Episode #49: Adding Parents To The Equation: An Interview with Hilary Kreisberg & Matthew Beyranevand

Nov 4, 2019 | Podcast | 0 comments


So, you’ve decided to make a change in your math class or you’re already on the journey to shift away from the way we were taught; moving away from overemphasizing the memorization of steps and procedures and moving towards teaching for reasoning, problem solving, and understanding.

This is FANTASTIC! As you likely know, making this shift takes time and energy. It seems like every small shift we make, we encounter a new challenge. Although it might not feel like it, these challenges are a part of the process. However, one of the challenges that tends to pop up during the process of shifting from memorization to understanding is not helpful and it can often derail us from pushing forward.

What is that challenge?

Parent and Guardian push-back.

I’m sure you’re nodding your head in agreement when you think of the many parents (especially the most vocal of the bunch) who you can bet will be sending a note or calling the school if you aren’t pushing those traditional, outdated practices of memorizing steps and procedures without understanding. 

Well, we have just the resource to help you overcome this challenge!

On this episode, we have two wonderful and hilariously entertaining educators who are passionate about helping parents navigate math education.

Hilary Kresiberg and Matthew Beyranevand have co-authored an amazing book called Adding Parents To The Equation and they join us on the podcast to dive into many ways we can overcome this very common challenge. 

Dive into episode #49 to learn how to help parents help their children with math at home, what resources parents can use to help nurture mathematics with their children, how to help them navigate educational jargon, how to develop their own growth mindset, how to support them with the actual mathematics we teach and what teachers can do to support parents from the classroom. 

You’ll Learn

  • How to help parents help their children with math at home. 
  • What resources can parents use at home to help nurture mathematics. 
  • How to help parents navigate educational jargon
  • How to help parents with growth mindset
  • How to support parents with mathematics. 
  • How teachers can support parents.


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Matthew: Parents want to help their children be successful in mathematics, there’s no doubt about that. But they don’t really know how exactly they can support them. And when we started learning about this and reading about this, we said there’s not a lot of good resources out there as to how we can provide support to our children- [crosstalk 00:00:20].

Jon Orr: Today we have two wonderful and hilariously entertaining educators who are passionate about helping parents navigate math education. Hilary Kreisberg and Matthew Beyranevand have coauthored an amazing book called Adding Parents to the Equation.

Kyle Pearce: Stick around and learn how to help parents help their children with math at home, what resources parents can use to help nurture mathematics with their children, how to help parents navigate educational jargon, how to help parents develop their own growth mindset, how to support parents with the actual mathematics we’re teaching, and what teachers can do to support parents from the classroom. But before all of that, let’s press play on that intro music. Here we go. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast, I’m Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr. 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: Your learning.

Kyle Pearce: And ignite teacher action. Are you ready Jon to add parents to the equation?

Jon Orr: For sure, for sure. We chat with Hillary and Matthew today about adding parents to the equation. And if you want to learn more, we’re going to encourage you to register for the Make Math Moments Virtual Summit. Yes, that is right. We are running a free online math professional development summit for K to 12 educators. The Make Math Moments Virtual Summit is running on Saturday, November 16th, and Sunday, November 17th, 2019. And we’ll feature sessions from past and upcoming Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast guests, Sunil Singh, Dr. Nicki Newton, Skip Fennell, and his team of the formative five authors, Hillary and Matthew from today, and many, many more.

Kyle Pearce: Register for this year’s summit at makemathmoments.com/summit.

Jon Orr: Listening to this episode after the November 17th, 2019, you can still head to makemathmoments.com/summit to add your name to the wait list for the next Make Math Moments Virtual Summit.

Kyle Pearce: Head on over now to get yourself registered makemathmoments.com/summit, that is makemathmoments.com/summit. All right, let’s not wait any longer, let’s hop the line with Hillary and Matthew. Hey there Hillary and Matthew, welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. We are so excited to have you on the show today. How are things over on your end?

Hilary: Things are great, thanks for having us.

Matthew: Jon and Kyle, thank you so much. We’re a big fan of your podcast, and we’re really happy to be on it today.

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff, that is fantastic. Before we get into talking about the book and all great math stuff, we want to know a little bit about each of you. So, let’s start with Hillary. Help our listeners understand a little bit about yourself, where you’re coming from, what’s your role in math education? And we’re going to add one more in here, how did you get into math education?

Hilary: Awesome. So, I wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a child. So, that was something I always knew, and I went into college knowing that I was going to become a teacher. So right out of school, I became a fifth grade teacher. And in elementary school you tend to teach more than one subject. So I was teaching science, social studies, English, math. And math was always my passion, and I knew when I was teaching it that I just loved it so much more than when I was teaching the other subjects. And so as I progressed I became a math coach of K – 5. And then I had a really wonderful opportunity where I was presenting at a conference in New York state, and someone from Lesley University saw me there and asked if I’d like to come work here. So, now I direct the center for mathematics achievement at Lesley University. And so I am both a professor, and I also run professional development nationally and internationally.

Kyle Pearce: Fantastic. How about you Matthew? Tell us a little bit about your background role in education, and why you got into this teaching math gig?

Matthew: So, a little different from Hillary’s story where I’ve always had a love of mathematics, but never really thought of myself as going down the teacher road. I was a TA in college for economics, which I really enjoyed. And originally I was going to look into a different career, and I was unsure. And my father before he became a computer programmer and a real estate developer did one year as a middle school math teacher. And he encouraged me to do the same, saying it’s something that you can really give back, and you can get some real passion and love of working with kids. And so I said, “All right, let me try it. I do love math, let me see what I can do here.”

Matthew: And I signed up and became a teacher really without any training. And I tried to quit on the first day of school, they wouldn’t let me quit. They said you’ve got to finish out at least the first couple of weeks, and yada, yada, yada, 20 years later, I’m doing a podcast here with you fine folks, talking about how great mathematics is, and how we can support teachers. And in the case of this topic here, parents as well.

Jon Orr: Matthew I’m pretty curious right now and I think our listeners would be too. You wanted to quit on day one, but then you didn’t quit after what? Week one, week two? Tell us more about that.

Matthew: Sure. Well, what happened was the first day I was not prepared. I was teaching in an urban setting and there were some students and they were misbehaving, and I didn’t know how to address it, and I got overwhelmed and they got into my head. And so I felt like, oh my gosh, I bit off too much than I could chew. But yet once I started getting into the routine and developing relationships with the kids, I started coaching basketball, I coached volleyball. I spent a lot of time and realized that these kids are the ones who really need the attention, the love, the support that they may not be getting in other places. And I felt like this is my calling, this is the way I can make a difference. And then I went all in on it, went back to school to learn about the art of teaching in teaching mathematics. And I’ve really devoted my professional career now to the teaching of mathematics in a way that builds conceptual understanding, while done in a joyful, meaningful manner so students can actually enjoy their experience of learning math.

Kyle Pearce: You referenced earlier that you sort of went in, you wanted to quit on day one, but before that you were very clear and said that you didn’t really have, you didn’t feel like you had much training. And I think that’s something that right away we all have to consider when we enter into this education field. It’s not something you’re just born with, right? Sure, some people might have different experiences that might help. Maybe they were camp counselors, so they’ve built some experience. But when you get thrown into the classroom without feeling prepared or having had that guidance, it can really be a struggle.

Kyle Pearce: And it sounds like you leveraged building relationships with students, and I’m sure we’ll talk a lot about this throughout this episode. But it sounds like you built that trusting relationship with students through coaching and through really diving in and realizing that, you know what? Guess what? Other kids in our classes may not have had that same upbringing that you or I may have had right? We only have our own perspective. And oftentimes if we’re only thinking of things through our own perspective, that could be a real struggle. So, I want to flip to Hillary here for a second. Matthew talks about his experience, those first few weeks of school, was yours a different experience than Matthew, or did you ever have the sense that in the first few weeks like, ooh, I’m over my head here, or did you find that you had maybe a different sort of perspective?

Hilary: I had a completely different experience. Again, I knew I wanted to teach. So, I was three years old sitting in my living room with all my stuffed animals in front of me, teaching them everything that I could. So, I feel-

Kyle Pearce: Did they ever learn? Could you make it work?

Hilary: I had the smartest stuffed animals you’ve ever seen.

Kyle Pearce: Amazing.

Hilary: Yeah.

Kyle Pearce: And they probably didn’t talk back.

Hilary: They loved math. Yeah. So, I felt like I was teaching forever. So when I got to the classroom, it just felt natural. I also started teaching when I was really young, and I taught fifth grade. So I was only 10 years older than the kids that I was teaching. And so that was weird, but it was also nice in terms of building relationships. And so, I had read every book possible before getting into that classroom, knowing that creating structures and routines was so vital. And so I had all of that ready to go, and I felt happy with the way that it all went.

Jon Orr: That kind of rolls us into the next question, which our listeners know this question’s coming, and I think a few of them are waiting for this every episode, which is about our memorable math moments. Matthew maybe we can start with you this time. When you think back to your own educational experience, what memorable math moment comes to mind? What pops in your head when we mentioned the words math class?

Matthew: So, for me growing up I was very good at memorizing the math facts. I was very good at the things, the procedural fluency if you will, and to me that’s how I learned mathematics. Then I got into high school, and the shift with this particular teacher that I had moved away from that procedural knowledge and the memorization and truly to understanding it, and I went from being what I consider to be proficient in mathematics, to now feeling like I now understood it, and was able to see the big picture of mathematics as opposed to just being able to say, negative b plus or minus square root of b squared minus 4ac all over 2a, and having no idea. And that is when I truly began to love mathematics, when I had a particular teacher my sophomore year, his name was Mr. Noah, and he was a real game changer for me and really found that love and joy for mathematics.

Kyle Pearce: You’ve highlighted something that’s so important and it’s that, this understanding when students are given the opportunity to understand the inner workings of math, and actually come to realize that everything in mathematics happens for a reason, and it’s okay if you don’t know what that reason is yet. But if you know deep at the core that everything happens for a reason, it makes it so much more enjoyable to actually engage in because now it’s a bit of a puzzle, right? I have to actually try to figure this thing out. If I don’t understand it now, that’s okay. It’s not bad, it doesn’t make me a bad person or an unintelligent person, I actually have now the opportunity to dive in, so that’s fantastic. How about you Hillary, do you have a memorable math moment that you can think of from math class? When we say math class, what memory pops into your mind?

Hilary: Well, I knew you were going to ask this, and I sat there and it’s something I had never actually thought of, and I sat and I was trying to think like what was memorable for me? And honestly, I couldn’t come up with one thing that was memorable in math class for me. But what was a memorable experience and I guess was a collection of many math experiences, was I was in special education for many, many years in my elementary career. I had trouble reading and I had trouble comprehending what I was reading. And I only later on in life that I felt like I was maybe misdiagnosed, partly because I wasn’t being given reading that I was actually interested in. And when I got to college and started reading math, I was like, whoa, I really can understand what I’m reading. What happened, what were they telling me?

Hilary: But I think the memorable thing for me was I had only applied as a math major to college to counteract my SAT scores, because my sat scores for reading were terrible. And so I knew, hey, the odds of me being a female entering a math major would increase my chances of getting into the university I wanted to. So I had only applied as a math major to work the system. And I got in and I thought, oh, I’ll just switch now to whatever else I wanted to study. And I took the first course that they have, which is introduction to mathematical reasoning. And I was like, “Oh my God, I love this stuff. I’m doing so well, it’s the one.” And I was one of three female math majors at the time at the university, and so I just stuck. And then I really fell in love with math as I went through it and took the history of math course, which just blew my mind. And here I am.

Jon Orr: I related a lot to what you’ve said about your memorable math moment, and especially when you were at the younger age where it was like almost unmemorable. I have one memory about my fourth grade that I’ve shared on the podcast a few times now, but the rest of some of those years they all kind of blend together because of how unmemorable they were, there was nothing awesome happening in some of those classes. And some of those times where teachers break the script, that’s those memorable moments right there. So, I definitely relate to that. And the other thing I relate to or think about a lot lately is that sad reality about how there’s such a low number of female math majors. I went to a math school here in Ontario, the University of Waterloo was kind of the math school, or the computer science school that’s highly regarded. And I had very few females in my math classes.

Jon Orr: I have three daughters, so it’s very dear to my heart about how I want their view of what they can do in school and what they can do mathematically to be very positive for them. Because I want them to be able to do whatever they want to choose and not feel the limits of only boys go into that field and girls go into other fields. So, I want to change that for my kids, and I know that you want to do that for your kids. And I think that’s why we’re talking about the book here today too, it’s about parents and how we can help our parents get into learning about math education and helping our kids math education. So, let’s focus in on the book about your book, Adding Parents to the Equation. I’ll let you guys decide on who wants to answer this. What inspired both of you to write a book focusing on bringing parents into the math education conversation?

Matthew: Well, I think part of it has to do with the fact that parents want to help their children be successful in mathematics, there’s no doubt about that. But they don’t really know how exactly they can support them. And when we were started learning about this and reading about this, we said there’s not a lot of good resources out there as to how we can provide support to our children about this “new math” or the way we do math today, which is different than when their parents grew up. So we said let’s explore this, and then we uncovered a lot of information and a lot of ways that we could help support these parents.

Hilary: And I had been asked for years by family and friends and even colleagues of mine, you know so much you need to write a book for parents. And I just never thought that I was really capable of even doing such a thing. And then Matthew reached out to me on Twitter, and asked to join him and doing this. And I thought, okay, I’ll try. And it just kind of naturally happened, and it felt more to me like a venting. Everything that I’ve been wanting to say to parents for years, I finally was able to put down on paper. And it’s helpful because anywhere we would go we would just hear parents complaining, whether it be the new math or the common core or anything. And I just always found myself inserting my ideas into those conversations. And now I just say, “Hey, have you heard of this book? You should check it out.”

Kyle Pearce: Not only does that resonate with me that obviously parents, all they get is what they hear in the media, right? So, you see a news article, you folks being in the States about common core, there’s always, oh, the common core is failing our students. Or you see these random videos on social media of one recently that comes to mind, I’ll try to find the link and put it in the show notes. There’s a video and it’s like a split screen, and on the left side there’s someone-

Hilary: On the area model.

Kyle Pearce: The area model, right, for multiplication. Which maybe the video that was selected, obviously it was done so intentionally to draw it out and so forth. It was done very procedurally instead of how you might see it happening in a classroom, but then to the right you have someone just using the standard algorithm and they’re done within like 10, 15 seconds. And then they’re goofing around, waiting, tapping their hand on the table, that sort of thing.

Hilary: I’ve had to combat that so many times. I’ve seen it on the internet multiple times and I always insert myself in those conversations, because it’s so critical that parents understand that the point is not that it’s taking forever and that they’re never going to be able to learn the standard algorithm, it’s quite the opposite. That we’re actually building on the conceptual understanding that we’re making a connection between mathematical ideas, and then understanding how that relates to place value and how we can be more efficient at some point.

Kyle Pearce: The part that really I guess it’s a challenge that I see all of us having to deal with, and obviously you are helping address it on the parent level, the challenge is that there’s many teachers out there that still don’t understand what the common core is attempting to achieve, and how to use mathematical models to help build conceptual understanding. So, and I mean luckily there’s so much more support in terms of books and resources, but the challenge I think is that oftentimes teachers just like Matthew referenced in his first few weeks, he didn’t feel prepared to head into the classroom. And for many teachers, they don’t get the opportunity to get good mathematics PD. So, not only are we struggling on the parental front, but we’re also struggling sometimes even in the classroom where if we aren’t fully understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing, that could be a real challenge for helping the parents of the students in those classrooms, right? Because even the teacher might not be feeling confident.

Hilary: Well, I think that goes back to the systemic change. I think the way in which the common core and these standards rolled out was very similar to the way that many other big initiatives roll out. And it’s let’s dump it all out at once, it’s going to affect every stakeholder at once, and there’s no time to prepare. And so until we make more thoughtful changes where we slowly, methodically think about every stakeholder and who needs to be behind it first, I think that’s when we’re really going to see it stick.

Matthew: And also elementary teachers have to teach every subject, they teach reading and writing and social studies and science and then math. And for 95% of them, they did not go to school for STEM or for mathematics. And so for the most part, it’s not their favorite subject to teach. So if they don’t have the prerequisite prior knowledge in place, and they don’t have the love and passion for mathematics, many times their students are not going to be given the opportunity that could be afforded to them by a different instructor who has that understanding and knowledge and passion for math.

Jon Orr: Yeah. And I just want to talk a little bit about what we were mentioning before about parents not understanding exactly what the common core curriculum was about. But I don’t know if you guys were in Sarah Vanderwerff’s session at NCTM this year. She shared a story about every time she goes to a new city, she’s always talking to the Lyft driver or the cab driver, and says, “I teach math, and what do you guys think about math?” And she says two thirds of them will tell you how they hated math growing up. It was such a struggle and it was terrible, and I didn’t get a lot over it, and I’m not really using it in my day to day life. But then she said that the funny thing is that those same two thirds are still as parents saying, yeah, but I still want you to teach math the same way I was taught to my kid. I think it’s like they don’t want it to change. And I think that’s mostly because they just don’t know, they don’t have the background to understand exactly what’s going on.

Hilary: I don’t think it’s that they don’t want it to change. I think they want what’s best for their kids. I think right now they’re defensive because their knowledge is low. They can only defend with what they know and what they’re comfortable with. And the way I look at mathematics is almost like a belief system. It’s not just a subject, it’s something we’ve internalized over the years. Parents have spent 12, 13 years in school learning math a certain way. It becomes their system, their functioning system. And so the way we just flipped it on them, it feels like we’re questioning them and their intelligence, and it’s about parents. When we interviewed parents, we really found that they were worried about looking unintelligent. They were worried about not being able to help their kids. They were worried about the things that affected them. It was personal for them.

Matthew: And many times with these parents, they would be saying things to their students, to their own children, that would really impact their ability to learn math. By saying things like, well, I can’t do this math or I can’t do whatever you’re attempting to do. And so now the child looks and says, my role model, my father, my mother, is telling me that they can’t do fifth grade math. Well, how am I ever supposed to be able to learn, understand it when they are proudly saying they can’t do math, they hate math, they don’t understand it. And so part of the book is talking about what things we should be saying to our children, and what things we should not be saying to our children so that we can promote a growth mindset, and a culture that supports the learning.

Hilary: I’ve also brought the book to different groups of parents. Places where I go I carry the book everywhere with me, and sometimes I just ask the parents to read chapter one. You don’t have to buy the book, I just want you to read chapter one. And chapter one is all about why the math education shift happened. And when they’re done reading chapter one, oftentimes they just kind of feel calmer. They feel better, they go, that’s all I needed to know. Why couldn’t anybody tell me that? I feel like we as humans are just predisposed to explain phenomena, right? It’s not what mythology is? Something happens that we can’t necessarily explain or have an answer for, so we create a story around it to fulfill our need. And so I feel like for parents, they’re blaming the government or testing or whatever because they just need a reason. And so what if we just gave them the right reason?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, for sure. And I think to one of the other pieces, and I love how you said reason, because we often want things to be a singular thing when we obviously know usually life’s like much more complex than that. So, it sounds like chapter one sort of takes me through as a parent and kind of almost addresses a bit of the why. And Matthew had mentioned the idea of the messaging that we want our parents to have so that they can send certain messages to their children about mathematics. Do you mind diving a little bit deeper into that? Are there other messages in there? I heard growth mindset. Are there other pieces that you’re hoping that parents will take away that they can sort of have in mind when they’re working with their children with math or even just having discussions about it?

Matthew: So, for me my favorite chapter is chapter nine. Which is what can you do at home? We promote this idea with the literacy that we should read to our kids for 20 minutes every night before bed and that will help promote it. But we really don’t offer any suggestions or activities of things that we can do with our own children outside of let’s do this worksheet, or let’s just do this computer programming. So, what if we just say parents, here’s a whole bunch of things that you can consider doing. Part of it is games. Part of it is the way you frame discussions, ideas for car rides of what things you can talk to your kids about at whatever grade level to help them feel like they understand math and the world around them. So, to me that was the feedback that I got from parents that said, wow, this is great. I know what I want to do, I just don’t know how to do it. So, those resources and ideas that you provided in that chapter nine really hit home.

Hilary: Yeah. I also found parents really love chapter four, it’s called Tell Me in Layman’s Terms. And it’s just about speaking the educational jargon. And for them it was just understanding what the heck we are saying every day, 10 frame, number bond, number line. They don’t know what this stuff is, they just want to know. And so we give it to them. And then we also include tools that kids are using in school, and so they’re starting to purchase it for their homes and finding that they’re able to have conversations with the kids about what they’re learning in school.

Jon Orr: That’s a great idea on chapter four. I think we as teachers know what’s going on. We know the jargon, we know what’s going into the tools and we forget I think to explain that to the individuals that make a difference in the kids’ lives. I do want to chalk or go back to what Matthew said about chapter nine, and talking about those activities that you guys share that parents can do at home with their kids. I’m wondering Matthew, if you could share a couple of your favorites for our listeners. Do you guys have some quick easy ones that our listeners can implement with their kids right now.

Matthew: Sure, absolutely. So, I really want to focus on games. Games to me are a great activity that you can do with your child after school, after dinner, whenever there’s free time. And even games like go fish, memory, shoots and ladders, trouble, or my favorite one, tiny polka dot, those all have embedded mathematics into it. And plus there are some books that really promote the mathematics. A few of my favorite books for the lower elementary level are 789 Good Night Numbers, Chicka Chicka 123, 10 magic Butterflies, and 100 Hungary Ants. Those books really show and help kids understand numbers and understand numbers in the world in which we live.

Hilary: So, we can’t forget math before bed. Though, I think we would be remissed if we left that one out. And we have you in our book in chapter 10 when we talk about doing math before bed. I think there’s two really good places for that. One is your app Math Before Bed, and the book that you’ve written. And then there’s also Laura Overdeck’s Bedtime Math app. And so I think just building on what Matthew said, we have to do math before we go to bed. It’s so routine to read before bed, but not to do some sort of math. And so we focus there on books that inspire mathematical thinking, and then also games that you can play before bed.

Kyle Pearce: Right, right. And I so appreciate that long list. I noticed like Tiny Polka Dot came up as a game, and that’s something that we’ve referenced. Before we actually had Dan Finkle on the podcast back in episode 11 I think it was, maybe episode 11. So, we’ll definitely link up there and he’s got prime climb for-

Hilary: Yes, we have that in the book too.

Kyle Pearce: Beautiful. And then a book I wanted to share too, and you may or may not have this in here, but it’s one that I love. I didn’t buy it intentionally, someone gave it to us as a gift and my kids loved it. It’s called Double Those Wheels. So, the main character is a monkey delivering a pizza, and he’s on a unicycle. And then the next page he doubles those wheels and now he’s on the bike. Like something keeps happening to the thing he’s using. Then he goes to a car, and then he goes to a truck, and then it goes to an 18 wheeler, so it just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and eventually it’s a train. And this train has 128 wheels or whatever it is, and we have to count them all out and we make the kids count them all out.

Hilary: Oh, how fun is that?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, such a spectacular book as well. So, we’re going to link up all of these in the show notes. Love the shout out for Jon’s Math Before Bed as well, so I’m sure he’s thankful for you folks sharing that as well. So, lots of cool tools.

Hilary: Well, the other resource that I don’t want to forget about, we just started, so we started this way after the book came out, but we just started a Facebook group for parents, and in the first six days we had 250 parents that joined. So, I think that’s awesome, and it’s still growing, we’re almost up to 300 right now, and it’s called Adding Parents to the Equation. And we’re just posting videos, resources, links, and we’re hoping parents will start to have conversations in that group similar to your Making Math Moments Matter group. But for parents to be able to communicate and ask questions or show a picture of this, my kid came home with this, can someone explain how to help?

Kyle Pearce: I love how playful the angle, the perspective you’re taking with this is that, to help students, to help our children with mathematics, it doesn’t have to be the way it was for many of us. Like for me, my parents I still love them, but we did the flashcards, and my mom did it because that was the only thing that she knew to do. And even flashcards themselves, you can make them into games. It doesn’t have to just be sit there and do the time, and was the same with my spelling test every Friday I had to practice 10 words and it was just very monotonous, it wasn’t very fun. So, giving parents a great way to still try to get some of the same effects, but doing it in a way where you can develop that love and that passion for the subject area I think is huge.

Kyle Pearce: So, I’m wondering can we shift gears just a little bit? I want to go back to chapter four where we’re talking about all the educational jargon or parents might call it EDU babble. And we referenced earlier the video on social media about the area model and then the traditional algorithm side-by-side. The area model itself could be considered a bit of that EDU babble that a parent might say, “What the heck is this?” I’m wondering, are there any other big ones that you find are very common that people get hung up on or parents get hung up on?

Hilary: Well, I think the word manipulative is something that parents aren’t familiar with that we all too often. And so just we help them go through what a manipulative really is, and what makes a tool different than a model and things of that nature. But we really walk them through the different tools that kids are using in classrooms. So, counters and then unifix cubes, Cuisenaire rods. And what we do is we break it down into grade levels. So if you’re in K to 2, here’s some activities you could do at home with a unifix cube. And then we also give some certain tips, like unifix cubes are awesome because they’re plastic, and so you can write on them with dry erase markers. So you can even use them in literacy for building words and letters. There’s just so many different things you can do, and so we insert different activities that you could do with your child, and we give an example of conversations that might happen when doing these things.

Matthew: And I think back to the example that you gave of the area model, one of the things that we tried to do within the book is show the reason why we’re doing this is not just to build conceptual understanding, but how it can be applied into the middle school and the high school. So, the area model, which we start in a very early grades to build the understanding of multiplication is the way we actually teach it, and we ask our kids to learn it when we start saying multiplying a trinomial times a binomial, when you start having variables and other crazy things in there because it makes sense. We show how the elementary math is applied and used through the middle school and the high school, and the area model is a great example of how that’s done.

Jon Orr: That’s a great addition to the book. I think that’s one thing we parents have been lacking about seeing the progression of major ideas where they’re useful. I think it would be great we try to do that with our own students to show them that progression of ideas, so that’s awesome. Do you share the jargon ideas from chapter four? You’ve got some resources in books from chapter nine, what might be some other big ideas that you feel are really important for parents to grasp here?

Hilary: I think the mindset piece to me is critical. We wrote the book where chapters five, six and seven really go through the mathematics. But it’s funny when I talk with parents, those aren’t the chapters that have resonated with them. It’s helpful for them, but they really prefer to just understand the why. So, chapter one the why, and then chapter two, mindset. Like, hey, I didn’t know that I should be praising my child’s behavior and effort rather than telling them that they’re smart because I always was told I was smart. And so looking at the research behind that even was helpful for parents.

Matthew: Yeah. To follow up on that, Hillary is exactly correct about the mindset. What things should we be saying and not saying as we mentioned already, and what things should we be doing with the students, with our children when they do the math? For example, it’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes is part of the learning process. It’s not about speed, it’s not how fast you get it done, it’s can you the correct answer and be able to articulate or write about the correct answer. And so show how those things are important and then let parents know about that so that the culture in their home promotes those ideas.

Kyle Pearce: It’s so easy for us to hear something like, oh, it’s not about just the answer. And then some people take it way to the other side, right? And they say, “Why, we don’t care about kids being accurate or anything.” And it’s like, no, not that at all. It sounds like what you’re saying is it’s like redefining what these ideas mean. When I make a mistake, sure you could call it like it’s not the right answer, but the whole idea is that now it’s like the fun begins. Why? Why didn’t that work for me? And if I have a conceptual understanding as you’ve referenced earlier, I could actually kind of work my way through and try to figure out where did I go down the wrong path, and I will actually grow from it.

Kyle Pearce: So, I’m wondering can we build on and try to get a couple more nuggets here. We’ve got tons that we’re going to be able to share in the show notes, so we’re really excited. I know the community’s going to be very excited about that. I’m wondering, do you have any of your go-to mindset links and resources that you might want to share here for folks who are listening?

Matthew: So I think the key really is the work of Joe bowler, and the work that she has done. Mathematical mindsets is the best resource to me, that’s really the go to. But there are so many different websites and ideas, and I’ll send you some of them so you can post them in the show notes about things for parents that they can encourage their kids to be having a proper mindset that they don’t believe you’re a math person or you’re not a math person, or you know there’s one way to do it and only one way to do it as opposed to promoting the idea of solving problems multiple ways. So, there’s a lot of resources, and we have those resources within our book and we have some links to them, but we can provide you some additional ones so that your listeners, both of their math educators or just parents can find free resources to be able to improve that communication and that conversation at home.

Hilary: And we include a questionnaire in our book in chapter two, where parents assess their own mindset. And you can also find one online at mindsetkit.org. They have a growth mindset section for parents. They have 10 lessons for parents on mindset. It’s free and they take a quiz and then they learn a little bit about their beliefs.

Kyle Pearce: Let’s move into the realm of advice for teachers. Just almost all of our listeners would be a teacher and also a parent so at the same time, but do you have any advice for teachers who realize that parents need to change those perceptions, but how can you help teachers help the parents? What might they do?

Matthew: It’s so funny you say that because that is actually the new project that we are working on based on the success of this book, Adding Parents to the Equation, we were approached by a different publishing company that said, can you take these ideas and write it for teachers? So, that’s exactly what we are working on here is that if you want to promote these ideas and share it to the parents, what can we do? So here are a few suggestions.

Matthew: One thing is being able to share with parents in the beginning of the year information about your expectations, and similarly what things they should be doing at home to promote the learning of mathematics, in particular in a conceptual way. The idea of having family math nights within the school. So an opportunity for the family to be together and experiencing the math together. Another thing is the suggestions of games that they can play at home. Some of the games I mentioned earlier and then there are a lot more games depending on what grade level. We have lists of games from pre K through eighth grade as to what can be done at home. So that’s exactly what we’ve been researching, and we’ve just begun writing this book for teachers to be able to say, hey, we got to get those important stakeholders of parents into this conversation.

Hilary: And to add on, it’s actually going to be for teachers and school leaders because it’s a team. It’s a systemic change that has to happen where the whole building really needs to be involved to make it happen. And so we’ll have in there examples of ways to communicate with parents both at the systemic level and then at the teacher level. And just like Matthew said, he’s right on, we just have to be proactive. You have the school year coming up before the school year starts, put together some letters that are going to go home to the families that outline specifically A, why the mathematics instruction has shifted. They want to know why they want to reason, we’ve got to give it to them.

Hilary: Then outline the math language you’re going to be using and that you might hear your child saying throughout the unit. So if you’re going to be teaching about number bonds, and 10 frames, and rec and rec, and what have you, include that language, include a picture, include a definition and then also have there some visual representations that you’re going to be using, that you expect to see the kids using. And it’s very helpful, and parents just want to know the reason behind the shift and how to help. I also suggest sending a survey home before the school year starts. Have the parents fill out a survey where they tell you what kind of math learner they were. Did they like math? Because that’s going to inform maybe the mindset of the child that’s coming.

Kyle Pearce: Right. It sounds to me like I’m hearing really one of the major things that teachers can do is by opening the lines of communication at home, right? So it’s building that homeschool communication and I hear about family math nights. We’re doing a lot of those in our district now. More and more schools are coming in, more and more parents are showing up. That parent survey to me sounds so logical because if you’re asking questions about how do they feel about mathematics? There is parents out there that maybe math really, really gave them anxiety. So, you can imagine that if there’s a math night at the school, they might not be showing up not because they don’t care about their kids or don’t care about this opportunity, but they be scared out of their tree. So, that might give you the information to help you.

Kyle Pearce: And I think that idea of creating almost little take-home bags for the parents, it’s like, here, listen, this is what we’re working on. Here’s your homework as the parent, which is maybe this one pager or kind of just give you a little background as to what’s going on, and that might just sort of lower that anxiety a little bit. And I see with repeatedly doing those sorts of things, the parents right away will start to see that, wow, okay this parent act or this teacher actually cares about my understanding and really wants me to feel comfortable and wants success for my son or daughter. So, I think those are huge additions, we’ll definitely add those pieces to the show notes. So, at this time before we take up any more of your time, we want to ask, are there any last ideas from the book that you feel you want to make sure you get out to the world here before we link up to it in the show notes and say our goodbyes?

Hilary: I think one of the things that if you ever see me present, you’re probably sick of this, but I always refer back to the world economic forum, and I just don’t see enough people knowing about it. And so it’s really critical that I think parents included, and teachers really read or look at the future of jobs report. It was published in 2016 the one that I’m referring to, but then it was updated in 2018. And in it, they really talk about how globalization and automation are really taking over. And so in order to prepare our children for the future, we have to be able to get them to reason and problem solve and think critically, and that’s what job seekers are looking for today. In fact, yesterday I was at a… My husband’s an air show pilot. He would yell at me for saying that because that’s not exactly what he does, but gymnastics in the air, whatever.

Hilary: And we were at a bank with dinner for all of the pilots, they were giving out awards. And I was sitting next to a business owner and he said, so I hear you teach math. Tell me what’s it like these days? And so I go through the typical spiel that I have. And he goes, “Wow, that’s really what you’re doing. That’s exactly what we’re looking for in business people when they come” we don’t want them just knowing facts and things, we need them to be problem solvers because computers can do everything. And I looked at him and I said, “Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what I’ve been saying.” And he goes, “That’s what I want to hear.” It was just like this wonderful moment of like, wow, everything I’ve been saying really does match what the business world is looking for. They are just looking for people who can be innovative and think differently. And so we have to prepare kids even in kindergarten for that.

Matthew: So, my final thought is that for any listener who has made it through this entire podcast, and through Hillary’s excessively long last answer, the first person to make it through, tag me on Twitter @MathWithMathew, and I’ll send you a free copy of the book. First person to do that is getting a free copy of the book for making it through the whole podcast, and through Hillary’s jargon of whatever that was. Yeah, now, we loved the folks, we love mathematics. We want to change the world. We’ve worked a lot with teachers already. We are shifting our focus to parents because we believe there is a huge need and desire for it, and so that’s what we’re working on.

Kyle Pearce: All right. So, Matthew say your Twitter handle one more time so that you can send the person that hits you up with a free book.

Matthew: Yes, @MathWithMatthew.

Kyle Pearce: Got you. At @MathWithMatthew. We’re adding that to the show notes page. If you heard Matthew you hit him up on Twitter, he’s going to send you a book. All right. Before we wrap up here, where can the math moment… We just heard from Matthew, but where can the math moment maker community learn more about Hillary?

Hilary: So, my Twitter handle is at Dr, Dr_Kreisberg, which is my last name. And you can also learn more about me at the Lesley University’s website for the center for mathematics achievement.

Kyle Pearce: Great. Matthew, do you have any other links?

Jon Orr: We will link up all of those.

Matthew: Yeah, I have a website as well, mathwithmatthew.com. And I’ve got a Facebook page, and an Instagram, and those sort of things. And luckily my parents named me Matthew so I could come up with the shtik, Math With Mathew.

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. Well listen, we want to thank you both so much for taking the time to hang out with a couple of Canadian boys here, and to talk about math. We can’t wait to bump into you folks at an upcoming conference, I’m sure you’ll be around. I know both of you are active in the global math project, James Tanton and the crew. So yeah, we’ll definitely be in touch, and thank you on behalf of the Make Math Moments community. Have yourselves a fantastic day, we’ll talk to you soon.

Hilary: Thank you.

Kyle Pearce: We want to thank Hillary and Matthew again for spending some time with us to share their insights with you, the Math Moment Maker community.

Jon Orr: 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 some tweets, called a colleague? Be sure to engage in some form of reflection to ensure that the learning sticks.

Kyle Pearce: Clearly, you listen to these podcast episodes because you have a love of learning, we sure do. And if you want to keep on learning, we encourage you to register for the Make Math Moments Virtual Summit. Yes, that is right. We are running a free online math professional development summit for K through 12 educators. The Make Math Moments Virtual Summit is running on Saturday, November 16th, and Sunday, November 17th, 2019. And we’ll feature sessions from past and upcoming Math Moment Maker Podcast guests such as Sunil Singh, Dr. Nicki Newton, Skip Fennell and his team from the Formative Five book, as well as Hillary and Matthew from this episode.

Jon Orr: Register for this year’s summit at makemathmoments.com/summit. Listening to this episode after November 17th, 2019, you can still head to makemathmoments.com/summit to add your name to the wait list for the next summit.

Kyle Pearce: Head on over now to makemathmoments.com/summit, that is makemathmoments.com/summit. In order to ensure you don’t miss out on new episodes as they come out each week, be sure to subscribe on iTunes or on your favorite podcast platform. If you’re liking what you’re hearing, please share the podcast with a colleague and help us reach an even wider audience by leaving us a review on iTunes, and tweet us your biggest takeaways by tagging @MakeMathMoments on Twitter.

Jon Orr: Show notes and links to resources from this episode can be found at makemathmoments.com/episode49. Again, that’s makemathmoments.com/episode49.

Kyle Pearce: Well, until next time, I’m Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.

Jon Orr: And how fives for you.

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  1. Episode #74: When Do I Nudge and When Do I Coach? A “Where Are They Now?” Math Mentoring Moment. - Make Math Moments - […] Adding parents to the equation https://makemathmoments.com/episode49/  […]

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