Episode 241: Lost in the Middle: Maximizing Achievement for Every Student in Math Class

Jul 10, 2023 | Podcast | 0 comments



Join us in our latest podcast episode as we dive into an important discussion about improving mathematics instruction and ensuring accessibility for all students. In this episode, we reflect on the common tendency to focus solely on students who are struggling or behind in math, neglecting those who are “lost in the middle” or above grade level but lacking appropriate support and differentiation.

We explore how we can broaden our definition of differentiation to encompass all students, regardless of their current level of achievement. We also delve into the concept of low floor, high ceiling lessons and how they can effectively serve all learners. Additionally, we address the importance of supporting motivated students in grades 6 to 12 who often find themselves navigating their learning independently.

You’ll Learn

  • How are low floor, high ceiling lessons serving or undeserving ALL students?
  • How do we truly help ALL students in our multi-leveled classroom?
  • What is the real flipped classroom? 
  • When is the best time to use Khan Academy?
  • Why AI tools in mathematics have a long way to go before replacing a classroom experience. 
  • Should tutoring be our answer for next level support?


Mathigon Courses

Khan Academy


Mathify: Formerly Homework Help 



District Math Leaders: 

How are you ensuring that you support those educators who need a nudge to spark a focus on growing their pedagogical-content knowledge? 

What about opportunities for those who are eager and willing to elevate their practice, but do not have the support? 

Book a call with our District Improvement Program Team to learn how we can not only help you craft, refine and implement your district math learning goals, but also provide all of the professional learning supports your educators need to grow at the speed of their learning. 

Book a short conversation with our team now.

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!


00:00:00:14 – 00:00:25:11
Kyle Pearce
What I realize is maybe a spot that I have not been focusing on. A bit of a blind spot for me is that I’m going, Holy smokes, What am I doing to help support those students in maximizing their own learning along that trajectory? So some students are going to be self-starters and maybe they’re inquisitive and maybe they’ll Google the next step in their learning journey.

00:00:25:20 – 00:00:49:11
Kyle Pearce
But for other students, they probably are just going to complete what has been assigned to them and they’re doing okay or okay enough that they don’t raise any flags. But I wonder if those students, if we had better supports there for them, how could we help push them so that they maximize that learning experience versus just reaching the bar?

00:00:49:11 – 00:01:16:08
Kyle Pearce
Right, Just hopping over that hoop, whatever that bar is set, we made it over and there’s no red flags, so let’s just keep rolling along. Oh. Welcome to the Making Mouth Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pierce.

00:01:16:08 – 00:01:18:23
Jon Orr
And I’m John or we are from Ignite moments dot com.

00:01:19:03 – 00:01:30:13
Kyle Pearce
This is the only podcast that coaches you through a six step plan to grow your mathematics program, whether it’s at the classroom level or at the district level.

00:01:30:13 – 00:01:39:10
Jon Orr
And we do that by helping you cultivate and foster your mathematics program like a strong, healthy and balanced tree.

00:01:39:15 – 00:01:48:09
Kyle Pearce
If you master the six parts of an effective mathematics program, the impact of your math program will grow and reach far and wide.

00:01:48:09 – 00:02:01:09
Jon Orr
Each week you’ll get the insight you need to stop feeling overwhelmed, gain back your confidence, and get back to enjoying the planning and facilitating of your mathematics program for the students or the educators you serve.

00:02:01:16 – 00:02:34:00
Kyle Pearce
All right there, John, We’re going to hop right into this one. And we’ve got an interesting topic that we wanted to dig into today. And I’m going to be honest and say it was me sort of coming to the realization, and I think you agree with me, especially you and I, having been in this game, this math world for so long, and we’ve had such a heavy focus on access equity, on all students being able to access the content in our mathematics programs.

00:02:34:00 – 00:03:03:15
Kyle Pearce
And it really had us thinking because we have this hyper focus. And I think when everyone’s thinking about access, equity, differentiation, all of these ideas, I think there’s a group of students that sort of pops out at us in our minds and it’s like those students in our class that have not maybe felt like they have a connection with the mathematics, maybe they have a negative relationship with the mathematics or who are experienced with the mathematics maybe behind grade level.

00:03:03:22 – 00:03:39:21
Kyle Pearce
Maybe they’ve had a challenge in their life or lives that is sort of hindered them from reaching this place where we feel like they’re truly accessing the mathematics. But then we sort of started thinking to ourselves, What about all the other students who we are entrusted to serve? And I’m not going to say that we’re not doing good things there, but I feel like, at least for you and I, our message has been really trying to help support educators and district leaders in doing some things to help those students in this group.

00:03:39:21 – 00:03:42:06
Kyle Pearce
I’m going to call it Did read group of Students?

00:03:42:13 – 00:04:10:02
Jon Orr
Yeah. Well, I think longtime listeners of the podcast know that we talk about shifts in teaching pedagogy, shifts in teaching content, knowledge on changing your classroom practice to allow for low floor, high ceiling tasks. So when we are talking about creating that sort of environment, we are lowering the floor so that more students can engage in access to math and how to do that by sparking curiosity so that we can feel sense making in our classrooms.

00:04:10:02 – 00:04:40:20
Jon Orr
And I think that when we started moving in that direction, you’re right. I think we had a mindset to think about that read group of students who have traditionally not enjoyed math, hated math, not have felt a connection to math. But at the same time, we were designing that lesson structure and pulling from so many different amazing resources and research and other teachers that we’d admired over the years of how to build the right environment in your classroom from borrowing from all of those sources.

00:04:41:10 – 00:05:03:01
Jon Orr
But I think we also realized that when we designed that program, it was good for the read, but also good for the green and good for, let’s say, the yellow in the middle here. So when we made these designs, we said, Hey, let’s think about this group, but we’re doing the low floor, high ceiling because we can access and help this group that’s up here as well.

00:05:03:01 – 00:05:28:02
Jon Orr
And in the middle it was instead of trying to teach to the middle, which I think I did for a long time, I probably started my career going like, I really want this high group of students who are performing so well, especially in the high school classroom. And that, I imagine kind of catering to that group initially is because they’re giving you the feedback when you are talking and going through the I do we do you do model like I did for so many years when you made eye contact.

00:05:28:06 – 00:05:36:00
Jon Orr
Those are the kids that are making eye contact with you. So you just keep making eye contact with that group and you’re like, I’m just going to feed into this because I.

00:05:36:00 – 00:05:36:12
Kyle Pearce
Don’t look at.

00:05:36:12 – 00:05:56:22
Jon Orr
The student. My attention, all my attention come from here in naturally. You’re just kind of feeding into that. And when we redesigned it, we wanted to design low floor, high ceiling. And you’re right, I think we focused a lot on helping this traditionally underserved group access the mathematics. I don’t think in the work that we’ve been doing, this group up here has been underserved.

00:05:56:22 – 00:06:14:00
Jon Orr
I think we’ve been providing opportunities. But I think what happens maybe at the next level, a tier two down, then something is maybe haven’t been served as well. And we’re trying to figure out how do we help the lower students at Tier two and versus, say, the other tiers?

00:06:14:06 – 00:06:39:15
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, and that’s a very good point and articulation here, because I think what it is, is dig a little bit deeper and you start thinking about, okay, now that we have done the quote unquote delivery of content or lesson or we’ve engaged in facilitating this learning experience, what I’m envisioning in my mind is where do educators and maybe I’m going to see specifically district leaders spend their time.

00:06:39:15 – 00:07:12:02
Kyle Pearce
And what I’m envisioning is there is this hyper focus on ensuring that we help those students who may be underserved in the math education space, be it in the classroom or at the district level. And I suppose my stallion’s, where the part that I’ve recognized, especially having had a role as a district leader in a large school district, is that we have at the district level focused so much on those students who have struggled along the way.

00:07:12:02 – 00:07:38:11
Kyle Pearce
And when I think about the supports that we put in place outside of that. So I love how you’ve articulated this. We’ve tried to do low floor, high ceilings so that all students can engage in that learning experience, in that collaborative learning experience, making that mathematics community, which is so key, so important. But then when it comes to I’m going to specifically focus in on purposeful practice, for example, I have this vision in my mind, right?

00:07:38:11 – 00:08:05:20
Kyle Pearce
And we have some educators out there, and I’m going to argue that probably a lot of educators who listen to this podcast may have either run a program that involves stations or centers or some sort of small group instruction, but there seems to be a heavier focus on those students who require the support, which makes sense, right? You’re going, listen, I’m one educator and I have, let’s say, 30 students that I am serving.

00:08:05:20 – 00:08:29:15
Kyle Pearce
They’re all over the trajectory. I’m going to go ahead and guess that there are some students in the class who I spend most or more of my time with and picture my wife, for example, a grade three teacher. She will tell you that she spends 90% of her time with probably 10% of the students in her class throughout the day, and that’s in math and in all subject areas.

00:08:29:15 – 00:08:57:03
Kyle Pearce
So when we look at that particular support, what I realize is maybe a spot that I have not been focusing on a bit of a blind spot for me is that I’m going, holy smokes, what am I doing to help support those students in maximizing their own learning along that trajectory? So some students are going to be self-starters and maybe they’re inquisitive and maybe they’ll Google the next step in their learning journey.

00:08:57:12 – 00:09:29:13
Kyle Pearce
But for other students, they probably are just going to complete what has been assigned to them and they’re doing okay or okay enough that they don’t raise any flags. But I wonder if those students, if we had better supports there for them, how could we help push them so that they maximize that learning experience versus just reaching the bar, Right, Just hopping over that hoop, whatever that bar is set, we made it over and there’s no red flag, so let’s just keep rolling along.

00:09:29:16 – 00:09:57:05
Jon Orr
I think I’ve said the words when we started this journey and thought about helping those students who had been traditionally underserved by mathematics, by saying, like, we’re doing this work, we’re trying to help these students. And it’s almost like I remember saying the words that those students are going to learn without me any way. I need to focus here because these students actually need a qualified, caring teacher to help them get to where we need them to go.

00:09:57:06 – 00:09:58:02
Jon Orr
These ones up here.

00:09:58:13 – 00:10:00:06
Kyle Pearce
They’re going to be okay regardless.

00:10:00:06 – 00:10:29:19
Jon Orr
And we’ve even said that on the podcast, right? Kyle Sometimes we’ve said like we were the kids that got there, regardless of the teaching strategies in pedagogical moves any way, we got to a place where we still love math and still cared about math and did all these mathematics. I think we’ve also been on record of saying we didn’t actually know the mathematics as well as we should have because we were taught procedurally abstract land versus coming at it from the conceptual understanding and being able to use flexible models and strategies.

00:10:30:00 – 00:10:59:07
Jon Orr
We weren’t there, but I’ve said I don’t think we need to worry. So much about them, but I think that was a wrong approach. If we’re actually going to say we should be thinking and creating a fully differentiated classroom experience for all of our students, you’re right. I think when we thought that way for parts of our career, we were also under serving the kids who were up here because we weren’t saying making sure that they were getting to truly differentiated experience that they were supposed to be getting.

00:10:59:13 – 00:11:32:18
Kyle Pearce
Absolutely. And we talk about this all the time in the workshops, our online workshop, as well as in the academy and in our live experiences that we’ve done for districts and conferences. So when we’re speaking will often essentially always do a math task together, right? So we’ll engage in the math and will leverage some strategies where during that classroom experience, we do a really good job of making sure that we’re offering different levels of rigor for students based on where they are, which is fantastic.

00:11:32:18 – 00:11:54:21
Kyle Pearce
Just that alone is a lot of effort. It’s a lot of thinking. It requires content knowledge from the educator right to be able to do that flexibly and then when you think about, again, that purposeful practice time, trying to differentiate that experience further is even more demanding, as you can imagine, right? Because it’s like, hey, here’s the concept that we’re doing.

00:11:54:21 – 00:12:14:03
Kyle Pearce
Where am I going to get all of this from? So I might have say for me here in Ontario, John, you were in that same experience. I learned this way and I taught this way for a number of years. I had my main curriculum resource was a textbook, right? And that textbook typically is sharing the content at grade level.

00:12:14:03 – 00:12:41:04
Kyle Pearce
It’s not necessarily doing a great job at going a few grade levels below or a few grade levels above. So where am I going to find this content? So we thought that maybe today in this episode, we could share a few ideas that might help you to get started in terms of providing a more differentiated experience. We’re not going to focus on during the lesson during that problem based lesson experience.

00:12:41:04 – 00:13:05:02
Kyle Pearce
We’re going to talk more about when it comes to giving students that purposeful practice. Because the reality is, if I’m just saying, hey, do the odds at the end of the section from the textbook, the reality is, is that is not going to differentiate enough to meet the needs of students across all of your different sections of the learning trajectory in your classroom.

00:13:05:02 – 00:13:29:16
Kyle Pearce
So let’s dig into some. Now, remember, we’re not saying these resources are going to fix the problem, but what they can do is they can at least support you in making moves to be thinking about differentiating in this way for those students across the board, not just the students in the read, but also for those students who might be in the middle that need that little push.

00:13:29:16 – 00:13:49:20
Kyle Pearce
But maybe I’m not there to be able to push them one on one all during class or maybe outside of the classroom. And of course, helping those students that might be above grade level because how sad is it if you have some students who are working above grade level, maybe they’re highly motivated, but maybe they’re just feeling bored.

00:13:49:20 – 00:14:09:15
Kyle Pearce
We’ve all had that. Student Right? You can envision that student in your class that sort of like, Wow, that student is so just ahead of their time. And yet I feel like they are not putting in much of an effort because they are not engaged in what I’m saying. And that is not a great feeling to have as an educator.

00:14:09:15 – 00:14:10:11
Kyle Pearce
Of course.

00:14:10:11 – 00:14:35:00
Jon Orr
Yeah, for sure. For sure. And when you think about the classroom experience, kind of, I think when we are following the problem based lesson model, using the five practices, using Peter Little knowledge work and getting students to be up at the walls, but thinking about how to keep thinking in flow, is that part of that low flow, high ceiling experience in having those kind of questions to push the students who are ready for that higher move?

00:14:35:01 – 00:15:01:24
Jon Orr
I think that’s been a great move for us to kind of keep that group going or those students to keep thinking that’s the goal there. And then I think an easy move for that next purposeful practice that I remember engaging in a long time ago because I was that teacher for a long time that said, Hey, we’re going to do all the evens and odds, Here’s one, two, eight, and then you do nine, ten, 11, and everybody got the exact same homework or the next purposeful practice, a set of questions.

00:15:01:24 – 00:15:23:24
Jon Orr
And then I might even say, like, if you’re looking for a challenge, you might want to do part C questions 21 and 25. Right? So, hey, I’m trying to get you guys who were tuned out for half of this, these five kids over here who are tuned out because it’s like Mr. or we did this last year and we’re ready for more advanced stuff.

00:15:23:24 – 00:15:41:06
Jon Orr
So I was trying to give them that next level. But I think what I remember engaging in is more of a choice. This is the core group of questions that we want to do, which is directly tied to your learning goal for that day, right? This is what we want our students to be able to know and do by the end of the lesson.

00:15:41:06 – 00:16:02:12
Jon Orr
That’s my core practice group. This set of questions or these purposeful practice questions next are the core questions. We should all make sure that we can do those. Then there’s this next layer of questions, which we called the push questions, the questions that are going to push your knowledge a little bit and connect it to, say, prior learning goals or coming up learning goals.

00:16:02:22 – 00:16:22:22
Jon Orr
Those questions are, Hey, these are the choice questions up here. You might want to do some of these. And then there is a next level after that. And I think it was quoted, we kind of latched on to the whole mild medium spicy, which I think came from Peter’s book building thinking classrooms. But that was how you could frame your questions to be more choice based.

00:16:22:22 – 00:16:44:22
Jon Orr
It’s like, Hey, you could do just the thinking questions that are spicy. If you want to go spicy, go spicy. And that can be a layer of differentiation. Not everyone has to do the same purposeful questions all the time. That’s an easy move. Ready to go? You can do that tomorrow in your math class and it’s going to change how kids are interacting with that next layer.

00:16:44:22 – 00:16:54:00
Jon Orr
But I guess the question that becomes how do we support that next layer, right? What are we doing differentiated to support the next layer of purposeful practice?

00:16:54:05 – 00:17:14:07
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, I know for sure. For sure. And ultimately at the end of the day, I love that as a beginning, as a start, that mild medium, spicy, that’s great. Gives students some choice. I think also we have to be cautious as well that sometimes it can’t be all choice either, right? Because there’s sometimes there’s certain skills that you want them to become more efficient, fluent with.

00:17:14:12 – 00:17:36:07
Kyle Pearce
And it might not be challenging, right? It’s just really important that we do those things. And I always come back to sports. Sports is something where there’s some drills that we do in sports that are maybe not the most enjoyable or fun, but building that skill is so helpful and it’s going to make you better in all these other fun drills like playing the game, there is that little piece.

00:17:36:07 – 00:17:57:02
Kyle Pearce
So when we think about this, there are other tools. There are tools out there that can help us, and sometimes it’s just taking a bit of time to help some students become familiar with them. Now, one tool that I relied on when I was in the classroom quite a bit, but it wasn’t relied on to replace me as the educator.

00:17:57:02 – 00:18:23:06
Kyle Pearce
It wasn’t to replace the learning experience or the classroom environment. It was for offering additional support. And that was Khan Academy. Now some people might be thinking like, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe Kyle and John are recommending Khan Academy and I’m going to say something I didn’t recognize early in my journey was that Khan Academy was there to support a specific group of students.

00:18:23:06 – 00:18:52:16
Kyle Pearce
And it’s those students who want to do more than they may have been doing in the classroom. So again, it’s not something I think we misused Khan Academy in education quite a bit by posting their videos to replace the learning experience in the classroom. Right. So it was the flipped classroom. Yeah. We always called the real flipped classroom the idea of let’s flip gradual release around and let’s make a learning experience.

00:18:52:23 – 00:19:15:13
Kyle Pearce
Khan Academy rather than trying to use that to replace that experience. No, no, let’s do that experience and let’s leverage the great tools that Khan Academy has available so students can engage in the things that they require some support in. And it’s Alex Card. They can go and they can actually do some exploring on their own. They can push themselves further.

00:19:15:19 – 00:19:48:05
Kyle Pearce
So I’ve got to say, Khan Academy has done a lot to push that forward. I’ll argue that a lot of the material is maybe more procedural than conceptual in nature, but again, we’re not replacing the opportunity to learn conceptually in class. This fella, Mr. Khan, actually did a great service to try to serve some of those students, like we said, that sometimes go under the radar, that maybe we’re feeling like, Hey, I did the work, but I haven’t been able to push myself a little bit more.

00:19:48:05 – 00:20:05:16
Kyle Pearce
So there is some value there to having that tool available to supplement for those students. John What other tools are out there? I know that there’s a couple others that have kind of caught our eye and we thought are really helpful and we should highlight here on this episode.

00:20:05:20 – 00:20:35:01
Jon Orr
Things flow across our desk. We see them coming into classrooms that we’re getting into, districts that we’re kind of supporting. They talk about tools that they’ve been using along the way to have this kind of next level of support, you know, with that practice. And I think this is where technology tried to come into play, right? When Khan Academy with their videos, was providing video support and saying getting support when you needed it at Tier two and Tier three.

00:20:35:01 – 00:20:54:24
Jon Orr
But then all of a sudden some of these tools were like, why don’t we take this one step further and try to provide feedback to kids in the moment right? And this is where computers and algorithms came in to say, Hey, why don’t you do these questions based off the learning that you just did? And we’ll tell you if you’re right or we’ll tell you if you’re wrong.

00:20:55:08 – 00:21:21:07
Jon Orr
And then that’s where I think Khan Academy moved into that. Eventually, there are courses from math gone and we’ve been working or we’ve been kind of talking a long time with the company knowledge hook here out of Ontario, Canada, and that’s where they kind of moved into with thinking about here are some next practice questions. Put your answer in will tell you if you’re right, they try to gamified that experience.

00:21:21:16 – 00:21:45:05
Jon Orr
Excel prodigy all of these tools that are based on computers and computer algorithms, they have that. And I think where they are doing okay in is that they’re providing those questions. And there are, say, videos that support some of that work. Where I think they fall is that it takes that teacher’s hand out of the situation right. Hey, you’re right or you’re wrong.

00:21:45:05 – 00:22:20:08
Jon Orr
And that’s kind of if I’m wrong, I don’t know why you’re wrong. Does the kid know why they’re wrong? It’s like they’re left to their own devices, to figure that out. Whereas I think we need to have that hand in there. Why that classroom experience is so rewarding is because there’s that student teacher interaction, that shared experience. We are getting that feedback at a human level, and that human level goes so far to saying, This is where I feel like your thinking is, and I’m going to take that thinking and then help you get to that next spot.

00:22:20:08 – 00:22:55:01
Jon Orr
And I think so far, computers haven’t done a great job at that part. They said, Hey, you’re right, you’re wrong. That’s all I got for you right now. Whereas maybe I coming into play eventually could play a role there. But I still think that there’s already a real long way to go there to replace that human experience. So I think that kind of brings in why tutoring is still probably a great option for that next tier support and why tutoring businesses are still thriving because it brings that human experience that side by side.

00:22:55:01 – 00:23:29:17
Jon Orr
Let’s look at the mathematics. What’s your connection to mathematics? Where is your thinking? I want to be able to to kind of think about that and provide you that guidance, that support. But also keep in mind, I think this is where those technology companies kind of fail and maybe why tutors also maybe need some guidance is because in those classroom experiences, that Tier one we’ve prided ourselves here on our podcast to talk about how that classroom culture feels and what we value in those experiences, like discussions, reasoning and proving happening out loud with each other.

00:23:30:00 – 00:23:53:01
Jon Orr
Keeping that thinking flowing. And I think that experience that we value in our math classes, when they go down to the next level, they get lost and computers completely lose that part and that experience of what a math class could be and even tutoring kind of possibly loses that from basically what we’ve always envisioned, what a traditional tutoring session looks like.

00:23:53:09 – 00:24:30:24
Jon Orr
So I think that’s why well, there is that human experience there. But are we still just saying math is just about memorizing procedures, rules and formulas? I feel like that’s still happening at the tutoring level. So like we said, we’re making progress in some areas, but there’s no perfect solution here at the next level support. And I think as long as we’re trying to think about that next level support, eventually, This is the amazing part that I think about our careers and mathematics as a landscape of field of study is that eventually, because we’re saying this right now, Kyle, that this is an area that we need to think about and this is where things

00:24:30:24 – 00:24:36:04
Jon Orr
have fall. We feel like it’s really important about the experiences. There will be a solution someday.

00:24:36:12 – 00:25:06:02
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, for sure. And like you said, I think we’re getting closer. I think there’s still a lot of work to be done. And also I think when we talk about solutions to I think you hinted at this is I don’t think that will ever be a solution that replaces teachers. It can address certain aspects. And I think if we look at it and we understand a effective mathematics learning environment and a productive learning experience for kids, we can leverage technology in ways to do certain things.

00:25:06:10 – 00:25:30:20
Kyle Pearce
So it frees educators up to do the things that matter most. And I think that’s where we’re going to see the biggest win. You know, I want to share one specific tool here that you and I, being educators in Ontario, are very familiar with and actually we actually are former tutors for this particular program is they now call it math of by its by TVO here in Ontario used to be called homework help.

00:25:30:20 – 00:25:50:00
Kyle Pearce
And at the time this is over ten years ago when this began, I was doing it in my first teaching placement. Yeah. So it would probably would have been about 13 years ago when I did this. And basically I had a tablet and I would log in and then kids from all over Ontario, you’d be assigned a course or a grade level.

00:25:50:00 – 00:26:07:08
Kyle Pearce
I remember I used to do sometimes grade nine, sometimes grade ten courses, and they would log in and the goal here was for them, they would bring a problem. They were stuck on and then I would tutor them. I could talk to them, they couldn’t talk to me, they could chat. And this is private from the privacy issue.

00:26:07:09 – 00:26:18:20
Kyle Pearce
So there was no camera on either of us. Eventually they did go to cameras. I don’t know if they’re still doing that, but it was really interesting at the time. But what this experience turned into, it was free and it was free.

00:26:18:20 – 00:26:22:19
Jon Orr
When we were doing it was grade 7 to 10. They’ve definitely opened that.

00:26:22:22 – 00:26:40:06
Kyle Pearce
They’ve expanded that. Yeah. So they’ve got it’s up on the screen here on YouTube for those who are watching here. So there is a lot of value here for a very specific purpose. So again, this isn’t a tutor. You don’t log in for a half an hour or an hour, 3 hours. You come in with a specific problem that you’re stuck on.

00:26:40:14 – 00:26:43:11
Kyle Pearce
And the challenge became as that. Then you had to wait in line.

00:26:43:11 – 00:26:44:07
Jon Orr
It’s like waiting at the door.

00:26:44:07 – 00:26:45:08
Kyle Pearce
Watching, standing in.

00:26:45:08 – 00:26:46:08
Jon Orr
Line at the teacher’s down.

00:26:46:08 – 00:27:06:13
Kyle Pearce
Exactly. Even worse, because you weren’t even physically there. You were just waiting and you’re listening to another problem being solved. And maybe there’s some value there. You’re watching another problem that’s in your course. Anyway, it was done well, and I think it still serves a very specific purpose. But I want to go back and look at like, okay, in-person tutoring.

00:27:06:13 – 00:27:31:14
Kyle Pearce
I remember being a tutor. I know tutoring oftentimes happens this way. You came in and you almost felt like you should be talking a lot because you’re getting paid to tutor. So the reality, though, is that’s not that helpful for that student. You need the student to be doing math and you to be there as a coach, as a mentor, to come in and ask the right questions, not tell the right questions.

00:27:31:14 – 00:27:58:11
Kyle Pearce
So a lot of tutors struggle with this idea, and it’s almost like, imagine if you were in a world where you had students able to work. So think of Homework Help, which is still on the screen where the students working on their problem, they get stuck and instead of them now having the log in to this system over here and wait in line and then share this problem and then have the tutor describe it to them and then go on with their day.

00:27:58:11 – 00:28:24:21
Kyle Pearce
Imagine if you were engaging in this world where you were having help from technology. So technology is giving you additional problems to work on related to where you are in a trajectory. And when you get stuck, the tutor is there to be able to intervene and provide some next steps. And that is where I want to go next, which is this particular company that reached out to us.

00:28:25:02 – 00:28:45:20
Kyle Pearce
A lot of tech companies will reach out, ask us for some support or some consulting or just ideas or feedback. And this particular team reached out to us recently and we were very intrigued by what they’re doing. And this is essentially they call it your math coach. And basically it is a what they would call like a tutoring service.

00:28:45:20 – 00:29:07:18
Kyle Pearce
But what you’re getting, which is different, is it’s actually a guy that’s giving the students related problems to where they are in the journey. And there are multiple students logged in. So it’s like a class, it’s like an online class for purposeful practice. So the students may not all be in the same spot. They can’t see one another.

00:29:07:18 – 00:29:32:19
Kyle Pearce
They’re doing their own work. But when there’s a challenge, there is related resources to that particular problem and they can actually be flagged and that tutor can then intervene to provide them some guidance, some questioning, some next steps, which is sort of like what I never knew as an in-person tutor. Right. And oftentimes I never knew this as a teacher.

00:29:32:19 – 00:29:59:01
Kyle Pearce
Right. It was just me telling, telling, telling. Whereas this is really designed to go, listen, you’ve got to do the work, John. And if you do the work and you run into problems rather than just calling it quits for the day, you’ve got essentially instantaneous support from a human being, not a computer, which I think is where we talked about this mixing of technol AGI with the human aspect.

00:29:59:08 – 00:30:17:10
Kyle Pearce
So again, not to replace a classroom lesson or that math community that you want to build in your classroom, but some support here for those students who are working on a particular concept and trying to improve. And when they get stuck, they are there.

00:30:17:12 – 00:30:41:07
Jon Orr
What I like about this is that because you’re writing on the screen, right, because you’re using your pen, your stylus, and you’re writing an answer, your solution, you’re thinking on the screen and it’s not like I Hey, I’ve got this yes or no answer. I’ll choose a like that. The fact that it’s not like I’m just going to click this multiple choice answer and then boom, it tells me it’s right or wrong.

00:30:41:12 – 00:31:10:04
Jon Orr
There’s actually someone back there kind of watching what you’re doing or monitoring at certain times to kind of say like, Yeah, you got it, move on. And then I like also that when you’re either maybe your thinking is not on the right spot right there on that particular question. And let’s say you get it wrong. Your next question has been differentiated and modified to go down, say this may be side path.

00:31:10:04 – 00:31:35:03
Jon Orr
So imagine you’re like on the main quest to be getting to this end goal and then it’s like, well, wait a minute, your thinking needs to change or we need to think about where you are right here. And actually you would benefit better by going down this side. QUEST Which is these side questions and going down those side questions are going to bring you back to the main quest, the main set of pathway to get you to your learning goal.

00:31:35:13 – 00:31:57:00
Jon Orr
But we need to go down this way first so that you’re ready to come back to this way. It automatically does that, which is amazing. So I really like that part. And then like you said that, but with a touch of a button, a tutor can give you video customized feedback to you specifically. So it’s not like it’s general feedback on that problem.

00:31:57:00 – 00:32:15:14
Jon Orr
Like a Khan Academy might have that video, like, Hey, watch this video. It’s similar to to do this one does that, but also by clicking the tutor button, a tutor will actually look at your page and go, Hey, I think you should try this next. Or I see where your thinking is here. Why don’t we try this strategy as your next move?

00:32:15:15 – 00:32:46:20
Jon Orr
Go ahead, try it, and then all of a sudden your page pops up. You get to try it again, and then there’s that human interaction towards where you are on class. So I’m liking this one. I’m glad that they’ve reached out to us to kind of ask for some feedback because we’re there to kind of provide some of the feedback taking into again, what we said at the top of this episode about there are a lot of pillars, values that we value in our math classes and we want to kind of steer them into this multi tiered support that we provide students and how do we do that?

00:32:46:20 – 00:33:07:04
Jon Orr
And I think this tool has a great opportunity to keep some of those pillars, those values alive. And because we’re consulting with them, we get that window right into their years to kind of change some things along the way. So I don’t know if this is something that you’re looking to kind of like, Hey, I want to learn a little bit more.

00:33:07:13 – 00:33:24:00
Jon Orr
Then you could head on over to make math moments scheme for us. Prep Box will steer you in the right direction over there so that’s make math almost dot com for us prep box and you could learn a little bit more It’s in a new kind of stage and it’s pretty exciting because I think it does some of the things that we talked about here.

00:33:24:00 – 00:33:30:09
Jon Orr
It takes the human element plus some of this AI tools to kind of speed and help kids get to where they need to go.

00:33:30:12 – 00:33:55:09
Kyle Pearce
I think one of the big pieces there that I think is important to note is again, today we’re talking about what about those students who may not be the ones that you’re sort of sitting next to when you’re in class and working with that 9010 I talked about my wife says she works with 90% of her time with 10% of the students, is sort of how she feels that that may or may not be a great tool for that particular student.

00:33:55:09 – 00:34:14:07
Kyle Pearce
But what about those students that sort of fly under the radar? Right. Or those go getters that are looking to kind of push themselves and continue? The beauty of the AI tool there is that it will allow them to stretch their wings and go as far as they are ready or willing to go. So I really like that.

00:34:14:07 – 00:34:41:14
Kyle Pearce
I think there’s a lot of promise there. And yeah, so check that out. Make math moments dot com forward slash prep box. I want to see though, for me, a big takeaway I’m taking from this conversation is again, I think we have a huge, huge task in front of us in math education around helping more students who are not feeling a productive disposition towards mathematics, who have not been welcomed into the math learning community.

00:34:41:14 – 00:35:10:14
Kyle Pearce
There is still so much work to be done there. So I am not suggesting that we redirect all of our focus from that group of students. I think we still do that work. We still must be finding ways that we can help to support that group of students. But while we’re doing that work, we have to also not forget it can be easy to forget that some of the students who are we perceive doing better or doing well enough may not be the right move.

00:35:10:14 – 00:35:33:15
Kyle Pearce
And John, this idea of a student who in grade nine earns an 84 and then in grade ten earns a 78, and then in grade 11 earns a 71, and then in grade 12 earns maybe a 60 and then decides maybe math isn’t for them, even though all throughout the trajectory, all throughout all the grade levels, they sort of floated under that radar.

00:35:33:15 – 00:35:58:16
Kyle Pearce
Right. It didn’t work out for them. That is for me, I think, something that I want to be more intentional about. Again, not in this or that, but I want to make sure that I’m thinking about the whole group of students, because again, we say differentiation, but oftentimes when differential ideation is implemented in a school or a district, oftentimes what it really means is how do we help struggling students?

00:35:58:16 – 00:36:07:17
Kyle Pearce
And the reality is, is differentiation is for every student, that is what equity is. And that is my big takeaway for today. How about you there, John?

00:36:07:23 – 00:36:30:15
Jon Orr
I completely echo your big takeaway. And I think it is when you phrased that whole student who is in a certain grade and you saw that change over time, that you’re like, wait, what? That student back when I taught them in grade nine was they were functioning here. They were getting the thinking out here. And then all of a sudden, a few years later, you just don’t see the same engagement level from that student.

00:36:30:15 – 00:36:54:13
Jon Orr
You’re right. I think it’s through time that support that they didn’t have along the way. There is some sort of support lost and if we could kind of engage them in that next tier support in a stronger way to kind of keep the best parts of math class alive for them, then maybe that student is still achieving at your desired level when they’re, say, hit grade 12, a grade 11, or wherever they are.

00:36:54:13 – 00:37:13:15
Jon Orr
So that’s an experience or a thought exercise that we should keep with us. How can we keep engaging our students to kind of be in flow from year to year beyond, say, just your classroom and kind of making sure that we kind of help that group and not go, Hey, we’re going to help this group. We got this group up here, What about that middle group?

00:37:13:15 – 00:37:40:23
Jon Orr
We want to keep that middle group going strong as well. So we encourage you to think about that as well. Will want you to kind of keep that going. You may be listening to this in the summer. If you’re listening to this live and you’re thinking about next year, thinking about how can we support that group, how can I differentiate truly my classroom experience so that I’m hitting all levels and hey, it’s hard work because you’ve got multi-tiered group leveling in your classroom.

00:37:41:09 – 00:38:03:08
Jon Orr
How do you truly differentiate is probably the hardest part of teaching and we’re here to support you along the way, give you some thought exercises, some ideas to kind of try along the way. If you have any questions you want to get your thoughts out there. We encourage you to connect with us. We are on all social media with app make math moments.

00:38:03:17 – 00:38:22:05
Jon Orr
I think the best way for you to do that is head on over to the Facebook group and check us out there in my posting something post a concern. We’ve got a lot of folks in that group who are ready and eager to share their experiences and support you along the way. So the Facebook group would be your best bet here.

00:38:22:05 – 00:38:27:02
Jon Orr
If you have Wonder’s thoughts on, say, that multi-tiered support.

00:38:27:02 – 00:38:48:00
Kyle Pearce
I love it today. We talked quite a bit about the leads of an effective math program. There are six parts to that tree hidden in there, I think is the trunk that we discussed here today, the trunk involving that leadership, the culture of your classroom, the environment. And when you think about it, that tree ought to grow strong and wide.

00:38:48:00 – 00:39:12:09
Kyle Pearce
We can’t just think about a problem based lesson or we can’t just think about purposeful practice or we can’t just think about all these little details of that program really do need to focus on the entire tree. So today talked a lot about the leaves, but different types of leaves. We often talk about the problem based lessons and those resources which are available over on our website make mouth moments WSJ.com.

00:39:12:09 – 00:39:35:03
Kyle Pearce
But hopefully today you’ll head over to make math moments dot com forward slash episode two for one so you can explore some of the other resources that we shared today that might be helpful for you to truly differentiate in the purposeful practice portion of the learning experience. Friends Until next time. I’m Kyle Pierce.

00:39:35:07 – 00:39:36:09
Jon Orr
And I’m John or.

00:39:36:12 – 00:39:58:01
Kyle Pearce
High fives for us. And a high five for you. Oh.



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