Episode #275: How To Align Your Math Classroom Teaching Practices With Your Philosophy – A Math Mentoring Moment

Mar 4, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

Have you ever wondered how to ensure your teaching actions align seamlessly with your educational philosophies? How close is your practice with your preach? 

In this episode we speak with Felicia Favela, a veteran 8th grade pre-algebra teacher from Phoenix Arizona who knows that in the realm of education, consistency between what we say and what we do is pivotal but still wonders how closely she’s aligned. 

Stick around and you’ll hear us uncover the root cause of why Felicia feels that she’s not aligned with her philosophies, how to identify when students are primed to progress to new challenges, maximizing their learning potential, and learn to harness the power of problem-based lessons as a tool for formative assessment, enhancing your ability to cater to individual student needs.

This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we chat with a teacher like you who is working through some problems of practice and together we brainstorm ways to overcome them. 


What You’ll Learn:

  • How can I make sure my actions match my words? 
  • How do I recognize when my students are ready to move to the next problem when using thin slicing from Building Thinking Classrooms; 
  • Why problem based lessons are formative assessment gold mines; 
  • How we can truly differentiate my instruction while leading a Building Thinking Classroom lesson; 
  • What clues do we look for when deciding if a student “gets it”.

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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00:00:00:03 – 00:00:21:17
Felicia Favela
I want to make sure that my actions match my words. Meaning I know it’s important to value the process and really want to get kids talking about the process and going through the process instead of just getting answers. And so I really want to go when I left what’s happening? I want to make sure that my actions are reflecting and I’m not just going straight to, oh, where did you get what’s the answer?

00:00:21:17 – 00:00:22:11
Felicia Favela
So that’s what I’m doing.

00:00:22:14 – 00:00:33:02
Kyle Pearce
Have you ever wondered, how do you ensure your teaching actions align seamlessly with your educational philosophies? How close is your practice to what you preach?

00:00:33:07 – 00:00:50:02
Jon Orr
In this episode, we speak with Felicia Favela, a veteran eighth grade pre-algebra teacher from Phenix, Arizona, who knows that in the realm of education, consistency between what we say and what we do is pivotal, but still wonders how closely she’s aligned.

00:00:50:07 – 00:01:17:07
Kyle Pearce
Stick around and you’ll hear us uncover the root cause of why Felicia feels that she’s not aligned with her philosophies. How to identify when students are primed to progress to new challenges in order to maximize their learning potential and learn to harness the power of problem based lessons as a tool for formative assessment to enhance your ability to cater to each individual student need.

00:01:17:09 – 00:01:25:13
Jon Orr
This is another math mentoring episode where we chat with a teacher just like you who is working through some problems of practice, and together we brainstorm ways to overcome them.

00:01:25:18 – 00:01:30:07
Kyle Pearce
Here we go.

00:01:30:09 – 00:01:45:03
Kyle Pearce
Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce.

00:01:45:04 – 00:01:47:19
Jon Orr
And I’m Jon Orr we are from makemathmoments.com.

00:01:48:00 – 00:01:57:23
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.

00:01:57:24 – 00:02:11:03
Jon Orr
And we do that by helping you cultivate foster your mathematics program like strong, healthy and balanced tree. So if you master the six parts of an effective mathematics program, the impact of your program will grow and reach far and wide.

00:02:11:05 – 00:02:26:00
Kyle Pearce
Every week you’ll get the insight you need to stop feeling overwhelmed, gain back your confidence, and get back to enjoying the planning and facilitating of your mathematics program for the students or the educators that you serve.

00:02:26:02 – 00:02:44:02
Jon Orr
All right. Let’s dig into this conversation with Felicia Babalola. Hey there, Felicia. Thanks so much for joining us on another episode of the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. We’re excited to have you. Do us a favor, fill us in where you come from. What’s your teaching role? And yeah, take it from there.

00:02:44:04 – 00:02:58:16
Felicia Favela
All right. So I’m currently coming from Phenix, Arizona. I’m an eighth grade math teacher. Pre-Algebra. This is my ninth year teaching and almost to that decade mark. And then seven of my nine years have been in special education.

00:02:58:18 – 00:03:20:09
Kyle Pearce
Nice. Awesome stuff. Very nice. I love the Phenix area. John and I were just there. Yeah, Phenix while we were downtown. And then we went to Scottsdale and did a little tour over there and it was fantastic. It was hot, it was fantastic. We can’t wait to go back there. But enough about Phenix, Arizona, and more about you, my friend.

00:03:20:10 – 00:03:42:09
Kyle Pearce
We want to know before we dig in, a question that we ask everyone who joins our show. And this really helps us to kind of almost like set the stage for the episode a little bit, appears into your mathematical soul a bit. And it is our question around your math moment when we say mathematics or math class, what pops into your mind?

00:03:42:09 – 00:03:44:10
Kyle Pearce
What moment pops into your mind.

00:03:44:10 – 00:03:45:21
Jon Orr
Stuck with you all this time.

00:03:46:02 – 00:03:50:23
Felicia Favela
So I listen to your podcast, all 200 something episodes.

00:03:51:01 – 00:03:51:23
Jon Orr
Oh my gosh.

00:03:52:00 – 00:04:15:07
Felicia Favela
So I knew I knew this question was coming and I really don’t have any memories of high school. Like I have a favorite math teacher, but nothing pops out. But my math moment was when it was time for me to become highly qualified in math to teach middle school. I filled my test and I filled it multiple times and I’m like, Wait, maybe I’m not great at math if I can’t pass this test.

00:04:15:09 – 00:04:36:07
Felicia Favela
And then after, of course, listen to your podcast and other podcast, I’m like, maybe I was a good mimic her. And I couldn’t think my way through a problem in order to get me to pass that test. I did pass it because I own teacher, but that’s my math moment. And once I got into the classroom, I realized that being able to do math and teach math are completely different.

00:04:36:09 – 00:05:04:12
Kyle Pearce
Absolutely. I think everyone listening probably had at some point, you know, everyone’s nodding their heads. And I was going to ask you, it took everything in me not to interrupt you as you were sharing that moment. But I was so curious when you said nothing really stuck out. And to me that hits me because when someone says that, it sort of suggests like it was and I guess it could be a number of things, but it was either the same every day.

00:05:04:17 – 00:05:29:11
Kyle Pearce
There was no sort of like nothing that maybe excited you about it. And to be honest, I’ve said it on a number of episodes before, so you’ve heard me say this before, being such a awesome listener is that my experience? I had some favorite math teachers that were really great people and they were really good at explaining the mathematics, but in a very procedural way.

00:05:29:11 – 00:05:53:10
Kyle Pearce
And again, that’s not a judgment by any means, because again, they did a fantastic job given sort of will say the sandbox that everybody was playing and in teaching mathematics and about the actual math. So like I didn’t have too many of those memories either. And it’s interesting, like you had said. So I’m curious, I want to know more about your experience when you were writing those tests.

00:05:53:10 – 00:06:12:13
Kyle Pearce
And thank you for being vulnerable, by the way, in sharing that you had some difficulties. And I’m wondering, did you experience difficulties prior like in your K through 12, or did you just kind of zip along and everything was fine? So it was maybe not even on your radar as something to even think about when you went into writing these tests.

00:06:12:15 – 00:06:26:19
Felicia Favela
So I don’t think there was any difficulty because I’m like, I’m going to be a teacher. And then I’m like, I was first going to be a kindergarten teacher. And then the first day I stepped foot in my actual program classes, I’m like, Nope, I’m going to be a middle school teacher and I’m going to be math teacher.

00:06:26:21 – 00:06:50:11
Felicia Favela
But one of our conversations during lunch with my colleagues, I go, I think I was a student. I was trapped because I don’t ever remember being pushed for higher classes that when I graduated I needed three credits and I got my three credits and my I was never pursued about any higher math classes. And I think that’s where my struggles came in when I was taking my highly qualified math test.

00:06:50:13 – 00:07:09:11
Jon Orr
Right? Yeah, that makes sense. It’s like you kind of were pushed in one way, maybe or not encouraged to go one way. And that’s like, now you feel like that may have failed you. I’m curious, Felicia, you kind of hinted at how that experience, I think, influences your classroom now, but maybe can you give us some more insight on that?

00:07:09:11 – 00:07:18:19
Jon Orr
That clearly is your moment, but what about that moment helps the students? How do you use that moment to help the students sitting here in your classroom right now?

00:07:18:21 – 00:07:40:15
Felicia Favela
So my classroom over these nine years have definitely taken a change every probably every year. I’m currently doing a billion things in the classroom. And my first early years were special education. So I’m like, I know these kids can do the math. They just need a different way to access the math. And so we share my story about I failed multiple times, you guys, it’s okay.

00:07:40:17 – 00:07:42:07
Felicia Favela
You just got to get back up.

00:07:42:09 – 00:07:45:09
Kyle Pearce
I dusted myself off here. We are. Yeah.

00:07:45:11 – 00:07:54:19
Felicia Favela
It’s just knowing that sometimes these tests aren’t made just for the algorithm. They’re made to see you. Can you process your way through and think through it and see what they’re really asking you?

00:07:54:21 – 00:08:16:10
Kyle Pearce
You know what I’m actually happy to hear? Not that you had to experience it that way, having learned likely very procedurally. And then this test being very different. But I’m happy to hear that that’s sort of the bar that we’re striving for, right to go, Hey, we want this to be more conceptual, we want more understanding, we want to make sure that people do understand the math.

00:08:16:10 – 00:08:43:00
Kyle Pearce
And I’m guessing that the goal is, hey, if if you do struggle here, then we’ll go back and we’ll have to dig through and try to figure out where are the missing pieces that maybe we never experienced along the way. So every process and every experience, it sounds like you’re taking it as a opportunity to learn and grow and you’re using it as a way to sort of help motivate students, especially those students who may be struggling along the way.

00:08:43:00 – 00:09:08:18
Kyle Pearce
Right. And that’s a really important thing. So I love to hear that. So thank you for sharing. And let’s dig right on here. What is on your mind lately? What are maybe some of the struggles or challenges? We always like to talk about that pebble in your shoe right now. And I’m going to guess we all are listening and saying there’s lots of pebbles in our shoes at all times, but which one’s sort of the one that’s you can feel right now?

00:09:08:18 – 00:09:11:17
Kyle Pearce
And you’re like, that one, man. I really want to get that one out.

00:09:11:19 – 00:09:23:07
Felicia Favela
Yeah. So it’s so funny because again, like I listened to all your episodes and I’m like, I want to go on the show, but I don’t know because everybody else talks about it. And so finally I’m like, you know, I think I got a pebble that I haven’t heard yet.

00:09:23:11 – 00:09:43:02
Kyle Pearce
I think it’s hilarious because so many people, I think, think the same thing. So I’m going to say it right now for everyone listening that it is so important as well for other people to come on with similar pebbles. And because the conversation will develop differently and sometimes it lands differently with people too. So that’s for everybody that’s listening right now.

00:09:43:02 – 00:09:46:20
Kyle Pearce
Don’t go like my pebble is not unique. It doesn’t have to be a unique.

00:09:46:20 – 00:09:48:09
Felicia Favela
Pebble conversation over, Sorry.

00:09:48:11 – 00:09:49:20
Kyle Pearce
But I’m happy you got yours.

00:09:49:21 – 00:09:52:14
Jon Orr
And so your unique one share. Yeah, to share with us.

00:09:52:14 – 00:10:11:18
Felicia Favela
So I really been like my pebble and I’m really been trying to kick out of my shoe and see how I can attack it is I want to make sure that my actions match my words. Meaning I know it’s important to value the process and really want to get kids talking about the process and going through the process instead of just getting answers.

00:10:11:20 – 00:10:28:00
Felicia Favela
And so I really want to go when I lessons happening, I want to make sure that my actions are reflecting and I’m not just going straight to, Oh, where did you get what’s the answer? So that’s what I’m going through because part of my district is we take they’re called mimics and they’re supposed to mimic our state test.

00:10:28:02 – 00:10:42:16
Felicia Favela
And so this lot we do three of them a year. And my second one, my students showed growth, but I had low achievement. So I’m like in my able to show my process, I really value the process and get my kids high growth and high achievement.

00:10:42:22 – 00:11:06:21
Jon Orr
So paint us a picture, Felicia, like when you’re saying like, how can I make sure my actions match my words? My first wonder is, what makes you think that you’re not doing that in the classroom? Paints a picture of like what classroom looks like. And you’re saying you want to put the importance on the value of learning and the process, but tell us a story about why you think this is the case.

00:11:06:21 – 00:11:10:09
Jon Orr
Where I didn’t do that or I feel like I might not be.

00:11:10:11 – 00:11:29:22
Felicia Favela
It’s more of a feel than I didn’t because I don’t know. So like, my day to day is like the kids are at the boards and I’m jumping from group to group. And sometimes I feel like when I go to a group, I see the correct answer and I’m like, okay, got it. But sometimes I question them. I’m like, Hey, tell me how you got that.

00:11:29:22 – 00:11:37:06
Felicia Favela
And sometimes I’m like, All right, cool. Go to the next one. And so that’s why I’m like, I want to make sure I make both of them match.

00:11:37:08 – 00:11:54:03
Kyle Pearce
Right now. I can definitely relate. My brain goes to a number of things because not even just in math class, right? There’s things I do and I say to my kids when my son and daughter are fighting and don’t do that, don’t yell at each other when you’re upset. And then when I’m upset, sometimes I raise my voice right.

00:11:54:03 – 00:12:19:18
Kyle Pearce
And then you’re like, I didn’t do that. And I think in the math classroom that can be really easy to happen, especially if those habits, right? We have so many habits that we do, I think, naturally as humans. But then also likely how we were taught and then maybe how we did teach for a very long time. I still find it very challenging at times to control my emotions, right?

00:12:19:18 – 00:12:39:15
Kyle Pearce
To like kind of stay as neutral as possible. Because something that I try to do is I try not to lead a student on to as to whether they are on the right path or not. I’m trying to help them figure out are they on the right path? And if I go, Oh, that’s really interesting and I’m very excited about it, then now they know that I’m interested in that.

00:12:39:15 – 00:12:58:11
Kyle Pearce
Oh, that might be positive. And if my voice is more like, Huh, I don’t know why. So I try to use that one all the time if I can, but that can be really tough. So it sounds like the example you gave us is you go to the boards and at some times it’s like, I want to make sure I’m hearing what you’re saying.

00:12:58:13 – 00:13:21:06
Kyle Pearce
Are you saying that you feel like maybe you aren’t questioning enough consistently, even though you want them to stay curious? Or can you take us a little deeper there because your example you had talked about, hey, great job. Now move on to the next one versus asking them to maybe go deeper or share their process or something more conceptual.

00:13:21:09 – 00:13:43:07
Felicia Favela
Yeah, so it’s more of the share the process because I notice I question myself more in my larger classes because there’s so many of them and I want to make sure I’m getting to them versus my smaller classes. And it’s just like when I get to that group, if I see the correct answer to the problem me working on, sometimes I won’t be like, Tell me how you got that or tell me what steps you did or how did you get that in?

00:13:43:07 – 00:13:56:07
Felicia Favela
Sometimes if I, especially for my larger classes, I look at it and I’m like, Oh, you must know what you’re doing because you have the right answer. And so I don’t need to take the time to address it, and I can just have you move on to the next maybe challenging problem.

00:13:56:12 – 00:14:17:05
Jon Orr
Now I try to look at this in different aspects. There are different goals to different lessons in different styles of lessons. So when I hear you say like I’m doing a thinking classroom style and then you’re saying I’m moving from board to board, I’m seeing the work that’s being done and it sounds like you’ve got a series of questions or problems you want them to work through.

00:14:17:05 – 00:14:39:12
Jon Orr
So my brain is immediately going to say, maybe you’ve set up a very crafted, thin slicing scenario where you’re trying to get them to maybe unfold a very important idea that can be done in different stages where students solve this mini problem, but they have the background knowledge to solve it, and then everyone gets a little tougher or a little bit more complex.

00:14:39:12 – 00:14:56:21
Jon Orr
And by the end of this very carefully scripted progression of thin slice problems, they’ve done some complex problems by the end and also have unveiled the behaviors of some of the mathematics. And maybe you paused along the way. Is that the type of problem that you’re talking about?

00:14:56:23 – 00:15:13:15
Felicia Favela
Yeah, because after there’s certain problems, I won’t tell them which ones. But once the student the group does it, then I’m like, okay, I think you’re ready for your check, your understanding. And then I send them on their way to do individual work to see if they were able to really understand what that skill or concept was for the day.

00:15:13:20 – 00:15:50:09
Jon Orr
Right? So there’s problems where that I have done exactly what you’re saying is that I’ve carefully crafted this sequence and I find that if I’m getting this group going through that sequence and when I’m observing them, I’m having conversations with them. And then because it’s carefully crafted, based off prior work or piece of work that we’ve done or in each one, one’s modified just a little bit, I always just say, Hey, you know what, that’s great, because the goal of that particular lesson in my mind, if we’re in sync right now, Felicia, is that the progression itself to get to these certain places?

00:15:50:11 – 00:16:09:16
Jon Orr
Because maybe it’s about factoring or maybe it’s about something that’s in a way, a little bit you’re using different models or strategies, but it’s a very particular strategy you’re trying to unfold or get to. And sometimes so students need that feedback because you’re not stopping the thinking, right? This is where this like, am I right? Am I wrong?

00:16:09:18 – 00:16:27:19
Jon Orr
You have to ask yourself, am I keeping the thinking going? Because if the students like I don’t know if I’m right and by answering it, you feel like thinking is going to stop, then that’s the time where you’re like, Wait a minute, can I do that? Mm. Like what Kyle is doing? Can you show me a different way?

00:16:27:19 – 00:16:45:01
Jon Orr
Because if you get that sense of they’re not sure, but there’s lots of times where I get to a board where with that carefully crafted sequence where they’re like, Can you check? Because we’re ready to go to the next one, right? And they just want that confirmation. And then it’s like, Yep, move on. Because the goal is the thinking through the whole thing.

00:16:45:03 – 00:17:03:16
Jon Orr
And that for me is a really important move to say, Yeah, you’ve got your quick confirmation, keep going, because by the time we get here, this is where the real thinking is going to happen. And we might pause everyone at this point to make it very clear what our learning goal is or where we need to go next, or what strategies we took at that moment.

00:17:03:18 – 00:17:42:20
Jon Orr
Because the five problems before that were leading to that one moment and that moment, the important moment where we pause and reflect and make sure that we’re on the same page before we move to the next series. And so I think quick versions of that confirmation are important in those types of lessons. Now let’s contrast that to another type of lesson where we’re trying to unfold maybe one particular strategy through a problem based lesson, which is a little bit bigger and not say this ABCD in H gets you to this very nice place, but you’re trying to look at different strategies to solve the same problem.

00:17:43:01 – 00:18:01:17
Jon Orr
And so that’s the part where I think I would challenge a little bit more. Can you represent that a little bit more? I’m not sure. Can you convince me a different way? I think there are different styles of problems to do in a thinking classroom, and each one is it’s got its own repertoire of how to go about doing that.

00:18:01:17 – 00:18:17:16
Jon Orr
Because the question you have to keep in mind is how do I keep the kids thinking about the things I want them to think about? And that part is like the guiding question How do I keep that thinking going? Because if I stop the thinking, then that group’s like, I’m done. And then it’s like, what do I do now?

00:18:17:17 – 00:18:33:08
Jon Orr
Do I just go to my seat or do we tie it all together with a boat? That part, too, I think, has to be played out. But in the middle of the lesson, I think it’s okay and depends on the type to say like, Yeah, I’ve given you the confirmation to move on. I don’t know. Kyle, what do you think?

00:18:33:10 – 00:19:01:18
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, I was going to just add 100%. Everything you’ve said is really helpful and you kind of went out in a kind of a slightly different way than where my brain went first. But I think what you said is super helpful in that process, depending on what that goal is. And I’ll kind of zoom out and kind of maybe piggyback this a little bit, but I’m going to zoom out to some of the planning that we do ahead of the lesson to really make sure we use the word intentionality a lot on this show.

00:19:01:20 – 00:19:34:15
Kyle Pearce
And it’s like if I’m not 100% clear, I say 100. You’re never 100% clear. You’re doing your best, but you’re trying to be intentional about getting to something and ahead of time. If I can be more intentional, if I can take that even right before the bell rings for class to begin, for me to remind myself of what am I really trying to achieve here that can also help you create a bit of a filter to determine when do I want a student to tell me more and when is that actually not necessary?

00:19:34:15 – 00:19:58:16
Kyle Pearce
Today. So John, you kind of alluded to that as well. There’s certain you can see it sometimes and you go, you know what? I heard that student explained something very clearly earlier in the lesson. Maybe it was yesterday, last week, whatever it was. But then there’s also the aspect of what is the real learning that we’re after and at what point, what do I need to do to keep the thinking going?

00:19:58:17 – 00:20:24:00
Kyle Pearce
Sure. And that might be sometimes keeping the thinking going means getting them on to the next one because they’re like kind of done right. They’re done with what they’re working on. But then also part of that is to go like, am I confident in what they know, what they can understand and what they can do? And I use that as my filter in my head to go like, okay, so no is usually like when we see the right answer, right?

00:20:24:00 – 00:20:43:12
Kyle Pearce
So I’m like, okay, so like they know how to get an answer that’s good. But like, do they understand? Right? And then you can look for evidence of that. You might have been listening for evidence of that. And then also, can they actually do it in when I think of do, it’s like they did it, but then are they able to do it in different scenarios?

00:20:43:12 – 00:21:07:15
Kyle Pearce
John mentioned the behaviors of the math. So I think using some of these ideas sort of like a frame to decide when do I want to know more, which questions, what parts of the questions am I really interested in, and then which ones am I actually potentially causing more harm than good? And what I mean by that is sometimes students get kind of tired of having to always explain everything in depth.

00:21:07:15 – 00:21:31:04
Kyle Pearce
Right? I’m sure you’ve been there. I’ve sometimes overdo it, right? I’m like, Well, you got to explain it. You’ve got to explain it. And sometimes you’re just like, I don’t want to explain it right now. I already did. I explained it to my group. I explained it to you all of these things. So finding that happy place for yourself and I think setting yourself, maybe that goal you had come in and basically said, How do I make sure that I do as I say, basically right?

00:21:31:04 – 00:21:49:23
Kyle Pearce
You’re like, I want to make sure I do as I say, but then maybe it’s like, What am I saying? And maybe I want to reframe what that is. When I say that I’m going to do this thing thinking classrooms or I’m going to get my students to think more or show their understanding, is it that they have to do it all the time?

00:21:49:23 – 00:22:13:06
Kyle Pearce
Maybe that’s too high of a bar. Maybe I’ve set that bar to a place where I’m going to always be a little disappointed in myself. And like I said, if we look at it from the aspect of it might actually be appropriate for us to not go as deep on a certain part of a lesson or a task or whatever that string is that they’re working on, that there’s a little bit of give and take there.

00:22:13:08 – 00:22:47:05
Kyle Pearce
And I think as long as we stay aware of what it is we’re after and have that goal sort of set for ourselves, then that’s going to be a moving target, right? Because every lesson is going to be a little different. But if we do those things, then I think you’re going to get closer to fulfilling what you asked today, which is, hey, maybe have to rethink what is the goal that I’m setting for myself and can I get to that goal instead of maybe a general goal that in some lessons it actually doesn’t seem like a good idea to actually get there.

00:22:47:07 – 00:22:49:20
Jon Orr
We said a lot with your thoughts so far.

00:22:49:22 – 00:23:12:07
Felicia Favela
Everything you guys said makes sense because as you guys were talking, like I’m replaying the most recent situation back in my head and I think I was focusing on a prerequisite or something that they should already had a foundation for. And so I don’t necessarily have to ask them to show me that process for that because they really demonstrated it some time previously.

00:23:12:09 – 00:23:26:24
Felicia Favela
And then that just helps them move to the next stage where I do want to know. And then obviously when there’s mistakes, there’s that conversation that naturally happens, and the more mistakes out there are, the better the conversation that is to be had.

00:23:27:01 – 00:23:47:06
Jon Orr
Sure. And this is something else that I think you just nailed, too, is that this is the beauty of the style of lessons that we’ve all the three of us have, at least more to thinking classroom or a problem based lesson to kick off is we’ve argued that these types of lessons are formative assessment gold machines like they’re just gold or gold mines.

00:23:47:06 – 00:24:09:02
Jon Orr
I should have said their formative assessment gold mines, because think of when you are interacting with a student of how much you learn about that quickly and what they know they don’t know. They understand. Can they do? You are learning so much. And when I think back to myself prior to doing these types of lessons, my old self, my first year teacher self when I did the lectures, here’s your homework.

00:24:09:08 – 00:24:17:01
Jon Orr
I knew nothing about what kids could or couldn’t do other than the kids that raise their hand, answer questions. And really they were just probably answering questions about.

00:24:17:01 – 00:24:18:00
Kyle Pearce
Filling in the blank.

00:24:18:04 – 00:24:36:00
Jon Orr
Exactly. It was like, Well, I need a calculation done here. I’m going to fake getting some engagement. What’s the three times to who wants to take that one? I never knew until the quiz happened or the test happened where kids actually were on the learning that we did. Unless I was getting in there and helping one on one or kids would come to my desk because I would go sit back down.

00:24:36:00 – 00:24:52:00
Jon Orr
But when we do these styles lessons, you’re learning so much. So why I say that is because when you’re at these boards and it goes to what you just said, it’s like when you know these kids and when you know your students, there are going to be kids where you’re like, I need more here and you’re going to have kids.

00:24:52:02 – 00:25:16:08
Jon Orr
Like, I don’t need more here because like you said, you’ve already proved it to me. In previous days. I’ve got that confidence that you know this piece. So I’m not asking you about this piece. I’m asking you about this piece over here. Maybe three questions down the road if we’re doing that type of lesson. But it’s all about you trying to figure out that one kid and what you need to know about that one student at that day for the intentionality or setting for the lesson, you already know it.

00:25:16:14 – 00:25:33:13
Jon Orr
You can give them the feedback they need to move on to the next part or pull that challenging problem out of your pocket when they’re at the board to give them that next stage because they’re ready to go to that next stage if they need it. For the students that need that feedback or you need to have those deeper conversations with, you’re going to those and spending more time with them anyway.

00:25:33:13 – 00:25:55:09
Jon Orr
So it’s about knowing that student and where they are and having the freedom to give different next steps to in giving different. Yeah, you’re going to move on, but kid over here is like, wait a minute, he got the move on and I have to explain. Well, yeah, because I need to know some of that information. And so that’s that freedom to say we get to differentiate exactly who gets what when we’re in those classes.

00:25:55:11 – 00:26:11:23
Felicia Favela
And I even have some groups where they’re like, nothing’s on the board. Like, I don’t get it. I need help. I’m like, okay, as soon as you put something on the board, I’ll be happy to come back because those kids are also just waiting for me to either feed them or walk them through the process.

00:26:12:00 – 00:26:29:00
Kyle Pearce
Right? And I think if I was to boil down a lot of what was said there, as John mentioned, yeah, we did a lot of talking. We always try to talk less and listen more and I think I think it didn’t work so well today, but that’s okay. We’re going to forgive ourselves and work on it next time.

00:26:29:02 – 00:26:49:03
Kyle Pearce
But what I will say is, as I’m reflecting and I’m thinking about this, you had mentioned about that prerequisite goal and that you had mentioned the idea that, like you didn’t have to necessarily ask them to explain. I think this is the tough part of our job, but it’s like a good tough because it’s like you always get to make a decision.

00:26:49:05 – 00:27:11:18
Kyle Pearce
And really, I think if you are more conscious or more intentional about thinking to yourself is like, Do I want to know that information now? Will it help? So it might be, yes, it’s going to help me know that they’re still on track or it’s going to help because that student, it’s going to help lead them to more success in today’s lesson.

00:27:11:18 – 00:27:39:04
Kyle Pearce
Whatever the reason, as long as they’re sort of like if you can ask yourself the question is like it’s worth doing right now because of X, Y or Z, then I think you’re in good shape now. There could be the reason why you wouldn’t do it. But ultimately, sometimes what we do, because humans, we prefer habit, we prefer kind of following a routine is we’ll set a goal and say, Well, when I’m at a white board, I’m going to ask students to blank.

00:27:39:06 – 00:27:59:22
Kyle Pearce
And that’s the goal. But it’s like the reason we set that goal was for another more important reason, which is to keep thinking, to get them to share their work, whatever the reason is. So it’s like keeping those things in your mind and just sort of deciding to yourself, like in this moment, is it better for them to continue on or is it better for me to ask them for a little bit more?

00:27:59:23 – 00:28:23:22
Kyle Pearce
Do I really want to hear it right? Because that’s the other thing too, that I think sometimes we can get into this habit of asking kids to share their thinking, but we actually aren’t interested in hearing their thinking at that time, right? But we’re like, Well, I’m supposed to do it. So it’s like, how do I give myself a little bit more of that flexibility in deciding like, when does it make sense and when is it worth the while?

00:28:23:22 – 00:28:48:23
Kyle Pearce
And it’s not an easy question to answer all the time, but at least it might give you maybe the next step it might take. Maybe the initial pebble out and you might find the other pebble, which is okay. Now I have to decide when, when does it matter to me? When is this most useful to me? And that might require maybe over this next week, this might be maybe a takeaway or a next step for you is over this next week.

00:28:48:23 – 00:28:49:20
Kyle Pearce
Like think.

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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.