12, or if you're on Twitter, you can tweet us @MakeMathMoments or on Instagram. We are over there. You can follow us over there as well. Think about some of the big ideas we talked about here.
I'm just sure as we were discussing worksheets, you were thinking about what your worksheets look like because we all use them. And Kyle's good suggestions are to think about how are we using them. That is the most important question, I think we could be asking right now. So reach out to us. We're on lots of places and you can find out all of the links from this episode on the show notes page which is on makemathmoments.com/episode179. That's make makemathmoments.com/episode179.
Kyle Pearce: If you haven't hit that subscribe button yet on whatever platform you're on, make sure you do. And if you're not on YouTube right now, watching this to see I had the candle burning in the background. I showed some of the graphs, some of the things as Jon was talking a little earlier. All of those things are on YouTube. And also other examples, like actual examples of us going through different tasks and different lessons. Keep in mind these are things. These are tools that we're using to introduce ideas. We are not using them as a lesson summary or a unit summary at the end of a unit.
This is to introduce students, to introduce them to these ideas, to show them that their big, bad brains can solve problems without me telling them how to solve them. All I'm going to do is I'm going to just try to take what they've done and I'm going to try to help them see at least something new, right? We're going to try to push their thinking a little bit further. Not because it's better than what they've done, but just because it's another opportunity. It's something new for them to do. Well, until next time, my friends. I'm Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.
Jon Orr: Hey, and high five for you. inaudible
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