Episode #37: Hook, Line, & Sinker: An Interview with John Rowe
This week we speak with an Aussie John Rowe. John is a Math Coach from Adelaide Australia he’s put together a great resource for you on tasks for the math class and he’s also a Demsos wizard! Listen in as John shares his 5-day professional development plan for teachers, why he thinks Twitter is one of the most useful professional development sources we can have, and how to use his Hook, Line & Sinker framework in your classroom.
- John’s professional learning module for teachers.
- Why are we rounding?
- Why twitter is your best pd experience.
- How to use Hook, Line, & Sinker framework.
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John Rowe: So one of the things that I was really influenced quite early on in my teaching career, John, it was actually one of your posts, it was the here is Johnny developing that need to learn. I don’t know if that’s how you phrased it, but that’s how I remember it. And it comes to this idea where you essentially, you’re sparking something there.
John Rowe: I’ve heard you guys talk about this at length and in a really really good way, but that’s essentially what I’m trying to do with the Hook. And I guess the word hook speaks for itself in there.
Kyle Pearce: You were listening to the Aussie John Rowe. John is a math coach from Adelaide, Australia. He’s put together a great resource for you on tasks for the math class, and he’s also a Desmos wizard! Listen in as John shares his 5-day professional development plan for teachers, why he thinks Twitter is one of the most useful professional development sources, and how to use his Hook, Line & Sinker framework in your classroom. But before we get to all that, we’ve got to do something really important, play that music!
Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast, I’m Kyle Pearce from tapintoteenminds.com.
Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr, from MrOrr-IsaGeek.com. We are two math teachers who together-
Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of educators worldwide who want to build and deliver math lessons that spark engagement-
Jon Orr: Fuel learning.
Kyle Pearce: … and ignite teacher action. Are you ready Jon?
Jon Orr: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. But before we dive into our talk with Jon, we want to thank you for listening to us wherever you are, in the car, at the gym, in the kitchen washing dishes, or maybe even on your prep time. If you’ve listened to us before and enjoyed the episode and got some value out of it, we’d love to hear from you.
Kyle Pearce: Right. Stop right now and take a picture of what you’re doing while listening, if you’re running, take a breather and take a picture of your route. If you’re on a hike, take a picture of your view. If you’re cutting the loan, take a picture of your yard. We’d love to see where you are, so send that pic to Twitter @MakeMathMoments or on Facebook, Facebook.com/MakeMathMoments or simply email us.
Kyle Pearce: We absolutely love it when you share your experience with us, knowing that a couple Canadian boys like us are actually out there helping you make a difference in your classroom. So go ahead, share away.
Kyle Pearce: Also, the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast is excited to bring you another giveaway. This time with White Book, our source are White Book flip charts. That’s right. You can easily post white boards anywhere in your room and easily bring them with you. White Book is offering you the Math Moment Maker community, the chance to win one of five flip chart packs, plus a special 50% discount on flip chart packs for everyone who enters the giveaway. You can get in on the giveaway by visiting makingmathmoments.com/giveaway by Wednesday August 28th, 2019.
Kyle Pearce: Listening after Wednesday August 28th, 2019? No sweat, we are always actively running giveaways, so check out makingmathmoments.com/giveaway to learn about the current giveaways that we are running. There will always be something there for you to enter. Don’t miss out, dive out, makingmathMoments.com/giveaway. That’s makingmathmoments.com/giveaway.
Jon Orr: All right, let’s jump into our conversation with John.
Kyle Pearce: Hey there John, welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast, we’re so excited to have you on the show today, and in particular coming to us from such a far distance. How are things on your end?
John Rowe: Pretty good over here guys, other side of the world, it’s pretty night time over here, it’s 10 PM in little old Adelaide.
Kyle Pearce: That’s pretty awesome that we can chat to you like almost a day away. John, can you help our listeners understand just a little bit about yourself, what’s background, what’s your role in education and maybe like what inspired you to become a math teacher, a math educator? That’s a lot of questions in one, I’m sure we’ll beak it up as we go, but tell us a little bit about who you are.
John Rowe: Yeah, all right, so I’m in a really, really lucky position at the moment, because I get to spend most of my time working with fellow math teachers. So I’ve been out of the classroom for about eight months now, so I’ve essentially replaced my students with teachers, which is a pretty replacement, a little bit better behaved, but-
Kyle Pearce: Only a little bit, only a little bit, right?
John Rowe: Yeah. A few more coffee breaks than students like, but you know. So yeah, what I do, the core part of my role is I run a five-day professional learning program for teachers in public schools across the states, sorry, across the state, not the states. But these are in particular senior math teachers. So I feel really lucky to be able to work with these people really closely, because I don’t know about you guys, as a senior maths teacher, we cut a lot of [inaudible 00:05:01] from everyone else in the school. So it’s nice to work intimately with these people, and I really respect what they do and trying to help them find ways to make their classroom a bit more engaging or help their students get deeper into their maths. Not necessarily anymore quicker than they were, but definitely more deeper.
John Rowe: So just bringing some of those messages that we see so much on Twitter, but we know that a lot of teachers aren’t necessarily engaging in now or don’t have time to translate that into their classroom, so essentially a bit of a conduit for a lot of public school teachers in the state that I live in. So the core part of my role is really running professional learning. And when I’m not doing that, I’m planning for it. So yeah.
Kyle Pearce: Super cool, super cool. So you’re saying you’re running like a five-day professional learning program, can you help us understand what does that look like, sound like? So if I was, let’s say, a teacher in the state, and you were coming in and I was going to be involved with you, like how do I become involved with John, and what does that look like or sound like for me?
John Rowe: Yeah, so because I work in the Department for Education, we serve all the teachers and especially the students of anyone that goes to a public school, so what we do, we get these teachers in about a group of 30, we provide them full … we call it TRT, but it’s substitute teacher funding, so we pay for them to be out of school for five full days, and that happens for a semester. So for us, that’s about 20 weeks, so two terms. And we would do it maybe once at the start of term one, if we go for first semester, and then we have a bit of break, maybe a month, and then we do it five times. Each day we focus on a particular topic, but really what we’re focusing on is the key ideas behind it. For instance, day one, we focus on quadratics and really ask those presenters, we are just focusing on understanding the pressure points for these teachers and trying to make them feel respected, while also bring in some new things.
John Rowe: So we focus, on day one, we’ve got quadratics or parabolas for you guys, and yeah, we bring in things like Dan Meyer’s Will It Hit The Hoop on Desmos. We also do the polygraph activity. We try to use stuff that we, myself and my co-presenter, have used in our own classrooms, so we’re talking from experience. It’s really important if you can do that, it’s not always possible, but …
John Rowe: Yeah, so really we’re investing a whole heap of Department money, which is nice, on these teachers to make them feel supported. But also trying to give them something actually useful from people who have actually been in their position.
Kyle Pearce: That’s really interesting. I was curious when you did say a five-day program, I was curious if it would be like all in one week or whether it’d be spread out throughout the year, like my district, we tend to pull teachers out and we have it sort of spread out throughout the year, and we do groups that are spread out. But I wonder about kind of almost like doing like we’ll call a bootcamp, hopefully not as like violent, you’re hopefully not making them sweat too hard, but-
John Rowe: [crosstalk 00:08:05]
Kyle Pearce: … you’re kind of coming-
John Rowe: [crosstalk 00:08:07]
Kyle Pearce: Right. Yeah, you’ve got the whip in the back if you need it. Right? Just to give this like … it’s almost like a total immersion, right? Instead of maybe sort of hitting at it little bits here and there, it’s like you’re immersing them for five full days, like to try to almost have this maybe transformative sort of experience, like how do you feel teachers are in terms of how they take to that model? Do you find like by Friday are people just like oh my gosh, like mind-blown or is it a little bit of a mix, what’s your perspective on that?
John Rowe: I think you go to a conference, I went to NCTM last year, and no matter what, I was enthusiastic, I’d travel around … I’d travel to the other side of the world for this, and I’m still [inaudible 00:08:54] by the end of … was it three days or four days? I can’t see, I can’t even remember if it was three or four days, I was so inspired, I took so much away. But my mind was constantly occupied, I’m going, “Ah, store this, store this, how can I write this down for future John?”
John Rowe: And I spent so much energy on worrying about forgetting about something, worrying about going, “Oh, this is great now, but man, I’m just going to run for this.” I had an epic Google Doc going, but I was really concerned.
John Rowe: Really, I think will take whatever is going. If there is something and they know it’s going to be meaningful for them, they’ll make it work. So whether it’s five days in a row or five days over a semester, I think they’ll benefit from it and I think they’ll take it. But if you had a five day program and you’ve got a four day program, I wonder if there’s a huge difference between that. And then you can then argue, well, what about three, and then you start going, well, why don’t we just spread this out, give a bit of time for implementation. [inaudible 00:09:59] some ongoing support, maybe some emails to a couple phone calls in between sessions, and really just try to go deep and let them know that where they’re … for those five days but then after that as well.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, it’s a struggle, right, like I don’t know if we’ll ever land on this like perfect model or like a one size fits all, I think it really does depend on obviously your own district, the teachers you’re working with, and even just the conditions throughout.
Kyle Pearce: Something that you said there that I think is really important is that this idea like I think the hardest part for us is to help people see the why, and making that really clear, like to help people have that epiphany and to have that sort of like the light bulb to go off in their mind to say that what I’m experiencing right now makes sense and that I want to actually go do that and act on that, instead of it being something like sometimes, if it’s not delivered well, and this happens to us sometimes, where we just feel like we just didn’t come across the way we were hoping to, people walk away and they’re like am I doing this because someone told me to do it or is it … Am I doing it because I know it’s the right thing to do or at least I believe it to be the most effective for me to move forward, right?
Kyle Pearce: I don’t think even teachers who tend to maybe sort of push professional learning away a little bit, like I don’t think they’re doing it just to be hard or difficult, it’s because clearly their beliefs … like we haven’t been able to shift what they believe to be the most effective way to go about it.
Kyle Pearce: So that means that’s kind of like on us, right? We’ve got to go back and do our homework and say all right, well, that didn’t work, how are we going to reframe this a little bit?
John Rowe: Yeah, absolutely. I guess a goal of mine is to shift teachers from using but and replacing that with so. So whenever they’re saying something, they’re going, yeah, I really like this task or I really like … let’s take the five practices is a classic one, right? So I’ve been in the five practices, that’s something I brought home from the States with me, and I’m like look guys! Anyway.
John Rowe: So talking to them about anticipating. And they’re like, “Yeah, that’s fantastic.” So we’re talking about anticipating, we agree that it’s such an important phase of this process, and teachers will say yeah, I really like it, but what about if I’m going class to class, can I do that for all of my classes?
John Rowe: So what I want to do is I want to shift teachers from using the word but to the word so, because when you use that so, you are so much more active about making that work. So if you go, all right, I’m really passionate about this anticipating process, so what I’m going to do is build time into my day, what I’m going to do is only do it for one class. So that means I probably need to do something else. It implies that you’re going to do something about it instead of just using it as an excuse.
John Rowe: And I get the world is so busy, but [inaudible 00:13:01] myself. You know? So we need to actually do something about it.
Kyle Pearce: Right, yeah.
John Rowe: Yeah. And whether it’s one small thing, it’s something.
Kyle Pearce: Right. It’s such a huge thing, but a small … Like a small change in word can have a huge impact on just your mindset. So it’s kind of like instead of saying but, just say so and say like I love that, I think that’s huge for us and teachers.
Kyle Pearce: John, I’m wondering, I’m always curious about this and I’m sure that some of our listeners are, the listeners from the North America side is that we have Canada, United States, we have pretty much the same school year system. But I know that it’s a little different over on your side of the world in terms of like when your school year starts and how you have breaks, I just want to kind of deviate from our conversation a little bit before we even in deeper. Could you fill us in on what that looks like, because I think people would be curious about that?
John Rowe: Yeah. So we get … like our summer break has been [inaudible 00:13:54]. So if you use that as a bit of a reference point, our summer is at a different time. So we start our school year, our school year runs like the calendar year. So we start in January and we end in December. We’ve got four terms, typically of about 10 weeks. So then we a two-week vacation break between each term. Most schools would operate … They might swap classes at semester breaks, so what I mean by that is that’s between terms two and three. But yeah, apart from that, the other big difference. I don’t know if it’s [inaudible 00:14:26] guys, I don’t know heaps about the North American … the educational differences, but I know in the States, you teach algebra one, algebra two, geometry, is it same in Canada or is it different?
Jon Orr: I think what you’re referring to is like we have different courses and our high school courses are more integrated than let’s say the US courses. For example, our grade nine program would have bits of algebra and geometry in it. And that was the same for you?
John Rowe: Yeah, it’s mixed but all time. So when you get right up to year 12, which is our final year, the kids are about 18 years old, 17-18 in that year, yeah, it’s all mixed too. So that’s one of the-
Jon Orr: That’s the same as us. The grade nine was just an example but yeah, like our grade 10, same thing, grade 11, and we get into … after grade 11, in grade 11, grade 12, it starts to branch off. Ours would be advanced functions here in Ontario, which is kind of like the pre-calculus course, and then we have calculus and vectors all in one course, which is kind of crazy. Another grade 12 course would be statistics course which call that in management here in Ontario. And another grade 12 … Those are the three grade 12 kind of university bound courses. And then we have a variety of other ones for college level or workplace courses.
Jon Orr: So yeah, it sounds similar, yeah, the States, they have all algebra and then all geometry kind of like grade, those earlier grade. So …
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, something I find interesting in the US as well like common course states or at least from how I understand it is that the common course standards are there, but then different districts can sort of decide how they want to like mix them up. So I find that to be interesting. Whereas like here in Ontario in our province that Jon and I live in, we have essentially like courses that we have an Ontario curriculum, so it’s not like a Canadian curriculum, it’s like our province has its own curriculum. And then from there, the province, the Ministry of Education actually says like what courses there are.
Kyle Pearce: So it’s like you can teach the grade nine academic course, you could teach the grade nine applied course, but it’s not like you get to at the district level decide where the standards go and mix and choose them, at least this is my understanding of how things work in the US in some places, right?
Kyle Pearce: So yeah, I find that really interesting now that we’ve had this opportunity to connect with other educators like yourself from like different parts of the US and now obviously all the way over to Australia, I find it really interesting so that we can at least be reflective on like what’s going on locally for us. And are there better ways or like what differences can we pull from this area and you know what things would we want to keep because we’re not sure we like this thing over here, but just to try to kind of get to the best opportunity we have for kids for sure.
Kyle Pearce: Now this being the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast, we have ask you this question, we would love to know if you think back to your education as a student, but it also could be as a teacher, we want to know what’s your memorable moment from math class? So when we think you know I’ll say math class, and you imagine like your history in your whole math education experience from when you were a kid to an adult, what’s like sticking out to you as something that’s always going to stick with you when we say that? What will be your memorable moment from a math class?
John Rowe: Well, I had a bit of time to think about this and it’s funny because when I think about maths class, I had the most fun in maths class, because a lot of the time I wasn’t doing maths. I was joking around with my mates. I was doing the absolute minimum. So I could maintain this appearance that things came really easy to me. John does so well on this test, and he does no work in class, you know?
John Rowe: So it was this kind of always like a reputation I was upholding at the school. My older brother was a few years ahead of me. He was good, he was actually starting at uni, he was becoming a maths teacher, and I was like oh. So it wasn’t until about year 12, so my final year at school. And this is sadly my most memorable mathematical maths moment. We were finishing off this exercises at class, and it came rounding off the answer. And it was something like 0.45 and I said to my teacher, “Well, 0.45 if we’re rounding to a whole number, does that round up to 1?” And he’s like, “No, nope, it doesn’t. It rounds off to 0.”
John Rowe: And I’m like, “Well, if you start at 0.45, like I want to round that off, so the 0.4 to a 0.5, and then the 0.5 rounds to 1.” And then I was being totally serious where I had this misconception. And he goes no.
Kyle Pearce: Nope.
John Rowe: Yeah, it’s 0. And I was like why? And he goes it’s 0, because you only look at that next digit. And I said why would you do that? Why would you? You’ve got so many digits there to look at, like that doesn’t make any sense. And maths, man, I was so used to being so precise, like I would press the answer button on my calculator if I could to carry that answer. I was so hung up on this.
John Rowe: And it wasn’t until I got home and I asked my older brother who was studying maths teaching, he goes well, 0.45, that’s closer to 0 than 1. And I’m like oh, yeah, it is. Why couldn’t the math teacher tell me that, you know?
Kyle Pearce: That’s awesome.
John Rowe: So I don’t want to be one of those people that says ah, I wanted to be a maths teacher because I had a bad one. It wasn’t bad at all, but it was just, “Man, I want to be able to not necessarily answer those every why question, but at least spend a bit of time talking about it. Spend a bit of time exploring that if he comes up with it.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, that’s such an interesting concept, because that does come up with me in my classes at the grade nine level all the time. It’s kids do make that same kind of assumption, it’s like well, if I’d line that one up, this one becomes this and this one then becomes this, like yeah, like I liked your brother’s explanation, this is one of the explanations I used with those students is that, yeah, like if you look at 45 or 0.45, is that closer to a zero or is that closer to one and it’s closer to zero. But the interesting thing about, especially with zero is like … I just had this thought right now, like if you’re going to round when you’re looking at that small right now it’s like, do I have something or do I have nothing? No, I think I have something right now. So now it’s like this philosophical discussion, it’s like, do I have something or nothing? I have something but I’m going to say I’ve nothing. You’re like, why are you even writing it anyway? This is ridiculous. Let’s just leave it.
Jon Orr: It’s funny, you just sort of like … even just with this idea of like, which is it closer to, I’m thinking about in our district we’re really, really trying to hone in on tools and representations, right? And really getting to help all of us. And I always include myself in that category because I didn’t use things like number lines nearly enough and I’m sure John you probably would agree coming from that secondary side where there was so much sort of like, we’re going to call it built in automaticity that we had, but it wasn’t really automaticity. It was just memorization.
Jon Orr: You hear it through your teacher’s response and first of all, I love how the lack of passion and the response of just like, Nope, that’s me. It says something as well. But that teacher, for all we know, probably couldn’t actually articulate why because he probably didn’t actually have a visual in his mind of maybe a number line from zero to one and go ahead and just like how easy would that have been for him to say, “Okay, like here’s a number line from zero to one. Put it on the number line, where would it go?” And as soon as you do, you’d be like, “Oh, I got that right.” So to me that’s pretty telling anyway.
John Rowe: Yeah, that bent in me as well. Like, ah, yeah. I was just like, I wouldn’t let this thing go. And yeah, that’s the memorable math moment for me as impressive or unimpressive that is, is that, yeah.
Kyle Pearce: It’s funny because when you think about that, I think back to those students and I’m putting you in this category of those students who want to get to the answer, like those are the kids that we should be wanting in our classroom, right? Like you’re basically the kid who always wants to know why. And that’s exactly what we want. We want kids to be curious about the why and we want to have interesting discussions. And I look at that as such a great learning opportunity now. I never used to, I would have probably been like, just like your teacher early on going like, “Why you’re ragging me here a kid? What are you doing here? You’re trying to be smart or what are you doing?” And now I look at this like, how do I help more kids ask those types of questions, because that’s where you start to see those light bulbs going off all around the room.
John Rowe: Yeah. Right. And when I started teaching, I would get nervous if a kid asked me a question that I didn’t know the answer to or know how I could explain it in a clear way. I’d get nervous. And it takes some time to start accepting that. All right. You don’t need everything straight away, you know? Not everything is equipped to an answer.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, for sure. Well, you know what, John, we want to shift gears just slightly here. We really appreciate you sharing that memorable moment. Now for some people they might be wondering, okay, so John’s on the other side of the world. Like where did Kyle and John run into this gentleman, this fine fellow. And the reality is we’ve never actually met you before. We actually have sort of seen what you’ve been up to on Twitter. So for those, you had already mentioned it earlier, that even in your PD sessions you would take things that you’re seeing from conferences or from Twitter especially seems to be like this great spot for us to go and find really interesting things going on in math education world in particular, you’re very active member of the MTBoS or the MTBoS, some people call it.
Kyle Pearce: So for those listening at home, the hashtag MTBoS is a really, really cool hashtag to check out with all kinds of really interesting math ideas, reflections. And I noticed that you’re often sharing ideas and re-tweeting ideas and reflecting. And it took us a while to realize, but at the time I thought you were just probably in the US somewhere. We just saw you going through our feed. And sometimes it’s hard for us to forget that the internet has no boundaries. Right? I thought it was really cool to connect with people on different parts of Ontario or different parts of Canada or even the US but when you start to routinely see tweets and interact with tweets with someone, and then you actually click on their profile and you see where they’re from and you go, “Oh my gosh, they’re on their world. I’m wondering what got you into Twitter and that whole world? I think you’d probably agree, once you get in, you can’t get out. Right? It’s just pretty addictive to see.
John Rowe: Yeah. So I look, I started a Twitter account a while back and I think it was just to checkout. I don’t know, someone maybe a sports player or something. They said something controversial. I wanted to check it out and I needed a Twitter account. Anyway. I think a lot of teachers do this. They’ll start it up or they might it start up at a conference and then they will not touch it for a year or so. I got back onto my Twitter account. I was at actually a local conference here and a friend of mine, Amy Albrett, she’s online on Twitter, is a nomad under school penguin. I think she puts out a lot of great stuff.
John Rowe: But yeah, so she had just come back from NCTM and this is a few years ago now and she brought me back all of this, MTBoS match. It was like an Estimation 180 sticker, Estimation 180 pencil. There was a Which One Doesn’t Belong sticker from Mary and all this stuff. And I think there might’ve been a Desmos sticker as well, but also it’s like, Oh and the penny dropped. I was a little bit active on Twitter, but I was like, well, she’s actually going over there and you know, interacted with these people that actually exist.
John Rowe: For us in Adelaide we go, we don’t think, Oh everyone, when I see someone online, I assume they’re from somewhere in North America or England, where you just go. And then, because you only interact with these people online now I’ll start seeing real in a way. And then when I went over it, it sounds bizarre, but for us, we can feel remote at some times. But yeah, when I went over there and I started meeting some people and I reckon you guys might’ve even been in Washington when I was there in NCTM or maybe not, but you start meeting these people and like yeah, everyone’s just … yeah, these are just all the math stages.
John Rowe: So when I realized that, I probably did become a lot more active on Twitter, because I realized that these people are there for the same reasons as well. If I reach out to them they’ll probably respond and if they reach out to me I better respond as well. It’s a community on there and it’s just so nice. I couldn’t imagine not being online there now. I think I’d be cutting off so much and also it’s enjoyable. I’m not there because I have to be.
Jon Orr: Right. That echoes my experience as well. And I can’t remember when I got my Twitter account, but I imagine my first time getting my Twitter account was so that I could share the homework questions with my students. It was like, Oh kids are on Twitter. I’m going to tweet the homework every night. And then that’s going to be like, “Hey, no excuses kids homework is there. You missed class today.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, exactly. [crosstalk 00:28:10].
Jon Orr: And this was maybe going back to 2008, 2009 and yeah, I was like you [inaudible 00:28:16] put it away. And I never really stuck to it until … I think it was you, Kyle. I’m just not sure. I think that time that we hooked up at a session in my district and I think I was like, maybe I should get back into this. And I looked at it and I started following Dan Meyer and a couple of other people. And you’re right and it was like, I’m following these people and they’re sharing things and then you see them as super human and then when you meet them or you interact with them online, you’re like, Oh, you’re just teachers just like us.
Jon Orr: And you’re right. And it’s addictive, powerful because you’re like, “Oh, we all are here together to just get better.” And then from there it blossomed. So that’s exactly my experience. And I think people listening right now, that’s the experience. We’re all just people here trying to get better. And there’s so many resources being shared on that hashtag, the math, Twitter, blogosphere hashtag and lots of others. So, it’s such a rewarding experience to get new ideas from people who are doing the exact same thing you are. So, it’s pretty awesome. Kyle, how did you get into Twitter? I’m just now curious.
Kyle Pearce: I’m going back and trying to remember and I actually … while you were talking and you said, I’m not even sure when I got on. I know that if you click on a profile, you can actually see when they joined. Right? So I went back-
Jon Orr: When they joined that, yeah.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, and I can see that I joined May, 2011 and I’m trying to figure out why that was, but I’m guessing probably it was … I’ve referenced it a number of times on the podcast, but that first conference I went to the OAME conference. My thinking is, and I don’t remember which session it would have been, it was probably just the conference in general, talking about this whole idea of a hashtag and I remember that being so mind bending. And I’m like, “What is going on?” And maybe there’s some people listening right now thinking, I don’t know what a hashtag is. We actually have an episode, I want to say it’s episode 15 or something where we go through some of the Twitter ins and outs during our conference companion episode.
Kyle Pearce: So if you’re not sure what’s going on with Twitter, make sure to check out episode 15 but for me, since then it was like, initially, I remember this first stage of overwhelm where you see your feed, right? And you start following people and then, I would see like, oh, and then it would suggest other people. And I started following a lot of people and my feed was like I couldn’t keep up with it. And then I realized that you’re not supposed to read everything that’s on Twitter. It’s like being in the room with everyone all at the same time and it’s like, of course that’s not realistic in real life. Why am I putting this pressure on myself?
Kyle Pearce: And so now I do a five minute little scroll. Sometimes I’ll go down the rabbit hole, right? So someone shares something and then you click on that, you follow that feed. But you can’t put that pressure on yourself to read everything. And I think that to me was something I wish I would have figured out maybe a little sooner, but that was my start and just like you folks now, I just love that I know that if I have a question, there’s people out there willing to answer and the coolest part is when you put it out and someone out of nowhere comes and responds. And you’re like, I didn’t even … you probably by chance saw this tweet and you were willing to just throw 140 characters back and say your thoughts or fire a link or whatever. It’s like everybody is scratching each other’s back, regardless of whether you are friends or not, you’re just trying to help the community.
Jon Orr: Yeah.
Kyle Pearce: John, we know that you have a resource, hook, line and sinker, out there your ebook and we are pretty impressed with it and we would love for you to take a moment here and share that resource with our listeners. Like what is it, what motivated you to write this resource for teachers? And maybe the outline with the three parts mean and then how they relate to math education.
John Rowe: Look, so time is something that everyone complains about. Right? When I say everyone, teachers. And if you ask them how they’re going or whatever, you can ask them any question actually. Like what’s the weather today? They’ll probably mentioned time, they’ll find some way to squeeze in a complaint or something about time, how it just controls and determines so much. So I came into this job towards the end of the school year and when I went into this job I had to sacrifice my teacher conditions. So it meant that I didn’t get school holidays or school vacation anymore.
John Rowe: So it was just before he went into summer. So I was going into my first summer break without actually having any holidays. And well everyone else is on holidays. I was at work and I had lots of time. So I’d be going in working nine to five at a desk. And, I’m not presenting any professional learning because everyone else’s on break. So, I’ve thought, well I’ve got to do something with this and a colleague of mine was talking about how she’s just discovered this resource that she uses with her junior primary kids. It’s called Book Creator.
John Rowe: So I was checking out Book Creator, and I was just like, “Okay, well if I throw these things around, oh you can put a background as a grid. That’s kind of cool.” And I was just playing around with it and I was like, well I wonder what a unit of work would look like on this. And I did that and I’m like, I can put links in. And I just started putting this ebook together almost by accident. So I was like, “Okay, I’ve only taught at two schools.” One of them is a specialist math science school. And that’s only from year 10 to 12.
John Rowe: The second school I taught at was a high school in a low SES area. I don’t know if you guys use that word SES. It’s a socioeconomic status.
Kyle Pearce: Okay. No, that’s new for us. I think.
John Rowe: It was yeah, like [inaudible 00:34:05], so each one of their public schools has a SES rating. It tells us how disadvantaged that community is. And yeah, this school in particular is low SES, so, a really challenging community and they are from year eight to 12. So, I’ve never actually taught eight or nine. What I’m getting at here is that my resource bank, was really much more like a drawer of odd socks. There were just things all over the place, everything. I just happened to … I felt like I taught something different every year. So I had just had these things and well I thought, well, if I was putting a unit together and it doesn’t necessarily matter for which year level, like could I kind of combine some of these things in a way?
John Rowe: And I started doing that and I realized that a lot of the stuff I’d used or saved, I have a PowerPoint presentation and it would be like a three hour lesson, but it would be from Andrew Stadel or Dan Meyer. And I’m like, “Oh God, I can’t make an ebook about everyone else’s stuff.” That’s just dodgy. Right? And, I wasn’t out there to make money as well. I’m also a department employee, so, I’m working on their clock and if I did try to sell it, it would never work anyway and that wasn’t my intention.
John Rowe: So yeah. Anyway, I started putting these little units together and I actually showed it to someone who was popping in while they’re on holidays. Then she said, yeah, this is really good. This would be really useful. She’s a science teacher and she goes, “I don’t have this experience. I don’t have this resource. I’ve never even heard of some of these people.” So, I didn’t want it to be overwhelming and I really, really tried to keep it as a … I’m almost tried to maintain this minimalist appearance. So it’s a very simple looking book. If you go on Twitter, there’s these just these boxes with links and even the framework Hook, Line, Sinker, it’s an adaption of a lot of other existing models there. I think the example I’ve included in the book is the five E’s or something. So I think it’s engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate or something.
John Rowe: But I’m not necessarily saying that I’m bringing anything revolutionary in this book, but it’s just there wasn’t really anything like that so I’ve just tried to fill that need. There are a lot of great resource websites out there, like really, really fantastic ones. Ones that are laid out really nicely and they’re good if you know about it. And they’re also not the answer to everything and I don’t think anything will be. So I just tried to create almost like a starter pack for someone who isn’t or doesn’t feel like they have the time to be really active online to actually keep across everything.
John Rowe: And I’ve just tried to include stuff that I’ve used, the example units or whatever you want to call them that are in the book, just one example, there are some tasks that I might have luck in a Sinker spot, but you could totally use as a Hook or a Line. It’s just the starting point so that when you are at the end of your day and you’ve been teaching seven lessons or whatever, are you going, what I’m going to do tomorrow? And you’re trying to have the capacity to think for yourself. You just literally want to look at someone else’s book, someone else’s plan, there’s not a whole lot of people to go out and get that information from, especially if you’re not in the faculty that’s conducive to that.
John Rowe: And then there are some other things, I guess one of my favorite pages is the page at the back. I’ve classified it under big catches just that they were the analogy. But these are things that I’m going … this is like my trophy cabinet of amazing maths things or [inaudible 00:37:49]. Right? So you guys are in there and I’m looking at it, I’m like, “How did I come up with this order? I’m pretty sure it’s just totally random because [inaudible 00:37:57] would be at number one, and not number five on the list, The Making Maths Moments That Matter podcast.
John Rowe: But there are some other podcasts in there. There are a newsletter signup, there’s [inaudible 00:38:08] Desmos tasks. There are just a range of different things. And what I encourage people to do is if they use someone’s stuff, I like this idea of, oh, man, I’m going to steal that person’s idea. I mean it can be stealing but worse still, you use it, let them know you’ve used it, because how are they to know they might want your feedback. I’m amazed when people will use one of my tasks or something and they might take a photo of it and then post it online and I’m like, “Wow, that must’ve been being a really good thing.” Unless if it’s a complaint. But yeah, that must’ve been really quite nice for them.
John Rowe: And getting that, just randomly come through. That’s huge for me. People don’t know how much that could mean when you see other kids doing something that you’ve created and the teachers going, yeah, I respect this, I’m going to use it and it’s going to benefit more students.
Kyle Pearce: I look at it too, like when you were saying when people share out on Twitter for example, it does make you feel like it was worthwhile even putting it out there in the first place. Right? Like, I know when I see a teacher using it in the class and you see a smile on the kid’s face or they send a video and the kids are cheering after the video goes or whatever it might be. It just sort of gives you that little bit of fuel to do the next one. Right? Because you’re like, “People are actually using this.” Obviously, you’re doing it for your own students, but at the same time it’s like it does take people a long time to go ahead and then take it and put it online and some sort of consumable content.
Kyle Pearce: I’m sure you feel the same way when people are sharing out that they’re finding this resource useful Hook, Line and Sinker because you didn’t have to put all this together. And the thing I like about it, I mean there’s lots of things we like about it, but one thing in particular and you sort of named it was what ends up happening very quickly. If let’s say I’ve created something, it’s really easy for me to go and slap it on a blog. But the problem is like blogs, if I’m not really sure how to keep things organized, it’s like, sure there’s these things we call tags or categories, but does everyone understand how to use those or where to go to find them on everyone’s site?
Kyle Pearce: Some people put them into let’s say spreadsheets like Google spreadsheets and share them, which nice and organized, but man, is it hard to find that link if you lose it. Right? So, there’s all kinds of pros and cons to each of the different ways that people are sharing. And this is just one of those other ways where, I’m picturing a teacher sitting in your five day workshop series and you can hand this off to them and they can go and just tuck this on to any device they want. I know it’s in iBooks. I know that you’ve got the EPUB files so they could just download it on an Android or whatever they want. Pretty cool stuff.
Kyle Pearce: So I’m wondering if we could dig a little deeper. You had mentioned the big catch or the big catches part at the back. John and I are honored obviously that you’ve included some of our things in there. Is there anything, maybe you can help us out with? What do you look at and I guess when you categorized Hook, Line, Sinker, what are your thinking like? What were your thoughts behind those three? I think it’s super catchy. I think it’s really cool that you came up with that whole context. But can you help people understand what they might find under a Hook, and what they might find under a Line and a Sinker?
John Rowe: Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things that I was really influenced quite early on in my teaching career, John, it was actually one of your posts. It was the hero’s journey, developing that need to learn. I don’t know if that’s how you phrased it, but that’s how I remember it. And it comes to this idea, where you essentially, you’re sparking something there. I’ve heard, you guys talk about this at length and in a really, really good way, but that’s essentially what I’m trying to do with the Hook. I guess the word Hook speaks for itself in that.
John Rowe: But what we really want to do is if you have those students, it’s about getting them in. Your Hook might be because of what you previously used for a Sinker task. So maybe it links really well with what you’ve just stopped. And as a task, a [inaudible 00:42:14] task, you go, “How would that be a Hook?” But when it’s put into that context, you go, “Yeah, right. So that next level.” Once we’ve got the students hooked and maybe you’re causing some cognitive conflict that you’re causing them to … really, I guess for us as teachers, we’re trying to scrunch those eyebrows. You know, you really want to get those kids in a state where they are thinking. And so the line is where we almost addressed that.
John Rowe: So it might be another task where it could be a three act task, for instance, where maybe teaching some skills through it. A good example of this is probably if you were to hop on and have a look at the egg roulette tasks. That’s how I teach tray diagrams, right? So we have a way of establishing some sort of representation for probabilities and how a conditional probability works. So I would be like, “Okay, yeah, we picked up these new skills. All right.” And then that Sinker task is something that you can do to consolidate that learning.
John Rowe: That’s something that I probably didn’t do so well in my first few years of teaching. I was doing, three act lessons every time and my kids were loving it. The results were really good as well. So there was this part of me that was like, man. It wasn’t that they just weren’t doing worksheets. I just felt like they weren’t spending enough time, I don’t know, I guess consolidating. I just didn’t feel like they would, Oh, for lack of a better term, doing enough math, you know?
Kyle Pearce: Right. Like actual problem solving. It’s like we investigated through the three act math task and you talked about what strategies this might look like or how we could do that strategy. But then, yeah, do you just turn to a worksheet after that? Or how do you continue to problem solve and get yours and immerse your students in that problem solving process so they can practice the skills?
John Rowe: Yeah. So most think these are essentially worksheet replaces. And that’s what I’ll say in my professional learning that I run. I’m like, look, this will replace a worksheet. It may not replace all your worksheets. You might not replace all those exercises that you do in your textbook, but it will replace one of those things. But, people have different words for this, might call it purposeful practice, or productive practice. I get those two things mixed up a fair bit and some people would probably get angry at me for that.
John Rowe: But you know, an example might be like, using that trigonometry pile up or Pythagoras pile up, where students are doing multiple things, but there’s that bigger thing in mind. They’re doing what would be equivalent of a pretty style worksheet. But it’s different and the kids know it’s different and they respect that it’s different. They even exercise their skills-
Kyle Pearce: Yes. Just like that challenge element built in. Right?
John Rowe: Yeah. Absolutely. So that’s the essence of those Sinker tasks, is something to give the kids a bit of space to give their new learning a bit of a workout and for some times it might be … all right, we might be able to strengthen this from connecting it to something we already know. So sometimes just being curious. All right, well let’s go from one of those connections across maybe a different topic and really strengthen it.
John Rowe: A good example of this is Pythagoras theorem and equations of circles, right? So, we go, all right, now, let’s generalize to that and go, yeah, there’s a bigger picture here. There’s something else going on and that might be how it’s consolidated.
Jon Orr: I really like the term Sinker too. You’ve given some great tips and examples on how we can practice or make that purposeful practice. I think that’s something that we’re not doing enough as teachers and we need to make more conscious effort to and that’s something that we also have talked about here on the podcast about the consolidation piece too. Sometimes we miss that part. We focus a lot on engagement, but not on the next part after that. I’m wondering a little bit like what other resources are you really passionate about right now? Like what are you geeked about lately? What’s your next, or what have you been working on? What’s got you going right now? Can you maybe elaborate a little bit on that and share a little bit?
John Rowe: Yeah. I mean, there’s two big things for me this year that have really shifted my thinking again. One of them was a book I read, by John Mason, I think it’s Leone Burton and Kaye Stacey Thinking Mathematically, one of those books that has been recommended to me by so many people, but now that I’ve actually got time, I sunk my teeth into it. And it’s just this idea that students, if they’re conjecturing, they’re doing math, if they’re zigzagging between conjecturing disproving their own conjecture, conjecturing again, and they just go through this cycle where they’re coming up with their own mathematics, really.
John Rowe: And we’re developing this culture where, all right, let’s make a prediction. Let’s test that out. There was this really lovely quote that came up from George Polya, which was years and years ago, which is a test we guess is the difference between a savage and the scientist. And I’m like, in essence that’s nice because we don’t want the blind guessing or what these conjectures coming out of nothing. But we want them to feel as though they need to be testing them.
John Rowe: So that kind of made me reevaluate my whole practice and go wow, how much of my time was actually spent doing this because I know I spend a lot of energy getting kids doing cool looking tasks and nice shiny tasks. And that was great. That was a big little tipping point for me. The other thing is that over the past year or so, I’ve up-skilled my computational layer ability on Desmos, as we pronounce in Australia, we pronounce it very differently than across the Atlantic.
Kyle Pearce: Let’s hear it.
John Rowe: We pronounce it Desmos. I think you guys pronounce it Desmos?
Kyle Pearce: Yes. But maybe you folks have it right? Because we’re not from California either. So, maybe we’re wrong.
John Rowe: Well, yeah. Now I checked with the guys and they’re like, nah, nah. But yeah, now I-
Kyle Pearce: They’ll never know. Keep on rocking it over there. They’ll never know.
John Rowe: Yeah. That’s it. But yeah, I started playing around with this and showing teachers how to use it. So it’s computational layer. I was just like more teachers just need to know how easy this is to use. It’s a really simple coding language. But I think the fact that it looks like code, it just puts people off because they’re like, “Oh man, now I need to learn how to do that too.” So part of it is now I’m like, all right, that’s how I’m working with teachers to write their own. But I also am just getting borderline addicted to making my own activities. I made like with-
Kyle Pearce: I’ve seen some of your activities. You really rock the world with Super Mario.
John Rowe: Yeah. So yeah, another guy [inaudible 00:49:03], I think he comes from Texas and yeah, we started up a website called Retro Desmos. So we’re just recreating Retro, okay gangs and Desmos and just having a lot of fun. So, yeah, now, just having a lot of fun in that space and really enjoying just learning new stuff. I think in essence, that’s what I enjoy the most.
Kyle Pearce: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. Well listen, John, we’ve held you up. You were at I think at 10 o’clock when we started your time. It’s now somewhere close to 11 o’clock and on a Saturday night nonetheless. So we were chatting and joking before the episode began that, this is exactly what math geeks do a do on their weekends. Right? So John and I are-
John Rowe: It’s an [inaudible 00:49:46].
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Exactly. We’re up real early today because we want to geek out on math. You’re up real late and super cool. What we want to know and what we want to share with our audience is where can they find more from John Rowe? Feel free to share out any links, social media handles, and we’ll include them all in the show notes for the episode so that the Math Moment Maker community can benefit and learn more about you and all the great things that you’re sharing.
John Rowe: Yeah. Cool. So my Twitter handle is @mr, that’s mr with M- R, John Rowe, so that’s @ M- R- J- O – H- N- R- O- W- E, and then my blog or website, which is where I put, yeah, pretty much anything. Yes, so that is mr, M- R rowe.com M- R- O- W- E.com, and if you want the ebook it’s that same website except slash/book. You can also find it on Apple books as well.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff. We will definitely link all those up in the show notes. Mr. Rowe, we are so, so thrilled to have you on the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. We appreciate all you do for the math community. We want to now allow you to head to bed my friend, so thank you so much and hopefully we’ll have you on the podcast again in the near future.
Jon Orr: Thanks for coming.
John Rowe: Thanks guys it’s been so nice.
Kyle Pearce: We want to thank John again for spending time with us to share his insights with you, the math moment maker community from all the way across the other side of the world in Australia. As always, how will you reflect on what you’ve heard from this episode? Have you written ideas down, drawn a sketch note, sent out a tweet, called a colleague. Be sure to engage in some form of reflection to ensure that the learning sticks. Also, the Make Math Moments That Matter podcast is excited to bring you another giveaway this time with White Book, our source for White Book flip charts. That’s right. You can easily post these whiteboards anywhere in your room and bring them with you so you can engage in vertical non-permanent surface work.
Kyle Pearce: Just like Peter Little, the Hall’s research suggests White Book is offering you the Math Moment Maker Community, the chance to win one of five flipped chart packs plus a special 50% off discount on all flip chart packs for everyone who enters the giveaway, you can get in on this giveaway by visiting makemathmoments.com/giveaway by Wednesday, August 28, 2019 listening after Wednesday, August 28th, 2019 no sweat. We are always actively running giveaways, so check out, makemathmoments.com/giveaway to learn about the current giveaway we have running. Don’t miss out. Dive in at makemathmoments.com/giveaway. That’s makemathmoments.com/giveaway.
Kyle Pearce: In order to ensure you don’t miss out on any new episodes, go ahead, pull the phone out of your pocket, open up your podcast app, and hit that subscribe button. Do it in iTunes, Spotify, Google play, or wherever you’re listening to this podcast. Also, if you’re liking what you’re hearing, share this podcast with a colleague and help us reach a wider audience by leaving us a review on iTunes and tweet us your biggest takeaway by tagging @makemathmoments on Twitter.
Kyle Pearce: Show notes and links to resources from this episode can be found at makemathmoments.com/episode37. Again, that is makemathmoments.com/episode 37. We release a new episode every Monday morning. Keep an eye out for our next episode. Well, until next time, I’m Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I’m John Orr. High fives for us and high fives for you.
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