Episode #279: Beyond Fairy Dust: A Math Consultant’s Journey to Making Impactful Change

Apr 1, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:


Ever felt like you’re just “sprinkling fairy dust” in your educational role without making a real impact?

This Math Mentoring is for every educator leader, math coach, or math coordinator grappling with the challenge of supporting teachers making meaningful changes in their teaching methods. It delves into the real-world struggles and victories of a math consultant navigating the complexities of influencing educational practices across multiple districts.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Discover practical strategies for transforming classroom experiences, focusing on student engagement and empowerment in mathematical thinking.
  • Learn how to build teachers’ confidence and competence in new pedagogical approaches, ensuring that change is not just sustainable but also embraced.
  • Gain insights into aligning teachers’ goals with administrative objectives, ensuring a cohesive and supportive environment for educational reform.

Tune into this enlightening episode now and equip yourself with the tools to make a lasting impact in your educational community!

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 – 00:00:16:12
Jill Kelly
I mean, so my goal is always just for the kids to be doing the math, for the kids to be doing the thinking, to take the ownership, to have the freedom to think in their own way and use their own experience and their own ideas. I mean, that’s really my main goal. Everyone agrees we need to teach standards.

00:00:16:13 – 00:00:22:04
Jill Kelly
I often use the standards for mathematical practice as my avenue for the discussion because.

00:00:22:04 – 00:00:55:05
Jon Orr
Ever felt like you’re just sprinkling fairy dust in your educational role without making a real impact. This math mentoring episode is for every educator, leader, math coach, math coordinator, grappling with the challenge of supporting teachers making meaningful changes in their teaching methods. This episode is going to dive into the real world struggles and victories of math consultants navigate the complexities of influencing educational practices across multiple districts.

00:00:55:06 – 00:01:32:10
Jon Orr
Stick around. You’re going to learn how to discover those practical strategies for transforming classroom experiences. You’re going to learn how to build teachers competence and competence in new pedagogical approaches. Plus, you’re going to gain some insight into aligning teachers goals with the administrative objectives, ensuring a cohesive and supportive environmental educational reform.

00:01:32:12 – 00:01:35:19
Kyle Pearce
Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast.

00:01:35:19 – 00:01:39:12
Jon Orr
I’m Kyle Pierce And I’m John or we are from math moments dot com.

00:01:39:16 – 00:01:47:14
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.

00:01:47:14 – 00:02:02:20
Jon Orr
Or at the district level. 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.

00:02:02:22 – 00:02:17:16
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.

00:02:17:18 – 00:02:20:18
Jon Orr
All right. Let’s get to the chat with Jill Kelley.

00:02:20:20 – 00:02:47:13
Jill Kelly
So just kind of a quick recap. I work as a math consultant K through 12 at an educational service center in Ohio. Actually, like Lip knows that you talk to a month or so ago, he was here with me for a few years before he went to work for school districts, local school district. And he was the elementary guy and I was the middle and high school gal and he left and I took over all of it.

00:02:47:16 – 00:03:15:04
Jill Kelly
Awesome. So we have I think it’s like 17 or 18 districts and probably in ten of them. And I just feel like I’m doing a little here. I just kind of like sprinkling fairy dust. And I come and go and I just I’m not sure that I’m impactful, not consistently in buildings, working with teachers. And I just was curious to kind of pick your brain, see if you have any ideas for me.

00:03:15:06 – 00:03:28:18
Jon Orr
Yeah. What would you say when you go into these schools? Tell me what that looks like. Tell me about your goals are versus their goals. Goals or what your mandates are when you’re going in to support these. Pay me a picture.

00:03:28:20 – 00:03:45:21
Jill Kelly
I mean, so my goal is always just for the kids to be doing the math, for the kids to be doing the thinking and to take the ownership, to have the freedom to think in their own way and use their own experience and their own ideas. I mean, that’s really my main goal. Everyone agrees we need to teach standards.

00:03:45:23 – 00:04:09:09
Jill Kelly
I often use the standards for mathematical practice as my avenue for the discussion because they’re right there in your standards. Everyone knows you need to use them. Get the kids doing the standards for mathematical practice. But the teachers I work with, I’d say they’re very typically not all of them, of course. A lot of them listen to you, but some of them are just focused on I got just got to get through the standards.

00:04:09:11 – 00:04:19:00
Jill Kelly
I got to say all the important things so the kids can hear it and move on. So that’s probably the disconnect.

00:04:19:01 – 00:04:29:13
Jon Orr
Got it. I got it. You want kids to be thinking, so that makes sense. What do you think holds these teachers back from do want to do? You know, where’s the real barrier here?

00:04:29:15 – 00:04:47:10
Jill Kelly
I think there’s kind of two. I think one is that they haven’t really seen it in action. So in our area, we have a lot of folks who they grew up here, they went to college around here. They get a job at their alma mater or a neighboring district. So they’re just kind of in this cycle where they’re seeing the same thing over and over again.

00:04:47:12 – 00:04:57:03
Jill Kelly
And then I think there’s also just a fear of letting go. There’s a fear that if the kids start doing some of the thinking, that they lose control of what the kids are doing in their classroom.

00:04:57:08 – 00:05:20:15
Jon Orr
Right. Right. Now, how do these teachers see you having your third party kind of coming in? Right. Is that how this is structured? Like we worked with school districts that have that kind of model and everyone has that model in-house versus third party. So tell me, how does the teachers perceive the work, the support that you’re doing? Like, I’m curious about that dynamic.

00:05:20:17 – 00:05:46:24
Jill Kelly
Right. So it’s kind of all over the place. This is year five for me and the districts that just kind of by sheer dumb luck. We started out a model that I think really works well, which is starting with just some kind of visions setting, relationship building. What is it that we want for young people and just taking the time to slowly build to where they see me as a support person.

00:05:47:01 – 00:06:05:23
Jill Kelly
I really tell them my favorite is when we’re shoulder to shoulder. I was in a building last week who I was there to just kind of pop around, see how things were going, and one of the teachers pulled me and he said, Hey, I don’t really like what I’m doing today. Do you want to do an activity? And okay, what are you guys working on?

00:06:06:00 – 00:06:25:03
Jill Kelly
We’re looking at velocity and projectile motion. Okay, So we pulled up a three act task. Right. And so that’s my favorite. Like the shoulder to shoulder. Help me out with this. I have something going on that I want to help with. Let’s go teach. Let’s go plan. So there is some of that with people that I’ve known for a long, long time.

00:06:25:05 – 00:06:38:24
Jill Kelly
And so there is some trust there. But then there are other places where they want me to sit in a chair in the back of the room and not disrupt what they’re doing. So it really is kind of all over the place, right?

00:06:39:01 – 00:06:52:09
Jon Orr
Right. And when you say, you know, you’re going in, you to envision setting you’re doing that with every every teacher, is there like a program you’re following where you’re saying this is step one, step two, step three, or like, unpack that for me.

00:06:52:11 – 00:07:17:01
Jill Kelly
Yeah. So I’ve started this year just working a little bit with Instruction Partners. They’ve been doing a bit. I think it’s all over the country, but especially in Ohio, they’ve been partnering with work around high quality instructional materials. So one of my districts, I’ve been following their protocol, which is vision setting, tied in with teacher actions and student actions, kind of getting people to identify those keys.

00:07:17:03 – 00:07:47:10
Jill Kelly
But other than that, that when I’m district, I mostly just some kind of like building my own materials. Right. So I’ll ask them to do a variation of like stronger and clearer each time. Have you seen that in the mathematical language routine where, okay, I’ll have them like write your sample vision statement. Maybe it’s just bullet points you value, and then I’ll have you talk to three other people to try to refine it, and then we’ll put them on the board and get really ruthless and try to put it into something.

00:07:47:10 – 00:08:03:10
Jill Kelly
And it’s always some variation of kids are problem solvers. They have perseverance. They know how to work together, right? It’s always something like that. But then we tend to get stuck on the like, okay, so what’s next? Right? We want this for kids. What’s the next step?

00:08:03:12 – 00:08:12:23
Jon Orr
Got it. And are we saying like, I’m just not sure what the next step is to strengthen that part or tell me where the real issue is here?

00:08:13:00 – 00:08:33:06
Jill Kelly
I think it’s partly that I’ve been doing a lot of the districts that I work with are looking at new materials, right? Just the way that COVID cycles got screwed up. Like everyone’s that a lot of people are looking at new material. So I’ve kind of been using that as my avenue, right? Like, okay, let’s try to pick something and like open up.

00:08:33:06 – 00:08:56:21
Jill Kelly
Illustrative math is one that several of them have chosen. Let’s kind of use that as our avenue toward looking for better thinking tasks, truly aligned materials. And then within these materials, how do we get kids doing the work? We put them in groups of three and have them on the vertical surfaces, like just kind of using that as the avenue.

00:08:56:23 – 00:09:17:24
Jill Kelly
But in other districts it’s more one of my districts. I’m saying, okay, share the routines you’re using in the classroom so we can learn from each other. And then they’re just writing things like, maybe next month I’m going to try, I think pair share. Right. So I guess that’s it, right? That’s the sticky spot. I know what I want, but where do I even start?

00:09:18:01 – 00:09:29:09
Jon Orr
Right. Right now, when you go into a school, are you typically meeting with one teacher and they’re all teachers?

00:09:29:11 – 00:09:44:02
Jill Kelly
What does that mean, really? It really depends on the school. Like, sometimes I’ll go in and sometimes they’ll have 30 teachers, 30 K-through-12 teachers, sometimes at a half a dozen. And then sometimes I’m meeting with them in their planning period.

00:09:44:04 – 00:09:48:18
Jon Orr
Right. When you have 30, are you doing like a group session? Is that what you’re doing or you’re saying.

00:09:48:20 – 00:09:53:12
Jill Kelly
30 for a whole day? Yeah, right. Here’s your 30 teachers. Do what you want with them.

00:09:53:14 – 00:09:56:16
Jon Orr
And then what is their like, follow up? I’m just.

00:09:56:22 – 00:09:57:13
Jill Kelly
Not always.

00:09:57:17 – 00:10:17:13
Jon Orr
Think like when what we’re seeing right now from a lot of the conversations we’re having with with teachers, with administrators, is that when we are experiencing like we’re not seeing the results, we’re not seeing the change, we’re not seeing the buy in from certain teachers because you got teachers that are just rolling with it. They’re probably happy with those.

00:10:17:13 – 00:10:37:20
Jon Orr
But it’s like our students. It’s like, I wish I could change that one. And and not. And that’s where I’m thinking the whole time about how do I get that one end? Yeah, it’s at us. And what we’re seeing is obviously there’s a lot of factors, but the one factor I think is making a huge difference right now is that alignment across the key stakeholders and their peers.

00:10:37:22 – 00:10:55:09
Jon Orr
So basically what you hear is probably what we hear or teachers say is, I don’t have time for that. Right? Right. Yeah. But what they’re really saying is I’m not sure that that’s going to be worth it. And they really that’s what they’re saying. There’s haven’t decided yet that it is worth it to invest the time. And there’s a few reasons we feel like they’re not.

00:10:55:11 – 00:11:04:15
Jon Orr
They’re saying that for real. And one is I’m not sure it’s worth it because what you’re telling me to do is not exactly in line with what my principal wants me to do.

00:11:04:17 – 00:11:06:07
Jill Kelly
Oh, yeah.

00:11:06:09 – 00:11:26:15
Jon Orr
If my principal doesn’t have my back here, then why would I do that? Because if I’m going to teach this new way, this new technique, you’re probably sharing a lot of pedagogical strategies. So it’s like you’re asking me to teach a new pedagogical strategy to get my kids thinking Makes sense. I know from my experience as a teacher that it’s not going to like.

00:11:26:15 – 00:11:49:09
Jon Orr
If I do that, chances are I’m not going to cover everything by the end of the semester or the end of the year. Right? And if I don’t, do I know that my principal will support me in that? Because if they don’t, why would I do that? Because if I don’t cover the curriculum at the end of the year, teams like, well, you didn’t cover everything in the parent call and the kid went off and didn’t get into the school or whatever.

00:11:49:09 – 00:12:10:20
Jon Orr
Right? All of these things that teachers worry about are real. And if the principal is in an aligned with where the real focus needs to be, they won’t do it. And the teacher has to feel like I’m giving you permission to not cover everything right now, because that’s more important right now. Until that alignment is there, teachers won’t change.

00:12:10:22 – 00:12:28:07
Jon Orr
That’s what we’re seeing right now from number one. So it’s like, how do you create the alignment between the teachers and the admin? But then also their fellow teachers, like, I’m going to teach this way, but I’m teaching the grade 12 in Ontario here we call it advanced functions, which is really pre-calculus. But I mean, like could be any great, like any grade.

00:12:28:08 – 00:12:49:07
Jon Orr
I’m teaching sixth grade, three doors down the hall. They’re teaching sixth grade, but we’re not doing it the same way. And if we’re not doing it the same way or it’s not, then we’re not doing the same ways that we don’t. Also share the same vision of like, what’s important. You might be doing it differently, but we both share the same importance of problem solving, of resiliency, of fluency, of those things that we said are important.

00:12:49:07 – 00:13:06:02
Jon Orr
Is everybody aligned that way? So that first is that alignment has to be there if you’re going to see real change. Otherwise you’re moving little puzzle pieces around and it feels like you’re making success in these pockets. But the research shows that pocket success isn’t sustainable success. So you’re.

00:13:06:02 – 00:13:07:14
Jill Kelly
Saying on this show, Yeah.

00:13:07:17 – 00:13:23:16
Jon Orr
Got in a school. So in a school we have to have that alignment. The principal just has to be supportive. So that vision planning work you do with a teacher kind of has to be done with the administrator too, so that the teacher can see eye to eye like they actually see them go. That makes a lot of sense.

00:13:23:16 – 00:13:46:15
Jon Orr
You should do that. Yeah, do that. And then you have to have that conversation that what happens if I do this and I don’t cover all the curriculum because it’s reality. You can’t teach something new and go, Yeah, well that was a flop because it’s going to be right. It’s going to feel like a flop the first time you try something new and you’re going to have to go, Do I do that again?

00:13:46:16 – 00:14:10:16
Jon Orr
How do I go on the next step of that? It just means time because teachers will say, Well, I got to do I could do it better. But it’s like, you know, you have to take more time to teach in a new way than the old way. And not because the new way just takes more time. It’s because you’re going to fail and you’re going to want to like, try again or you’re going to want to like, make adjustments or you’re going to learn that you can do it faster.

00:14:10:18 – 00:14:32:15
Jon Orr
Eventually, we can cover a lot more curriculum, teaching kids how to think. Then you can by teaching them how to mimic. So that part is fine. It’s about getting them to realize that it might take more time first, initially year one, year two, it’s year three and four that you’re going to make strides because when you teach a fractions lesson this year, you’re not going to teach that again until next year.

00:14:32:20 – 00:14:56:05
Jon Orr
And that takes time for us to see those growth moves. That alignment is really key. The other thing is, and we’ve probably said this on the show too, we just had a webinar last week for district leaders and this was a big part of it. I can send you the link if you like. The other part is, a lot of the time we’re asking teachers to change their pedagogical moves before we even help them feel comfortable with the mathematics themselves.

00:14:56:07 – 00:14:57:02
Jill Kelly
I could see that.

00:14:57:07 – 00:15:34:08
Jon Orr
So we’re saying, Hey, I want you to follow Peter a little office building thing in classrooms and get kids up and try different strategies before you show them the one strategy. But if a teacher hasn’t actually tried different strategies themselves or understood that there are different strategies and different models to represent that thinking and shown grappled with the mathematics that way, then they’re like, Wait a minute, but I only load math this way and you’re asking me to give flexibility to the kids, but I don’t know what they’re going to do because I haven’t anticipated or most of the time, if we want to see that pedagogical change, we actually have to spend time helping

00:15:34:08 – 00:16:01:05
Jon Orr
them really just play with the mathematics themselves. And so if you’re going to be getting them to like teach a lesson on adding fractions, but you want them to do it using different models and strategies, then we better make sure that they’ve added fractions other than just, hey, you multiply here, you multiply here, you group on that either done right or if you dividing fractions you help them understand that there’s you don’t just have to flip and multiply so you can do it this way.

00:16:01:07 – 00:16:24:10
Jon Orr
But now we have to give you time to practice that way so that you feel comfortable just doing math that way. And then so sometimes the districts that we partner with, we spend a year just focusing on what math fundamentals do we help our teachers just grapple with before we have any sort of expectation that they do it in the classroom?

00:16:24:12 – 00:16:25:14
Jill Kelly
I totally see that.

00:16:25:19 – 00:16:44:10
Jon Orr
Because they won’t move. They won’t try it if they don’t feel comfortable themselves. A lot of them, you know, you’re going to have a handful that are just like, I’m fine with that in front of the class. But there’s a lot of type-A personalities that are teachers that are like, I need to know what leads from A to B to C to D while I’m in front of kids.

00:16:44:12 – 00:17:06:24
Jon Orr
Otherwise I might get eaten alive. And I’m scared of that, so I better know my stuff. So it’s easy to memorize the process because they’ll say that’s the way I learned it. You’ve got an army of teachers that learn math that one way we’re asking the teacher in a different way. So yeah, that’s really the other thing. So those two together can make a difference if you spend time trying to go, what is the.

00:17:07:01 – 00:17:21:13
Jon Orr
How do I unpack the math for them? And then also how can I align the people that are surrounding them, the administrators, the teachers, their peers? How do I help them grapple with those things before they’re comfortable to make moves in their classroom?

00:17:21:14 – 00:17:35:08
Jill Kelly
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, especially now that I’m working with teachers of younger grades, right, Because they just don’t have the same level of content knowledge to feel comfortable that they know where it’s going.

00:17:35:10 – 00:17:56:19
Jon Orr
And yeah, same with high school teacher. I was a high school teacher my whole career and it was years I taught very traditionally, very procedurally for ten years before I grappled with the area model and how that can be used to and really understood that, hey, they’re teaching that in the lower grades. The blocks are the same as algebra tiles.

00:17:56:19 – 00:18:04:00
Jon Orr
Maybe I should start using algebra, then I can use the area model. There’s a lot of connections high school teachers need to make too.

00:18:04:01 – 00:18:05:02
Jill Kelly
Yeah, that’s true.

00:18:05:03 – 00:18:28:00
Jon Orr
You know, unpacking because they just trust that a the abstract way, the algebraic way is the be all end all. And we got to just go straight there instead of understanding that there is a progression of learning between the Sierra model to get there that everyone has to go through. When you learn something new and we have to be able to be flexible to move between the concrete, the representational and the abstract.

00:18:28:02 – 00:18:42:05
Jon Orr
Like just teaching. Abstract is one is one way of mathematical proficiency. We need the other ways to feel confident that kids are mathematically proficient. So yeah. All right. Where’s your head at now?

00:18:42:07 – 00:19:04:20
Jill Kelly
Oh, man, I feel validated because those are two things I’ve been focusing on a little more this year, especially the piece about just doing math together, helping teachers to unpack strategies that are present in their standards, the way kids can access them, the way of progress is one of my big things this year has just been those vertical conversations.

00:19:04:20 – 00:19:28:13
Jill Kelly
How are we using number lines all the way up? How does it support graphing? What about tape diagrams would just like different representations that teachers a lot of times aren’t familiar with until they just pop up, right? So yeah, that’s definitely something that I think has been an AHA for me and it’s good to hear you say even take a year to do it right because I think I want to.

00:19:28:15 – 00:19:32:10
Jill Kelly
15 minutes. Okay, now everybody gets dividing fraction by action. All right let’s.

00:19:32:12 – 00:19:54:19
Jon Orr
Right Yeah next time like you have a group of 30 teachers, you know, if they’re all within your grade levels, spending that whole could be the whole day or the whole hour on just multiplying two juju by two digit numbers using the area model and then showing that it’s really when we get to algebra, it’s the same thing and it’s distributed Every two property here is the same as it should be appropriate there.

00:19:54:21 – 00:19:55:24
Jill Kelly
Rather than teaching one.

00:19:56:03 – 00:20:10:22
Jon Orr
And then they’re going to naturally say, and this is your huge win right? When you do that and they’re natural, says, Oh, that’s cool, How do I do that in the classroom? Yeah, they say, you’re like, All right, well, I can show you that. Yeah, well, often we just go in and go, This is what you should do.

00:20:11:03 – 00:20:19:14
Jon Orr
This is what it looks like in the classroom. And then you have to figure out how to support them in the classroom instead of just getting them to go. I want to do that in the classroom. Now that I’m a believer.

00:20:19:16 – 00:20:32:21
Jill Kelly
Yeah. So if you are me who I have a lot of autonomy, which is wonderful and terrible, right? If you have a district that approaches you and says, Hey, we need math coaching.

00:20:32:23 – 00:20:34:04
Jon Orr

00:20:34:06 – 00:20:37:14
Jill Kelly
I have one of those right now on my radar. What would you say.

00:20:37:15 – 00:20:58:24
Jon Orr
Would be, well, what we do so so Jill, this is what can I do as well? So we partner with school districts to help them with their professional development goals. And so when we get approach to say, hey, we need some support, we use our four stage process. So our four stage process is first designing and measuring what we want to see in the classrooms.

00:20:59:01 – 00:21:16:23
Jon Orr
So if you think about it, if you’re going to replicate that same four stage process, you’re saying what are the most important things you want to see? What are the outcomes we go through in our the webinar I’ll send you as we kind of unpack the four stage process, but I’ll give you a workbook if you want to kind of go through helps in district leaders.

00:21:16:23 – 00:21:33:19
Jon Orr
Use our workbook all the time to kind of figure out what is the most important thing that they should focus on. And so once you we call these are a big objectives. Why don’t you help a district realized what are the big objectives to help achieve the vision of mathematics you want. That’s that alignment. It’s part of the alignment stages.

00:21:33:19 – 00:21:55:03
Jon Orr
We have to know where we’re going. We have to look at the completed puzzle. What is the completed puzzle look like? Where are we aiming for and where is everyone aiming for? Because we want those administrators on board. We want those teachers on board. Then we’re going to start to go, What are some of our key actions? What are some of the measurables that we can take care of?

00:21:55:05 – 00:22:12:15
Jon Orr
How can we prove that what we’re going to do this year is going to make a difference with what we want to see improvement on? Too often districts will say, well, we’re going to go in and we’re going to do this, this and this, but we’re going to wait for student visit data to prove that we did it right.

00:22:12:17 – 00:22:17:23
Jon Orr
And when you wait for student data, there’s a million factors that go into that student debt.

00:22:17:23 – 00:22:18:13
Jill Kelly

00:22:18:15 – 00:22:51:19
Jon Orr
But you might say I want to see improvement in your lesson structure on engaging productive struggle with students. Why don’t we measure that? Why don’t we measure what it looks like in our classrooms now versus later on a regular basis to see if we’re actually engaging our students in productive struggle and then we can say we’ve made a dent there, like we’ve got more teachers more often engaging our students in productive struggle because we did this, this, we did this, we did this this year, and we remeasured at the end of the year and we have improvement in the area that we were setting up to do.

00:22:51:21 – 00:23:10:03
Jon Orr
So that’s an important part of that process. So when a district says we need coaching, what should we do? We got to take time and go, Well, what do you want to see happen? And let’s create a plan. Here’s your plan to make sure you get what you want to see happen. And then it’s about carrying that planning.

00:23:10:05 – 00:23:30:15
Jon Orr
So that’s stage one of our four stage process, designing those goals, figuring how to measure those goals. Stage two is figuring out how to unpack and unfold those goals, like how do I make sure I get into classrooms? Is it a coaching role? How many touchpoints of teachers did I do this year? Did I get into all the classrooms I needed to get into, or did I email them this many times that breadcrumb them along?

00:23:30:17 – 00:23:56:22
Jon Orr
How many sessions did I do that meets what I need to do? How many times did I touch the administrators to make sure they’re still aligned? What support can I give when I only have this many avenues? If I’ve got an email avenue, I’ve got actual face to face meeting avenues. I’ve also got more many group avenues. How do I plan out all of the touchpoints that I have so that by the end of the year, if I did all these touch points, I’m going to hit those key results that we set.

00:23:56:24 – 00:24:11:05
Jon Orr
And when we do that, that’s kind of we call that our stage two is optimizing or sustaining like planning it all out, getting those on paper. Because what happens is we get into classrooms and teachers are going to say like, I just did this and I need help with this. And they were like, okay, I want to help you.

00:24:11:07 – 00:24:20:13
Jon Orr
I want to help you do that because you want every interaction you make with a teacher to feel like you’re taking something off their plate, right? Like, how do I take something off the plate, not put something on your plate?

00:24:20:15 – 00:24:21:11
Jill Kelly

00:24:21:12 – 00:24:40:03
Jon Orr
What you want to do is because you have this mapped out focus, you get to go, How do I take that off their plate but also still move us towards the vision that we set and the goals we set. How can I stay aligned every day? Because you’re going to be it’s like all of a sudden you’re going be throwing spaghetti all over the place.

00:24:40:05 – 00:25:05:13
Jon Orr
You’re not going to be sure what you’re doing because you’re just trying to plug holes That’s that optimized sustained part is mapping it out and going, This is the way it’s going to unfold and I will stay aligned on what matters if I stick to this plan because it will get messy later on. And then our third stage is all about building capacity, which is making sure you build in that time to the play with the math.

00:25:05:15 – 00:25:06:08
Jill Kelly
I could see that.

00:25:06:11 – 00:25:26:18
Jon Orr
The fourth stage is about inspiring teachers to become lifelong learners and how do you do that? But it’s the coaching moves. It’s what you said, building relationships, making sure that every time you have a touchpoint with a teacher, that you’re ensuring that they see every interaction that you have is something that’s always helping them instead of adding to their plates.

00:25:26:20 – 00:25:43:14
Jon Orr
Because if you want, they walk in the door, the last thing they’re going to want is like, Oh my gosh, here comes Jill again. She’s going to give me something new to do. And part of that is because you mapped out in back in stage one of stage two, all the focus every time you walk in the door, it’s always the same stuff that you’re pushing.

00:25:43:16 – 00:26:00:03
Jon Orr
And they’re like, Oh, she’s still pushing this. That must be really important. I better get on board. I better start trying that because what happens is when you come in and go, Let’s try this and let’s try this, what it tells them is the last thing you just said wasn’t that important.

00:26:00:06 – 00:26:01:02
Jill Kelly
Doesn’t really matter.

00:26:01:02 – 00:26:21:22
Jon Orr
Because your next time you come into my room, you got to give me something new and I’m going to have to try that. And so because of that consistency, because of that focus, you set back and stage one, if every touchpoint you had in that full year was always about the same three things, then they’re going to be like, All right, I’ll make some growth, I’ll make some growth.

00:26:21:24 – 00:26:41:22
Jon Orr
So I’m kind of staying focused and you can get pretty narrow down. Every teacher can have their own focus, right? And every teacher depends on how many touchpoints with teachers you have on a regular basis. Like we work with districts all across North America and we’re meeting with people all day long about how to strengthen this. So we’re helping them create touchpoints.

00:26:41:24 – 00:26:54:07
Jon Orr
We’re creating touchpoints with school districts so they can create touchpoints with their teachers. It’s kind of like depends on how many touchpoints you have and who your touchpoints are and how granular you get at that level.

00:26:54:09 – 00:26:55:14
Jill Kelly
Yeah, I could see that.

00:26:55:16 – 00:26:57:06
Jon Orr
What do you think? I did a lot of talking there.

00:26:57:12 – 00:27:17:07
Jill Kelly
No, that’s good. And I think I’m just thinking about this district that I mentioned where they really have trouble imagining what it would look like to have students do the thinking. And I think I can totally see myself doing that. Well, maybe you should try to debate math and maybe you should try a three test and maybe you should try mathematical language.

00:27:17:07 – 00:27:40:00
Jill Kelly
They just kind of, like you said, all over the place, waiting for something to like grab them. But I think instead of better, I like the idea of focusing on instructional routines, which is what we’ve been talking about all year. But maybe we need to just say, okay, each teacher pick one instructional routine that you really want to try consistently.

00:27:40:02 – 00:27:42:07
Jon Orr
And so that you remember which one it is.

00:27:42:09 – 00:27:45:08
Jill Kelly
And then I have to write down this teacher, this routine.

00:27:45:13 – 00:28:03:18
Jon Orr
And then I would say, Why? Like, why are you picking that one? Because what you want is I want something that will help me make my job easier. Yes. So how do I make my job easier? And what you just you know, you ask them is like, what are the pebbles that are currently happening or rattling around in your shoe?

00:28:03:24 – 00:28:06:03
Jon Orr
Let’s pluck one out of their today.

00:28:06:05 – 00:28:07:06
Jill Kelly
That’s a good one.

00:28:07:08 – 00:28:29:07
Jon Orr
What’s the pebble we can pluck today? And let’s make sure that that pebble we pluck every time we come back. And then you’re saying if they say, I just wish my kids had better math facts, then it’s perfect. Do you agree that we should focus on how to build fluency with our students in mathematics? All right. Every time I come in here, all we’re going to do is help them build, be better math fact students.

00:28:29:13 – 00:28:55:03
Jon Orr
And every time I come here, I’m going to help you with a instructional routine that strengthens number sense numeracy and operations. And that’s it. That’s all we’re going to do. Because you think math facts are the most important thing You wish that was strengthened with all your kids and we’re going to make it happen. All your kids will be better at math backs if we go through this tree that we’re going to unpack this year on this one pebble you have in your shoe.

00:28:55:05 – 00:28:57:13
Jon Orr
We’re going to focus all on that.

00:28:57:15 – 00:29:20:12
Jill Kelly
Yeah, I like that. I think that’s good because going back to the idea of if the teachers feel like you’re there to take something off their plate or to make something easier for them or more manageable for them, then you have that buy in and they’re actually going to do it right if they feel like it making their life easier, better because so often they just have these big like the one I hear all the time of student engagement now.

00:29:20:14 – 00:29:37:09
Jill Kelly
Well, what do you mean by student engagement? They really want them to write down the notes. I’m like, Is that really what you want? But also like the idea of like, okay, getting a little when you’re with teachers, getting a little more granular, but not so granular that it’s doesn’t have an impact right?

00:29:37:11 – 00:29:40:18
Jon Orr
Right. What would you say is your immediate next step?

00:29:40:20 – 00:30:03:03
Jill Kelly
Yeah, well, I’m going to work on my agenda for the half day PD that I have next week with that group of teachers. And I’m going to make one of the initial questions, What’s the pebble in your shoe? Let’s see if we can find a few of those. And they’re going to say student engagement, but then maybe we can talk about, okay, specifically, what would that look like for your kids and your classroom?

00:30:03:05 – 00:30:15:07
Jill Kelly
Let’s pick a routine that we know we can implement that will address that issue. And I’m and I’m there every day that week. So I’ll be here the next day and the next day and we’re going to try it. Does that sound good?

00:30:15:09 – 00:30:16:16
Jon Orr
Sounds good.

00:30:16:18 – 00:30:19:13
Jill Kelly
Okay, I feel better.

00:30:19:15 – 00:30:23:07
Jon Orr
But what would you say is a big takeaway from today’s chat?

00:30:23:09 – 00:30:50:18
Jill Kelly
Yeah, I think a big takeaway for me and my role is just thinking about the intentional right. So rather than just showing up and how is everything going today really paying attention to the number of touchpoints that we have and looking at how that directly supports the goals that the district has. I also just feel like I said, I think is that we use the word validated, affirmed that doing the math with teachers matters.

00:30:50:20 – 00:30:57:02
Jill Kelly
So building the capacity and also addressing goals, desires for students.

00:30:57:04 – 00:30:59:17
Jon Orr
You know, I think a great takeaway.

00:30:59:19 – 00:31:01:03
Jill Kelly
Is that, yeah.

00:31:01:05 – 00:31:09:19
Jon Orr
I feel no worries. Is there anything else you need from us? So yeah, anything we can do to support you, let us know.

00:31:09:21 – 00:31:11:16
Jill Kelly
Okay. Thanks, John.

00:31:11:18 – 00:31:13:08
Jon Orr
All right, Joe, Take care.

00:31:13:10 – 00:31:15:19
Jill Kelly
Nice to see you.

00:31:15:21 – 00:31:49:09
Jon Orr
All right. So hopefully you enjoyed that episode and you pulled some nuggets from talking with Jill and and thinking about what she’s going through when we started this conversation, we didn’t know that this was going to turn into an episode for the podcast. But I talked to Jill after the recording and kind of said, Hey, I think your pebble here is really important for the mathematical maker community to hear, and I hope that you got that from this episode that, you know, you’re pulling some nuggets, you’re seeing some similarities in what you’re working with in your district, or even if you’re a classroom teacher, what you’re thinking about on a regular basis.

00:31:49:09 – 00:32:25:07
Jon Orr
And that’s the important part of when we do our math mentoring moment episodes is we’re hearing stories from practicing educators and what we want to do is see ourselves in those same stories or see how other people that we’re working with are in those same stories and what we can pull from them. Because I think one of the biggest things that I’ve learned as an educator in my 19 years is learning empathy for the people that we work with, which is students, administrators, coaches, consultants, coordinators, understanding that everyone is a human being and thinking about what they’re dealing with on a regular basis.

00:32:25:07 – 00:32:54:00
Jon Orr
And I think just knowing those stories helps us do our jobs better. And I think that’s a really important part here. If you want to chat with us to dive into a pebble that you’re rattling around in your shoe, we want to pluck it out of there. So head on over to McMath moments, dot com forward slash mentor, Fill out a quick form there and let us know what your pebble is because chances are that pebble is something that we want to talk about on our podcast to help other educators just like we did with Jill here.

00:32:54:00 – 00:33:11:06
Jon Orr
And if you think, Hey, we’ve already chatted about that pebble, don’t worry, go ahead and fill that form out, because chances are how you’re thinking about that pebble is completely different than what maybe you heard on that podcast. Or maybe there’s a different take or a different kind of side to the story that we want to hear about.

00:33:11:06 – 00:33:33:15
Jon Orr
So go on over to make that moment dot com for us. Mentor, fill out that form and we’ll chat with you. Kind of plucked that pebble in that will also at the same time help other educators in the McMath moments community folks if this is the first time you’ve listened to an episode, then welcome and we encourage you to hit the subscribe button if you’ve listened to a few, as we put it, each week, each Monday morning.

00:33:33:21 – 00:33:53:05
Jon Orr
This is episode 279. If you’ve listened to a few, we encourage you to hit that rating and review button. Leave us a rating, a review. It will help other educators find the show and start changing their math classrooms to something that they’re aiming for. Well, until next time I’m Kyle Pierce. And I’m John.

00:33:53:05 – 00:33:56:17
Kyle Pearce
All high fives for us.

00:33:56:19 – 00:34:10:15
Jon Orr
And a high five for you. Oh be.

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.