Episode #276: How Can I Battle My Insecurities When Teaching Through Tasks & Problem Based Math Lessons – A Math Mentoring Moment

Mar 11, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

How can you transform your middle school classroom with problem-based lessons while overcoming personal insecurities and teaching doubts?

In this mentoring moment episode we speak with Joanne Ward, a middle school teacher from Taipei Taiwan who is tackling a common challenge faced by educators: the uncertainty and lack of confidence in implementing problem-based lessons. 

Stick around and you’ll learn practical strategies to boost confidence in teaching with problem-based lessons. 

You’ll also learn a comprehensive understanding of the “real flipped classroom” concept, enabling structured and effective problem-based learning that captivates and educates your students.

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

What You’ll Learn:

  • How to feel more confident when teaching with problem based lessons; 
  • How to battle my own insecurities when stepping into my middle school classroom; 
  • How often I should be teaching with problem based lessons;
  • How can I teach problem based lessons in a structured way; and,
  • How to teach the “real flipped classroom”.

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


Be Our Next Podcast Guest!

Join as an Interview Guest or on a Mentoring Moment Call

Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast

Apply to be a Featured Interview Guest

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

Book a Mentoring Moment Coaching Call

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

Are You an Official Math Moment Maker?

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


00:00:00:03 – 00:00:19:11
Joanne Ward
I feel insecure in the past. After I read those task, I still teach directly because if I don’t teach directly, I feel insecure. So I use the task like a mixed mix. I read one of your blog post like offers. You guys also used to ask one day or two days, but in the end you transition to task every day.

00:00:19:14 – 00:00:22:08
Joanne Ward
There’s a blog post with slide.

00:00:22:10 – 00:00:47:14
Jon Orr
How can you transform your middle school classroom with problem based lessons while overcoming personal insecurities and teaching doubts? So in this Mentoring Moment episode, we speak with Joann Ward, a middle school teacher from Taipei, Taiwan, who is tackling a common challenge faced by educators the uncertainty and lack of confidence in implementing problem based lessons.

00:00:47:16 – 00:01:18:14
Kyle Pearce
Stick around and you’ll learn practical strategies to boost confidence in teaching with problem based lessons. You’ll also learn a comprehensive understanding of the real flipped classroom concept enabling structured and effective, problem based learning that captivates and educates your students. This is another math mentoring Moment episode where we chat with a teacher just like you, who’s working through some problems of practice, and together we brainstorm ways to overcome them.

00:01:18:16 – 00:01:37:02
Kyle Pearce
Ooh, what? Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pierce.

00:01:37:02 – 00:01:39:24
Jon Orr
And I’m John or we are from MC math moments dot com.

00:01:40:01 – 00:01:50:17
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.

00:01:50:19 – 00:02:06:08
Jon Orr
And we do that by helping you cultivate and foster your mathematics program like strong, healthy and balanced tree. So if you master the six parts of an effective math program, the impact you have on your students and educators will grow and reach far and wide every week.

00:02:06:09 – 00:02:34:10
Kyle Pearce
You’ll gain 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. Well, well, Math moment makers. We are really excited to have today’s guest on for a math up mentoring moment episode. It’s Joanne Ward and hey Joanne, it’s awesome to reconnect with you.

00:02:34:14 – 00:02:54:14
Kyle Pearce
We have been in touch throughout many a little. It’s been a while. It’s been a while, actually. And actually before we hit record, Joanne, you were saying that you’ve been math geeking out with us since the tap into teen mind days and missed or is a geek days and all of those resources we were sharing way back when.

00:02:54:15 – 00:03:09:00
Kyle Pearce
So thanks so much for taking some time out of your busy world and we want to hear all about you. How are you doing? Where are you coming to us from? And just give us a little bit of context as to what your role is in math, education.

00:03:09:02 – 00:03:50:13
Joanne Ward
So I’m Joanne and I’m currently in Taipei, Taiwan, and I have been teaching this year. It will be my 10th year and then I spend seven years in the high school and that was back then when I’m reading everything on the tap into teen’s mind and then later Kyle Mr. Kyle, introduce me to Mr. John. And then I started to learn things about the lower level, and that’s where I started to try to teach my own children and then after seven years in high school, I started to think that maybe going to middle school will be quite a transition and the fun so that after seven years I have been moved to middle school and

00:03:50:16 – 00:04:11:05
Joanne Ward
ever since I moved to middle school, I started to feel and explore everything. The resources in the making math moments, because that kind of material really helps children to learn and help children to get excited about math. So I am so excited that Mr. Kyle and Mr. Jones spend their time to help me.

00:04:11:07 – 00:04:40:06
Jon Orr
Awesome stuff, Joanne, we’re pretty excited to have you because like we said here, it’s been a long time coming and we’re pumped to kind of dig into some of the pebbles that are rattling around in your shoe to kind of pluck them away finally, as we meet after all this time. So before we get into all of that, just favorite, Joanne, when we say math class, what pops into your mind from your experience as a student or it’s stuck with you all this time, What’s your math moment when we say math class, what images come to mind in that memory that just sticks out to you?

00:04:40:07 – 00:04:41:12
Jon Orr
Tell us all about that, please.

00:04:41:18 – 00:05:02:24
Joanne Ward
So. Well, now I see all my math moments. It’s like the teacher’s right here on the board. And the teacher did a beautiful job, organize everything, organize all the concepts, organize all the formula, and then separate questions into patterns. And then he or she will do this beautiful whiteboard writing and we just copy everything down. And then I just followed that.

00:05:02:24 – 00:05:06:10
Joanne Ward
So that was the math moments that I was growing up.

00:05:06:12 – 00:05:17:05
Jon Orr
So that’s when you think math class, that’s what you think about, that’s just stuck with you all this time, this complete same image, day in, day out of organized notes going up on the board, right?

00:05:17:07 – 00:05:18:21
Joanne Ward
Yes, exactly.

00:05:18:23 – 00:05:43:12
Kyle Pearce
I think we all have a memory of that. I know I do as well. And actually, I think for many math teachers, including us, I think that was like we were striving to like, do that even better. Everybody wanted to have really well summarized notes because why? Well, we wanted it to be more understandable for students. We wanted it to be easier for them to learn and to consume, right?

00:05:43:12 – 00:06:12:08
Kyle Pearce
To be consumers of the information. And I’m wondering at what point did you maybe start when you reached out and sort of found some of the tap into teen Minds resources, which I was doing a lot of teaching in the high school classroom at the time, what motivated you to, I suppose, find that material? Was it by accident or were you searching for something to try to do something differently in your own math classroom?

00:06:12:14 – 00:06:34:20
Joanne Ward
I think I seem to remember that I was looking for resources like on Twitter back in those days, and I saw a video of you and John like you were eating the chocolate like kisses. And then that to that was unbelievable. That was the first thing that I love it so much. Kisses. And then the giant red chocolate and then you guys put that.

00:06:34:22 – 00:06:49:16
Joanne Ward
Yes. So that was the first thing. And after that, I started to dig in to tap into, didn’t mind. And then, Kyle, you make this spreadsheet that’s so beautiful. It’s task and task and task and tasking task. So.

00:06:49:18 – 00:06:55:08
Jon Orr
Right, right. Yeah, I know that that task brings back the old memories. Cows sitting in their kitchen. And John.

00:06:55:08 – 00:07:02:16
Kyle Pearce
You’re actually sitting like, feet away from where we recorded that, just across from where he’s at right now.

00:07:02:18 – 00:07:27:05
Jon Orr
Yeah, exactly. And I don’t think we felt very good after eating all of that chocolate and creating that task around volume and also proportion. That was one of our kind of mix different strands into the same task. So Joanne, let’s kind of dig in here. You’ve been exploring resources, you’ve been dabbling with problem based lessons, You’ve been active for seven years in the high school classroom, you’re in a middle school, you’ve transitioned.

00:07:27:05 – 00:07:43:14
Jon Orr
What’s on your mind, What can we help with? What would be a pebble in your shoe that all three of us can kind of dig in and see if we can pluck out of there? And so when you go into class tomorrow or the next day, you’re feeling a little bit more confident, You’re feeling a little bit things are a little bit more streamlined in the way that you want.

00:07:43:14 – 00:07:45:19
Jon Orr
Tell us about what’s bugging you right now.

00:07:45:21 – 00:08:05:06
Joanne Ward
I feel insecure in the past after I read those task, I still teach directly because if I don’t teach directly, I feel insecure. So I use the task like a mixed mix. I read one of your blog posts like offers. You guys also use tasks one day or two days later in the end, you transition to task every day.

00:08:05:09 – 00:08:29:13
Joanne Ward
There’s a blog post with slide listing how you guys have been transitioned, and I really admired that. But I feel insecure. I feel like if I don’t directly tell them something, they don’t know something. And then I started to run some task and in the end I feel the students are in the middle of something. I still don’t know if they understand and I just feel insecure.

00:08:29:13 – 00:08:31:18
Joanne Ward
I don’t know what to do.

00:08:31:20 – 00:09:04:16
Kyle Pearce
So what it sounds like is that and maybe I’d like to dig a little deeper here as to I’m hearing that you’re feeling insecure. Maybe without having that sort of formalized direct instruction happening. And I also want to make sure that we’re clear that if we go all the way back to some of our learning earlier in the journey, both John and I, I think, feel that we almost straight away from feeling that we were not allowed to do any direct instruction.

00:09:04:16 – 00:09:36:21
Kyle Pearce
And in more recent times, I would say in the last five years specifically, we’ve really tried to be verbal, be explicit about when direct instruction should be happening and that it should happen. So it’s not a bad thing that direct instruction is being used. So I want to make sure that that’s clear. But I wonder for you, is it that you’re doing direct instruction every day and that you’re trying to squeeze some tasks in almost like because you feel like you’re supposed to?

00:09:37:00 – 00:09:56:24
Kyle Pearce
What does that look like and sound like for you right now? Because it sounds like you have some pressure. You feel like you should be doing something, but you are feeling like you can’t stay away from this other thing over here. I want to make sure that we fully understand what it is that you’re actually doing, because maybe it’s all in our minds, right?

00:09:56:24 – 00:10:05:06
Kyle Pearce
Sometimes it’s like we think we should be doing something different, but maybe things aren’t actually as dramatic as they might seem inside our own heads.

00:10:05:08 – 00:10:24:14
Joanne Ward
So what I have been doing for a while, like ever since I started to study your material, is that I would do the rec instruction, make sure that they understand the basic concepts. Then I’ll put them into a task like your three scaffolded task, like task one, and then time like five minute 10 minutes and see how they are doing.

00:10:24:14 – 00:10:49:23
Joanne Ward
But I give them the task after I taught them the concept. So that’s what I have been doing for a long time, is that I taught them first with a couple of slide. Basically this is what it is without going into teaching them what they are supposed to answer the question by, still do it because that’s what I have been learning well enough and then give them the task though.

00:10:50:00 – 00:10:55:22
Joanne Ward
So at this moment the task is more like assessment or more like a.

00:10:55:22 – 00:10:57:15
Jon Orr
Review or an application.

00:10:57:17 – 00:11:13:20
Joanne Ward
Yeah, yeah. But I see John’s class in your website. There is every day, one minute moment every day to minute moment or kaios class. It seems like you go directly inside and the students just lie on their table right out the window.

00:11:13:23 – 00:11:17:05
Kyle Pearce
It’s just full blown graffiti everywhere and see.

00:11:17:07 – 00:11:18:11
Jon Orr
It’s just jumping, right?

00:11:18:11 – 00:11:22:11
Kyle Pearce
Someone who’s listening is going like what is happening in those classrooms.

00:11:22:11 – 00:11:57:13
Jon Orr
Where they write and yet and Joanne, don’t get us wrong, too, like when you’re watching, say, those 30 days and 30 minute videos that I put out about what my class looked like in that time frame, I had already been teaching through problem based lessons. We’d inspiring our classroom for years leading up to that point. So but when I rewind and when I first grappled with problem based lessons and we’ve talked about it here numerous times about kind of our entry point, Kyle and I, before we spiraled our lessons, we were dabbling with three math tasks from Dan Meyer and kind of experimenting that way.

00:11:57:15 – 00:12:17:02
Jon Orr
But we taught them the same way you did, the way you just explained it, is that I also saw it as I’m going to do my lecture style first and then I will use this on my problem solving day or I will use this after we’ve done this to see if they can apply their knowledge that I’ve just given them into this world.

00:12:17:02 – 00:12:34:14
Jon Orr
And I’m going to rewind myself and my memory back to that moment because it feels very secure. Like you said, it’s like I preloaded all of the information that they’re going to need and then I’m going to sit back and wait and see if they can solve this problem with the information in. Sometimes that went well and sometimes that didn’t.

00:12:34:14 – 00:12:47:24
Jon Orr
Sometimes it’s like we ran out of time when we did it that way and you’re like, Oh, how do I fit this full task in or this full lesson planning? And after I’ve done my lesson plan, because that can be very, very, very tight. And it’s like or if you take an extra day to do it, you’re like, Oh, I ran out of time.

00:12:48:01 – 00:13:10:09
Jon Orr
So I’m curious about your students and what they’re doing on that part. So fill me in. You’ve pre taught a lesson and then you introduce this task, you introduce this problem and they start to work on are they jumping in right away? What are they typically doing around that? And then what makes you feel like, Hey, this isn’t working?

00:13:10:11 – 00:13:34:08
Joanne Ward
Like you said, I always run out of time. It’s a typical day that would just run out of time. And then I will give them the task, like task number one, question number one, the full task, and then they will jump in. But I never get that kind of discussion that I see it from you guys class. And I kind of feel that if I teach them first, I kind of set them up for the formula.

00:13:34:08 – 00:13:40:01
Joanne Ward
So what I see them more like doing is just solving it instead of exploring it.

00:13:40:03 – 00:13:41:09
Jon Orr
Right? Right.

00:13:41:09 – 00:14:03:06
Kyle Pearce
And my wonder and this is something that kind of popped into my mind as you were describing the idea of using the direct instruction and then giving the task. And I think you described it exactly how I envisioned it would probably go in my mind, which is you’re essentially assessing where students are after the fact, which is not a bad practice to have.

00:14:03:06 – 00:14:31:23
Kyle Pearce
Right. Like, that’s not something that we want to completely remove because at times we’re going to want to do that as well. But if what we’re looking for is introducing a concept, if what we’re looking for is using a task to engage in true problem solving where students are really engaging, my wonder is if you’re after the exploration, then we have to be cautious not to sort of do the exploring for them.

00:14:31:23 – 00:14:52:23
Kyle Pearce
We call it doing that pre teaching because if we do the pre teaching then students are kind of waiting for us to do most of the heavy lifting, right? They’re waiting for us to do all the work and I mean, I know how I was as a student and I would never the teacher sometimes would say work on this example and then we’ll take it up.

00:14:53:00 – 00:15:09:04
Kyle Pearce
I was the type of student that I would just sit and wait. I did not think about it. I didn’t even read the question. I would just sit and wait. And that was either my daydream time. We didn’t have cell phones when I was in high school, but I vividly remember just sort of being like, Well, this is my time to maybe goof around with my friend.

00:15:09:04 – 00:15:30:23
Kyle Pearce
Or if it was a strict teacher, then it would just be like my time to just stare and sit doing nothing. I’m not necessarily proud of that, but I think it’s human nature that when we have these opportunities to sort of sit and wait and kind of conserve that thinking time or thinking energy, our natural response is going to be to kind of sit and wait.

00:15:30:23 – 00:15:55:00
Kyle Pearce
So if I’m wondering for you, is that something that you’re really seeking? Are you going? The reason I want to use these problem based lessons is so students explore. And I guess my wonder for you would be how often would you like to see that? Because maybe it’s every day, maybe it’s twice a week. How often are you looking for that sort of engagement?

00:15:55:00 – 00:16:25:23
Kyle Pearce
And is it just in general that maybe you want to see your class shifting in terms of the culture? We talk about the culture a lot, and oftentimes we’re essentially creating a culture in our room when we get into certain routines. So if the routine is always that I tell you how, and that students will then show that they were listening or show that they understand what I just said, then that’s what that culture is going to be, which probably means not a whole lot of discourse.

00:16:25:23 – 00:16:54:00
Kyle Pearce
Students aren’t going to engage in too much math conversation. It probably means they’re not going to try to think outside of the box because, I mean, I want to impress the teacher, right? The teacher did it that way. So I’m going to do it that way. That’s got to be the most efficient way. And at the end of the day, it might still lead to students knowing the math procedurally, but it might restrict them from kind of building some of those problem solving skills.

00:16:54:00 – 00:17:15:15
Kyle Pearce
So I said a lot there. I’m wondering what are you hoping? If you could wave a magic wand, what would you like to see happening in your classroom on a regular basis or a certain number of days a week? Wave the magic wand right now and sort of paint us a picture of what you’d like to see. What would you like to keep that you have already?

00:17:15:21 – 00:17:19:01
Kyle Pearce
And then what are the new things that you’d like to see happening as well?

00:17:19:07 – 00:17:39:15
Joanne Ward
I think you’ve got the extremely valuable point, like the culture. I saw that in your website and then ademola. When I saw it, I didn’t quite get it, but now I get it. That’s a culture that I want to see because at this moment what I have been doing, if I teach them first in the use of task, then it’s kind of the tasks are exactly the same, like a war problem.

00:17:39:15 – 00:17:53:12
Joanne Ward
It’s just a more elaborate war problem. But then that’s not what I want to see. I still feel at this moment my routine is very structured and the students, like you said, I believe they just space out from time to time.

00:17:53:16 – 00:18:12:00
Jon Orr
You said the word structure. And I think I’ve always taught in my classroom very, very structured in I taught lecture style to begin. Oh, I’ve been like, Hey, here’s the pre teaching. Here’s everything you need to know about what we’re talking about here today. Let me also I’ll show you a practice problem, but then I’ll show you another one and then I’ll show you a tougher one.

00:18:12:00 – 00:18:35:07
Jon Orr
That’s a word problem that was very structured. But when I shifted to problem based lessons, like the lesson that you’re just talking about, the lessons that you can find on our website, to me, those are also very structured, but it’s getting what Kyle is saying is that one type of structure, the lecture style structure, is saying, I’m going to convey all this knowledge, I’m doing all the thinking and they’re doing all the mimicking, as Peter would call it.

00:18:35:07 – 00:19:14:20
Jon Orr
Peter Little I would call it. We’ve we’ve talked with him on the podcast a number of times. And then whereas when I teach the other way, when I don’t pre teach, when I start with a problem, I’m very structured because of the way I structure the wonder portion, the curiosity portion of that. It’s very structured when we do and utilize the five practices for orchestrating productive mathematical discussions, those five practices around the room with our vertical boards, that’s a very structured even though if an outside teacher walks in that to them it might seem very unstructured, but it is very structured in the way that we structured this experience for students to engage in thinking

00:19:14:22 – 00:19:35:00
Jon Orr
and they are now engaged in thinking. And we are actively as teachers ensuring that that thinking continues. And as soon as we start to consolidate, so we start to end that lesson hard, some people are saying, well, when am I going to get my students to stop thinking? My goal is to never get my students to stop thinking, and that that structure still is there.

00:19:35:02 – 00:20:03:19
Jon Orr
So I think what you’re wanting to decide at this point is where do I want to place this structure? Do I want to keep my structured approach so that I feel more secure and what I’m doing every day? Because, you know, you can get your lesson out, you know, the timing of that or do you want to shift so that you take a chance and go, You know what, I’m going to try this other structured lesson and it’s very structured.

00:20:03:21 – 00:20:24:15
Jon Orr
But my goal is shifted, though. My goal is to not just get my lesson out and say, I taught it. My goal is to get my students thinking more and they’re thinking about these concepts. And at first it’s going to take extra time. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to make you feel insecure. But I’ll promise you one thing The more you do it, the more secure you will feel.

00:20:24:17 – 00:20:42:07
Jon Orr
Because at the end of a really good experience and you said today so many kids were thinking more than they were thinking the other way. And if you feel good about it, you’ll be like, I’m doing that again tomorrow. That’s when you decide, Have I done enough of those lessons or how many should I do? Because that’s a common question.

00:20:42:07 – 00:21:04:12
Jon Orr
How many of these problem based lessons or how many times should I get my students to think is really what they’re asking? And you’re saying every day you want your students to think, How can I structure my lesson every single day so that they’re thinking sometimes it involves this three act math style lesson? Well, we’re getting them to wonder and notice and big build curiosities, but sometimes we’re structuring it to keep them thinking in a different way.

00:21:04:14 – 00:21:29:04
Jon Orr
But still, you’re not doing all the pre teaching upfront. It’s a matter of when that teaching happens. And the teaching for now has shifted for us almost every single day to near the end of the lesson. Sometimes that comes in the middle for a little bit and then we go back to thinking and then we come back at the end and we kind of tie it with a bow when we close our lessons and we make sure that that thinking is consolidated at that point, but that teaching can happen then.

00:21:29:04 – 00:21:37:10
Jon Orr
And that’s when it mostly happens in my class. So I don’t know. I said a lot. John, how are you feeling about the structure of the lesson in which structure I think you’re aiming for?

00:21:37:14 – 00:22:06:08
Joanne Ward
I think what you said is very precious. It took you guys a workshop back in those days, and then that’s when you talked about the five principal of the orchestration, the discussion. And at that moment, like I think I heard it by now, as you explain, I think I started to get it. Yes, I agree with you. You guys, listen, that super structure and your task is super structure is just I want to transform my class into your structure, but not the current structures.

00:22:06:08 – 00:22:08:11
Joanne Ward
I want to see that happening.

00:22:08:13 – 00:22:53:01
Kyle Pearce
What I’m sensing, like we’re digging deeper here and what I want to ask next is why? Because I remember back when you did our online workshop and you were very, by the way, a fantastic student because you’re very active. You did all of the lessons and responded in the community areas and lots of reflecting. So when you look at the roadmap that’s created for you to essentially craft the experience that you’re telling us on this particular call right now that you’re after, what is holding you back from doing what we’ve articulated in the past and back in the workshop as the real flipped classroom, this idea of like what you’re doing right now is the

00:22:53:01 – 00:23:14:10
Kyle Pearce
exact opposite order of how we would say in that course that we want to try to avoid that pre teaching. That was one of the big takeaways from one of the modules and we guided through the process on how to do that. What is holding you back from because it’s almost like at the beginning of the call it was almost like you were kind of like felt like it was an either or.

00:23:14:10 – 00:23:39:09
Kyle Pearce
But in our workshop we actually say it’s not an either or, it’s actually just flipping it and going, Yeah, do the task first. What’s holding you back from trying that? And then always knowing that what’s coming next is that part that, that what will feel more structured to you even though like you articulate it all of our problem based lessons are very structured but in a different routine.

00:23:39:15 – 00:23:54:23
Kyle Pearce
Have you just not ripped the Band-Aid off to try it or have you tried it and it wasn’t successful in the past? How come we’re talking to you many years later and you’re like, I haven’t done it yet because there’s got to be something here and it hasn’t come out yet.

00:23:55:00 – 00:24:23:00
Joanne Ward
I think is my transition from high school to middle school back in high school, because those kids are very mature, especially if I teach 11th grade, 12th three, and then I still the task up front, then they can just do it back in high school. But then now I transitioned to middle school. I seem to remember that I tried to toss the task one time and then the whole course is too chaotic and then I just don’t know how to do.

00:24:23:00 – 00:24:26:11
Kyle Pearce
The real issue just came to the surface.

00:24:26:14 – 00:24:43:19
Jon Orr
Well, I think when you say chaotic, but I think I caught something right before you said chaotic, too, as I think you were worried that they won’t be able to do anything. How do I give them a task and then they don’t know how to do the math that I’m supposed to help them with? Is that where the worry is?

00:24:43:19 – 00:24:53:18
Jon Orr
And then it’s like chaotic because it’s like, oh my gosh, no one is attempting anything because how are they supposed to do it if I don’t tell them how to do it? Is that what it is?

00:24:53:20 – 00:25:10:23
Joanne Ward
Yeah, because in the past I was teaching 12th grade, 11th grade, and now I also have this guy and all of a sudden from this very big to this very small and the very small, well, just ask me all the questions all the time. But you guys teach even younger students and you can do it.

00:25:10:23 – 00:25:34:01
Kyle Pearce
So you know what I want to give you something today, and I hope that this is something that will be a game changer for you, is that when you do something one time and we have talked about this before on the podcast, we talk about it in the workshop is one of the hardest parts of making this transition is the transition, that initial step.

00:25:34:01 – 00:25:59:18
Kyle Pearce
And here’s the interesting part. It’s almost like somehow, some way we think humans, we’re all the same. We all think very similarly in this way, that we think that we can make a massive change in how we’re going to do something like teaching a math lesson that you’ve done for ten years and you experienced yourself in the same format for year, 12 years and beyond.

00:25:59:18 – 00:26:25:05
Kyle Pearce
On the university, we did this in one particular way for our entire life, and then we think somehow that the first time that we try to change it up, that it’s going to go well. And I’m hoping that what I’m telling you is going to land with you as educators by making these changes. It is not going to be easy and we can extrapolate this to other parts of our life.

00:26:25:10 – 00:26:49:18
Kyle Pearce
Think about like if you want to change your diet and you go, I’ve always eaten this way and I want to cut out sugar or I want to cut out caffeine, or I want to cut out alcohol or whatever it is that you’re trying to cut out, those are massive, massive shifts. And that is totally, totally something that you really got to be able to go, you know what?

00:26:49:20 – 00:27:12:07
Kyle Pearce
When I take this on, if I truly want it, I have to be okay with giving myself the grace and the time and the reflection that you’re going to need that’s going to be necessary for you to go. What didn’t go well there and why? Because there’s always a why, right? It’s not a you, it’s not a them.

00:27:12:09 – 00:27:27:15
Kyle Pearce
And then there is this massive barrier that they are used to learning it a certain way, too. So that’s going to take a lot of time to see. You’re trying to learn. They’re trying to figure out what the heck’s my teacher trying to do here. And there’s going to be a little bit of this. I say a little bit.

00:27:27:15 – 00:28:01:06
Kyle Pearce
It’s going to be a lot, which might mean that you might have to make some small changes along the way in order to lead you to the big change. Right. So breaking it down a little bit and going, you know, I’m going to start by always starting with a task and I’m going to give them at least X number of minutes to work on it, and I’m going to try my best to not interfere for that many minutes and only ask questions, not give answers, and slowly work your way down that path.

00:28:01:08 – 00:28:25:04
Kyle Pearce
But whatever it is that you choose, I think right now you said you waved a magic wand and you want your class to have more exploration, more math talk and discourse and get students thinking. And it’s like until you take that first step and you stick with those steps because if you took the step, but then you went back and you kind of went backwards, so it’s like it never happened.

00:28:25:06 – 00:28:39:16
Kyle Pearce
So it’s like you’re going to have to take that first step and you’re going to go, Oh, this does not feel good. And then you’re going to have to take the next step and you will be like, This still doesn’t feel good. It’s going to take a while for you to get to that place. And of course, you don’t want to just do it blindly.

00:28:39:16 – 00:28:55:00
Kyle Pearce
You’re going to have to be reflective and you’re going to have to really be thinking, like and committed to this journey. Because what you don’t want to do is to just take blind steps and just keep going. And then you find out down the road that you’re like, Oh, I have no idea what’s going on here. There’s no structure anymore.

00:28:55:02 – 00:29:16:12
Kyle Pearce
And all of a sudden nobody wins in that particular scenario. So what do you think when I tell you that when I’m kind of pushing you a little bit here, we know you well. We’ve seen you learning in the past. And when we heard that you had this struggle, we really wanted to, I think, be a little bit more forceful with our push over the edge.

00:29:16:14 – 00:29:29:03
Kyle Pearce
Where’s your head at now? How do you feel? Are you nervous? Are you excited? Are you sad? Are you happy? How are you feeling? And what do you think your big takeaway is? And the next step that you’re going to make.

00:29:29:05 – 00:29:53:08
Joanne Ward
It feel hopeful? Like I’m so thankful for both of your time and what you and John said. It’s very precious to me. There’s this small thing, especially when you mention like getting rid of bad diet and bad habit. And that’s exactly what it is. That’s I have to break through this thing. I just see it one day and then go back and and I’ll feel more secure and then it won’t keep wandering.

00:29:53:10 – 00:30:10:24
Jon Orr
I love it. I love it. I think you’re going to make some waves. I feel it. And actually what we should do, Joanne, we should check back with you in a little bit. So it’s like we’re going to say, Hey, Joanne, you’re going to go off, you’re going to limit the teaching. We’re going to choose some appropriate tasks.

00:30:10:24 – 00:30:24:24
Jon Orr
We’re going to look at some tasks that go slowly, turn the math, dial up, as Damir would call it, right. So if you go back and look at some of our middle school tasks on our website, you’ll notice that we don’t jump right into the task because that’s when kids will be like, I don’t know what to do.

00:30:24:24 – 00:30:44:09
Jon Orr
It’s slowly introduced different layers until they’re knee deep into it already. So we know you’re going to go do it because you’ve got the background, you’ve got that course under your belt, you’ve got all the resources in your hands and we’re going to check back with you in like six months. So we’re going to see Joanne. How have you done in your classes?

00:30:44:09 – 00:30:50:22
Jon Orr
By taking this leap, like Kyle saying. So what do you say you game for checking back in, in, say, six months?

00:30:50:24 – 00:30:54:00
Joanne Ward
Yeah. And I’ll write down every day like how I feel.

00:30:54:03 – 00:31:18:18
Kyle Pearce
I love it. And here’s one thing I want you to write down as well. So I love that you’re going to do that. That’s going to be so helpful. But I want you to for sure write down at least one thing that went well, even if overall you didn’t like how the whole thing went. So I want you to find what was one positive, even though because our brains are going to go to all the things that didn’t go well.

00:31:18:19 – 00:31:39:02
Kyle Pearce
Right. So you’ve got a lot of practice and how you’ve always been teaching. And I’m going to bet that the way you’re doing that is probably really, really great and that there’s a lot of great things that are happening there. So we don’t want to throw all of that out, Right. Can still do some of this work or we’re just going to flip it around for now and you’re going to find that, you know what?

00:31:39:02 – 00:32:02:24
Kyle Pearce
Maybe some of the stuff that I was summarizing so beautifully for my kids, maybe I didn’t need to do that, but I’ll never know because I always did it first and I didn’t know what they could or couldn’t do yet, and I didn’t know what to focus more on. So really, with this goal, I think if you stick to it, you’re going to find that at first it’s going to be odd, it’s going to be awkward.

00:32:03:03 – 00:32:32:00
Kyle Pearce
Some days are going to your heart’s going to race a little more. You might feel like anxious or nervous because you’re like, I’m not sure how this is going to go, but over time, as you do this more and more, you’re going to start to pick up on things that your students are doing that show you that essentially turn it into the task, into a diagnostic tool, instead of it being like more of a formative or even a summative tool in some cases, right, where we teach a whole lesson and go, Now show me what you can do.

00:32:32:06 – 00:32:50:16
Kyle Pearce
Now we’re doing it the opposite. We go way where we go, what can you do and what you can’t do? That’s what I’m going to focus my direct instruction time on, right? Because okay, so I want to make sure that we bridge the gap here where we don’t waste time on this area that everybody seems to be doing really, really well.

00:32:50:18 – 00:33:08:22
Kyle Pearce
So I love that you’re up for the challenge. We’re so excited for you. And hey, we want to thank you for being a long, long listener. First time caller, though I think it would be, as they say, and we wish you all the best and we can’t wait to check in with you six months down the road.

00:33:09:02 – 00:33:10:15
Joanne Ward
Thank you so much.

00:33:10:17 – 00:33:13:11
Jon Orr
All right, Joanne, thanks so much. Take care.

00:33:13:13 – 00:33:36:03
Kyle Pearce
All right there, John. What a great conversation with our wonderful, wonderful colleague, Joanne. Joanne comes to us from well, I mean, from the U.S. but usually teaching overseas for most of her career and we’ve been in touch over a number of years, she continues to work through that common pebble. We all struggle with. This comes up quite often.

00:33:36:03 – 00:33:58:02
Kyle Pearce
We have certain ideas in our mind that we want to put into place in our classrooms. We have certain outcomes that we want for our students. We even recognize is that some of the practices that we use are not going to help us to get to that outcome that we’re after. But the way we were taught tends to stick with us and it is a really, really tough habit to break.

00:33:58:02 – 00:34:19:17
Kyle Pearce
So today, when we’re talking about that math program, our tree, our math classroom tree, thinking about the six parts of the tree, one thing that I’m noticing is that her beliefs and mindsets are in the right place. She has the right ideas in mind. Joanne wants the best for her students. She wants to make some progress in this direction.

00:34:19:19 – 00:34:43:22
Kyle Pearce
But some of the habits are sort of stuck and I’m going to focus today on the trunk of the tree that that culture, that classroom culture, the structures in place in her classroom, because she knows the pedagogical moves she wants to make. So she knows what she wants her branches to be on this tree. But I think it’s deeper than that and that we have to actually get to the trunk.

00:34:44:03 – 00:35:03:04
Kyle Pearce
We have to start thinking about how do I actually break some of these habits that we have in place that are hindering us from taking that next step in the right direction towards what we call the real flipped classroom. John, what was your big takeaway from today and what part of the tree is sort of lighting up for you?

00:35:03:05 – 00:35:26:05
Jon Orr
For me, I think my big takeaway from our conversation is almost like a reminder that when we set goals for ourselves, we say we want that, that we can take baby steps to get there. But it’s about kind of that consistency. How can we create that consistency so that it doesn’t become the hurdle It, doesn’t become like, I want that or I’m aiming for that, but I need to get there.

00:35:26:05 – 00:35:46:16
Jon Orr
It’s like to build our confidence. We need to take little steps that get us in the right direction until we build that confidence up, we can’t just jump to confidence. It just has to be built over time. So if you also need to figure out or think about your classroom tree, there are six areas of the classroom tree that you can strengthen.

00:35:46:16 – 00:36:04:23
Jon Orr
You should head on over to a mic performance dot com for its left report. Fill out that quick assessment. It’s going to send you a detailed custom report and say which of the six you should focus on next. And we give you some really detailed next steps in there to kind of take that journey and start to kind of strengthen that area up.

00:36:04:23 – 00:36:10:16
Jon Orr
It also shares the other areas and how to strengthen those areas up to as well. But that can be a really great first step.

00:36:10:18 – 00:36:32:17
Kyle Pearce
I love it. Friends. This was another math mentoring moment episode and we can’t record these episodes without folks like you bringing forward some of the pebbles that you have in your shoe and something I find most interesting is that most people who do come on for mentoring moment episodes start off sharing their pebble by saying, I think you guys have already talked about this before, Right?

00:36:32:17 – 00:36:53:08
Kyle Pearce
Right. So that’s what you’re thinking in your mind right now. And the reality is, you know what? We probably have, but it doesn’t mean that the pebble is gone, right? People are still struggling with these pebbles. So bring your context, bring your specific scenario to us so that we can have a great conversation because, hey, we are over 275 episodes into this, I believe today.

00:36:53:08 – 00:37:17:20
Kyle Pearce
This is to 76. And guess what? We still have some challenges in the math classroom. So you’re not alone. People appreciate hearing others who are struggling with similar pebbles. So this isn’t about being a unique pebble. Bring the pebble that you are working on right now and we be talking to you on an upcoming episode. And you can do that by heading to make moments dot com forward slash mentor.

00:37:17:22 – 00:37:33:03
Kyle Pearce
And you can tell us that short Pebble grab a spot in the calendar and we’ll see you on an upcoming episode Once again make math moments dot com forward slash mentor to come on a future episode. Well math moment maker friends I’m Kyle Pierce and.

00:37:33:03 – 00:37:34:01
Jon Orr
I’m John or.

00:37:34:01 – 00:37:36:19
Kyle Pearce
High fives for us.

00:37:36:21 – 00:37:37:14
Jon Orr

00:37:37:16 – 00:37:43:08
Kyle Pearce
A high five rule for you Oh.

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

Thanks For Listening

To help out the show:


Submit a Comment

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

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


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

3 Act Math Tip Sheet


Each lesson consists of:

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

Each Teacher Guide consists of:

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

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

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

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

These prompts are given each lesson with the following conditions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!

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

MMM Unit - Snack Time Fractions Unit


Partitive Division Resulting in a Fraction

Shot Put Multi Day Problem Based Unit - Algebraic Substitution


Equivalence and Algebraic Substitution

Wooly Worm Race - Representing and Adding Fractions


Fractions and Metric Units


Scavenger Hunt - Data Management and Finding The Mean


Represent Categorical Data & Explore Mean

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


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

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