Episode 194: Belief Is The Most Important Word In Math Education

Aug 15, 2022 | Podcast | 0 comments



Have you ever met a math guru who shreds the keytar and just so happens to be in a rock band that opened for Bon Jovi? Vanessa Vakharia aka The Math Guru joins us on the show today to talk about why stereotypes are the biggest obstacle when it comes to teaching math, why failing Grade 11 math twice was the best thing that ever happened to her, and why the world would be a better place if math was as cool as The Kardashians!

You’ll Learn

  • What math trauma is and how every one of us can be a math therapist;
  • Why it is critical to set goals that are not anxiety inducing in math class;
  • Why student-centered learning needs to be about more than just curriculum content;
  • The secret to being the best math teacher in the world (hint: Ted Lasso)


Venssa’s website: www.themathguru.ca

Venssa’s podcast: www.maththerapypodcast.com

Venssa’s thesis: https://open.library.ubc.ca/soa/cIRcle/collections/ubctheses/24/items/1.0071315

Venssa’s band: www.goodnightsunrise.com

Venssa’s socials:

Everything: @themathguru

Venssa’s band:

IG: www.instagram.com/goodnightsunriseband

Twitter: www.twitter.com/gnsrband

FG: www.facebook.com/gnsrband

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


Venessa Vakharia: Naming the trauma, making it okay for ... Really saying to your kid, "I got you. You've had something crappy happen to you. You had a teacher yell at you once. You had a kid laugh at you once when you got the wrong answer, that sucks. That sucks and I totally get it, and that's partially why you feel the way you do. Let's talk about it and work on it." Number two, setting different goals that aren't as anxiety inducing and number three, really peeling back with a kid one on one to figure out what it is they're afraid of inaudible-

Kyle Pearce: Have you ever met a guru who shreds the keytar and just so happens to be in a rock band that opened for Bon Jovi?

Jon Orr: Vanessa Vakhria, AKA The Math Guru, joins us today on the show to talk about why stereotypes are the biggest obstacle when it comes to teaching math, why failing grade 11 math twice was the best thing that ever happened to her and why we need to recognize students have math trauma that need math therapy. Hey, and one more thing, what the show Ted Lasso can teach us about math education.

Kyle Pearce: Let's hit it. 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 who want to build and deliver problem-based math lessons, that spark curiosity.

Jon Orr: Fuel sense making

Kyle Pearce: And ignite your teacher moves. All right, my friends. We are going to be jumping on here in just a moment with a fellow Canadian, a fellow Ontario inaudible. Ontarian?

Jon Orr: Yeah, you got it. You got it.

Kyle Pearce: Who is going to be chatting with us today about mindsets and math class, math therapy, and so much more. Jon, tell me one quick little takeaway here from this conversation to set us up for our combo here with Vanessa.

Jon Orr: Yeah, I mentioned this in the conversation you were about to hear, and it's just such an important idea that I probably never thought about when I was a beginning teacher, is about how much emotional attachments or emotional response students have to just thinking about going to math class, or in math class, or thinking about taking that test, or doing that assignment. And sometimes we teachers just go in and go, "Okay, today is ... we're going to do this." And we don't think that there is such an emotional response-

Kyle Pearce: Reaction.

Jon Orr: ... or response to what we do in our class. And I think knowing that can help us do better and make choices to help our students deal with some of their stress and anxiety that they have coming into the door. So, I think we talk about some tips on how to help students manage those things. So, I think an important episode for us right here today.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. And it also brings us right back to this conversation we have often around getting to know who our learners are as people, who are more likely to be maybe triggered by something in math class, or to be maybe overthinking or getting anxious, or already just has that anxiety there. It's almost like math is just that trigger for them and what can we do about it as math educators? So friends, I think you're going to enjoy this conversation with Vanessa. So, without further ado, here we go. Hey, hey there, Vanessa, thanks for joining us here. It's early morning for all of us here on the Making Math Moments-

Jon Orr: Too early.

Kyle Pearce: ... That Matter podcast, but Vanessa things are looking great for you. And for those watching on YouTube for Keanu Reeves who's in the background, good friend of yours. I'm sure it looks like you're wide awake. How are things going in your world?

Venessa Vakharia: Things are great. I am not wide awake, just for listeners to know. It's funny because before we started the interview, Kyle and Jon were like, "Oh, you sleep in." And if by sleep in, you mean wake up at a respectable time, like eight o'clock, I do.

Jon Orr: The days already passed, there's hours, hours that passed-

Venessa Vakharia: What?

Jon Orr: ... that were productive time. Vanessa, again, we want to welcome you here. Tell us a little bit about yourself. We've dug it deeper ourselves, but our listeners haven't yet. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're coming from, and also give us a little backstory on how you got into math education.

Venessa Vakharia: Okay. Well, in brief, I am coming from Toronto, Ontario. I, unlike most people, do not think that Toronto's the center of the universe. I just happen to be here, this is where my business, The Math Guru is. But before we get there, I will start by saying that the reason I got into math education is I, a lowly teenager, who just wanted to be a rock star and marry Keanu Reeves, failed grade 11 math, not once, but twice. And the whole time I was failing, I was told, "Vanessa, you're just not a math person. You're more of the creative type. You're more of the artsy type." And I was like, "Oh my God, that's it. People like me aren't good at math." And I just grew up with that belief until, after failing grade 11 math for the second time and then barely passing in summer school with a 57, I had this amazing grade 12 teacher who completely changed my life.
I walked into her classroom and I said, "Listen, you're going to have a really tough time. I'm not a math person." She looked at me and said, "Sorry?" And I was like, "Oh, I'm not a math person." And she looked at me in the eye and said the words that would change my life forever. And she just said, "That's not a thing." I ended up with a 98 in grade 12 math and the rest is history. We could go on and on. But the point is now I founded a tutoring company called The Math Grew where my whole goal is to change stereotypes around what it means to be a math person. I have a master's in math education where I study media representations of mathematicians and why so many people believe they're not quote unquote math people because of Hollywood, not Keanu though, not Keanu-

Jon Orr: He would never, no.

Venessa Vakharia: ... he's in The Matrix, he's fine. I'm in a rock band called Goodnight Sunrise. So, it's all connected because I am both a rockstar and a mathematician. And all of those people who told me, I couldn't be both are ... Well, they're just wrong. I guess.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. And your story is, I think connects with so many people, actually one of our curriculum writers, Yvette Lehman, has a very similar story and maybe not the exact grade 11-

Venessa Vakharia: She's a rock star too?

Kyle Pearce: ... was the stumbling block. I think in her mind, she believes she is.

Venessa Vakharia: Yeah, we're all-

Kyle Pearce: And again, it's like we're all rock stars as well. But the reality is that there's so many people out there who struggle along the way at some point, and then just written off as though it's not even a possibility-

Venessa Vakharia: Totally.

Kyle Pearce: ... when the opposite is true. So, I'm super wondering here, on the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast we ask everyone this, and you've already shared one moment for us, but I don't know if that is the moment. I'm going to say that is a massive defining moment. I'm wondering, I'd love it if you could dig back before that grade 11 experience, what other moment pops out for you that was a defining moment in your math journey? So, we're always asked that math moment, you shared a huge one, obviously right there. I'm wondering though, before grade 11 where was your mind at? Were you like, "Everything's fine." And there were no stumbling blocks? Or were you already feeling that way and that teacher maybe in grade 11 stamped it for you as like, "Oh yeah, for sure I'm not a math person." Or take us back a little bit before then. How were you thinking and feeling about math?

Venessa Vakharia: Well, I would say I'm totally a product of celebrity culture, I always ... Not to date myself as they say, but I would read Pop magazine and all those magazines with the teen heartthrobs. I was obsessed with celebrities. I was in the Full House fan club. I went to inaudible and I was stalking celebrities. So, I think especially for a young teenage girl, who's super impressionable, I was so influenced by media representation. So, I think I'm very focused and very obsessed with identity, which is why I think I work so well with teenagers. We are constantly in influx of trying to form our identities. And as a young girl, I was looking to celebrities and to characters in movies to do that, that was my comfort zone.
So, I would say long before grade 11, I'd already decided what ... and I'm using air quotes for those of you who can't see, what type of person I was. I definitely in no way was interested in math. There was no one I'd ever seen in any media representation who did math and then was like me. That looked like me, that acted like me, that dressed like me, that had the same interest as me. That wasn't really an option. So, I would say long before I actually started doing poorly in math, I already was completely disinterested and had written myself off because I was like, "Oh, that's not a path that somebody like me would ever take." So, in a way. It has nothing to do with the math but in a way it has everything to do with math because math doesn't exist in a silo and our interest in math doesn't exist in a silo. It's something we either absorb or don't as part of our identity.
So, when I was younger, this isn't even interesting, because when I was younger, this didn't occur to me. I was just going along in elementary school, doing math. I wasn't even really allowed to watch TV. So, I would say once I became a teenager, once I had access to television and magazines and again, celebrity culture and much music, that's when things started to change.

Jon Orr: Gotcha, gotcha. Yeah, I find that such an interesting thing when we reflect back on that time and we didn't have these thoughts about where we were-

Venessa Vakharia: Totally.

Jon Orr: ... and what these outside influences have as an effect on us until later. And especially in our math history, it's not until I reflected back where I'm like, "Oh, that had a big impact on how I perceive mathematics," and it's different now, but it had an impact then, but I didn't realize it then.

Venessa Vakharia: Totally.

Jon Orr: Vanessa, I'm wondering if ... You've shared two moments or some big moments here about your influences towards how you view math. I'm wondering if you could give us a little bit of snapshot of how that translated into your role in education now and how you use that mindset that you've talked about in your day-to-day workings with students.

Venessa Vakharia: So, I don't know any kid that grows up being like, "I'm going to own a math tutoring company." That was definitely never my intention. I would say once I had that breakthrough moment in grade 12, I always say this when I'm talking to teachers, or parents, or students about math, it's not that it turned me into someone who was like, "Oh my God, I can do math. I'm going to go work for NASA." It actually turned me into a person who was like, "Oh my God, I can do anything I want. I have been made to believe I have to do this one thing on the planet that I'm genetically deficient and that's been proven wrong. So what else can I do?" That was the moment when I was like, "Maybe I will start a rock band."
It really changed everything. But one of the things it did is it made me want to change that for other people. I was like, "Oh my God, I need to start showing everyone that they can do math." So immediately, I was tutoring everyone in my grade 12 math class. We were going to Coffee Time after school and smoking cigarettes. This was a long time ago guys, when you were allowed to do that. We were doing math and I was getting everyone so pumped up and I did end up going to teachers college. I did try working in a high school classroom. Not for me, I am not a good disciplinarian, I'll tell you that right now. But from that, I started tutoring and as I was tutoring one-on-one, I realized that one-on-one, I could have these conversations with students. I can make the math problems that revolved around their favorite celebrities and their favorite TV shows. I could get them really interested. I could talk to them about my story.
And honestly, it was like one thing led to another and the next thing I know I'm here today with 50 tutors and a tutoring studio, I guess it's almost like ... It's a funny question because I'm like, well it creeps into every single part of my life. My tutoring studio has pink velvet couches and we serve tea lattes and I light incense and I'm reading kids tarot cards before their tutoring sessions and talking to them about their boy problems. And that incorporates into their confidence and how they feel about math. It all ties together so seamlessly. I hire tutors who are actors, lawyers, magicians, athletes, everything to show kids ... As soon as you walk in the door of the tutoring studio, you're like, "Oh my God." Whoever you are, you feel like you belong there. It's not like you have to take off your hat of your identity to then fit into the math culture, which I think is what actually happens a lot in classrooms and in society as large.
You're expected to speak in a certain language and look a certain way and to stop chewing gum. And even to not swear, I know that sounds silly, but it's like I allow kids and teenagers to bring their full selves to math because that's what I needed. It just makes such a difference, so I think ... I mean, hopefully that answers the question, but yeah, I think that's it.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, I love it. And you touched on a couple things already and I want to dig a little deeper here because I know that you've talked a lot about math therapy and you've touched on it and how a lot of students, a lot of adults, or adults now still believe, or have a phobia, or have this tainted relationship with mathematics, or this negative relationship with mathematics. I'm wondering, and I know that you believe and you had already said, you have these opportunities to have one-on-one conversations with students, dig into things and almost take them through this math therapy session.
I'm curious if you are working with a student who has this mindset, they come forward and you see right away. You're like, "Oh my gosh, it's grade 11 me," your former self feeling negatively about math. What does that look and sound like when you have that conversation? I know with my own kids, sometimes when they're struggling with something, my son's eight, my daughter's 10, we try to have these conversations. You have to want to do well with something and you have to believe the fact that if you put that time in, that you are going to get better. What does that look like and sound like from a math context when you're having those conversations?

Venessa Vakharia: That's such a good question. I mean, I will start by saying, so Math Therapy is a podcast actually I started four years ago because I do a lot of media work with math. I'm often on TV stations and radio stations. And the stereotype holds that most journalists, as soon as you say the word math, visibly recoil, and then they'll publicly say on air, on global news, or whatever, they'll say, "Ugh, math. I can barely count to 10." They're just out there reinforcing that stereotype but-

Kyle Pearce: Totally.

Venessa Vakharia: ... aside from being upset by that, I was like, "Oh my God, these adults need math therapy. They are literally having physical trauma responses to the word math." So, started this podcast. And as I was working with adults on their math trauma, I was simultaneously working on kids with it because that's what I'm used to doing. And there are so many situations now I've created a math therapy program for teachers to actually use in the classroom. You can literally do it in a group setting, because a lot of it is storytelling. A lot of it's activity-based, but one-on-one with a student, I'm going to just think of an example right now. I have two examples.
So, I have this one high school student who's amazing. She has serious anxiety around math. We all know that math anxiety is a huge thing right now. First of all, as adults, it's hard to realize this, but especially as young people, it's hard to realize that your anxiety is actually related to something else. So for her, I said to her one-on-one, "When you go into these math tests and you're freaking out and you're blanking, what is it you're scared of?" And you start there and I'll say something, "Oh, I'm scared of failing the math test." "What would happen if you failed the math test?" "Well, I'd get a bad mark." "What would happen if you got a bad mark?" "Well, maybe I'd fail math." "And what would happen if you failed math?" "Well, I wouldn't get into university." "What would happen if you didn't get into university?" "I'd never get a job."
At a certain point you say, "Do you really think that's going to happen? Do you really think you're not going to get a job and you're going to have ... " Whatever. And they'll be like, "Well, no." And then you can backtrack a bit and say, "What happens if you fail that math test? Realistically, what would happen? Would it ruin your whole mark for the entire year?" And then you start peeling it back and the answer is no. And then you can actually start focusing on the positives that might come from that.
"What if you went in there and you fail that math test, is there something good that could come out of it?" "Well, yeah, I might learn that I need to study a different way." So, I think part of it is just peeling back the roots of the anxiety and it's really cognitive behavioral therapy, which I learned from my own therapist, using it in a math context. What is it that you're really scared of? And then you can also start developing strategies. If you are really scared that you're going to fail test and you're going to be a failure in life and you're never going to get into university. If that's your fear, before you go into your math test, let's write down that that is not going to happen. And let's write down that the outcome of this test doesn't matter that much. Let's relay that. Let's just promise you're going to do your best and whatever you learn from the mark you get, or from the outcome of that test, will be sufficient.
Another thing I try to do is set different goals. So if you're a really math anxious student, instead of your goal being, I have to get 90 on the test. I want your goal to be that you're not going to cry during this math test. Let's try to not cry. That's all you have to do this test. I don't care what mark you get. So, that kind of stuff really helps shift focus. I think for me, it's really easy for me to tap into what a student's feeling and why they're particularly anxious, or what their math trauma might be, because so much of that has happened to me.
But I think also the big part of it comes from naming it. We don't name it with students, we don't say ... because a lot of ... on the podcast, people will say, "I don't think I had a traumatic incident." And you'll peel it back and they'll say something like, "Well, my mom always told me it was genetic that I wasn't good at math." and I'll be like, "Bam, there it is. That's traumatic." If you grow up in a society where no one who looks like you is good at math, that is actually traumatic. It's something my therapist taught me, that's called sneaky trauma. It doesn't seem traumatic at the time but when you look back, it hasn't induced a trauma response.
So, all of those things, just to back up because I've been rambling, for teachers or educators listening, naming the trauma, making it okay for ... Really saying to your kid, "I got you. You've had something crappy happen to you. You had a teacher yell at you once. You had a kid laugh at you once when you got the wrong answer, that sucks. That sucks and I totally get it. And that's partially why you feel the way you do. Let's talk about it and work on it." Number two, setting different goals that aren't as anxiety inducing and number three, really peeling back with a kid one-on-one to figure out what it is they're afraid of, so you can tackle what they're afraid of instead of the little BAND-AID on top, which is the math.

Jon Orr: Yeah. Those are some really great tips on thinking about this emotional impact that the math class actually invokes. I think that as teachers, we don't think about that enough. I'm a high school teacher and I know that I definitely used to never think about how math class impacts students' emotions when they walk in the door. Last fall, we had Tom Schimmer in our virtual Math Summit, which I think you are joining us for this next year's Math Summit. And he talked about in his assessment seminar, we have to recognize that students are emotionally impacted just by talking about mathematics and it comes in many different ways. And we have to take that into account because we are assessing our students for growth. And so, we can't disregard that kids are going to have an emotional response to being assessed, or taking that test, or even just walking in the door. So, I'm glad you brought that up and provided a few tips for us teachers to think about that moving forward.
Vanessa, why do you think, I know that you've chatted about this before, but why do you think that stereotypes are our greatest obstacle? Because I think teachers might not immediately think that. They might think getting kids to attend class, or homework, or how do I get procedural fluent? There's a ton of things that teachers put in their minds that's going, "This is my biggest pebble right now in my shoe." And you're saying your biggest pebble for all of us should be, how do we address stereotypes in math class? Why do you think that's the greatest up school we have right now?

Venessa Vakharia: Well, okay. So funny, Kyle, because you said earlier that when you talk to your kids, you're trying to talk to them about how you have to want to do well at something. When I think about one of my biggest math moments, that grade 12 math teacher who told me there's no such thing as a math person, it's not like, oh bam, I became a genius, but it changed my attitude. I was like, "Oh, if there's no such thing as a math person, that means that when I'm faced with an obstacle, I have what it takes to overcome it," changed my mindset.
So, when we say stereotypes, we're really talking about mindset being the biggest obstacle. Yes, there are stereotypes about what it means to be good at math and what that looks like and what you have to be like and what skills you have to possess. So, that's really harmful because for example, if you're not like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting and you can't do crazy calculations in your head, you might think, "You know what? I suck at mental math. I'll never be good at math." But mental math is one tiny component of being good at math. There are many ways to be good at math, so that's one stereotype we have to break.
But in terms of mindset, almost a more harmful stereotype is that people who are good at math, or who want to do math, or who excel at math, don't have a bright future ahead. They're losers, they can't be in a romantic relationship, they can only have super boring jobs. All the math you're learning is completely pointless unless you want to be like this person. And it's funny because in a way, I think as teachers, we think we've got to make this math really meaningful to kids. We have to make it relevant so they want to do it. I actually think what it is is we have to make the idea of being good at math, attractive to kids.
So whenever someone says to me, "Why do I need this math?" What I say is, "When I learned that I could do math and when I persevered past those obstacles, that's when I started a rock band." It's not like, "Oh, that's when I became a math teacher and that's when I be started getting straight As." When you can push through something that you think you're not good at, or that it takes you extra hard work to do, you're building a skill that is a valuable way beyond the math classroom. You're proving that your brain can think differently. It can think under pressure, you can come up with creative ways to solve problems. Those are all skills that you're going to need in whatever pursuit you want to follow, is that the world is going to throw you all sorts of curve balls. And if you can think on your feet and if you solve problems creatively, if you can keep going, even when the going gets tough, those are the main skills you need to succeed. And math class teaches that above all else.
So, I think that stereotype is too bold. It's not just what it means to be a quote unquote math person, but it's what can being good at math and pursuing math and building a better relationship with math, what can that bring you in life?

Kyle Pearce: Love it. I love it. That's a great answer because I feel we also have a very similar mindset in terms of even the math curriculum that we write and what we bring to the math classroom. There used to be, for a really long time, both Jon and I were on this journey, I know a lot of educators, other Math Moment Makers out there, are on this journey where we're trying to make math cool. And we're working so hard to make it relate to every single student. And what we've realized over time is it's like, "No, we want to craft opportunities to challenge students," because we're humans, humans enjoy challenge if it's an appropriate amount of challenge. If we're giving them an impossible feat given where they are now like, hey, if I want my son to try to jump this far, and he's only eight years old and it's impossible for that to happen, that's not an acceptable or a useful challenge, but in math class, there's so many things we can do.
Even if the concept itself isn't something that I'm going to pull out of my pocket every day in my life, that real world, that relevant, that useful once I'm out in the real world, we've put that aside. I loved how you mentioned that. It's about figuring out how to get out of a pickle. How do you get out of a pinch? You're in this scenario, it's like we're constantly trying to craft these scenarios for students where it's like, "Okay, let's pique your curiosity. Let's get that curiosity going. And let's get you thinking about this scenario, even though this scenario may not be something that will ever happen again but that thinking that you're doing is so important."
I think it also comes back to something, I think most educators, whether they are in the back to basics camp, or if they're in the inquiry camps, or somewhere in between, we all want students to be comfortable, fluent and flexible with numbers so that they can visualize the numbers they're working with. So, I love that so much. And that stereotype thing, as you mentioned, I think is so key because if it's not cool to think, right?

Venessa Vakharia: Yes.

Kyle Pearce: And that's what I think it is, right?

Venessa Vakharia: That's what it is.

Kyle Pearce: Those news anchors. Yeah, when you said how many news anchors are ... they either make fun of themself on camera for not being good at math, or ... it blows my mind.

Venessa Vakharia: I had one news anchor, he was like, "I need to use my feet to count to 20," and he had to pull his shoe out his sock on the national news. But I've got to say to your point, one thing I always ask elementary kids when they're like, "I can't do math." I say, "Okay guys, I'm in a rock band, there are five of us. And we always argue about who gets to pick the first song we play, what could we do?" And they all have all these crazy ideas. "You could all put your name in a hat. You could all rotate, so every fifth show you're ... " and I'm like, "You're doing math. You're doing math in five right now and you're thinking of all these creative solutions." They're not in a rock band. This isn't relevant to their lives, but they all want to solve my problem for me because I'm fighting with all my band mates and they don't want the band to break up. Exactly like you said, it's like that ... yeah.

Kyle Pearce: You do tell them though, the real right way to pick is the person who plays the keytar always picks the first time.

Venessa Vakharia: No. And then I'm like, "You don't know who Bon Jovi is? Get out of here. Get out of here." And math education doesn't have a crisis, music education does.

Jon Orr: Yeah, that's hilarious. Kyle and I chat about here on the podcast too, is about storytelling and context matter so much to bring students into the lessons that we teach them every day and talking about storytelling. I know that you're a big fan of the show, Ted Lasso, as I am as well. I think one of the best shows has been on TV in a long time. What have you learned thinking about math education? Because when we talk about Ted Lasso, it is not a math education show and teachers I'm sure who have seen a show who are listening right now are going, "Yeah, that's a soccer show, or a coaching show, or a life show."

Venessa Vakharia: No, no, yeah.

Jon Orr: Hey, what have you learned about how Ted Lasso can help us teachers in the classroom?

Venessa Vakharia: Okay. Well, if know Ted Lasso, you know that his motto, his mantra, his be all, end all, is just the word believe. Ted lasso is all about mindset. He's coaching a team of underdogs and above all else, he's like, "At the end of the day, you have to believe that it's possible to win the game." I always say this to teachers and also, I don't want to make anyone feel bad. I think it's hard, especially when you have those kids that are really struggling. It's hard to believe that they can improve. But I always say, kids can feel that. We can feel that when someone believes in us. So the number one thing you can do in the classroom is truly honestly, 100% believe. Not believe that every kid can get a 90, believe that every kid can have a better relationship with math in your classroom than when they walked in the door. That's all you have to do, truly believe it. And that in itself will be a game changer.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. I was about to ask you for a big takeaway or an idea, and I feel like you just gave it to us. I want to even add to that too, and something I'm trying to be more conscious of, and I hope other educators out there take that advice that you just shared, and also think about this as well. You had mentioned about, it's not about every student thinking or believing that they can get a 90, but to me, it's trying to even reframe that and say, "Do you want to get a 90? Because if you really do, you can, you totally can."

Venessa Vakharia: I love it.

Kyle Pearce: But how much effort is that going to take you? It might take you a lot of effort. And if you're just going to put the same effort you're putting in right now, then that might just mean that you don't actually want a 90 that bad. So, it's like a lot of times just framing that out, right?

Venessa Vakharia: This is the biggest actual point I think of this whole interview, and I didn't even say it, but Kyle, it is it because also, you don't have to feel about if you don't want a 90, just-

Kyle Pearce: For sure, right.

Venessa Vakharia: ... but just be honest with it. Because if you say you want a 90 and you're putting in minimal effort, you're going to feel like a failure, but it's because you're not doing what you need to do to get a 90.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, absolutely

Venessa Vakharia: It's not that you can't get a 90. So yeah, love that.

Kyle Pearce: This drives it home. I think about this all the time. And I have a neighbor who runs marathons. I run in the morning, 5K, my neighbor runs marathons. My neighbor tells me that she cannot get up at the same time I do to run in the morning and we constantly talk about this. I always say to her, "That's not true." I said, "You just don't want to get up early and that's okay."

Venessa Vakharia: I feel attacked, I feel attacked.

Kyle Pearce: And that's that same discussion. I tell her, and I say, "Listen, I know I can run a marathon. I do not want to run a marathon. I'm not willing to put in the effort to run a marathon." So it's like even just reframing that a little bit, because it would be easy for me to say, "Well, I can only run 5K and you can run marathons, but I can get up early and you can't."
And it's like, no, no, no. It's just that our vision, our goals, are just different and that's okay. I'm comfortable with that. And you should be comfortable that you don't want to get up early, but let's not kid ourselves and suggest it's impossible for us to do these things because it totally is. It's just not where our head's at. I think in a math classroom, again, coming back to what you said, I'm like, "If we can help more students come to terms with that and be okay with that." If it's like, "Listen, that's okay, but do not tell me you can't do it because I will not allow you to say that." I think that's such a big takeaway, hopefully for those Math Moment Makers out there who are listening.
Listen, Vanessa, where can Math Moment Makers learn more about you, your work, math therapy, your band? Tell us a little bit about that before we sign off for the day.

Venessa Vakharia: Okay. Well, most importantly, I'm on here to get Spotify followers for my band. So, if nothing else, please look us up. We're called Goodnight Sunrise. Make sure when you look up Goodnight Sunrise, you see a picture of a woman that looks like me because there's this defunct band called Goodnight Sunrise from Montana. We're not that band. Goodnight Sunrise should be the first band that comes up. For The Math Guru, themathcrew.ca, you can find everything. I'm mostly an Instagram person, so The Math Guru on Instagram. You can do TheMathGuru on Twitter and Math Therapy, the podcast, anywhere you listen to podcast, you can find Math Therapy.

Jon Orr: Love it, awesome stuff. Vanessa, thanks so much for joining us and taking time out of your busy schedule this summer. And we look forward to chatting with you again and also to your session, come this fall in the 2022, Make Math Moments Virtual Summit.

Venessa Vakharia: Yay.

Kyle Pearce: All right, we'll see you then.

Jon Orr: Thanks so much, take care.

Kyle Pearce: Take care, have a great day.

Venessa Vakharia: Bye, I'm really awake now.

Kyle Pearce: All there, Math Moment Makers. So there you have it, that's Vanessa hanging out with us and I'm sure you enjoyed the conversation. If you're listening to this nice and early in the morning, then you know how Vanessa felt this morning. She got up a little earlier than usual to chat with us and we can't thank her enough for coming in and sharing some of those big takeaways. Remember, how are you going to hang on to some of this learning? I know for me, one of the big takeaways is again, to always be thinking about goal-setting for students and what is realistic for students, and how much are they willing to put in order to get a goal?
So, helping students to set goals and make sure that they're real goals. We talked about that near the end of the episode. We don't want students walking away saying, "I can't get a 90." It's like, "No, no, no. You can get a 90. Are you willing to put in the effort to get a 90?" So, what is the goal that you're-

Jon Orr: True.

Kyle Pearce: ... willing to put your effort into to achieve? Because everyone can do those things, but not if we just show up and we don't actually set reasonable goals and reasonable plans and action steps in order to reach those goals. So for me, what am I going to do? I'm reflecting right now by reiterating some of these key points. So, maybe you want to do the same thing. Maybe you want to jot it down in a journal. Maybe you want to call a colleague, or maybe you want to leave a comment on our YouTube video that'll be up, or maybe on the blog over at makemathmoments.com. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you do something so that learning sticks.

Jon Orr: Awesome, Kyle. Thanks for sharing that. Also, you can head on over to our Facebook page or our Facebook group, Math Moment Makers K to 12, to share comments, or don't forget that people are posting regular over there. So, you could learn from them or also post your pebble in your shoe right now, over there and get some help in the private Facebook group. In order to ensure you don't miss out on new episodes as they come out each week, be sure to hit the subscribe button on your player right now. If this is your first time listening to the show, go ahead and do that. You will get notifications because we release them every Monday morning. If you are watching this right now over on YouTube or hey, you are a YouTube watcher, get over there and subscribe, hit that bell, so that you also can enjoy the show on that different platform as well.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome. Friends, we are looking for our next Math Mentoring Moment episode. So, make sure you let us know. All you need to do is give us a one liner about the pebble that's kicking around in your shoe over at makemathmoments.com/mentor, makemathmoments.com/mentor. And we'll hop on. Have a conversation with you about that pebble. Remember show notes, links to resources and complete transcripts to read and download right from the web to take with you, can be found over on the website, makemathmoments.com/episode194 closing in on 200 here Jon, that's-

Jon Orr: Coming up.

Kyle Pearce: ... make mathmoments.com/episode194. Well, until next time, my Math Moment Maker friends, I'm Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.

Jon Orr: And a big high five for you.

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