Episode #265: Storytelling and Conceptual Mastery in Mathematics Education with Shayla Heavner

Dec 25, 2023 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

Join us in the latest episode as we dive into the world of mathematics education with Shayla Heavner, the visionary founder of MathBait™. With over a decade of experience and a prestigious Sarah D. Barder Fellowship Award for teaching excellence under her belt, Shayla has been on a mission to revolutionize math education.

As a certified online teacher and master reviewer for Quality Matters, Shayla shares insights on the significance of quality, highly engaging material that is accessible to all students. She explores the power of storytelling as a versatile tool across all levels of math education, shedding light on how it can not only captivate students but also serve as a gateway to deeper conceptual exploration.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Why teaching for conceptual understanding first is critical to ensure students are empowered to reason and prove;
  • Why storytelling is a powerful tool for all levels of mathematics education;
  • Why there must be quality, Highly Engaging Material Accessible to ALL students;
  • How can we use storytelling in an effective way to not only engage but lower the floor to dig into mathematics conceptually;

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00:00:00:13 – 00:00:17:14
Shayla Heavner
But then in the classroom. Now, as a teacher, I don’t like to be the sage on stage, even though even if I do understand it, I like for the class to be about reasoning and discovery. We don’t use formulas. I call them the F word and I say we’re not allowed to say the F word in my class.

00:00:17:16 – 00:00:22:08
Shayla Heavner
And I really want students to see, Hey, I can do right.

00:00:22:09 – 00:00:47:07
Jon Orr
Join us in this latest episode as we dive back into your mathematics classroom and revisit your mathematics classroom tree with Shayla Hefner, the visionary founder of math beat with over a decade of experience and a prestigious Sarah D Barton Fellowship Award for teaching excellence under her belt, Shayla has been on a mission to revolutionize math education.

00:00:47:09 – 00:01:14:02
Kyle Pearce
Get ready to dig in as she shares insights on the significance of quality, high engaging material that is accessible to all students. She explores the power of storytelling as a versatile tool across all levels of math education, shedding light on how it can not only captivate students, but also serve as a gateway to deeper conceptual exploration.

00:01:14:04 – 00:01:27:19
Jon Orr
Stick around, folks, and you’re going to learn why storytelling is a powerful tool for all levels of mathematics, education, and how we can use storytelling in an effective way to not only engage but lower the floor to dig into math conceptually.

00:01:27:21 – 00:01:48:10
Kyle Pearce
All right, friends, let’s do it. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce.

00:01:48:10 – 00:01:50:11
Jon Orr
And I’m John or we are from math moments.

00:01:50:16 – 00:02:00:16
Kyle Pearce
Com 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.

00:02:00:18 – 00:02:15:06
Jon Orr
And we do that by helping you cultivate and foster your mathematics programs like strong, healthy and Balanced Tree. So if you master the six parts, an effective mathematics program, the impact that you are going to be doing will reach and grow far and wide.

00:02:15:08 – 00:02:40:21
Kyle Pearce
Every week you’ll get the insight you need to stop feeling overwhelmed, gain back your confidence and get back to enjoying the planning and facility rating of your mathematics program for the students or educators that you serve. All right, friends, let’s dig in here. And hey, let’s chat with Shayla. Hey there, Shayla. Thanks for joining us here on the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast.

00:02:40:21 – 00:02:54:19
Kyle Pearce
We are excited to chat with you first of all, before we even dig in and get to know you, I just want to say your background is pretty awesome. It’s nice. It’s yeah, I would say it may be modern or like, I don’t know, industrial. Maybe that’s a better.

00:02:54:19 – 00:03:03:01
Jon Orr
It makes me think you’re in some San Francisco office where there’s a bunch of people and you’re at like headquarters of some cool place. That’s what it looks like.

00:03:03:06 – 00:03:14:11
Kyle Pearce
Yeah. So. Well, I was just going to say. So what we’ll do is we’ll ask you, are you in San Francisco? Are you somewhere else? Tell us a little bit more about yourself and welcome to the show Help.

00:03:14:15 – 00:03:18:07
Shayla Heavner
Thank you. This beautiful background is my garage.

00:03:18:09 – 00:03:19:07
Jon Orr
I love it. I love it.

00:03:19:07 – 00:03:21:15
Kyle Pearce
That is awesome. I watch your garage.

00:03:21:15 – 00:03:40:07
Shayla Heavner
Wonderful. Yeah, I love being outside. It really inspires me. I love the sunlight. And with COVID and everyone working at home and the kids at home, it was important to have a separate space. So we built this little sunroom off of my garage, and it’s where I get all of my work done. I love it. I really love it.

00:03:40:07 – 00:03:42:06
Shayla Heavner
I think that it’s really inspirational.

00:03:42:12 – 00:03:53:24
Jon Orr
Awesome stuff. Yeah. Fill us in. Let our listeners know a little bit about yourself. Where are you based out of how you got into education in your current role? And then we’ll dig in nature.

00:03:53:24 – 00:04:21:20
Shayla Heavner
So I’ve always been into education. I started tutoring when I was really young and I went to school for math first and then for education. And I worked with a lot of big companies and I taught as well as designed curriculum for them. And I got into a space where it was sort of like a morality or a calling sort of situation where on the one side I couldn’t afford to put my own kids in the classes I created.

00:04:21:23 – 00:04:44:16
Shayla Heavner
Okay, So for some of those great companies, they have large price tags on them. And I would say I want my kid to participate in this. And even with my salary and sometimes discounts, it was too much to put my own kids in. And I thought, this is a problem. We need to be able to have quality, high engaging material that is available to everyone, not just a select few.

00:04:44:18 – 00:05:07:03
Shayla Heavner
And then on the other side, a lot of it was just so boring and I, I thought we got a better way to learn than this, right? There is a use for text books and lectures, but especially for our younger kids. We don’t want to instill this sort of hatred of school and an enjoyment of learning. And I really wanted it to be fun.

00:05:07:03 – 00:05:19:24
Shayla Heavner
And so I took a dive and I started mapping. I said, Oh, we’re going to make this really affordable and we’re going to make this really fun. And I’m going to hope that we can impact a lot of students this way.

00:05:20:01 – 00:05:37:23
Kyle Pearce
I love it. I love it. I love that you’ve given us sort of a bit of an understanding of your journey. Sounds like maps always been something that you’ve had some sort of affinity for, or you either enjoyed it or maybe, maybe you just felt like you were quote unquote good at it. I’m curious to learn more about that.

00:05:37:23 – 00:06:03:14
Kyle Pearce
And sometimes that comes out through our next question with our guests. And that is, what is that math moment that you remember from your educational experience as a student? Was it positive? Was it negative? Did it influence how you went down this pathway because you were excited about what you did as a student? Did you head down this pathway because maybe you were maybe underwhelmed as a student?

00:06:03:14 – 00:06:08:12
Kyle Pearce
I’m curious what math moment pops out to you when you think math class.

00:06:08:18 – 00:06:13:07
Shayla Heavner
It doe I knew this question was coming. So you think I would have prepared more?

00:06:13:09 – 00:06:18:23
Kyle Pearce
I don’t. As you start asking it, you start going, Oh, shoot. I remember now. Oh, darn.

00:06:19:03 – 00:06:46:24
Shayla Heavner
It. No, it was actually in the eighth grade. I had a teacher for geometry and she was an in-service teacher, someone doing her final year of college and sort of doing her practicum. And she didn’t understand the math. She did not understand symmetry. And they actually the school actually gave me an award that year. And one of the other students said, If you weren’t in our class, I don’t think we would have learned anything.

00:06:47:01 – 00:07:04:01
Shayla Heavner
And that was a horrible moment right there. It’s like the dip is supposed to be the expert in the room. They weren’t. I never really thought about being good at math or anything like that. I did it and I didn’t love it or hate it. And that year I was like, I can do this and I can help other people do this.

00:07:04:01 – 00:07:28:24
Shayla Heavner
And that’s pretty awesome. And since then, I guess I have been quote unquote, a math kid, right? Yeah. I have to say, in your interview with Dr. Susan Elliott, you actually some of the things you said about that, about being a math kid, it was like you were quoting directly from my book. So I found it really funny because I don’t believe there is such a thing as a math kid, but I kind of lean into that idea because I know that it’s a common misconception.

00:07:29:01 – 00:07:33:14
Shayla Heavner
And so we sort of lean into that and then tear it apart. Okay.

00:07:33:16 – 00:08:09:09
Jon Orr
Yeah. And I think when you think about I just had this glimpse of this moment, you’re saying the teacher’s supposed to be the expert in the room, but then you because you had that almost like a preconceived notion that that’s supposed to be the math teacher in the room. But then think about how much ownership you felt about being in that role, in that having a say in helping other kids think about their teaching and their thinking about their learning and what typically, normally happens in math class where the teacher is seeing themselves or everyone sees them as the expert in the room and we all kind of wait around and see what they are

00:08:09:09 – 00:08:27:10
Jon Orr
going to tell us instead of having that experience where I’ve got a role here too. It’s not just me that’s the expert or that is the teacher. This year, I can be the expert as well. So I’m curious, Shayla, that moment, obviously it stuck with you. So how does that moment influence what you’re doing for students in classrooms today?

00:08:27:12 – 00:08:52:00
Shayla Heavner
I think it has totally informed my pedagogical approach. I went to school, I started going to school in mathematics education, and I was actually taken aback by how little math it was often pedagogical. There was like no math classes. And so exactly a major to mathematics and got my undergraduate and graduate certificate in math and then went back to the education field because, like, if I’m going to teach this, I want to really know it.

00:08:52:00 – 00:09:11:20
Shayla Heavner
So you can see that obviously it was a big impact. But then in the classroom now as a teacher, I don’t like to be the sage on stage, even though even if I do understand it, I like for the math class to be about reasoning and discovery. We don’t use formulas. I call them the F word, and I say we’re not allowed to say the F word in my class.

00:09:11:22 – 00:09:46:00
Shayla Heavner
And I really want students to see, Hey, I can derive the Pythagorean theorem, I can figure this out. I can do it. Not only is it so empowering, it teaches a conceptual understanding. So they’re not relying on these procedures and steps, but they really are seeing how math works and how we use reasoning and logic and problem solving every day in all aspects of our life, not just our math homework, but then also there’s just a sense of accomplishment and a pride about learning math that doesn’t exist when you teach them a formula and they follow a procedure, They figured it out.

00:09:46:01 – 00:09:57:05
Shayla Heavner
I did that. That’s not the bag. Or is this theorem? That’s my theorem. I can do it. I can make it. And that just brings a joy and just a deeper level of understanding that it does. It never gets old. I love to see it every.

00:09:57:05 – 00:10:20:14
Kyle Pearce
Time there’s so many things I want to say about that, because one thing you said early on in that little section was this idea of when you’re reasoning improving in a math class and what I’m pulling from what you just said is this idea of empowering students to actually reason improve. And that is what teaching for conceptual understanding is.

00:10:20:16 – 00:10:45:00
Kyle Pearce
Whereas when we teach those formulas, the F word in our classroom and we try to do that and then we try to, I think the logical approach this is how I thought when I wanted to start teaching conceptually, my thought was, Well, I’ll show them the formula and then I’ll teach them how it works. And it really doesn’t work like that because it’s like, Well, first of all, they already have a thing that’s going to do it for me.

00:10:45:00 – 00:11:12:24
Kyle Pearce
So half the class is off to the races or like, I’m not listen to this person anymore. But then it’s like you can’t really teach conceptual understanding. You need to teach for conceptual understanding and rolling all the way back to being the person, the expert in the room. It’s funny because in order for you to be a facilitator and facilitate learning experiences where students are reasoning improving and inquiring and discovering, you have to be the expert.

00:11:13:01 – 00:11:41:13
Kyle Pearce
Whereas you can get away with memorizing a lesson the night before without necessarily being an expert in that lesson and teach for procedural, not even fluency, but you can teach for the procedure because you’re not fluent. If you’re just teaching one procedure and you don’t necessarily need to be an expert. So it’s interesting because oftentimes that idea of being an expert is often hidden because you don’t want to be the sage on the stage.

00:11:41:13 – 00:12:04:10
Kyle Pearce
So you move to the side, but you’ve crafted you’ve orchestrated this experience for students so that they can develop and bump into some of these ideas along the way. Now, where that expertise also is really important is helping them to be explicit and recognize what they’ve done. Because sometimes students will land on something and they’ve done something a magical.

00:12:04:10 – 00:12:22:12
Kyle Pearce
And we’re excited because we’re like, Look at what you just did. And they’re like, I got the answer’s seven. That’s all they think they did. But I mean, you’re going like, No, it’s something bigger. That’s where that expertise is so key and critical is going, okay, here’s what they did. Now what do we do now? What’s the next piece?

00:12:22:12 – 00:12:40:11
Kyle Pearce
What’s the next repertoire that we want to put into place so that these students are going to then be able to dig deeper here? And then by the end of this lesson, as John always says, tie up the loose ends, right? Tie up the bow and go, holy smokes, I want to let you know you weren’t the first person to discover what just happened here.

00:12:40:11 – 00:12:59:03
Kyle Pearce
You’re not the first one. I’m sorry if that lets you down, but in reality, here’s what’s happened. But here’s the cool part is it took them a whole lot longer to discover it than it took you, Right? Which is like, think of how awesome that is. So I want to shift right in to really what we’re going to be talking about on this episode.

00:12:59:03 – 00:13:35:23
Kyle Pearce
And in particular, it’s all about your challenge or your, I guess, goal, your mission that you want mathematics, high quality mathematics and engaging mathematics materials accessible for all students. And one of the ways that you do this and it aligns so nicely with what we do at math moments is the idea of storytelling. How does storytelling help you as you try to create and provide these experiences for students so that they can truly learn and essentially learn for conceptual understanding?

00:13:36:00 – 00:14:02:02
Shayla Heavner
I think what’s amazing about storytelling is that unlike almost all of the other pedagogical approaches that I know of and that I’ve tried and that I’ve researched, it is effective for the entire spectrum. And the reason is that as human storytelling has been a part, it’s a part of who we are is storytelling has been around as long as humanity has been around in civilizations, and it’s how we pass on knowledge.

00:14:02:02 – 00:14:22:14
Shayla Heavner
Before writing systems even existed, great people told stories from one generation to the next, and so it’s already something ingrained in us. But there’s something even better about it is that in math, everything is so scaffolded and it’s why teachers struggle all the time. You get a class in and some of them are at a second grade level and some of them are at a fifth grade level.

00:14:22:14 – 00:14:54:16
Shayla Heavner
And you’ve got to teach this next concept and you got to get all of them up there. But it’s really hard, right? You’re trying to differentiate and do all the stuff, and it seems like an impossible task with storytelling. Prerequisite knowledge is kind of optional, and that’s what I really love about it, is that you can teach kids something really complex without having to build up all the previous things before it, because you tell a story in a way that relates to things that they just get.

00:14:54:18 – 00:15:13:18
Shayla Heavner
So for instance, we talk about the greatest common factor, and in my class we acted out a little play and students played out numbers and they met at a park and they talked about, Hey, what do you like to do? And what they like was what they’re made of their prime factors. And then they found what do we have in common?

00:15:13:20 – 00:15:32:04
Shayla Heavner
Right? And that was really easy for them. This is this topic that so many students struggle with weight. Do I include both of the twos? Do I only include one because it’s kind of the same thing? What do I do? But now it’s like, Hey, we’re friends meeting in a park. We’re talking about what’s in common. Maybe we even say twos are Taylor Swift.

00:15:32:04 – 00:15:56:07
Shayla Heavner
I think I did that in one class, that someone who is a big swifty like you really like Taylor Swift. This one got one album. Really not as big of a band, but still a bit. And talking about math in ways that really just connect to being a human and humanity using our imagination. If you were a two, what would you be about your prime, your event?

00:15:56:08 – 00:16:18:19
Shayla Heavner
What does that mean it to exist in was a human and you really get to go over this barrier of prerequisite knowledge in this amazing way because it creates this equity across the room, because we’re all humans and we all know what it’s like to be a human. And so now it’s not so much of a struggle getting everyone on board because we’re relating it to something that’s so natural, right?

00:16:18:21 – 00:16:36:10
Jon Orr
For sure. For sure. And that’s a great example to kind of show the relationship among the greatest common factors and related actually to setting out sets and understanding what elements of different sets. It’s so smart to think about how to bring that into as a human. I like that to think about how can we be more human? And our math class is really important aspect.

00:16:36:12 – 00:16:57:04
Jon Orr
And I’m curious on your thoughts because I think there’s lots of different folks who might think they are storytelling or not. We’re curious about your interpretation of what that could mean. We’ve talked to Neil sitting here on our podcast a while ago. He’s one of our first but Sunil, we always look to Sunil to talk about storytelling. We’ve sat in many of his sessions on storytelling and mathematics.

00:16:57:05 – 00:17:14:01
Jon Orr
He does a great job of bringing that in, and I think maybe his version of the storytelling is probably overlapping with other people’s, But I think there’s like classroom teachers right now who are like, Yeah, I start my lesson by telling kids that they need to think like this, but I’m telling a story. I think there’s people who think they’re telling stories, maybe not.

00:17:14:01 – 00:17:28:15
Jon Orr
So I’m curious, is your storytelling technique, is that something we do at the beginning of a lesson? Is it in the middle or is it all the way through? You gave us an example, but I’m curious to hear more about the structure of things that you go into when you’re planning what this looks like from start to end of a class.

00:17:28:17 – 00:17:50:18
Shayla Heavner
So I’m a bit of a crazy person. I’ve got to be really honest. I don’t think that what I do is necessarily translates easily into everyday in the classroom, although I do think that you can take elements of it obviously, and do it. I wrote a book, Marco the Great in the History of Number Ville, and it is all the way numbers are people.

00:17:50:22 – 00:18:13:14
Shayla Heavner
They have friends. They play in the vernacular Marina, where they throw and run and toss and fling each other around. And it’s this whole fantastical world meant to make pre-algebra and algebra much more accessible and understanding. And so I have this sort of fantasy world that is really now easy for me to weave in, to sort of all of my lessons.

00:18:13:14 – 00:18:35:08
Shayla Heavner
And any time I kind of see kids confused, we can easily just kind of break off. Say, what would you think in this case? Right. Let’s turn this into a human thing and not a number of things amassing like a human thing. And how would you react in this situation or what do you view this as? But I don’t think that that is necessary to use storytelling in the classroom.

00:18:35:10 – 00:19:01:19
Shayla Heavner
Right. I think that the key elements of storytelling, in my opinion, are some sort of emotional connection. There’s lots of times where you read aloud in a class and nobody cares. You read your part, you don’t even comprehend it. You don’t really listen to everybody else. I think that it needs to have some sort of emotional connection to the students, and I think that it needs to be open to interpretation.

00:19:01:22 – 00:19:18:15
Shayla Heavner
I think that that’s one of the hardest things about teaching math is especially when we think about procedures, is we’re like, this is the right way. And I think what storytelling does is it allows for creative problem solving and that that means there doesn’t have to be a right way. So the story takes different forms for each student, right?

00:19:18:15 – 00:19:38:10
Shayla Heavner
We can start out with sort of a prompt and a lead in and let each student sort of interpret that how they see, like what connects to their specific experience. If we’re talking about prime numbers or building primes, maybe one kid loves Lego and so they can really understand Lego or Minecraft. I did a class, we talked about Minecraft.

00:19:38:10 – 00:19:56:19
Shayla Heavner
It was great for the five kids who were obsessed with Minecraft. For the other kids who don’t play Minecraft, it really didn’t connect to them. So I think that’s a danger in storytelling, right? Is like getting too into it. And then you leave out half your audience. So I think there has to be flexibility in there and imagination.

00:19:56:19 – 00:20:07:02
Shayla Heavner
I think that that’s engagement part, right, because everybody loves to sort of imagine an escape. And I think that that’s something that can really bring kids in and get interested in it.

00:20:07:04 – 00:20:34:22
Kyle Pearce
I love it. I think the first one I don’t want to say any one of these ideas you just shared is more important than the other. But I would argue that without that emotional connection and whether it’s sometimes people think, oh, emotional connection, like does it have to be a touching story? No emotional meaning that you as the facilitator are excited and engaged in the story that you are unfolding for your students, be it small or large.

00:20:34:22 – 00:21:03:11
Kyle Pearce
Right. And I think John and I have been advocating for this idea of using context in math class. Whenever and wherever possible, which to us, our interpretation is exactly what you are highlighting, where sometimes the context is a large journey and it can last for multiple days because the concept allows you to stretch it. What’s like a context that has legs that you just get to like kind of run with, which is great.

00:21:03:13 – 00:21:19:11
Kyle Pearce
But if it’s a context, then the way we present it is you’re reading it off the page or whatever, and we’ve been there. You’ve been in a classroom where students are gathered around a teacher and they’re telling a storybook where a picture book and the teacher’s right in there and it’s like the teacher leans in the kids, everybody’s into it.

00:21:19:17 – 00:21:48:10
Kyle Pearce
But then you’ve also been in classrooms where a teacher, they’re reading a book and the intonation of the voice is in changing. There’s no sort of excitement around it. And it’s like if I’m not engaged in it as the facilitator, then how are you going to get your audience? I look at kids, they are our audience, and when you have a public speaker or you have someone putting on a concert or you have a stand up comedian like all of these people, you are essentially, some people say, teaching an education.

00:21:48:10 – 00:22:13:03
Kyle Pearce
It’s not an entertainment business. But I’m going to say it 100% is an entertainment business. Now, the end goal isn’t just to get a laugh or be interested, it’s for learning. But if I can’t get students to lean in in what I’m trying to share that engagement piece of, I can’t get them to even just behaviorally connect with what we’re trying to do, then it’s all for not anyway.

00:22:13:03 – 00:22:34:09
Kyle Pearce
We’re not going to get to a place where 100% of the students that arrive at school are out of the box, eager and excited to learn. Now, I think they are naturally eager and excited to learn when there’s interesting things to learn about. But we have a very, very great way of stomping out all the curiosity and education, be it mathematics and other subject areas.

00:22:34:09 – 00:23:00:18
Kyle Pearce
So I just want to say that piece for me is such a important part. When you are thinking about adding some of these ideas, is that you’re going to get what you put into it. And if you can’t put that emotion into it, if you can’t bring that yourself to become at least excited to share the idea with students, the question we should be asking ourselves is how do we expect students will become excited about it?

00:23:00:18 – 00:23:24:07
Kyle Pearce
Right? So I love that idea and I’m wondering if we were to go a little deeper down this rabbit hole, how might using story telling throughout, say, the lesson or the experience of the lesson, how might we extend that storytelling experience beyond, say, the we’ll call it the main topic or the main We’ll call it the entry of your math lesson.

00:23:24:09 – 00:23:47:00
Shayla Heavner
I think that when you read a story, a lot of the draw in reading is escapism. You’re escaping to Hogwarts, a magical world where things aren’t what they seem or a reality is different and then with math, we’re like, Oh, it’s a book. I’m sorry, but I would argue math is escapism, right? It’s very much like Plato’s Cave.

00:23:47:01 – 00:24:19:24
Shayla Heavner
We’re all sitting here, we’re looking at the Earth and world and we’re like, All right, that’s true. We see it, we see it. And when you really understand math, you realize that numbers are everywhere. They’re pulling on you. There’s gravity and there’s friction, and there is the light spectrum. And how we see colors and everything is numbers. It’s like getting to dive in there and realizing that there is this whole magical world that is living around you that you have been living in, that you really have been blind to, that we don’t think about how numbers dictate everything in our reality.

00:24:20:01 – 00:24:43:20
Shayla Heavner
And so I think that you can use that storytelling to address that core concept. But I think that the ability to go deeper and outside of that is infinite. You can pick anything and find numbers in it, literally anything. And I think that that’s what’s so amazing with it and that’s what’s so underused and undervalued. And that even as math teachers, we don’t think of it that way and that’s it.

00:24:43:20 – 00:24:46:14
Shayla Heavner
Speaking of a rabbit hole, that’s a deep one. You know.

00:24:46:16 – 00:25:07:12
Jon Orr
You go right lot of I think storytellers, writers, you being a writer, that you train to be a writer or you do exercises to open your mind to this magical world. When you go to write a story, there’s lots of prompts I think people use to get started. It’s like you write a portion of a sentence and then you’ve got to fill it in, or you look at a picture or you’re like, Let me just pull up a picture.

00:25:07:14 – 00:25:24:05
Jon Orr
Well, let me write a story about that. What do you recommend for teachers? A lot of the teachers who listen to our podcast are math coaches, district leaders in charge of Math PD, but also help teachers on a regular basis, also math leaders who are in the classroom, but also go next door and give suggestions to other teachers.

00:25:24:07 – 00:25:38:15
Jon Orr
And there are lots of people are just not saying just but math teachers like I was. And so I’m curious, what are some of those prompts that say, our listener can go, I’m going to try that in my classroom, but I also can take that away and share it with the teachers that I work with.

00:25:38:17 – 00:26:00:12
Shayla Heavner
Yeah, we when we kind of do events and stuff, we have a piece of paper and we give it out to kids. So you could be something that the teacher does in terms of lesson planning or it could be something for the kids. And we start with a concept, so pick any kind of math concept, whatever you are interested in, if it’s a student or preparing for a lesson, what do we want to teach?

00:26:00:12 – 00:26:22:08
Shayla Heavner
What’s our goal? What’s our objective, our learning objective? And then take us and think about what does this remind you of? It’s very much a similar situation. This is like my could you say this is like So for instance, we use the distributive property as a wizard. A wizard is casting a spell. He’s hit everybody, right? When you cast a spell, it hits everybody on the field.

00:26:22:08 – 00:26:42:07
Shayla Heavner
So when you use a distributive property, the Wizards casting everything. That’s what I happen to think of. But another student thinks of something totally different when they’re thinking about the distributive property. That’s what’s so fun about it. And so said, What is this like what you had to make a movie of this If you don’t want it to visually show this, what would this math concept look like?

00:26:42:09 – 00:27:07:06
Shayla Heavner
And then that’s where we start. Those are our first two prompt questions. And then the third is just write a little anecdote about it, right? Explain the concept from your perspective. And it’s no longer than a paper. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be complex. It can be very simple and straightforward, But just try to relate this idea to your life or to a fantastical world, to something that you know about, to something that you feel like you understand that isn’t math.

00:27:07:08 – 00:27:26:06
Shayla Heavner
And then expand on that. And I think that opens up so many things because you can go down that whole deep. Kids can go really, really deep in a way. And then if this is that, then this has to be right this and it makes so much sense in my little magical world. And they’re putting together math concepts without even knowing.

00:27:26:06 – 00:27:44:02
Shayla Heavner
They’re putting together math concepts and proofs and understanding. Math is all about relationships, relationships between numbers and between ideas without actually doing any formal math just by trying to find it in the world around them or in their imagination or world or in their experience.

00:27:44:04 – 00:28:09:00
Kyle Pearce
I think a piece that’s resonating with me right here is just this idea that really math began in a concrete place. It began in the world around us, right? And then we started creating these abstract symbols to represent the world around us and how things work. And ultimately, when we get into more and more abstract concepts, sometimes we can get lost in that abstract world.

00:28:09:00 – 00:28:28:05
Kyle Pearce
And what I’m hearing from you is just this stickiness of having something that you can relate to, that you can hang your hat on a little bit and go, Okay, here’s where we’re at because this makes sense. I can now take the next step down this path of abstraction and kind of relate it back. And now what am I going to think about?

00:28:28:05 – 00:28:52:15
Kyle Pearce
So I like some of that idea, this idea, that context story, having something that you can rely on so that you’re not left sort of in the middle of the dark wondering, where am I? Why am I here? Why do these rules work and what do I do if I forget? Right? Because, I mean, hey, if you’ve ever been lost before in the dark, it’s hard to figure out where do you backtrack to?

00:28:52:15 – 00:29:15:11
Kyle Pearce
But if you have a story and if you have context and if you have something you can connect it to, you can kind of do a little bit better a back mapping and kind of correcting your path and then moving forward to take the next step. So I think that’s fantastic. I’m wondering from you friends, math moment makers out there listening in, they’ve heard all kinds of great ideas from you here today.

00:29:15:13 – 00:29:29:21
Kyle Pearce
If there was one thing that you hope that the math moment maker community will take with them from this episode here today, if it was just one thing, what’s that one thing that you’re hoping that they will leave remembering about this conversation here with you?

00:29:29:22 – 00:29:49:08
Shayla Heavner
I think that if we look at cognitive science and we look at how the brain works, it’s like a puzzle piece trying to put it together. And math is made of a lot of complex ideas. As much as we might feel like one plus one equals two is really simple. It’s really not right. And advance math and dig into it.

00:29:49:08 – 00:30:08:17
Shayla Heavner
It’s really not. They’re all very complex ideas and people learn better when you can relate it to something you already understand. So if you are ever in the classroom and your kids are looking at you with that face that I have seen, I know you often speak of total just blank space.

00:30:08:17 – 00:30:12:18
Kyle Pearce
I call it the X’s over the eyes. It’s like they have completely turned off.

00:30:12:23 – 00:30:34:11
Shayla Heavner
Yeah, I have no idea what’s going on. Remember that? And remember, what is this like again? The simile. What is this like that they already get? Because it’s not memorization. That’s right. It’s building on existing schema. It’s connecting to previous knowledge. And that knowledge doesn’t have to be math knowledge, right? There’s nothing that says that it needs to be math knowledge.

00:30:34:11 – 00:30:56:24
Shayla Heavner
And if you can connect that idea to something that they like or that they enjoy or that they already understand the gains from that are going to be tremendous. It’s just hands down because it’s easier for them to understand. They don’t hate it anymore. They’re engaged in it now. They’ve got a much more positive view towards it. I could go on and on and on because there are so many gains from that.

00:30:57:01 – 00:31:06:17
Shayla Heavner
Just not teaching the rule, but really teaching the heart and teaching to the students. And what do they get? What are they like, what do they know, and how can this connect to that? How can this concept connect to that?

00:31:06:19 – 00:31:22:07
Jon Orr
Love it. I love that last line there. You said, say we’re not teaching this rule. We’re teaching to the heart. And I think that’s such a great message. I think to leave with our listeners and people who are going to the classrooms in an hour or tomorrow or in a week. So, Cheli, we want to thank you for joining us here.

00:31:22:08 – 00:31:31:15
Jon Orr
Where can our listeners, they’ve been leaning in, they’re wondering. You said resources, you said books. Where could they reach out to you? Where can they find more about you?

00:31:31:17 – 00:31:50:00
Shayla Heavner
Yes, And I love to talk to other educators of the greatest badges you can find me at. Math Bakam Bake like a fish. I like clickbait, great math beat making math interesting. And the book Marco the Great and the History of Number Ville is available wherever books are sold.

00:31:50:02 – 00:32:16:20
Kyle Pearce
Awesome. That’s fantastic. My friend Sheila, this has been a awesome conversation. The sun is now shining also where we are and I want to thank you for that because I think this conversation kind of convinced the Sun to come out here. For us. It was a little gloomy before we hit record. So good on you and math moment makers go connect with Sheila and hey, keep on doing the great work and we look forward to connecting with you again sometime.

00:32:16:22 – 00:32:18:19
Shayla Heavner
Thank you so much.

00:32:18:21 – 00:32:44:10
Kyle Pearce
Well, there, John, it was great having a chat. There was Shailagh. And as we reflect on each and every episode, it’s great to be thinking about our math program Tree and while immediately we could probably focus in on the branches of the tree, we can talk about the pedagogical content knowledge. I heard a lot of this idea being in what the purpose of that pedagogical move is, and that is to get to the roots of the tree.

00:32:44:12 – 00:33:18:14
Kyle Pearce
We talked about this idea of teaching to build conceptual understanding, and in order to do that, you really do need to become an expert in mathematics. Now, when we say that, that doesn’t mean you have to wear the expert hat. But there was a point in the episode where we really talking about how having that expertise actually allows you to take a step back and become more of the facilitator, become more of the guide on the side instead of the sage on the stage, which I think for a lot of people is feels counterintuitive, right?

00:33:18:14 – 00:33:46:16
Kyle Pearce
Like you think Sage on the stage is the expert. They’re there, they’re trying to tell you everything. But in reality it’s those who are able to stand back and actually implement a routine implement in actual and orchestrate the learning experience so that students can develop the routes to develop that content knowledge and the understanding of the mathematics, I think, is what really shows when a facilitator is truly raising their level of expertise.

00:33:46:16 – 00:33:52:15
Kyle Pearce
So that was what resonated with me. What parts of the tree resonated with you after this conversation?

00:33:52:21 – 00:34:10:18
Jon Orr
I think that last line she said about teaching for the heart in humanizing mathematics, and I think it really resonated with me because of the storytelling aspect to it. Right back to the beginning of what she said is that we humans have been telling stories for so long and it’s part of our culture, it’s part of us passing information along.

00:34:10:20 – 00:34:32:21
Jon Orr
And for me, that was when she said, You’re teaching for the heart and thinking about humans and our culture. It’s like I immediately was drawn the soil, the water, the sunlight that helps your tree grow. And this is like our mindset in our beliefs about what we are doing in our classrooms and what we’re here for and what mathematics is this is the heart of what we’re doing in our classrooms every day.

00:34:32:21 – 00:34:50:17
Jon Orr
And we’re saying where we’re teaching for humanizing mathematics, we’re teaching for heart. That’s a fundamental belief to me about what we are, what our purpose is in the classroom. And that’s something we all need to think about and decide. What is your why in your mathematics classroom? What is your purpose? And that goes right to the soil. What of the summit?

00:34:50:17 – 00:35:10:20
Jon Orr
Without that, that tree can’t grow. We need those external things outside the tree to help us fuel and strengthen that tree. So that’s where my head went there. Kyle So, folks, we always do our little recap of the tree after every single episode, and we encourage you to think about what parts of the tree we’re relating to you.

00:35:10:20 – 00:35:36:13
Jon Orr
It hit home for you. So we want you to do that. If you’re not sure about what the pieces of the tree are, we usually talk about them in every single episode, but you can head on over to make moth moms dot com for that report. Go to make macrumors.com for access report. There’s a video there about the six parts of your tree also can get a free report that talks about where the strength of your tree in your classroom tree or your district’s classroom or district programs tree.

00:35:36:19 – 00:35:46:09
Jon Orr
The strength and also it can pinpoint some weaknesses and give you some next steps to strengthen those up. So head on over make math moments dot com for this report and check out your tree.

00:35:46:11 – 00:36:09:24
Kyle Pearce
I love it. Hey friends, show notes, links to resources and complete transcripts to read from the web or download and take with you are always available over on the website at McMath moments dot com. So John was just talking about McMath moments dot com forward slash report. Well you can head to make math moments dot com forward slash episode 265.

00:36:09:24 – 00:36:26:23
Kyle Pearce
In order to grab all those show notes so you can find that on make math moments dot com or if you want to go directly to that page head to make math moments dot com forward slash episode 265. Well until next time math moment make friends I’m Kyle Pearce.

00:36:26:23 – 00:36:28:00
Jon Orr
And I’m John were.

00:36:28:02 – 00:36:31:06
Kyle Pearce
High fives for us.

00:36:31:08 – 00:36:49:20
Jon Orr
And I five for you Oh eight.

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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;
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  • Visuals, animations, and videos unpacking big ideas, strategies, and models we intend to emerge during the lesson;
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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.