Episode 222: Where Math Programs Flourish and Where They Need Support

Feb 27, 2023 | Podcast | 0 comments



In this episode we dig into some of the results from over 100 district leaders across over 100 institutions around the world who have already jumped on the opportunity to take our 12-minute Mathematics Program Assessment Tool to learn not only where their system wide mathematics programs are flourishing, but also where those programs are met with speed bumps along the way. 

While some of the results from our assessment were not surprising, others definitely were and the mentorship calls we’ve had with over 25 different district leaders from around the world highlight that many of these struggles are not unique to any one school, district or jurisdiction. 

What are the bright spots we’re seeing across over 100 mathematics programs and what are the common hiccups along the way? 

Listen in to find out…

You’ll Learn

  • Which areas are mathematics programs doing well; 
  • Which areas are mathematics programs struggling in the most; 
  • How you and your leadership team can identify the areas to improve in your school district to strengthen your school/district math program; and,
  • What area you should focus on next to obtain the desired results you are after.


The Impact of Identity in K-8 Mathematics: Rethinking Equity-Based Practices [Book]

Measure What Matters – John Doerr [Book]

Take the Make Math Moments Math Program Assessment Tool [Classroom & Leader Versions]

Join the Academy – Free for 30 Days


District Leader Resources:

Take the Make Math Moments Math Program Assessment Tool 

The Make Math Moments District Planning Workbook [First 3 pages] 

Learn About Our District Improvement Program


Are you a district mathematics leader interested in crafting a mathematics professional learning plan that will transform your district mathematics program forever? Book a time to chat with us!

Other Useful Resources and Supports: 

Make Math Moments Framework [Blog Article]

Make Math Moments Problem-Based Lessons & Units

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: In this episode, we'll dig into some of the results from over 100 district leaders across over 100 institutions from around the world who have already jumped on the opportunity to take our 12 minute math program assessment tool. This is to not only learn where their system-wide math programs are flourishing, but also to help them identify where those programs are met with speed bumps along the way.

Jon Orr: Now, while some of the results from the assessment were not surprising, others definitely were, and the mentorship calls we've had with over 25 leaders, we've had one-on-one calls with people who have filled out those assessments with over 25 leaders from across the world. Many of them highlight many of these struggles and they're not unique. Many of them are common across these schools in these jurisdictions.

Kyle Pearce: What are some of the bright spots we're seeing across over 100 math programs and where are those common hiccups that they're experiencing along the way? Well, stick around to find out.

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

Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr. We're from makemathmoments.com, and together-

Kyle Pearce: ... with you, the community of math moment makers worldwide who want to build and deliver math lessons that spark curiosity ...

Jon Orr: Fuel sense making ...

Kyle Pearce: And ignite those teacher moves. Welcome everyone to another Making Math Moments That Matter podcast episode. And today we're really excited to dig into some of the data that we're seeing pouring in from our recently launched, just a couple weeks old, our recently launched district math program assessment tool. And actually for those educators in the classroom listening, we've been listening to you, lots of you have been reaching out and saying, "I want a version for my own classroom." Guess what? That is now available for you too. More details on that later in the episode. But John, our purpose here today is to dig into the data and really kind of pull out some of those bright spots and some of those areas of need that we're hearing from district leaders around the world.

Jon Orr: Yeah, it's been interesting to look at the data and have these calls with districts, like we said in the intro, that many of these districts are stating the same things, and we're seeing similar results from districts across North America and around the world when these results come in on the questions that we ask. So these questions ask about six different areas to improve and strengthen and assess where you are in your math program on those. And so let's just kind of talk about those six and then we'll kind of dive deeper into picking some results out and kind of looking at those bright spots that Kyle mentioned, but also maybe where we're seeing some common places that these hiccups or these speed bumps as Kyle has mentioned, and then we can dig a little bit about how to strengthen those up since they're so common.
But the six areas that the assessment looks at, and these are six areas I think we believe make math moments can be strengthened at most schools, most districts, and like Kyle said, some version of this is going to be changed to look at classrooms themselves. But these six areas we know represent and we've used to represent the areas of a tree. So thinking about the whole tree in general as our mathematics program and the trunk of the tree represents leadership. So we look at and assess and we ask a number of questions about leadership. What is happening with the leadership in the district? How are they communicating goals? How are they selecting goals? We ask a number of questions about that. We give that assessment on leadership. We talk about mathematical proficiency and content knowledge. This is the area of our educators and how proficient they are, and we look at and ask questions about the leader's interpretation of the teachers they have and how confident they are in their own content knowledge and around mathematical proficiencies.
So we give a report all based off that. We talk about mindsets and beliefs, which is the soil, the water, and the sunlight of a tree. We know that one of the biggest hurdles that districts face when helping and making change, mathematical change in their districts is the mindsets and the beliefs of their educators and students. So we ask questions about what their mindset looks like, how are they thinking about certain areas and cultural eras of their programs? We want to make sure that we strengthen those areas up, help our teachers view students, that all students can achieve mathematics at high levels. The fourth areas are the limbs of the tree, and this is our professional learning structures, like what structures have we put in place? What do they look like? What do they sound like? How can we improve those structures to optimize the district's improvement goals that we've set up in leadership, the leadership category.
The fifth area is our pedagogical content knowledge. This is the branches of our tree, and how can we strengthen the teacher moves? What's happening in our classrooms with the teacher questioning. We ask a number of questions about how our programs are being delivered and what kind of professional development has happened in the past to strengthen that pedagogical content knowledge. So we ask questions of there. We're going to talk about some of those key areas in our report here today. And the final section of the tree is the leaves of the tree, which talks all about the resources, the tools, our classroom environment, what does our classrooms look like?
What resources are we using? Are those resources that we're using, maybe it's a curriculum, maybe it's a textbook, maybe it's a set of resources that teachers are using the classroom. Maybe it's a a set of manipulatives. Are these resources we have in our classrooms helping us achieve the goals we've set back up in the leadership area? So we want to optimize that area as well. So the assessment that a hundred different leaders from across the world have filled out gave each of those people a report on these six areas. And that's what we're digging into here today, is to kind of pick off some bright spots, like Kyle said, but then talk about some key areas where a lot of districts are having some speed bumps. So Kyle, let's begin the debrief process here.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. So those who are watching on YouTube, you are getting sort of a snapshot here. I'm just scrolling through some of the responses, noting everything is anonymous here. So do not worry if you are one of those district leaders who has completed this assessment and you've received your customized report. Do not worry. There is no data being shared here. However, we're going to start this discussion in the area that seems to be, I guess most commonly the area or the next step for educators in different districts in those leadership positions. Now, that is the trunk of the tree. That is the leadership piece. Now, this doesn't mean that all the other areas are off to the races. There's definitely bright spots in all of these different areas. However, what we found from this assessment is that there's a lot of work to be done in the leadership area, and I think any district leader knows this, right?
It is hard work. Myself being from a math consultant role with a district, with a very large district, trust me, I hear you. There is not enough funding to support a large enough team to do all of the amazing things that you want to do, all those things kicking around in your mind. And really what the purpose is of this work is to try to help us figure out where do we have some traction so that we can continue that work. We want to continue where there is some traction. So the report helps to customize that piece, but then specifically where might be, and we use the word, might because there's no absolutes here, but where might be a good place to focus your energy as your next step moving forward? Now, John, I'm sure you realize this. I realize this. People listening, please do not forget that just because there's six areas of the tree does not mean we're going to tackle them all immediately.
That is just not a realistic expectation. So we want to make sure that we're taking small bites out of this massive elephant. A coworker of mine, Heidi Hornolovito used to always say, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." That is what this work is all about. So how do we focus in on what matters? And leadership is definitely one of those areas where we're seeing a lot of our district leader friends being targeted in this report to suggest focusing their attention. Now, I want to first talk about a bright spot, which was one of the questions in the leadership section was this one here, so our YouTube friends can see it up on the screen, but it says, "Do you and your team understand how your district math vision provides more opportunities for more students to become mathematically proficient?" Now that one had an average score.
Now this is not-

Jon Orr: It's out of five.

Kyle Pearce: ... a mode discussion here. There are all kinds of different measures of central tendency we could look at, but this average is 1.9 out of, like John said, out of five. So 1.9 fifths out of five is what we're looking at. Now, that is the highest average from this section. Now, some people might be going, "Ooh, that's like, that is a challenge." But what I do want to say is that the bright spot for me personally is when I see 24 response, about 22% of people are in this three area. If you pick three, someone might be thinking, "I've got a team of six people and most of the team's on board, but maybe there's a couple people that maybe aren't fully on board yet, or there's some challenges there." So that might move them more towards that center. But I do see about 16, 17% are at four and five, which again is a low number.
But for those particular district teams that are feeling like, "Wow, they understand how the math vision provides more opportunities for students to become mathematically proficient, that is fantastic." Now, the other part that I think is a bright spot is for those district leads who answered honestly here and sort of went, "Huh, wait a second. Maybe we don't fully understand how our district math vision provides more opportunities."
Or, John, it may help them to reflect on, "Maybe we don't have a district math vision yet. Maybe there's like, we've assumed clarity on our district team." So we all come to the table like, "Of course, we want students to be successful," that's going to be common, but do we actually have a clear vision on how we're going to get there. When we start this trip, are we all taking the same route or are we all taking very different routes and we're all going to hopefully meet up somewhere along the way? And the reason I think that's a bright spot is that if you're answering this openly and honestly, it really helps you to kind of reflect and go, "Wait a second. Maybe there's a little bit of work to be done here, and some discussion amongst our team in order to see that vision sort of be carried out across a district."

Jon Orr: That is an interesting point to bring up, because when we work with districts and we start the actual work of improvement on these six areas, we often find that leaders are understanding this. They have answered this one in the higher areas, but I think where they're lacking the next step is the communication of those visions, of those goals that they've set. So when we work with districts, and actually it's in the report that everyone has gotten here as a step-by-step framework on how to set your goals for your district, how to communicate that to your teachers by thinking about we call the magic wand wishlist and developing what you want your classrooms to look like in five years. How do you narrow that list down? How do you communicate that list there? That's some of the work that we recommend in the report to do as a leadership team, but that brings up not necessarily the bright spot, Kyle, from the leadership area, but an area of improvement.
You can see that in this question we have that says, "Does everybody in your district know what the three most important objectives are for the district math program to improve and grow?" And so we have zero as a scale of not really, and then five is absolutely. And we have 52% of our people saying zero, not really. It's saying most people are not knowing, that teachers don't know what the actual goals are, the three most important objectives, and we have zero people saying absolutely that is the case. So majority are between zero and two here for sure are, almost all of them are. So 90% are between zero and two. And so what we've got here, right, Kyle, we've got a group of leaders that are saying, "You know what? We know that our goals and our vision is important for student learning, but we actually haven't got that out yet. We haven't effectively got that to the teachers."
And that's what we see with the districts that we partner with is that they have downtown, the administration has decided this is going to be the goals that we're going to work towards this year in mathematics, but the teacher in the classroom, teacher may have been told that, but maybe they haven't, they're not sure exactly how that helps them in the classroom. And so some of that work that does need to be done, those action items that do have to be taken is how do we take our visions of what we want classrooms to look like in a few years, five years and translate that so that classroom teachers know exactly what that vision is and everybody's on board? Everybody is working towards that same goal. Because oftentimes there's a lot of different things floating around classrooms and we haven't narrowed down, "These are the three most important things that we're working on this year and next year, and everybody has to be working towards that." Otherwise, all of these little things floating around, if you're focusing on all of these, we're focusing on none of them. So we do want to make sure that in the report is action items that help you communicate that as a leader to those classroom teachers.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. And again, it just comes down to how do we expect growth to happen if we're not sure what growth means? And I think sometimes at the highest level, we get a district-wide or me even a school-wide goal, and those goals are often sort of vague. They're the end result of a lot of work. So it's, "We want our," maybe it's standardized test scores, that often pops into district goals where they say, "We want to improve our math achievement by 10%," and then you go to sort of the how we're going to get there, and some of those strategies are not necessarily clear. It might be a tool. They might say, "Hey, we're going to use this tool in order to help us do that." Okay, what does the tool do, though? What's that going to help you achieve or accomplish? And then how are we going to actually monitor?
One of our wonderful, wonderful content writers and curriculum writers Yvette Lehman always, always is talking about monitoring. How are we going to monitor that work? Because if all we're going to do is set this big, lofty, say 10% increase, and then we're going to check at the end of the year and we don't hit it, and then you're just sort of, "All right, start all over next year," and maybe that goal is completely thrown out and then they come up with a brand new goal, and then there's these brand new ways that we're going to get there. It's like, maybe we need to think about what fundamentally will actually help us make some change.

Jon Orr: Kyle, do you ... I know this from working with the districts, and when we meet with districts, even the 25 different districts that reached out to us in the last two weeks to talk about the report with them and we've had those calls. But thinking about your experience in that leadership role, and because I know you just mentioned about a goal, and that's something that we have to strive towards about the monitoring process, but how many people at your leadership level that you witnessed or been in contact with are actually making goals that you can measure? Because I think what we've seen is that these goals come out, it's like, "We want improvement in this," but that we don't know exactly what improvement looks like. You mentioned that, but it's like, we also have to be able to measure that and how are we going to measure that? How are we going to decide that now so that in the end of the year we know exactly what to do to measure it? How many times these teams sit sitting around tables coming up with goals, and I'm using air quotes here, but not actually sticking a number to it?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, I would say that the focus on goals, there's always a focus, because typically districts have some sort of process that they follow. Here in Ontario, every district has what they call either a board improvement plan. Now it's like a board plan for equity and student achievement. They all have whatever name goes along with it. There are these plans and there's a lot of work and effort that are put into them, but at a very high level. And then when it kind of trickles down to the schools, it's like the big outcomes are there. So it's what we want is all students to achieve at high levels. That is an outcome. That's an important outcome, but how do you actually monitor that and actually take the action steps that are going to help you get closer to that lofty goal? And the reality is, this is not a one year process. Because if it was, some district out there would've already did, right? I mean, it would already happen, where there's like, "Oh yeah, it's completely turned around. Everything's great."
Now we have seen some of this in data from standardized tests, but keep in mind it's like if your goal is just standardized test improvement, there's ways to do that. We could just literally by rote just practice a whole lot based on the very specific question types that go on those assessments. You're going to see some improvement. But do kids actually have mathematical proficiency? If that's what you're after, then it's a much, much bigger play and it's a longer term game. So to answer your question, there's lots of time being spent on it, but my wonder is how good we, how effective are we as educators in actually setting goals and then back mapping towards smaller goals that can be monitored and sort of looked at these small increments?
Because again, the problem is is that if I set a goal that I'm going to run a marathon, and we've used this example before, and all we say is that by the end of this year I'm going to run a marathon, and I don't actually sit down and think about all of the details that are going to be involved, my sleep habits, my time of day, all of those things. If we don't do all of those little details and if we don't work to get little parts of the detail and monitor those pieces and we just sort of throw them all in a hat and expect them all to happen, it's probably not going to happen. So it's a big process.
Now, here's the crazy part, running a marathon, which a lot of people might be thinking like, "I'm thinking that's hard work." But honestly, I think it's a lot easier to run a marathon, to break down that process into the small steps and do those steps than it is to become mathematically proficient or work towards mathematical proficiency across an entire district. That is so much more challenging.
So I think it does come down to the planning and the process, and that's one of the things that you and I are really working so hard with all the district leads that we work with ongoing through our district improvement program. Really, that's where they get most of the, I think, benefit from the program. Of course, we help with the PD planning and all of those pieces and actual delivery, but the reality is being able to sit down as a team and actually create goals that are actually sustainable, that are actually realistic and find ways as a team to monitor those goals so that we can watch the progress over time.

Jon Orr: Yeah, I totally agree. And we often quote in reference a book called Measure What Matters from John Doerr, and he develops an OKR process, which is objectives and key results of thinking, like my big lofty goals are my objectives, but the key results are the actionable steps that we're taking that we can measure so that we can check them off that we hit this into this timeframe. So we actually help districts measure those and also develop measurement systems to monitor those goals. But Kyle, you hit the nail on the head about we want improvement, how are we going to do that? What are we going to work on this year? Are we going to work on these two to three things? And that's probably what we need to do, pick two or three things to improve upon and then set up a system of how are we going to do that?
And as a district, that's an important process. That's one of the areas that I think why leadership comes up often as the main focus from these reports that are going out to district leaders. But in a classroom teacher, Kyle, this is also true. I think we want better improvement for our students. And I think in a rudimentary way, we're using our assessments as our measuring system, was checking measurement system. But it's, a lot of times we should be setting up, what do we want to see from our students if this is a success? Is my test or is my assessment measuring other things that I want to know from my students? Like their resiliency, their ability to stick with things, their problem solving techniques, the way they're showing models. Am I looking for those things, am I measuring those things? So oftentimes as a classroom teacher, we're going to want to set what we want our objectives to be, and then what are the key results that we're looking for and how are we going to measure that come the end of the unit or come the end of the semester?
I don't think it has to just be the marks on our tests or assessments or even our standardized grading system if we're we're looking at hitting the mark on different standards, we can also be looking for these other things and seeing if we see improvement in those areas, because if we know we are improving in these areas, which are maybe not mark-driven, but that will help us achieve the other end objectives as well.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. So let's keep on digging here and let's have a look here. There was another area that I think is really interesting, and to your point there, John, it's like something that we here at Make Math Moments have really tried to commit a lot of our extra energy to is working with districts specifically simply because we know that if we put in a ton of effort to work with a bunch of random individual teachers, which we have over the past 10 years, we've worked with so many math moment makers around the world almost on an individual basis through our online courses and the academy, and we continue to do that work. But what we see is that oftentimes our math moment maker friends are these pockets of success within a building within a district or a jurisdiction where they're doing all kinds of great work and they're seeing success in their own room.
But then over the long term, when those students sort of continue on and they work through the rest of the math program, if that's not consistent, that may not actually have much of an impact or an influence on the trajectory of that student in mathematics. So this is what's kind of gotten us up to more of this district level thinking and mentorship. And however, like you said, John, it's like all of these ideas can be applied in your own individual classroom. So definitely be thinking about these things, and we encourage you if you haven't yet, as an educator, to head to makemathmoments.com/grow and you can do the educator or the classroom version of this assessment. We have crafted an assessment that is more tailored to your needs as a classroom teacher, and the report is a customized report that will help you take some next steps as well, okay? So keep that in mind.
But let's move on to our next area, and something that I think is really important for us to think about and to be aware of. We're not going to be able to go through all six areas here, but this next one really, it's at the root, pun intended because it's the roots of our tree here. It's at the root of so much work that we do in mathematics, and that is the math content knowledge of our educators, but our district leaders of course, and what it means to be mathematically proficient. And when we look at this area, this is another area that it actually has some stronger prompts or questions, and then it also has some really, really low scoring averages here. Now this one, this is a bright spot. However, some might still look at this and say, "Is this really a bright spot?"
But I want to just reflect on this. It says, "How does the commitment to removing barriers for equity-deserving groups impact or influence the decisions made by the school or district leadership team?" And what you'll see here, it's kind of like a normal distribution. Now, again, when I see some in the middle, I tend to at inaudible-

Jon Orr: What's the scale, Kyle? Tell us the scale.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. So we're looking at-

Jon Orr: Zero is-

Kyle Pearce: ... zero to five. So zero is actually the idea of essentially not committed at all, or it doesn't drive influence or drive those decisions made by school district leadership teams or district leadership teams. And then five would be that it actually really drives and removing barriers is the driver. So there were about, for four and five, there were 16 and four. So 20 or about 20% of respondents said that that drove and influenced the decisions.
Now, that is not good enough, don't get me wrong, but the fact that we're seeing higher scores here than some of the other areas is something for us to look at. So people are thinking about these things and maybe they're just not sure where to head next with it. So this is something that I think is really important for us to be thinking about is like, wait a second, is this top of our mind when we are crafting our math program, our math vision and our math goals? Now, the part that I'm a little bit more concerned about, or maybe majorly concerned about, is that when we actually flip around and we actually actually look, if I go to this one right here, I think it ... No, I'm actually jumping ahead here, John, from our list. So if I go to 11L, I think it was, so it's a pretty lengthly survey, my friends.
Here it is. It says, how many of the five equity-based math teaching practices would you say are being incorporated with a high degree of effectiveness in math classrooms across your school or district? And we see a very negatively skewed distribution. It's like a math class here, John. So the reason I bring this up in contrast to what I just shared is that we had sort of more of a normal distribution. So you could tell there's like, people are thinking about this work or at least more districts are. Some are not, that's concerning, absolutely. But at least there's an attention there. However, when it comes to actually incorporating practices that are equity-based, and we pulled this from our equity-based mathematics teaching practices lists that, actually in our virtual summit, this was brought to our attention. So that particular session was a really, really helpful session for us as well as many others in terms of how do we ensure that all students are welcome to the math conversation.
Now here I see that almost 70% of respondents are zero or a one, which again out of five, that's telling us that it's either unaware or it's not happening effectively. That's basically what that's saying. So it's like, okay, this is on our mind, but we're not exactly sure how to do it. And maybe it's not necessarily the district leaders that are unsure what step to take next, but clearly the educators in the system are unsure as to how to do this work well or successfully. So for some district leaders, they had some next steps as to, "How do I learn more about these equity-based practices and what do I do in order to try to ensure that more educators are not only aware, but able to implement these practices effectively?" Because until that is happening, we cannot say that we are equitable, like that we are aiming for access and inequity across our district or our school depending on which role you are in.

Jon Orr: And I think that seems to be a common theme, I think here with what we're seeing in the report is that we know that there's this area that we need improvement on, and we saw that from our vision and our goals, but it's not being carried forward into classrooms as effectively as I think we would like as leaders. We're seeing that here with that question there as well around the equity practices, Kyle, is that we've identified that we think this is an important piece of our program in a strength, but we are working towards that being a strength, but we're not exactly sure how to go about doing that, or we're not sure that that's actually happening in our rooms, in our classrooms. So that's, I think is a common theme for sure. In this same area, you said some strengths here are in the roots area, which is content knowledge and what it means to be proficient and mathematically proficient.
And I know that when we ask leaders to comment on their educator's proficiency towards mathematics, I think they think content knowledge, can they do the math, right? I think that's coming up when teachers and educators and leaders are taking this survey is can they do the math? And so a higher score than compared to other scores is the question, how deep is educator conceptual understanding of mathematics in your district? Zero is surface level, five is a deep understanding. We've got an average of two in there. So kind of concerning, this is what you said, Kyle, so a little bit concerning. Even though this is the higher areas than the rest of the full purport on all six areas, we've got a group of people here saying 40%, actually 50% in the middle-ish area saying they're not surface level, but they're not deeper understanding. It's almost like we're working towards this conceptual understanding of math in their district.
And I know that when we talk with districts, Kyle, and had these calls over the last few weeks when you asked them about this question. I think people are saying, "My teachers know their math." And I think we know, I am being a high school teacher. If you asked me about knowing the math 10 years ago, I would say, "Look, I have a math degree. I know the math." But then actually thinking conceptually of how do you teach this to a student who you want to fully understand the underlying concepts and how they connect to other concepts and strands and mathematics, conceptually, I don't think I was there as a high school teacher. I don't think I could say, "I can show you this in multiple ways using multiple models, using fluent strategies," other than just-

Kyle Pearce: And where do you go back to if a student's struggling-

Jon Orr: Exactly.

Kyle Pearce: ... With an idea?

Jon Orr: Exactly.

Kyle Pearce: That's a question I want to ask a teacher is, "Hey, a student's struggling here, what's our next move?" And if the answer is like, "Do it again louder and slower," which again, my number one strategy for the majority-

Jon Orr: "Memorize this step," yeah.

Kyle Pearce: Exactly. Is, that tells me right away that my conceptual understanding is not strong enough. It doesn't mean that I don't have any, there's no such thing. Everybody comes to the table with some. But the part that jumped out at me, John, and the reason why you and I were discussing this as we prepared for this episode, I look at this and I'm pleasantly surprised to see that we don't have a positively skewed result here, but I'm actually a little concerned that we have too many people in the middle, almost like, sometimes the word that we've often used before is this word efficacious. It's like many educators often are more efficacious as to how well they understand the math-

Jon Orr: That's a big word.

Kyle Pearce: ... than they realize. I know. Isn't it great? But the reality is, I can find out very quickly, like you said, "John, a student's struggling here, what might a next move be?" And if the answer's like, "I have no clue," that means that's not enough for us to be successful. Or if I'm working with a primary educator and I say, "Hey, what's subtraction?" If they say take away, then I'm like, "You don't have a deep conceptual understanding, because what about the difference?" Or if it's division, what does division mean? And if they say how many groups of, and I'm like, "Okay, that's one of those two." So we do not have a deep understanding what's a ratio or rate. If I do not know the difference, if I can't articulate a difference, that just tells me that I have work to do. And it's not something to be ashamed of.

Jon Orr: Exactly. I just-

Kyle Pearce: We've got to do this work, and without us highlighting this, we will continue to spin our wheels aimlessly over years and decades as we try to get ourselves closer to this goal of all students being welcomed to the table.

Jon Orr: Yeah, I was just going to say that, Kyle, too. It's not something that, like I just said in my scenario is I was exactly like that. I was a teacher that would not be able to answer those questions like you just said, Kyle, I would've said like, "Oh, let me show you again. Let me use easier numbers," but it's still the same procedure.
I'm working on a problem about completing the square. Right now we're developing a task to put up on the website about the area model and how to represent abstract algebra in different ways. And I think completing the squares, a process, was like a procedure that I remember dreading teaching because it was like, "I just got to show these kids this procedure and I have to tell them to memorize it." You know, kids would be like, "Okay, I'm going to take half the b." "Well, why is there half the b? What's that?" "Just do it."

Kyle Pearce: "Just do it."

Jon Orr: You know what? I remember doing that. It's okay, I think, at this point. I think it's just not okay to kind of like, if once you know, it's not okay anymore to go, "Okay, I'm just going to keep doing that." I think that's where the hurt actually happens is like, "I know that I should be doing this over here. Now we got to take those steps." So that's also the purpose of the assessment is right, highlight some areas. Have we thought about these pieces of our math program? That's also the highlight of the teacher version. Have we thought about these areas of our math program in the classroom? It looks a little different. It's not the exact same survey at all. It's got different sections that we highlight, some overlapping sections for the teacher version, some similar sections, but the questions are different and they do highlight different things to focus on in your classroom.
So I think being kind of a strong area of this, either the roots, I think it's, like you said, Kyle, it's kind of concerning because it's not really a strong area when everyone's answering two or lower or two and a half or 2.3 on average here to say our conceptual understanding. We do realize from all the calls we've had that it is a super important area to work on, and I think we got to work on it, and it's just part of the work that we have to do, and it's long work that we are going to do and we just, it's worth engaging in it.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. The big takeaway for me is this idea that if we truly want all students to achieve in mathematics, there's a lot of work to be done. It's just the work we've agreed to in education, and in particular in math education, that if we're going to take this thing and tackle it head on, we need to take it seriously and we need to take a deep dive. Now, it doesn't mean getting overwhelmed or losing sleep or beating yourself up, just like John said, but we do need to have conversations with our teams, whether you're in the classroom with your grade level team, or whether you're a district leader with your district level team, where are we as a team together? And one thing that I love, and this is a recommendation we give to some of our districts, but one district actually came to us and told us they were going to do this, it was like our planned next step for them.
And they said, "What we all did was we all went through the survey individually and then we brought our reports to the table and we actually looked at each question together and we had a discussion about those questions to try to figure out like, "Hey, John, you and I were aligned in this one area, which makes sense. We're on the same district team, but we're not over here. Why is that? Doesn't make me good or you bad or either or. It just means that there's something there that one person, the perspective is different currently. And when we gain more understanding of where everyone's mind and thoughts are at, it helps us with not only that planning, but the actual delivery of the work. There are people out there right now on their way, there are people listening right now on their way to deliver professional development around the world.
Some of those district leaders who are going and they're like, "I'm going to go run a workshop today." And if you really think about it's like, are we ready to run this workshop to get the result that you want if, let's say, you are maybe the only person in your district who has that roadmap clear in your mind. So this work is about us all coming together, narrowing in, celebrating the wins. Because remember, it's not about perfection. It's about what are we doing well? But what are those next steps, and what are reasonable, realistic expectations we can set? Like you said, those objectives and key results that we want for our district, for our school, or even just for our classroom.
So hopefully from those who are listening, hopefully it's given you a little bit more curiosity about what this assessment is all about. Hopefully it's been a reflection for some of those who did complete that assessment. And I'm going to encourage you now to head over to makemathmoments.com/grow. That is G-R-O-W. I was going to say zero like math class, O, G-R-

Jon Orr: I thought you forgot how to spell it.

Kyle Pearce: And we want you to go and check it out. And right now when this goes live, there should be an option for you to select whether you'd like the classroom version of this assessment. So it'll be tailored to a math class, or if you are in more of a leadership role, whether it be maybe a department head, maybe it's a principal, or maybe you're a district leader, you can head down that path and focus on more of the whole group sort of approach here. Both assessments will provide you with a customized report, again, tailored to the responses you have, and again, tailored to whether it's a classroom version or the district leader version.
And there are next steps in there for you to continue this journey. Of course, if we can be of any help, our district leaders, we encourage you to book a call with us. For our classroom friends, we encourage you to get into the academy. The academy is free for 30 days. If you want to hop in, take as much as you can, learn as much as you can over@makemathmoments.com slash academy and hop on some of the q and a calls that we do monthly with all of our Academy members. So once again, head over to makemathmoments.com/grow and figure out what's flourishing with your tree and where can we help to support that strong, balanced, and nurtured tree that you're trying to develop in your schools and classrooms?

Jon Orr: In order to ensure you don't miss out on our new episodes as we publish them on Monday mornings. And maybe you're listening to this one on a Monday morning. If not, hey, no worries. That means you're a diehard, you're listening after the Monday, you're listening all over the place. Maybe you've listened to a couple, maybe you've listened to many. Maybe this is your first one. If this is your first one and you have not yet hit subscribe, please do that. Hit subscribe. You''ll get a notification as we publish them so that you don't miss them, and we'll be in your ears talking about math and how we can improve those trees in our programs, in our classrooms, and also in our districts. So please hit subscribe on your podcast platform or follow. I think sometimes they're follow now, Kyle, just hit follow or subscribe and you'll get notifications.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff, friends. So if you haven't yet, head on over to our show notes page. It's makemathmoments.com/episode222. That's makemathmoments.com/episode222. Over there, you'll find links, resources, and all those transcripts, including the link to the Grow page where you can select the assessment that matches your needs. Well, until next time, math Moment Makers, I'm Kyle Pierce.

Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.

Jon Orr: And a high five for you.

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