Episode #267: Are You Cleaning Up Messes That Haven’t Happened Yet? – A Math Mentoring Moment

Jan 8, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

Today we speak with Diana Worthen, a 10th grade math teacher from Denver Colorado. In our discussion we help to shake out a common pebble in an educator’s shoes: How to keep students engaged during practice time. Stick around and you’ll hear why students tend to “shut down” after a teacher led lesson; how to be more targeted with your 1 on 1 support with your students; and how to structure your lessons to maximize engagement during your entire math block. 

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 students tend to “shut down” after a teacher led lesson;
  • How to be more targeted with your 1 on 1 support with your students; and, 
  • How to structure your lessons to maximize engagement during your entire math block. 

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.

Other Useful Resources and Supports: 

Make Math Moments Framework [Blog Article]

Make Math Moments Problem-Based Lessons & Units

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00:00:00:03 – 00:00:17:22
Diana Worthen
One thing I can remember is when I was a kid, I had a really nice court math teacher and it was basically well, it was a self-contained class, Like you actually have more time. You can spend more time on this subject instead of and then just make up the subject the next day or so. But she always did it.

00:00:17:22 – 00:00:22:05
Diana Worthen
Where does all this? We’re working in groups and working with the partners.

00:00:22:07 – 00:00:49:04
Kyle Pearce
In this episode of the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast, we’re going to dive in with math moment maker Diana Warr, then who is coming to us from Denver, Colorado. Diana is a grade ten teacher and is finding that in her 80 minute math block, she’s getting to the end of the lesson and it’s now time for the kids to dig in independently.

00:00:49:07 – 00:00:52:03
Kyle Pearce
And she’s finding a lot of students are shutting down.

00:00:52:05 – 00:01:09:24
Jon Orr
Yeah, it’s a common problem. And I had this problem to Kyle when I was teaching is that you end the lesson and you think this is the time for them to practice and then a bunch of them aren’t practicing. It’s like, well, now what? How do I convince them that practice is important? So we’re going to dive into that here with you in this episode.

00:01:10:01 – 00:01:18:17
Jon Orr
And we brainstormed some next steps on how to overcome this, because this is a math mentoring episode that we’ve recorded here with Diana. So let’s just jump right in. Here we go.

00:01:18:19 – 00:01:36:07
Kyle Pearce
Ooh, welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce.

00:01:36:09 – 00:01:39:05
Jon Orr
And I’m John or we are from Matt moment Scott.

00:01:39:07 – 00:01:48:00
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.

00:01:48:00 – 00:02:01:13
Jon Orr
Level. And we do that by helping you cultivate and foster your mathematics program with strong, healthy and balanced tree. So if you mastered the six parts, an effective mathematics program, the impact of the work you do will grow and reach far and wide.

00:02:01:15 – 00:02:29:18
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 facilitating of your mathematics program for the students or the educators that you serve. Now, my friends, we are going to dive in here with Diana. But before we do, if you’ve got a pebble kicking around in that shoe, be it as a classroom teacher, maybe you’re math leader, maybe you’re an administrator, maybe you’re a coach or consulting.

00:02:29:20 – 00:02:52:14
Kyle Pearce
Reach out to us at make math moments dot com forward slash mentor and we will get you on an upcoming make math moments mentoring moment episode structured quite like the one we’re having here today so head on over to make math moments dot com forward slash mentor. All right here we go and here is Diana. How’s it going, Diana?

00:02:52:16 – 00:02:54:24
Diana Worthen
It’s going great. Thank you.

00:02:55:01 – 00:02:56:12
Kyle Pearce
How’s things?

00:02:56:14 – 00:03:02:23
Diana Worthen
Um, what now? Since it’s almost Christmas break, it’s a little stressful, but trying to make it there.

00:03:03:00 – 00:03:04:23
Kyle Pearce
I bet. Whereabouts are you coming to us?

00:03:04:23 – 00:03:07:06
Diana Worthen
From Denver, Colorado.

00:03:07:08 – 00:03:12:03
Kyle Pearce
Oh, very nice. Very nice. I’m sure things are getting a little chillier and.

00:03:12:04 – 00:03:20:08
Diana Worthen
Oh, yes, now, we did had a warm winter in the beginning, but now it’s now cooling down. So. That’s so nice. Now.

00:03:20:10 – 00:03:39:15
Kyle Pearce
There you go. There you go. That’s awesome. What? I’m Kyle. John is right next to me somewhere on the screen here for you. We’re delighted to have the opportunity to chat with you and learn a little bit more. So why don’t we start? We did see some of what you had shared with us, but why don’t you tell us a little bit about you, your context and the pebble that’s kicking around in your shoe lately?

00:03:39:20 – 00:04:13:07
Diana Worthen
Basically, I’ve been a teacher for almost ten years now, and I’ve taught high school. I usually teach middle school or high school math. And this year is my second year of teach In high school. We have a small group of students. We’re using a curriculum called CPM Connections. So I’m trying to figure out with high schoolers, especially when they lost the two years during the pandemic, their education and now is like trying to bring in those two years that they lost, but also, you know, getting them back on track from where they’re at right now.

00:04:13:09 – 00:04:32:24
Diana Worthen
And it’s a little difficult because I’m trying to figure out how to grasp that knowledge and also get them engaged more because with high schoolers, that’s the one question is what do I need this for if I’m going to college or why do I need to learn this math or whatever job I get, or how is this going to help me in life?

00:04:33:01 – 00:04:58:08
Diana Worthen
So I’m just trying to figure out what I can do to interest because I try to like hands on activities and stuff and then move around like that. But it’s a group of students that I have because it is a small group of students that I’m just trying to see what I can do to. They like to be challenged basically, so how I can challenge them with that kind of stuff that last and bringing it in with the new concept really.

00:04:58:10 – 00:05:22:22
Kyle Pearce
So it sounds like to me that you’re working with some students. It seems like if I think innately humans do enjoy being challenged. However, a lot of times students, especially students who have had some struggles, oftentimes they like to maybe either hide that fact or maybe they even use it as a bit of a barrier to kind of separate them from the challenge or the way they feel when they’re struggling with the mathematics.

00:05:23:02 – 00:05:49:23
Kyle Pearce
It sounds like, though, you’ve got some students who, although they’re having some struggles with the mathematics, that their mindset is still fairly growth mindset, that they do enjoy the challenge, that they do want to do some thinking. So I wonder, what have you done so far in order to try to meet that challenge while also doing the very hard task of trying to also meet them where they are on that journey?

00:05:49:23 – 00:06:13:21
Diana Worthen
Basically because with this new curriculum that we have, it’s a little confusing. So I’ve only got to basically about like geometry. So like where angles and triangles was able to teach that concept. But basically I’ve been doing hands on activities or let them walk around the classroom. So they’re doing like a gallery walk, creating proofs and assisting each classmate.

00:06:13:21 – 00:06:37:03
Diana Worthen
I collaborated with their classmates and stuff. So with 80 minutes of the classes with this amount of time, it’s like basically it’s not really a lot of time, but it’s like trying to get them to settle down and do a crunch and stuff. So and plus, this year I started, I came into the classroom a little late, so I was trying to pick up the pieces from the few weeks when I started a little late.

00:06:37:03 – 00:06:42:00
Diana Worthen
So that’s also that’s trying to get the organization into the classroom also.

00:06:42:02 – 00:06:59:24
Kyle Pearce
Okay. Do you mind helping me and you may have said this early on and I may have been trying to piece together some of the other details that you were sharing. But are you the only teacher in the class or you’re teaching the entire group, or are you coming into the classroom as a sort of intervention teacher?

00:06:59:24 – 00:07:18:10
Diana Worthen
I’m actually the math teacher for 10th grade and teach 10th grade math. We do have two other math teachers, but they have a class right now, so that’s why they couldn’t join in. I don’t really have anybody else that comes in a classroom to assist me. I mean, sometimes I do, but it’s not like a daily thing.

00:07:18:12 – 00:07:40:19
Kyle Pearce
Awesome. I’m wondering what would that then look like? So I got the sense that, yes, you’re in there, you’re leading the group. You have some students with, it sounds like varying levels of readiness. Right. And you cited COVID as potentially not helping, we’ll put it that way. Right. Whether that was that reason or whether it definitely wasn’t contributing or positive factor.

00:07:40:21 – 00:08:02:19
Kyle Pearce
So you have 80 minutes. What does that look like? So far in a day to day? And I’m sure that every day isn’t exactly the same. But if you could in general sort of summarize what does a math block look like, that 80 minute math block, what’s happening? How does it look and sound? And then we can kind of dig in from there just to give us kind of a picture of what that looks like.

00:08:03:00 – 00:08:28:17
Diana Worthen
So basically, when class starts, they walk in, they do their warm welcome. So like the bell ringer, they give them 10 minutes for that. Usually during that time period, if I have an announcement about like late work or tests or something, I usually do that while they’re doing their warm welcome. Then when they’re done with their bell ringer, then they get the close for the day and their notebook and they sit patiently and then I get to them.

00:08:28:19 – 00:08:55:07
Diana Worthen
Then I’ll start the lesson by introducing, like I usually introduce background knowledge in regards to the last. So like for example, yesterday we talked about dilation. So yesterday I discussed about transformations that other different transformations that we already covered and that also use the history of dilation like with the, like pictures and how to, you know, expand picture stretched out and then like Billboard.

00:08:55:07 – 00:09:23:03
Diana Worthen
So I basically used that and also with a pencil graph, like I introduced that, like how they use it back in the day. But so we get on topic just across their knowledge. And then when it comes to the curriculum, I actually make their notes. So because with the curriculum is just a large chunk of stuff. So like I break down to break it down and pull stuff that I felt that they could learn from.

00:09:23:05 – 00:09:42:07
Diana Worthen
And then I make my own notes for, for my students. So because they see all this work, I already know they’re going to shut down if they see like, especially because it’s a lot of words, basically. So I know they’re going to shut down with that. But so then yeah, we’ll just go over the notes, which are one of the first.

00:09:42:11 – 00:10:05:00
Diana Worthen
When I introduce the lesson, I first show them how dilation works and then I give them another one. Then they do it as a group. Not all of them work as a group. Some of them like to work independently, but some do like to work in a group. Then after that we’ll go over it and then it’s usually like right after that, That’s when I lose them because they were going into something else.

00:10:05:00 – 00:10:08:11
Diana Worthen
Then it’s like, okay, I know how to do this. What is next?

00:10:08:13 – 00:10:20:08
Jon Orr
Got it. Are you feeling like you lose them because it’s like the direction part is over and it’s like, now it’s time for you to do some thinking or some work on your own and like, Yeah, we got this. We’re moving on.

00:10:20:10 – 00:10:20:19
Diana Worthen

00:10:21:00 – 00:10:40:04
Jon Orr
Yeah, It’s like, Oh, because you’re not telling me specifically what to do, when to do it. They think they can sit back and go, Hey, I’m done. I’ve done my duty. I followed the teacher’s instructions. Now I’m over and I’m not going to do any work on my own. And until you tell me what the next thing to do is, and I can do that, Zach kind of summarized.

00:10:40:07 – 00:10:53:17
Diana Worthen
That’s basically it. Because even at the end of class when I give them their exit ticket is I pull a chain to get them to do their ends attitude. So they have even 10 minutes in the class to exit take it. And they don’t even do that.

00:10:53:19 – 00:11:03:13
Jon Orr
Because so it’s safe to assume that they’re just not seeing the value to themselves and say that part of the lesson and that part of the work. Would you say that’s true?

00:11:03:15 – 00:11:22:21
Diana Worthen
I would say that’s basically it, yeah, because when they work with me, it’s great when they work with me or if I get them interact with their classmates, with me walking around and also talking in regards to the lesson, they’re great. But then as soon as I said, okay, let’s try these on your own, it’s it’s out the window.

00:11:22:23 – 00:11:53:08
Jon Orr
So now you recognizing that, what would you say so far in that moment, knowing that that time is coming and in that moment is coming where I’m done? My examples are I’m done. My lesson portion. And I know that that they’re going to shut down their or they’re just going to knock. They’re not going to continue. What have you done, let’s say, so far to kind of like either keep the thinking going in that stage or mitigate the experience that you’re saying is the struggle.

00:11:53:14 – 00:12:19:24
Diana Worthen
Sometimes every rule doing another activity. So to get them to move around, you know, interact with their friends or a lot of the times because they do Excel lessons. So a lot of times they just say, okay, I’m doing my lessons, so I’m done. So they’re busy at least doing what I said, okay, that’s fine, because I still have the students this side of the room that’s, you know, wanting to learn and wanting to move on.

00:12:20:00 – 00:12:35:11
Diana Worthen
And I have this side that’s that’s where they shut down. And it’s like trying to bring them both together, really. So I can just teach both of them at the same time. But instead of it just me or one or two students, it’s like five or six students.

00:12:35:13 – 00:12:57:10
Kyle Pearce
Now, I’m wondering early on in the lesson, there’s a number of things going on, so you’re structuring your lesson. First, I want to make sure we’re 100% clear here. The way you’re structuring your lesson is a pretty common way to structure math lessons. John and I structured our lessons this way for a long time, and we experienced very similar results.

00:12:57:10 – 00:13:23:23
Kyle Pearce
We experienced this sort of like you almost want to stretch out your lesson like you look at the clock and you go like, Oh, there’s 35 minutes left. It’s like, if I stop now, the kids will stop now. And now we have 35 minutes of like, what are we going to do? Because I know what the result is going to be when I sort of turn over the responsibility to the students.

00:13:24:00 – 00:13:54:08
Kyle Pearce
So I’m wondering, up until the end of that lesson, if we could kind of zoom out on the structure that we used for many years, and it sounds like you’re using as well, is there anything we could change or maybe consider tweaking in that lesson structure that might allow for students to be given more responsibility earlier in the lesson rather than sort of waiting until the end?

00:13:54:09 – 00:14:17:14
Kyle Pearce
And so I want to throw that to you and just kind of like see if you have any thoughts on that or maybe you’ve tried some things and maybe they had some success, maybe they didn’t. But what are you thinking? When I share that idea around this responsibility piece and kind of almost like tapping students to be a little bit more in responsible or in control, let’s say, of the learning a little bit earlier.

00:14:17:16 – 00:14:42:24
Diana Worthen
I think that’ll be actually, I haven’t tried something like that because I’m usually used to saying step by step or teach in the lesson. That whole group got it, instruction independent, so forth. So I’m used to doing that, but have them responsibility in the beginning because I mean, they already have their responsibility doing their, their bell ringer, but as you say, like questions that they already know or know how to do.

00:14:42:24 – 00:15:02:06
Diana Worthen
So they know they can get that done within a breeze. But when it comes to the responsibility of doing work and learning to stop related to the concept, then I think that will be very helpful. I’m just trying to see how to give them their responsibility in the beginning of the lesson.

00:15:02:08 – 00:15:21:07
Jon Orr
I love it. Yeah, because I was thinking about that too, is how can you chunk up portions of your lesson to account for maybe mini instruction? Try this, try this on your own mini instruction. Try this on your own mini instruction. Try this sooner or reverse. Try this on your own mini instruction. Try this in your own mini instruction.

00:15:21:09 – 00:15:33:13
Jon Orr
Try this on your own mini instruction until the bell ends and then by the time that happens, But you’ve covered your 80 minutes and they got practice embedded throughout in these ways.

00:15:33:15 – 00:16:02:10
Kyle Pearce
And another thought I have for you as well, that could be a good maybe thought. And then we’ll also share some potential resources for you to kind of dig in a little deeper with sort of what we’re saying here is imagine and this would be hard when we make changes. One thing we have to recognize before we try to make the changes is that small changes sometimes can eventually lead to big results, but sometimes they don’t lead to a whole lot.

00:16:02:10 – 00:16:46:05
Kyle Pearce
Initially, big changes sometimes are faced with pushback right away, right? So when you’re thinking about some of these changes and just kind of recognizing that sometimes changes can take time, we can also get humans in general, specifically students who have been learning say in this model, right, they’ve come to know this isn’t just a new problem. In grade ten, they probably learned in a similar model to this in grade nine and in grade eight and grade seven and all the way through, they’ve probably gotten, I’m going to say, away with it, because what I mean by that is that they know that we as educators are here because we care about them and we don’t

00:16:46:05 – 00:17:09:09
Kyle Pearce
want to see them in pain, suffering, not learning, not to mean feeling bad about themselves. We want them to have this outcome right. It’s just like if you’re a parent with my kids, it’s like sometimes it’s like I’m like, I’m like, hard on my kids because I want what I want for them. They don’t realize they want for themself yet.

00:17:09:11 – 00:17:44:09
Kyle Pearce
And obviously students have this same challenge. So what I wonder is you’ve got, say, this time for a bell ringer at the beginning of class. Again, I use that for a number of years, but I wonder if we start to shift when we ask students to start doing some of the thinking and if we were to ask them to actually do some thinking and we were to give them something that they can openly think about that’s low floor enough for them to think about, instead of it being, say, a practice problem, everyone gets the same answer.

00:17:44:09 – 00:18:11:04
Kyle Pearce
We all follow the same steps. If I know the steps, great. If I don’t, I shut down at that point to give them something that they’re able to actually inquire about, investigate, even if it’s estimating like getting students to have to do some thinking, even if it’s not a taxing thinking. Right. So some of the strategies that John and I have used over the years is one is making predictions and estimating early in the lesson.

00:18:11:04 – 00:18:37:10
Kyle Pearce
So that’s something that can be really helpful because you’re not wrong, you’re not right. It’s hard to know the student who’s always finishing their math lesson or their math homework first. They’re not able to kind of cut it all off because they race to the answer. It’s like, no, it’s actually an estimate. And there’s no way for them to know specifically whether they’re right or not giving them that opportunity to engage and to think and to share some of their thinking can be a really great step.

00:18:37:12 – 00:18:56:12
Kyle Pearce
And then also, if that’s working like that might be a first step. But then if that’s working, it’s like, what is it that I’m trying to learn today or uncover today? And is there a problem that I can give students up front without me teaching them anything that they can take a good shot at and they can get started?

00:18:56:12 – 00:19:22:14
Kyle Pearce
It doesn’t mean they have to finish it. It doesn’t mean they have to know the algorithm to get there, but that they’re able to actually engage in some of that thinking, which also guides you to know what do they really need to know? Where are they? What do they have with them, and what can we build on here so that when I do my part where I want to try to help fill in some of the blanks, it’s almost like they’ve already done some of the thinking.

00:19:22:14 – 00:19:38:06
Kyle Pearce
It’s not me kind of doing all of the thinking for, say, the first 60 minutes of class and then leaving them 20 minutes to now start thinking right. For a lot of kids, it’s like they were shut down for a long time, right? And they’re like, I’m not going to start the engine now. There’s only 20 minutes left.

00:19:38:12 – 00:20:02:16
Kyle Pearce
So when I give you even just some of those small ideas, maybe small changes in there, hopefully that flipped some of that. Really what we’re addressing is this concept. We like to call it the real flipped classroom, where basically what we’re saying is like, how can we give more responsibility to the students earlier in the lesson and save our responsibility to help clean up the mess instead?

00:20:02:22 – 00:20:20:04
Kyle Pearce
Because what we do traditionally is we try to clean up a mess that hasn’t actually happened yet. So we come in and we go, Don’t open the fridge carelessly. Don’t grab the milk with one hand, grab that because the milk might spill. And we tell them all the ways to make sure that we avoid the milk from spilling.

00:20:20:06 – 00:20:41:00
Kyle Pearce
But they haven’t spilled the milk yet. And we do this in math class quite a bit when in reality, if we kind of pause for a second, we go, What if we let them spill the milk in this lesson? Give them a little bit of opportunity, a little bit of time, and then not only does that tell us where there’s a mess to clean up, it allows me to be more targeted.

00:20:41:00 – 00:20:58:24
Kyle Pearce
So they’ve taken responsibility to do some of that thinking. And then I take the responsibility and I have to build this trust with them that they know that I will make sure to help them clean up the mess after. But it will take time because at first they’re probably going to push back on you, right? They’re going to go, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

00:20:59:01 – 00:21:26:17
Kyle Pearce
You’re supposed to teach me for 60 straight minutes so I know what to do. Even though up to this point, every time you do that, I don’t actually respond. I shut down. But that’s what they’re going to do and that’s what they’re going to try to do. But if you can kind of build that out of them and almost like lure them in to doing a little bit of that thinking earlier in the lesson and you doing more of the thinking maybe later, then you can start to see a dynamic slowly shifting.

00:21:26:19 – 00:21:34:24
Diana Worthen
That does make sense a lot. Yes. Because like you said, because they already know the routine that like the last 20 minutes of class, like, okay, I’m done.

00:21:35:04 – 00:21:52:14
Kyle Pearce
Yeah. It’s break time in their mind, right? They’re like, I’ve had break time at the end of math class for ten whole years since grade one, I’ve been doing this. The teacher stopped talking and I’m done. And in reality, we’re going. Who did all the thinking here? It sounds like Ms.. Did all the thinking today. And you did it for good reason.

00:21:52:14 – 00:22:13:13
Kyle Pearce
Again, I want to make sure we’re clear here. You’re doing that because you care about kids and you’re going, This is how I was taught, and I guess I’ve got to do it that way, too. And it worked for you. You made it through, right? But for a lot of students, I’m going to argue that they might not have made it through, even though they were sitting in the desk next to me when I was a student.

00:22:13:15 – 00:22:34:17
Diana Worthen
So yeah, yeah, I definitely like that. And like you said, give them the reins, because then it can actually help me see what they actually know how to do and then challenge ourselves, giving them the reins of the lesson, but trying to lesson it on their own. And who knows, maybe they do know this concept and also give them something challenging to with that.

00:22:34:17 – 00:22:42:16
Diana Worthen
So yeah, that sounds give them whatever responsible and okay, yeah, I like that idea. I really have ideas in my head of.

00:22:42:18 – 00:22:53:11
Jon Orr
What would you say is your immediate next step if you’re going into the classroom tomorrow and let’s say hour later today, what would be your next step or your first action item?

00:22:53:16 – 00:23:20:22
Diana Worthen
Well, first I would have to plan this, but my first step, of course, still get them to wake up when they walk into my passion, know still do the bell ringer. But then also I’ll continue with the responsibility. But because when I give them their notes, then that’s when they can actually work together and work as a team to come up with ideas how to, for example, like with Lisa, come up with ideas of how they can dilate the shape.

00:23:20:22 – 00:23:45:01
Diana Worthen
And basically you have them basically communicate with each other how they can make it. If I give them a scale factor and how they can make it bigger and stuff. So just like you said, like give them the responsibility of working it out themselves, really. And then like you said, just come around and make sure everybody’s okay and their area is clean and stuff and then just give them their floaties when they’re swimming.

00:23:45:01 – 00:23:46:11
Diana Worthen
Just a little bit at a time.

00:23:46:11 – 00:23:57:09
Kyle Pearce
So yeah, I love that. I love that. It’s like we don’t have to throw the safety devices away when the garbage can. It’s like we just hold off a little longer, right? We’re like, are they really choking? Are they really drilling?

00:23:57:15 – 00:23:58:04
Diana Worthen

00:23:58:04 – 00:24:14:09
Kyle Pearce
And it’s like they are. Okay, now it’s time for us. But until they’re really drowning, right. We want to make sure. I think that gave me a great visual. The Floaties is a great visual. For many years I was there and I had them all in there. It was like, almost like, are you even swimming or are you just floating on the pool?

00:24:14:10 – 00:24:35:03
Kyle Pearce
Because I’ve got all the mats out there and everything there to make sure that you don’t potentially have your head go underwater at all. Right. So that sounds like a massive takeaway. We appreciate you taking some time here today. And can we ask you one question that we ask on every episode of the podcast that we usually do at the beginning, but we didn’t know it was going to be a podcast episode.

00:24:35:03 – 00:24:54:03
Kyle Pearce
Can we ask you, what do you think is the math moment that comes to mind for you personally? It can be through your own experience as a student, but it could also be something else in life. When you hear math class, what sort of moment comes to mind for you? It can be positive or negative.

00:24:54:05 – 00:25:12:00
Diana Worthen
One thing I can remember is when I was a kid, I had a really nice court math teacher and it was basically well, it was a self-contained class, like you actually have more time, You can spend more time on this subject instead of and then just make up the subject the next day or so. But she always did it.

00:25:12:00 – 00:25:33:03
Diana Worthen
Where does all always we’re working in groups and working with the partners. So basically we had to lean on each other and two activities we did. One was we had to build a bridge out of toothpicks and we had to see how many bricks can hold this bridge up without breaking. And I think I was like a sixth or seventh grade.

00:25:33:04 – 00:25:55:02
Diana Worthen
So that was a lot of knowledge and, well, world situation really. And another one was where she actually made us seem like adults. And we were running our own business. Like, I remember I had a daycare center, so I was billing everyone, their weekly daycare and stuff, and then we have cars and then if they had a boat and then we had to make payments.

00:25:55:02 – 00:26:06:17
Diana Worthen
So then that’s really how I actually really learned how to budget money. It was like my lives. But I remember that class when I was younger. I was very prepared for the real world, so.

00:26:06:19 – 00:26:07:10
Kyle Pearce
I love it.

00:26:07:11 – 00:26:22:03
Jon Orr
Thinking of those experiences, do you see how maybe the fact that you said these things when these are the first things you thought about, about math class, do you think those experiences had any effect on the way you teach class now?

00:26:22:05 – 00:26:46:08
Diana Worthen
Oh yeah, I think so, because I always want to get my students engaged with each other and stuff and have them working with each other. So I always try to do a project. In my many years of teaching, I always do a project each quarter, not weeks. I always have a project for my students to do. Last year, even though it was, I taught science last year, but they were actually the teachers and they had to come up with their own lesson plan.

00:26:46:08 – 00:27:08:14
Diana Worthen
They had to write a lesson plan. I gave them a template. They have come up with their own yellow and everything and I and the standards and I taught eighth grade last year and they actually had to teach the lesson as teachers. And so they had a kick out that my students really enjoyed that. So they actually were being in my shoes for a little bit and saw how hard it was.

00:27:08:14 – 00:27:33:21
Diana Worthen
So but and didn’t have the students and was one thing I do remember when I was doing those is when I was in school testing state tests and wasn’t really I talked about a lot, but we knew we had to do it, but it wasn’t like the main thing on our mind because right now it was, okay, we got to do this because we have to get ready for state testing or we got to crush this and because this is going to be on state testing.

00:27:33:23 – 00:27:54:00
Diana Worthen
So I think that’s one issue is that’s what’s making teachers get burnt out. And also students, you know, given up because the first thing that they are notified as soon as they get into the classroom at the beginning of the year is, okay, we got all this before March for state testing. So. Right. Yeah.

00:27:54:06 – 00:28:15:01
Kyle Pearce
One thing I must say, I want to thank you for sharing the math moments there that you remember. And I wonder you had mentioned your big takeaway already here, and I wonder if you can use those two moments as sort of your inspiration on like, how can I do a little bit of that every day? It doesn’t have to be the entire time.

00:28:15:03 – 00:28:42:00
Kyle Pearce
But if you can do a little bit of that and do it early in the lesson, I feel like it’s going to really help you with flipping that class around and really starting to push who has the responsibility. Because your moments that you remember were moments that your teacher gave you responsibility, your teacher gave that to you. And but I’m going to also guess that there was probably times where it looked a lot like what you had described in this particular episode.

00:28:42:00 – 00:29:19:11
Kyle Pearce
But if you take that and you go, Hmm, if that was a moment for me, this is why we name the podcast make mouth moments, right? So it’s all about how can I do a little bit of that and still get the result that I’m hoping for. I still get to enough of the standards and still make a good effort here because ultimately, if I can get more of my students to engage in my material, engage in the learning earlier in every lesson, I’m going to actually cover more because students will have been doing more of the thinking and we have a couple episodes will share in a follow up email with you.

00:29:19:11 – 00:29:40:18
Kyle Pearce
But one of the episodes that I think would really be helpful for you as kind of a takeaway is episode 158, where it’s called Don’t ditch your lesson model, reverse it. So that one is a scenario where we’re talking about how we can take what we’re currently doing and not throw it all out, but just think about how we structure it.

00:29:40:18 – 00:30:01:08
Kyle Pearce
Think about the order and how we do that. And then there’s a second episode, Episode 141 and that is called the transition from gradual release to problem based learning. And I think that could be a really valuable one for you or anyone listening to the podcast who might also be challenged with some of the same challenges that you shared with us here today.

00:30:01:10 – 00:30:11:05
Diana Worthen
Most definitely, yeah. I’ll definitely look. Usually I do. I listen to the podcast during my lunch time, so it’s like meditation. I like I turn the lights off in my classroom. Yeah, that’s.

00:30:11:07 – 00:30:32:17
Kyle Pearce
Awesome. I love it. I love it. Well, we’re so thankful that you had reached out and we had the opportunity to chat with you here today. Definitely keep in touch with us and hopefully if it’s okay with you, we’ll follow up with you in 9 to 12 months and kind of see where you’re at, see where your head’s at, where are the gains, where the new pebble’s emerging, and hopefully we’ll be able to hop on for another catchup call.

00:30:32:22 – 00:30:36:03
Diana Worthen
Awesome. Awesome. Sounds good. Thank you. Yeah. Thank you all so much.

00:30:36:09 – 00:30:39:09
Kyle Pearce
All right. Have a great day. Take care.

00:30:39:11 – 00:31:05:12
Jon Orr
Well, there, folks, There you have it with Diana. We just got off the call with her and I said this at the very top of the episode, that this is a common issue that I think a lot of teachers are struggling with. When you’re teaching, say that lesson like I was for a long time, teaching that lesson up front, talking about helping with preloading strategies and then having those set times that says, Hey, from this time to this time we’re going to do this lesson chunk all together.

00:31:05:12 – 00:31:29:19
Jon Orr
And then from this time to this time, there’s practice. In that practice is individual practice. And when it happens every day like that, you see what happens in this happened to me is that kids will take that time to go like, I think I’m good. And then you struggle that because all of a sudden now they might be distracting someone else and the class kind of becomes a little bit unruly at that point where, like Diana said, it’s just we lose them.

00:31:29:19 – 00:31:52:22
Jon Orr
And I hope we gave you some takeaways here, too, how to restructure that class. And for me, when you think about the six areas of our math classroom, try, I think about the branches of the tree. What are the pedagogical moves, the classroom strategies that are teacher moves that we’re doing in specifically how we structuring the general timeline of our lessons to maximize engagement, maximize thinking.

00:31:53:01 – 00:32:13:23
Jon Orr
We talked to Diana about how to kind of do a little bit of that restructuring in its small steps, right? There are some small steps we suggested here to do that restructuring to give her some wins so that it can lead to some other wins down the road. It wasn’t a massive overhaul of her lesson plan that you’ll notice that we didn’t say you should throw everything out and go task based lesson the whole time.

00:32:13:23 – 00:32:45:20
Jon Orr
And are you build in vertical nonpermanent surfaces. It was a small kind of next step for Diana. It’s something that she could get a win out of, which can carry forward the next win. In the next win, it will lead her down that path. So if you’re district leader listening right now, think about those small wins for the teachers and think about where they are on their journey instead of going to jumping from one side of a spectrum to the other, we have to kind of help our teachers realize those small wins and celebrate those small wins for them to continually take the next step and get those wins.

00:32:45:20 – 00:32:48:13
Jon Orr
Cal, What about you? Where do you think the tree hit here today?

00:32:48:15 – 00:33:06:12
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, I love it. What you just said is kind of a nice segway into the sun, soil, water of the tree. And that’s all around mindset and beliefs. And this is on both sides. This is on the educator belief, right? We have this belief that we need to come in and we need to be. I loved the floaty sort of analogy in the pool, right?

00:33:06:12 – 00:33:32:04
Kyle Pearce
It’s like we need to be there as the lifeguard and more like we’re going to train you on how to swim, what to do, what not to do, how to jump in, Don’t jump in over here like this. Don’t do this, do that. And we feel that that’s our responsibility as an educator. But in reality, our opportunity that we have is to engage students and give them the opportunity to engage in learning, fall or in meaningful learning situations, right, in contexts.

00:33:32:06 – 00:33:56:13
Kyle Pearce
So giving them that opportunity and in the math moment that Diana shared, it really sort of highlighted that what she remembers as being a memorable, positive, memorable moment from her math class actually was exactly that was when she had the responsibility, when she was given the opportunity to try and fail. We can be there to help clean up that mess.

00:33:56:15 – 00:34:15:02
Kyle Pearce
And then also, as you were saying, John, those small little steps are going to be really important because we also are going to have to shift the mindset and beliefs of our students. Right. Those beliefs that those students have in the mindset that they have about what it means to learn and do mathematics has been influenced by the environment.

00:34:15:04 – 00:34:37:11
Kyle Pearce
The environment. So if for the past ten years students have been learning math in a certain way, if they’ve been doing math class in the way that Diana described, in the way that John and I were teaching for a number of years, this is going to be a work in progress. And it’s also worth mentioning to students that you’re trying to make this change.

00:34:37:11 – 00:34:54:01
Kyle Pearce
Right? We don’t want to come in and just pull the rug and sort of go like, now there’s no more floaties for you in the pool. We need to make sure we’re taking these steps in small pieces and making sure that we’re letting the students know that this is our goal and this is our intent, and that the intent is to do good.

00:34:54:03 – 00:35:18:13
Kyle Pearce
We want to do better here for them. And then if students are with us on that journey, that transition will be easier and easier. So what resonated with you? We’d love it if you would share however you choose. We love hearing from you, but one thing we’re going to ask you to do in particular is to leave us a rating and review on your favorite podcast platform.

00:35:18:13 – 00:35:44:21
Kyle Pearce
So wherever you’re hearing me say this right now, hit the pause button or heck, let it keep running. You can do this while the podcast is playing. Leave us that rating and review. You don’t know how helpful this is in helping us to reach a wider, larger making mouth moments that matter. Community Listener We need your support in order to be able to continue providing this opportunity for all of to grow better.

00:35:44:23 – 00:36:19:14
Jon Orr
Also, don’t forget this particular episode only occurred because Diana reached out to us and to talk to us about a pebble that’s currently rattling around in her shoe. And we want to hear from you. We want to talk to you about what pebble is rattling around in your shoe, because if it’s rattling around in your shoe it’s rattling around in maybe Diana’s or another teachers and just us talking about it and sharing it with the math mill maker community, it can help another teacher avoid that issue or hit that issue head on and be ready for it when it does occur.

00:36:19:16 – 00:36:32:02
Jon Orr
So we want to talk to you. So head on over to make math moments dot com forward slash mentor make math moments dot com for slash mentor and let us know what the pebble is and we’ll hop on a call here and rattle it around to see we can shake it loose.

00:36:32:04 – 00:36:56:17
Kyle Pearce
Shownotes resources transcripts and all kinds of goodies are over on the website. Make math moments dotcom forward slash episode 267 that is McMath moments dot com forward slash Episode 267. Well until next time my math moment maker friends I’m Kyle Pearce.

00:36:56:17 – 00:36:57:22
Jon Orr
And I’m John are.

00:36:57:24 – 00:37:00:13
Kyle Pearce
High fives for us.

00:37:00:15 – 00:37:15:03
Jon Orr
And 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;
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  • 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.