Episode #269: Creating Safe and Equitable Math Classrooms – A Math Mentoring Moment

Jan 22, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

Have you ever wondered why creating a safe space for students in mathematics class is crucial? This episode of The Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast explores this question and unveils insights that will reshape the way you think about math education.

In a world where educational equity is a pressing concern, ensuring that schools are safe places for students becomes paramount. This episode delves into the critical role of a safe environment, especially in mathematics classes. Discover how breaking free from over-generalizations can pave the way for equitable math lessons and why helping teachers build their math proficiency is key to fostering an inclusive classroom. Join us as we unravel the intricacies of these concepts and their real-world implications.

Unlock the secrets to creating a safe and equitable math classroom by listening to the latest Make Math Moments episode now. Transform your approach to math education and contribute to fostering a positive and inclusive learning space for all students. Press play and embark on a journey to reshape math education today!

What You’ll Learn:

  • Gain insights into why creating a safe space in math class is not just desirable but essential for student success and well-being.
  • Learn practical strategies to help teachers break free from over-generalizations, creating math lessons that cater to diverse learning needs and backgrounds.
  • Discover the importance of teachers’ math proficiency and how empowering educators in this aspect can lead to a more equitable and supportive learning environment.

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

Be Our Next Podcast Guest!

Join as an Interview Guest or on a Mentoring Moment Call

Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast

Apply to be a Featured Interview Guest

It will take less than two (2) minutes to book your Math Mentoring Moment call.

Book a Mentoring Moment Coaching Call

Take two (2) minutes to book your Math Mentoring Moment call and let’s work together to shake that math pebble out of your shoe!

Are You an Official Math Moment Maker?

Ensure that you followrate and review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other platforms to show your support and ensure other math educators can find the show.
Start your school year off right by downloading the guide that you can save and print to share with colleagues during your next staff meeting, professional learning community meeting or just for your own reference!


00;00;00;11 – 00;00;21;23
Melissa Campbell
We make an assumption that certain scaffolds have to be in place before we even meet some of these students, and then we don’t take into account that whatever the background is, there’s a schema there or it may not be total.

00;00;21;24 – 00;00;37;11
Kyle Pearce
Have you ever wondered why creating a safe space for students in mathematics class is crucial in this mentoring moment? Episode We explore this question and unveil insights that will reshape the way you think about math education. In a world.

00;00;37;11 – 00;01;03;01
Jon Orr
Where educational equity is a pressing concern, ensuring that schools are safe places for students becomes paramount. This episode delves into the critical role of a safe environment, especially in mathematics classes. Discover how breaking free from over generalizations can pave the way for inequitable math lessons and why helping teachers build their math proficiency is the key to fostering an inclusive classroom.

00;01;03;03 – 00;01;09;13
Jon Orr
Join us as we unravel the intricacies of these concepts and their real world implications.

00;01;09;16 – 00;01;37;14
Kyle Pearce
This is another Math mentoring Moment episode where we chat with a teacher just like you, who’s working through some problems of practice and together we brainstorm ways to overcome them. So let’s do it. Ooh, What?

00;01;37;16 – 00;01;41;26
Kyle Pearce
Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pierce.

00;01;41;26 – 00;01;44;11
Jon Orr
And I’m John. Or we are from Math Edmunds.com.

00;01;44;17 – 00;01;54;16
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;54;23 – 00;02;06;03
Jon Orr
And we do that by helping you cultivate foster your mathematics program like strong, healthy and balanced trees. So if you master the six parts of effective mathematics program, your impact will grow and reach far and wide.

00;02;06;05 – 00;02;21;03
Kyle Pearce
Every week you’ll get the insight you need to stop feeling overwhelmed, gain back your confidence and get back to enjoying the planning and facility of your mathematics program for the students or the educators that you serve. All right.

00;02;21;03 – 00;02;40;06
Jon Orr
We’re just about to jump into this conversation with mathematics consultant coach Melissa Campbell from Fort Payne, Alabama. So let’s jump right in there. Hey, let’s go. Hey there, Melissa. Thanks for joining us here on the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. How are you doing today?

00;02;40;08 – 00;03;01;14
Melissa Campbell
Ready for holidays. All the schools we’ve been in for the past week and a half at different points have been dismissing for Christmas and kids were definitely ready. So my time is kind of been spent prepping for January trainings, but I’m kind of at the point where I’m with the kiddos. I’m ready for a little bit of a break.

00;03;01;17 – 00;03;02;29
Jon Orr
We all are. We all? Yeah.

00;03;03;00 – 00;03;18;02
Kyle Pearce
I think everybody is at that point. So you know what? Folks who are listening to this episode, when it drops, it’s going to be likely after the New Year, to be honest, by the time the episode comes out. So yeah, we’re all in this spot. So I want to thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule here.

00;03;18;09 – 00;03;36;13
Kyle Pearce
It is like we are days away from the big guy coming, so it is busy. Families are stressed a little bit and also everybody at work is just trying to figure out how do they get everything done before the new year. So thanks for spending some time here with us today. But we want to know a little more about you.

00;03;36;14 – 00;03;41;00
Kyle Pearce
Where are you coming to us from? And tell us a little bit about your role.

00;03;41;04 – 00;04;04;06
Melissa Campbell
So I am speaking to you today from Fort Payne, Alabama, which is in the northeast corner. So I am a couple hours from Atlanta, about an hour from Chattanooga, and then a little over an hour from Huntsville, Alabama, which is where I actually work from.

00;04;04;09 – 00;04;30;04
Jon Orr
Awesome. That’s great. Now, we want to ask you a question that we ask every single one of our guests and maybe you could fill us in as well on your role of education. But while you do that, think of this prompt about your math moment. We asked everybody when we think back to the math class and you think about your history of math class as a student, or when we say the words math class, images pop in our minds from our past and it’s almost like you can’t help them.

00;04;30;04 – 00;04;36;13
Jon Orr
And we call those math moments something that stuck with you all this time. We’re hoping you can share your math moment with us.

00;04;36;15 – 00;05;03;02
Melissa Campbell
Okay. Well, I appreciate that. Actually, one of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams and one of his Dirk Gently novels has the quote. I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I’m supposed to be because I do not think that elementary school, Melissa, the whole way up through beginning of teaching career.

00;05;03;02 – 00;05;29;29
Melissa Campbell
Melissa I could have predicted that i would do what I do now when I was in, I guess elementary school grades. In today’s vernacular, I would be considered a compliant learner. I could copy what the teacher did and I was successful, although I didn’t necessarily have an understanding of what was going on. And I definitely wasn’t the type to ask questions.

00;05;30;01 – 00;05;58;25
Melissa Campbell
Whether my questions stemmed from I don’t understand or may I do it a different way. I just wasn’t one to ask questions, period. So then when what we called middle school sixth grade came, we were tracked according to test scores and we were placed in one of nine sections of kids. And even though they change the numbers around every year, we all knew who the high group was and who the group was.

00;05;58;25 – 00;06;02;27
Melissa Campbell
I mean, we think we’re following kids when we do that, but we’re not.

00;06;03;01 – 00;06;07;18
Kyle Pearce
The Bluebirds and the Redbirds or whatever they’re going to. You know.

00;06;07;20 – 00;06;16;00
Melissa Campbell
I had a teacher one time who called them, I think like Mountain Dew and Sprite, and the amount of caffeine was how smart they were.

00;06;16;03 – 00;06;16;26
Kyle Pearce
Oh, gosh.

00;06;16;26 – 00;06;44;26
Melissa Campbell
But I had a teacher and I can still picture his I hate to say it, but those ugly woven ties in the mid eighties we had a brown one that he wore almost every day and he told us that we were the hi group and we would begin parts of Algebra one in sixth grade. So we get our first assignment back and I assumed I had copied what he did on the board.

00;06;44;26 – 00;07;09;02
Melissa Campbell
And I remember that F at the top and I had never seen a grade like that in my entire life. And I remember crumpling it up, putting it in the bottom of my backpack. When I got home, I dug the whole wetted bottom of the trash can and put it in the bottom crying. My mom won’t find it, but he was of the mindset that the smart kids didn’t need instruction.

00;07;09;02 – 00;07;33;04
Melissa Campbell
And he actually, not long after this assessment, let us loose for independent study. And he sat behind his desk and I just remember thinking, if I can’t do it with the teacher, I’m kind of doubting I can do it on my own. And at that point I kind of gave up on math, so to speak, because I came to the false realization.

00;07;33;04 – 00;07;48;27
Melissa Campbell
Now I know, but at the time it seemed true to me that I was no longer good at math and I was no longer a mathematician. And I did very little math that year. From that point through college, I avoided math whenever I could.

00;07;48;29 – 00;08;10;06
Jon Orr
Now I can see why that might be the case. We’ve heard story after. I think this is what Kyle Episode 269 So we’ve heard 269 math moments since the start of this podcast, and so many of them are similar to yours where we’ve had these experiences that just make us think we’re not mathematicians, we’re not good at math.

00;08;10;07 – 00;08;39;13
Jon Orr
Kyle Story is very, very similar in that way, that in all of them, if you think about it, have been based off the decisions that educators in the classroom are making. We have that direct hand in how kids are shaping their connection to mathematics. We can deny it all we want by saying no. Parents have more of a say, and I think we have the more current state of mind about a student’s connection to mathematics because we’re with them on that particular topic for that particular time.

00;08;39;15 – 00;08;50;16
Jon Orr
That’s where they’re making that connection. And year to year it can change from teacher to teacher, But some of those stick with us. Melissa. You know, obviously it stuck with you for a reason. Now, how did it shape the educator that you’ve become?

00;08;50;23 – 00;09;21;11
Melissa Campbell
Well, there are a lot of things personally that shaped me as an educator, and it was always my mindset that I wanted to ensure that school was a safe place. Kids felt like it was a safe place for them to be. So I don’t feel that I expressed negativity towards math to them, but I don’t feel I embraced it the way I could have in the beginning as a teacher.

00;09;21;11 – 00;10;03;20
Melissa Campbell
But I was lucky enough to become involved with some PD and some people who worked for AM. Stine, which is the Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative. And it is a state initiative that has we’re actually 20 years old now, but it’s mission is to support both teachers and students in learning STEM through doing STEM. And as I became involved in the mathematics side of that through some great colleagues and if I’m allowed to name them.

00;10;03;22 – 00;10;47;11
Melissa Campbell
Lisa McDonough and Sheri Gibbs are two of the first ones who come to mind. But they definitely supported me in my journey of growth and my quest to become a better teacher, which in turn led me to become a better math teacher through the explorations and the hands on that. I got it. Those trainings kind of led me to say that I was a mathematician and that the way I looked at things, even though it wasn’t necessarily the formula people who know me love know I love patterns and looking for like numbers, sequences and things like that.

00;10;47;11 – 00;11;07;21
Melissa Campbell
So I like the puzzle solving part of it. And when I was allowed to approach it from that way, it became a whole different game for me. From that point on, that was how my math instruction changed and that was a new level of the communication mission that I had with my students in the classroom.

00;11;07;23 – 00;11;30;07
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, it’s so interesting. As John mentioned your story, I can definitely relate to it as that compliant student who really, the way I summarize it myself, I know you had sort of summarized that as being compliant. The way I saw my experience was that I actually thought that being good at math or I was good enough in math that I actually didn’t have to think.

00;11;30;10 – 00;11;52;13
Kyle Pearce
And when I really thought about that, it was like when I had to start thinking. When I started thinking I wasn’t good at math, but in reality it was that thinking that actually opened my eyes to some of the things you just shared right? This idea of pattern recognition and and noticing and wondering and just asking questions about why does that work, how does that work?

00;11;52;13 – 00;12;17;24
Kyle Pearce
And really deciding or learning that, oh my gosh, mathematics is so much more than what I had originally interpreted from my own experience and and again, I don’t think any teachers that I had intended for that to necessarily happen. And as you had mentioned, you had mentioned in the early stages of your journey that maybe you didn’t spend enough time recognizing this idea that mathematics or school in general needs to be a safe place.

00;12;17;24 – 00;12;46;09
Kyle Pearce
I think we can all relate and so many people can relate with that story. So now I want to shift to where you are now, given that you’ve clearly come a long way from your experience in school in interpreting what mathematic courses all the way to the work that you do now, facilitating and actually assisting in mathematics instruction and really pushing forward and progressing what math instruction looks and sounds like in classrooms.

00;12;46;12 – 00;12;56;00
Kyle Pearce
So my wonder for you is what’s on your mind lately? What sort of pebbles might be kicking around in your shoe that we might be able to help you shake out today?

00;12;56;02 – 00;13;00;12
Melissa Campbell
Well, I’m actually here to pick your brain if you read carefully.

00;13;00;12 – 00;13;03;06
Kyle Pearce
Kyle, I love it. I love it.

00;13;03;08 – 00;13;52;06
Melissa Campbell
Because I was reading the book System Recall by Harrison Jones, and they talk a lot about about inequality and inequity. And they actually define inequity in the book as those things that are unfair of avoidable differences and that these inequities lead to the kind of the inequality. But the reason I kind of gravitated towards you is that with this question or with this wondering is that in the book they take time to discuss some systems that they feel are doing some things right as far as greater amounts of equity are present?

00;13;52;06 – 00;14;30;10
Melissa Campbell
And one of the educational systems that was mentioned was Canada’s, and they said it’s not even just an equity thing in these systems like Canada does, it is just a system thing. So it’s kind of got me wondering in order to move equity forward because we’ve been talking about it for a while now, what makes up a system where we can say, yes, it’s a system thing and equity is present?

00;14;30;12 – 00;14;34;15
Melissa Campbell
And that’s kind of my wondering I came to you with today.

00;14;34;17 – 00;15;03;15
Kyle Pearce
I love it. I love it. And you know what? This is definitely a really important discussion. And I would argue that while in comparison, right, certain systems may have it a little more further down the road than some others, the reality is it really is still such a struggle in so many places, even in Canada, where I think a lot of different jurisdictions look in this direction and kind of look for some of that guidance.

00;15;03;15 – 00;15;38;20
Kyle Pearce
And I would argue definitely a lot of progressive thinking here, but we still have a very, very far way to go. So I guess to kind of dig into this a little further, I think you’ve shared a common challenge, a common topic that everyone’s talking about. I wonder if you can help us maybe get a little more insight into your world, your context, and where you feel that some of those inequities are kind of maybe exposing themself more, most obviously, to you and you’re going, holy smokes, we need to do something about this.

00;15;38;20 – 00;15;58;17
Kyle Pearce
One thing that pops into my mind. I heard you talking about that idea of essentially tracking beginning in grade six, for example. Is it tracking? Is it something else? Is it a combination of things that have this burning question on your mind so that we can get a little better sense as to where this conversation could go right.

00;15;58;22 – 00;16;38;10
Melissa Campbell
I think tracking is one of the things that could be part of that discussion. Often it’s called something else because we want to place groups of students in maybe a few classrooms in order to make schedules more feasible for services. That happens a lot. I also worry and these are actually I think the two things you that I mentioned when we went to dinner in Anaheim, but we make an assumption that certain scaffolds have to be in place before we even meet some of these students.

00;16;38;10 – 00;17;08;29
Melissa Campbell
And then we don’t take into account that whatever the background is, there’s a schema there. It may not be totally formulated to where we want it. They may not have the same scheme as the next student, but there are talents in their scheme and there that we need to recognize and use in our teaching, in our questioning, and just recognized as a benefit rather than a deficit.

00;17;09;06 – 00;17;12;13
Melissa Campbell
Those are kind of my main concerns.

00;17;12;16 – 00;17;40;08
Kyle Pearce
Now when you have those as concerns, I guess my next question would be is why do you suppose those are challenges currently? Where do you feel that there’s a like where these pieces are missing? Do you feel is it a knowledge piece, an awareness piece? Is it a belief piece? Is it just completely structural? And I’m sure I mean, I think the easy answer is probably a bit of everything, right?

00;17;40;08 – 00;17;55;24
Kyle Pearce
We know that. But where do you see, I guess, your current pebble? If you were to say, hey, I want to take my next map to try to help here, where do you see the challenge being your first sort of roadblock that you might experience in trying to make some progress in this area?

00;17;55;26 – 00;18;32;18
Melissa Campbell
I almost hate to sum it up in a word or two, but I almost go back to the idea of collective efficacy and the fact that we have to grow the belief that all the kiddos in the building belong to all the grown ups in the building and we have the ability to move them forward. But there are certain expectations that have to be in place and we can’t assume a deficit before things are even attempted.

00;18;32;21 – 00;19;08;20
Melissa Campbell
I don’t know how quite to phrase it. I just think that kind of like when Ken Williams talks about you got to move the can to the crown, not the crown. And so why am I automatically saying, okay, this is the classroom with this make up of kids, I’m going to automatically before I go in that room, decrease the magnitude of the numbers, take out any descriptive parts of the context and simplify things before I allow them to attempt what’s in there.

00;19;08;20 – 00;19;35;08
Melissa Campbell
And I don’t think that comes from a bad place. We as educators, we want children to be successful and we want them to like school. But I just feel like we have overdone it in that area. I guess to say that maybe we need to step back and reevaluate what’s in place and consider, is this a service or is this a disservice?

00;19;35;10 – 00;19;52;11
Jon Orr
I think you’re right. It comes from a place that teachers want to help, but then they I think they get obsessed. And this is, I think something that I am sure have thought along the way is how do I help the most the biggest group of students in the time that I have with them. And you start to generalize, right?

00;19;52;11 – 00;20;26;07
Jon Orr
So when you say I walk into a class and I’m like, you generally kind of do an assessment of like, Oh, this class is here and now I’m going to teach to the middle of the class in that middle might not be serving the people it needs to serve. So we’ve overgeneralize in a way because we are thinking we have the best practice, we have the best intentions, but in order for us to actually help the students that need the most help, we teach to that middle and we are missing, say the ends we miss the kids who are say need the help on their growth because they need to be challenged.

00;20;26;07 – 00;20;44;02
Jon Orr
But we also are missing the kids who need that help there. And we have that inequity. Right. That’s where I think a lot of teachers struggle with is how do I help the most amount of students in the time that I have with keeping a focus on equity and without kind of trying to teach to that middle, what have you seen?

00;20;44;02 – 00;20;58;20
Jon Orr
So far that helps to kind of get out of that type of thinking and kind of think about how do I help the individual versus the group? Because if we can get out of a group, think that’s where I think we get to more of a inequitable position when we’re teaching, right?

00;20;58;23 – 00;21;33;01
Melissa Campbell
So with an STI, we have done a lot of work and we’ve had some training from Dianne Sweeney and Jim Nye and then Marzano. So we have worked on developing proficient essay scales that are clear, that provide those clear levels of evidence or characteristics of what we should see at each point along the progression. And we have done a lot to use those with our coaches as they go into coaching cycles.

00;21;33;01 – 00;22;02;17
Melissa Campbell
How can they use these proficiency scales to determine goals for all the kiddos and help teachers rethink this? As a journey where, yes, this child may be a show. They’re at a level two today because of what they’re showing you, but this is just a point on their journey. So just kind of solidifying teacher understanding of what the standards really mean has helped them.

00;22;02;17 – 00;22;34;09
Melissa Campbell
I think to to better define expectations and then allowing it to have that evidentiary piece behind it where you kind of have because we are not to measure the kids and say, oh, well, you’re a too. But just to give teachers that tool to have a clear understanding of what growth towards that mastery or towards that standard might look like.

00;22;34;15 – 00;23;03;02
Kyle Pearce
Right. And to me, that sounds like a helpful step. And I wonder as well, there’s definitely something that pops into my mind as you were sharing some of the struggles, especially with this idea of maybe starting with almost rolling back the content to a point where we’re assuming students don’t bring any assets with them. And what popped into my mind as something maybe for you and your teams to think about is why are we doing that?

00;23;03;02 – 00;23;25;08
Kyle Pearce
And is that a misunderstanding of what a low floor is? Because oftentimes what you’ll see and you’ll see it in the work that we do, we often begin with a low floor, but we’re doing it in a very conceptual way where we’re going to start with that low flow to ensure all students can enter. But then it’s the high ceiling piece.

00;23;25;08 – 00;23;51;14
Kyle Pearce
And if we approach this from a very procedures first mindset, and I’m saying procedures first because I think a lot of teachers do want to eventually help kids understand why a procedure works. That tends to be what happens. They show a procedure. But the problem is if we focus on procedures first, what we tend to do is we work all the way back to the early beginnings of a procedure and then we just start making the numbers more challenging.

00;23;51;14 – 00;24;24;00
Kyle Pearce
You had mentioned picking easier numbers, but then you’re just working your way up. But there’s no actual rich task, There’s no problem solving happening. There’s no conceptual understanding that’s actually being developed. And what you really just get is a watered down experience. And I’m going to guess that time probably proves to be a challenge where they can’t get through the they eventually bump into a challenge on this procedural journey where they’re unable some students are unable to comply like you did in school and like I did and John did in school.

00;24;24;02 – 00;24;54;16
Kyle Pearce
And then they’re just falling off the wagon. And ultimately teachers are rinsing and repeating when they move forward. So my wonder might be, as some things to think about is sort of how leadership in your district and your organization might be able to assist educators in developing their own content knowledge. We often talk about the six parts of an effective math program and one that sometimes is hard to see on the surface are the roots of the tree.

00;24;54;16 – 00;25;17;09
Kyle Pearce
And that’s where teachers are really struggling when we’re asking them to ensure that the floor is low enough, but that we’re actually going to get to a place where the ceiling is high enough by the end of that learning goal or that learning target. And I would almost argue it’s impossible if I don’t have a clear understanding of the mathematics.

00;25;17;09 – 00;25;40;02
Kyle Pearce
Conceptually, it’s very challenging for me to be able to achieve that task if I’m going to try to do it procedurally. And then what it really just turns into is what appears to be a watered down, gradual release of responsibility sort of experience, right where the teacher’s starting with examples and then it’s let’s do some together and now you do it on your own.

00;25;40;04 – 00;26;14;08
Kyle Pearce
Well, if it’s not conceptual, even though I have lowered the floor procedurally, those students are going to run into some struggles because they’re still not conceptually understanding. They still don’t have that foundational understanding of why the trust in the mathematics hasn’t been developed there. And therefore those students are feeling like, I’m not the mathematician, right? They start to question If I’m not able to do the easy stuff, how am I going to do the quote unquote hard stuff when in reality, really what’s missing is this conceptual piece.

00;26;14;11 – 00;26;40;03
Kyle Pearce
So I want to flip it back to you and sort of based on what I’ve shared there, do you feel that the roots of the tree could potentially serve as a place for us to spend some time nurturing? Or maybe that work is already taking place and maybe just a continued attention in that area might be a good next step for you and your colleagues as you’re trying to help shift teacher practice in your area.

00;26;40;06 – 00;27;30;05
Melissa Campbell
Right. I would say it implies we kind of have a three pronged responsibility in that we provide resources, we provide onsite support, but then we also provide a lot of professional development. And within the past year or so, a year and a half, a lot of our professional development underwent a kind of tweak where we could ensure that each piece went deep enough with that smaller piece of content like operations with fractions instead of just fractions sets, so that a teacher who needs that piece of it is able to get it.

00;27;30;08 – 00;27;40;29
Melissa Campbell
So I feel we’ve been very deliberate with that. I think we’ve been very intentional. Maybe some I don’t know. You tell me that’s similar.

00;27;41;00 – 00;28;05;17
Kyle Pearce
Kyle Yeah, well, you know what? So what I’m hearing is that there is PD, there is some focus there. And I guess what we often do when we’re working with our district partners is we try to go from we started. So where we started this conversation was very big right? It’s like we’re at equity and then we got a little deeper, which means we sort of got a little more narrow.

00;28;05;17 – 00;28;29;11
Kyle Pearce
And then we started talking about how expectations, sions and deficit thinking sort of took over a little bit. And then we kind of went further down to realize that, Huh? Okay. So if I’m assuming some students aren’t bringing what they need with them, then I’m going to make the math easier. I’m going to roll back. Right. Which could be interpreted as lowering the floor.

00;28;29;11 – 00;28;53;03
Kyle Pearce
But in a procedural sense, it is one possibility. And if I’m doing some professional development and I start to go, okay, so we’ve been doing some work in these areas, I wonder if maybe moving forward or at least for a period of time, if you start looking at it and go, how do we help teachers specifically with rolling it back a little?

00;28;53;05 – 00;29;17;19
Kyle Pearce
But from a conceptual perspective, which means that might be and instead of just going deep and the one idea that one day’s topic or that one standard, it’s actually more of this progression that kind of roll back. And the beauty about this idea and this is something that you’ll have to kind of think about over your break is when you do this type of work, it actually your audience becomes more broad.

00;29;17;21 – 00;30;01;26
Kyle Pearce
Instead of just a specific grade level. And what I mean by that is that say I’m a grade six teacher and we’re working on proportional relationships and we’re heading towards linear relationship chips. The beauty is, is that when we lower the floor on a grade six task that focuses in on call it the Common Core standards around ratios and proportional or in proportionality, what it allows you to do is it actually allows you to do a workshop that actually shows what it looks like to bring it all the way back into that additive thinking world and what it looks like to actually cross the chasm from additive thinking to multiplicative thinking.

00;30;01;29 – 00;30;26;06
Kyle Pearce
And the beauty is, is that you could be agreed to teacher and gain a huge benefit from that learning because those grade two teachers are trying to bridge students from counting to additive thinking and they’re slowly getting towards multiplicative thinking. And your grade six, seven and eight teachers are going, Holy smokes, I have students that are stuck in the additive phase and they have an entered into the multiplicative phase yet.

00;30;26;08 – 00;30;51;16
Kyle Pearce
So it actually gives you an opportunity to kind of explore the mathematics from two lenses. So you get to look at it from a very we’ll talk about one specific concept, but then we get to look at it along that trajectory and we get to look at like, what might it look like in sound? Like How do we take the task that would help us to address this content standard for this particular grade level?

00;30;51;19 – 00;31;35;22
Kyle Pearce
And how do we actually reframe that task or begin that task a little earlier but not hinder us where we can’t get past it, where it actually allows and serves as an opening for that exploration so we can actually dig into this work and start stretching across that trajectory. And I might even argue that there’s some great, great things on our YouTube channel that might be worth exploring where we’ve taken some of these tasks, some of our make math moments problem based units are very, very strategically created and crafted in this way where you can take a concept and you could ultimately, even though we’ve set it for a specific intentionality, that you could actually

00;31;35;22 – 00;32;04;21
Kyle Pearce
sort of see the beginnings of the task and where that task is going and where you could actually stretch it too. And in doing that one, I say simple, it’s not. It sounds simple, but we know that it’s actually a lot of work. It’s a lot of repeated work, it’s a lot of practice, it’s a lot of iterating with educators by helping them to see that trajectory more clearly and actually unpacking it with them and doing it as often as we possibly can.

00;32;04;24 – 00;32;26;01
Kyle Pearce
What we start to see as we start to see that deficit mindset slowly shifting, because what will actually happen if we do this well is that we’ll actually start seeing some of those students who may have entered into our classroom where maybe they did have some challenges. Right. So the teacher isn’t wrong for some students. Some of those students are missing.

00;32;26;01 – 00;32;55;24
Kyle Pearce
Some of those key pieces where they went wrong is that they had no clue who it was and they assumed that everyone should start in this place in a very procedural end. But the beauty of doing it along a trajectory from a conceptual perspective is that it really opens the door for all students to get sort of another rep in the earlier grades and to build that conceptual understanding, kind of continue to add a little bit of support to that structure and it allows them to stretch a little bit further.

00;32;55;27 – 00;33;23;16
Kyle Pearce
But this experience is something that for so few of us as educators, we haven’t experienced it ourselves that we really do need to almost re-experience it through the professional learning. So I’ve said a lot there, and I know that it’s not sort of an overnight like, Hey, let’s go do that workshop tomorrow. But you had mentioned at the beginning that you were, you know, started getting ready and planning some of the pre that you’ll be doing in the new year.

00;33;23;19 – 00;33;34;05
Kyle Pearce
And I’m just wondering, based on what we’ve shared here, if that might have any ideas in it, any thoughts for you as you plan that work forward in terms of your next steps?

00;33;34;07 – 00;34;07;23
Melissa Campbell
Right. Well, it’s interesting what you just spoke of, because I actually just started partnering with one of our high school specialists, LaSalle Smith, who serves grades six through 12 at Duke five. But she has asked me to join with her in working with a group of teachers to look at some things vertically. So it’s really interesting that you said that we’ve met with them once and we did some problem solving tasks.

00;34;07;25 – 00;34;26;26
Melissa Campbell
And it was interesting what the fifth grade teacher thought they could and couldn’t do and then what the eighth and ninth grade teachers thought they themselves and their students could and couldn’t do. So that was a good day. I’m glad you brought that up.

00;34;26;29 – 00;34;53;14
Jon Orr
Yeah. So it sounds like you might want to explore that a little bit further and dig a little bit deeper to kind of build out how to do that at that deeper level with teachers, to kind of explore how do I go vertical, how do I break apart this so that I can look at the progression? Because that progression, like I said, is is the way to make that real change and also help those teachers see what their students can and can’t do, and also where can go next.

00;34;53;14 – 00;35;14;18
Jon Orr
It’s really kind of like that leveling off. I have to really understand where my students are, who my students are, what can they do so that I can provide the right guidance for the right time, which is really creating that equitable classroom. So, Melissa, I’m curious, we talked about a few different ideas. Sounds like you’ve a few next steps to take with you.

00;35;14;18 – 00;35;17;07
Jon Orr
What would you say is your take away from the chat?

00;35;17;13 – 00;35;51;05
Melissa Campbell
I’m still kind of stuck on the trajectory just because I’m mulling around in my mind that I feel like that happens a lot with maybe math vocabulary. We look at it vertically and we look at strategies or formulas or procedures vertically, but I’m really starting to think about how the word trajectory might not be closed, but more open and how I might approach that in a different way.

00;35;51;07 – 00;36;12;16
Jon Orr
Well, I think a good next step is we have a course inside of our online platform. We have a standalone course, it’s a 12 week course, but we built it for six weeks. It’s a course called the concept Holding Your Students Back. It’s completely designed around how to take one idea and show how it is vertically stretched to many different strands.

00;36;12;16 – 00;36;36;25
Jon Orr
And that one idea is proportions. How do we help with particularly proportions on the web that entangles the other strands? And how do I teach proportions? Well, but really because it’s about proportions, because it’s so well entangled with other strands and it goes into depth about where activities can I use, how do I think about those activities? The lessons learned there can be applied to any strand, any topic.

00;36;36;28 – 00;36;53;17
Jon Orr
And so I think a good first step is if we set you up with access to that course so that you could take a deep dive, go through the course, pull those key learnings just to apply to the teachers that you’re working with in yourself so that you have that sound foundation. And that’s the way we created it.

00;36;53;17 – 00;37;16;06
Jon Orr
We created it. So for teachers to have that sound foundation that can stretch to many different topics, many different ideas, but give you that sense of how do I think about a topic and how do I teach a topic so that it does hit all these different areas. So, Melissa, I think what we’ll do is after this calls over will send you some instructions on how to kind of create an account there and get access to it so that you can keep that learning going.

00;37;16;08 – 00;37;17;10
Jon Orr
Also, how does that sound?

00;37;17;15 – 00;37;20;28
Melissa Campbell
That sounds great. Awesome, awesome, great.

00;37;20;28 – 00;37;48;00
Kyle Pearce
Like, oh, no problem. I definitely agree with John on that one. That course was designed as a means to not only untangle, I would say one of the most important pieces in mathematics and I would say one of the biggest gatekeepers for so many students, because we do get into the weeds from counting the additive multiplicative of two ratios and rates to proportional relationships and beyond, and really show that.

00;37;48;00 – 00;38;13;24
Kyle Pearce
And the beauty is, is that when people go through it, not only does it enlighten them in that area, that specific content area, but like John said, not only you can apply the idea to other areas, but what it allows you to do as well is that educators tend to look at different concepts differently and they start to ask the question not that they know the answer necessarily, but they start to go, Where did this idea come from?

00;38;13;27 – 00;38;33;08
Kyle Pearce
And it’s that thinking if we can get all of our educators thinking that way, all of our math educators is not that we know the answers yet, but if we’re thinking that way, we can begin the work that’s necessary in order for us to be able to welcome all students and to kind of tie it up with a bow back to equity.

00;38;33;08 – 00;38;58;00
Kyle Pearce
If we don’t truly have that deep conceptual understanding of the mathematics, and more importantly, if we aren’t even aware of what that might look like or sound like, how do I engage in that learning? Then it makes our job incredibly challenging and would say even impossible to be able to offer a truly equitable and accessible experience for all individuals.

00;38;58;00 – 00;39;30;13
Kyle Pearce
So hopefully you enjoy that. For those math moment makers who are listening, if you’re curious about digging into that particular course, you can head to make math moments dot com forward slash purport tions and you will see all of the details for that particular course. Once again it’s make math moments dot com forward slash proportions and Melissa we want to thank you so much for your time here today and I’m wondering what would be your big takeaway from our conversation as you head off into the sunset?

00;39;30;20 – 00;39;38;10
Melissa Campbell
Oh, my goodness. Okay. You do splice this, right? Because my biggest one is that drones not as scary as I thought he would be.

00;39;38;12 – 00;39;42;29
Kyle Pearce
Oh, that’s hilarious. I love that.

00;39;43;02 – 00;39;43;25
Melissa Campbell
Let me put it this way.

00;39;43;29 – 00;39;45;04
Jon Orr
I didn’t know.

00;39;45;06 – 00;39;45;29
Kyle Pearce
I thought.

00;39;46;01 – 00;39;47;26
Melissa Campbell
He would be.

00;39;47;28 – 00;39;49;28
Kyle Pearce
That is hilarious.

00;39;50;00 – 00;40;30;00
Melissa Campbell
I just appreciate the chance to so often we’re so deep as a group in what we’re doing. Sometimes it helps to take that step back and talk to someone else who is not necessarily, I don’t want to say not doing what we’re doing, but not involved in our personal work, that we are able to see things in a different way to make needed changes or a change of direction and just to help me see things in a sometimes clearer way, I think and I definitely am ready to talk to LaSalle about how we approach this chance with this vertical group.

00;40;30;07 – 00;40;39;29
Melissa Campbell
We have an opportunity and I want to make sure it’s the best it can be. So that’s definitely something else I want to take with me.

00;40;40;02 – 00;41;06;13
Kyle Pearce
Fantastic. Well, listen, I appreciate the conversation here today. I appreciate your passion for math, education, and and so great to see you again in the digital world. I know the last time we had been in touch was in person. I want to wish you all the best here as you enter into 2024 and definitely let us know on social media how things are going and if there’s any places along the journey where you run into another roadblock.

00;41;06;18 – 00;41;13;07
Melissa Campbell
I most definitely will. So would it be permissible if I leave you with a quote from the book?

00;41;13;09 – 00;41;14;11
Kyle Pearce

00;41;14;13 – 00;41;37;28
Melissa Campbell
And this is actually not theirs. It’s actually Horace Mann. So it’s pretty old. But Horace Mann said that education is the great equalizer of the conditions of man, and it is the balance wheel of our social world or our social machinery. So hopefully I can find a way to better make that true.

00;41;38;01 – 00;41;41;27
Jon Orr
I think you can. I think you can. Thanks so much, Melissa. And enjoy your holiday and take care.

00;41;41;28 – 00;41;44;05
Melissa Campbell
Thank you so much. It was great.

00;41;44;08 – 00;42;07;02
Kyle Pearce
Well, in today’s episode there, John, it was great to have a conversation, a deep dive into a massive, massive conversation that really began with equity. And when the conversation begins with something as big and as lofty as equity, there are so many different directions that we can go because there is no simple answer and there is no simple first step.

00;42;07;04 – 00;42;44;13
Kyle Pearce
So you’ll notice as or you probably noticed as we had this conversation, we were really trying to whittle down to what is the next step for Melissa and the other individuals in her organization to try to figure out how do we move over that first hurdle, that next step in our equity journey? And while all six parts of an effective math program are heavily influenced by our approach to try to bring equity to the mathematics classroom, something that I’d like to highlight here is around the mindset, the beliefs of our mathematics program.

00;42;44;13 – 00;43;13;17
Kyle Pearce
There’s something that is really critical in getting all of our educators to actually believe in the shift that we’re trying to make. So we call that the sun, soil, water of our math program. These are things that you don’t necessarily see when you look at a healthy tree, but, you know, deep inside that they’re happening, right? You know that a healthy tree has an appropriate amount of sun, water and nutritious soil.

00;43;13;19 – 00;43;37;10
Kyle Pearce
And the same is true for equity to take place in a true, equitable, accessible environment in our mathematics programing and something I think we should all be thinking about is that first and foremost, all of our educators want the best for kids, right? They truly do. And really one of the biggest challenges that we face is that we all come from different experiences, just like our students in front of us.

00;43;37;10 – 00;44;01;12
Kyle Pearce
So when we talk about diversity and we talk about identity in math classrooms, we also have to think about the same for our educators that all had different experiences. We all come from different backgrounds, we all come from different socioeconomic experiences as well. And those experiences are what create our beliefs. And those beliefs are not things that we chose.

00;44;01;12 – 00;44;24;00
Kyle Pearce
They are things that we experienced. They are things sometimes are imposed on us by family or environment. And ultimately, in order for us to make a real difference in this area, we’re going to have to help more educators have these epiphanies so that they can see what it is that we’re trying to do when we read research around effective teaching practices.

00;44;24;00 – 00;44;41;17
Kyle Pearce
So for me, that’s the part of the tree that I’m hoping people are taking away. But I’m sure that each and every one of you are thinking of different parts and how they impacted you or influenced you from this conversation. John, how about you? What was sort of like lighting up when you looked at your math program? Tree Well, we.

00;44;41;17 – 00;45;17;03
Jon Orr
Chatted with Melissa. We came to the realization that the key is clearly to understand your student in a better way, to help understand your student and who they are and where they see themselves as mathematicians is also to strengthen the roots of your tree, which is understanding the mathematics itself so that you, when you recognize or you see where a student is on their journey and their connection to mathematics, you have that background knowledge, you have that understanding of where they are on that trajectory, that progression, and so that you can provide the right teaching at the right time.

00;45;17;06 – 00;45;45;16
Jon Orr
You heard us recommend one of our we call them our flagship programs, the concept Holding our students back, which is a six week program on how to teach and learn proportions. We show you all the activities you can use, also the how you teach it, the order of it, how it touches so many other strands in mathematics, and why it’s the most important or one of the most important topics to get right when you’re teaching from just additions all the way up to algebra.

00;45;45;16 – 00;46;07;22
Jon Orr
So it’s super important. We are inviting Melissa to join us in that course. You can also learn a little bit more of that course is the right fit for you and where you are on your journey. You can head on over to make math moments dot com or such proportions to check that course out. So Kyle, let’s say thank you to our listener here and we want you to know that we always are thinking about you as a listener because we want to thank you for listening here.

00;46;07;22 – 00;46;28;28
Jon Orr
And if you have listened to episodes before and you have not yet rated and reviewed the show, we appreciate that. Hit that button. Type it right in your phone right now and leave a rating and review. It would mean the world to us because it also helps that next teacher who’s struggling with say, a pebble and can help kind of solve that pebble for that teacher, which helps that group of students.

00;46;28;28 – 00;46;35;15
Jon Orr
So the more students that we can help, the better. So you are a huge piece of that puzzle. So we want to thank you for that.

00;46;35;22 – 00;46;39;07
Kyle Pearce
Well, until next time, have a moment. Make your friends. I’m Kyle Pierce.

00;46;39;07 – 00;46;40;00
Jon Orr
And I’m John.

00;46;40;00 – 00;46;42;29
Kyle Pearce
Or high Fives for us.

00;46;43;02 – 00;46;58;04
Jon Orr
At a high five for you.

Your Customized Improvement Plan For Your Math Classroom.
Take the 12 minute assessment and you'll get a free, customized plan to shape and grow the 6 parts of any strong mathematics classroom program.
Take The Free Assessment
District leader/math coach? Take the District Assessment

Thanks For Listening

To help out the show:


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.