Episode #293: Are Your Priorities Backwards In Your Math Classroom or Across Your District? 

Jul 8, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



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Episode Summary:

It’s likely that you as a math teacher or even your K-12 district may have been focusing on the wrong things when striving for improvement in mathematics.  

In this episode, Jon and Kyle dive into a common challenge many educators face: the misalignment of priorities in the math classroom. They discuss how shifting the focus from specific resources to overarching student outcomes can create a more cohesive and effective teaching strategy to improve math outcomes.

    What you’ll learn:

    • Learn how to refocus your teaching methods to prioritize student outcomes over tools and resources.
    • Discover the importance of understanding root causes and long-term goals to enhance adaptive reasoning skills in students.
    • Get practical advice on how to align your classroom objectives with the goals of your mathematics program for a stronger educational foundation.

    Tune in to this episode of the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast to transform your teaching approach and better align your classroom with your educational goals.


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    Episode Summary:

    Refocusing on Student Outcomes in Education

    Jon expressed concerns about misaligned priorities in their work, emphasizing the need to refocus on overarching goals rather than specific tools or resources. He discussed this issue with Kyle, highlighting the importance of prioritizing student outcomes in education. Jon argued against the common approach of focusing on resources, suggesting instead that resources should be used to enhance student experiences and outcomes. Kyle agreed, stressing the importance of having a clear end goal in mind and aligning teaching methods with this philosophy. Both agreed on the necessity of re-evaluating their current teaching methods.


    Understanding Root Causes and Goals

    Kyle and Jon discussed the importance of understanding the root causes and long-term goals when implementing changes in the math classroom. Kyle emphasized the need to ask ‘why?’ multiple times to ensure that the intended outcome is clear and that every teacher and student shares the same understanding and vision for the future. They highlighted the importance of focusing on student outcomes, specifically the development of adaptive reasoning skills, and how this would lead to better problem-solving abilities in unfamiliar situations, such as standardized tests.


    Focusing on Mathematics Program Goals

    Jon and Kyle emphasized the importance of focusing on the goals of a mathematics program before choosing the appropriate tools or resources. They argued that tools come and go, but the goals remain the same. They urged classroom teachers to continually remind themselves and their students about the program’s objectives, and to be able to articulate the reasoning behind the tools they use. Kyle further suggested taking inventory of current practices, identifying their outcomes and possible drawbacks, and using this to clarify objectives and prioritize tools. This approach, he believed, would empower educators’ professional judgment and foster a more unified approach across a district.


    Focusing on Objectives and Values in Math Classrooms

    Kyle and Jon discussed the importance of focusing on the main objectives and values in math classrooms to improve student outcomes. They emphasized the need for teachers to understand the “why” behind their lesson choices and to ensure they are aligned with the overall goals and vision for the class. Jon stressed the importance of focusing on the trunk of the proverbial tree, rather than just the leaves, to create a strong foundation for growth. They also encouraged listeners to engage with the podcast, provide feedback, and subscribe for future episodes.

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    00:00:00:01 – 00:00:27:24
    Are your priorities a little out of whack or maybe even backwards, And it’s likely you and even your district may have been focusing on the wrong things when striving for improvement in mathematics. In this episode today, we are going to dive into common challenges faced by educators. Misalignment of priorities in your math classroom, but also in the district at the district level.

    00:00:28:02 – 00:00:52:13
    We’re going to discuss how shifting the focus from specific resources to overarching student outcomes and really looking at making sure that our priorities are in place of what the actual outcomes we’re looking for. We’re putting a priority there versus the actual resources we’re using in our classrooms because they’re going to come and go. But the priorities and the outcomes are what’s really important.

    00:00:52:14 – 00:01:31:11
    So we’re going to talk about that and we’re going to be talking about how to shift our thinking to that model here in this episode. So here we go. Let’s go. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pierce and I’m John or we are from Big Moments Dcop. 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.

    00:01:31:11 – 00:02:02:22
    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 are going to have on your teachers, your students will grow and reach far and wide. 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.

    00:02:02:24 – 00:02:22:07
    All right, let’s get into this episode because, you know, I wanted to bring this up with you, and I know that you maybe haven’t thought about it as much as I have, but I just got off one of our calls with one of our district program leaders, and they had just come out of a meeting with superintendents, you know, you know, directors of other curriculum subjects.

    00:02:22:07 – 00:02:48:22
    And what this particular leader was feeling a little bit frustrated because I think and this is true almost like I think it’s like widespread you know, it’s widespread educational wide and not even sometimes just educational wide. And I want to share my thoughts around that. But basically this particular leader was like people have their priorities backwards and it was like, we’re coming out of these meetings and it’s like they’re continually saying like, well, what are we doing in math?

    00:02:48:22 – 00:03:18:14
    What are we doing in language? What are we doing? You know, in tech? And the responses are, it seems, surface level. The responses are, well, we’re working on number talks, we’re working on Betsy, we’re working on this particular curriculum, insert curriculum here and or or we’re working on this resource insert web resource here, right? Like they’re saying specific things which are like the tools.

    00:03:18:16 – 00:03:41:10
    These are tools to achieve goals, but they’re not saying their goals. They’re not saying like, Well, we’re working on this. And right off the bat, when I was reminded of kind of this feeling, I got and I’ve heard of this in Europe, is that when you know, it’s not related to education specifically, but when I was in Italy, we went on a month ago, two months ago, trip to Italy for a wedding, a family wedding.

    00:03:41:12 – 00:04:01:20
    And when I was over there, it felt different. Like it completely felt different. And there’s a few different ways, you know, the culture is different, obviously, you know, the food culture is different. But specifically work culture was different and it just felt like people were putting work as second priority, third priority. So you’re not just like feeling like you were like I was feeling different because I was on vacation.

    00:04:01:20 – 00:04:21:15
    You’re saying like you were actually observing and trying to like, observe what was going on around you in terms of how they were acting around you. Is that what you’re saying? People who are like like there is other people who are on vacation who are from Europe or from Italy that we were chatting with, and it was just the way that they spoke about work was completely different because it’s like, well, what do you do?

    00:04:21:15 – 00:04:37:10
    And they’re like, Well, I like to recycle, I like to cook, I like to do these things. And it’s like, but that’s when you say, What do you do? You immediately go, Job, What’s my job? Right? It’s like I’m a I’m a teacher. I’m a math teacher, right? I’m I’m a lawyer. I’m a doctor. Like you tell them your career or your job.

    00:04:37:12 – 00:04:56:16
    And it’s like because we have that fundamental belief almost that work is the definition of like what we do is identity. It’s like you identify as that thing, you know, totally. And it’s like, so are you. The question becomes like, are you living to work? Like, you know what I mean? Like we’re here to work or you working to live.

    00:04:56:16 – 00:05:13:10
    And over there it was the reverse. So like their priorities were the opposite of our priorities, it seems, you know, like we’re living to work over here almost on a regular basis. Like, why do we have the things we have? We have to go to work to get those things. And therefore, in order to have these things, I have to work.

    00:05:13:10 – 00:05:32:08
    You know, it’s like over there it was reversed. And so why I wanted to say that was that’s what’s happening here. It’s like when we’re talking about what are we doing in our classrooms. People are stating resources and tools as the thing they’re doing. But what we need to be doing is reversing that and going, Well, why are we doing that?

    00:05:32:08 – 00:05:57:09
    What is the intentionality is the intentionality and intentionality has to be around student outcomes, but specifically the student experiences like what is happening in our classrooms and that and that’s what our math practice standards for students. It’s lot like our mathematical proficiency for students. So if we think like those should be really the focus, but people are saying the resource in saying, what are we doing?

    00:05:57:09 – 00:06:20:15
    We’re focusing on the resource to get this, but it’s reverse thinking, if you know what I’m saying. I was curious because I know we were chatting about our big idea here and I was wondering, you know, the Italy connection. I was like, how is he going to bring this back? But it’s so interesting. So what I’m hearing you say, and I’m going to say it in a different way and you tell me if I heard you correctly here, John, but you’re going okay, in what we’ll call it Italy, but maybe it’s in Europe in general.

    00:06:20:15 – 00:06:38:22
    We don’t know. Or maybe it was just that, you know, that area that you were in or the people you were with, these people are it’s almost like here we look at the very next thing in line, whereas they’re taking the big end goal in mind. So it’s sort of like what I’m hearing you say is, let’s talk about careers for a second.

    00:06:38:22 – 00:06:59:02
    Like we have to ask ourselves like five wise to get to why it is we’re doing what we’re doing. So like, I’m a teacher. Why? Because I want to help kids. Why? Well, I do need to have a paycheck. Why do you need a paycheck? Well, I need a paycheck because I want to be able to have more maybe time, freedom.

    00:06:59:02 – 00:07:15:23
    I want to be able to do the things I want to do in life. I want to enjoy. Whereas what you’re saying is what you were recognizing there is that they had this like sort of like end goal in mind. And it was almost like you probably had to work your way backwards to kind of go like, So how are you getting to that end goal, right?

    00:07:15:24 – 00:07:39:12
    Like they’re talking about freedom and being able to spend time with family and do the things you love. And now when we look at it in the math classroom specifically, and I’m sure it’s in all subject areas, but math classroom totally makes sense here because what you and I experience with so many districts that we’ve worked with in the past is that we hear people saying they are doing blank, they are doing this thing.

    00:07:39:14 – 00:07:57:22
    But then it’s like you have to ask five whys usually in order to get to the root of what it is we’re trying to do. Of course we want student outcomes. We want that to be the case. But it’s like, but why are we doing this one action? Why does this one resource or this pedagogical move make sense to do here?

    00:07:57:24 – 00:08:22:16
    And it’s because it’s going to help us do something usually pretty specific. It’s not going to solve the answer or it’s not going to solve the problem for everything we want in a math class. Like, I might do this one thing I might do building thinking classrooms because it’s going to help students with engagement. It’s going to also help them with the idea of actually becoming a better adaptive reasoner.

    00:08:22:16 – 00:08:43:09
    Like, is that one of the reasons that I’m doing this and it and you sort of have to go down this well, why does that matter? Well, if students aren’t able to be good at adaptive reasoning or they don’t have a proficiency in that area, how are they going to work through unfamiliar problems when it comes to assessments, evaluations, standardized tests, all of these things?

    00:08:43:09 – 00:09:10:02
    Right. So it’s almost like what I’m hearing you say is it’s like we’re maybe being too short sighted in terms of what we’re doing in the math classroom, specifically maybe around our planning and why we’re doing what we’re doing. And maybe we need to think a little bit further down the road as to what is it that we’re actually trying to achieve and then how do we back map from there to figure out like, what is that thing, the resource that we’re going to put into place?

    00:09:10:02 – 00:09:31:20
    And also I think the key piece is how do we make sure that everybody has that same understanding? Because if it’s just everybody doing this thing, but it was John’s vision and not their vision, and they don’t see further than that next step. What’s that result going to actually look like in sound like five months from now, a year from now, whatever it might be?

    00:09:31:20 – 00:09:59:03
    Right? Yeah. Yeah. And I think it’s possible, it may be likely that, say, the directors of mathematics curriculum or coordinators or math coaches or whoever is designing the focus, it’s also likely that that thought is in there and it’s like, well, we know, but, but I think where that gets lost is when we start to answer that first question with the resource as the answer to the What are we doing?

    00:09:59:07 – 00:10:17:08
    It’s really almost like this mindset shift. The scary part is like, if I want to do the building thing, if I want to do building thing in classrooms, it’s like maybe I’m just doing building thing in classrooms because I heard it’s a great tool or a great structure, but we have to answer that why Question Or the five why questions?

    00:10:17:10 – 00:10:37:12
    And if we are going, I’m going to grab that and then I’m going to answer the five questions. That’s where I have the issue, right? We need to go. What is it that we really want our students to be engaging in? And then what is the best tool to allow that? And you’re right, everyone has to wrap their minds around the actual why and the intentionality before the tool.

    00:10:37:14 – 00:11:07:01
    It’s not a semantics thing. It’s a mindset shift that when we think about what we’re doing in our classrooms, we should be thinking about the goals of our program and the goals of our program. Can’t be. We’re using this tool, we’re using the structure. It has to be about what are we trying to change with our students, with our teachers, What are the actual outcomes that we want to see our students experience in our classrooms?

    00:11:07:01 – 00:11:28:23
    Those are the goals. And then we can formulate a plan and use the appropriate tools to get there, because tools are going to come and go right? But our goals are never going to change. Like we’re always going to be like that is the experience that we want our students to have in mathematics. And when research says maybe this other experience over here is actually better for learning, then we’ll shift those goals over there.

    00:11:29:04 – 00:11:50:01
    But the tools will then come in and interchange. We need to continually kind of help our teachers. So if we’re in their classroom, we’re coaching with our classroom teachers. It’s like continually emphasize the reasoning behind the tools and not make the tools the priority and the focus. The teachers are going to want to make that those tools the priority and focus because that’s so granular.

    00:11:50:03 – 00:12:05:05
    And if they know the underlying reason of the tools and they believe it and they can state it and they can say like that’s the reason, because maybe there’s a better tool to use later on or like if this is our goal and you’re saying I should use this resource or this curriculum over, but what happens if I use this one over here?

    00:12:05:07 – 00:12:35:19
    Well, go ahead. It’s a single. We’re getting closer to the goal. So it’s kind of just about a constant reminder of. So the people that we’re working with, classroom teachers, teachers, maybe even reminding students like these are the outcomes where after tools are going to come and go, I love it. John. You know, the big takeaway that I’m having and I hope the math moment makers at home are thinking about right now is every move that we make in a math classroom, we should be thinking and taking inventory.

    00:12:35:19 – 00:13:04:06
    And this is something we do with our district leaders or a district improvement program is taking inventory of the things that we’re doing and why we’re doing them and connecting them to what they’re actually helping us to achieve. And if we’ve set objectives in our own classrooms and of course across a district, is really important to be doing, we should be looking at the things that we’re doing right now or maybe the new things that we want to add in or maybe some of the things we want to let go.

    00:13:04:08 – 00:13:26:08
    And we need to be clear about what they do. Well, maybe what they don’t do so well, right? Maybe there’s some drawbacks to some of the things we do in a classroom, right? Sometimes good comes with some negative as well. And really taking that inventory and thinking about like, why am I doing what I’m doing so that I’m constantly aware of what those outcomes and those goals are.

    00:13:26:14 – 00:13:46:18
    So if you haven’t maybe explicitly made your plan for this next school year coming up, whether you’re in the classroom, whether you’re a school leader, whether you’re a district leader, what you might want to do is you might want to think about what are the big things that we’ve been promoting in my classroom, in my school or my district, and start unpacking.

    00:13:46:18 – 00:14:05:01
    What are the good things that come from doing those pieces and then start to see the connections and the commonalities so that you can start looking at maybe some of those objectives and like pluck those objectives out and go, You know what? These are the big things that we’re really after. Let’s start putting those in the forefront, right?

    00:14:05:01 – 00:14:31:12
    It doesn’t mean we don’t promote resources, that we don’t promote good practices, but we want it to start with why we’re doing what we’re doing, and then we introduce how we’re going to try to get there. And the beauty is, if you go back to some of many of our earlier episodes where we talk about mandating something versus making it optional versus like how do we encourage people to use the tools that are going to help them get to these objectives?

    00:14:31:14 – 00:15:00:06
    Well, this also gives educators the opportunity to truly use their autonomy and their professional judgment to go, you know what? If our goal is this and I use this other tool, I can clearly articulate how this tool is going to help me achieve the same outcome that we’re after with this other tool over here. And just think about how powerful that can be for your class, your grade band, your school, your district.

    00:15:00:08 – 00:15:21:00
    When people start to articulate why they’re doing what they’re doing, instead of it becoming more of like this little fight around, what resources best and why we need to use this one over that one, or why we should ditch this one. This, I think, is a great conversation. I hope folks are going to reflect on this analogy, thinking about that.

    00:15:21:00 – 00:15:43:04
    Why? And really, again, if I ask myself five whys, when I think of anything I’m doing in my math classroom, ask yourself why five times and go down that rabbit hole and you’ll start to see some commonalities of what you truly value through your actions, even if maybe you haven’t actually understood them explicitly or couldn’t articulate them explicitly.

    00:15:43:10 – 00:16:04:09
    This can be a really great way to almost like backwards map what matters to you in terms of your math classroom so that you can start focusing on those objectives so you can create better key results and you can see better overall outcomes in the end, which of course will be student outcomes. Yeah, it’s a paradigm shift, right?

    00:16:04:09 – 00:16:24:12
    Like it’s it’s just a paradigm shift to go like I’ve been focusing on the leaves of the tree as the focus and I need to shift that back and say the trunk of my tree, the leadership, the vision, planning, the goal setting, the intentionality in my classroom teacher is why am I using this lesson today? What am I hoping to achieve by the end?

    00:16:24:12 – 00:16:40:10
    And is this lesson the one that makes the most sense to achieve that outcome? Those set of standards or those mathematical practice standards that I want my students to be engaged in? Like that’s the lesson choice that we’re making. Instead of going, I’m going to use a three act math task just to have a three act math task, right?

    00:16:40:10 – 00:17:00:03
    Like, it’s about intentionality, which is really the trunk of your classroom tree, which is really the trunk of your program tree if you’re at the district level and thinking about those whys. So if you’re thinking about those trees, focus on the trunk. It’s a paradigm shift. The leaves are there, right? The leaves are going to come, but the leaves will fall off and new leaves will grow.

    00:17:00:05 – 00:17:21:03
    But it’s like that paradigm shift to be like, let’s make sure that the trunk is solid so that we know how this classroom in this program is going to grow. So, folks, big takeaway for you. Think about that. The trunk, the limbs, the roots, all of these things play into your math classroom tree and we want to hear about it.

    00:17:21:06 – 00:17:43:17
    What are your thoughts like Did this particular episode resonate with you? It is a little shorter than our normal episodes. If this did resonate with you, we want to hear on all social media channels that make math moments. You can reach out to us or leave a comment or a review and put your comment in the review on Apple Podcasts or on Spotify and make sure you hit that subscribe button or follow button.

    00:17:43:19 – 00:18:14:03
    Hey friends, it’s episode 293. We are approaching episode 300 of the Making Mouth Moments That Matter podcast, so head on over to make math moments dot com forward slash episode 293 to check out the show notes and of course at all times make math moments dot com forward slash report so you can get a full summary of where you are strong with your tree, your classroom tree and where you might want to focus your attention.

    00:18:14:03 – 00:18:34:16
    Next make math moments dot com forward slash report. Well until next time math moment make your friends I’m Kyle Pierce and I’m Jon or high fives for us and I five for you Ooh.

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