Episode 206: Crafting a Productive Math Struggle in Your Math Classroom
Kevin spends time with us to unpack why productive struggle is a necessary part of an effective mathematics program, what we can do now to plan and implement lessons that place students in a productive struggle and how we might get key stakeholders convinced that learning in a math classroom that might look different than the one they remember can be a good thing for students.
- What can you do differently than teaching math just “slower and louder”;
- Why productive struggle is a necessary part of an effective mathematics program;
- What you can do now to plan and implement elements of productive struggle;
- How to ensure a lesson crafted to provide a productive struggle is delivered with productive struggle (instead of the teacher robbing the thinking of students);
- How to help families and key stakeholders get “on board” with teaching through productive struggle; and,
- What resources are great for modifying your lessons to allow for more productive struggle.
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Kevin Dymeka: Instead of telling them, class, X to the Nth times X to the Nth is X to the Nth plus M. Why don't you say, all right, take X squared times X to the third. Write out in expanded form, put it back in exponential form. What do you notice?
Or what is seven plus three, five plus five? Giving them a set of facts. Why don't you say, all right, give me five different problems whose answer is 10 blue fish? Do something to really force those kids to start to think. It doesn't need to be any big grandiose thing initially. Start small. Do some things to get them engaged with that.
Sometimes I like to think...
Kyle Pearce: In this episode, we speak with veteran grade eight classroom teacher, author and current NCTM President Kevin Dymeka.
Kevin spends some time with us to unpack why productive struggle is a necessary part of an effective mathematics program. What we can do now to plan and implement lessons that place students in a productive struggle and how we might get key stakeholders convinced that learning in a math classroom that might look a little different than the one they remember can actually be a good thing for students.
John, are you ready to do this?
Jon Orr: Lets inaudible.
Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I'm Kyle Pierce.
Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr. We are from MakingMathMoments.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.
John, we are so lucky to have the opportunity to dive into a conversation here tonight with Kevin. We know Kevin from past couple of years in the math world and actually had some conversations with Kevin along the way. We were even nudging Kevin to do some writing for us with the problem based math units. And guess what? NCTM came and scooped him up.
Jon Orr: They did.
Kyle Pearce: Instead. What an awesome conversation we had. It was great to see him even though briefly in LA at the annual conference, the national conference, and it's great to see Kevin here tonight chat with us about productive struggle.
Jon Orr: Yeah. He's got so many great nuggets. Having been a veteran teacher for I think, what did he say, 28 years, I think it was. Or 30 years. Close to 30 years anyway. And I thought it was amazing. Classroom teacher jumps right into being the NCTM president. Pretty awesome for him to have that opportunity. And also pretty awesome for us and members of NCTM to have that as a perspective that they can definitely lean on in that role.
So, we talk all things productive math struggle here with Kevin and he's got some great insight for you and how you can implement and make your math lessons a little bit more productive struggley and getting your students to do a little bit more thinking. So stick with us. Let's get into it.
Kyle Pearce: Let's start getting struggley.
Hey there, Kevin. Thanks for joining us here on the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. How are things going after that long week at NCTM National in LA?
Kevin Dymeka: Things are going great. That's such a fun week to be a part of. And this year with it being the first one back face to face for an annual conference in several years, it was so much fun just to hear all the excitement from people and to hear the people who were meeting each other for the first time in real life and not just on the little Brady Bunch type looking thing on Zoom.
Kyle Pearce: Like we are right now.
Kevin Dymeka: Yeah. Three dimensions. It was so much fun and I think the first time I heard the little squeals I thought, oh, what's happening? You look and it's just two people running to give each other hugs and it was such a great energy and it's so fun just to be able to connect with people again and to see people that you may not have seen in the past few years. So, it was a great experience and looking forward to many more conferences coming up over these next few years.
Kyle Pearce: Absolutely. It definitely re-energized us. We actually recorded a podcast while we were there and went around and just some of the attendees, some of their big takeaways. It was just great to be able to... You feel the energy in a different way. When you're in a good Zoom session, the speaker might have a great message and lots to learn, but that added element of just that face to face, being able to speak to people in the flesh, look them in the face and know they're looking back at you instead of, are they looking at the camera or what are they looking at over there? So, that was awesome.
But listen Kevin. We know you from NCTM and I'm sure some others listening know who you are, but I'm wondering can you help out some of those who maybe don't know who you are? Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you coming to us from? I know from tonight, but also where are you really from and what got you on this crazy math education journey?
Kevin Dymeka: Absolutely. Yeah. So, tonight I'm coming to you from Richmond, Virginia, sitting in a hotel room, but I'll be only in Richmond for another, I don't know, 18 hours or something like that. And then back home. So, home for me is southwest Michigan. A little town called inaudible. About 10 miles west of Kalamazoo. Have lived there my entire adult life. Grew up in Grand Rapids.
I taught eighth grade math for 26 years. Last year was my first year out of the classroom and this year I'm out of classroom as well. Love my eighth graders most days. Never had any desire to be a middle school teacher. I was going to be a high school teacher and I knew I wanted to do that. I didn't want to deal with that immature eighth grade middle school behaviors. But then it got to be second week of August and it was time to get a job and I inaudible interview all summer long and it came down to a district and if I wanted the high school job, I'd be one of three finalists. If I wanted the eighth grade job, I was the finalist and I was the person. I thought I would love to teach eighth grade and now 26 years later, no way do I want to leave my eighth graders.
Kyle Pearce: He's a probability guy, John.
Jon Orr: I like that. Go for the higher probability.
Kyle Pearce: He was going for the sure thing.
Kevin Dymeka: Absolutely. So, last year I was the president elect for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. And with those responsibilities I was out of the classroom doing a variety of different things in my district. And this year, for the last 11 days or so, inaudible president for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Very honored, very humble to be in that role. I'm honored to be the first classroom teacher to come straight from the classroom into the presidency in the last 25 years. Looking forward to representing mathematics teachers throughout the world as we look at a variety of different things and as I have conversations with policy makers and other key influencers. Just so humbled to be able to represent mathematics teachers in that role and looking forward to an exciting two years.
Kyle Pearce: Congrats.
Jon Orr: Yeah. Congratulations to you. Because I was just thinking that. I was thinking how many teachers would come out of the classroom and go into that role and I was like, it can't be that many. You don't hear of that often. So, That's an amazing thing and I think you're going to have a unique perspective in that role for sure.
And I want to go back because you said you've taught grade eight math your whole career and I want you to tell us and all those other grade eight math teachers out there, what is it about grade eight that made you go, I want to teach grade eight and I've been so happy to teach grade eight? Because I think the lowest I've taught, Kevin, was seventh grade, which I loved. And then I've taught all of high school for the last 17 years. But grade seven was my youngest. I did teach some grade eight, but what is it about the grade eights?
Kevin Dymeka: Yeah. They're still at that age where they think they're grown up but they're not grown up. And it's just that weird little environment. I've heard that sixth graders cry frequently and I can't handle the tears with the crying and I don't do lockers. And I hear that in sixth grade, you spend months helping kids with lockers. I just don't do them.
But I love eighth graders because they're at that age still where they still want to be teacher pleasers, but they don't want to be teacher pleasers. They're in that weird little stage there. And I look at it as a privilege to be able to teach them. They're still at that time when you can still turn them on to the beauty and love of mathematics and you can start to really help them recognize that they are capable of learning math and they can, when they work hard and struggle through the material and think deeply about it, they can end up having a great high school career.
And one of the favorite parts about being a teacher is you go out in society and you run into former students all the time and they come up and say, do you remember? Are you Mr. Dymeka? Yeah. Did I have you as a student? And you had that quick little conversation. And they're always amazed that I remember them. Now, most of the time they have to tell me their name, but as soon as I hear their name, I could picture them as an eighth grader. But they didn't have quite as much facial hair at that point in time as they do now. But it's so much fun to see former students out in the real world being successful.
Kyle Pearce: I love that. I love that. Yeah, I can definitely relate. I spent a lot of time in the grade nine classroom, so at similar ages. And they're turning into big people. They're turning into adults, but they're still kids. So, there's that innocence there. But they're also trying to find themselves and create their own identities. Who am I as a person and getting to know their humor, the things they like and dislike and what an awesome, awesome time.
And I got to admit, yeah, the locker thing, I never really thought about that, but that could be a real game changer if you're spending...
Kevin Dymeka: I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I do not know how to do lockers. I made have it my entire teaching career without having to help a kid with lockers. When a kid comes and says, hey, can you help me with my locker? Instantly, I start having this phobia. Do you turn to the left? Do you turn to the right? inaudible. So, my colleagues know that I will not help with lockers. I can look up a locker combination. I can yank the... Once it's unlocked, I can help them. inaudible.
Jon Orr: Find patterns between the three numbers.
Kevin Dymeka: Absolutely.
Jon Orr: All kinds of craziness.
Kevin Dymeka: Don't ask me to help a kid do the lockers. I made it this long in my career and there is no way I'm going to learn how to do lockers now because it's kind of fun to be able to tell my colleagues I don't know how to do them. inaudible.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Now, it's a record thing, right? You just got to keep it going. I love it. inaudible.
Kevin Dymeka: Absolutely.
Kyle Pearce: That's fantastic. Well, Kevin, you know the Math Moment Maker community and you know we love asking everyone who comes on this show, whether it's someone who has written a book like you or are a president of an organization like you, or whether maybe it's a math mentoring moment where a teacher's talking to us about some of their current math class struggles. We ask everybody about their math moments.
So, I'm wondering, when you think back to your experience as a learner, be it through K-12 or maybe it's somewhere else along the journey when you're learning mathematics, what math moment sort of pops into your mind that you're willing to share here with the audience?
Kevin Dymeka: When I think of K12 math, sadly the thing that pops in my brain all the time is that silly little game Around the World. Where two kids are standing up. You have the flashcard. If you have the fact first, you get to keep going. I loved that game as a student because I had all those things memorized and I was so fast. And I had this notion of the faster you are, the better you are with it. So, it gave me this weird little sense of pride of, oh, I'm going to kick butt on this. Those math minutes inaudible those time drills. I succeeded on those.
So, now looking back, I feel badly for my classmates. I feel badly for those that didn't have that same experience. While it may have worked well for me, or I thought it worked well for me, it gave me a chance to show some of my mental superiority in my middle school, elementary age minds. I wonder how deflating that was for so many of my classmates. And I wonder what message was being sent to them.
And looking back, I wish my teachers wouldn't have done that. And I don't use time tests. And we know that time isn't an indicator of how intelligent you are and we have to continue to break that idea from our students. And it's so important that they see themselves as capable of doing mathematics. And once they see themselves as capable, they're that much more willing to continue to engage and to persevere when the going gets tough, so to speak.
Kyle Pearce: Right. Yeah. That makes sense. And you're not alone on that particular example referring to Around the World and Mad Minutes. So many of the guests we've had bring that up as a detrimental thing for them. We've had a lot of teachers come onto the podcast and do our math mentoring moment episodes. A lot of them will say that they aren't the best at math. They didn't become high school math teachers. They were elementary teachers who had to teach math and it wasn't their first subject that they loved. Those teachers are the ones that always said Around the World knocked them down. That one just hurt. And it sticks with them from year to year to year.
And I know you said you never used the time test. I did. Not Around the World, but I definitely did the Mad Minutes for a number of years. And thinking back, it's like, oh, wish that you could go back and shake yourself a little bit and go, you think you're doing this because you liked it when you were a kid, but you don't know all the other kids. And that was one of my wake up calls to starting to realize that I was probably treating math class the way that I liked math class and not thinking about the actual individuals of the room.
So, I'm wondering Kevin too is how else do you use this moment to influence teaching all these grade eights all these years?
Kevin Dymeka: Yeah. So, I think it's a good reminder for me all the time that what works for me isn't necessarily the way that's going to work for other students. And as I work with teachers throughout the US and Canada and other places, I think unfortunately for a lot of secondary folks, we felt successful in math. We were good rule memorizers, we were good students so to speak. So, oftentimes our default mode is to teach the way that we memorized and that doesn't work for all of our students.
So, when I think back into those Mad Minutes, I think, yeah, that might have worked for me. It didn't work for so many other. What other spots are there that just because it worked for me doesn't mean it's working for others? And just because I had that passion for math and I enjoyed learning math doesn't mean all my students... So, just a good reminder that I've got to continually look for ways to reach additional students so that I don't just say, hey, great, 25 of my 30 kids did well on this. Pat myself on the back. No, there's still those five kids that are still struggling with something and what can I do differently to help meet their needs?
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. And what an important point. And sometimes too, I've been thinking a lot about this actually in my district. We've been talking a lot about the science of reading and there's a statistic. I want to say it's 30% of students will learn how to read regardless of what sort of instruction you use, whether it's effective or ineffective. They're just going to figure it out. And you've got to assume that there's some of that going on in math class as well. So, when someone like you, Kevin, or John and I say it often, we're like, well, it worked for us so we taught that way. You think back to it and you just wonder. It's like, well, maybe anything was going to work for us. Maybe we were just that lucky one that was going to squeeze out somehow and make some connections. So, what a really big and critical, I guess, notice for you as an educator. And I'm sure that's influenced and impacted how you teach.
So, that sort of gets us down a bit of this math teaching rabbit hole that we wanted to dive into today. Because actually, not only are you the new NCTM president since this past conference just a couple weeks ago, but also you are one of the three authors of Productive Math Struggle and it is a fantastic book. We talk about productive struggle on the podcast so often. It's something we try to intentionally include in all of our Make Math units. So, my wonder for you is what inspired you to co-author? Out of all the things you could have been writing about as a math educator, what inspired you to co-author this book? And just to mention your co-authors, John SanGiovanni, who we've had on the show and is fantastic and awesome. And Susie Katt. Why was productive struggle the focus? Has that always been part of your own mathematics experience as a student? Or maybe it's always been in your math class or was this something that's emerged over time just through learning, experience, maybe mentorship? Take us down that rabbit hole.
Kevin Dymeka: Yeah. I think it's something that's emerged throughout my teaching career. When I inaudible little bit ago about early career to now and how different things are. Early career, I was very much a stand and deliver and come up with 18 different ways to explain the same thing. Sometimes, unfortunately, I'm sure I did the slower and louder approach.
Jon Orr: Oh, we were experts at that.
Kevin Dymeka: Yeah. And I started to recognize that doesn't work for each and every one of my kids. What can I do differently? How can I make math a little bit more engaging for them? How can I get this notion of let's do math by understanding, instead of math by memorizing? So, I tried doing a variety of different things to get them engaged, help them start to see connections. And then I had the privilege of serving with John SanGiovanni on the NCTM board five, six years ago. And as his term was cycling off, he said, hey Kevin, have you ever thought about writing a book? And I said, well, no, not really. But if somebody would say, hey, will you write a book with me, I could be interested. He said, I'm looking for a middle school voice for a book on productive struggle. And I said, all right, sign me up, Let's go to it.
And we had so much fun writing that book. So, Susie's primary interest is K2. John does a lot of K5. Three five is sort of his big wheelhouse. And I was a six eight. And we had so much fun just in talking with each other about how do we see this notion of productive math struggle? How can we help teachers better help students? What are some things that we can do?
And we tried to make it be a very, very practical book. Whereas, here are a variety of different strategies that you can use to really engage those students and get them to think deeply about that math. So, it's not just having them sit and listen to us talk inaudible.
Kyle Pearce: And the book's got tons of resources. I particularly liked six point action plan. It's a great book to have on your teacher desk and to pull it up and just pick off something from the table of contents that you're thinking about or need refresher on. So, that is great for sure.
Kevin Dymeka: And I need that refresher, too. There are times that I read part of the book, I was like, oh, we really put that in there? And there are times that John, Susie and I will text each other and say, wow, this was in the book and none of us are remember writing it.
Kyle Pearce: Nice.
Kevin Dymeka: And so, we continually are learning more about this.
Kyle Pearce: Sure.
Kevin Dymeka: And as we work with teachers about this notion, we continue to grow in our skills and in our knowledge with it.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Amazing, amazing. I'm curious though, Kevin, thinking back, like you said, you were more like us when we first started teaching, which was a stand and deliver type of lesson. Can you think back to what is one of those first lessons where you brought in productive struggle and then thought about what's going on in that lesson? What was your thought process before that first lesson? And maybe what led up to that first lesson? And then what was your thought process after? What was your thinking around that very first one? I wonder if you could describe that one, too.
Kevin Dymeka: Yeah. So one of the first ones that I remember where I really started to make that shift was an adding integers lesson. And I remember I had another certified teacher. Worked with a lot of students who needed some extra support. And she said, Kevin, you do a great job of teaching except for this topic. You absolutely stink at adding integers and the students are struggling with it. So, why don't I take over your class today? You go watch the teacher down the hall. inaudible how she does it with some algebra tiles or two color counters. I don't remember which she used at this point in time. And then you come back and you teach that lesson. And that was the best thing that Corrine ever did for me, was to force me to go watch somebody else.
I was like, oh yeah, just because I memorized the rules and I had a great under-... Well, I wouldn't call it understanding. I had a great memorization of the rules, not all my students understand them. They don't have that same interest necessarily that I do. And why would they when they're just trying to memorize a random set of different rules? Let's have them think deeply about what it means to add integers. And that was one of those first times that I started to see some of those light bulbs connect with students and started to hear that, oh, now I understand it. And that just filled my heart. And I'm like, oh, this is the type of teacher I want to be. I want to continue to find those spots where I can get my students to that good solid understanding have them start to make some sense of the mathematics rather than me just sitting in there and saying, here's the first thing you do, here's the second thing you do, here's the third thing you do.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. And what an opportunity that you had to get to go down and actually observe another educator. And we talk about different professional learning structures that you can build into your classroom routine. So, having somebody come in and just let you go for a walk.
And then obviously for your colleagues to have that open door is another really important piece for someone to just mosey on in and not worry about judgment. That's obviously a trust that you need to build over time. So, what an awesome opportunity. And I hope those who are listening are seeking out those opportunities. Or maybe you create the opportunity for someone else by hopping in and saying, hey, I got your back. You go down the hall and maybe someone will return the favor to you. So, thanks for sharing that there, Kevin.
Listen, there are so many Math Moment Makers listening to this right now and we know they're action takers. We talk about productive struggle quite a bit. I'm wondering if there's someone listening who maybe has heard us talking about it and maybe they're like, that would be really cool to do. Maybe they're just brand new to the noticing and naming and all the intentionality that goes into planning a lesson that has an appropriate amount of productive struggle. What would you say to them to help them get started on this journey?
Kevin Dymeka: Yeah. Start small. If you think you're going to revamp every single thing you do all at once, it'll work great for a couple days and then you'll start to tire and other things will come up. So, find those spots and really force those kids to start to think.
So, several examples of what do I mean there? When you're doing properties of exponents, instead of telling them, class, X to the Nth times X to the Nth is X to the Nth plus M, why don't you say, all right, take x square times X to the third, write it out in expanded form, put it back in exponential form. What do you notice? Or maybe it's instead of saying, what is seven plus three, five plus five, giving them a set of facts... What if you say, all right, give me five different problems whose answer is 10 blue fish?
Or if I'm thinking in middle school, write a system of equations whose answer is the ordered paired negative three, eight. Or come up with an equation whose solution is Y equals negative 19? Do something to really force those kids to start to think. It doesn't need to be any big grandiose thing initially. Start small. Do some things to get them engaged with that.
Sometimes I like to think, let the students start to make some sense of the math before you jump in and have that whole class conversation or the little bit more of the directed teaching, so to speak. Let them get that first chance at making some good solid understanding.
Kyle Pearce: You referenced some good starters. Raise a phrase questions and change questions. And I know I learned a lot from Marion Small and some of her work. I've often quoted her here on the podcast because I think she was one of the first educators that came to my district, gave a professional development session, talked about open questions and how to rephrase questions so that you can get more thinking out of them. You gave one where you give the answer and you have to come up with the question. These are some resources that I've leaned on over the years.
Do you have any specific places, resources that you would recommend people listening right now that could go and go, you know what, I've used this in my class and it's been great for this type of lesson?
Kevin Dymeka: And I love Marion Small's books. Those are great ones. Another spot that I like to pull some problems from sometimes is Open Middle Math. I think it might be openmiddle.com. I don't know the exact website.
Kyle Pearce: I think that's it.
Kevin Dymeka: You Google it and it'll pull up. But it's a way to get the students to get engaged and they're doing so much math without even necessarily realizing they're doing math and it becomes fun for them at that point in time. So, those are a couple of spots that I initially started doing.
And then just start to look for different things. And maybe at the end of the day you say, hey, what could I have done differently to get my students a little bit more actively engaged, to get them thinking about the math, get them trying to make some sense of the math? Jot yourself a note so that the following year you already have an idea. And sometimes it's after the fact that you come up with all these good ideas. It's not the just inaudible. It's spending that time reflecting at the end of the day thinking, what could I have done differently next year to meet more students' needs?
Kyle Pearce: Right. I love that. I love that. And great, great resource. We'll have that in the show notes for everyone who is listening here.
I'm wondering, when we go a little deeper, we're talking about some of the ways to get started. Love the advice of starting small. You can't do everything all at once. We can't change everything. We're not going to be perfect at something that we're trying for the first time. I'm wondering if I spend some time crafting a lesson intentionally to include a reasonable or a helpful amount of productive struggle... I'm wondering how do we ensure or are there tips on how we can ensure that we don't, I call it robbing the thinking. Or actually, I think this is a Kathy Fasno quote of robbing the thinking of the students. And I'm reminded of a book called Range: It's Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.
And the part that really moved me about this book is they actually bring up some research from the mathematics classroom from Around the World. And in particular, they found that in North America, only one fifth of the questions asked in the typical North American math classroom are of the, we'll call them, thinking questions. I think they reference them as making connections questions in the book versus procedural knowledge type questions. So, only one fifth of them. So, that's already low.
But what they found in the research, and this was the disturbing part, was that a grand total of none remained a thinking type problem by the time that the teacher gave hints and students solicited all kinds of answers from the teacher. Basically, by the end, all of that productive struggle, all of the thinking was sucked out. So, my question to you is what sorts of tips or things we might think about might help us from sucking out the struggle from the lesson and keeping that productive struggle alive so our students can truly immerse themselves in that learning?
Kevin Dymeka: And that's such a tough thing to do because for so many of us, we're nurturers and we see kids starting to get frustrated, we want to swoop in and rescue them and keep them feeling positive about things. So, one of the things that I try to do, and notice I said the word try because I'm not always successful. I have my good days and my bad days. But I try to ahead of time when I do my planning, figure out where am I going to push their thinking a little bit.
I then spend a little bit of time thinking about what are some different strategies they may use, both correct strategies and incorrect strategies. And especially for some of those false starts, I like to try to figure out what am I going to say? What question am I going to ask when that happens? Because if I try to come up with a good question in the heat of the moment, it's not such a good question. It turns out to be me just stealing all their thinking and doing the work. And I'm notorious for grabbing a kid's pencil and starting to write because I think it's going to make it faster in their... I can rationalize it all and I know how horrible it is and yet I still do that at times.
But if I spent the time ahead of the class period thinking about what question could I ask, my questions are so much better than when I come up with it in the heat of the moment. And again, sometimes it's at the end of the day I'm like, oh, that was a lousy question that I asked. I could have asked this differently. And it's giving yourself the grace and the space that you know you're going to have your moments where you're going to blow it.
We all have those moments that we blow it as teachers, but we also have those moments that we just knock the socks out of something and we've got to rejoice when that happens and give ourselves the grace to continue to learn new things. And I'm upfront and honest with my students. When I try something new, I'll tell them, hey, you're my Guinea pigs. I've never tried this before. It may be a flop. And if it's a flop, tell me it's a flop and I won't do it again. Or I'll figure out what I can do differently because I want to continue to try new things to keep it exciting for me, but more importantly, to better meet the needs of my students.
Jon Orr: Yeah.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Good tips there for sure.
Kevin, I'm wondering... Often teachers when they change their questioning techniques you've mentioned here or they've changed their teaching style to be different than the teacher down the hall's teaching style. Often we talk here on the podcast with educators and also in some of our Facebook groups that we dabble in and help teachers or talk to other teachers in, a big concern comes up with helping families, parents, key stakeholders understand the different way math is now being taught. It's kind of like, wait, I learned math this way, you should be teaching math this way. Or the student might even feel that way, too. It's like, wait, why don't you just tell me what to do?
Kevin Dymeka: Right?
Kyle Pearce: You're not teaching me, you didn't teach me how to do this problem. Sometimes that comes back at us and we feel like, oh, you're right, I'm not helping you enough. But then the kids go home and all of a sudden parents might be calling. And I know we've got teachers listening and coaches right now listening who've worked with teachers who are dealing with this being like, I'm trying to change for the better, but I'm getting pushback.
Kevin, what's your experience with the pushback and helping families get on board with productive struggle in the classroom?
Kevin Dymeka: Yeah. And some of it comes down to communication. At the beginning of the year, I send an email out to all of my families saying, hey, math is going to look a little bit different this year than perhaps it has in the past. Here's why. Do a little bit of that front loading so they're aware that when the child comes home and feels a little frustrated, it's okay. And I always remind the parents, the caregivers, and I remind the students, there's going to be very few times that it's going to be a one and done. So, if you're leaving class after we start something new and you're not fully confident, it's okay. We're going to spend more time on it tomorrow.
And I often know at parent teacher conferences, as I'm working with the caregivers, when they start to say, oh, my child's experiencing a little bit of frustration or whatever the case may be, I'll say, yeah, it looks different than when you were in school, but do you enjoy math? And usually the parents say, no, I didn't enjoy math at all. I hate math. And usually they'll say, I wasn't good at math either. All right, so why do you want your child to have that exact same experience as what you did? Let's try something different and we'll do that. But rest assured, my end goal is I want your child to feel successful. So, if I need to do some things a little bit differently, that's totally great. That's that caregiver's end.
With the students end, it's reminding them, hey, we need to persevere. We need to keep digging in there. And I know it is hard work for you to have to do that. It's much easier if I just spoonfeed you and tell you exactly what to do, but then you forget and it doesn't make any sense and nobody likes to do things that don't make sense. So, let's start to make some sense of math.
And then just as importantly, I'd like to actually worked on a topic for a couple of days. You know that when they first start a new topic or new concept, there's that frustration level. They feel like they have no idea what's going on, but after we continue to work with it, develop it a little bit more, they're like, oh, this isn't so bad. And I love when that happens because then I remind them, hey, think back to two days ago. Two days ago you said this was impossible and you're never going to get it. Now, you've started to get a pretty good sense of what's going on with that. Way to go. Way to engage, way to think. And middle schoolers, I'm sure high schoolers and elementary students are the same thing, but they need to have that pointed out to them. They need to see that their struggle, their productive struggle, is paying off for them.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. That's some great messaging there and so true. So, some great tips and little nuggets people can grab and tuck away for when they need them because that is something we hear quite a bit from the community. As soon as you make change... Change is scary to a lot of people, including the teachers, but also the parents and the students. So, that's some really, really great ideas there to share with the community.
So, I'm looking at the time here and we know you're a busy friend. It's probably 15 hours left in Virginia before you got to fly back home. So, we want to make sure you maximize your time and get yourself to bed nice and early here.
So, I'm wondering, for the Math Moment Maker community, if there was just one big idea or one big takeaway that you're hoping that the Math Moment Maker community can walk away with here tonight from this conversation, I'm wondering what would it be?
Kevin Dymeka: I think it's really push yourself to help your students do math by understanding rather than math by memorizing. Be willing to try a variety of different things and knowing that some of them may not work as well as others, but we have to continually try different things if we're truly interested in meeting the needs of each and every one of our students.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. Awesome. Thanks for that. That's a great message for our takeaway. Kevin, where can our Math Moment Makers learn more about the work that you're doing or reach out to?
Kevin Dymeka: Yeah. So you can connect with me on Twitter, @kdymeka. K-Y-M-E-K-A. I'm also on Instagram, but I say that real loosely. I have an Instagram account. I inaudible ever posted there. I've liked a few things.
Jon Orr: That's like us on TikTok.
Kevin Dymeka: Yeah. Well, I do have a TikTok also that... I think I set it up and I've done nothing with it. But Instagram and TikTok are both DymekaMath, so we can connect there as well. Instagram is probably more likely to happen a little bit faster for me than the TikTok. I don't fully understand and appreciate the TikTok yet, but it'll get there eventually. Those are probably the best ways to do that. If you're an emailer, kdymeka@NCTM.org is a great way to connect as well.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. Thanks so much Kevin and thanks so much for joining us here on this chat and I think the Math Moment Makers are going to get a lot out of this episode.
Kevin Dymeka: Thanks for having me. It was a pleasure to talk to the two of you.
Jon Orr: All right. Thanks so much, Kevin, and we'll catch up soon.
Kevin Dymeka: Alrighty.
Kyle Pearce: Well, as always, Math Moment Makers, as we say all the time, it is so, so awesome that John and I get the opportunity through these podcasts, through these 200 plus episodes of the podcast, to learn with so many awesome math educators from around the world, including Kevin here today.
And I'm just wondering, how are you going to make sure that you hang on to the learning from today? How are you going to make it stick? Are you going to write something on Twitter and tag Make Math Moments in it? Are you going to write something on Facebook, maybe in the Math Moment Maker community, the K through 12 Math Moment Maker group? Or maybe you're going to hit us somewhere else on social media. Such as the YouTube's Make Math Moments is our YouTube channel.
Either way, however you choose to do it, definitely say hello. Make sure that you share something that you've learned and I'm hoping that you'll tag us in it so that we're notified.
Jon Orr: In order to ensure you don't miss out on new episodes, as we put one out every Monday morning. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform. And if you have not yet already done so, we would love for you to hit the leave a review button and leave us a review on, hey, what you've heard, what was one of your big takeaways? Let us know that review. That would help us out. It gets the word spread into those platforms to send us to other listeners so that we can reach more ears and help more students along the way.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. John, I don't know about you, but Kevin is going to be... I'm excited for Kevin. And Kevin I think is excited too. He's going to be joining us for the virtual summit this year. Yes, the 2022 virtual summit is upon us and it is coming up November 18th, 19th and 20th, 2022. And you can go sign up with the over... As of this recording date, we are more than a month away and we have over 4,000 registrants so far for this absolutely free virtual summit.
Friends, if by chance, it is past the summit date, definitely head over to MakeMathMoments.com/summit for ways that you can access the replays, but also to put your name on next year's wait list. It's over at MakeMathMoments.com/summit.
And guess what? If you're a district leader and you want to find ways, easy ways, that you can share this awesome, jam packed event with your educators, head to MakeMathMoments.com/summitdistrict and you will get our guide on how you can share this out in an effective manner to make sure that you maximize the number of educators who take advantage of this opportunity. As well as our workbook, which has email copies, all kinds of flyers, ideas on how you can get the word out and all kinds of other goodies. That's over at MakeMathMoments.com/summitdistrict.
And guess what? There is a giveaway going on right now to promote the summit over at MakeMathMoments.com/giveaway. Lots of different sites. They're all going to be in the show notes over on the episode 206 page. MakeMathMoments.com/episode206. All of the links we described will be there for you.
And friends, until next time, I'm Kyle Pierce.
Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.
Jon Orr: Did you forget? Did you forget?
Kyle Pearce: No, it's a high five for you, too.
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