Episode 202: How To Fill Your Bucket – An 2022 NCTM Annual Reflection

Oct 10, 2022 | Podcast | 0 comments



In this live taping of the Make Math Moments That Matter Podcast Jon & Kyle visit the 2022 Annual NCTM Conference in Los Angeles. The discuss how conferences can “fill your bucket” as well as hear key takeaways from conference attendees. 

Stick around and you’ll learn how you too can fill your bucket. 

You’ll Learn

  • Why conferences are so much more than just learning sessions; 
  • Why mimicking is a teaching technique we should avoid; 
  • How to leverage constraints vs. freedoms; 
  • How you can fill your own bucket when you can’t attend a conference; 


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!


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

Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr. We are two math teachers from makemathmoments.com. And together with you, the community of math moment makers worldwide who want to build and deliver problem-based math lessons that spark curiosity and fuel sense making.

Kyle Pearce: And finally, igniting those teacher moves, Jon, we are super excited to be hanging out with the math moment maker community. And actually this may be the first episode that you and I are recording where we're sitting face to face together in the same room, not over a web call, which is really interesting. So I'm wondering if there's going to be an interesting dynamic here. But why are we face to face? Where are we? Why does it sound less clear than maybe in the past?

Jon Orr: Yeah. Seems like, wait a minute. Normally I don't hear all this background noise because we are actually sitting in the lobby of the JW Marriott in Los Angeles recording this episode because we are at the NCTM 2022 Conference and we wanted to share our experiences with that conference with you right here. And we also have some nuggets, some big takeaways from conference attendees. We're going to be walking around and grabbing those reactions from people and sharing some of the big ideas that they're having. So we're going to be bringing that to you. And it's kind of all about bucket filling, right? That's some of the big takeaway when you go to a conference.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, absolutely. We were talking about this for a long while, and it's actually been a couple years. Every live face to face conference pre-pandemic, we were talking about how we should do one at the conference, and we finally have this opportunity after a few year delay, we're back at a face to face conference. We've got about 5,000 people at this NCTM, which is I think a little lower than usual. I think maybe some people are still kind of wondering about the whole COVID effect and all of those things. But it is so awesome to just feel the energy here, the excitement. It's almost like it gives you this hope for the future in your math classroom that there's always something we can do to try to reach more learners. So we're going to be talking here about just that, as filling your bucket. And I remember, Jon, after the first session that you went to at this conference, when we came out of that session, you said exactly that to me.
You're like, "I feel like my bucket is full." Now, I know we're not going to be able to provide that exact opportunity for people listening to the podcast because they're not here necessarily. But we do feel like listening to people's takeaways can really give you that sense, that same bucket is full sort of energy. And it might be just to kind of fuel the next step in your own professional learning, and that's what we're hoping to do here today. So you're not going to get maybe a complete picture from these takeaways, but we're hoping that at least one of them resonates with you and that you can maybe dig down the rabbit hole. And we'll give you some opportunities at the end of the episode, some ideas on how you might go down that rabbit hole so that your bucket can continue to fill and hopefully be overflowing with hope, excitement, and just thoughts for the future.

Jon Orr: Yeah, that's perfect, Kyle. And so like I said, we're going to hear from attendees, we're going to be walking around having them introduce themselves, talking about their kind of bucket-filled moments. And then we're going to share our own. Actually, let's share our own right now, Kyle. What would be your big takeaway so far from the conference?

Kyle Pearce: There has been so many. First off, yesterday I was in a session and it was super awesome. It was a really tough problem. I was really forced to use my strategic competence. That was a great experience, great experience. Not really a good one here because it's a very visual task so I'm not going to use that one, but that is on my mind. But something I wanted to talk about, which I think is really important is sometimes you go to a conference or maybe watch webinars or you see someone speak and oftentimes you hear people say, "Oh, I've already seen that, I've already done that."

Jon Orr: "Not going to that one."

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, "I'm not going to go to that one, I'm going to go over to something else," and I get caught in that same world. But I find oftentimes when there was something that resonated with me, I mean, if it doesn't resonate with you at all the first time, then it's probably not a great idea to go seek out that particular topic or speaker. But when a speaker has a message that resonates, and for me, the speaker I'm going to be talking about is Peter Liljedahl. And I've seen Peter speak, you've seen Peter speak, we've had him on the podcast a couple times, we've read his book. So we know a lot about what Peter has to say, but yet I still went to his session. And in my mind, in the back of my mind, I was sort of wondering, is this my best use of time?
And I'm telling you, it's so interesting, I had this, almost this realization that every time you go to a session, something different will likely resonate with you. And there's a couple different factors. First of all, it might just be that at that time you weren't thinking in that place. So my head is in a different place today than it was maybe last week, but especially if I haven't seen Peter in a year, maybe I wasn't ready to hear certain messages, or maybe just something just didn't sit with me the same way.
Maybe Peter said it in a different way. And in particular what I wanted to talk about is Peter and mimicking. We talk about this a lot, but the way he articulated it this time resonated with me. Maybe it's been the same since I've ever seen him, but I felt like it was different for me. And he mentioned this, and I know you were in the session too there, Jon, but he talked about this idea like, mimicking is what we tend to default to as math teachers. And he even said when he asks teachers about mimicking, most are like, "Eh, not really a fan." And the way he says it too, he's like, "Yeah, mm, maybe a little bit but not a fan." But the reality is, that's what most math classrooms look like. And he said it's because the instant appearance, it's like that illusion of understanding that I've mentioned in our spiraling courses, the illusion of understanding.
He didn't say this, but it resonated with me this way, that you think kids get it when you try to get them to mimic you, because they're literally just doing what you did a minute ago and you're like, "Great, they got it," and if you have an assessment the next day, mimicking would work really well. But what it doesn't do is it doesn't stick around. And that's that sort of idea around spiraling that we've looked at and interleaving and how the brain learns. And it sort of hit me in a way that it's never hit me before. And the part that also hit me in a different way was how he said that everyone has an ability to mimic, but eventually the ability to mimic will run out as the complexity gets more difficult.

Jon Orr: Or as the wheels start falling off.

Kyle Pearce: Exactly. And we referenced that. It was sort of the first time that I made the connection that Jon and I call that the wheels falling off. And for some kids, that's in grade three, for some it's in grade five, for some it's in grade 10. For me it was in university when my wheels fell off. Well, that was when my ability to mimic sort of ran out. So that whole chunk that I thought I understood, it hit me in a completely different way. And I thought that was worth sharing to the podcast because again, we talk about a lot of similar things when we're doing our presentations, but maybe something different will hit you the next time you attend.

Jon Orr: That's an interesting phenomenon to think about hearing the same message over and over and over again, but you being in a different place, your mind is in a different place, your experiences have changed along the way and now maybe it hits you and you're like, "I get it now and I'm going to implement that now." And I think that's so important to think of. You should go back and revisit some of these ideas because maybe you can build on that. So for example, you could go back and listen to a podcast episode that you've listened to way back. So if maybe you are following week to week as we publish our episodes and you've listened to a big chunk before, it might be worth actually jumping back and going, " You know what, let me just pick a couple and re-listen." Because you're right, you can pick up and it hits you in a completely different way than you thought.
And maybe it's just the way it was said again can influence you that it wouldn't have before because of some experiences you went through. I think that's a great kind of recognition on your end to not discount previous learning. The same is true of rereading a book, sometimes reading a book can come back and get you later and you're like, "Man, I read that book, but now this is really sticking with me," so that's a great takeaway. I think that hits home for a lot of people. My takeaway, Kyle, was in a session actually right after by one of our speakers that is going to be at the Make Math Moments Virtual Summit, which Peter is also going to be at the summit this year, but was with Nat Banting. And I've seen Nat speak maybe just once other than last year's summit as well. But he talked about something that really stuck with me, is he talked about... Hey, wait a second, look who just popped up.

Sara VanDerWerf: Hey, it's Sara VanDerWerf from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Jon Orr: Whoo hoo.

Kyle Pearce: Whoo hoo. I'm trying to think on the fly of what episode number that was. Do you remember?

Jon Orr: I don't know. Sara, we're going to ask people what their biggest takeaway from the conference is, that's what we're talking about here today. And I was just sharing mine, but let's jump into yours. What is your biggest takeaway so far?

Sara VanDerWerf: Well, I just came out of a session with Crystal Watson, which was really great, and she was talking about the role of identity. And I'm both haunted and really thrilled about thinking about how my actions, not even so much my words, but my actions really create what students do and might think about math and themselves and their relationship to math. So that's what I'm thinking about right now.

Jon Orr: Yeah, that's a great one. I was just talking about Nat's session yesterday and I felt like that's in a similar vein because he talked about control. Many teachers are actually implementing control in the room, whereas we need to look at this balance between freedom and constraint and operate in there, and operating in there gets to kind of what you're saying. It's like there's these moves that we can put in here that cause our students to act in a particular way, and we really have to think about these actions.

Sara VanDerWerf: The intentionality.

Jon Orr: And the intentionality of what we want. And so his session was great for that, lets you think about what are some of the questions I can impose, but he gave us really great practical applications of here's a typical problem and let me just put this phrase in here that puts all of a sudden a constraint on this issue, but gives you a ton of freedom.

Sara VanDerWerf: I was at his session too, and I don't want to start any controversy, but he might be my new favorite Canadian.

Jon Orr: Oh, wow.

Sara VanDerWerf: In the math community.

Jon Orr: We'll cut that out.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, cut that out.

Sara VanDerWerf: Good to see you guys.

Kyle Pearce: Good to see you, Sara.

Jon Orr: Take care, Sara.

Kyle Pearce: That's awesome. So that was Sara VanDerWerf, who just was walking by, literally just got our email we sent out to our email list saying we're going to be in about 10 minutes walking around and collecting some of these big takeaways. And she popped in to just share hers. So how cool is that?

Jon Orr: It's awesome. And that's actually what we're going to do right now. We're going to hit the road and we're going to hit the walking beat and we're going to go talk to some folks out there and get what their big bucket takeaway is from this session.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome. And before we do go, we will, on the flip side, after we share some of those takeaways, we'll kind of consolidate some of this thinking and then give you some next steps as to where you might be able to go. I'm almost feeling like some people might be like, "Wait a second, this episode isn't completely filling my bucket, but it's like it's starting the filling process." So we're going to give you some ideas on maybe where you can go to continue the filling of that bucket. And I just want you to sort of think, well, what is your, I guess, takeaway that resonates with you?
And that's going to help you with your next steps on how you can continue filling that bucket. Maybe leave a comment below or leave us a rating and review and say, "Hey, here's my big takeaway and this is what I'm interested in learning more about." And hopefully we'll get that discussion and people can help one another in finding those resources. And of course our team would be really excited to help point you in that direction. So here we go. We're going to be packing up here, walking across to the other building where the exhibitors are to go chat with folks just like you.

Adrienne Paul: I'm Adrienne Paul and I'm a math content developer for UnboundED. And one of my primary takeaways from this experience is how we are all here for children and we are all devoted to providing equitable opportunities for them with regard to mathematics, learning and education, and how ultimately our end goal will be to make them better people through the learning of mathematics.

Kyle Pearce: I love it.

Jon Orr: Awesome. Thanks so much, Adrienne.

Chris: Hi, my name's Chris. I teach in Ceres, California. And what has filled my bucket is getting to know my teammates that I work with, math intervention teachers, collaborating with them, sharing ideas, and just getting to know each other as human beings.

Deborah: Hi, I'm Deborah Pare and I'm super excited to be a part of this because NCTM has been absolutely amazing. And my big takeaway is we need to stop keeping it a secret. We need to get this joy of mathematics and everything out to the world and share it with our literacy folks. So I think my new thing is I'm going to start going undercover to literacy conferences and talk about math. Who's with me? Let's do this. Thanks so much.

Jon Orr: Thanks so much. That was awesome.

Tracy: Hi, I'm Tracy. I teach in Ceres. Something that's filled my bucket is just being able to collaborate with the people that are of like mind and just getting excited about the content all over again.

Kyle Pearce: Amazing. Thanks.

Nancy: Hi, I'm Nancy and I'm from Arizona. I teach at a middle school. I'm the math interventionist. And what's filling my bucket is all these amazing teachers here that I get to be with and I get to take their energy and give them my energy. And when you add energy together, it explodes in a good way. And that's what I'm getting here.

Kyle Pearce: Thanks so much.

Jon Orr: Amazing.

Lish Mitchell: Yeah, my name is Lish Mitchell and I am the PD marketing director at Heinemann. And my biggest takeaway from this conference has been the opportunity to connect with my team members. This is the first time that I've actually met them in person since inaudible over a year. And for us to be able to have a genuine connection and conversation has been everything

Kyle Pearce: That is amazing. That's actually, someone just echoed something very similar where it was just how much they've learned about their team. They had been working face to face, but the reality is that they never really knew each other, and now they feel like they have more of a personal relationship. So what an awesome way to fill your bucket.

Lish Mitchell: Yeah. And it's an awesome way to leave. I'm leaving in a few hours. It's like a major win. The booth has been successful, our rebrand has been phenomenal. But again, it's the people, the power, the passion, and we're delivering it and I think it's reflected in who we are.

Jon Orr: I love it. Thank you so much.

Lish Mitchell: Thank you.

Kyle Pearce: Thanks, team.

Lish Mitchell: Thank you.

Kris Childs: Kris Childs, excited to be on this episode right here at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Los Angeles Conference. What thrilled me about this conference, we are finally back face to face and seeing a lot of new folks, seeing some older folks that have been around for a while in the game. And seeing them makes me realize how we're continually coming together and bridging these gaps that we have within education, and not with the children, but with the adults that are facilitating these experiences. And also thinking about, it's great that we are here face to face. We're seeing each other post-COVID. What are we going to do the next 365 days until we meet again? So we're in a different space. This has been your boy, Dr. Kristopher J. Childs.

Kyle Pearce: Thanks, Kris.

Speaker X: Hey, girl.

Leanne: Hey, I'm Leanne from North Carolina and my takeaway is it's been great to be back face to face with lots of educators who are excited about math.

Jon Orr: Amazing. Thanks so much. It's been a very common theme, I think, from a lot of the folks that we've been chatting with, is that there's a lot of community here. So thanks so much.

Leanne: Thank you.

Jon Orr: You're up.

Mike Flynn: Hey, there's Mike Flynn from Massachusetts and I'm the program chair here for NCTM. And what filled my bucket was the ShadowCon talks, in particular, Sean Nank's at the end where he really shared some deeply personal experiences and connected to mathematics and just there was not a dry eye in the house and we all walked away just feeling a lot better and more connected. So absolutely, that's a great bucket.

Jon Orr: Thanks for sharing.

Kyle Pearce: You're up.

David Petro: Hey, this is David Petro from Harrow, Ontario, Canada. And what fills my bucket is the sheer number of Canadians that I'm seeing here in LA, that I... So happy that we're spreading the Canadian math love. It's awesome.

Jon Orr: Awesome, thanks. All right, Kyle, those clips, those big bucket-filling takeaways were great to hear. We had some laughs, we met some interesting people. We talked about lots of great takeaways here at the NCTM Conference. So what do you think about that so far?

Kyle Pearce: So far I loved them. I love hearing other people's takeaways. It also makes me think, boy, I wish I went to a few more sessions than maybe I got the chance to. So you look at certain sessions and you're debating this one or that one. I'm sort of a session hopper by nature, so I kind of take a look here, take a look there. But sometimes the negative there is that I sometimes don't get the whole message. So I'm a little jealous of some of these takeaways. But what I'm going to be doing is I'm going to be taking some of these ideas, I'm going to go down the rabbit hole, do a little bit of Google searching, but also, Jon, some of the friends that we've talked about, some of our takeaways, are actually going to be joining us at our 2022 Virtual Summit. And actually, Jon, who just walked by to catch his flight was Peter Liljedahl.
And we're actually going to be doing a joint session with Peter to talk about Math Moments and the Building Thinking Classrooms or Building Thinking Classrooms with Math Moments. We're going to be talking about how do they jibe together. And Peter's mentioned this a few times where he's like, no, he's got this framework ready to rock for Building Thinking Classrooms. And a lot of times he's pointing people to our Math Moments problem-based units as a means to grab some pretty awesome tasks that really promote curricular thinking classroom-style tasks. So really excited for that. What else are you excited for as we look to that virtual summit?

Jon Orr: There's going to be lots of great speakers. I'm looking forward to having Marilyn Strutchens come back and speak. She's always had some great insights for us and the community. So that's coming up. So the Virtual Summit is November 19th and 20th and if you-

Kyle Pearce: Now it's the 18th, 19th and 20th, Jon.

Jon Orr: Oh, right. We're extending it into Friday evening. You just mentioned that. I even missed it because it's just an easy miss. So the summit is coming up on those dates and if you think about bucket filling and if you think about how to fill your bucket, maybe you heard some of the big takeaways from folks here. You can also get your bucket filled by heading to that Virtual Summit as we've always made it from year to year to year. This is the fourth year, Kyle. Completely free to attend the weekend. You can visit these sessions that lots of people who are presenting here at this conference are presenting in the Virtual Summit. So you can go get your bucket filled by heading on over to makemathmoments.com/summit. Register yourself, but don't forget to share the summit with a colleague, a friend, your administrator, and maybe your math coach.
We want it shared widely so that we can get those bucket... That's one of our goals, right, Kyle, is spread math professional development to as many places as we can and make it as accessible as we can. And that's why we hold this conference completely free over the weekend. And you don't need to have supply teacher coverages, you can fill your bucket that way. So if you kind of felt like maybe you missed out a little bit by not being able to attend a live conference like we are here, don't worry. You can also fill your bucket by heading on over to the Virtual Summit.

Kyle Pearce: And honestly, Jon, the other thing I want people to reflect on, especially our listeners because we just finished our session, we're in between sessions right now. Jon and I presented this morning. We had so many math moment makers in there, it was amazing. We shared this summit and it was almost like everyone there was sort of like, "Of course we're already signed up." So our call to action for you is less about signing up, because you probably already are. The question for you is how are you going to share it? How are you going to be sort of a means to spread this word? And for our district leaders in particular, if they go to makemathmoments.com/summitdistrict, we've got all kinds of goodies that will make that job easier. I know how it is. I'm a K-12 consultant for my district. Trying to spread the news or an idea can be really, really challenging.
So we've got some great ideas on how you can try to make this an irresistible event. One of the biggest challenges that our district leads from our mentorship districts that we work with, one of their biggest challenges is how do I motivate educators who seem maybe content or seem like they're not willing to learn? A lot of it is that spark. They just need this little spark to happen. And it's like if you can get more of your educators to even attend one of those Virtual Summit sessions, it might provide that spark. If they leave a session and their bucket is full, just like we were feeling here in this live conference, that can be the start of something different. And actually talking with Peter earlier, I mentioned Peter a lot, it's like the Peter episode here. Peter had mentioned there's Alex Overwijk who has been on our podcast and Alex is a huge supporter of the thinking classroom, has been featured in a lot of the work that Peter does.
When Peter met Alex back in, I think it was 2014, he just mentioned this to us last night, he said that Alex, when he first met him, said, "Hi, I'm Alex Overwijk and I'm retiring in..." I think it was like three years. That was back in like 2014. Alex just retired. It was like the thinking classroom totally changed his perspective on what math class could be. And all it took was that one little spark to get him going, and it changed who he was forever as a math teacher. So if you're listening to this, whether you are a formal district leader, the reality is you are a leader. You're listening to this podcast.
So how can you find ways to encourage others without feeling too pushy to attend so that they might get that bucket full or at least started to be filled? That's your call to action. So with that, Jon, honestly, I just said a lot and we gave you some calls to action. So that's about it for today. We're not even going to give you a show notes page or anything like that because guess what? Until next time, I'm Kyle Pierce.

Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High Fives for us. And a high five for you.

Jon Orr: That was a loud one.

Kyle Pearce: We actually clapped for real for the first time.

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