Episode #285: Transforming A Math Program: The Journey of Two Dedicated Math Coordinators

May 13, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel? Can you feel the change that is happening in your district’s math program? Are you on the right pathway to improve math instruction and ultimately student success in your school or school district? 

These are all questions our guests, Michael Scott and Morgan Siler have asked themselves (and us) on their journey to transforming their math district’s math program from the inside out. 

Michael and Morgan are two math coordinators from Ohio and their district has partnered with us in the Make Math Moments District Improvement Program and have had a “night and day” experience from where they were to where they are now on achieving their goals. 

This podcast episode dives into the real-world experiences and strategies of Michael & Morgan who are navigating the complexities of supporting math teachers in their district, focusing on developing depth of understanding for their educators, effective coaching methods, and vision and goal alignment. 

Stick around and you’ll:

  1. Discover effective strategies for supporting students and educators in grasping the “why” behind math concepts, fostering a deeper comprehension.
  2. Learn about the transformative impact of consistent and structured professional development in mathematics.
  3. Gain insights into the personal and professional growth journeys of educators transitioning into coaching roles, and the tools they use to succeed.

Listen to this insightful episode to learn how you can implement these transformative strategies in your educational practice and start making a significant difference in how you lead or will lead math educators today.

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


Episode Summary:

Making Math Moments Matter” Podcast Guests

Kyle and Jon welcomed Michael and Morgan to the “Making Math Moments Matter” podcast, where they discussed their roles and experiences in math education. Michael, with 26 years of experience in the classroom and five years as a coach, shared his journey from a student who didn’t fully comprehend math to a teacher who strives to ensure his students understand the concepts. He emphasized his commitment to helping students grasp the “why” of math. Morgan, a fourth-grade teacher with nine years of experience and two years as a coach, also highlighted her focus on understanding and breaking down concepts for her students. Kyle expressed appreciation for their dedication and the positive impact they’ve had in their respective districts.

 Mathematics Education and Growth Mindset

Kyle and Michael & Morgan discussed their experiences with mathematics and its impact on their educational journey. Kyle emphasized the importance of a growth mindset and effective planning for the district. Michael & Morgan shared their realization of the shortcomings in their math education while in college, which led to a deeper appreciation for teaching math in a real-life context. Both Kyle and Michael & Morgan agreed on the importance of understanding the practical applications of math and the challenges that students may face while learning it.

 Teacher’s Impact on Classroom Experience

Jon shared his positive experience in a problem-solving class during his university days, which he attributed to the teacher’s skillful facilitation. The teacher’s approach, which involved assigning problems for the class to solve, greatly influenced Jon’s teaching style. Michael & Morgan, another participant in the discussion, shared a mixed experience, recalling being intimidated by the class and not feeling confident enough to contribute. Both agreed on the significant impact that a teacher can have on a classroom experience.

 Improving Math Professional Development Consistency

Kyle led a discussion about the recent journey of the district’s mathematics programs. The district’s math coach, Michael & Morgan, shared that their math professional development (Pd) had been inconsistent in the past due to contracted out teachers teaching new strategies or content. However, in the last few years, they have been working towards improving consistency and structure in their math Pd, with a particular focus on supporting teachers. They noted that this shift has been successful thus far, with improved consistency and teacher buy-in. Kyle commended their efforts and emphasized the importance of staying focused on these improvements.

 Transitioning Into New Roles and Supporting Teachers

Kyle, Michael & Morgan, and Jon discussed the challenges and learnings from transitioning into new roles that were not explicitly math-related. Michael & Morgan shared their feelings of being overwhelmed and unsure about how to start in their role as a coach, lacking the necessary training and understanding of instructional strategies. They also acknowledged the need for continuous learning and the importance of having a clear focus to support teachers. The group also recognized the influence of a coach, Mini Ballster, and the value of podcasts in their personal and professional development.

 Michael and Morgan’s Journey and Growth

Jon praised the passion and enthusiasm of WCS and Morgan, particularly their commitment to helping and their eagerness to learn. Michael & Morgan shared their early experiences, highlighting their transition into their roles and their initial uncertainties, particularly around content knowledge and teaching strategies. They also discussed their efforts to improve, such as conducting book studies and podcasts, and how these activities helped them learn and connect with others in the team.

 Improving Teacher Content Knowledge and Goals

Michael & Morgan, Kyle, and Jon discussed the importance of improving content knowledge for teachers, with a particular focus on mathematics education. Michael & Morgan reflected on the evolution of their goals and strategies over the past few years, emphasizing the need to focus on a few essential goals and measure their progress. They also highlighted the value of teachers becoming instructional leaders to enhance their own understanding of the content. The team now aims to shift their focus towards proper measurement and productive struggle.

 Setting Clear Goals for Teachers

The focus of the discussion was on the importance of setting and communicating clear goals to teachers, in order to ensure consistent and effective classroom practices. The Michael & Morgan emphasized the need to reach every teacher and to focus on a few key objectives, rather than trying to do too much. Jon expressed appreciation for this approach, highlighting its effectiveness in maintaining focus and staying aligned with classroom needs. Additionally, both agreed on the importance of continuous learning and humility in working with teachers, aiming to create a supportive and collaborative environment.

 Slow Pace, Regular Meetings, and Balance

The team discussed the slow pace of their process, acknowledging that their goals cannot be achieved overnight. They highlighted the importance of regular, bi-weekly meetings to evaluate progress and ensure they are moving towards their objectives. These meetings provide a platform for team members to share ideas, troubleshoot problems, and stay aligned. The team also recognized the challenge of balancing the urgency of daily tasks with the need to focus on long-term goals.

 District Leaders’ Advice and Collaboration Appreciation

Jon asked for advice from district leaders, particularly regarding their first moves and problem-solving strategies. The speaker from Michael & Morgan emphasized the importance of having a mentor or collaborator, continuing professional development, and setting clear goals with teachers. They also stressed the need for transparency and mutual understanding among teachers. The participants appreciated the support and collaboration they received from Jon and Kyle, and they expressed optimism about their future progress.

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00:00:00:09 – 00:00:16:02
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I realize at the time there was a huge amount of learning that I still need to do. I thought I was a decent teacher in the classroom, but personality wise I wanted kids understand. But there was so much more I had to learn. So that first year was just a lot of learning and trying to get in the classroom.

00:00:16:03 – 00:00:22:02
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I look back now and I kind of want to apologize to some of the teachers. We are so much more.

00:00:22:08 – 00:00:49:00
Jon Orr
Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel? Can you feel the change that is happening in your district’s math program? Are you on the right pathway to improve math instruction and ultimately student success in your school or school district? These are all questions our guests Michael Scott & Morgan Siler and Morgan Siler, have asked themselves and us on their journey to transforming their math districts math program from the inside out.

00:00:49:02 – 00:01:18:17
Jon Orr
Michael and Morgan are two math coordinators from Ohio, and their district has partnered with us in the Make Math Moments District Improvement program. And they have had a nine day experience from where they were to where they are now on achieving their goals. So this podcast episode dives into the real world experiences and strategies of Michael and Morgan, who are navigating the complexities of supporting math teachers in their district, focusing on developing depth of understanding for their educators, effective coaching methods and vision and goal alignment.

00:01:18:17 – 00:01:40:16
Jon Orr
So stick around. You’re going to discover effective strategies for supporting students and educators in grasping the why behind math concepts. You’re going to learn about the transformative impact of consisting and structured professional development in mathematics, and you’re also going to gain some insights into personal and professional growth journeys of educators transitioning into coaching roles and the tools they use to succeed.

00:01:40:17 – 00:01:56:04
Jon Orr
Here we go.

00:01:56:06 – 00:02:00:14
Kyle Pearce
Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce.

00:02:00:14 – 00:02:03:10
Jon Orr
And I’m Jon Orr we are from makemathmoments.com.

00:02:03:12 – 00:02:14:03
Kyle Pearce
This is the only podcast that coaches you through a six step plan to grow your mathematics program whether at the classroom level or at the district level.

00:02:14:05 – 00:02:27:03
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 that you are going to be doing will grow and reach far and wide.

00:02:27:05 – 00:02:42:15
Kyle Pearce
Every week you’re going to 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.

00:02:42:15 – 00:02:44:16
Jon Orr
That you serve.

00:02:44:18 – 00:03:06:13
Kyle Pearce
Well, hey, Hey there, Michael and Morgan, thanks for joining us here today on the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. We are so excited to bring you on the show. And guess what? We already know a ton about you because we get to chat with you quite a bit, but before we let people in on a little secret as to why, let’s hear a little bit about you.

00:03:06:14 – 00:03:14:06
Kyle Pearce
Let’s start first with Michael. Why don’t you say hello where you come into us from and what is your role in math education?

00:03:14:08 – 00:03:28:21
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
My name is Michael Scott and we are coming from West Carroll, Ohio, which is the southwest part of Ohio. My role in education, this is my 29th year or 26 years in the classroom and my four year coaching five.

00:03:28:23 – 00:03:43:17
Jon Orr
Nice, nice, nice. And not too far from us. We joke about that, too. Is that your spot in Ohio isn’t too far from our spot just south of Detroit. There in Ontario. So, Morgan, fill us in. What about you? How long you been teaching and what’s your role as well?

00:03:43:20 – 00:03:50:23
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I think this is my ninth year and it’s my second year as a coach before this, as a fourth grade math teacher in our district.

00:03:51:00 – 00:04:13:14
Kyle Pearce
I love it. I love it. And friends, we have had the honor and absolute pleasure of not only getting to know you both on a much more personal and professional level through the district improvement program. But we also have been able to essentially see the transformation taking place in the work that you’re doing, and both of you complement each other so well.

00:04:13:14 – 00:04:34:08
Kyle Pearce
I’m sure it’s going to come out in the conversation here. But before we go any deeper, we’ll start off with Michael here. We need to know what is your math, you know, ma’am, and that pops into your mind when we say math class. What is that moment that resonates with you or that you remember from your experience?

00:04:34:14 – 00:05:03:06
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Well, yeah. So we talked about this New Years. Yeah. Oh, yeah, for sure. I listen all your podcast so there’s yeah, so I have a couple thoughts, but honestly there’s no specific moment. It’s just the absorption of years, years of being taught a memorization way and not really, really understanding. That was kind of driving me to when I became a teacher to try to develop understanding with kids and try to break things down.

00:05:03:07 – 00:05:13:09
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Now, when I became a coach, I realized how much more I needed to learn. So not one specific moment, just there’s a lot of combination of moments.

00:05:13:11 – 00:05:34:20
Jon Orr
Makes sense. Michael When you first started teaching, did you always have that thought as a teacher? You know, thinking like, like you’re saying, I didn’t understand it. Did you recognize you didn’t understand it when you were a student? And then that translated into your teaching moves right away because you’re like, I gotta make up for this lack of I didn’t really understand it, but I’m now a math teacher.

00:05:34:22 – 00:05:53:13
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I did. I recognized right from the get go and I recognized that I needed to learn a lot more understanding, breaking down the foundational things. So I knew right away in the classroom. Now, that took some years of studying and working through things and teaching and trying to help kids with that. So I was always very cognizant of the fact of trying to get kids to understand the why.

00:05:53:18 – 00:06:20:10
Kyle Pearce
I love that. I love that. And there’s something that we recognized very early in our discussions when we were first connected with you both and your school district. And there was definitely this. You had an awareness of what was going on and that you didn’t have the arrival syndrome, as I think many of us in education sometimes can be tricked into thinking that, Hey, I have arrived, I have the knowledge, I did the math degree right.

00:06:20:10 – 00:06:42:03
Kyle Pearce
And I think that is one really important piece, which I think has allowed you both to really make some serious gains from a mindset piece, but then also just from a planning piece for your district. Before we go deeper there, though, I want to flip over to Morgan. How about you, Michael came out of the secondary side of things and.

00:06:42:03 – 00:06:55:15
Kyle Pearce
MORGAN you’re coming from the other end of the spectrum. You were teaching in a grade four classroom before coming into this leadership role. What is the math moment that sort of sticks out in your mind when we say math class?

00:06:55:17 – 00:07:15:18
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Yep. So I kind of did math and science in college, and I picked math as my capstone class. So it was my last class. I was a senior and I was ready to get out and I had to do one more math class and it was 100% tasks. And I really, really realized, Oh my gosh, I have no idea how to do math.

00:07:15:21 – 00:07:36:18
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
It really hit me that I memorized. I did the algorithms, I could follow rules. And then I remember walking in that class and it was a lot of seven, 12 teachers. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I have no idea what I’m doing. And I hated that class. I would always skip it and I would like call my friends who were like business majors and accounting majors.

00:07:36:18 – 00:07:47:23
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Like, you have to do my lab work for me. I had no idea what I was doing. And I think that really I mean, I was like, oh, my gosh, I was so surprised. I ain’t done well in math my whole life. And until that class.

00:07:48:00 – 00:08:01:00
Jon Orr
And it was the entire class the whole time threw for you, it was like, this is the worst. And this is did that translate into how did that affect you, having that experience? And then going into teaching?

00:08:01:02 – 00:08:21:00
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I think I realized that I did a whole lot of making problems, as you guys call them. I had to expose my kids to more than that because I had no idea what I was doing. It was all of these real life scenarios, and I didn’t even know where to start because I had done so many of like, well, divide this by this and I could do that.

00:08:21:02 – 00:08:24:03
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Those multi-step tasks. I had no idea what I was doing.

00:08:24:05 – 00:08:47:20
Kyle Pearce
That was so me and university my second year, I think you guys may remember from my math moment way back when and in second year university, I went in and I was in an algebra two class and I was completely lost. I had never felt so down on myself. I think then the realization that you’re like, I don’t know what the heck is going on here, and I’ve never felt this way.

00:08:47:22 – 00:08:50:13
Kyle Pearce
So I’m with you there. Morgan I’ve been there. I’ve been there.

00:08:50:15 – 00:09:16:06
Jon Orr
And I’m curious. MORGAN Thinking back to that teacher in the room, because I think we know that a teacher makes all the difference to what’s happening in that classroom. And you were saying it’s teaching through tests that made me go like, whoa, because I had the opposite, I think experience. When I was in university, I took a class at university, which was a problem solving course was all course just on strategies for problem solving.

00:09:16:06 – 00:09:37:11
Jon Orr
The whole course was about poorly is four stages in four step process and the teacher really made that class and what we did, every single class was like handed out problems. We worked on problems during the hour we were there together and then we would take those problems up. That was the whole class. It was a completely different experience to what all of my university classes before that was.

00:09:37:11 – 00:09:57:04
Jon Orr
But the teacher made a such an impact on how that course was delivered because we had to do the work, we had to do all the thinking, and all he did was summarize our thinking. This is before, like we weren’t standing up vertically around the rooms. We were just working on paper, on our desks. But it was fully a thinking math class.

00:09:57:06 – 00:10:16:03
Jon Orr
I had a completely different experience around how that influenced my thinking going into teaching because I wanted more thinking like that. Now I wasn’t great at it right out of the gate at all. I spent years just teaching the same way that we all thought for a long time. But I always remembered that class as a thinking first class, and I did want problem solving to happen.

00:10:16:03 – 00:10:25:19
Jon Orr
I just didn’t think I was doing it every single day like he was. But I’m curious. Tell me about the teacher of this class. What was going on that made you way like, I mean, I not belong here.

00:10:26:00 – 00:10:41:05
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
It’s not I guess my I mean, like, I was going to say the story and he asked me the same thing. I trying to think back ten years ago and I don’t even really remember what she did. And I swear it’s because I was so scared. I was in survival mode. I can’t say anything because I’ll sound off and people will know.

00:10:41:05 – 00:10:59:07
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I don’t know what I’m talking about. And that we did. We we got groups of two or three and we did problems. But I think I sat there silently because I was so like, Oh my gosh, I don’t even have anything to add. So I’m sure that she probably did summarize, but I was like, I think I was like, terrified.

00:10:59:09 – 00:11:05:03
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
All I remember is wanting to skip that class and not go there. She didn’t know what I was due it.

00:11:05:05 – 00:11:30:24
Kyle Pearce
Totally, totally. I can relate, my friend. And yeah, so those are interesting math moments for sure. And as we dig a little deeper, I would love us to talk a little bit about your journey here and more. We’ll talk about more of your more recent journey. We’ll talk about you both in your roles as math leaders and sort of the work that you’ve been working on over the next couple of years here.

00:11:30:24 – 00:11:50:15
Kyle Pearce
So take us back. I know, Morgan, you’ve been doing it for a couple of years in this role, Michael. I think you were in that role a little bit longer, but what did mathematics PD look like or sound like in your district, say, three or four years ago? And how are you seeing that sort of shifting over time?

00:11:50:19 – 00:12:10:00
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Well, this is my third year as a coach and our math was inconsistent. It would be somebody coming in, contract it out and teaching the high school group or the middle school group some new strategy content. Well, not really content as much for some strategy And then you word. Okay, you got that. Then we go into the classroom.

00:12:10:00 – 00:12:30:21
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Okay, try to do this. And there was just no consistency with it, no continuity with that back with all those years of teaching and having some PD and maybe it occurred once or twice a year. So let’s first our minds and we try to now have some consistency. And you guys have helped us with some of our goals and our vision.

00:12:31:02 – 00:12:52:17
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Try to have some consistency with structurally in developing content knowledge. So we have continue to do that through I don’t know, it really started last year with it and we’re doing a lot better with this year. My first year I wasn’t as much, but because we were still learning and we are still learning, so we’re doing that with a consistent support for the teachers to see that we’re going to continue to do this.

00:12:52:17 – 00:13:08:22
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
We’re going to get in your classrooms and try to implement this stuff and help you teach. Where are the first two math coaches, solid math coaches. Before we came in, we had two coaches, but they were supposed to be Eli in math and we kind of know how that goes. It’s a little bit more ELA and math, but on the back rack.

00:13:09:02 – 00:13:29:21
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
So we’re the first two people coming in and pushing math every single day, every single week. So that’s been a shift for the teachers. We’ve provided a lot more information, I think, about math than they’ve ever maybe wanted or thought they needed. But I mean, I think we’re doing a pretty good job staying consistent and. Well, absolutely. What that it’s.

00:13:29:23 – 00:13:50:21
Kyle Pearce
You’re essentially coming into two roles that weren’t exactly math roles as you had articulated. So you’re coming in and you’re not necessarily, say, taking the torch where maybe somebody left off. You’re essentially lighting a torch and really trying to figure out what that might look like and sound like. What pebbles were you seeing back when you think you’ve finished your role?

00:13:50:23 – 00:14:18:22
Kyle Pearce
Think about I don’t want to talk about my experience, but I’m envisioning mine. And I just remember feeling very loss, like I wasn’t sure where to start. Take us back to that experience. Maybe we’ll shift back to Michael here and then we’ll move on. Morgan What pebbles were you seeing and I guess how were you starting on that journey, being new to those roles and really having roles that hadn’t been fully mathematics in the past?

00:14:18:24 – 00:14:34:12
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Well, I think just feeling overwhelmed with being a coach and how to be a coach, we didn’t really have any training with it. So it was kind of we’ve learned as we’ve gone along just where do I start or how do I start with, where do I start with what group, what teacher, how do I what instructional strategies?

00:14:34:17 – 00:14:50:12
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I realized at the time there was a huge amount of learning that I still need to do. I thought I was a decent teacher in the classroom, but I was personality wise. I wanted kids understand, But there was so much more I had to learn. So that first year was just a lot of learning and trying to get in the classrooms.

00:14:50:12 – 00:15:10:20
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I look back now and I kind of want to apologize to some of the teachers. We are so much more consistent and we do have a vision. The three at my first year, I had never heard of that. I didn’t know if you guys and and that’s a whole story in itself. And actually I can give a shout out to one of our Eli coaches mini bolster so she’s on the podcast here She’s famous now.

00:15:10:22 – 00:15:32:00
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Yeah. Yeah we’re podcast. You even know about podcast or I didn’t know about podcast three. Let me get her up. What are they? And she always listen to podcasts and she got me turned on to them and I started searching. I found you guys and I saw listening to you. And then I share that with our curriculum director, Julie, and she found the District Partnership.

00:15:32:05 – 00:15:49:22
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
And so from there that we really started the ball rolling where we have a focus. And honestly, the first year was just trying to read and learn and figure things out. And I’m still doing that. But we, we have a clear focus as what can help our teachers that honestly, I have no idea what can really help our teachers.

00:15:49:22 – 00:15:52:07
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
So they took some time We so learning that.

00:15:52:09 – 00:16:13:14
Jon Orr
I remember those early conversations in that you were you were thinking, you know where you’re thinking like you’re you and what I always appreciated about even those early conversations is that your passion, your passion for both of you, for your passion for helping get in the classroom, you did that from from the start. You probably not having a model to follow.

00:16:13:16 – 00:16:30:18
Jon Orr
And getting into classrooms is a really important piece of the work that you’re doing and but not knowing exactly what to do while you’re there or what is the most impactful moves that you can make. And I remember that you just had that passion. I think that passion got you a long way just because of it. MORGAN Were you experiencing similar pebbles?

00:16:30:18 – 00:16:34:05
Jon Orr
What would the pebbles look like for you when you were alongside Michael in this?

00:16:34:07 – 00:16:52:01
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Yeah, I think my transition was a little bit easier just because Mike was there a year before me. So I feel like he found you guys and had resources to show me. But I remember it was almost like I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So one of the first times I met with Mike, he was like, Content knowledge is a big we need to focus on that.

00:16:52:06 – 00:16:57:18
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
And I immediately am like, Do you think I can’t do fourth grade math? What are you talking about? And then.

00:16:57:20 – 00:16:59:22
Jon Orr
You think.

00:16:59:24 – 00:17:16:17
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
He thought, okay, well, if you like your Netflix show, our very first year one that I want to do, I want to do a book study or what I do a book study on. There was a lot of authors I heard about. I think the first one, my first podcast, I’d butcher your little adult name John So many.

00:17:16:20 – 00:17:31:08
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I don’t remember that. But you like and you kind of chuckle, Who is this guy? I did a podcast the next the trip. It just it was a stuck Morgan was in it and I think in there I would have tasks for them to do. So I was starting to learn a little bit and we would we would do our books.

00:17:31:08 – 00:17:55:15
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
They were zooming together and that was Morgan was in that and that’s how I met Morgan, and that was helped. And I recommend her too. But I think that must have said something like that. We need to improve our content now. But that wasn’t Words are just her or any teachers. I think I saw it continue to improve it and that that’s one of our goals, consistently improve our content, are so important and I hear you guys talk about it all the time too.

00:17:55:16 – 00:18:08:17
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
So. So when I said that I really was like this thing, I can do fourth grade math. And then I remember about two months into the job I like when I were to have and you know how hard this would be for me. I was like, You were right. Yeah.

00:18:08:19 – 00:18:09:10
Kyle Pearce
Like, I.

00:18:09:12 – 00:18:28:01
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Was like, You’re right. Like, there’s so many things. I taught fourth grade math for many, many years. And there once you have time and the resources to look things up, you’re like, Oh my gosh, I didn’t know anything. We always talk about when and if we go back to the classroom, we would be fantastic. We know so many things, right?

00:18:28:03 – 00:18:35:08
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Like, well, fantastic. But we would just have so many new things that you did. You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

00:18:35:14 – 00:19:04:14
Kyle Pearce
You know what I think what we’re recognizing in this moment and everyone in the audience who’s listening here to the podcast, we have the solution to fixing math education. And it’s let every teacher be an instructional leader for a little while because you will ultimately learn so much. And that is such an important piece. And for you both, I must say, I’m a little jealous that I didn’t have as quick of a realization along the journey.

00:19:04:14 – 00:19:28:08
Kyle Pearce
I thought that I had the tools for a number of years and it took me longer to come to that realization that, Oh my gosh, there is so much we need to know. And sure, teaching grade for when we talk about content knowledge, you go, come on, grade for math. But really any educator out there who’s teaching grade eight, they’re saying, come on, I don’t know, grade eight math or I’m teaching grade 11 math that come on, I don’t know.

00:19:28:08 – 00:20:00:19
Kyle Pearce
Grade 11 math. Right. It doesn’t matter what the grade level is. There’s so much more nuance to it. And it’s those nuances that are really important and can really go a long way. So I’m wondering back then and now I know this from our discussions, but I feel like you’ve not only come to recognize some of these pieces around content knowledge, for example, and more recently of this idea of like needing to do the math with teachers actually doing a lot of math when you come together.

00:20:00:21 – 00:20:23:18
Kyle Pearce
But what would you say is maybe the biggest difference in what it was you were hoping to achieve as a team? And then also thinking like from a district perspective, where has that shifted from the beginning of this journey to now? If we were to think about that dream outcome for mathematics, how has that evolved over time over these last 2 to 3 years?

00:20:23:22 – 00:20:45:07
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I think that the first year we had a lot of big ideas. I think that we were shooting for the stars almost, and we wanted to do it all at once. And I think we quickly realized there’s only two of us between a lot of teachers. And what we needed to do was take the most important things that we could actually accomplish.

00:20:45:09 – 00:21:02:22
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
So I know we picked it three goals, and I think it’s been much easier now to kind of look at, okay, we want to do all these things, but is this meeting the goal, whatever our three goals and how is it doing that? And now the next step we’re looking to how are we going to measure our achieving our goals?

00:21:02:22 – 00:21:20:18
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
What’s our progress? So that’s our next step. So we’re excited about that. To see are the things we’re even doing making a difference, or do we need to kind of look at doing some different things? Yeah, I would just add that just we’ve narrowed the focus. Our focus was so, well, the first year there was no focus that was just wide open.

00:21:20:18 – 00:21:44:22
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
But we left the focus with your help and now we’re moving to being able to measure properly because that was one of the conversations we had with John back in our discussion of what do we want to measure and how and which we talked about to continue on with a productive struggle. So you guys have helped us with just trying to get that focus and make sure that teachers know the goals because we definitely did do that the first year.

00:21:44:22 – 00:22:01:03
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Like this is what we’re trying to do. And that’s been a big question. I think too. It’s like I have five through 12 teachers in Morgan State through four, and it is broad. You don’t really realize how big it is and it’s how to focus and how to be able to reach every teacher. So that’s one of our habits for sure.

00:22:01:05 – 00:22:05:16
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
We reach every teacher and do it consistently with a consistent message.

00:22:05:19 – 00:22:21:04
Jon Orr
So I love that that’s been the journey and I know that feels like we need to accomplish everything in our roles. So we don’t want to miss something. You don’t want to go, Oh, I we missed the boat on that. That could have been so much better. Let’s bring in now or we’re missing out on tackling this area.

00:22:21:04 – 00:22:40:14
Jon Orr
But when we focus on too many things, we’re really focusing on none. And I and I love that you are embracing the vision process. You’ve embraced being selective on the objectives in keeping that focus last summer, it helped you focus on what the next book study was going to be and was like, Which books should we be picking here to focus in on the goals that we want to achieve this year?

00:22:40:14 – 00:23:03:16
Jon Orr
And I think you guys have done a really great job of staying aligned to the things that really matter in the classroom and putting the work in to make that difference. Getting in the classrooms, modeling lessons, working with teachers all around that very streamlined focus. What would you say has been one of the biggest realizations around this process that you’ve kind of been engaging in for the last year or so?

00:23:03:18 – 00:23:04:01
Jon Orr

00:23:04:02 – 00:23:23:00
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Just how much how much we need to learn and continue to learn. I mean, that’s just a no brainer right there. I think that’s important and I think to being humble with the teachers and Meg imparting that message to the teachers, because when you go to the classroom to work with teachers, there’s a fear or an embarrassment like, I don’t know, an out.

00:23:23:00 – 00:23:52:19
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
And that’s one of the things that we both do in the classroom where we try to make sure that we’ve even like you were talking earlier, John, about fourth and fifth grade or sixth grade content. And there’s so much to dive into that really understand when you guys great resources with that. So just making sure that we go in the classroom, impart that message to develop that relationship and make the teachers feel more at ease, try to get them to more accepting of different strategies and of us being in the classroom and that takes an effort and everything is a process.

00:23:52:21 – 00:24:17:08
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
So I think too, that this process is a lot slower than you might want it. Yes, I feel like when I was offered this role, I’m like, Oh my gosh, yeah, I’m going to come in and do all these things and you can’t. It’s not a fast process, which is okay. And I think just now in year two, I finally realize that’s okay and small wins are still wins and we can’t move the needle in one day.

00:24:17:14 – 00:24:24:03
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
So I think that’s definitely something that we have really, and that’s okay. We keep talking about that.

00:24:24:05 – 00:24:50:13
Kyle Pearce
You know what? You want to go in there and you want to solve all the world’s problems, Right? And the tough part is we’re constantly flip flopping between urgency, right? There’s students who need the best we can offer them now And then there’s also, as John mentioned, the worry that if we are too urgent, that we may accomplish nothing and actually stay the same or actually go backwards.

00:24:50:15 – 00:25:22:01
Kyle Pearce
I’m wondering, since you’ve joined the improvement, the District improvement program, what would you say has been easier for you in your roles? Maybe we’ll start this time with Morgan. Has there been anything since coming into the program, and I don’t know if it’s a Segway or almost building on what you’ve just said, because I think one of the big pieces that you’ve taken and you’ve done very well with is the recognition that you can’t solve all the world’s problems in a day.

00:25:22:03 – 00:25:26:20
Kyle Pearce
But what would you say is easier now that you’ve had that additional support?

00:25:26:22 – 00:25:49:06
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I think one of the biggest things is like you said, there’s so many things that come up that feel so urgent, but a lot of times our big goals go to the back burner. I have second grade teachers. They need this. So I think having it already scheduled, biweekly meetings where we have to stop and we have to just talk with you guys and with each other about our goals.

00:25:49:08 – 00:25:54:13
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I feel like if we didn’t have those set in stone, a whole year could go by and we did nothing.

00:25:54:15 – 00:25:59:10
Kyle Pearce
The worst day every two weeks. Oh gosh, shoot, We got to meet with those guys now.

00:25:59:11 – 00:26:17:03
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
But it really it makes us stop and really think about like, okay, are the things we’re doing day to day actually working towards our goals, which I think is important. And I really don’t think if we didn’t have those time set aside, I mean, sometimes there are days that we don’t even see each other because we’re all over the place.

00:26:17:05 – 00:26:33:12
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
We just I don’t think that we would be constantly checking and what are we doing? What can we do? How are we measuring this? How are things moving forward? Yeah, it’s just it keeps us grounded. It’s nice to be able to bounce things off of you guys and talk things through. And you guys are like in the classroom.

00:26:33:12 – 00:26:54:04
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Do you still give us the answer? So you go on. Yes. Sometimes we just like, just tell us. Yeah, but you’re making us problem solving. Dr. Straub Right. So I think that’s very helpful to every to its time and Right. This is what’s going on. Give us some ideas. And you just have to talk things through. So that’s been very helpful.

00:26:54:06 – 00:27:10:02
Jon Orr
It’s like there’s a compass that kind of just brings you back in line and we’re pointing north. It’s like, are we pointing north? No reporting or pointing southeast. It’s like, bring it back north. Bring it back north. Because if we don’t continually refocus on a regular basis, the nature of the job will take us off course.

00:27:10:02 – 00:27:30:08
Kyle Pearce
It just will, especially since even though the compass might start pointing Southwest or wherever it’s pointing, it’s like it’s still good stuff. It’s not that the stuff that we want to do, that we get pulled to do isn’t worth doing. It’s just that, Oh, shoot, Oh, shoot. It’s a rabbit hole, right? Which is really, really tough. So great to see that you’re recognizing it.

00:27:30:10 – 00:27:48:04
Jon Orr
If you had to give one big kind of takeaway or one big thought or piece of advice to another district leader like yourself, like math coach, math coordinator in their district, maybe they’re spinning your wheels right now, or maybe they’re wondering, like, what is that first move that I should make? What would you say to them?

00:27:48:06 – 00:28:09:00
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Have someone that you can bounce ideas off and talk things through and if you don’t have someone to work with, have. Morgan I talk a lot about things and then we have you guys too. But if you don’t have either of those, seek out another district, talk somebody to help problem solve and ask them what they’re doing. Continue to learn, keep reading it, doing courses and podcasts.

00:28:09:00 – 00:28:34:23
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
So I’ve just learned so much doing those things and been exposed to other things that actually it’s kind of overwhelming a little bit because then I just want to read everything. I don’t so much time, so that would be my advice. Like Mike said, hopefully you have someone to talk to in future that we have each other. But coming up with two or three set goals and making sure that your actions are following one of those, and then I think being really transparent with the teachers about goals.

00:28:34:23 – 00:28:57:05
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I remember being in the classroom and I hear something and I’m like, you know, I didn’t even know that was a goal to making sure that your teachers know the goals and are a part of maybe even growing up with that. We let our math leadership team come up with those together, so we’re all accountable. But being really transparent with the teachers and making sure that we’re on the exact same page because they’re the ones doing the really hard work.

00:28:57:07 – 00:29:14:11
Kyle Pearce
I love it. I love it. Those are some great ideas. And hearing what both of you have articulated there when it comes to the idea of learning, when we don’t have goals, we might still be doing a lot of learning. I know I’ve been guilty of this where you do all the learning, but that almost creates more and more rabbit holes.

00:29:14:11 – 00:29:34:23
Kyle Pearce
But if I have those goals set, if I had that compass, as John, as you’ve articulated, I know what my true North is. I can still learn and we can put things on the roadmap, but we still go, okay, we’re still on this path. What Learning’s going to help me with these pieces now and then. What’s other learning that we might need to come back to?

00:29:34:23 – 00:30:06:12
Kyle Pearce
We might need to explore a little differently or maybe it’s going to help me refine some of those goals in the future. So I love that. Those are some great takeaways. And what I’m hearing from you both is I hear this openness, this not only openness to learning, but also the acceptance that when we get into leadership roles, be it coordinators, coaches, be it superintendents, directors, principals, these are really difficult roles because you get put into the role.

00:30:06:15 – 00:30:27:20
Kyle Pearce
And in a way we put this on ourselves that we’re just supposed to sort of know what to do. And the reality is, it’s like you’re saying collaborating with others can be really helpful, but then also giving yourselves permission to find that resource, that tool, that support that you need. So good on you both for doing that as well.

00:30:27:22 – 00:30:39:02
Kyle Pearce
Any final thoughts here before we wrap up? I want to say thank you to both of you for being on the show, for sharing and yeah, any final thoughts here before we wrap up for today?

00:30:39:04 – 00:30:54:03
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I just want to thank you guys for helping us. You guys have been very patient, very helpful. We appreciate the help. And I would just say that everybody else, the coaches who have worked with teachers and teachers, give yourself grace, make mistakes, and that’s okay. You’ll learn this part process.

00:30:54:05 – 00:30:55:16
Jon Orr
Ask Morgan anything to add there?

00:30:55:16 – 00:31:14:17
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
I feel like Mike took everything I have. He’s always taken the credit, isn’t he? Now, we really appreciate you guys. We’ll be talking and we’ll be like, Well, so not you gentlemen. I don’t know the answer. And you guys usually do. So it’s nice to kind of have that connection that we have with you guys. And it is.

00:31:14:17 – 00:31:21:02
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Yeah, it’s been really nice. I feel like we finally have a direction. I think we’re moving forward, So the best is yet to come.

00:31:21:04 – 00:31:21:24
Jon Orr
Love it, Love it.

00:31:21:24 – 00:31:25:24
Michael Scott & Morgan Siler
Oh, that’s good. That’s good. Thanks. Thanks, you two.

00:31:25:24 – 00:31:51:19
Jon Orr
For joining us here. And say hi to Julie for us and we’ll see you soon. I think we got a meeting on the books next week, so we’ll we’ll talk then and enjoy the rest of your day and keep on plugging away. All right. Thanks for listening to that insightful conversation between us and Morgan and Michael. And I’ve always, from the get go from a few years ago, starting to work with the two of them, you could see that they care about math, education.

00:31:51:19 – 00:32:18:24
Jon Orr
They care about what their students are experiencing in their classrooms or care about their teachers. They care about the coaching aspect. And every day they’re getting into more and more classrooms to be alongside the coaches or the teachers while they’re coaching them. And I think they’ve learned a lot along the way. But it’s those personalities that they have that they bring with them into those situations, I think is really where this change starts to take place because they are caring about those teachers, what teachers feel that they’re caring about them.

00:32:19:01 – 00:32:41:09
Jon Orr
And that goes a long way in building that relational trust that’s needed in a coaching and coaching atmosphere with teachers and also with students. So if you think about their district program Tree, they’ve been working on all six areas of the tree. And when we started working with them, we started in stage one of our program, which is strengthening the trunk of the tree, thinking about vision setting and PD planning, what is it that we want?

00:32:41:09 – 00:33:11:21
Jon Orr
We talk about objectives and key results. They’ve done a really great job of kind of staying aligned to the things that they set their sights on and their objectives. The zones that we want to strengthen inside of our teachers, these teaching practices that are based off mathematical practices from our students. We spent some time on that trunk. But what I really appreciate and where we helped kind of nudge them along a pathway is to help strengthen the roots of their own trees, their mathematical content, knowledge, what it means to be mathematically proficient.

00:33:11:23 – 00:33:36:00
Jon Orr
There have made a lot of gains in that area. They strengthen their own proficiencies up, which now in turn is helping their teachers strengthen their own proficiencies up. We’re making a lot of it going into this final year or this next year with them. They’re targeting how to strengthen their teachers mathematically proficient strategies up and so that they have that capacity to actually effectively deliver the pedagogy that we’re asking teachers to do on a regular basis.

00:33:36:00 – 00:33:58:05
Jon Orr
We do need to have sound proficiency around mathematics ourselves as teachers so that we can utilize those those moves in the classroom. We have to have that. So they are targeted on that moving forward. And I love that and I can’t wait to continue working with the two of them as the years unfold. Folks, if this was the first episode that you’ve listened to, we encourage you to hit subscribe button.

00:33:58:05 – 00:34:14:14
Jon Orr
We put out new episodes every single Monday morning, so you all can hear a story, maybe a hear a tip, an idea. We put those out on Monday, you gonna hear an interview with us and maybe a thought leader in mathematics or a practicing classroom teacher, and on what a pebble was rattling around in their shoe. And sometimes we pluck that.

00:34:14:17 – 00:34:36:15
Jon Orr
We put them out on Monday mornings. You subscribe on any of your podcast platform. You’re listening to us right now somewhere you were watching maybe us on YouTube right now. Hit the subscribe button. You’re listening to us on Spotify. Hit that follow button. Make sure you subscribe over on Apple Podcasts if that’s where you are right now? If you have done that already and you’ve listened to a number of episodes, we encourage you to rate and review the show.

00:34:36:15 – 00:34:53:08
Jon Orr
It will help spread the word and spread the ideas that we’re trying to convey here about math teaching. And I know that since you’re listening to this, you really deeply care about that. So share that podcast, share this podcast with a colleague, friend and a way that you probably first discovered it.

00:34:53:10 – 00:34:57:11
Kyle Pearce
Well, until next time, my math moment Maker friends. I’m Kyle.

00:34:57:11 – 00:35:16:03
Jon Orr
Pierce and I am John or high fives for us and the high five for you Oh baby.

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


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

3 Act Math Tip Sheet


Each lesson consists of:

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

Each Teacher Guide consists of:

  • Intentionality of the lesson;
  • A step-by-step walk through of each phase of the lesson;
  • Visuals, animations, and videos unpacking big ideas, strategies, and models we intend to emerge during the lesson;
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  • 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.