Episode #271: The Crucial Role of Educational Leadership in Math – An Interview with Rob Baier

Feb 5, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

Curious about the transformative power of leadership in mathematics education? Ever felt the challenge of aligning your strategic plan when it seems like you’re constantly putting out fires? Join us in this episode where we unravel the critical importance of seeking support in leadership roles and dive into a conversation with Rob Baier, Executive Director of Mathematics and STEM at Pittsburgh Public Schools.

If you’re an educator navigating the complexities of coaching, consulting, or directing, this episode is your guide. Rob Baier, co-host of the Debate Math Podcast, shares insights on staying aligned to your strategic plan amidst chaos, the significance of andragogy in leading mathematics educators, and the key to optimizing coaching and professional learning models.

  • Gain a profound understanding of why seeking appropriate support is crucial for educators stepping into leadership roles.
  • Discover the transformative potential of andragogy in leading mathematics educators, offering a fresh perspective for educational leaders.
  • Uncover actionable insights on reviewing coaching models, ensuring they optimally serve educators, and staying aligned with district vision and strategic plans.

Ready to elevate your leadership game in mathematics education? Click now to listen and lead with newfound passion and impact. Don’t miss this chance to reshape your approach and empower both educators and students in your district!

What You’ll Learn:

  • Why it is important for mathematics educators to seek out the appropriate support to take on leadership roles such as coaching, consulting, supervising, directing, etc.;
  • Why mathematics leaders should consider studying and practicing andragogy in order to lead mathematics educators in their district; 
  • How reviewing your coaching and professional learning model on a regular basis will ensure it is optimally serving educators;
  • How reviewing your curriculum resource and ensuring it supports the teaching of mathematics in a way that aligns with your district vision is critically important;
  • How to stay aligned to your strategic plan for mathematics when you always feel like you’re putting out fires; and, 
  • As a leader how do we balance supporting teachers directly in a coaching role and trying to build capacity at scale in a district.

Attention District Math Leaders:

How are you ensuring that you support those educators who need a nudge to spark a focus on growing their pedagogical-content knowledge? 

What about opportunities for those who are eager and willing to elevate their practice, but do not have the support? 

Book a call with our District Improvement Program Team to learn how we can not only help you craft, refine and implement your district math learning goals, but also provide all of the professional learning supports your educators need to grow at the speed of their learning. 

Book a short conversation with our team now


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00;00;00;04 – 00;00;22;04
Rob Baier
Hey, can we talk? Leadership. I want to talk leadership. How do I lead people? Because I know now and you ask, like, how’s it going? I mean, I’m a year and a half in, and for the first seven or eight months, it was a struggle. It’s real. It was a struggle to try to figure out how to lead, how to be the leader that they need to be the leader that they deserve, and also one that’s willing to go.

00;00;22;10 – 00;00;46;03
Jon Orr
Are you curious about the transformative power of leadership in mathematics education? Ever felt the challenge of aligning your strategic plan when it seems like you’re constantly putting out fires? Join us in this episode where we unravel the critical importance of seeking support in leadership roles and dive into a conversation with Rob Beier, executive director of mathematics and STEM at Pittsburgh Public Schools.

00;00;46;05 – 00;01;15;18
Kyle Pearce
If you’re an educator navigating the complexities of coaching, consulting or directing, this episode is your guide. Rob Byer, co-host of the Debate Math podcast, shares insights on staying aligned to your strategic plan amidst Chaos. The significance of learning how to instruct mathematic educators and the key to optimizing coaching and professional learning models.

00;01;15;22 – 00;01;40;08
Jon Orr
Stick around and you’ll gain a profound understanding of why seeking appropriate support is crucial for educators stepping into leadership roles. You’ll discover the transformative potential of leading mathematics educators, offering a fresh perspective for educational leaders, and you’ll uncover actionable insights on review and coaching models ensuring they optimally serve educators and staying aligned with district visions and strategic plans.

00;01;40;11 – 00;02;15;26
Kyle Pearce
Ready to elevate your leadership game in Mathematics Education. Listen in and lead with newfound passion and impact. Don’t miss this chance to reshape your approach and empower both educators and students across your organization. Let’s go. Welcome to the Making Mouth Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pierce.

00;02;15;26 – 00;02;18;21
Jon Orr
And I’m John or we are from Ignite Moments. Dcop.

00;02;18;24 – 00;02;28;04
Kyle Pearce
This is the only podcast that coaches you through a six step plan to grow your mathematics program, whether at the classroom level or at the district level.

00;02;28;06 – 00;02;39;14
Jon Orr
And we do that by helping you cultivate and foster your mathematics program like strong, healthy and balanced tree. If you master the six parts of an effective mathematics program, your impact will grow and reach far and wide.

00;02;39;17 – 00;03;06;14
Kyle Pearce
Every week you’ll get the insight you need to stop feeling overwhelmed, gain back your confidence, and get back to enjoying the planning and facilitating of your mathematics program for the students or educators that you serve. All right, my friends, let’s dig in with Rob, our good friend and colleague. He’s back from episode, what, 54? Something crazy. 53. Let’s dive in with Rob right now.

00;03;06;16 – 00;03;34;23
Kyle Pearce
Hey. Hey there, Rob. Thanks for joining us again here on the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. Some of you might be thinking like, Rob, who this is? Rob, rewind over 200 episodes ago and Rob was with us on the podcast and we’ve been in touch and actually John and I have actually been on your podcast that you do with Chris Lesniak, and we’ve had a blast over there debating, arguing, defending, doing all kinds of great stuff.

00;03;34;23 – 00;03;48;21
Kyle Pearce
So definitely check out the Math Debate podcast for those who are listening. But we’re just happy to have you back here. Rob, tell us, how are things going down in Pittsburgh, assuming you’re still in Pittsburgh? I’m just assuming you’re still there.

00;03;48;23 – 00;04;09;12
Rob Baier
Yeah, still in Pittsburgh. Things are great. I’m glad that I’m back with you guys. It’s been a while. It has been a while. This podcast. Yeah, Absolute 54. Wow, That feels like ages ago. Especially because the journey I’ve been on since then has been a wild one. And then the debate, my podcast with Chris has been fantastic. It’s been one of my favorite things to do.

00;04;09;17 – 00;04;34;16
Rob Baier
It’s a passion that Chris and I have and things are going really well and we’re prepping right now for season three. That’ll come out in January. I don’t know when this will be released, so if it’s already past January, go back and listen to all of our episodes before that. I love it. But now I mean, we’re starting off with season three where there’s more heavier hitting math arguments that are happening in the world for math and bringing into it and to see where it goes.

00;04;34;18 – 00;04;42;00
Rob Baier
I don’t know if I’m going to do any more hotdogs and sandwiches for this season, but that that was awesome, though. That was still one of my favorites. Your girls are awesome.

00;04;42;00 – 00;04;45;14
Jon Orr
So awesome. Yeah, that was a blast.

00;04;45;16 – 00;04;47;23
Kyle Pearce
They’re still talking about it nowadays. You know?

00;04;47;23 – 00;05;06;26
Jon Orr
So. Exactly. If you’re not sure what we’re talking about, Kyle and I and our two daughters, each of us brought one of our daughters. I have three daughters, so I brought one of them. I picked the best one and then brought her on a sleeve as a hotdog, a sandwich. So each side took a stance. So we’ll put that in the show notes, a link to Rob and Chris’s podcast, The Debate Math Podcast.

00;05;06;26 – 00;05;25;15
Jon Orr
We had a blast doing that podcast. But Rob, the other thing we want you to do is fill us in a little bit too, because when we last chatted you were a classroom teacher and in episode 54 we talked about what an effective math block should look like and we talked all about that. But you’re right, that was like four or five years ago.

00;05;25;15 – 00;05;44;17
Jon Orr
So there’s been a lot has changed since then with you. We know that you are newly in the role or I guess a year and a half maybe now in the role of K12 executive director for Science STEM at the Pittsburgh Public Schools. So fill us in a little bit about that role itself and we’d love to dig in.

00;05;44;17 – 00;06;07;21
Jon Orr
What are some of the things that you’re working with on a regular basis in that role? Because I think most of our listeners or a lot of our listeners are in say that leadership role of either their school or at the district level or at the division level, or are they’re just classroom leaders amongst the peers that they work with on a regular basis and would love to kind of get a sense of what does that look like, what does that journey look like?

00;06;07;21 – 00;06;14;09
Jon Orr
What are the things that we should know if we want to move into that role or move up into those supporting positions, give us a snapshot.

00;06;14;11 – 00;06;31;03
Rob Baier
Yeah. So way back when I was first on the podcast, I think it was I was either a classroom teacher or just out and maybe doing some consulting and coaching type things for an educational service agency that I was with for like four and a half years. And then this role was open for like a while, probably about two years ish.

00;06;31;04 – 00;06;57;20
Rob Baier
It was open and I kept looking at it and going, maybe I could do this. I mean, I feel like I have a good skill set. I was successful as a classroom teacher. I was having some pretty good success as a as a consultant slash coach for this educational service agency that was working as like an intermediary between the state and the school districts and like really supporting like 25 districts in Southwest P.A. And I felt really good about my skill set.

00;06;57;22 – 00;07;17;27
Rob Baier
So, yeah, I’ll try this. And I applied. I went through a couple interviews and I got hired and I didn’t have a direct or chief academic officer. What, like she wasn’t there yet. So there was a transition there for leadership. We also transitioned as superintendent for leadership. So I kind of got into the role and there wasn’t the role wasn’t there for two years.

00;07;17;27 – 00;07;31;16
Rob Baier
And there’s also nobody leading it really at the time. So I just kind of had to figure it out. So I lean back on what I did as a consult and I thought, Hey, I’m really good at working with teachers and working with principals and this will be cake. I’ll just go out, I’ll be in school all the time.

00;07;31;16 – 00;07;50;19
Rob Baier
This would be fantastic. Well, we are 54 buildings and they range from we have five buildings, K buildings, six, eight buildings, 612 buildings, nine, 12 buildings. I think here and we’re over 20,000 kids. It took me a year to figure out I probably can’t go into every building all the time and just do math. But you try overseas.

00;07;50;19 – 00;07;52;24
Rob Baier
You try. Initially I did. I got out.

00;07;52;28 – 00;07;58;06
Jon Orr
Like I said, I’m going to hit this network. I’m going to hit this one. I’m going to hit this one. That’s my goal. I’m going to get in every building.

00;07;58;10 – 00;08;15;25
Rob Baier
I had a schedule. It was color coded by parts of the city. I was like, Oh, I’m going to go here. I want to meet with that principal and do this. And it’s a system that it’s so large. I didn’t know how large it was going to be and like how tough it was going to be. And then on top of that, I oversee science and STEM as well.

00;08;15;25 – 00;08;40;00
Rob Baier
And so then I have to also lean into our science standards have changed in Pennsylvania. So we are in the process of shifting everything there. We had to go through a textbook adoption for that for STEM. We’re trying to push more robotics and computer science, especially for our K-5 and it got to be where I didn’t realize that the skills that I had, I needed to evolve it and it was a journey for sure.

00;08;40;06 – 00;09;04;13
Kyle Pearce
I love it. I love it. I’m brought back to my experience. I spent close to a decade in a while, first coaching and then K through 12 consulting role, so similar role, but for mathematics specifically. And in my district it was 71 schools, high school, mostly K to eight and then 9 to 12. But we had some K to 12 and we had a couple of middle and that sort of thing.

00;09;04;13 – 00;09;27;28
Kyle Pearce
So similar, your story is kind of I’m seeing it something that’s I remember is thinking about, yeah, I’m going to try to get to everywhere. And then when you just do the simple math, you start to recognize that you’re like, Oh, even in one building? Or if I got into one building, how do I get to all the important stakeholders that I want to meet with?

00;09;27;28 – 00;09;58;06
Kyle Pearce
Right? So this is a challenge that so many people have. And the part that I mentioned we were briefly discussing before we hit record today is this idea that we get put into these positions, but nothing that we’ve actually done ahead of that has actually prepared us for how to deal with that logistically. Right? So it’s like if you could just take all those schools and kind of put them all together in one building all year long, we might be able to make some moves here and make some waves.

00;09;58;06 – 00;10;29;12
Kyle Pearce
But just the logistical nightmare of trying to get here and there and who’s ready for you and who’s available this day and who’s ready that day. It’s an incredibly difficult situation. So I guess what I’m wondering, you mentioned evolving, and I think that’s a great word to describe it, because when we’re working with school districts, we’re working with their district leadership team, oftentimes that’s what we’re discussing, is that unfortunately, people enter in oftentimes into these roles and it is an evolution.

00;10;29;19 – 00;10;50;11
Kyle Pearce
But the question then becomes is how long is it going to take us to engage in that evolution where we can get to a place where there’s a tipping point, where there’s real momentum that starts, we call it you feel like the wheels are stuck in the mud and it’s something that’s a really hard thing to do, especially without proper support.

00;10;50;11 – 00;11;17;08
Kyle Pearce
So I guess I want to go back to you and say, what would you say is maybe well, I guess how is that going so far? But then also, what would you say is sort of the greatest support that you’ve either received or sought out in order for you to nudge that evolution a little bit further down the line instead of just sort of waiting for it to sort of organically happen over time through just time and experience.

00;11;17;10 – 00;11;40;28
Rob Baier
Well, so it’s interesting because as I thought about this journey and even getting into being an executive director, as I reflect, it’s not really much different than when you leave college. University and get into teaching where you’re not really prepared, but you’re prepared in the perfect world of the textbook. And then you get in and life happens and you’re like, Whoa, I need to learn real quick.

00;11;41;01 – 00;12;06;23
Rob Baier
These kids are real people. They’re in front of me. I need to figure this out and do what’s best for them. And then as you continue that journey and you get into maybe building level administration or even before that, if you get into being like a coach of some kind, like a math coach or an academic coach for a district, that’s a different skill set because now you’re training adults and you haven’t taken classes on Andrew Goji and how to screen adults because they learn in a certain manner and it’s different.

00;12;06;23 – 00;12;28;29
Rob Baier
So then you move into good level administration and you’re taking courses, but nobody really prepares you for those hard conversations you have with whether it’s teachers who are facing an angry parent or union issues or whatever. So each have their own thing. So as I got into this, I have some people that are friends of mine throughout the years that were professional friends, that had become friends, who were superintendents.

00;12;29;01 – 00;12;50;04
Rob Baier
They have moved into the system. The executive director, executive director, roles, people I trust, people who are true leaders that reach out to them and hey, can we talk leadership? I want to talk leadership. How do I lead people? Because I know now and you ask like, how’s it going? I mean, I’m a year and a half in and for the first seven or eight months, it was a struggle.

00;12;50;08 – 00;13;07;19
Rob Baier
It’s real. It was a struggle to try to figure out how to lead, how to be the leader that they need to be the leader that they deserve. And also one that’s willing to go the battle to do what’s right for kids. And the other thing I found is that as you move into these roles, please don’t forget why you got into education.

00;13;07;19 – 00;13;23;25
Rob Baier
Start with you got into education for kids. So even though the further removed you are from the classroom and I’ve seen it happen, happens way too many times where people forget that we’re here for kids. And as long as you can keep that focus on kids, you’re going to continue to want to get better because it’s about the kids.

00;13;23;28 – 00;13;44;20
Rob Baier
So like for me, I have turned my academic coaches, three math coordinators, science supervisor, a science coordinator and a steam coordinator who all report to me. And there’s a variety of different things that are happening amongst our district. I had to learn pretty quickly that our coaching model wasn’t working. We have ten coaches, they had three buildings each.

00;13;44;22 – 00;14;00;26
Rob Baier
Do a quick math, there’s 54 buildings. So we had schools that weren’t being served. So then we had the changes. So we had to think outside the box and change it. So that was a passion of mine. We have an outdated or curriculum resource. We need to update that. We need to change that, we need to find something new so science or standards are changing.

00;14;00;26 – 00;14;22;01
Rob Baier
We need to change that. So it’s like finding things that, you know, they’re big, that you have to change and how does that change occur? It’s a systemic thing. And so I lean on people that have done it. I lean on superintendents of the area. I lean on building leaders who can lead people who can get them to buy in, and then really going down the road or going down the wormhole go quick.

00;14;22;03 – 00;14;47;24
Rob Baier
So my current boss, my chief academic officer, we talked this summer about women and girls leadership frames and there’s four leadership frames and there’s structural, there’s political, there’s human resources, and they’re symbolic. And we really do have any of these four leadership frames on how to lead people, because sometimes there’s four of them and sometimes you dip into one deeper than the other, depending on the situation.

00;14;48;00 – 00;14;57;22
Rob Baier
That was something I really had to learn because I was all human resource. I was all about people, Hey, people, people, people. But then my structure wasn’t always there, so I didn’t learn how to do the build the structure right.

00;14;57;28 – 00;15;23;06
Jon Orr
Through, totally through. I love that because when we often get in these roles, it’s like a lot of people don’t have anyone to turn to. It sounds like you had a great support network to turn to the superintendent or this professional friend that gave you some of that insight in leadership to strengthen your own skills. And I think that that’s great because I think there’s a lot of people who are like, I got here because I was tapped on the shoulder as a great teacher, but now I’m like, Ooh, now what?

00;15;23;07 – 00;15;41;08
Jon Orr
Where is my professional development? Where is for me to learn how to be a leader? And I think that’s great for you for sure. Was there any other learning say that you did that? See someone else could replicate? Like, is there a book that you’d recommend? I know that you just talked about the fourth leadership frame. Super important.

00;15;41;10 – 00;16;02;12
Jon Orr
Is there any other resources that you’d recommend do so? A person who’s stepping into this role for the first time or they’re in this role and it’s a year in and they’re like, I’m struggling here or I’m not sure if I’m making a dent, but I’m like, I just want to grab something and go like, maybe I can read this or maybe I can listen to this, or maybe I can reach out to this person.

00;16;02;12 – 00;16;10;15
Jon Orr
What other other resources do you recommend going through this? Because it sounds like you’ve got a plethora of knowledge around building the skill up.

00;16;10;18 – 00;16;26;15
Rob Baier
In terms of reading outside of that leadership frame book. I didn’t do a ton of reading. I tried to dive into podcasts and I didn’t find anything that really helped as much. So there’s nothing I can speak to on that. I was trying to read some things and nothing hit me where I needed to be hit at the time, right?

00;16;26;15 – 00;16;48;16
Rob Baier
So there’s some stuff that I just nothing was sticking and everything that I heard or read, it wasn’t right for the situation. With that said, though, leaning on people who we all have like an ecosystem of great leaders around us or people around us, and I learned just as much as from from people that I didn’t see as great leaders as I do from people who I see as great leaders.

00;16;48;22 – 00;17;17;29
Rob Baier
So you see people that throughout the years, whether it’s I mean, people I’ve worked with or around them, like I wouldn’t have handled that situation that way. And then I talk through like how I would have handled that situation. One of my greatest things was I had a friend that during this time because it was a struggle and during the time we would talk two or three or four times a week and he was a building leader and we would just talk structures and talk people and leadership and we would have deep conversations most mornings about leadership, they help.

00;17;18;03 – 00;17;33;19
Rob Baier
They help to talk through scenarios and hear somebody, a voice of reason. I think that’s beneficial. I think there are other things out there that maybe people might find. I know you guys do a lot with building leaders, and I unfortunately didn’t stumble upon your stuff until much later.

00;17;33;22 – 00;17;55;24
Kyle Pearce
That’s okay. We were probably all kind of doing some of that learning alongside one another, you know, kind of digging down the rabbit hole because just to kind of reiterate what you were saying, it is very difficult to find available. There’s so many classroom resources out there, right? I mean, there are so many educators out there. So lots of people are sharing, lots of ideas are being shared.

00;17;55;27 – 00;18;19;08
Kyle Pearce
But when it comes to actually making change systemically, it is there’s research and we lean on the research and you read and you do those sorts of things. Maybe you get lucky and at a conference or maybe ask for the supervisors. There’s things that are more along with change, organizational change and such. But ultimately it really for us took a really long time.

00;18;19;08 – 00;18;45;18
Kyle Pearce
And a lot of I’ll say just really call it experimentation evolving, as you would say, and trying and failing and trying and failing and trying and getting a little better. But failing and continuing to kind of refine. And where I think we’ve learned the greatest amount has been through our working with various district partners that we have the opportunity to work with and seeing where the common challenges are.

00;18;45;19 – 00;19;04;03
Kyle Pearce
Right, Because sometimes you get stuck in your own world, even though you’re in a district of 50 plus schools, you were saying, or 70 plus schools like I was experiencing. And you sort of wonder, is this everywhere or is that just here? Is it because of how many schools I have or is it because of the neighborhood that we’re in or the socioeconomics?

00;19;04;09 – 00;19;27;04
Kyle Pearce
All of these questions and something that we’ve gained a significant amount is through assisting different districts. We’ve had this opportunity to kind of get this supercharged evolution. And that’s really what we try to help different districts with, is trying to help them sort of recognize what our common struggles that other people are seeing and other districts seeing big and small.

00;19;27;07 – 00;19;53;15
Kyle Pearce
And then what are some things and some approaches, some ways that people are trying to approach this. So I would love to hear in kind of rolling back to you were talking about for leadership frames and this idea around human resources or human capital. And I think we are all maybe attracted to that area specifically because we know that, hey, teachers, people make the biggest difference right on students.

00;19;53;15 – 00;20;23;18
Kyle Pearce
So we focus there quite a bit and then we might get into a coaching role where if it’s a strong coaching program or structure, that you have this opportunity to work with a group of educators. Once again, it’s people with people. But as you get bigger and as your role sort of starts managing so many different people and you start to recognize that I can’t actually go and be with individual educators all the time in every building.

00;20;23;21 – 00;20;32;29
Kyle Pearce
I’m wondering how did you come to terms with that? And then I guess, how has that shifted what you were doing, your initial thought of I’m going to be the hero.

00;20;32;29 – 00;20;34;18
Jon Orr
Balance is important too. I feel like.

00;20;34;18 – 00;20;51;23
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, absolutely. Because I think we all, even though we don’t feel this way, but ultimately you look at yourself and you put this weight on your shoulders as if you’re going to go in and you’re going to save the day, even though not because of an ego thing, but just because you want to go do the work and you’re so passionate about doing the work.

00;20;51;25 – 00;21;16;07
Kyle Pearce
So I guess my question for you is what sort of helped you to recognize that? Okay, that’s not going to be realistic given the current structure. And what was, I suppose, your next step in determining what you would do that could actually provide a better opportunity for people to learn, given the structure and the situation that you’re in, in your organization?

00;21;16;10 – 00;21;37;01
Rob Baier
So when I started to really read and learn about the four leadership frames and that was back in the spring as we were going into the summer, I was doing a lot of reading about it and they talk about how sometimes when you’re dancing on a dance floor and you see people making all the moves and you’re down there, you’re seeing what’s happening while you’re down on the ground floor.

00;21;37;06 – 00;21;50;16
Rob Baier
Sometimes you need to go up to the balcony, and when you go up to the balcony and you kind of get to see the whole picture and see how the parts are moving together and as you’re seeing how the parts are moving together, that’s when you can see if there’s one part that’s not moving with the other parts.

00;21;50;19 – 00;22;09;27
Rob Baier
So in terms of balance, like John said, trying to zoom out and look like I’m not nearly close to being an expert, I’m still on this journey. I’m still early on a journey, but it’s something that I’ve tried to check myself often. Every situation, every conversation, even from emails that you send and from documents that you’re building, you have to be able to tap into each one.

00;22;09;27 – 00;22;27;05
Rob Baier
What does this look like in terms of like, should I get more stakeholder engagement here? Okay, what’s this rollout look like and what’s the structure look like? Right. So, for instance, the coach model and this is going to be kind of time back to our previous question, but also this one. So I saw that the coach model needed to be changed.

00;22;27;10 – 00;22;46;27
Rob Baier
It wasn’t something that all schools would have access to a math coach, and so we needed to change that up. But we need to be able to make it a little bit more focused So all the thing coaches looking at their certifications, I now have five K-5 math coaches, three, six, eight math coaches and two 912 coaches and they each have five or six schools.

00;22;46;27 – 00;23;01;23
Rob Baier
But when they go in the K building, I have a coach specifically for K five, but we all go in for all five. We’re going in for like, Hey, we’re gonna look at third and fourth grade today. That may be two teachers in that building, but that was a structure I needed to build. And where did I come up with that?

00;23;01;23 – 00;23;26;04
Rob Baier
Where how did I get that? Well, learning from going to conferences and meeting people and starting to talk to people. And I’ll be honest, the whole coaching model, I’m going to give her all the credit because she got my brain on this. From Crystal Watson in Cincinnati, because Crystal was a coach. She’s now an assistant principal. But I knew Crystal was a coach and I saw at CMC South two years ago, I said, Hey, I have a question about Coach you, how many buildings do you have?

00;23;26;04 – 00;23;45;15
Rob Baier
And she’s like 63. How many coaches do you have? She said to hold on. I thought I had about, So how do you do this? And then she shared their model and it was it’s almost on demand but focused. You go in, you have very specific things that we’re working on a specific teacher or this teacher is like, Hey, I really want to try something.

00;23;45;18 – 00;24;12;04
Rob Baier
Can you come in like coach with me or model or whatever it is? But it’s a whole process. And so I took that. But again, it’s the structural part. I knew I had to make sure this thing was solid. And we’re talking in December, three weeks ago, two weeks ago, I went back to my structure is we’re in year one of implementation and found some holes and found some things in terms of are we keeping track of our coaching cycles to ensure that it actually flows.

00;24;12;08 – 00;24;30;11
Rob Baier
It’s working. So I had to go back into that. But the human resource part, I got my coaches to buy in, like by asking their thoughts what would work and they started sharing out like this is what would work. And that’s a little bit of the political frame to that back and forth jockeying power. But really it was like, I want to hear their voice because they’ve been doing it.

00;24;30;13 – 00;24;34;13
Rob Baier
So what’s working and what’s not? And let’s see if we can build something together.

00;24;34;15 – 00;25;00;09
Jon Orr
I love it. I love it because you touched on so many great aspects of designing an effective mathematics program at a district level from structure to having that we call it kind of like the ground floor or grassroots movement of helping design what you want your math programs to look like. But from that teacher level. So everyone has that buy in the goal, like, Hey, we’re all working towards this because we all want to.

00;25;00;09 – 00;25;18;20
Jon Orr
You said you wanted this, we’re going to build that. And I love that you’re using that as part of your structure. When you think about Kyle and I often talk about six parts of an effective tree that represents the district program and in we always call the limbs of our tree our structure. This is like, how many coaches do we have?

00;25;18;20 – 00;25;38;27
Jon Orr
How do we utilize those? What’s the optimization in that way? Are we best using that model or we should be using this model? You’re already thinking about your limbs and your optimizing your limbs of your tree. Amazing. From the work that we’re doing, most districts that we talked to, you need help very initially on the trunk of the tree, which is what we call the leadership of the tree.

00;25;38;27 – 00;26;03;01
Jon Orr
So this is our vision and we’re like, what do we want from mathematics? What are we aiming towards for mathematics? And I think there’s lots of work to be done around trying that aim and thinking about our goals. What do we want to see happen at the end of this year? What are our big objectives? We helped shape that with districts, and so we always get districts that are trying to do so many things and it’s like I got a lot of things and juggle.

00;26;03;02 – 00;26;25;03
Jon Orr
I was like, I’ll do that. I got to do that and I got to do that. And I’m like, I really wanted to do this this year and I’m on my pace to hitting that or not. And sometimes we’re like, because we’re in the thick of it, we’re not sure. So what would you say if you’re thinking about the trunk of our tree and trying to aim our goals or the work we’re doing to hit these goals by the end of the year, a lot of districts are going like, I don’t think I’m on track.

00;26;25;06 – 00;26;37;15
Jon Orr
What are you doing in your district to kind of like, right the ship or go like these are the things we set for the year and we’re on track or not on track. What are some of the techniques you’re using right now to kind of keep the ship straight?

00;26;37;17 – 00;27;01;23
Rob Baier
I wrote a strategic plan last year. I sat down, I wrote it, and and again, this is before I knew better. I read about myself. I brought in a bunch of information learning. Okay, what do I envision for Pittsburgh, for math? What do I want to see happen? And I started jotting a bunch of things down. And then what I ended up doing was I was like, okay, I can’t do all things at once, so let’s do it in phases, Let’s chunk it.

00;27;01;23 – 00;27;23;17
Rob Baier
What are some things in the first three or four months I think are feasible? What’s that look like? Who Who’s involved, what kind of training needs to happen and what kind of conversations are going to have to happen? And then what’s phase two look like? What’s phase three look like? I try to map it out for about three years and about a month ago, because I hadn’t looked at it for over the summer, I didn’t look at it really.

00;27;23;17 – 00;27;41;10
Rob Baier
And then like we really dove into, we just are ending a textbook adoption, which was part of the strategic plan. And I said, you know, I’m curious where where I stand with my strategic plan. I haven’t missed it. I haven’t missed anything. It’s everything that we’re doing. We’re still on pace for what we want to do and what we want to accomplish.

00;27;41;13 – 00;27;57;19
Rob Baier
But it was really hard. And I you said like, Oh, there’s this thing, there’s this thing, there’s this thing, there’s this thing. When I first got in there, I felt like a fire. There’s that fire. Org up with that, there’s that fire. I going to put that up and instead of reacting, I’m going to be proactive and try to avoid something.

00;27;57;22 – 00;28;19;07
Rob Baier
And sometimes it takes a pretty large fire for you to go, okay, why did that occur and occurred? Because the system wasn’t in place for that to be successful. So let’s build that system. Let’s get proper communication now. Let’s make sure that everybody’s on the same page. And no, it’s not perfect. It’s work in progress. Always. That strategic plan was massive for me and being able to talk it through with.

00;28;19;07 – 00;28;35;10
Rob Baier
And then once I had it, I talked it through with my team, my core math team, that part of me. And I said, So what do you think? Are these feasible? And I had some very reasonable voices on my team and they’re like, True, sure, we can do all that right? Then we might want to like move that to the second phase.

00;28;35;12 – 00;28;54;20
Rob Baier
And they were right. It’s interesting because I have a wonderful group. I’m telling you, I have a wonderful group of people and I got very lucky and I’m very blessed to have the group of people I have who are reasonable voices. But they all come from different. They all have different ideas. And listening to their ideas and trying to put it all together is huge too.

00;28;54;20 – 00;29;15;06
Rob Baier
So like I had that strategic plan, but they continue to add to like, Hey, we really should look into this. Let’s look at that grading policy. What’s our stance on calculators? There hasn’t really been one. And what does that look like? And of course, catalog. Why do we have so many Algebra one offerings and how do we streamline this and make sure that everything’s aligned and are for resources?

00;29;15;06 – 00;29;38;11
Rob Baier
Why do we have a resource that’s in science? We had a resource that was 20 years old and needed to be replaced, so we replaced it then. So there’s a lot of that going on. But having really good people who you have to build them now, it’s tough. You have to allow them to lead themselves and like, Hey, this is something I want for K five mathematics, I want this for K-5 mathematics.

00;29;38;13 – 00;29;51;29
Rob Baier
Okay, so how are we going to do that in asking those questions I find is huge for leaders. Okay, so you brought me something you want to do. How do you think we can accomplish that? So instead of me being the all knowing which I walked in trying to do.

00;29;52;01 – 00;29;53;14
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, as many of you know.

00;29;53;14 – 00;30;15;06
Rob Baier
Yes. And more. Yeah, I’m trying to listen more. How do you think we can accomplish that? And if I hear a well, I don’t know. Okay, well, go think about it and let’s talk in like a day and let’s try to figure this out together. I’m okay with that. Now it’s becoming they bring a problem with solutions or they bring a situation like, Hey, I think we can rectify this by doing it this way.

00;30;15;08 – 00;30;17;07
Rob Baier
Yeah. Okay. Well, it sounds like.

00;30;17;10 – 00;30;36;04
Kyle Pearce
A ton of things that you just said. They’re kind of I’m hoping to touch on at least a couple of them, and I’ll go all the way back to, first off, the fact that you did spend the time crafting a strategic plan. And I’m sure it evolved much like this idea of evolving in a leadership role happens over time.

00;30;36;04 – 00;30;59;03
Kyle Pearce
But by taking that time and thinking it through and starting that journey and then continuing to come back to it is a really important piece. So kudos to you for that. I think a lot of leaders and a lot of organizations will try to create. They know they’re supposed to do that sort of thing, but oftentimes it’s almost like not to do that.

00;30;59;06 – 00;31;22;21
Kyle Pearce
It’s a checklist item. We’re going to set this and in a way, it’s like set and forget we’re going to set it because we’re supposed to. And then at the end of this year, we’re going to realize that, shoot, we didn’t get anywhere near any of these things. And probably just start from scratch again next year. Right. Or somebody new comes into a leadership role, a supervisor, whatever it might be, and off we go and rinse and repeat.

00;31;22;21 – 00;31;42;17
Kyle Pearce
And something you said, though, you said, you know, you did it alone and it almost suggested as though you’re like maybe that you might have done it slightly differently in the future. The one thing, though, that I heard you do is that whether you do it alone, right, which I think it’s worthwhile exercise for people to do it alone, to see what you came up with.

00;31;42;19 – 00;32;01;03
Kyle Pearce
And then from there you get to decide what happens with it, right? Like, is it something that we then go and try to replicate it and try to do it as a group or as a team, or do I present some ideas as a starting point? But the one thing that I think was really critical for you is that you invited your team in to have that voice, right?

00;32;01;03 – 00;32;28;01
Kyle Pearce
And you’re talking about developing these great people. They’re great people out of the box. But the one thing that doesn’t happen if the leader of the group doesn’t give them the opportunity to own what’s going on and provide that feedback, provide that voice, that ownership, that authentic sort of responsibility, that they want to own this work and then do this work sort of doesn’t really happen.

00;32;28;01 – 00;32;50;23
Kyle Pearce
So kudos again to you for engaging in that way. And I have this funny feeling that your relationship with your team only gets stronger. It sounds like you’re building a lot of relational trust there and because you’re giving them that voice, they’re going to give you that voice and they’re going to give you their best rate. And ultimately, it’s just a win win for everyone, right?

00;32;50;23 – 00;33;09;19
Kyle Pearce
And ultimately, at the end, who wins? It’s going to be the students that win. So I’m wondering here, we could chat with you all night about this. We were chatting earlier before we had record that we should just bring you on for a bunch of episodes in a row here. But we know that things are busy in your world and we certainly don’t want to keep you here all night.

00;33;09;19 – 00;33;32;00
Kyle Pearce
So a question I have for you then is what would you say is your next step in this leadership journey? It sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress. You’ve evolved to your district. It sounds like it’s evolving along this journey as you grow your math tree, as we call it. Right. Those six parts of an effective math program, what would be your next step?

00;33;32;00 – 00;33;35;09
Kyle Pearce
And I guess for either you, your district or your team?

00;33;35;10 – 00;33;54;11
Rob Baier
Well, my team and I, we talk all the time and we talk structures and things like that. The one thing I put in place going into this school year, which I did not have in year one, were regular meetings with my team. So biweekly every other week I meet with them one on one and we set our own little goals.

00;33;54;11 – 00;34;12;18
Rob Baier
We talk about the leadership frames like that’s something I’m bringing to them because they’re district leaders as well. And then on the alternating weeks meet as a team. So I have I’m meeting with them often and we’re looking into the future of like, okay, what are we going to do? What we need to work on, what we’re going to be working on now is monitoring what we’re doing.

00;34;12;20 – 00;34;34;25
Rob Baier
If we’re looking at the coach work, being able to monitor and adjust or monitor and and continue to if it’s working, we need to come up with a way to effectively determine whether or not what we’re doing is effective. And that’s incredibly hard. There’s not a simple answer to that. And the more you look at data, the more data looks right back at you and goes, guess what?

00;34;34;25 – 00;34;37;23
Rob Baier
There’s more of us. So you have to say, okay.

00;34;37;27 – 00;34;39;06
Kyle Pearce
What do you think this is?

00;34;39;12 – 00;35;08;23
Rob Baier
Yeah, yeah. And they’re kind of starting from everywhere, right? And you have this program, you have this assessment, you have I mean, and there’s all these different things. So trying to figure out a way that’s going to work for us to monitor and adjust is one major thing that we have moving forward. The second thing, and hopefully this ties in with a lot of the listeners we’re about to I guess depending on when you listen to this, by the end of January, we’re going to have hopefully board approval on a new K to a core curriculum resource textbook.

00;35;08;25 – 00;35;26;16
Rob Baier
There’s a lot that goes on for anybody listening. It is not just, hey, we got this. All right, here you go. Please don’t just hand it to your teachers. Please don’t do that. Right. Literally, we are starting here in a couple days and we’re focused. Our our planning hasn’t been board approved yet, but we need to start the planning.

00;35;26;20 – 00;35;41;10
Rob Baier
How are we going to implement this? How are we going to roll this out? When can we get the materials from the teachers? All the technology piece of it. We have single sign on access. Do we have it with psychology? Do we have it with our student information system? Does it collaborate with that? What about our English language learners?

00;35;41;10 – 00;35;59;09
Rob Baier
What about our special education department and how do they fit in? And so we’re going have to sit down and kind of make our own little mini strategic plan on the rollout and the implementation select thing. As difficult as my team might have thought it was at one point, that was easy. Yeah. Yeah. The implementation.

00;35;59;12 – 00;36;02;13
Kyle Pearce
This is when the real happening begins. Yeah.

00;36;02;13 – 00;36;20;00
Rob Baier
Yeah. There’s two things because we have, you know, the coaching model. We want to make sure that that’s being effective. But then we also have this very large thing dangling over our heads right now about with the new textbooks. That was first time we’ve had new corporation resources in seven years. So it’s time and it’s going to be a shift in mindset.

00;36;20;00 – 00;36;27;03
Rob Baier
It’s going to be a shift in how we teach. And then once that gets rolled out and it’s again, going back to the monitoring phase.

00;36;27;05 – 00;36;47;29
Jon Orr
Yeah, I’m going to say what I love about in two ways are two things I love. What I love is how you’re systematically thinking about all of these pieces as like, here’s the CEO kind of going like, These are all my moving pieces. And you’re saying, Look, we have to get the coaching model right before we bring in the curriculum, because if we don’t, then that’s going to be a mess.

00;36;47;29 – 00;37;09;14
Jon Orr
It’s like we don’t have this rolling the way we need it to roll. Then how are we going to support this when this comes in? So I love that you’re thinking about all of those pieces instead of just going like, You’re right, we need that and we need that and we need that. And I think that’s the other part that so many I said this before is like so many districts struggle with deciding on what’s important and then sticking to it.

00;37;09;16 – 00;37;30;16
Jon Orr
But thinking about we always reference the districts we work with is like, let’s decide on some big objectives. So these are the big things that you want to strive for. And then let’s set measurable key results that you can hit this year, next year, and these are the things you want to work towards, but the key thing is measuring that sounds like you’ve got that monitoring in place, that measuring in place, that part.

00;37;30;16 – 00;38;03;10
Jon Orr
I think most districts are missing and it sounds like you’re well on your way to like making that happen. And I love that about the work that you’re doing. Rob, if you could leave the listener today with one big idea and we’ve been talking all about district leadership structuring, you talked about the four pieces as well of leading and leadership, but what would you say if you’re talking to a leader right now who’s math coach but also maybe in your position at, say, another school district, What would be the big idea you want to leave them with from this conversation?

00;38;03;13 – 00;38;34;09
Rob Baier
Probably don’t forget your joy. All of this that I’m doing right now and people can argue this, but I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is in the moment. Typically, but there’s moments when you get into leadership district leadership building, leadership coaching, especially when you’re executive director. If you’re a CEO or CEO or it’s easy to slip into losing joy and losing the focus on kids, I encourage anybody and everybody, if you get into that role, don’t forget to go out and visit some schools and see kids in action.

00;38;34;11 – 00;38;53;21
Rob Baier
They will brighten your day pretty quickly. If you hop into a first and second grade classroom, there’s nothing of joy there. They smile. Dr. Gordon Muhammad’s work of her five pursuits and talking about joy, we need to remember the joy. And I try to bring joy in. Those who are listening, who know me, know me. I try to be a different person I’m a different cat.

00;38;53;21 – 00;39;11;01
Rob Baier
I bebop around the office and I tell jokes and I’m high fiving people. It’s like, I’m sure I’m not your stereotypical executive director, but I’m not trying to be. I’m trying to be me, authentically me. And just I enjoy life. I enjoy kids, I enjoy education, and I enjoy what I’m doing like crazy. So I’m going to have joy.

00;39;11;01 – 00;39;20;29
Rob Baier
And I had somebody tell me the other day, Hey, the only way still you’re trying to save your joy. And I so I appreciate that. But also, you’re not going to steal my joy yet.

00;39;21;02 – 00;39;40;09
Kyle Pearce
My I’m not going to let you get. Yeah, no, that’s that’s fantastic. That’s a great message. And I think when people, you know, kind of what popped into my mind is when people they go in for all of those reasons that you’ve mentioned, right. They go in for the kids. They go in because they truly want to make a difference.

00;39;40;12 – 00;40;01;16
Kyle Pearce
And I think sometimes if you’re not intentional about it as you are here and as you shared that, hey, you’re going to be authentically yourself, you’re going to be joyful and you’re not going to allow that joy to be taken from you. You’re being intentional about that. And if you’re not, I think that’s when you’re susceptible to potentially losing it.

00;40;01;16 – 00;40;33;29
Kyle Pearce
And the reason why, I think, is because people try so hard and put so much pressure on themselves to go in and be the change. Right? They want to go in there and they want to do great things. And I see this happen in the classroom with teachers who lose the joy, Right, Because they’re trying so hard and they feel like maybe they’re stuck in the mud or you see people that are in a leadership role that they just feel like, hey, I don’t have enough of the resources, be it human capital, be it the physical resources, be it, you know, whatever it is.

00;40;34;02 – 00;41;03;12
Kyle Pearce
And I think taking that time to be intentional and to really reflect on why they’re there and then also I think giving yourself grace is really so important to recognize that if this was easy, then a lot of districts would have solve these problems. We wouldn’t be in a situation where this is such challenging work so that you’re fighting a great fight and I think that’s a great message for people who are listening and going, you know what?

00;41;03;12 – 00;41;27;05
Kyle Pearce
You’ve got to look at this and you’ve got to be joyful, especially since in a leadership role, especially, your energy is contagious. Right. And you certainly want your team to be feeling that so good on you that you have been intentional and continue to be intentional about that. And Rob, we want to thank you again for coming back on the podcast, sharing some updates on what’s on your mind.

00;41;27;05 – 00;41;46;19
Kyle Pearce
Again, we had a long list of items that we could have dove into here today, but this leadership role conversation has really resonated with both John and I as we’re deep in the thick of it with our district partners through our District improvement program. So we appreciate you letting us chat and, you know, see what’s going on in your world.

00;41;46;19 – 00;41;52;22
Kyle Pearce
And hey, we’re wishing you all the best and folks, if you want to reach out to Rob, Rob, where can they find you?

00;41;52;25 – 00;42;12;23
Rob Baier
I mean, I’m still technically on Twitter or whatever it is. Yeah. At Rob Buyer. BAIER So, I mean, outside of that, I mean, our district website, you can reach out there, try to find me there. I think I dab a little bit on Twitter or X or whatever it is, but it’s not I don’t go there as much anymore.

00;42;12;23 – 00;42;33;14
Rob Baier
And there’s a between. I know, John, you and I share this in common between doing all the math and all the sciences and things that I do. I also coach basketball for like all my kids and love hoops. So I have found the bandwidth and how you talked about giving yourself grace, the bandwidth. I have to be able to even look at social media anymore.

00;42;33;15 – 00;42;45;00
Rob Baier
I don’t I never thought I’d ever say that, but I don’t. Yeah, big macro. But yeah, so yeah, we grow. And if you can come to Pittsburgh and walk into a basketball game, you might find me there.

00;42;45;02 – 00;42;57;07
Jon Orr
So maybe I will, maybe I will. Rob We want to thank you so much for joining us. We can’t wait to head to Pittsburgh and hit that gym and see you at one of the next conferences that we had to take care.

00;42;57;09 – 00;43;01;14
Rob Baier
Yeah, Thanks guys. TheWrap Have a good one.

00;43;01;16 – 00;43;25;01
Kyle Pearce
Well, they’re friends. What a great conversation with Rob. I don’t know about you, John, but I was thinking it was like all sorts of parts of our math program Tree were glowing for me, right? I mean, I think one, the first and foremost, I’m going to take the low hanging fruit or the firmly placed trunk, the firmly developed trunk, and that is the leadership piece, right of our tree.

00;43;25;01 – 00;44;01;11
Kyle Pearce
The leadership piece is so key. And we had an opportunity to really dig in to this leadership portion of an effective mathematics program. And what I sort of was envisioning in my mind is much like a tree grows over time. Rob has been developing his own experience, his expertise in this area. And, you know, I think a lot of us, especially those who are in leadership roles, be it if you’re just leading, maybe you’re chairing a grade level team, maybe you’re chairing a department or a department headship or you’re all the way to a director or a superintendent or something of that nature at the district level.

00;44;01;11 – 00;44;23;04
Kyle Pearce
The reality is, is that there’s really nothing that can prepare you for that experience, especially if you’re coming straight out of the classroom. Even as an instructional coach, often times people go from the classroom to become a coach. When you get into that role, that role is a very specific role and what we do in the classroom might inform some of the things we assist educators with.

00;44;23;06 – 00;44;45;13
Kyle Pearce
The one thing we’re not getting is all of the important nuances that we need to understand from a leadership perspective. And the big takeaway I had from this conversation there, John, was that Rob noticed that, you know what, I can’t go and I can’t individually go and try to make the change with every single teacher in the district that there has to be something different.

00;44;45;13 – 00;45;09;26
Kyle Pearce
And this is a conversation that you and I have with many of our district partners on a regular basis, because guess what? We want to help. We want to do something. We want to feel like we’re doing something. So we often want to get as close to the action as possible. But in reality, that’s a really, really difficult model and it’s an ineffective model ultimately because there’s just too many schools, too many educators, and a single individual can’t do it.

00;45;09;26 – 00;45;26;29
Kyle Pearce
So we need to zoom out and we need to start that vision planning and we need to really take time. It’s not just about setting a vision and then sort of forgetting we really need to be coming back to the table all the time and iterating through how do we do it better, What’s working, what’s not working? How do we know it’s working?

00;45;27;04 – 00;45;36;25
Kyle Pearce
How do we know it’s not working? And this is the work that obviously both you and I are loving in our district improvement program. What really hit you there, John?

00;45;36;27 – 00;45;54;03
Jon Orr
Well, what I loved about what you’re saying is when you took a zoom out and talked about the trunk of the tree, the leadership, the tree, the vision of mathematics at the district level, we also got a little bit more granular to talk about the limbs of the tree, which is our pedagogical moves, our logistics, our planning, our PD program.

00;45;54;03 – 00;46;14;29
Jon Orr
What does it look like on the ground and how do we support the teachers? Like what are the structures we’re using for professional development, the limbs of the tree in different models of professional development that work in different models that maybe don’t work. And then we got down to that part. I like getting into the weeds a little bit when we think about that and we do that with our districts, like what structures do you have access to?

00;46;14;29 – 00;46;36;23
Jon Orr
What things can we reshuffle to make a difference in the way you want to make a difference? So Rob got clear on that, what they’re doing so in his district and gave you some insight to think about. So if you want to say hit rewind, rewind the episode, I think you just hit play again and then you can relisten and get those details if you’re like, Wait a minute, did he talk about that?

00;46;36;23 – 00;46;59;17
Jon Orr
Go and listen again. So those are two pieces of the tree that there are six pieces of the tree, six pieces of every mathematics program, or strengthening a mathematics program that we know have to be worked on to have that full success that you’re looking for, you can head on over to grow your math program dot com, and you can fill out a report or an assessment that gives you a report.

00;46;59;19 – 00;47;18;09
Jon Orr
And that report will you which of the six you’re needing some strengthening on or the most you need some strengthening on which one means that maybe you’re already doing well but at least you’ll know and then we give you some next steps on how strengthen or how to take that element of the tree to the next level. So go to grow your math program dot com, fill out that assessment and get your pre report.

00;47;18;17 – 00;47;42;19
Kyle Pearce
I love it. I love it there, John. As usual, all show notes links to resources including the grow your math program dot com link that John just shared and transcripts can be read from the web or downloaded to take with you. You can find them on the make math moments dot com website at any point. This is episode 271 so a direct link would be make math moments dot com forward slash episode 271.

00;47;42;21 – 00;47;46;23
Kyle Pearce
All right my friends until next time I’m Kyle Pierce.

00;47;46;23 – 00;47;47;22
Jon Orr
And I’m John or.

00;47;48;00 – 00;47;50;13
Kyle Pearce
High fives for us.

00;47;50;15 – 00;48;00;09
Jon Orr
And a high five for you.

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


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

3 Act Math Tip Sheet


Each lesson consists of:

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

Each Teacher Guide consists of:

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

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

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

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

These prompts are given each lesson with the following conditions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!

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

MMM Unit - Snack Time Fractions Unit


Partitive Division Resulting in a Fraction

Shot Put Multi Day Problem Based Unit - Algebraic Substitution


Equivalence and Algebraic Substitution

Wooly Worm Race - Representing and Adding Fractions


Fractions and Metric Units


Scavenger Hunt - Data Management and Finding The Mean


Represent Categorical Data & Explore Mean

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


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

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