Episode 181: Guided Math & The Make Math Moments 3-Part Framework – An Interview with Christine Michalyshen
Today we speak with Christine Michalyshen, a math consultant in Winnipeg, Manitoba. As a mathematics consultant for the Frontier School Division, Christine shares her experiences early in her career as she struggled to meet the needs of her diverse student population with a wide range of mathematical readiness. After learning about Laney Sammons work with Guided Math, Christine dove in and is now the only accredited Laney Sammons Guided Math Consultant in Canada.
Stick around as we learn more about what Guided Math really is, how it can be leveraged in any mathematics classroom, and we also discuss how similar the Guided Math Framework is to the Make Math Moments 3-Part Framework.
- How you can go about meeting the needs of your students with a wide range of student readiness;
- How you might develop relationships with other educators struggling;
- What small, easy changes you can make in your lessons now so you can make a real difference in the classroom;
- How can I blend the lessons from Make Math Moments with Guided Math;
Christine’s Website: GuidedMathConsulting.ca
Christine on Twitter: @cmichalyshen
Christine Michalyshen: I think people get really hung up on the math workshop that it has to be... That it's complicated, and that guided math is complicated. And we use math workshop so that we can free up ourselves as teachers to work with small groups of students. So a lot of people think when I do math workshop, I'm doing guided math. And math workshop by itself is not guided math. They're not synonymous. I need the small group instruction to move my students. That's why we have math workshop. And so that's the piece that sometimes teachers don't understand.
Kyle Pearce: Today we speak with Christine Michalyshen, a math consultant in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
As a mathematics consultant for the Frontier School division, Christine shares her experiences early in her career as she struggled to meet the needs of her diverse student population with a wide range of mathematical readiness. After learning about Laney Salmon's work with guided math, Christine dove in, and now she is the only accredited Laney Salmon's guided math consultant in Canada.
Jon Orr: Stick around as we learn more about what guided math really is, how it can be leveraged in any mathematics classroom. And we also discuss how similar the guided math framework is to our very own Making Math Moments three part framework. Let's do this.
Kyle Pearce: Welcome to The Making Math Moments at Matter Podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr. We are from makingmath moments.com. And together-
Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of Math Moment Makers worldwide who want to build and deliver problem based math lessons that spark curiosity-
Jon Orr: Fuel sensemaking-
Kyle Pearce: And ignite your teacher moves.
Welcome my friends to yet another episode. Hopefully you're listening to us on Monday morning when these go live. We are so excited to share another great conversation with an awesome, awesome fellow Canadian Math Moment Maker. Christine Michalyshen.
Jon, we just got off the line with Christine and she's got a lot of good goodies for good goodies. Did you hear that? A lot of good goodies for all of our listeners here today, right?
Jon Orr: Yeah, for sure. And we talk all things guided math, give you a sense of what it is and how you may even been doing this in the classroom already and just didn't have a name for it. We link it to the make math moments, three part framework. We're doing a lot of similar things, which is pieces of this research and pieces of this research molded together. So it's really nice to see things that are doing the same types of lessons in their classrooms as we are.
So we're going to help you see what that looks like in your class, and give you some resources to move forward.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff. Well friends, we're not going to hold it up any longer. Here is our conversation with Christine.
Hey, hey Christine, thanks for joining us here on the Making Math Moments at Matter podcast. How are things going as we're recording this? It's supposed to be spring, but you and friends near you are having maybe a little bit of a longer winter, or maybe a delayed beginning of spring. How's things in your neck of the woods?
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah, well we had three weeks of Colorado lows. So Colorado owes us more than lows. We'd like some flowers and some warm weather. We had a blizzard and we had two floods. So yeah, we're ready.
Jon Orr: Oh my God. Yeah. That's a lot to handle. Christine, hey, help our listeners to know a little bit about you tell them where you are because that might make a lot more sense when they're like, "Wait a minute, Colorado lows and floods and springtime. That might make sense, but having all that winter at springtime?" Let them know where you're coming from. And tell us a little bit about your role in education.
Christine Michalyshen: Sure. So I am here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, "Winterpeg" as it is nicknamed. And it's holding true to its name this year. So I have been a mathematics educator for 28 years, I think both inaudible, and 20 years in the classroom. And then I started consulting and started working up north traveling huge distances, working in remote communities, flying only. Sometimes we'd have to take a boat fly and then take a boat in the summertime. Or if it was winter, take a snowmobile to get to the school across the lake. So yeah, all sorts of crazy conditions, lots of stories.
And started up with guided math consulting at about that time, decided to merge what I was doing in my day job with my passion, which is math. And now I have settled down and I'm working just outside of Winnipeg as a mathematics consultant. The North was wonderful, but I got a little tired of traveling. So yeah. So here I am.
Kyle Pearce: Look at that. So quite the varied experiences in the classroom, consulting near where you were living, very far away from where you were living, and pretty much everything in between. So we're going to be diving into that. And I heard you mention guided math, which really caught the attention of both Jon and I. So we're going to dive into more about that work and the work that you've done with guided math and helping educators with guided math.
But before we get too deep, we want to ask you the question we ask everyone who comes on the show. And that is when we say "math class," what is that math moment that pops into your mind that you're willing to share with our Math Moment Maker community?
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah, that's really easy for me because I think if you ask any student who went to the high school that I went to inaudible High School in Winnipeg, they would say Mr. Hatfield was their defining math moment. And he was just this passionate man who ran around the class with his hands everywhere. And he had this big sign at the front that said "Math is beautiful," and that every time we solve a problem, "And you see? Math is beautiful." And so that would be it for me. So thank you, Mr. Hatfield.
Jon Orr: Awesome memory there. And you know what? I think you're not the first person to describe a Mr. Hatfield. We've had many guests on the podcast and that's the question we ask every single guest. And it's been more than once that a teacher or an educator like yourself will describe this educator who has this exuberant joyfulness about math.
And when you described throwing his hands up and being excited about math, and I'm often reminded about a professor I had who paced back and forth between and pointed at kids. And it was like, what is this guy doing? He's right up everyone's face. It was just clear that they love to be where they are. And I think that has such an important impact on our students to show that we love what we do. And there is the math that we're doing in the classroom, but there's also this image that we project that, "Hey, we love this, math is beautiful." And I think you summed it up nice.
And I'm wondering, Christine, how did Mr. Hatfield- that moment obviously stuck with you- how has that impacted who you've become and also how'd it impact your teaching and that journey that you've had?
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah. So just the passion. And any teacher that I've had that I really connected to, respected has had that passion.
As a student, you can tell teachers who are going through the motions, because it's a paycheck, it's a job. But when it's your passion and you've got that excitement, you know what? Yes, somehow I share that with him. I channel that.
And that's one of the things that I love to bring into the classroom with kids, bring into workshops when I'm working with teachers, is just that excitement. And absolutely, I remember at the end of one workshop, somebody came up and said, "Could you just come for five minutes at the beginning of every day for our motivational speech?" And I was like, "If that's what I can do, absolutely" because sometimes we need it, right, as educators. It's been a tough couple of years and sometimes, you know what? That's okay, too.
Jon Orr: Yeah, absolutely. And I think back and what popped into my mind as you were both going back and forth on that idea about just having that passion, that excitement it really is contagious.
And I think it was Marion Small when she was on with us and she had set something along the lines of, "if you want your kids to love math, then you better start showing them you love it, too," or something along those lines. Yeah. And that really just the way it was said, s stuck with me.
And I'm sure we could all go back through moments in our career. For me, I remember my first few years that was not even on my radar. I was just worried about getting through and trying to remember what I wanted to say and how I wanted to do it, and all these things. And really those things are important. But I think working on that initial piece, just so that you sell to the kids, how passionate you are about it. Because they're not going to just... You might get those handful of students that are just passionate. They bring that passion with them to class or that curiosity with them, but we really need to be doing that work, which is pretty awesome.
So I want to pivot us here towards a little bit more of the work you've been doing as of late, but also over the years, as you were learning in your own classroom. And you came across this thing called guided math.
And I'm wondering, can you help for anyone who's... I'm sure people have heard of what guided math is, but what are the components of guided math? And what got you interested in doing the work? Was it a district initiative? Was it by chance that you came across it or did it just evolve over time? I'm sure there's some people wondering what is it, and what's so great about it?
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah. So it's a two part question. My last year in the classroom was probably one of my most challenging years with the composition of my class. It was composed of so many different personalities, entry points in mathematics.
I had students who were two years above grade level, and I had some students who were struggling with basic facts. And somebody had said to me, "You need to try guided math. That's just going to work for you you'll see." But they didn't give me any training. They didn't even give me a book. They just said in about five minutes, "This is how you should do it."
So I tried it for two days and I said, "Well, this isn't working." And I never thought about it again. I just left it. And went back to my old ways of running around the classroom and just wasn't working. Right?
So then I got a job teaching in these remote northern communities. And the first year, my main goal was just to develop relationships with teachers because of the uniqueness of these communities and people coming in and wanting to help and fix, and then leave after a year. And then the next person comes in. So I thought, "Okay, I need to build their trust. Just listen to what they're going to say."
And I was hearing the same thing over and over again. And it didn't matter which community I was in. Our students are so vastly different. We have gaps in our learning due to various reasons. It could be missing school. And I this was pre-COVID, but students were missing school for all sorts of reasons. Weather, when the ice freezes up on the lake, students who live across the lake can't get to school for a month at a time. And it happens twice a year, right? spring and fall.
So if they're missing school, they've got gaps in their learning. They're falling behind. Another teacher grade nine teacher would say, "I've got kids who are studying their grade nine. They want to leave the community. They want to go to a high school in the city. But I've also got students working at a grade two level. How do I meet the needs of all of these students? I'm struggling."
And so I spent that first year of trying to find an answer. And that's when I came across guided math.
And I was really really lucky to be mentored by Laney Sammons. And so she's the author of guided math, a framework for mathematics instruction. And she came out and worked with me. And I have her to thank really for teaching me everything that she knew.
And then, as with I think any good teacher, students, you start to take something and you start to make it your own. Right? So then with lots of practice guided math, I took Laney's wisdom, and I worked it into my own formula that worked for me. And then I started sharing it with teachers. And yeah.
And so what do I love about it so much? That I can meet the needs of all my learners. I can further each student, doesn't matter where they are. So if I've got somebody who is not at grade level, I meet them where they are, and I push them forward and that's success. And maybe they don't get to grade level that year, but they still move forward.
And those kids who are at grade level, we take them farther, too. We don't just let them, "Oh, you're good. I'm going to just let you sit. You'll be okay, doesn't matter." We extend the thinking for them as well. So every learner gets what they need.
Jon Orr: Gotcha. And maybe paint a picture for the listener right now, a teacher who is like you. This is also maybe a two part question. You said, it didn't work for you the first time. It was like you tossed it away. And I'm actually curious about, and that might be part one. It's like, "Well, why didn't it work for you? What was missing?"
Because that teacher right now, who's listening to this going, "Okay, well I tried lots of things and yeah, I throw them away. And I go back to where I was." So I'm like, what is that missing piece? I'd love to know that.
And then the other thing is, I wonder if you could- probably, this is tied to it- I wonder if you could paint this listener a picture of what's different about guided math compared to what we normally would do in our classroom. Maybe what you were doing in your classroom, like this. Maybe a very traditional math class of being this guided release responsibility.
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah. So why didn't guided math work for me? Because I didn't know enough about it and I hadn't seen it implemented. Right? I think that's key. And when I'm working with teachers, when I give a workshop yeah, a full day workshop or six hour workshop, that's fantastic. And you get all the background knowledge that you need.
But when you get that actual job embedded coaching where you have someone who's done guided math and they're in your classroom working with your kids and you can see, hey, this does work, look at this, and the ins and outs.
So I was lucky enough to have Laney follow me for one week up north. And she was teaching the classes. And the teachers and I were observing and I was like mad woman taking notes and just soaking up all of this goodness. And so I think actually seeing it in action.
And I didn't just read a book, I didn't just take a workshop. I did those things, but we unpacked it further with that job embedded coaching which makes a huge difference.
Jon Orr: I love it. And I agree. It's so important because if you don't know what it could look like, right? Or should, the word "should" I struggle with a little bit, but what it could look like. It's like your brain is filling in the gaps. And if you're thinking it could look like this, and I haven't seen it could look like this other thing over here, you might actually be going for the wrong thing. Or you might be missing some of those key pieces. Right? Which I think is so important.
And there might be some people listening who are maybe have had some struggles with that. And I know some people worry about modeling. And I hear a lot of people discussing modeling of lessons, and sometimes they feel it's ineffective.
But where I see it breaking down, at least in my experience where I've seen it break down, is when you come in and you're trying to do some special lesson. It's this fun activity that isn't really what tomorrow and the day after and the day after that should look like.
So instead of it coming in and being some spectacle, it's like, what should it look like day to day to day? And I think that is where it's really important. And I think even having that, like you had said, having her follow you or you joining her for a week to see. Is this just the first lesson looks like this? Or the second lesson looks? No, no, this is what it looks like consistently. And I'm sure that's really important.
So I'm wondering if you could roll back to that experience. Take us through, let's say, the beginning when you were watching and then by maybe the end of that week that you were together. How was your thinking changing? What were you noticing later that maybe you didn't notice at first? Or were there any questions going through your mind? I'm just super curious about that.
Christine Michalyshen: There was an aha moment. So if that's what you're asking, what clicked. And that moment for me was actually when I then had to do the small group instruction.
So guided math, the components of guided math, there's poll group instruction, which is teaching to level class is important, is good. And that's when we use those problem based strategies, right? Here's a task that we're going to tackle. And then we spark that curiosity. I love how you guys do that. We do the same thing in guided math. We want to engage students. We want to activate prior knowledge. We want to use real life context.
We give them a problem and let them loose. And we're making observations. So, okay. So I noticed that these kids here... Let me give me an example, this was a grade two class, read a story called "Rooster's Off To See the World" by Eric Carl. It's not a math book, but it's a perfect for extending patterns and it relates to mathematics. So we read that to the grade twos. We made an anchor chart.
So on the first day, rooster asks one friend to join them. I can't remember if it's a frog. The second day it might be two rabbits and so on. And it builds up to five.
So we read the book, made an anchor chart, talked about extending patterns, gave the kids pattern blocks. And then walked around and watched. What could they do? Could they make an extended pattern? Just like roosters... Pattern one, then with two, then with three, four and five. And hmm, okay. So yeah, these kids they've nailed it, they're on. Okay.
We're going to put these kids together in this group. This kid over here, he's gone up to 10 and he's going strong. Okay, we don't need to work on this with him. We're going to work on something else extending that thinking. Maybe getting him to write that as a table of values. Even though he's only in grade two, let's push that thinking further. Right? And then we had some kids who were doing repeating patterns, A,B,A,B. So not extending, not increasing, but what they had learned before.
And then we had this really confusing bunch of kids who were building, right? They weren't making patterns at all. They were making flowers and they were making towers. And so we thought, "Do they know what to do or not?" And so we put them in a group.
And so then the next day it was meeting with the groups. And so especially that group that was building, now that they're focused and within the arms reach of a teacher sitting at a small group desk, now we were able to see, oh, you do know what to do, you were just off task. Or you don't know what to do, so we're going to work from where you're at and help you with this.
So whole groups instruction's important. And then we move to small group instruction. We always start with some type of warm-up, like a got number talk or which one doesn't belong. I love how your mouth talks are connected to what you're doing. So a lot of similarities there.
And so for me, the aha moment when I went, "Okay, I get how this works now," is when I actually had to videotape myself doing some of these lessons and show them to Laney. So I was really proud. I did a great eight lesson, and I can't remember what it was on. But I remember it grade eight and it was about a 15 minute lesson. And I showed her, gave her my iPad and I said, "Okay, critique me. I'm ready. Give it to me. I can take it."
And she just had a stone face and no emotion. I couldn't read her. And then at the end of it, she asked me one simple question, "How was that lesson different than if you had taught it to the whole class?" And at that moment, I understood guided math in the nutshell.
So whole class, stand at the front, you teach to the whole class. Small group, guess what I did? I sat down and I taught exactly the same way. But I was sitting down with six students in front of me instead of to the whole class. And then-
Kyle Pearce: Slower and louder.
Christine Michalyshen: Yes. Slower and louder. Yeah. And at that moment, that's just when it sunk in for me.
Jon Orr: Okay. I got two questions. One, I think some teachers might be thinking right now is, "Okay, I have 30 students. And if I'm going to work with six, what are the rest doing right now?"
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah. Okay. So that's the exciting part. That's the math workshop, right? So you've got whole group instruction. You've got small group instruction. You start with a warm-up, and then you've got your workshop.
And I feel most teachers want help with the math workshop piece. They're like, "Okay, I can do the small group instruction, but how do I manage the rest of the class?" And so that's where a lot of the support comes in.
And so if you have a simple little game that they're going to finish in five minutes, and again it depends-
Kyle Pearce: Problems.
Christine Michalyshen: Problems, right? It depends on age group, but yeah, problems. You've got to have some rich, meaningful tasks that students already know how to do independently. So maybe you've used them before in small group, but there's multiple ways of representing them. There's multiple ways of answering them. There's multiple entry points. You want rich experiences.
It's not busy work. Right? We're still growing them as mathematicians when they're in their workshop. There is a time and place for game, and that's purposeful practice. Right? So would I rather roll four dice and create two two digit numbers, and try to get as close to a hundred as possible? Or would I rather do 40 questions on a worksheet to practice two digit addition?
So there's a place for games, for sure. But they have to be well-crafted games. And there has to be some piece of accountability because afterwards I'm working with this group. I don't know what you've done. I'm not watching you. So I want to see, I can't mark everything. There's no way you're marking everything, but you want to see what the students did at the end. And so there's got to be some piece of accountability. What did you actually accomplish? Right? And then if you see that they haven't accomplished something, call them over, have a little chat, "What's going on? Tell me more. How come?
So yeah, the workshop is the piece that looks different in everybody's class. There's no one size fits all. And I think teachers, especially teachers who are familiar with guided reading, they get a little hung up on that because guided reading's a little bit more prescriptive. So you've got these benchmark assessments, and every six weeks or eight weeks, you give another one and your groups change. Your groups can change in guided math every day, depending on what you observe and the progress. And so it's not ability grouping, it's meeting students where they're at, attending to their needs, moving them forward. So we're not ability grouping.
And the biggest thing that teachers need to know about that math workshop and when they come to you for small group. In small group you want students of similar needs for sure. But then if you send your kids off in workshop to work together in groups of similar needs, you're doing them in disservice. And you may have management issues. So you need to have mixed ability, heterogeneous groupings.
Jon Orr: I love it. I wanted to comment on that because I'm sitting here and I'm trying to be the listener. And I'm going, "Wait a second." Jon and Kyle, oftentimes when they're doing problem based lessons, we often do visible, random grouping. We do Peter inaudible hall thinking classroom. They're going, "Wait a second."
But now Christine saying you want to put similar at least where students are... And again, like you had said, it's not ability grouping, like, hey, you're stuck together for six weeks or for the whole year, because you're just not moving along. It's based on your diagnostic, which sometimes can be anecdotal just by walking around during that problem based lesson. Or maybe it's something more formal. But then you're putting them together because that makes sense for this small group.
But I love how you articulated the idea that if students are working over here on something else, you're not necessarily making all of these groups for all of these other stations. You're saying, "No, no, for this particular one, I'm going to sit down today with this group. I want them together. But then when they go off, they might be mixed into different groups."
So I love that thinking. And I also, just to reiterate what I heard you say, to make sure that people listening are seeing a difference. So for those people... And we'll get into the comparison as to the Make Math Moments, three part framework, and talking about how there's many similarities. I'm picturing day one of our problem based units is like you articulated where you had read the story and sparked curiosity.
And you were really trying to give students an opportunity to do some learning and do some thinking. But also you were trying to figure out where are they? What is it that they're bringing to the table so that it can influence my teaching decisions moving forward? So there is a lot there, which I think is pretty awesome.
And I'm wondering, before we head into the comparison, I just wanted to ask a little bit about, you had mentioned how it's maybe not as prescriptive as guided reading. And part of that I'm going to guess is because we are nowhere near where we are at in the science of math, let's say, compared to the science of reading.
One colleague of mine that we work with, Mark Crenwall, at Greater Essex has said we're like 40 or 50 years behind where the research is in guided reading. And so is that why it's less prescriptive? Or what are some other reasons why you believe it's less prescriptive? And what does a teacher do to figure out, let's say, what to do? Because like you had already said, you said, "Hey, if we're going to just sit here and do the same thing with these six students that I was going to do with a whole group, we're not really going to see a whole lot of difference." Right?
Christine Michalyshen: Right. As to why is it less prescriptive? I'm sure that the fact that we are not as on the science of math as we are on the science of reading, for sure is part of it.
I like the fact that it's less prescriptive because I like to have some leeway, but I'm an experienced teacher. Right? So if you got a brand new or... I've been teaching for six years, but I've never taught math. inaudible
Kyle Pearce: Right.
Jon Orr: Or I just never felt comfortable teaching it. Right. That's where my head went.
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah. So where do I go for these resources? And I get asked that a lot. And so when I started diving into the three part framework and into some of the tasks that you offer, I was looking through going, "Well hey, this works great. This ties in beautifully." I could tell some of my new math teachers, "Hey, why don't you check out this problem based task on "Make Math Moments?" And they've got the questions there for you. They've scaffolded it there for you.
So for instance, today actually, knowing that I was coming on the podcast, I'm like, "Okay, I'm going to try grade three multiplication. I'm going to try out the hot chocolate task." So yeah. So I'm going to try this out as a whole group and I'm open that way. And so that way was able to introduce it to a teacher. And the fact that the scafoldding for the students. Okay, some students are going to skip count. Right? Some students are going to skip count by three.
Other students, they're going to be able to multiply. Were any of the students in this grade three class thinking ratio? No. I don't think that would be on their radar. But would there be some that are definitely going to be able to do that? Absolutely.
I didn't in this class have anybody who couldn't skip count, but in the past I have. Right? And then it's, but what if somebody can't skip and you had it on your sheet. It was, do they have one to one correspondence when they're counting? So there's all of these things.
What are the prior skills that come before that teachers need to know? And if your curriculum document is complete... We have an excellent one here in Manitoba, and you can look at what is the prior knowledge, what are the skills that students should have? Not everybody has that. And to have a task that clearly lays out for you, I think that's beautiful.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. That's so great to hear. That intentionality, that is exactly what we wanted to have in there. So it's so great when we hear educators. And we hear this a lot, where they go, "Oh, a student was struggling, but I didn't really know what they were doing." So by having that there, you now have essentially the tool in your tool belt to go, okay, what if I ask them a question related to this right here? So specifically, can you do that? And if they're struggling there, okay, let's go one back and let's see, can you do that?
And then now you know, okay, when this group comes together, I'm going to ask them a question. It could be related to the same context. That's the beauty of it as well. You don't have to necessarily go run and print off all these different handouts. It's like, no, no. We're going to try to riff on this idea with these students. And we're going to give them just enough to get to that next place in their journey.
And I love how you articulated that earlier where it's not about every student hitting grade level. Because that's not a reality for every student in every class, at least in the classes that I know of. I know Jon feels the same and I know you feel the same. I'm sure everyone's listening.
There are some students who are not going to reach that grade level's expectations simply because they have so much prior learning that needs to take place. And it doesn't make sense for us to have that expectation for them, right? It's unfair to them and it's unfair to you as the educator.
You want to make it so they can progress. They can feel good about the effort they're putting in and seeing the progress they're making. Instead of trying to why we say it, "Pick them up by the collar and drag them over here," that doesn't help any they're now there, but they're just staring at a blank page. So that is super awesome to hear.
What else... I'm wondering, as you dive in, you had mentioned about the math talks. And how else might somebody maybe craft a guided math lesson, leveraging some tools, whether it be Math Moments tasks? Or maybe it's some other tasks out there. But are there any tips for someone who's going, "I think I want to try this, but where do I go? What should I do? And what does that look like, sound like?
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah. The very first thing that I tell teachers to do... And this is the month of September, right? And as teachers, when we front end load September and we put all of our time and effort into building community, and into making our norms and our expectations really clear in making sure that students know what the expectation is for mathematical communication, do students know how to have a conversation? Some students don't.
The number talk hand signals by Sherry Parrish. I use those all the time. Those are great for kids telling me, "I'm thinking. I have a strategy. I have two strategies." What are your norms?
So we spend September going over that. We spend September introducing some workshop tasks, open middle questions. How do I use an open middle question? Once I get the concept of it, here's a new one. This is going to be a great task ongoing that I can say, "Okay, you're doing open middle today. And then you're going to play this game." You need some practice with your facts, so we're going have a developing fluency workshop station. And we get the kids practicing. Do we transition from station to station? Do we stay in the same place? And we just go get the different materials that we need.
Does the teacher put all the materials on the table in a bucket? Everybody is different. Teachers have a different tolerance for movement, a different tolerance for noise level. And so you-
Kyle Pearce: Definitely.
Christine Michalyshen: What's that?
Kyle Pearce: I said definitely.
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah. Yeah. So you know what? You work with what's in your comfort level and you figure out what works for you. What worked this year with a class, you get next year's class and they're totally different. You might have to change it up. And so you spend September getting your routines and procedures into place, getting them used to what math workshop looks like. And then you start with the problem based tasks.
And in September, you're still using problem based tasks as a whole, but you're building their stamina. Right? And their perseverance. And it's okay to be frustrated. A lot of kids struggle with that.
Jon Orr: Yeah. And that's something that you work out in that beginning period. It's this mindset we're going to have, it's okay for us. That's the purpose. We're designing these to struggle. That is how we can build our resilience up is to struggle through, and then get some coaching and get support to get through some problems like this. And that takes practice. And oftentimes we talk about as a high school math teacher, so many high school math teachers, when you ask them, "What do kids need?" They'll say, "Kids are just terrible at problem solving."
But when you think about it... And when I think about the way I used to teach high school math, and the way I see many teachers are teaching high school math, when did you ever stop and teach kids how to actually persevere through problems? Other than just saying, "At the end of the unit, we're going to have word problem day," right? And it's, "We're going to show you how to highlight the words and put them into the formulas."
That's not real problem solving. Real problem solving is asking kids to struggle through unfamiliar problems on a consistent basis with support that they can get through that. And through success of getting through a problem, builds that, it's a snowball. It's going to allow them to the next time to not quit. And then the next time to not quit.
But we never teach kids that in that traditional sense. We don't put them in situations that are unfamiliar. We try to front load them and say, "Hey, these are all the skills you're going to need. Just figure out-
Kyle Pearce: Remember when I did this? When I showed you that?
Jon Orr: Right. And so when you're teaching through those problem based lessons or you're teaching the curiosity moment at the beginning, that's the part where we're asking kids to try to solve problems first.
And it's so important when we talk about the beginning of the school year being so important. Kyle, I think how many... Well, I guess we've been doing this podcast for a number of years now, but every August we have a full episode dedicated to how to start the school year. And everyone, we talk about building that community that you've articulated here is so important. What is the routines going to look like? We got to make sure that we are comfortable with each other. We've talked about four pillars that are important to describe to our students so that we are communicating what we value. Lots of great stuff there.
Christine, I wonder... You've given some great starting points, but what would you say is a big barrier that teachers have with blending this style of lessons? So teaching through a three part framework for make math moments and guided math, because there's a lot of similarities, but what would be a barrier to getting started?
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah. I think every teacher is going to say time and resources. And I'm all about you know what? Keep it simple. Don't find these beautiful, fancy looking things on Pinterest that you are going to have to cut out and laminate and have 27 parts, and one gets missing. And then your game is ruined. It's a deck of cards, it's some dice. It's what you have that's simple and easy.
And if you can download your guides, right? Your guides walk you through the tasks. The questions are there. It's right there for you. So save yourself the time, find something that's right there for you. Find a resource. And then for the workshop piece, use things that you have handy. Don't make it harder on yourself. It doesn't have to be laminated on pink paper with white polka dots. inaudible
Jon Orr: Yeah. That's so you can Instagram it, and take a picture of it and share it.
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah. My stuff doesn't look like that. I can promise you, right?
Jon Orr: Right.
Christine Michalyshen: It's plain, manila paper and I write on it. And it's like, okay, here you go. Let's do this. If COVID and teaching through this pandemic has done anything, I think it's that we now have more resources online and access to them, and people have been sharing. And that is great. There's way more things for us to use and to share. So I think that that's been... You need to always look at the bright side of things and that would be it.
But yeah. Keep it simple. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. And don't think that it has to be I have to do whole group instruction on Mondays and then I have follow up with small group. No. There's no rules. Do what makes sense. Let your students guide you. What are their needs? Right? Ask the questions, make their thinking visible, and then follow their lead.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. And think about the word "guide." Right? When you go on a guided tour, it's not the exact same tour. I'm sure there's similarities, but why do you have that person there? You have them because they have the expertise to know what to say or do in different scenarios or where do "Oh, okay. This road's closed. We're going to go over here and do this."
And that's exactly what we are doing in the classroom as educators. So I really like that. That was a big takeaway for me.
And then something else too, that Jon and I say it a lot, but I think people miss it, we really like to spice up our Math Moment spark tasks. We love to do that. But we do that to give all educators an opportunity to have some fun lessons in there and make it really visual and really accessible.
But there's other lessons that we're using that aren't like that at all. For us, the big thing, and with guided math, the big idea is using the strategies as the teacher, as the educator, to try to apply them to the concept that we're learning. So it can look different, it can sound different, and it doesn't have to be perfect or beautiful every time we do it.
So I really appreciate that roadblock that people really put in front of themselves in a way. Right? It's something we put this pressure on ourselves. So let's push that to the side and do the work. The good work, the real work is the thinking that we do ahead of time. And those moves that we're making during those moments that I think are really important. So with that, I think we may have had a background visitor from Winnipeg. That's your dog?
Christine Michalyshen: Could you hear him?
Jon Orr: Yeah.
Kyle Pearce: Just a little bit. And Jon's like, "I think your dog is making a noise." I'm like, "No, no. I think Christine's got our back there."
So for the Math Moment Maker community though, what would be the big takeaway? If they could only take away one idea here before they leave this episode, and you want it to resonate with them, what is that big takeaway for tonight's episode?
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah. I think people get really hung up on the math workshop that has to complicated and that guided math is complicated. And we use math workshop so that we can free up ourselves as teachers to work with small groups of students.
So a lot of people think when I do math workshop, I'm doing guided math. And math workshop by itself is not guided math. They're not synonymous. I need the small group instruction to move my students. That's why we have math workshop. And so that's the piece that sometimes teachers don't understand.
But again, math workshop, isn't just busy work. It has to be tasks that allow students to still reason and think mathematically and not just, "Oh, I got to finish this worksheet and get the answers right." It's not about the answer. Right? It's about the process and the thinking and the reasoning.
And so then I have teachers who say, "Well, does that mean I can't use worksheets?" No, of course there's a time and a place for everything. Right? But what's your intent? What's your purpose?
So yeah, just to remember that math workshop supports the small group instruction. And that's why we do guided math.
Jon Orr: Yeah. That's a great message to leave our listeners. I think that makes so much sense, especially to say there's time and places for certain things. I think it's the intention. It's your purpose that matters the most. But thanks Christine for sharing that-
Kyle Pearce: And Jon something, sorry, just to piggyback on that. There's something that I think oftentimes people miss and this isn't just with the Math Moment resources, but with a lot of resources that are out there, they do talk about. And in our guides, we talk about opportunities for small group in there.
But again, if you're not looking for it or if you're not intending to do that work, sometimes you miss it. So hopefully people are taking this message. They go, "Okay, wait a second. So you mean, when I do the hot chocolate task"... It's a very popular task, so we see it on social media a lot. A lot of teachers it's like they do the task, and then they just move on to something different.
But really the purpose of these tasks is to let you learn about students, to give them a bit of a productive struggle. And then for us to be able to build off of that thinking. We don't want that learning to end at the end of that problem based lesson. Let's use that lesson to fuel the sense making. That's that second piece of the framework that we're always talking about. So I just wanted to mention that there.
And Christine, this has been really helpful. I'm sure there's a lot of people out there who are having epiphanies about like, "Okay, I think I can put some of this together now and maybe take another step in that direction," in order to better meet the needs of their very, let's be honest, with wide range of student readiness in our classroom.
So any help that we can provide them, and thank you for providing them with that here tonight. Where can Math Moment Makers find more information about you so they can dig in a little deeper?
Christine Michalyshen: Yeah, absolutely. So I do have a website www.guidedmathconsulting.ca. And I am on Twitter, inaudible coalition, and I do have a Facebook page as well. But if you ask me what it is right now, I couldn't tell you.
Kyle Pearce: Love it.
Jon Orr: Just search it.
Christine Michalyshen: That's right. Look it up.
Jon Orr: Yeah. Awesome stuff. Thanks so much, Christine. And hey, thanks so much for joining us here on the "Make Math Moments That Matter" podcast. We're going to put all of those links in the show notes. So folks can reach out to you if they are looking for more information. But again, thanks so much for joining us. And hey, we're going to hope to meet face to face in real person soon.
Christine Michalyshen: Absolutely. Looking forward to it. Thanks so much guys for having me on. It was an absolute pleasure to talk all things math.
Jon Orr: Awesome. Thank you. And get ready, summer's coming. I promise.
Christine Michalyshen: Promise?
Jon Orr: I absolutely do.
Christine Michalyshen: Okay. Take care.
Jon Orr: See you next time.
As always, hey, Kyle and I learn so much from these episodes. From talking with the educators themselves and hearing what they have to say about how they're implementing these ideas like Christine did in her classroom, and how it relates to what we're doing in our classroom.
We can't help but think and reflect on our own practice in our day jobs. So we're wondering how are you doing that? Because we know that you also should be doing that or could be doing that to help strengthen some of the skills and ideas we've talked about here in this session.
One way you could do that is you could call a colleague. You could share this episode with a colleague, and then you could talk about it afterwards. You could write it down. You could share with your partner. Or you could head on over to the Math Mill Maker community area on Facebook and put your thoughts over there. Or ask questions over there. We got a nice group that supports you and us, and everybody who's working through the same ideas. So head on over to Math Mill Makers K to 12 over on Facebook as well.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. I know what resonated with me from this episode and I'll continue to reflect on, is just this idea of our math lesson. It's not about telling, it's not about pre-teaching kids what to do. It's really about giving them some good thinking opportunities. And therefore that's going to show us what students are bringing to the table and will guide us to the next step in their learning journey through small group and through workshop, as Christine mentioned.
So if you're looking to put your thinking down somewhere... Jon already mentioned the Facebook group. Why not head over to the YouTube channel, hit this episode on the YouTube channel, and leave us a comment. Let us know what resonated with you. While you're there, hit that subscribe button and ring the notification bell. We've got not only our podcast episodes with video each and every week, but we also have an awesome Math Moment Maker video that takes you into either a problem based lesson or something pedagogically that you can apply into your classroom. So head on over to YouTube, hit subscribe. And we'll see you on the next vide.
Jon Orr: Show notes and links to resources from this episode can be found over at makemathmoments.com/episode181. Again, that's make mathmoments.com/episode181. You'll also find transcripts over there as well, you would like download them.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff. Well until next time, my Math Moment Maker friends, I'm Kyle Pierce.
Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.
Jon Orr: And... a high five for you.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and we'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
DOWNLOAD THE MAKE MATH MOMENTS FROM A DISTANCE CHEAT SHEETS
Download the Cheat Sheets in PDF form so you can effectively run problem based lessons from a distance!
UP YOUR DISTANCE LEARNING GAME IN THE ACADEMY
There is a LOT to know, understand, and do to Make Math Moments From a Distance.
That’s why so many Math Moment Makers like YOU have joined the Academy for a month ON US!
You heard right: 30 days on us and you can cancel anytime. Dive into our distance learning course now…
Thanks For Listening
- Apply for a Math Mentoring Moment
- Leave a note in the comment section below.
- Share this show on Twitter, or Facebook.
To help out the show:
ONLINE WORKSHOP REGISTRATION
Pedagogically aligned for teachers of K through Grade 12 with content specific examples from Grades 3 through Grade 10.
In our self-paced, 12-week Online Workshop, you'll learn how to craft new and transform your current lessons to Spark Curiosity, Fuel Sense Making, and Ignite Your Teacher Moves to promote resilient problem solvers.