Episode #291: Side Step The Scope & Sequence? Problem Based Teaching & Your Curriculum Resources

Jun 24, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Canadian Wealth Secrets on YouTube Podcasts


Episode Summary:

Are you leveraging your curriculum resources for mathematics to their fullest potential in the classroom?

In today’s fast-paced educational environment, teachers of math often find themselves overwhelmed with a plethora of curriculum resources, each promising to enhance student learning. 

However, without a deep understanding of the author’s intent and the underlying goals of these resources, it’s easy to misuse or underutilize them. 

This episode tackles a common challenge faced by educators: how to effectively integrate math curriculum resources and/or supplement those resources to make lessons more impactful and relevant for students. 

By understanding the intentionality behind these math resources, teachers can not only save planning time but also deliver more sense-making lessons.

What you’ll learn:

  • Learn what some necessary prerequisites are to create effective learning experiences in the math classroom. 
  • Gain insights into the significance of understanding the goals and intentions of curriculum resources.
  • Learn strategies for collaborating with colleagues to deepen content knowledge and improve lesson delivery.
  • Discover practical tips for making small, effective tweaks to curriculum activities to enhance student engagement and learning outcomes.

Tune in now to discover how understanding the intentionality behind your math curriculum resources can transform your teaching and boost student success!


Making Math Moments Academy – Strengthen all six (6) key areas of an effective math classroom.

Attention District Math Leaders:

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

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

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

Book a short conversation with our team now

Episode Summary:

Attention (A)

How can we revolutionize math education to make it more engaging and meaningful for students?

Interest (I)

This episode dives into the innovative approaches to math education proposed by Dr. Jo Boaler, offering solutions to the common problem of student disengagement and resistance towards math.

Desire (D)

Listeners will learn about the importance of integrating creativity and flexibility into math teaching, the benefits of promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and strategies to overcome resistance to change in math education.

Action (A)

Tune in now to discover how Dr. Jo Boaler’s new book “Math-Ish” can help you transform your math classroom and inspire a love for learning in your students.

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!


00:00:00:15 – 00:00:44:03
Jon Orr
Are you leveraging your curriculum resources for mathematics to their fullest potential in your classroom? In today’s fast paced education environment, teachers of math often find themselves overwhelmed. I myself find myself overwhelmed at times with a plethora of curriculum resources at our fingertips. Each of those promising to enhance student learning. However, without a deep understanding of the author of the curriculum, resources, intent, and the underlying goals of the lesson and your learning targets, it’s easy to misuse or actually, in many cases, underutilized the resources that we have in front of us.

00:00:44:05 – 00:01:12:20
Jon Orr
This episode tackles a common challenge we face as educators, which is how to effectively integrate the math curriculum resources and or supplement those resources to make math lessons more impactful and relevant for students. How do I make that choice between following the scope and sequence in the curriculum guide or supplementing? Like, when do I make that choice? And how do I make that choice when I talk about that here in this episode?

00:01:12:20 – 00:01:39:00
Jon Orr
So stick around and you’re going to uncover how understanding the intentionality behind your math curriculum resources and your learning targets can transform your teaching and boost student success. Here we go. Oh.

00:01:39:02 – 00:01:43:06
Kyle Pearce
Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pierce.

00:01:43:06 – 00:01:46:06
Jon Orr
And I’m John or we are from Up Moments Dcop.

00:01:46:08 – 00:01:56:07
Kyle Pearce
This is the only podcast that coaches you through a six step plan to grow your mathematics program, whether it’s at the classroom level or at the district level.

00:01:56:08 – 00:02:11:11
Jon Orr
And we do that by helping you cultivate and foster your mathematics program like strong, healthy and balanced SRI. So if you master the six parts of an effective mathematics program, the impact that you going to have on your teachers, your students will grow and reach far and wide.

00:02:11:13 – 00:02:26:14
Kyle Pearce
Every week you’ll get the insight you need to stop feeling overwhelmed, gain back your confidence, and get back to enjoying the planning and facilitating of your mathematics program for the students or the educators that you serve.

00:02:26:16 – 00:02:44:19
Jon Orr
All right there, Kyle, We’re doing a little something a little different today. And if you looked at this episode before you hit play, you’re like, Wait, wait a minute, guys. That’s a short episode. We are playing with a little bit of a shorter time frame now. And here’s the format for this episode. We’ve got a question that came in through the Make Mouth Moments Academy.

00:02:44:19 – 00:03:06:18
Jon Orr
But, you know, we get questions all the time through email. Feel free to actually email us any questions that you have about what you’re doing in your classrooms. But here’s one, Kyle, that I think we get a lot. And also it occurs a lot on our district calls with our leaders. But I’m going to toss this Sochi. This teacher reached out to us and basically was talking a little bit of preamble about teaching through problem based lessons.

00:03:06:18 – 00:03:26:07
Jon Orr
Teaching through could be a three act task. It could be a problem where we give and we encourage with productive struggle, you know, noticing and wondering. Basically you’re teaching through this problem based approach to start. And this teacher says like, you know, how do we do this method when we also have. So there’s a couple of questions here we’ll riff on.

00:03:26:07 – 00:03:31:04
Jon Orr
And I know here’s the other format is you don’t know this question. This is coming at you live. Yeah.

00:03:31:04 – 00:03:31:23
Kyle Pearce
So, yeah, I love it.

00:03:32:01 – 00:03:57:14
Jon Orr
How do we do this method when we also have a mandated curriculum that we are supposed to use? Okay, So we’ve got to use that curriculum. Now, the second question part of this is and we’re going to try to talk about this quickly is how do we know if we have sufficient background and content knowledge to be successful following that format of a lesson?

00:03:57:16 – 00:04:03:17
Kyle Pearce
Now, can I clarify here when you say about the content knowledge part, are we talking about the teacher themself or the students?

00:04:03:23 – 00:04:22:13
Jon Orr
No, the teacher asked that. How do we know if we have, oh, patient background knowledge? Got it. So the teacher asked this Do I like that? The teacher’s even thinking about that because a lot of teachers don’t. I think think about that. They’re like, Let me just go in and I’m going to give this a shot. I’m going to use some of these teacher moves, the pedagogical moves, and I’m following.

00:04:22:13 – 00:04:37:14
Jon Orr
But the teacher’s actually reflecting going like, okay, first off, I got to follow my curriculum that the district is set for me. The second is AM I prepared right to like, engage in this or is or what else do I have to do to actually really be successful here? All right. What are your thoughts so far?

00:04:37:15 – 00:05:04:05
Kyle Pearce
What right away, I would say is like, have we done the appropriate reflecting ahead of time to really understand what my mandated resource is trying to do? And I’m imagining in John, I’m sure you’ve had this experience, but I remember being a newer teacher and I was following a certain resource and you sort of rely on usually you rely on other colleagues, right, to go like, Hey, what would you do for this topic or what would you do for that topic?

00:05:04:07 – 00:05:25:07
Kyle Pearce
But when you’re in a scenario where it’s like, Listen, we’re all doing the same thing, we’re all going to be following the same resource. What you all have to do, you and your colleagues need to do is you sort of need to zoom out and together. I would encourage together, if possible, start thinking about why did they do what they’re doing in this particular lesson.

00:05:25:09 – 00:05:45:19
Kyle Pearce
And what I mean by that is usually you don’t publish a resource without there being a lot of time and effort put into what they’re trying to get you to do as the educator. So a lot of times when a resource falls flat, I don’t think it’s the actual resource itself or the idea or the maybe it could even be an investigation.

00:05:45:21 – 00:06:17:05
Kyle Pearce
It’s that me as the facilitator, I actually didn’t understand what it was trying to accomplish. So you know what we end up doing? We start ad libbing, we start taking what we think might be going on, and then we try to do something with it. So I feel like before we worry about problem based lessons, the reality is, is that most curriculum that has been created over the past couple of decades had tried or at least attempted to do some sort of inquiry at the start investigation.

00:06:17:05 – 00:06:40:05
Kyle Pearce
At the start, something to get students doing. And you know what I did for a really long time? I skipped all that. I just jumped to the big red box, you know, and I sort of rushed to that algorithm. So the real question is how hard am I working to try to do a problem based lesson when in reality there could be a really good starting point happening in that resource anyway?

00:06:40:06 – 00:07:00:07
Kyle Pearce
So the real question is what was the goal when that author was writing that particular lesson? What was their goal? And if you’re not clear on that, you need to zoom out and really try to understand like, what is the purpose here? Because if it’s not making sense to you, then that likely just means that there’s something missing.

00:07:00:07 – 00:07:18:18
Kyle Pearce
Either I’m misinterpreting something or I’m not seeing it, or and this is the part where I think the content knowledge comes in. Maybe there’s something going on here that I’m unaware of, right? Because if this activity’s asking me to do X, Y, and Z and I’m not sure why, or it doesn’t seem to make sense to me why we would do that with students.

00:07:18:20 – 00:07:47:15
Kyle Pearce
Is it possible that maybe there’s something happening here in the background that I’m actually not aware of and that I need to actually do some of this math, maybe actually do the activity as if I was a student to make sense of the activity and maybe you might learn something about that content knowledge and in return be able to take that mandated lesson and turn it into something that could actually be really impactful and might meet that next goal of problem based learning.

00:07:47:17 – 00:08:14:15
Jon Orr
So what I just heard you say is that trying to answer both of those wonders is that to say like, are we trying to grab something outside of this resource and try to fit it in when the actual resource might have exactly what we are looking for to achieve in our classrooms? And we just need to kind of maybe think about preparing or thinking about understanding the intentionality behind what that curriculum resource is trying to share with us.

00:08:14:15 – 00:08:48:16
Jon Orr
Because you’re right, I’ll be honest, when I saw that, and I think this goes to the content knowledge piece too, we do have to think about how much bias we’re bringing to the analysis of the lesson that’s in front of us. And even when I say that teachers are like, man, they’re talking about a lot of thinking that’s going into before the lesson even comes, before I even turn the page over to what the next lesson is in the pacing guide, because I just finished that now I got to go teach literacy or now I have to teach Jim or and so it’s kind of like there’s a lot of thinking that does have to

00:08:48:16 – 00:09:10:18
Jon Orr
go in, so that addresses that part. It’s like if we just think that we’re going to show up and turn the page in and we want to all of a sudden have different results, we do have to go. How much planning time am I addressing this? Because my bias was that I thought I knew better. I thought, Hey, I’m going to skip that inquiry because I’m going to jump right to the heart of what matters.

00:09:10:20 – 00:09:38:04
Jon Orr
And I thought what mattered, like what you said is the algorithm is the getting to the meat of this, Hey, what is the real purpose here? And that was actually part of me going, what is the real purpose? So at the beginning of this lesson, I started to assume what the purpose of learning this idea was. But my purpose back then was that to get to the algebra, to get to the actual like algorithm and show the steps and get the steps into the students, the students repeat those steps back to me.

00:09:38:04 – 00:10:04:00
Jon Orr
So I go, Yep, we’re good. We’re moving on. You got the steps? That was a thinking that I had, which means I was thinking about what is the purpose here? And I committed the investigation because I think that waste time, if my real purpose is to just front load and give the kids the algorithms that they need, and instead of going, what is the actual purpose of understanding and learning this mathematics today?

00:10:04:02 – 00:10:20:19
Jon Orr
And if I still believe that it’s the algorithm, then I’m jumping to it. But if I don’t, if I actually believe that the purpose of my lesson today is to get students to grapple with the behaviors of this mathematics, then I’m going to make the choice to go. Let me take the second look at the inquiry part.

00:10:20:21 – 00:10:51:16
Kyle Pearce
Right? So I think one of the big pieces here and as you were recapping that and sort of sharing that experience, I’m hoping like a big takeaway and this might be something that you want to incorporate into your daily practice in your daily prepping or planning is when you look at that resource, if you’re in that spot, even if you don’t have a mandated resource or curriculum that you have to use, I would at least start there and spend the necessary time to try to better understand what was the publisher trying to achieve?

00:10:51:16 – 00:11:16:23
Kyle Pearce
What were they trying to do so that you can make a clear choice as to whether you’re trying to get to the same end result or not. And by doing that, you can decide whether I do need to go to something else to try to make this a little bit better or that I need to tweak something along the way or I need to add a little more curiosity or at need to withhold a little bit more information.

00:11:16:23 – 00:11:40:20
Kyle Pearce
Or if we apply some of the things that we share on the show and through the three part framework, you can actually take what you have, but it needs to start with understanding. So if I am not clear on what the publisher’s trying to achieve, that means I need to spend more time trying to understand that first. Otherwise you’re starting with a completely blank slate and in some cases you’re not allowed to write.

00:11:40:20 – 00:12:00:24
Kyle Pearce
You’re supposed to be following this curriculum. So if that’s the case for you, then you need to spend more time understanding what was the intent here and am I clear on the intention? Am I happy about how they’re approaching it? And then if not, what are the small tweaks that I can make along the way? What is actually missing here?

00:12:01:01 – 00:12:35:23
Kyle Pearce
And there are often times you’ll spend more time trying to understand what they’re doing, but that means you’ll spend less time, in my opinion, on the tweaking or trying to start from scratch or starting and really trying to figure out how do I force feed this thing to the students. You want to make sure that you’re taking it and you’re trying to maximize the actual experience for those students by doing those small little tweaks, But you can’t do effective tweaks if you don’t have a good understanding of what the goal was and that you’re not clear.

00:12:35:23 – 00:12:55:04
Kyle Pearce
Like you almost want to be able to say, like, if this author was here, I could ask that author questions and we could talk about why they did this and why they did that. We don’t have that opportunity. But if I spent enough time looking at this, I can make some pretty clear assumptions as to what their goal was here and why they did what they did.

00:12:55:04 – 00:13:10:14
Kyle Pearce
If you are completely not sure, then you’ve got to talk to your colleagues. You’ve got to talk about like, why do you think they’re doing this step here? This part is confusing to me, but let’s be honest, the publisher didn’t just randomly write this. They had people review it. They had people spending a lot of time on it.

00:13:10:14 – 00:13:30:09
Kyle Pearce
They feed back to all of these things, and a lot of people thought that it was a good thing to put that step. So let’s make sure that we utilize our network inside of our grade band or in our department or wherever it is to go. Kelsey and go, Why is that? Like, is there something going on under the hood that I’m unaware of?

00:13:30:09 – 00:13:51:01
Kyle Pearce
Or is this just sort of like a silly And it does happen, right? Sometimes things slip by and you go like, maybe it’s not that important, but let’s not try to just make that decision ourselves. Let’s utilize our network to try to figure out whether that’s a good move or not. And maybe I might learn something about the content knowledge in the process by doing that work.

00:13:51:03 – 00:14:08:24
Jon Orr
You got it. And I think what you just said is you’re thinking about the intentionality and looking at the choices the publisher made, but it’s actually leading you by asking yourselves those questions. You’re automatically leading yourself to going, I probably need to know a little bit more about the math, like the content knowledge that this teacher is asking about.

00:14:08:24 – 00:14:32:24
Jon Orr
And because if you’re wondering why that means like, I got to dig, I got to ask I got to talk about the places you think about some of the districts that we are talking with on a regular basis supporting throughout the year. Some of the most impactful work that they are doing is in their policy groups, breaking down lessons like that, taking the existing resources, not trying to fit something new, but taking existing resources and going what’s going on here?

00:14:32:24 – 00:14:51:04
Jon Orr
How do we build our content knowledge so we’re prepared to do the work that’s listed here? And we’ll be honest that for most of us and for me still, Kyle, is that if I do that process, I always have to figure out that I have to learn something new. I always have to go like, you know what? I didn’t know that model.

00:14:51:04 – 00:15:14:04
Jon Orr
I could do it that way or I didn’t understand that these are the important things to be able to effectively deliver the problem based lesson and then consolidated at the end so that you’re bringing home the important learning goals, but tying things together because you understood it at the deeper level. The mathematics that’s happening in the room. So thinking about your resource, what I’m hearing is we do need to spend some time thinking about the intentionality.

00:15:14:04 – 00:15:43:06
Jon Orr
It might lead it to you to wonder if you do need to go outside, but then also it might lead you to go. I need to dig a little bit more so if you kind of reverse engineer where we ended up here today, it’s like, let’s look at what’s given. Let’s make sure we unpack the intentionality behind the sections, the portions or the timing that this lesson is supposed to kind of give us and figure out if we needed to go further in our own learning or if we need to backtrack and figure out something to supplement.

00:15:43:08 – 00:16:07:00
Kyle Pearce
I love it. I love it. So, friends, we’re talking a lot here about the leaves of the tree, but also talking about taking that resource and really trying to think about, hey, the actual branches of the tree, that pedagogy. Right. And going all the way down to the roots of the tree to talk about the content knowledge. So really important, especially if you’re in a situation where you have a resource that’s given to you.

00:16:07:02 – 00:16:31:12
Kyle Pearce
Keep in mind that when you have a mandated resource that might be more for pacing and that there’s ways that you can take what’s there and that you can insert different little tweaks along the way. Hey, if you don’t have a mandated resource and you are looking for a content driven, curious type problem based lessons, you should head on over to make math moments dot com forward slash tasks.

00:16:31:14 – 00:17:00:09
Kyle Pearce
And you can check out our very extensive catalog of full problem based units every day. One of all the units are wide open for you to use download all of those things. And of course, if you want to dig deeper and go through entire units, then you can become a member of the Academy. So friends, I hope you have an awesome, awesome rest of the teaching day and we look forward to some more questions through the academy or social media.

00:17:00:11 – 00:17:16:01
Jon Orr
Yeah. And if you’re like, Hey guys, I liked the new style. I like that there was a little bit shorter for me today to consume either in my exercise or on my journey to work. Let us know, reach out and say, Hey, this was perfect. This is exactly what I needed here today. Get us on social media and leave us a message.

00:17:16:01 – 00:17:26:15
Jon Orr
We want to know about it, so please do that. All resources from this episode are over on the show notes Page McMath moments dot com for this episode to 91 and have a great day guys.

00:17:26:17 – 00:17:33:04
Kyle Pearce
Until next time my friends high fives for us.

00:17:33:06 – 00:17:35:16
Jon Orr
And big high five for you.

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.