Episode #251: How To Engage The Disengaged – A Math Mentoring Moment

Sep 18, 2023 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

Today we speak with Robert Barth, a high school math teacher from the South side of Chicago. Robert shares his experience with teaching with the original flipped classroom model and how he’s morphed it over the years to incorporate Peter Liljedahl’s work on Building Thinking Classrooms and the Make Math Moments “Real” Flipped Classroom approach incorporating teaching through task. 

Listen in as Robert wonders how to engage students who give push back when working in groups and sharing their thinking. You’ll hear about teacher moves you can make to motivate students who seem to be unwilling to engage and how to balance your class time between “group thinking” and “individual thinking”. 


This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we chat with a teacher like you who is working through some problems of practice and together we brainstorm ways to overcome them. 

What You’ll Learn:

  • Why the “double-flipped” classroom model might be helpful for those who have struggled to implement problem based lessons in the past;
  • Why taking the time to be explicit with students as to why we do what we do in math class; 
  • The teacher moves we can leverage to motivate students who seem unwilling to engage;
  • Why too much “group-think” time can may limit the necessary “individual-think” time that students need to individually reflect; and,
  • How we can incorporate routines to intentionally promote the development of relational trust in our mathematics communities.

Attention 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.  

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00:00:00:08 – 00:00:21:03
Robert Barth
I frequently survey my students about how things are going, what they like, what they dislike, what could be improved. And you get the response of, I just don’t like math and I think that’s a cop out excuse or it’s something that’s been a previous issue. That seems to be the correlation between the kids that don’t do it and that they just don’t like it.

00:00:21:03 – 00:00:22:24
Robert Barth
And it bothers me because.

00:00:22:24 – 00:00:52:08
Kyle Pearce
Today we speak with Robert Barth, a high school math teacher from the South Side of Chicago. Robert shares his experience with teaching with the original flipped classroom model and how he’s morphed it over the years to incorporate Peter Little’s building thinking classrooms model and has kind of snuck in the mic math moments, real flipped classroom approach that we’ve talked about on prior episodes in order to teach through task.

00:00:52:13 – 00:01:12:18
Jon Orr
Listen in as Robert wonders, how do you engage his students who have been giving him pushback when working in groups and sharing their thinking? You’re going to hear us brainstorm and chat about teacher moves you also could make to motivate your students who seem to be unwilling to engage and how to also balance the time in your classroom.

00:01:12:18 – 00:01:22:14
Jon Orr
And Robert does this as well. He comes to this realization in the chat around the balance between group thinking group work and individual thinking and individual work time.

00:01:22:16 – 00:01:36:06
Kyle Pearce
This is another math mentoring moment episode where we chat with a math moment maker just like you, who’s working through some problems of practice. And together we brainstorm ways to help overcome them.

00:01:36:08 – 00:01:51:12
Jon Orr
Let’s hit it.

00:01:51:14 – 00:01:56:00
Kyle Pearce
Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce.

00:01:56:00 – 00:01:58:12
Jon Orr
And I’m Jon Orr we are from makemathmoments.com.

00:01:58:17 – 00:02:09:09
Kyle Pearce
This is the only podcast that coaches you through a six step plan to grow your mathematics program, whether at the classroom level or at the district level.

00:02:09:11 – 00:02:22:04
Jon Orr
And we do that by helping you cultivate foster your mathematics program like a strong, healthy and balanced tree. If you master the six parts of an effective mathematics program, the impact of your program will grow and reach far and wide.

00:02:22:04 – 00:02:39:01
Kyle Pearce
Every week we’ll get you the insight to stop feeling overwhelmed, gain back your confidence, and get back to enjoying the planning and facilitation of your mathematics program. For the students or those math educators that you serve.

00:02:39:03 – 00:02:57:00
Jon Orr
All right. Let’s dig right into the conversation with Robert. Hey there, Robert. Thanks for joining us here on the Big Math Moments That Matter podcast. Hey, we’re excited to chat with you and dig a little into what you’ve got going on. But before we do, before we get into all of that, let our listeners know a little bit about yourself.

00:02:57:00 – 00:03:01:10
Jon Orr
Where you coming from and a little bit about what you’re teaching right now.

00:03:01:12 – 00:03:18:21
Robert Barth
Sure. Well, thank you for having me. First of all, I want to say I appreciate you guys and what you guys are doing. Podcast is great and the recommendations you guys have for books and stuff like that. I really appreciate too, and I read a lot of them. So I’m a high school math teacher, south suburbs of Chicago, about a school of 2300.

00:03:18:23 – 00:03:37:19
Robert Barth
So pretty big school I’ve been teaching. This is now my 23rd year and I started flip teaching the old flip teaching. I know you guys called the new footage. I do that as well. We’ll get to that. So I started flip teaching about 15 years ago. I was one of the first people in the area to do it because I saw a way to streamline.

00:03:37:23 – 00:03:58:04
Robert Barth
I thought it was a quicker way to streamline information to kids. And then probably about seven years ago or so, I started doing flip teaching the way you guys talk about it, where you’re having kids try problems first. And then a few years back, I decided to do what I call double for teaching. That’s kind of what I’d like to talk to you guys about a little bit.

00:03:58:07 – 00:03:58:23
Robert Barth

00:03:58:23 – 00:04:21:11
Kyle Pearce
I’m super, super curious. That’s awesome. Yeah, You’re like a flipped pro here. He’s got the traditional sense, and then he’s got maybe we’ll call it that new sense teaching at a high school with quite a few students. So I’m sure it’s probably busy days. And to our understanding, you’re just coming out of that first week of school. So I’m really excited to dig in here and thanks for giving us some background.

00:04:21:12 – 00:04:31:03
Kyle Pearce
I’m wondering when you look back and think even further back to your own experience in math class, what would you say is your math moment that sticks with you?

00:04:31:03 – 00:04:49:20
Robert Barth
Yeah, I go back to my freshman year of high school, year nine, for you guys to translate that for you. And my teacher made us do our homework with the piece of carbon paper in the middle so that we would have a copy of it and she would have a copy of it. And super cool. It was interesting and it took me a while before realizing why she was doing that.

00:04:49:20 – 00:05:08:00
Robert Barth
And then eventually someone asked and she said, Well, now you have a copy for you to look at. So she would collect it and you would still have a copy to study from. And it hit me that, Oh, homework is helping me study. It took me that long, I guess, to figure that out. So that’s the first thing I can think about, knowing the learning process and putting things together.

00:05:08:01 – 00:05:09:08
Robert Barth
This is something that’s important.

00:05:09:14 – 00:05:14:02
Jon Orr
Yeah, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the carbon copy method myself.

00:05:14:02 – 00:05:20:16
Kyle Pearce
John Some people are listening and going. That’s why it’s called carbon Copy. That’s why it’s a CC. No, no, no.

00:05:20:16 – 00:05:22:10
Jon Orr
What is going on here? Yeah, it.

00:05:22:10 – 00:05:23:07
Robert Barth
Was a sheet like.

00:05:23:09 – 00:05:50:00
Jon Orr
They come like I’ve heard of carbon copy before. I just haven’t heard of a teacher using it for homework. So I thought that is super, super interesting. How do you think that memory and that experience, how has it influenced you now as a teacher? You’ve remembered that you just mentioned a little bit about it made you think about homework and the relationship between doing your homework and being successful in math class.

00:05:50:04 – 00:05:59:11
Jon Orr
How did that translate into your teaching? And if it did, did it come right away when you first started teaching, or was that something that kind of remembered later and went back to?

00:05:59:13 – 00:06:25:21
Robert Barth
It’s definitely something that I thought about in the beginning because I recognize the importance of homework and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t viewed as punishment because that times kids think that. So I was always of the mindset of quality over quantity. So give them ten problems and not 50 or something like that. What I had experienced prior to that and then once making the videos happened, then it really became, Hey, your homework is only 10 minutes long.

00:06:25:23 – 00:06:34:04
Robert Barth
It’s just getting you thinking about things outside of class just for a little bit. So that’s kind of why I latched on to that idea when I did.

00:06:34:06 – 00:06:59:07
Kyle Pearce
Nice, nice. I love that. And it’s interesting because when you look back, we’ve heard so many different memories and it’s interesting what sort of stands out in your mind, Right. And that was something we talk about, this idea of breaking the script. Right? And that was the teacher broke the script in math class. Now, the interesting part that pops into my mind is I wonder, how can we when everyone listening here, sure, we’re doing things differently now.

00:06:59:07 – 00:07:26:14
Kyle Pearce
We’re probably not using carbon paper or carbon copies in order to get the same effect. But you had mentioned something that really popped in was that it took a long time for you to recognize why, and kids were asking like, Why are we doing this? And the teacher is like, Oh, so you have your copy? And I just wonder in our own practices and we think about not just homework, but there’s so many things we do in math class and I wonder how many of those things that we’re doing with intention.

00:07:26:16 – 00:07:54:18
Kyle Pearce
But yet the students may still not understand the intentionality. They’re right. We assume so many things. We assume that students understand why we’re doing what we’re doing. I love this idea of doing homework for the benefit of the homework, not for punishment. And I wonder if we’re being clear enough with our students, even though we are doing less and we’re looking for quality over quantity, sometimes I think we just sort of assume that kids are kind of with us in getting it right.

00:07:54:18 – 00:08:26:11
Kyle Pearce
So I think for me at big takeaway I took here was just that we’re doing so many things in a day and trying to be as clear and explicit with students about why we’re doing what we’re doing is so important. And yeah, that’s definitely a takeaway for me. Now I want to keep rolling along here, Bob. We’ve got a bunch of cool things to chat about, but this idea of flip teaching, I want to go in there and I’m going to guess that maybe some of your wonders today that we’ll get into might be around how we might be able to maybe tweak a few things here and there.

00:08:26:11 – 00:08:49:16
Kyle Pearce
I want to roll back to the original approach. Sounds like you were a bit of an innovator, right, going into this idea, you heard about flip teaching and youdo then you saw that there were some benefits there. I’m wondering what worked well when you were doing that style and then maybe what wasn’t quite working as well as you wanted, which might have encouraged you to start thinking about what we call the real flipped classroom.

00:08:49:21 – 00:08:51:12
Kyle Pearce
Take us down that rabbit hole here.

00:08:51:18 – 00:09:13:03
Robert Barth
So, I mean, the initial idea was when kids are absent, they tend to miss a lot. So this allows them to get that baseline instruction. When kids don’t have help at home, they can’t really do homework if they’re stuck. And I was struggling with our kids not doing homework because they’re lazy or because they can’t do it. So flip teaching allowed me to take that point part out of it.

00:09:13:05 – 00:09:31:06
Robert Barth
Everyone go watch video. Although back then we had to always survey my class because some kids didn’t even have internet, so we had to find a workaround. It was only usually one or two kids and we found workarounds for them. But in general it kind of alleviated the at home stress and put it on me in the classroom.

00:09:31:12 – 00:09:36:02
Robert Barth
So when we did our practice of the killer stressing out, I was therefore to be able to push it through.

00:09:36:06 – 00:10:01:07
Jon Orr
But I was going to stop you there just for a second. I think a lot of us listening, depending on how long we’ve been teaching, we may have tried that as well. Like I definitely tried that model as well a long time ago and with mixed bag results, I think for me. So when you ask kids to watch the videos at home, I also thought that the value there was like, Hey, we can make a catalog of videos they can watch, they can be accessible at any time.

00:10:01:09 – 00:10:18:09
Jon Orr
But when you say, Hey, we got to watch video 7.2 tonight so that we can be prepared coming into class tomorrow, how much success or completion was happening there with students who were pre watching the videos coming in instead of just saying like, all watch the video if I got stuck.

00:10:18:11 – 00:10:37:07
Robert Barth
Right. That’s a good point because that’s what was being done before I started what I’m calling a double flip now as they watched the video first and then they come in. So yeah, if the kid didn’t watch the video, definitely they were struggles and I would say I’m in a very good school. Kids do work very well and tend to do their homework.

00:10:37:07 – 00:10:53:01
Robert Barth
I would say on a typical night I probably get close to 85% of my kids do their homework. So there’s a group out there that is always going to be an issue and it’s just a matter of talking to them and trying to get them to do it. But yeah, that was an issue and there’s still kind of an issue now.

00:10:53:01 – 00:10:55:23
Robert Barth
So I don’t know what the answer is.

00:10:55:23 – 00:11:13:07
Jon Orr
Probably if people are also trying this or want to try the techniques that you’re going to share in just a moment or we’re going to dig on, maybe this is the pebble we’re trying to bring up is what have you done in the past to help or give kids initiative be like, hey, let’s watch these in advance? Or how did you kind of communicate that to them?

00:11:13:09 – 00:11:32:06
Jon Orr
Because that would be a transition for them, probably coming into your room thinking like, Oh, normally I would just show up on the day of ready to take notes, do the work. Probably that’s what happened in the previous math class. And then they come into your class and it’s like, wait, there’s going to be a shift here. What are the things you’re saying to kids so that they have that incentive to do that?

00:11:32:10 – 00:11:57:04
Robert Barth
Right? I think this goes back to something Child mentioned about me identifying the carbon copy thing and why that was significant, because I do take the time to explain that If you didn’t watch back then, if you didn’t watch that video and then you walked in the class, you were behind already, now the good thing was we would get into problems and do a couple more small problems first, and then you get a little bit of explanation before we did our group practice or whatever.

00:11:57:06 – 00:12:09:21
Robert Barth
But it was definitely something that we talked about in terms of doing your work on time and being accountable to the people in your group was kind of one way to kind of I guess, use peer pressure in a positive sense to help. And I.

00:12:09:21 – 00:12:30:02
Kyle Pearce
Love it. I love it. Now I want you to tell us a little bit more about how are you doing it now and I guess at what point did you make this shift and how’s it going? How are you feeling about it? And then I’m sure, as John said, maybe there’s some pieces and by the way, I got to say, 85% of students are doing their homework.

00:12:30:02 – 00:12:49:16
Kyle Pearce
Typically. That’s a pretty good number. I’m thinking there’s a lot of teachers in their heads going, wow, I would love to get to 85%. Right? So, I mean, we are always still trying to push. We always want that 100%. But 85%, that’s a pretty good number of students who are buying in to the system. Right. So I bet that’s got you feeling pretty good.

00:12:49:16 – 00:12:59:13
Kyle Pearce
But tell us a little more. What did you change? How does it look now and then maybe we can start digging into where are the places where you going? Like, I wish we could just get a little better over.

00:12:59:13 – 00:13:23:18
Robert Barth
Here based on actually your guys recommendation. I read the little doll book, The Thinking Classroom. So a couple of years ago I made some big changes, but prior to that it was the kids would come in, they would do a task in a group. Back then, the groups were assigned for the whole chapter or whole unit and they would get their task, they would try it, and then eventually we would kind of start building the rules.

00:13:23:20 – 00:13:36:03
Robert Barth
They would see something happening and then we would talk about why that’s happening. We would apply a name to it, give it a definition, and then the class would end and they would go home and watch the video after the fact.

00:13:36:03 – 00:13:40:17
Kyle Pearce
Almost like a double consolidation in a way. Right? Ranges could be pretty powerful.

00:13:40:17 – 00:13:59:22
Robert Barth
And we read about 15 minutes per class period. So a lot of time you get to the end of class and you’re running out. So the first year I started doing the new Flip, I didn’t double flip it, so I was running out of class time and realizing we never got to that consolidation piece. We didn’t have the time.

00:13:59:24 – 00:14:05:04
Robert Barth
And so I felt like the video was the catch. All that brought it back into place for me.

00:14:05:07 – 00:14:23:23
Jon Orr
So when you’re crafting these videos, are you crafting them first or are you finding videos to supplement what big learning goal that you wanted to get the students to get out of today? And if you are crafting them, are you tailoring them to what you did that day? Or is it more in general like, Hey, this is the big idea today and you can use them year to year?

00:14:24:03 – 00:14:41:16
Robert Barth
Yeah, they’re more of a general. They are pre done videos that I create not finding anybody else’s so they have basically no package they get per unit and as they watch the videos they just fill out what they’re seeing as they go. So that kind of guides me because I know where I want them to get in class, period.

00:14:41:18 – 00:15:06:10
Robert Barth
And if we’re not quite there, the video, like I said, makes up that gap, and that’s where I kind of want to see you guys think of that’s cheating a little bit. The problem based learning idea is that they’re supposed to come up with everything, and I know that’s not always the case. So sometimes we fall, sometimes we get where we need to get, and then there’s a good chunk of time where we don’t and they’re just then fed it in the video.

00:15:06:10 – 00:15:08:24
Robert Barth
So I don’t know if that’s like I said.

00:15:09:01 – 00:15:35:07
Kyle Pearce
Well, I’m so happy that you brought this whole topic up, this whole idea up, and then what you just said right there. I think in this process, we so often worry about doing it right or doing it wrong, or you use the word cheating even right. And I know you’re being dramatic, right, with that. But the reality is, a lot of times what the story we’re telling ourselves in our mind is often way more dramatic than what is real.

00:15:35:07 – 00:15:55:24
Kyle Pearce
And so I’m really happy that we’re digging in here because I’m sure that many people are wondering what’s John and Kyle going to say about that. And I think in a way, what you’ve done is you’ve actually given all kinds of people out there. How many times have we had episodes where then the title of the episode we’re talking about time and lack of time and not enough time and not enough.

00:15:56:01 – 00:16:22:01
Kyle Pearce
There’s always struggles out there, and what I think you just shared is a great opportunity for those people who are out there worried about not getting to the quote unquote traditional lesson, not getting the information out there. And I will argue that most people, maybe all people, when they start problem based lessons, they often leave that bow untied, as we call it, Right.

00:16:22:01 – 00:16:45:09
Kyle Pearce
The consolidations tying that bow. And because we’re learning and things never go exactly as planned, what ends up happening is the bell rings and it’s almost like you as well. The students are engaged, you’re engaged, and you almost lose track of time. And then next thing you know, the bell is gone. And what’s happening now, you know, like, I don’t even know if I can assign homework because I don’t know who knows what.

00:16:45:11 – 00:17:15:20
Kyle Pearce
There’s all kinds of things going on in our minds and what you’ve done with this structure. In my opinion, is that you’ve kind of made that catchall. Like you said, you’re kind of giving yourself permission for that to happen and it not to be the end of the world. So in my mind, I’m picturing a person out there who may have had this barrier or this objection to trying this approach, and you’ve given them an opportunity to make sure that they can dig in, they can feel good that it is going to be there.

00:17:15:20 – 00:17:33:02
Kyle Pearce
And I will argue that there may be maybe some challenges that are introduced with, we’ll call it the handful of students who are like, I’ll just wait. Right, Peter, a little. The hall talks about that all the time. He’s like, We don’t want students to get in the mindset that if I just wait long enough, Sarah’s going to just give me the answer, right?

00:17:33:02 – 00:18:02:24
Kyle Pearce
And I don’t actually have to do the thinking. So I’m sure there’s going to be a challenge there, and there’s still a balance there of trying to figure out AM I getting the most out of my students and am I getting all that thinking out that I want? But at the other end, think about those students who were absent, or you have some students who go on a week vacation or they miss a long period of time and you’ve got a way for that student to still be on track because there’s no way for them to ever make up the experience that they’re missing in the classroom.

00:18:02:24 – 00:18:21:24
Kyle Pearce
Right. That thinking experience, that group experience. So I really like it. I’m wondering when you do this model, how’s it going? Is it rolling exactly as planned or are there maybe some areas in there that you want to chat about here today and try to figure out how do we address this little issue over here, That little issue over there?

00:18:22:01 – 00:18:49:11
Robert Barth
Definitely the biggest worry that I have are the kids that don’t participate in a group. There’s a small handful every year. Luckily, they’re usually scattered through my classes where there’s one or two kids that just won’t talk to group members. And I do the random grouping. Now. I’m very fortunate. I have an extremely large classroom, so one half of my room I have rows and on the other half I have just vertical boards in a circle, a big tall six foot vertical boards.

00:18:49:11 – 00:18:52:17
Kyle Pearce
Oh, nice. There’s a lot of jealous people. Yeah, right now there’s a lot.

00:18:52:17 – 00:19:11:03
Robert Barth
Of angry people in my school that tell me that all the time. So I have that area where we go and we do our random groups and they go over and they get to work. And so for example, on Thursday we were doing a lesson and there were two kids that we’ve been in a week and a half, and I’ve already kind of identified.

00:19:11:03 – 00:19:28:18
Robert Barth
They’re not cooperative with the whole process right now, and they happen to get stuck together, right? They’re not doing anything. So I just took the approach first. I said, Can you just try? I’m very clear with I don’t care if you’re right or wrong. I just need to see what you’re thinking. I say that all the time. You can’t just show me what you’re thinking.

00:19:28:20 – 00:19:45:12
Robert Barth
And so I ask them to do that. I walked around, I held some groups. I came back to them. Nothing was done. And then I asked them one more time. I said, Listen, there’s numbers in this problem. Do something with the numbers. I don’t care what, just do something. And then I walked around again and circled back to them and once again nothing was done.

00:19:45:14 – 00:20:00:04
Robert Barth
And I just kind of stopped and said, Look at the other groups for me. So what do you see? I see kids smiling. Those kids over there are laughing, having fun, right? Everyone else is. It was a moment for me, too. Every other group, kids are smiling and it’s very common for me to hear like, oh, class is over.

00:20:00:06 – 00:20:11:10
Robert Barth
When like our guys were done, they’re like, Really? So I was just kind of pointed out, look at what they’re doing. If you would kind of join in now, I don’t know if that’s the proper approach or what it was what I did at that time.

00:20:11:12 – 00:20:33:12
Jon Orr
Sure. You’ve been doing this for a couple of years, right? I think you said five. You started to kind of make some switches to go down this route. I’m curious. You probably mean like all of us where you’ve got students who would resist or get pushed back. So what have you done in the past to being positive, saying what some expectations are, especially in the first week, is great?

00:20:33:12 – 00:20:49:17
Jon Orr
I think so. A think back to the let’s say last year and think of a student at the beginning of the year and where they were at the end of the year. Was their growth there with that student? Because I think maybe you’re like these students, it’s only one week. It’s like Friday after week one. It’s like this is a brand new experience for them.

00:20:49:17 – 00:20:53:23
Jon Orr
They’re not sure what was their growth in kids that you saw that last year.

00:20:54:00 – 00:21:12:19
Robert Barth
So those kids that you could identify quickly that don’t talk, I would say I’m probably successful with half of them getting them in. And it’s a small population to begin with. Like I said, there might be six kids across my classes, so I do get some, but I know that there’s a couple that are going to be like that the whole year.

00:21:12:21 – 00:21:32:19
Robert Barth
And some kids have said, Well, I don’t like talking groups. I’m shy. I’m a shy person. I try to combat that by saying I’m actually a very introverted person myself. When it comes to teaching, though, I have to change my gear until I’m exhausted by the end of the day because it’s outside my comfort zone. I said, Sometimes you got to step outside your comfort zone.

00:21:32:20 – 00:21:36:15
Robert Barth
So I don’t know if that helped a few kids or not, but yeah.

00:21:36:21 – 00:21:58:08
Kyle Pearce
I’m sure it did. And I’m getting a sense as well that we’ve all been there. I’m sure people are listening and they’re going like, you know, maybe they’re envisioning some students from their new class that they’re in and they’re going, How do I reach that student? The interesting part is there’s so many possible reasons why a student might choose, and sometimes maybe they’re not even choosing it to resist, right?

00:21:58:08 – 00:22:29:05
Kyle Pearce
Or to not engage. And oftentimes coming back, it sounds like, based on the conversation we’re having, I can make a pretty good guess that you are probably pretty great at building the pillars in your classroom. We call it the trunk of the math program tree in our math classrooms. And building that trust is really, really key. Having a 50% success rate with those unwilling to engage when it is that smaller group of students is actually a really positive turnaround rate.

00:22:29:07 – 00:22:55:06
Kyle Pearce
And I’m wondering in the past, I want to dig in just a little bit more. Let’s think about some of the students that maybe haven’t engaged in the past or give you a moment to kind of reflect on them. Maybe thinking back to last year, maybe it’s the past couple of years and you’re picturing, Hey, I’ve got a player on one of the teams that I helped to coach, and I think about that player and I couldn’t get that player to turn around or I think about that math classroom and I’m thinking about that one student.

00:22:55:08 – 00:23:16:06
Kyle Pearce
I’m wondering, what do you think wasn’t working for that? Student If you had to guess, you tried everything like we start with that surface level stuff. Hey, let’s just play with the numbers. Let’s just write something down. Like we’re just trying to get them to just come along a little bit. But then after some time, you’re only week one in this particular class, but you’re hoping in your mind you’re going.

00:23:16:06 – 00:23:36:06
Kyle Pearce
I hope by the end of week two we’ve got some progress or you’re thinking by the end of month two or by the end of the semester, you’re like, Oh shoot, I really want to make sure I have some progress. What do you think? Wasn’t working for the students that in the past have like not engaged? I have some guesses as to what some of those ideas might be, but I’d love to hear your experience.

00:23:36:06 – 00:23:40:09
Kyle Pearce
And what do you think was maybe the hiccup or the hold up for those students?

00:23:40:11 – 00:24:01:05
Robert Barth
I frequently survey my students about how things are going, what they like, what they dislike, what could be improved. And you get the response of, I just don’t like math and I think that’s a cop out excuse or it’s something that’s been a previous issue. That seems to be the correlation between the kids that don’t do it and that they just don’t like it.

00:24:01:05 – 00:24:21:23
Robert Barth
And it bothers me because I’m trying to change that boring math class or whatever. We’re kids just sit the whole time they’re standing, they move. We take things in chunks over 50 minute class periods and all my classes are academic level. I don’t teach any honors classes, so we try to do things in about 10 to 15 minutes segments so that there’s some movement.

00:24:22:04 – 00:24:40:17
Robert Barth
There’s a ten minute warm up segment. Sometimes we start with an intro. It’s a joke of the day type of thing, and then we go into some practice problems and then now we’re up in group 10 minutes later. We do that for probably 30 minutes at most, 20 to 30 minutes, and then we come back to our seats and try to tie it all up.

00:24:40:19 – 00:24:49:06
Robert Barth
So there’s movement in the class. It’s not normal for most. So I kind of would hope that they see that experience differently, but sometimes they don’t.

00:24:49:08 – 00:25:09:15
Jon Orr
When you’re thinking about those students because students will. My experience is I’m seeing that a student’s going to resist or give pushback on the structure, especially around engaging with other students in group work. They’ll say they make, Whoa, I hate math, or this is not for me. But I think there tends to be a little bit more of root cause there.

00:25:09:15 – 00:25:37:04
Jon Orr
And I’m curious if you picture that students that is giving you pushback all year, would you say is there comfort level with the other students in the class? Do they have a trusted friend that they never get to be partnered with or and they’re always with somebody who typically they wouldn’t be chatting with outside of class? I know that one of my pillars in class is to try to randomize the grouping so that eventually everyone gets to work with everyone and we’re all a little bit more comfortable in them.

00:25:37:04 – 00:25:54:22
Jon Orr
If we’re all a little bit more comfortable, will tend to work with each other and we can kind of minimize that kind of disengagement. But I’m curious about some of these. I’m always the one to dig and those students who are disengaging in that way, what is that comfort level when you see them in class? Think about that student.

00:25:54:24 – 00:25:58:15
Jon Orr
Describe what that feels like or you think that’s feeling like for them right now.

00:25:58:17 – 00:26:21:05
Robert Barth
Right? So I’ve actually seen it on both ends of the spectrum where the kid that doesn’t have any friends in class, they kind of pull away because they don’t feel like they have that person they could talk to. And then the other kid who is friends with everybody would rather just talk. And grouping can’t seem to shift from, Oh, we have to do work in group rather just talk about whatever I want to talk about.

00:26:21:05 – 00:26:27:07
Robert Barth
So yeah, I don’t know how to fix either one of those or get them to work.

00:26:27:09 – 00:26:49:05
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, I was going to say because John, you kind of hit on it a little bit as well, this idea of oftentimes what we say as humans, not just kids, not just math students, but in general, oftentimes when we’re uncomfortable with something, we pick surface level excuses. Right. And I think the easy one is like, I’m not a math person, right.

00:26:49:05 – 00:27:07:00
Kyle Pearce
Or some kids even try to almost create an identity and they almost overdramatize it where they’re very dramatic about how much of a non math person they are. And they almost just want everyone to be accepting of that and that’s who they’re going to be. But usually, like John said, there’s something deeper, there’s something more at the root.

00:27:07:00 – 00:27:36:18
Kyle Pearce
And John, you were kind of touching on one thing. I’m hearing you say, which I think is really interesting, is this idea of how comfortable they are with just the different people in the room. And sometimes it’s that maybe they don’t have those relationships there yet or they haven’t felt comfortable with that group. But then also there’s some things as well, even just with the teacher student relationship and sometimes I wonder about having or planning or thinking through some of the strategies that we have for those kids.

00:27:36:18 – 00:28:06:00
Kyle Pearce
When we think about anticipating what students might do with a math problem. Also thinking about every single year, we’re going to have that handful of students that are maybe harder to engage in. What’s going to be my approach to build that relational trust and what comes to mind with these types of scenarios, because it’s really hard emotions and people feeling comfortable and feeling just good in an environment is something that I always think to Jim Stratton about.

00:28:06:00 – 00:28:44:07
Kyle Pearce
And Jim Stratton was on episode 204. If anyone listening would like to check that out and he talks about the work he does is around mentoring for all. He usually works with educators, but I’ve seen him so wonderfully bring it together in any room he walks into and it’s all about building that relational trust. And I’m just thinking about how we might be able to, as educators think about that at the start of the year, but then also throughout the year to continue building that, because I know what I used to do, I used to spend some time for the first few years, maybe not even to be honest, in the first few years.

00:28:44:07 – 00:29:02:05
Kyle Pearce
I don’t think I spent any time on this. But then eventually it was like day one was all about building relationships and trust. But then that kind of fades away and then you get to math class and then you do your thing and it’s like, what different ways can we think about? And maybe there’s already ways that you’re already doing this.

00:29:02:05 – 00:29:22:03
Kyle Pearce
Bob might in your classroom on a regular basis to bring that into the routine. I love this idea of the joke of the day is one of those things that you can bring the group together and hopefully make them feel like everyone’s a part of the community, even though it’s not maybe directly related to mathematics. I’m wondering, is there anything else going on in the classroom?

00:29:22:03 – 00:29:45:03
Kyle Pearce
Or maybe you have an idea that’s popping in your mind that’s some way that we can bring this group together. And sometimes first it might just be with you in that individual student, like trying to build that relationship and going like, What’s the thing I’m going to do today to try to draw that student a little bit closer to trusting me as a trusted friend, not just as a teacher.

00:29:45:09 – 00:30:04:08
Kyle Pearce
And I say friend, I don’t mean it like a friend in that sense, but a trusted source, a trusted person in that room. And then how do we slowly bring in some of the other students in that community so that we can kind of build that trust? Because until that trust is there, they’ll always be a little bit hesitant, right?

00:30:04:09 – 00:30:24:10
Kyle Pearce
Until you can fully feel like we are all a part of this together. And just because we think it’s a good community, clearly that student doesn’t for some reason, maybe they haven’t had too many people in their life that they can trust and therefore they’re like, How am I supposed to trust you friends in this room when I’m just getting to know you?

00:30:24:10 – 00:30:54:17
Kyle Pearce
And it’s like the people I’ve known my whole life? Maybe I don’t feel like I trust them. So I’m wondering when you think about that in your classroom, I love your joke of the day. Maybe there’s some other things that are coming to mind that you do that help with this. And then I’m wondering, is there anything else we might be able to bring into the into the fold to kind of just help those students each and every day, just feel a little bit more trust and it’s not going to be overnight, but how do I get them one step closer to feeling that trust that they’re going to need to truly engage?

00:30:54:17 – 00:31:14:09
Robert Barth
Yeah. So my first lesson of the year in terms of new stuff was almost a full week after school started. So we spend four full school days basically doing activities that kind of get to that. I think, for example, I put them in a group and I had to build a tower of spaghetti and tape. I don’t know if you’ve seen that activity.

00:31:14:11 – 00:31:37:21
Robert Barth
Yeah. And then there’s the impossible paper challenge. You cut some paper and you fold it a certain way where it looks like it’s multiple pieces of paper, but it’s only one. So we do that and it’s completely non math, just getting the sense of working together. And at the end of the class period, I’ll be walking around just jotting down positive things that I’ve seen groups and I’ll kind of rehash that with.

00:31:37:21 – 00:31:58:08
Robert Barth
I really like how this group started by saying, What do you think we’re going to do? And you listen to each other’s ideas. And so that’s what we need to continue when we get into the actual math lessons. So I spend that time in the beginning, but even then you could see those kids that are hesitant to do it, and that’s usually the same kids that persist throughout.

00:31:58:10 – 00:32:02:23
Robert Barth
And you’re right, there could be something in the background that’s preventing that from happening.

00:32:02:23 – 00:32:24:09
Kyle Pearce
And I love that when you’re talking about those activities and they’re so key, especially at the beginning of the year and they break the ice and they help to start those relationships. And then as I’m picturing you in your classroom and you’re doing these activities and then ideally, right, we plan these activities hoping that we can slowly transition into now we’re going to go to more like curricular tasks, right.

00:32:24:09 – 00:32:44:23
Kyle Pearce
And continue that team building, which is amazing and very necessary. I would say you’re definitely doing amazing things in that area. And I’m wondering just some ideas. I’m just spitballing here because I want to be honest and say, I never did this, so I don’t want to suggest this is something that, oh, Kyle was always doing because I didn’t, but I now recognized the importance of them.

00:32:45:00 – 00:33:06:12
Kyle Pearce
And things like greeting kids at the door was something that I had one administrator again, kind of like your carbon copy idea for many years. I didn’t understand sort of the why, but he would ask that every teacher at the beginning of every class in the transition, you’re at the door, you’re greeting the kids, saying hello. And I did that for the rest of my career because I was like, That was so key.

00:33:06:12 – 00:33:26:24
Kyle Pearce
So some of those things are really helpful. But then I wonder about what else could I have done to really draw out and almost like encourage those students to engage in. And again, they still might not. This is the sad reality of it. We could try really hard and it might still be a really, really hard, long game.

00:33:27:01 – 00:33:44:21
Kyle Pearce
But I think about things like giving students the opportunity maybe at the start a class or in the middle of class or whenever you choose to do something like John and I at the beginning of every Q&A session we do with our Academy members, we talk about quick wins, right, and give students the opportunity to maybe share quick wins with their neighbors.

00:33:44:21 – 00:34:05:23
Kyle Pearce
Right now, some students might still choose not to engage in that activity, Right. But giving them the opportunity to kind of on a daily basis be sharing something that they’re doing, something positive, something that they can it might be maybe a daily celebration, maybe it’s something nice that someone did for you today. Right. So it’s not all about you.

00:34:06:00 – 00:34:43:07
Kyle Pearce
It’s about somebody else, someone in the school who did something nice for you or someone in the community, but just getting them to be able to continuously be sharing something and to hopefully help to draw out and maybe let that group I pictured. John, I was imagining when you were talking about some of the students that maybe don’t feel comfortable with the group, they don’t feel like they’re a part of the social circle of the students in that class and random grouping is great to try to get them to break that mold a little bit, but just to help students share continuously a little bit about who they are.

00:34:43:08 – 00:35:25:16
Kyle Pearce
Right? So like, imagine I’m just picturing a student sitting there who’s like, hasn’t been engaged in the math, doesn’t necessarily feel super comfortable with the rest of the students. They’re maybe they are truly more on that introvert side of the spectrum and they struggle in those social situations at times. And ultimately, at the end of the day, imagine somehow we could draw out that that student is passionate about art or whatever, and it’s like, maybe they’ve done something beautiful in the community or just different things about these students that we can find ways or almost like excuses to get that stuff out so that people are like, Wow, everyone has something beautiful going on inside.

00:35:25:18 – 00:35:54:22
Kyle Pearce
But oftentimes it’s sort of like suppressed straight kids who are good at math, they’re sharing that and everyone’s like, Wow, they’re amazing. But it’s like everybody in that room has some amazing things, amazing qualities, something to offer. And it’s like, what’s going to be that routine that I pull? Or I’m able to pull out some of those things just so that student can feel like, Hey, I’ve got something to offer here, and that might be enough to kind of get them to start slowly crawling out of that shell.

00:35:54:24 – 00:36:16:04
Jon Orr
I want to add to that, it still builds on relational trust for let’s say, that student who is resistant to share in a social situation because we talked about this on a previous podcast as well, is is this relationship between group think time and individual think time. So for example, Bob, you said you feel like you’re a little bit of an introvert.

00:36:16:11 – 00:36:39:12
Jon Orr
I also, you know, if you listen lots of times, I also identify myself that way. And when I’m asked to always think in a group without the possibility of individual think time or the option, eventually to have that individual think time, it actually probably makes me a little bit nervous, hesitant to engage in the group thing time because I’m not sure I’m going to get my individual think time.

00:36:39:12 – 00:37:07:23
Jon Orr
So for example, why that might be important for your classes if the full 50 minutes is always group sharing, sharing with, and then my neighbor sharing with the mini group, sharing out loud at consolidation time and there’s not actual any individual think time then that relational trust still isn’t there. Because if I’m that person who’s craving that part of my classroom, then I know that in this room my needs aren’t being fully met and I’m not.

00:37:07:23 – 00:37:25:23
Jon Orr
Maybe going to engage in that process because I know that I’m never going to get time to actually be on my own and do a little bit of my own work time in that room. And that’s part of building that trust inside of that room. So a lot of times I think about how much individual think time have I allotted for this class today.

00:37:25:23 – 00:37:50:15
Jon Orr
So I got to make sure that I know that there is this dynamic in my room or these students in my room who need that. And if I can make sure that that time happens in my room, then that tells that student being like, okay, I might be able to take this time to engage in the group to share because I know that there’s that coming down the road and then that’s that trust factor that, Hey, Mr. Bath has my back.

00:37:50:15 – 00:38:08:08
Jon Orr
I know that I’m going to get this opportunity over here, so that makes me a little bit more inclined to do this opportunity over here. And now you’ve met that students need and you built that relational trust as well. So keep that in mind too, about how much think time versus group think time, individual think time you’re allotting in class.

00:38:08:09 – 00:38:26:17
Jon Orr
It might be a full day of group, think time, and then the next day might be like, All right, now we’re going to move into a little bit more of individual think time. I think we got to celebrate that, but also make sure it’s in kind of for because so much of school already is rewarding extroverts and not identifying the needs of some of our introverts.

00:38:26:17 – 00:38:41:00
Jon Orr
We’re always saying, Hey, to be successful you have to be an extrovert. That’s not necessarily true. Go ahead and read the book Quiet. It’s a full account of why that’s not true, but I always keep that mind as trying to give our students what they need to be the most successful.

00:38:41:04 – 00:38:56:24
Robert Barth
That’s a good point. That’s probably something that is done minimally in my class. There is the warm up time where they practice the problems from the previous day when they get in, which is, like I said, probably limited to about 10 minutes total time in the classroom. So yeah.

00:38:57:02 – 00:39:25:09
Kyle Pearce
I think we are all getting John would identify himself as being more on that introvert side of the spectrum. And yet even though is a student who probably would feel a little anxious, especially at the beginning of a school year doing random grouping and all this collaboration, yet John does a ton of it in his classroom, right? Again, it’s like all of us are trained to think that we have to do all of that when in reality it’s like, Hey, having that is great.

00:39:25:14 – 00:40:04:00
Kyle Pearce
Having parts of our lesson is really important to have that collaboration time and that group think time, but ultimately being very strategic about offering some of that individual think time is key. Now individual think time on its own may not be helpful for that group of students we’ve been talking about. So specifically on this episode. But I wonder if we can build some of the trust at the same time, right when we bring that relational trust into the fold and when we bring in that individual think time into the fold and when we’re constantly trying to And I think to if you’re being explicit, this idea of being explicit came out very early in the

00:40:04:00 – 00:40:22:09
Kyle Pearce
episode. And if you’re explicit with the group as to why you’re doing what you’re doing, I wonder if that will have an influence as well. That student might not raise their hand and say, You know what, I appreciate that you’re taking this time to try to help make students like me comfortable. The reality is they might internalize that.

00:40:22:09 – 00:40:42:18
Kyle Pearce
And that could also help them to kind of go, I’m going to stick my neck out a little bit here because I’ve got somebody here at the helm who’s really thinking about kids like me. And I can actually trust them. Right? Trust isn’t one of those things that it’s not a decision we make. It just happens, right? We just develop, it either develops or it doesn’t.

00:40:42:20 – 00:41:05:13
Kyle Pearce
And just like in math class, we’ve always said we thought it was random. We thought that somedays we had a good day or it was like, Oh, the kids were on or I was on or but in reality there’s like these behaviors, there’s these repeatable patterns that if we can pick up on them and if we can be more intentional about them over time, you’re going to see less and less of those students are in that category now.

00:41:05:13 – 00:41:27:24
Kyle Pearce
It’s probably going to be a career long journey, but I would argue that’s what motivates us in education to keep trying and keep getting better. I’m going to guess that your homework Completers wasn’t 85% when you first started your career. It was probably more like 15% were completing. And you’ve been working your way up all this time and it sounds like you’ve got so many great things going on in your classroom.

00:41:27:24 – 00:41:55:09
Kyle Pearce
You’re super intentional, you’re super reflective, and I think that you’re going to come up with some ideas here that are going to help those students, even if it’s just a little bit at a time. That’s the other thing to do is make sure that we don’t measure success as having 100% of students engaging all the time. It’s like, if I can get that handful of students to engage even a little more in the shorter term, that will lead to great benefits in the long term.

00:41:55:09 – 00:42:17:20
Kyle Pearce
So I want to flip it back to you. We shared all kinds of ideas here as a team. We’ve chatted back and forth about struggles, the ones we’ve experienced, the ones you’ve experienced in your classroom. What would you say has been maybe your biggest takeaway or some maybe next step for you as you continue down this path in this fresh, brand new school year?

00:42:17:22 – 00:42:33:19
Robert Barth
I think the ideas of the quick wins in group is a good thing. The kind of get kids sharing something kind of like a quick thing, and then that idea of maybe a little bit more individual think time I think would be something that kind of start working in that more and be more intentional about that.

00:42:33:21 – 00:42:43:12
Jon Orr
Beautiful, beautiful. I think that would be a great next step. Quickly, Bob, how do you see, say, trying that on Monday, I guess today’s Monday morning.

00:42:43:16 – 00:42:45:11
Robert Barth
Yeah, it’s been work.

00:42:45:11 – 00:42:48:15
Kyle Pearce
Really. Yeah, Yeah, we’re up early here and good on you.

00:42:48:15 – 00:42:51:01
Jon Orr
He’s actually an early for being in Chicago.

00:42:51:03 – 00:42:52:10
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, there you go.

00:42:52:12 – 00:43:11:13
Robert Barth
I think two quick wins is something that could be implemented right away. There’s kids getting group. I could say first thing before you started the problem, share this with somebody and then the quiet times. I think something with it or individual think time is something that will have to be kind of thought about again at some point at the end of class because it’s there at the beginning.

00:43:11:13 – 00:43:29:12
Robert Barth
It’s not there much else. So I do the suggestion from the building being classrooms about the notes to themselves, but usually we don’t have time at the end of the day for that. So it’s usually something that gets rolled into the warm up at the beginning. So maybe I need to make more time for that at the end.

00:43:29:14 – 00:43:46:09
Jon Orr
Got it. Got it. Yeah. I’d be very curious to kind of hear how your changes go over the next little bit. Would you be open to coming back on next year or maybe at the end of this year and kind of sharing your successes, sharing your pebbles that you’ve had after making these changes? Yes. Love it.

00:43:46:09 – 00:44:04:07
Kyle Pearce
That’s fantastic. We really appreciate having you on the show here today. It’s great. We always get so energized. Hopefully you’re leaving this call energized before you start the school day here today. And yeah, we’re looking forward to hearing how things are going. And, hey, the whole math moment maker community is rooting for you.

00:44:04:10 – 00:44:08:02
Robert Barth
Thank you for your time. I appreciate it and everything you guys do. Thank you.

00:44:08:04 – 00:44:30:24
Kyle Pearce
Well, my friends, today, we had a great chat with Robert and there were so many pieces that sort of resonated with me right from the beginning of the lesson, this idea about being explicit, not just explicit, one more teaching the mathematics itself. We talk about that quite a bit, but we also talked about being explicit with students around why we do what we do right.

00:44:30:24 – 00:44:58:05
Kyle Pearce
Oftentimes, we have routines in our day that we do, and we assume students understand why we’re doing them. But when we actually take the time to pause, to explore in the students why we’re doing what we’re doing. And actually, you know what? In a perfect world where we give students the opportunity to feedback some of those routines and maybe they have some ideas that they can offer in share in order to make the process as effective as possible.

00:44:58:05 – 00:45:14:15
Kyle Pearce
What happens is students start to recognize and go, know when we do this portion of the lesson, this idea or I might be able to improve in this one particular part of this particular math class that can be so helpful as you move forward.

00:45:14:17 – 00:45:43:05
Jon Orr
Awesome stuff. And we specifically talked about the trunk of our tree, our classroom tree. We talk about the trunk sometimes when we talk with leaders, we talk about the leadership model of the district. But when we talk about classrooms in individual classroom teachers like Robert here, the trunk represents his classroom culture, his classroom pillars. And we talked about different ideas around helping our students feel that comfort level in the class and understanding where they’re going to feel that support.

00:45:43:05 – 00:46:03:10
Jon Orr
And the last big takeaway that Robert had there was thinking about the relationship between group thinking and individual thinking and honoring students who do need that comfort that they’re going to get individual thinking to help tie that both themselves have that think time that they need to consolidate the thinking that they’ve done because they’re going to go off to the next class.

00:46:03:10 – 00:46:21:06
Jon Orr
And that’s going to have a different set of culture and a different teacher in a different group of students. And as all of a sudden it’s taking their mind off the thinking that happened in that class. We do need to honor that in that class. So thinking about your pillars, thinking about what you’re valuing in your class, think about who’s in your class and getting that culture to be that trusting environment.

00:46:21:06 – 00:46:29:19
Jon Orr
Kyle also brought up Jim Strachan’s ideas around relational trust. Super important. So think about that as you go forward as your big takeaway friends.

00:46:29:19 – 00:46:49:06
Kyle Pearce
Listen, if you had a big takeaway here and you feel like you’ve got something you can put in a practice, just like on so many episodes, we all walk away with new ideas, new thinking, go ahead, share with a colleague, and share it with a stranger. The best way you can share with a stranger is by rating and reviewing the show.

00:46:49:08 – 00:47:19:02
Kyle Pearce
That is really the only way that this show can grow. Because educators just like you somehow landed on this show, oftentimes it was through a colleague. Sometimes it was through the magic of the algorithm out there, the Google algorithm. So rating and reviewing tells the algorithm to share it to more people just like you. So do a good deed, head on over to rate and review the show on any podcast platform that you might be using.

00:47:19:02 – 00:47:31:09
Kyle Pearce
Maybe it’s on YouTube. Whatever you do, take that time. We so appreciate it. And different math moment makers around the world who then see this show and engage with this show are going to appreciate it, too.

00:47:31:11 – 00:47:50:13
Jon Orr
We want to hear from you, Robert, here. Reach out to us to talk about his pebble in his shoe. We want to hear what your pebble is talking about. Your pebble here on our podcast with us can help not just you, but also any other teacher, any other educator who’s experiencing the same pebble that you’re experiencing. So we want to hear from you.

00:47:50:13 – 00:48:04:17
Jon Orr
We want to talk with you. That’s what makes these mentoring math moment episodes possible. You can apply over at make math moments dot com port slash mentor head to make math moments com for session mentor and we look forward to chatting with you about your show notes.

00:48:04:17 – 00:48:26:22
Kyle Pearce
Links to resources and transcripts can be read from the web or downloaded and take them with you over at make math moments dot com forward slash episode 251 that is make math moments dot com forward slash episode 251 well until next time my math moment maker friends, I’m Kyle Pearce.

00:48:26:22 – 00:48:28:04
Jon Orr
And I’m Jon Orr.

00:48:28:04 – 00:48:31:04
Kyle Pearce
High fives for us.

00:48:31:06 – 00:48:45:10
Jon Orr
And a high five for you.


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The Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast with Kyle Pearce & Jon Orr
Weekly interviews, strategy, and advice for building a math classroom that you wish you were in.


Download the 2-page printable 3 Act Math Tip Sheet to ensure that you have the best start to your journey using 3 Act math Tasks to spark curiosity and fuel sense making in your math classroom!

3 Act Math Tip Sheet


Each lesson consists of:

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson consists of a Teacher Guide to lead you step-by-step through the planning process to ensure your lesson runs without a hitch!

Each Teacher Guide consists of:

  • Intentionality of the lesson;
  • A step-by-step walk through of each phase of the lesson;
  • Visuals, animations, and videos unpacking big ideas, strategies, and models we intend to emerge during the lesson;
  • Sample student approaches to assist in anticipating what your students might do;
  • Resources and downloads including Keynote, Powerpoint, Media Files, and Teacher Guide printable PDF; and,
  • Much more!

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson begins with a story, visual, video, or other method to Spark Curiosity through context.

Students will often Notice and Wonder before making an estimate to draw them in and invest in the problem.

After student voice has been heard and acknowledged, we will set students off on a Productive Struggle via a prompt related to the Spark context.

These prompts are given each lesson with the following conditions:

  • No calculators are to be used; and,
  • Students are to focus on how they can convince their math community that their solution is valid.

Students are left to engage in a productive struggle as the facilitator circulates to observe and engage in conversation as a means of assessing formatively.

The facilitator is instructed through the Teacher Guide on what specific strategies and models could be used to make connections and consolidate the learning from the lesson.

Often times, animations and walk through videos are provided in the Teacher Guide to assist with planning and delivering the consolidation.

A review image, video, or animation is provided as a conclusion to the task from the lesson.

While this might feel like a natural ending to the context students have been exploring, it is just the beginning as we look to leverage this context via extensions and additional lessons to dig deeper.

At the end of each lesson, consolidation prompts and/or extensions are crafted for students to purposefully practice and demonstrate their current understanding. 

Facilitators are encouraged to collect these consolidation prompts as a means to engage in the assessment process and inform next moves for instruction.

In multi-day units of study, Math Talks are crafted to help build on the thinking from the previous day and build towards the next step in the developmental progression of the concept(s) we are exploring.

Each Math Talk is constructed as a string of related problems that build with intentionality to emerge specific big ideas, strategies, and mathematical models. 

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

MMM Unit - Snack Time Fractions Unit


Partitive Division Resulting in a Fraction

Shot Put Multi Day Problem Based Unit - Algebraic Substitution


Equivalence and Algebraic Substitution

Wooly Worm Race - Representing and Adding Fractions


Fractions and Metric Units


Scavenger Hunt - Data Management and Finding The Mean


Represent Categorical Data & Explore Mean

Downloadable resources including blackline mastershandouts, printable Tips Sheetsslide shows, and media files do require a Make Math Moments Academy Membership.


Pedagogically aligned for teachers of K through Grade 12 with content specific examples from Grades 3 through Grade 10.

In our self-paced, 12-week Online Workshop, you'll learn how to craft new and transform your current lessons to Spark Curiosity, Fuel Sense Making, and Ignite Your Teacher Moves to promote resilient problem solvers.