Episode #268: Can We Build A Thinking Classroom & Still Maintain Rigor – A Math Mentoring Moment

Jan 15, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

Today we speak with Michael Finley, the academic dean for math and science at a K-12 independent school. 

Michael’s staff is questioning their work in building thinking classrooms and how it serves high achieving students. 

Listen in as we brainstorm strategies to uncover micro moves and macro plans to build a classroom culture that allows a thinking classroom to emerge.  

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:

  • How to move quickly on a new initiative while ensuring all educators are coming along for the ride;
  • Why facilitating a Thinking Classroom in mathematics effectively involves a significant amount of nuance;
  • Why intentionality is even more important when facilitating a Thinking Classroom than it was when leading a gradual release of responsibility lesson;
  • What is the true definition of rigor? 

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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00:00:00:10 – 00:00:22:01
Michael Finley
One of the attractions of coming to this school is the fact that we have a really good relational connection with staff. That translates to the parents, the students. So it’s a really tight community and we can really accomplish things rather quickly, which has presented its own challenges as we’ve done this. So math is obviously moving towards thinking classrooms.

00:00:22:01 – 00:00:39:00
Kyle Pearce
We hate mass movement makers. Today we speak with Michael Finley, the academic dean for math and science at a K through 12 independent school. Michael staff is questioning their work in building thinking classrooms and how it serves high achieving students.

00:00:39:02 – 00:00:49:17
Jon Orr
Listen in as we brainstorm strategies to uncover micro moves and macro plans to build a classroom culture that allows a thinking classroom to emerge.

00:00:49:20 – 00:00:51:03
Kyle Pearce
Hey folks, this.

00:00:51:04 – 00:00:58:17
Jon Orr
Is another math mentoring Moment episode where we chat with a teacher just like you who is working through some problems of practice. And together we brainstorm.

00:00:58:17 – 00:01:17:02
Kyle Pearce
Ways to overcome them. All right, friends, let’s do it.

00:01:17:04 – 00:01:21:20
Kyle Pearce
Welcome to the Making of Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pierce and.

00:01:21:20 – 00:01:24:04
Jon Orr
I’m John or we are from Macrumors.com.

00:01:24:06 – 00:01:33:24
Kyle Pearce
This is the only podcast that coaches you through a six step plan to grow your mathematics program, whether at the classroom level or at the district level.

00:01:34:01 – 00:01:36:00
Jon Orr
And we do that by helping you cultivate.

00:01:36:01 – 00:01:40:14
Kyle Pearce
Foster your mathematics program a strong, healthy and balanced tree. So if you.

00:01:40:14 – 00:01:46:14
Jon Orr
Mastered the six parts of an effective mathematics program, the impact of your math program will grow and reach far and wide.

00:01:46:20 – 00:02:24:03
Kyle Pearce
Every week you’ll get the insight you need to stop feeling overwhelmed, clean 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. All right, my friends, we’re going to dig in here. But before we do, if you want to hop on a call, a math mentoring moment episode just like this one, make sure to head over to make math moments dot com forward slash mentor and you can grab a spot in our calendar so that we can have a chat about your current pebble and we’ll help to shake it out of your educators shoe.

00:02:24:05 – 00:02:25:24
Kyle Pearce
All right, here we go.

00:02:26:01 – 00:02:31:12
Jon Orr
Hey there, Michael. Thanks for joining us here on the Make map moments and out of podcasts. How are you doing?

00:02:31:14 – 00:02:34:06
Michael Finley
I’m doing great. Really excited to be here. Thanks.

00:02:34:08 – 00:02:52:14
Kyle Pearce
Awesome. Awesome. We have been looking forward to this opportunity for quite some time. Originally, we had chatted a few months back. We had a couple things in the schedule that kind of got in the way. But before we dig into that, why don’t you tell people a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming to us from?

00:02:52:20 – 00:03:00:24
Kyle Pearce
What is your role in education? And just kind of paint the audience a little bit of a picture of where Michael is coming to from right now?

00:03:01:01 – 00:03:25:17
Michael Finley
Absolutely. Okay. So I’m currently in I’m in my first year as an academic dean over the math and science departments at a K-12 school in Southern California in the Orange County area. So stepped into that this year. Actually, it was announced last year after teaching here for two years. And I’m really excited to kind of be stepping into this new role, helping a team lead a change there.

00:03:25:17 – 00:03:36:06
Jon Orr
So, yeah, awesome stuff. Awesome stuff. How did you get into teaching? Just fill us in on some of the background there too. Were you a math teacher before became the academic dean?

00:03:36:08 – 00:04:12:15
Michael Finley
Absolutely, yeah. So I actually started out in the corporate world, so I majored in finance in college, went into analytics and consulting. I actually wasn’t a real fan of math class through most of my school career, but ended up in a role where I used and relied on mathematics quite a bit. And it was actually through that process where I ended up getting more and more into education and going, Hey, there’s a real need here for when you see the output of students and when they’re in a career setting, the how they’re actually going to use the things that they’ve learned.

00:04:12:17 – 00:04:31:08
Michael Finley
I felt like, okay, that’s a place I’m really fascinated with. And even more so, why I didn’t think I might have even been capable in coming out of school. And yet when it came to practice, Oh wow, like I can do this in the real world in a pretty demanding mathematics field, a field that relies on a lot of math.

00:04:31:08 – 00:04:58:01
Kyle Pearce
So that’s really interesting. A connection that I’ve made over the years. I’ve found that a lot of creative people that I bumped into in life have kind of shied away from mathematics. And it’s really interesting to me because you would think mathematics is so creative and it’s so interesting, but yet it seems like the traditional school experience may have potentially pushed away some of those more creative.

00:04:58:04 – 00:05:20:09
Kyle Pearce
I’ve found some people that are very artistic. For example, when you think about it, mathematics is all about patterns and it’s all about like there’s so many, so many, you know, art type, beautiful things going on there. Think of the golden ratio and so forth. And yet I feel like there’s so many bright individuals out there that sort of didn’t feel like it fit them.

00:05:20:11 – 00:05:52:02
Kyle Pearce
And then there’s guys like me and John identifies himself as probably very similar like I just did what I was told. So I was what you would consider. I thought I wasn’t very creative, but in reality was just that I was easy to mimic, you know, I was fine to follow. So that’s a really interesting piece there. So I’m wondering then for someone who used mathematics in the field, found it very useful, but didn’t maybe see themselves as, let’s say, driven to do mathematics in school or not seeing maybe the value there.

00:05:52:02 – 00:06:05:10
Kyle Pearce
When you were in school, what would be a math moment that comes to you whenever we say, Hey, mathematics or learning math or math class or you think about math, what’s that moment that pops into your mind when you think about mathematics?

00:06:05:12 – 00:06:26:10
Michael Finley
Yeah, it’s interesting you mentioned that you pick up on it because actually the thing that comes to mind is actually when a colleague in the business world in our firm gave me Paul Lockhart’s mathematician’s lament as wrestling was this and one of his central thesis there is that math is an art. Unfortunately, it’s not typically taught that way in school.

00:06:26:12 – 00:06:39:03
Michael Finley
And that really resonated with me. And I think the thing was I was always sort of a teacher at heart that was trying to sort of avoid that calling or run away from the profession. But it kept chasing me down.

00:06:39:04 – 00:06:41:21
Kyle Pearce
Whether you like it or not, it’s coming through.

00:06:41:23 – 00:07:03:19
Michael Finley
Yeah. So now there was a point in time about 15 years ago where it was seeing what was going on in the business world during the 0809 time frame, working with financial models and other things and having younger students who are now graduates, interns coming into our firm and then getting that mathematician’s lament, you’re like, okay, I’m starting to draw some connections.

00:07:03:21 – 00:07:14:14
Michael Finley
And we really need to reconsider the way that we introduce these concepts to people. So I went back and got a master’s degree in education, and it’s been in education ever since.

00:07:14:16 – 00:07:34:24
Jon Orr
Great, great. I think the first time I was introduced to a mathematician’s lament, I think it was from Sunil Singh, he was one of our first guests, actually. We’d known Sunil for a long time and he had raved about that and talked about that. And he uses it, I think, in almost every single one of his presentations. It’s a very influential piece, and I think it’s great that you brought it up here too.

00:07:35:01 – 00:07:46:09
Jon Orr
So, Michael, what’s on your mind lately? What can we dig into here today? The three of us, we usually say, What’s a pebble that’s rattling around in your shoe that we can shake out in the next little bit?

00:07:46:11 – 00:08:26:04
Michael Finley
Yeah, absolutely. So initially. So we’re in the midst of not just a departmental initiative, but we’re we are looking at it from a school wide perspective of really trying to take our education into deeper learning, which as we will get through the thinking classrooms book and Peter Little Doll talks about thinking is really the prerequisite for learning. So we have an art of learning statement that we’ve crafted here at our K-12 school and we’re trying to use that as our philosophical sort of Northstar and then how do each of these disciplines line up to support that?

00:08:26:06 – 00:08:58:23
Michael Finley
And the benefit of one of the attractions of coming to this school is the fact that we have a really good relational connection with staff that translates to the parents, the students. So it’s a really tight community and we can really accomplish things rather quickly, which is presented its own challenges as we’ve done this. So math is obviously moving towards thinking classrooms where all of the things that you guys have been having guests on your podcast, which is how it found you, are the things that we are pursuing and the changes that we’re trying to lead.

00:08:59:00 – 00:09:10:07
Michael Finley
But we found ourselves now in some ways we are actually the process is going so quickly as to manage it. How do we communicate it to all our stakeholders has been the real big challenge.

00:09:10:09 – 00:09:33:18
Kyle Pearce
That’s really interesting to me because I think when people in education, specifically in mathematics, at least the listeners of this podcast, are have some sort of hand in the mathematics space in their district or organization. And my thought is I feel like everyone sort of looks at changes always being so slow, but yet you just mention they’re about things moving so fast.

00:09:33:18 – 00:09:54:24
Kyle Pearce
Can you dig into that a little more for us? Is it that the process or that we’re hoping for is to see change happening quickly? And is that causing problems or are we actually moving really fast and everything’s going well? I think that’s a bit of a loaded question. I think we know the answer to that. Right, is usually it doesn’t always go really well the first time.

00:09:55:05 – 00:10:04:24
Kyle Pearce
So tell us more about that, that things are moving fast. What do you mean by that? And I guess what sort of pebbles are sort of revealing themselves to you as you push forward here?

00:10:05:01 – 00:10:36:17
Michael Finley
Sure. I think if you could rewind three years across all of our subjects, what teachers and administrators were saying is that our school did educated students very well in the traditional forms of what most parents experienced themselves when they were in school and what you would expect to see in most schools nationwide, globally, etc.. But what we were trying to move towards is that authentic student engagement with their learning.

00:10:36:19 – 00:11:00:11
Michael Finley
So we’ve actually I mentioned that I was the dean of math and science. We also carved out humanity. So at this particular school, that’s social studies, it is English and it’s also Bible. And so they’re in a triad of humanities and they are moving from where it was mostly lectures and tests to a lot of reading and discussion based think, Well, that’s awesome writing.

00:11:00:15 – 00:11:23:05
Michael Finley
And we have a separate dean there who is working with all of those department heads in the administration to see that. And so we’ve got math and science. And I actually came in through the business and entrepreneurship and data science. So those were those were the courses that I was and still am teaching. So what does it look like in math and science and in entrepreneurial innovation?

00:11:23:05 – 00:11:44:02
Michael Finley
It’s a little bit different, but it’s the same philosophy. So we’re trying to have the students explore more and discover and really take the lead. And we found a curriculum and we’ve developed a way of doing that by looking more in problem sets. And I think it even is what you guys would maybe described as problem based learning or the real flipped classroom.

00:11:44:06 – 00:11:44:22
Michael Finley
I’ve heard you guys.

00:11:45:02 – 00:12:07:18
Kyle Pearce
I like it. He’s a listener, John. I like this. I like this. Keep going, though. I want you to keep digging here. I’m happy. I’m really getting a clear vision. Or at least let me at least tell you what I think I’m hearing so far, and then you can continue elaborating is what I’m liking. It sounds like thinking, which I think you already mentioned, but I don’t know if it resonated with me as much as it is now.

00:12:07:20 – 00:12:42:18
Kyle Pearce
Thinking is at the core of what you’re trying to do across the curriculum. And it sounds like you’ve got a lot of the key stakeholders, the key people. You’re dean of different department areas are on board for this, that, hey, we want that thinking to happen. This isn’t just a math class thing, right? Hey, awesome. Peters really shine a light in that area, but it seems like there’s been this sort of spark that sort of igniting other areas to kind of start looking at what they do or what they typically did in practice.

00:12:42:20 – 00:13:03:17
Kyle Pearce
And they’re starting to go, Well, wait a second, how do we actually turn this around a little bit? How do we put more of this on the students so that they’re doing the thinking and the teachers become more of the facilitator? So that part sounds fantastic. So what I’m getting out of this is like, it sounds like a lot of people are on board, so things are moving fast.

00:13:03:17 – 00:13:14:16
Kyle Pearce
Where do you see maybe some of the challenges arising here? So what problems are you experiencing? Where are those pebbles starting to show or emerge?

00:13:14:18 – 00:13:34:06
Michael Finley
I think it’s so it’s one of those deals where the more you dig into it, it’s hard to live in a middle ground, especially when you have such a groundswell. You get this alignment where everyone starts to realize that, Oh, students weren’t really thinking as much. Maybe three or four years ago. They were compliant and they were working in that conventional mode.

00:13:34:06 – 00:13:56:19
Michael Finley
They were turning in assignments, they were listening to lectures and they were taking notes. But that’s different. It’s not quite asking the same level of work that we are wanting them to pursue. It’s that classic thing where they’re doing your teacher is doing more of the work, crafting a great lesson to deliver it to you. And when everyone starts doing it and they put on those glasses, they start like, we’ll see out.

00:13:56:21 – 00:14:19:05
Michael Finley
Our students weren’t really leaning in and thinking and digesting this, and that becomes contagious across all of the different departments and areas. So now you have a situation where students are kind of almost they come back from their previous year of school and it’s kind of like what’s happening here. It’s one thing for that one teacher that says, Hey, I’m going to do things a little bit differently.

00:14:19:05 – 00:14:38:01
Michael Finley
I’m going to ask more of you. You’re going to benefit from this. But here’s how this looks. That starts to be in three or four or five of your classes. The students were really sort of taken aback. And it took it’s taken a little while for them to kind of understand one, oh, this is more than just one teacher in one class.

00:14:38:03 – 00:15:01:00
Michael Finley
How do I deal with that? And then I think this year, more than anything else, it’s also been parents wondering about what this looks like. And the unique thing about math was we heard this, Well, math is different. So parents and students could understand that they were in a history class, that you were going to replace a lecture from a teacher with a reading.

00:15:01:02 – 00:15:12:17
Michael Finley
But how would anybody know how to perform a mathematics operation or tackle a certain kind of problem if it’s not explained to them upfront?

00:15:12:19 – 00:15:39:06
Jon Orr
So what I’m hearing is it sounds like some folks that are stakeholders in your building or around your building are viewing what mathematics is, is different right now than what your philosophy, your North star in your building. So so where are you feeling that the problem is? Where’s the challenge right now that your experi and saying so you’ve got different philosophies happening, but where’s that Like I need help.

00:15:39:06 – 00:15:42:20
Jon Orr
Exactly. Here. What can we help you with specifically?

00:15:42:22 – 00:16:11:14
Michael Finley
Well, I think some of it is just like in your experience of having helped and consulted on change in different schools, different school settings, as well as with individual teachers, are there experiences or situations that this brings to mind? It’s like, hey, maybe you’re going too fast, or maybe we’re missing a key to sort of unlocking it. And that issue really is there’s talk about the fact that teachers it’s going to take time for teachers to adjust.

00:16:11:16 – 00:16:33:03
Michael Finley
I would say, you know, we talk about mathematics. We obviously know teaching is an art, too. Right now our teachers are mostly struggling in the math department with how do we ask really good questions that are little hall and thinking classrooms talks about those questions that can sort of stop the students from thinking, How do you ask? Really good questions?

00:16:33:03 – 00:16:40:15
Michael Finley
And some of that is just being in the classroom and noticing and sort of honing your craft a little bit is my sense of that.

00:16:40:17 – 00:17:00:04
Jon Orr
Got it. So we’ve got this philosophical kind of difference, and it sounds like when you kind of narrowed in on the teachers is that you’re more concerned about helping the math department or the math teachers kind of wrap their minds around how they can use it. Thinking at the forefront is And if that’s the case, what have you done so far?

00:17:00:06 – 00:17:16:14
Jon Orr
If you’ve realized that that’s where your struggle is, trying to convince mindset, trying to think about how do I nudge my teachers to kind of think about mathematics in this way when they’ve always done it this way? What have you done so far to help nudge those teachers down that pathway?

00:17:16:16 – 00:17:43:03
Michael Finley
Okay, So first things first is this We sent everybody off the summer break this past year with the Thinking classrooms book. Everybody came back and had read it and we sort of agreed that implementing those first three items, the vertical non permanent surfaces, the randomized groupings, that those things would be useful and could be implemented in every single one of our math classrooms without a lot of disruption.

00:17:43:05 – 00:18:06:00
Michael Finley
And that for the most part happened. But it looks different in every single classroom, which might be okay, but in some of those instances you will have students still asking for a lot of feedback. Is this right? Is that right from the boards? And how do teachers respond to that?

00:18:06:04 – 00:18:34:00
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, yeah. And these are definitely so I’m getting a clearer picture too, which is great. So we always like to keep digging here. I’m wondering, how would you say if you were to just kind of broadly envision let’s look at specifically math, but I’m sure we could do this activity across the curriculum. How well do you think it’s going in terms of there’s one thing about the student, how they maybe feel, but how are they actually doing in terms of achievement?

00:18:34:00 – 00:18:53:00
Kyle Pearce
Are students feeling that they’re not? Is it just a mental block that they’re used to just having these nice notes and there’s copy this down, and if I just study the notes, then I know what will be on the quiz because it’s just going to be like the examples out of the notes and I just need to memorize that.

00:18:53:02 – 00:19:20:06
Kyle Pearce
Is it that or are students feeling actually maybe a little lost in terms of where am I in terms of the structure? What are we doing? What is the intentionality? Maybe the learning objective? And the reason I ask that is because sometimes when we shift away from that very structured math lesson, right, very structured, like the title of the lesson is Dividing Fractions, right?

00:19:20:06 – 00:19:48:02
Kyle Pearce
And then all of a sudden you go to this other world and it’s like, here’s a problem. And then furthermore, my wonder is sort of like, are we always call it tying the bow at the end, the consolidation. When students leave a classroom, are they walking away, going, that was an interesting problem, or are they walking away going like, I think I understand the new concept, which is blank.

00:19:48:04 – 00:20:00:20
Kyle Pearce
What does that look like and sound like? Currently noting that there is no judgment here because again, the whole school is very early in the journey, right? So how would you describe that currently?

00:20:00:22 – 00:20:24:08
Michael Finley
Yeah, it’s funny. I mean, it’s good that you mentioned consolidation because that is one other area in addition to the questions, that is a growth area and our teachers are well aware of it. They’re getting used to a new pacing. But yes, so we have moved from, you know, in some instances actually giving notes to students. The teacher would create the notes and hand them to the students.

00:20:24:10 – 00:20:49:05
Michael Finley
They may in some classrooms that we’ve been able to use those on tests to trying to pull some of those things away in addition to moving moving the order of what we’re doing and putting the students in front. So one of the things is the students who did the who were strong and were quote unquote, good students in that former area, are some of the students that are the most uncomfortable with the check?

00:20:49:08 – 00:20:51:00
Kyle Pearce
Very common for sure.

00:20:51:02 – 00:21:14:04
Michael Finley
So I guess what we want to move to is we want to assign problems the night before class and we want the students to attempt them. They we want them to think about those problems 30 to 45 minutes and bring their working notebooks into the class where they will go up on the board in a variety of ways, individually in small groups.

00:21:14:10 – 00:21:37:08
Michael Finley
Sometimes the entire class and our class sizes average 14 to 16. So it’s on the small side. And those will all, though, go through all those problems. You’ll look at different ways of solving them. But at the end in the consolidation, we want them taking notes and coming away from each class, feeling confident that they know how to tackle each problem.

00:21:37:14 – 00:21:39:00
Michael Finley
Does that make sense?

00:21:39:02 – 00:22:00:20
Jon Orr
I think you’re clear. You’re clear on what you want. And what would you say? So is this something you’ve they say the administration has kind of said this is what we want because we’ve done some learning. And then would you say that all the teachers know what you want or some know what you want or some classes do, but some don’t like?

00:22:00:20 – 00:22:08:20
Jon Orr
We asked, picked five random teachers and said, Hey, what is the focus of math class moving forward? Would they all answer the same way?

00:22:08:22 – 00:22:37:08
Michael Finley
Yeah, I think there’s confusion. And on the teacher side, we’ve been talking about this and having groups and working through it for several years now. We’re entering year two doing this, but even before that we spent a lot of time as a whole school talking about philosophy. But I think the way that when individual teachers look at adapting these things to their practice, I think we would probably have different if we were to talk to five different math teachers from our team.

00:22:37:10 – 00:22:41:01
Michael Finley
You might hear three different things now.

00:22:41:01 – 00:22:57:14
Jon Orr
If I’m thinking about problem solving and thinking about the one of the things that we’re doing on a regular basis, especially to implement Peter’s work, I think, Colin, I’ve been talking to hundreds of school districts, you know, over the last year or two years and what they’ve been doing in their classrooms and what they’re doing in their programs.

00:22:57:16 – 00:23:21:17
Jon Orr
And I think one of the biggest challenges schools in classrooms have had with adopting Peter’s work is thinking about what you articulated there, about saying, look, we can take the three things that’s super easy to implement. And I think that’s where a lot of schools will adopt those three. And they think we’re doing thinking, we’re doing the thinking classroom because we have our students up at the walls and they’re working on problems.

00:23:21:19 – 00:23:42:07
Jon Orr
And then what we’ve come to realize and help the districts that we work with is there’s a lot more nuance to crafting an experience for students to go through some productive struggle to come out the other side knowing why they went through that productive struggle and exactly what was the purpose and then how that relates to the math.

00:23:42:07 – 00:24:04:14
Jon Orr
I need to know by the end of class today. So like that consolidation piece. So thinking about how do I construct the beginning of class so that students are engaging in a problem or series of problems that Peter’s work with you talking about thin slicing is sometimes a nice technique that you can engage your class in a problem string that can bring out the big idea.

00:24:04:14 – 00:24:30:19
Jon Orr
But I think where I think the teachers in school leaders who struggled with making that move towards the real thinking classroom is and I’m going to say the intentionality of what the lesson is about and thinking about, okay, here is what I want my students to learn at the end of class. How can I craft that experience so that they have a rewarding attachment to the learning that they’ve done?

00:24:30:21 – 00:24:47:18
Jon Orr
And then also know at the end of that experience what they’re supposed to do next. And we want to make sure that we’re not just say, Hey, we’re going to throw a bunch of questions at you and then you you have to then solve them at the board. And then we’re going to take what technique did you come up with?

00:24:47:20 – 00:25:08:22
Jon Orr
It’s actually a lot more nuanced than that in terms of figuring out what model or what strategy do I want them to try to elicit or how to bring out, and then how do I bring that about? And then if I don’t see what model are strategies coming about, how can I interject? And create that experience for them so that I can bring out the learning goal by the end of class today?

00:25:08:22 – 00:25:17:21
Jon Orr
So there’s a lot more nuance, I think, to what’s happened. And I’m curious to hear your thoughts on how that relates to what you guys are striving for in your classrooms.

00:25:17:23 – 00:25:43:11
Michael Finley
Absolutely. Yeah. And I think the one other element to add into this is we’re using problem sets now that have threads that spiral. So it isn’t we’re shifting to more of an integrated math program and we actually sent teachers this past summer and I was able to attend as well, but we went to the Exeter Math Institute, which is run by a school in New Hampshire that’s been doing it for five years.

00:25:43:13 – 00:26:17:19
Michael Finley
And that was really the that was a piece where those teachers that attended with me could really see the the complexity and kind of the artistry of the experience and do so from the perspective of the student. But not all of our team has been able to do that yet. So the problems and the way that they’re built and attacking them in order, there is a logic to them and there’s multiple things going on through the problems and each time and so that gives you a good foundation to spend the time to think about all the different things that are going on.

00:26:17:23 – 00:26:38:23
Michael Finley
They also tend to have you talk about kind of low floor, high ceiling. They have logical places where almost every student can enter in and then you can kind of extend and build off of them. All of these things are to say that is it is an adjustment for teachers to use them and adapt to the way that the students are engaging with the problems.

00:26:39:00 – 00:27:02:07
Kyle Pearce
Now, I wonder, so you had mentioned a little earlier that thinking about this idea of even students kind of engaging with some of the problems more independently at home and then maybe coming out and then sharing some of that work. And that’s an interesting sort of approach. I’ve never specifically attempted something like that, but I guess what I’m wondering is what would you say?

00:27:02:11 – 00:27:26:18
Kyle Pearce
So we know as a school we want more thinking, of course, right? So that’s clear. That’s very explicit. But when we think about, let’s say, thinking classrooms and say vertical, nonpermanent surfaces and getting students to engage collaboratively, how would that happen If you could wave that magic wand? We talk about the magic wand quite a bit and everything was sort of just happening as it should.

00:27:26:22 – 00:28:03:07
Kyle Pearce
What would that look like and sound like in the classroom? And where is that hiccup? Because I heard you say something earlier. You talked about some of the students were kind of struggling even a bit of the parents. But then you just mentioned this idea about trying to get some teachers to kind of get on board in terms of potentially using or utilizing those problem sets, like what are we hoping to see happening in the classroom that maybe isn’t happening at the level that you’d like to see it, just so we can really hone in here on where that pebble currently lies?

00:28:03:09 – 00:28:23:24
Michael Finley
I think when this is working well, we would like to see students walking into class, having engaged with five or six problems that are going to be the curricular focus of the day the night before and whether they were able to work all of them out or could only get partial way through each of those five or six.

00:28:24:01 – 00:28:48:09
Michael Finley
They’ve attempted them, they thought about them, and now they’re going to put a problem up on the board. And it isn’t for the benefit of the teacher to basically verify the work is right. It becomes more of this was my thinking on the problem communicated by the students. This is where I’m stuck. And that sort of peer learning where a student that might have.

00:28:48:11 – 00:29:12:01
Michael Finley
Here’s an interesting way that I came up with this and solved it. And you get a situation where the students are communicating and working one another and the teacher is the expert in the room guiding and supporting that from more of a foundational. They have created that environment that allows the students to direct it.

00:29:12:03 – 00:29:18:07
Jon Orr
And what would you say is the number one barrier preventing that from happening right now?

00:29:18:09 – 00:29:34:20
Michael Finley
Probably the idea that, well, if I don’t have it figured out, I need to go and get a tutor ahead of time or I need my parents to help me or if none of those things happened and I didn’t figure it out, I just need to like, stay quiet and not participate.

00:29:34:22 – 00:29:40:13
Jon Orr
So you’re right now envisioning is the barrier is the student mindset or something to do with the teacher?

00:29:40:15 – 00:29:53:19
Michael Finley
Student mindset right now is where we’re at is probably is something that would make it. When you talked about really when this thing is going to fully flourish, it’s when the students can click and get on board with it.

00:29:54:00 – 00:30:11:10
Jon Orr
Do you think so? Are you seeing when you go in the classroom, let’s say these students were presented with some problems and they thought about them to come in. They’re working on them. What’s happening at that time right now that you maybe think makes that student go, Oh, man, I need a tutor. I can’t do this on my own.

00:30:11:10 – 00:30:33:17
Jon Orr
What does that environment look like or what is that environment telling the students that they need that? Because if they’re going away from the room saying, I need external help because I’m supposed to solve this on my own, what’s happening in the room right now that makes that student say that? And then this is the follow up. What can you change about the environment right now?

00:30:33:17 – 00:30:35:17
Jon Orr
So they don’t say that.

00:30:35:19 – 00:30:58:24
Michael Finley
There isn’t anything specific that’s going on in those rooms that’s doing that. This is where it may just be time and it may be the fact that that culture needs to be reinforced a little bit more. That could be it. That’s kind of a wonder on my part. But what you will see is if students don’t take that ownership of really trying to assess where am I in this?

00:30:58:24 – 00:31:09:20
Michael Finley
I mean, do I really understand it or am I still leaning on can kind of replace leaning on the teacher to try to explain it to leaning on a peer?

00:31:09:22 – 00:31:31:01
Jon Orr
Yeah. I think from my experience when I’ve had students solving problems at the board and they’re feeling deflated and there’s been cases where I noticed that and I didn’t do anything about it. I think there’s my early days of teaching with the same ideas that you’re describing and and when that happens, the kid’s going to come out of the room and they’re going to feel like they’re not supported.

00:31:31:01 – 00:31:46:06
Jon Orr
And when they and they’re feel like they’re not supported, they’re going to go home and they’re going to talk to mom and dad and and mom and dad is like, well, maybe we need a tutor or maybe we need to call the school. What’s going on about what’s happening in the room? If they’re leaving the room, not understanding what they were supposed to do.

00:31:46:08 – 00:32:08:24
Jon Orr
And this is because we’re changing the dynamic of the room. We’re changing the ones that are who have been struggling. They were successful because they were mimicking and following them. And now we’ve asked them to do some thinking. And and what it came down to is when I didn’t do that and when I addressed and tried to make sure that the students were in a sense rescued, that I’m here as your guide and I’m here to make sure that we tie this up with the both.

00:32:09:02 – 00:32:35:14
Jon Orr
It’s okay that you didn’t get it. It’s more important that you tried and that we are now going to take your efforts wherever they lie. Low floor, high ceiling. But wherever they are in there, we’re going to take your thinking, your attachment to the value right now around this problem. And we’re going to bring you here so that you feel like your effort was rewarded because we needed your thinking to get here.

00:32:35:14 – 00:33:01:09
Jon Orr
But we all have to get here before we can go on to the next day or what the next set of problems to work on is. And that’s a teacher move. That’s not a student mindset move, that’s a teacher action that has to happen in the room to create that culture that says we’re here and we’re going to bring everybody here and I’m going to make sure that wherever you were, we’re going to leave here going, This is where we were.

00:33:01:11 – 00:33:21:15
Jon Orr
This is what happens. These are the strategies you try. These are the strategies I want to highlight today, because that’s the learning goal here today. These are the models that we used to get at, those to allow us to use those strategies and achieve that particular learning goal. Here’s the learning goal. Here’s your next steps. But everybody has to get there.

00:33:21:15 – 00:33:42:12
Jon Orr
So if you’ve got students kind of in that sense going like, I’m feeling like I’m not supported in that world, they are going to say, I need extra help. Why they are going to go home and complain and parents are going to call and go, What’s happening in the school? It’s the kid has to leave the room on a regular basis going like, I understand what we were supposed to do here today.

00:33:42:18 – 00:34:16:16
Jon Orr
I feel like this is my place. I feel like I’m supported along the journey so that tomorrow or then tonight’s problems that I get, I know that if I temped them tonight, tomorrow I’m going to go in and I’m going to feel supported again. And then we’ve got a real culture of learning and a real culture of like, I can work at the boards, I can solve problems because I know that wherever I get to, I’m going to be brought to the right spot and I know that my value is rewarded along that because the teacher used my ideas, my thinking to help support the big idea.

00:34:16:16 – 00:34:17:15
Jon Orr
But the lesson of the day.

00:34:17:21 – 00:34:38:22
Kyle Pearce
The image I just got in my head was this image. You know, when we talk about the hero’s journey and the idea of the tension time graph, right? And in a math class, it’s a great thing if we can allow that tension to rise during the productive struggle. And the problem is if that tension doesn’t ever come back down.

00:34:39:01 – 00:35:02:19
Kyle Pearce
Right. And that’s where that consolidation comes in. When, John, you’re talking about that support or you’re talking about that the tying it with a bow, this idea that if I leave today’s classroom and let’s say I’m not feeling super comfortable with what happened today and then tonight, if the approach we’re using is is we’re going to give you a few more problems for tomorrow.

00:35:02:21 – 00:35:29:01
Kyle Pearce
And I’m not clear on today. Right. You can see probably like that compound effect, the snowball gets bigger and bigger and the tension gets higher and higher. Now, that may or may not be the case here. We’re just discussing a scenario of what could be potentially happening. But there is one thought maybe they’re just float out there and maybe it’s something to reflect on and maybe some of your leaders in the building might want to reflect on.

00:35:29:01 – 00:35:50:07
Kyle Pearce
It is sometimes when we say thinking, right, it’s kind of like the word rigor. It happens with the word rigor a lot. Sometimes we get it wrong on what we really mean by that, because like a lot of people will say rigor. And what they equate that to is giving kids as many problems as possible. That’s very rigorous, but that’s not really rigor at all.

00:35:50:07 – 00:36:17:19
Kyle Pearce
And when we think about thinking, thinking is something we want to allow students to do. And you had already said it earlier, which is great to kind of reiterate, but the real flipped classroom we talk about is this idea that we give them the opportunity to think first, but then we, the expert in the room, as you had already articulated, were there to help kind of determine where are you, Let’s take where you’re at.

00:36:17:19 – 00:36:35:02
Kyle Pearce
Let’s try to build off of where you are and let’s connect it to the new learning. But that’s like I got to do a lot of thinking for that. It’s not the students that are going to necessarily do that. It’s a beautiful thing when it does happen, when students are like, Oh yeah, because of this, it’s that and because of this, it’s that.

00:36:35:02 – 00:37:02:05
Kyle Pearce
But those are few and far between. When that happens and even when it does happen, we as the facilitator have to reiterate it, to say it again, to make sure that it’s like I heard what you just said and what you just said sounds a lot like what I was going to say, but I’m going to articulate it again even more clearly and I’m going to make sure I’m looking all these kids in the eyes so that they I can see and I can read.

00:37:02:05 – 00:37:33:16
Kyle Pearce
John talked about the teacher moves. One of the teacher moves is assessing when you look at them, if they’re all looking through you, that’s telling you something, right? If they’re all looking at you with fear in their eyes, that’s telling you something, right? If some kids are turning white, that’s telling you something as well. And a thought I’m wondering about and I don’t know the impact and this might be something, John, next time we talk to Peter might be something that we chat about is, you know, I’m wondering what the impact.

00:37:33:18 – 00:37:54:00
Kyle Pearce
I think it would be amazing if in a perfect world, students had a problem set at home and they explored them. And I guess as long as the mindset and the understanding was clear that, listen, you don’t have to get all of these right the night before. But it sounds like the intent there is that students are dipping their toes in, giving them a good go.

00:37:54:02 – 00:38:11:07
Kyle Pearce
But I just wonder in terms of the dynamic of that changes things when we do the thinking classroom the next day. And I’m just going to throw one scenario that pops into my mind is like, John goes home, he spends all night on these problems and he’s ahead. And it’s like, That’s exactly what you want as a teacher.

00:38:11:09 – 00:38:32:17
Kyle Pearce
You like, Amazing, John, You’re the best. I love you. And then I come in, I was the kid and this was me as a kid. I’d be like, Nah, I don’t know how to do it yet. I’ll just wait till tomorrow. And I wouldn’t look at him at all. And I’m wondering about the dynamic mix that that creates in the classroom when John comes in and he knows the answer to all the problems.

00:38:32:19 – 00:38:54:04
Kyle Pearce
And then I’m in a group and I’m the kid that doesn’t even know the context of the because I didn’t read any of them. And then we come together and then we’re going to work in a thinking classroom collaborative, random group and I’m wondering about that dynamic as well. And sometimes kids have a hard time, whether they’re old, young adults.

00:38:54:06 – 00:39:13:08
Kyle Pearce
Sometimes we forget that if somebody puts in three more hours of work than you, then of course they’re probably going to know a few more things than you. But you don’t think about that in the moment. You just think like John gets in and I don’t. But in reality, like John’s done a lot more work than me, so that’s a wonder I have.

00:39:13:08 – 00:39:31:00
Kyle Pearce
And I don’t know what the implication is there, but it’s something that I think is worth at least digging into as a team to kind of go like, is this helpful? Is this helping or hurting or what sort of impact might that be having on the culture that you’re trying to create in that thinking classroom?

00:39:31:02 – 00:39:55:19
Jon Orr
And I think what Peter would say is that you’re missing out on those epiphanies that are happening in the moment when students are seeing the problem for the first time together. And then what are those problem solving moves that some of us do that some of us don’t do? And how can we you know, those little interactions, those interactions aren’t happening if we all see it at home in advance and come in with possible solutions for problem solving is messier than that.

00:39:55:19 – 00:40:31:16
Jon Orr
Problem solving is us going like, Well, I would think about it this way and then you’re voicing that and then the other ones start hearing that at the same time. And those interactions spur on new learning for each other. There’s a lot of value in those problems. Like I said before, there’s a lot of nuance in how you craft those problems because because let’s say there’s five problems, but those five problems, if they’re just say, plucked from, say, a problem set or from a textbook, I’m going to guess there’s no flow from one problem to the other unless it’s like these are from Part A, these are from Part B, and these ones are from

00:40:31:16 – 00:40:56:19
Jon Orr
Part C, They get harder as they go instead of a nice, very carefully crafted progression of problems that the solution of one helps identify how to solve the next in a way that it’s slightly changed. There’s maybe a strategy different or there’s another nuance to this strategy, but then all of a sudden it changes a little bit. But we still need to use this strategy here, But it’s now a little bit different to the strategy.

00:40:56:19 – 00:41:20:14
Jon Orr
Thinking about a very well-crafted number talk or a math talk was way we would say it. Peter would call that a thin slicing Kathy because I would call that Kyle problem string. So there’s some very carefully crafted ways to make the thinking come out so that students are really making the connections that you want them to make. I think picking, say, five problems to work on.

00:41:20:16 – 00:41:28:07
Jon Orr
And then at home you might want to wait until the class shows up and very carefully crafted. That was what that progression looks like.

00:41:28:09 – 00:41:53:01
Michael Finley
But the good news is that the problems are well-crafted and threat. That’s good but I do think we’ve kind of landed on I mean, I think what you guys both described is that growing pain right now. Your scenario about the students who are doing the homework versus the ones who aren’t, that’s a discrepancy if the teachers are struggling with and I think you’re absolutely right, at the end of the day, we’re trying to build a culture, but we have to meet the students where they’re at.

00:41:53:04 – 00:42:17:17
Michael Finley
And I would say also, it isn’t just the consolidation piece and what happens after each problem is a big area of focus. So from a from a coaching standpoint, what I want to do is I do want to build that up. At the same time, from a leadership standpoint, I want to I want to engender as much confidence in our teachers who are doing what we ask them to do, as much as the students.

00:42:17:23 – 00:42:27:00
Michael Finley
So to come in and basically say, hey, we got to start our consolidation has to get tighter and better and you need to spend more time. There’s that sensitive balance there.

00:42:27:03 – 00:42:47:08
Kyle Pearce
Oh, absolutely. And I’m glad you mentioned that, because I think what I’m wondering from you is I was about to ask you, so what do you think your next step might be? And I want to at least maybe even put it out there that potentially somewhere to start is not going in and saying, hey, we need to do this or we need to do that.

00:42:47:08 – 00:43:08:10
Kyle Pearce
It sounds like you already know that that’s not a super slick move. It’s not going to be very helpful. But my wonder is whether you engage groups of teachers doesn’t have to be all together, maybe in little grade level groups or however you meet if you have policy time and maybe trying to get them to share some of these struggles themselves.

00:43:08:10 – 00:43:31:20
Kyle Pearce
So just like we tried to draw that out from you, today was sort of like, okay, so we know there’s tons of problems, right? We’ve got problems every day in schools and all over the place and in every subject area, but really trying to hone in what’s the one that kind of on my mind now. And we’ve sort of brought out a few of those, and I wonder if they would be similar if you engaged in a similar conversation with some of those teachers.

00:43:31:20 – 00:44:08:13
Kyle Pearce
And then I wonder if they would be open to having that discussion to kind of figure out, is there something we as a team might consider doing differently versus it being like Michael comes in and says, this is what you should do? Right? And a lot of times what you can get is you can actually get a lot of teachers to kind of come out with a lot of the things that you were kind of thinking in your mind might be good moves anyway, might take a little longer and that might go back right to your initial prompt where you had said things are moving so fast and maybe this is one of those scenarios

00:44:08:13 – 00:44:27:08
Kyle Pearce
where it might have to slow down just a little bit so that you go, okay, we got to slow down so that we can go fast. So if we’re dealing with these pebbles, what are they? You might know what they are clearly, but maybe they haven’t named them yet. They’ve just sort of it’s really easy to name the challenge, the challenges.

00:44:27:08 – 00:44:48:10
Kyle Pearce
The kids are not enjoying it or the kids are feeling like they need to to say, okay, well, okay, so why is that? We kind of rewind, We rewind, we rewind. And if they’re at the center of that, if those teachers are there at the center, I think you’ll get some little epiphanies. It’s it’s just like a great, well-crafted math lesson.

00:44:48:10 – 00:45:15:19
Kyle Pearce
Right? You’re thinking ahead, going like, well, I can see some of the challenges are these things. So what are the questions I ask in that role as a curriculum leader to sort of draw out some of those things and help people just say them out loud and sometimes after they say them and then you ask the next question and they say that and they start to go, oh, sort of is right in front of their face, and it might actually just give you a next step.

00:45:15:21 – 00:45:37:01
Kyle Pearce
So I’m wondering, we’ll flip it back to hear you here, Michael, before we sign off. And what would you say is maybe your next step? What are you thinking on? What are you grappling with right now that might be helpful as you try to continue on this journey, which, of course, is a challenging one. Right. Trying to make change in any practice?

00:45:37:03 – 00:46:02:01
Michael Finley
Absolutely. No. I agree 100% with what you just said. And I think that should be an area of focus. And I think sometimes, too, there’s that, oh, we have to fix this right away. And it’s a process and getting them involved, maybe forming a group, kind of a working group of, hey, how could we make sure that student didn’t leave our classroom feeling like they needed outside help in any sense?

00:46:02:06 – 00:46:03:08
Michael Finley
And that might be a lot.

00:46:03:08 – 00:46:13:09
Kyle Pearce
More maybe just asking and saying like, why do you suppose they’re feeling that way? And even just asking it as a question too, right? So those are all great strategies. I love that.

00:46:13:11 – 00:46:27:14
Jon Orr
Sounds like you’ve got some next steps there, Michael. So we’re excited to actually we’re excited to check in with you. We love to kind of bring you back on and say next year and kind of see where things have landed and see where things morphed from where they are now. Would you be okay with that?

00:46:27:19 – 00:46:33:01
Michael Finley
Oh, I’d love it. That’d be great. This is some really helpful and I would like to have you guys along.

00:46:33:03 – 00:46:37:03
Jon Orr
Awesome, Awesome. Thanks so much for joining us, Michael and we’ll be in touch.

00:46:37:09 – 00:46:48:00
Kyle Pearce
And we can’t wait to catch up with you in the podcast room at the school again sometime soon. For those who are watching on YouTube, looks pretty awesome. So good on you and great chatting with you, my friend.

00:46:48:02 – 00:46:49:15
Michael Finley
Thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

00:46:49:17 – 00:47:12:24
Kyle Pearce
Take care. All right, my friends, hopefully you enjoyed the conversation with Michael. I know we did. And actually, I’m sure many people can relate. As you’re listening to this episode, this idea of a thinking classroom is not one that’s new anymore, or at least in many educators minds, especially those math moment makers who are listening to this podcast.

00:47:12:24 – 00:47:38:14
Kyle Pearce
We’ve had Peter on the show a number of times. We love his approach to thinking and getting students to do the heavy lifting in math class. But like anything that’s new, any change that we make, there can be some uncertainty or a little bit of a lack of confidence as this process unfolds. And guess what? I’ve seen it happen where we have good intentions and we try to do great things in our classroom.

00:47:38:14 – 00:48:07:13
Kyle Pearce
But as we’re learning to include this new approach, this new philosophy, sometimes we can miss the mark in a few places. So I’m hoping that you folks were thinking about your math classroom tree or maybe your math district classroom or your math district tree as we were having this conversation. And I’m sure there are many different areas that lit up for you, obviously talking about pedagogical moves, starts to get us focusing in on the branches of the trees.

00:48:07:13 – 00:48:13:11
Kyle Pearce
But John, what were some other areas that you feel like we touched on through this conversation here with Michael?

00:48:13:17 – 00:48:29:03
Jon Orr
When we talk about classroom culture, in establishing that classroom culture so that we can effectively utilize those branches or pedagogical moves or teacher moves, they often go hand in hand. So that’s the soil, the water, the sunlight, like what are we doing to set.

00:48:29:03 – 00:48:30:09
Kyle Pearce
Up that culture?

00:48:30:11 – 00:48:33:20
Jon Orr
And sometimes it’s like one of those chicken or the egg situations, like, do I.

00:48:33:21 – 00:48:34:11
Kyle Pearce
Start with.

00:48:34:11 – 00:48:55:04
Jon Orr
Pedagogical practices or do I have to focus on how do I create classroom culture? It’s kind of like both are done at the exact same time. Those practices help create culture, but then it’s also demeanor. It’s also about policies that you’re setting. It’s like expectations. It’s like how you’re treating the students that are walking in and how do you identify those students as human beings.

00:48:55:04 – 00:48:55:15
Kyle Pearce
That helps.

00:48:55:15 – 00:49:01:08
Jon Orr
Create classroom culture, but also allows you to utilize those moves, building thinking, classroom.

00:49:01:08 – 00:49:02:11
Kyle Pearce
Moves at.

00:49:02:11 – 00:49:10:05
Jon Orr
A higher level, and also with less pushback. Sometimes we experience a lot of pushback with new pedagogical strategies. You get less pushback when.

00:49:10:05 – 00:49:11:23
Kyle Pearce
Students know.

00:49:12:00 – 00:49:32:08
Jon Orr
That you have their best interest at heart. And I think we touched on some of those ideas about setting up the culture, but also be doing the moves today. So that’s hit the soil, water, sunlight, as well as the branches in this tree. And again, we said this right at the beginning of the episode. And if you also want to join us in a conversation, just like Michael did here, we’d love.

00:49:32:08 – 00:49:33:18
Kyle Pearce
To hear your problem of.

00:49:33:18 – 00:49:50:11
Jon Orr
Practice or your pebble in your shoe. Or maybe it’s a boulder. You know, oftentimes teachers tell us they’re boulders. We would love to chat with you and we can record it and share with the community because I know that your pebble is a pebble someone else is having. Just like Michael here, It’s solving a pebble for you right now as well.

00:49:50:11 – 00:50:00:19
Jon Orr
So join us over at make that moment dot com forward slash mentor make macrumors.com work such mentor fill out a quick form and we might be talking to you on the next episode.

00:50:00:21 – 00:50:33:14
Kyle Pearce
A Friends as always Show notes links to resources and complete transcripts to read from the web or download and take with. You can be found over on the make maps moments dot com website and you can find them directly at make map moments dot com forward slash episode 268. And hey, don’t forget to complete that class report by filling out a quick little assessment to decide what parts of your math classroom tree you might want to hone in on over at make math moments dot com forward slash report it.

00:50:33:16 – 00:50:41:12
Kyle Pearce
All right my friends until next time I’m Kyle Pierce and I’m John or high fives for us.

00:50:41:14 – 00:50:56:14
Jon Orr
I am a high five for you

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


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

3 Act Math Tip Sheet


Each lesson consists of:

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

Each Teacher Guide consists of:

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

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

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

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

These prompts are given each lesson with the following conditions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!

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

MMM Unit - Snack Time Fractions Unit


Partitive Division Resulting in a Fraction

Shot Put Multi Day Problem Based Unit - Algebraic Substitution


Equivalence and Algebraic Substitution

Wooly Worm Race - Representing and Adding Fractions


Fractions and Metric Units


Scavenger Hunt - Data Management and Finding The Mean


Represent Categorical Data & Explore Mean

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


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

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