Episode #68: Gradual Release Of Responsibility SUCKS! An Interview With Kristopher Childs

Mar 16, 2020 | Podcast | 0 comments


In this episode, we’ll dive into a conversation with Dr. Kristopher Childs, a Mathematics Educator, Presenter, and Speaker from Orlando, Florida. Kris joins us for an insightful conversation about shifting mathematics instruction from the “I do, We do, You do” approach to a problem based teaching model broken down into 6 stages. As the conversation progresses, we will learn that not only does Kris dislike the gradual release of responsibility model for math class; he passionately describes why it actually “sucks”. Listen in as we discuss how we can make changes to our mathematics teaching practice to increase access and equity for all students.

You’ll Learn

  • The 6 stages of mathematics instruction and why you should be thinking about them as you prepare your lessons. 
  • How to Teach for Depth and not width
  • How to view assessment as a way to learn who you students are. 
  • How can we help parents who want to help their kids. 
  • Why we need to ditch the gradual release of responsibility. 
  • How to promote access and equity in the mathematics classroom


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Kristopher Childs: The standards are the standards are the standards. I say that everywhere I go, whether you’re a Common Core state or a non-Common Core state or a state that uses the Common Core and change the name from Common Core to your state standards, the standards are here to stay. We’ve always had some form of standards, so that’s your overarching stage one. You cannot control what that standard is in the sense, but you can control what task you use for, which we’ll talk about in a couple of moments. But as it relates to standards-

Kyle Pearce: You’re [crosstalk 00:00:26] listening to Dr. Kristopher Childs, mathematics educator, presenter and speaker from Orlando, Florida, who joins us for an insightful conversation about shifting mathematics instruction from the I do, we do, you do approach we talk about so much in our three part framework guidebook to a problem-based teaching model broken down into six stages.

Jon Orr: As the conversation progresses, we learn that not only does Kris dislike the gradual release of responsibility model for math class, he passionately describes why it actually sucks. Listen in as we discuss how we can make changes to our mathematics teaching practice to increase access and equity for all students.

Kyle Pearce: We chat with Kris about the six stages of mathematics instruction and why you should be thinking about them as you prepare your lessons, how to teach for depth and not width or breadth, why we need to ditch the gradual release of responsibility model and finally, how to promote access and equity in the mathematics classroom. Stick with us because we’re about to get started. Hit it.

Speaker 4: (singing)

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 Math Moment Makers 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, to chat with our dear friend, Mr. Kris Childs?

Jon Orr: Of course, of course, Kyle. We are super pumped to bring you this episode. If you’re listening to this episode in the week or two after it goes live, then you might know that the spring conference season is beginning and we know we’ll be seeing Kris at an upcoming conference.

Kyle Pearce: We attend various conferences throughout the year and a big question we always have is, “Is this conference going to be worth it?” In episode 15, we give you five tips on how to get the most out of the conferences you attend and also, what you can do if you can’t attend a conference this year.

Jon Orr: After you listen to this episode, head on over to MakeMathMoments.com/episode15 to learn how you can get the most out of the conferences you attend. Plus, we have a resource that you can take with you to these conferences to maximize your learning. You can download the Make Math Moments Conference Companion from MakeMathMoments.com/companion.

Kyle Pearce: You can either print out the companion or use it digitally on your device. It has places for you to keep important information like contacts you meet, new ideas and hashtags. It even has a small scavenger hunt style reminder list along the edges to keep you progressing on meeting your conference goals. You can download the Conference Companions at MakeMathMoments.com/companion. How cool is it, Jon, when we go to a conference and we see many people carrying around the Conference Companion with them? We can’t wait to bump into you at an upcoming conference with that Conference Companion printed and tightly gripped in your hands. All right. Let’s dive into our conversation with Dr. Kris Childs.

Kyle Pearce: Hi there, Kris. Welcome to the Make Math Moments That Matter podcast. Thanks for taking the time to join us on the show. How are you doing today?

Kristopher Childs: All is well, all is well. How are you guys doing today?

Kyle Pearce: We are doing fantastic. We were just chatting before we hit the record button that Kyle and I, at the time of this recording, we’re back in school after summer break and we were just mentioning how tiring all of a sudden the first week back is. He said he was dogging it when he got home and I feel the same way. I kind of almost wanted to have a nap and I don’t usually nap, so I’m feeling it. And Kris, Kris says he’s been back to school for a while. Right, Kris?

Kristopher Childs: Yeah, I’m down here in the South. We went back to school about a month ago, so as I was telling them before we hit record, we’re like the car: you’ve warmed it up and it’s ready to go. We’re driving down the highway. So you guys got to get warmed up and get back in the groove [crosstalk 00:05:07]

Jon Orr: Right. Still got a tank full of gas, right?

Kristopher Childs: Yeah, a tank full. We’re rolling.

Jon Orr: Yeah, awesome stuff. Awesome stuff. Kris, we’ve met a few times, but could you help our listeners understand a little bit about yourself, your math journey, leading into education and maybe a little bit of background on your role?

Kristopher Childs: So a quick background, Kristopher Childs. I love mathematics. It’s always been a passion of mine since I was in elementary school. This was always my subject matter of expertise. As far as me on the math journey, it’s unique because undergraduate, I graduated with a degree in computer engineering. So my goal was to be a computer engineer either on the software or the hardware side, and I thought that’s where I was going to make the big bucks and transform my life.

Kristopher Childs: But instead along the way, I started substitute teaching. As I was substitute teaching, I fell in love with education. It was always a passion of mine. It’s always a gift that I had. And from substitute teaching, I started teaching mathematics and as they say, that’s how the story goes and it’s been a great journey that I’ve been on this entire time. It’s something I’m very passionate about and as we talk over the course of this episode, you’re going to hear about some things that I’m doing and just my passion for the subject matter and how it can be used to really transform things.

Kyle Pearce: Ah, that’s fantastic. It’s so funny because we’ve had on a number of guests. I believe the last guest we had on that had that computer kind of program, both Jon and I had computer backgrounds as well. Myself, I was doing a double major for a while and when I was in university, kind of thinking the same thing like, “Ah, maybe programming.” And Jon had some computer experience as well, although I think he was pretty locked into teaching.

Kyle Pearce: It seems like that tends to creep in every now and again, and the thing I really love about teaching mathematics and I can sort of hear this in what you’ve shared so far is this idea that it is a journey. And while we’re teaching children or young adults, we’re actually learning along the way as well.

Kyle Pearce: So what I want to do is actually get you to rewind a little bit back to your experience. Maybe it’s from elementary, but maybe not. Maybe it’s from secondary or even post-secondary and we want you to think back to a memorable math moment from your own math class, your own mathematical experience. It can be in class, but it could also be outside of the classroom, but something that pops into your mind when you think back to your experience as a math learner.

Kristopher Childs: So my best experiences for some reason happened in middle school and I don’t know why I don’t remember a lot of my math experiences from elementary. But I remember in middle school in math class, I had a friend named Dewie. And if anyone knows where Dewie is, I’m so curious where he is nowadays. He and I used to compete in math class who could get done the quickest, who had the highest scores. For him and I in the back of class, and we were in the honors advanced classes at the time, we were done before the teacher started teaching and we’d just sit in the back and have fun.

Kristopher Childs: But for me, that’s a memorable math moment because I just truly enjoyed math. And the teacher’s name, it just came to me, was Mrs. Farnsworth. So Mrs. Farnsworth, she’s in Polk County Schools. I don’t know if she’s retired at this point or still teaching. You probably remember Dewie and I because we sat in the back of the class. We didn’t give her any problems because, again, I liked math, so that was the one class I looked forward to going to and I’ve always said math would be my catalyst. So when I say it’s my catalyst, I would always do very well on the SAT, SAT, all testing I would be very high in math and then just smooth out on the English ELA parts of it because I was like, “I’m going to do good in math. I don’t need this other stuff.”

Kristopher Childs: So my moment is really in middle school. I don’t want to say it was a transition period, but it was just something that I fondly remember. Just him and I back in that class just knocking out problems literally day by day.

Jon Orr: Yeah. That’s so interesting because I’m sure we all have had a similar situation where it’s like we had a great friend in class that pushed us to do better and I had that in high school. It sounds the same. We kind of always sat together. We goofed off sometimes, but when it came down to doing some quality math and some problem solving [crosstalk 00:09:10] always kind of pushed each other to do better, to get it done before the other guy or come up with a different way of doing it. I always remembered that and I remember thanking him. One of my best friends in the end, but thanking him when we graduated high school. Just being like, “I don’t know if I would’ve got through all the math and all the school if we didn’t help each other, kind of push each other because I think we made each other better.”

Jon Orr: And it makes me think about the relationships that our students build in class because if I did that and you did that and I’m sure there’s lots of people out there that are doing that. I always try to make sure that we are building those relationships with those kids in class. Not just me and the kids, but the kids and the kids. This is the first week of classes right now, the time of recording and most of this week, I’m just trying to build those relationships amongst the kids so they can feel comfortable in class like you just said. I’m so glad you brought that up because it’s so important to make that happen.

Kristopher Childs: Before we jump into the philosophy, I want to build up on something you said about the relationship building for our listeners. That is critical. I think a lot of times as mathematicians, we so focus on the content. The content, we have to cram it in especially if you’re in a area where you have a standardized test. I think we truly need to spend more time as you’re doing in the beginning developing that authentic relationship with your students and that will improve their educational experiences. It’s going to improve your teaching experience because you get to know who your students are, what they like, what they care about. You can then naturally integrate it into your classroom structures and it would change your… I don’t want to say just your year. It’s going to change your life.

Kristopher Childs: Literally right before we got on this call, one of my former students just reached out to me on Facebook messenger. I haven’t read the message yet, but me and her, she was a great student, and it just meant a lot to me that she’s reaching out for something all based upon a relationship. And I doubt she’s asking me, “Hey, do you remember when you taught me the Pythagorean Theorem?”

Kyle Pearce: Give me a quick [crosstalk 00:11:04] breakdown.

Kristopher Childs: … is huge.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, no, absolutely. That’s something key. And what I was just mentioning over here to Jon in the Google Doc, and I think it’s a great transition into the next piece that I was hoping we can dive into was just this idea that both you and Jon sort of had kind of a similar experience in some ways in this idea like something I heard from you in your own experience was, Kris, this idea that you were, it sounds like, pretty fast at the mathematics. Yet, when we look at your current beliefs and philosophy about mathematics teaching and learning, I feel like things may have maybe changed for you a little bit and I can relate to your experience as well.

Kyle Pearce: I was just doing some kindergarten math teacher PD this morning and we were talking about our beliefs and our philosophy and basically our math moments with these kindergarten teachers and some remember being fast. Then others who don’t remember being fast, they thought they weren’t so great at math. So I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to kind of segue into this idea about how mathematics should be taught. Obviously, Jon and I know you and we know your philosophy. We know that what you think really aligns with what we speak on this show quite often, so I’d love to dive in to that.

Kyle Pearce: Why don’t we begin with something you’ve had in some presentations, but also it’s up on your website at KristopherChilds.com, and it’s about six stages of mathematics instruction. When you share these, I feel like the audience, when they think back to like that memory you shared, they probably weren’t expecting your experience to have the six stages you’re about to share. This is something probably different than what we experienced in our own educational background or experiences in elementary, middle school and beyond. So where did these six stages come from and what are they? Can you share them? What are they all about so folks can get a better understanding of what you think a math classroom sort of looks and sounds like today?

Kristopher Childs: So when we think about the mathematics experience, one of my big things while when I was in school and most of the listeners were in school was drill and kill, who can get it fast and who can get it done. We never truly thought about the students. We just thought about the curriculum and the books that we were using or the worksheets at that time that we’re using.

Kristopher Childs: So what I did in my journeys through working with students and thinking about my mathematics experience, I developed something called the Six Stages of Effective Instruction. And with these six stages, it does not tell you how you have to teach math in this manner. It just gives teachers a framework. Whether you’re a new teacher or a veteran teacher, here are six stages of every single lesson. Regardless of what curriculum you’re using, regardless of what framework you currently use, this framework overarches provides you what happens in a typical lesson.

Kristopher Childs: Stage one is the standard. The standards are the standards are the standards. I say that everywhere I go, whether you’re a Common Core state or a non-Common Core state or a state that uses the Common Core and change the name from Common Core to your state standards, the standards are here to stay. We’ve always had some form of standards, so that’s your overarching stage one. You cannot control what that standard is in the sense, but you can control what task you use for, which we’ll talk about in a couple of moments.

Kristopher Childs: But as it relates to the standards, I want to park here for a quick second. The standards just provide a framework so students across the country can learn the same material in every grade level. A student in Alabama should be learning the same math at their grade level as a student in Texas and New York. So just thinking about when it comes to the standards, the overarching framework… and if you’re listening, I recommend you to Google the following word: Common Core progression documents. It will give you the framework for how the Common Core standards were developed and it just gives you big picture based upon cognitively what students should learn in their respective grade levels.

Kristopher Childs: So stage one in the Six Stages of Effective Instruction is the standard. Stage two is your student learning outcome, thinking about what do you want students to learn over the course of instruction. Mathematics should not be a surprise. Not that, “Hey, I’m going to just give you a hard problem. I’m not going to tell you what we’re doing. Just try it.” Those got you moments are what frustrates students and why they develop this dislike of math. So with the student learning outcome, just telling students what is our overarching goal based upon the intent of the standard for today’s lesson.

Kristopher Childs: When I work with teachers, I say, “If you see a student, when you’re working with fractions per se, and you see a student who’s been for the past 30 minutes trying to multiply two fractions and you know they should be adding, come on. What’s the point? Just to frustrate them? Give them that outcome in the beginning so they know framework-wise, I’m adding fractions or I’m multiplying, but they have some guidelines.”

Kristopher Childs: Stage three, stage four and stage five are the most critical. The standards are the standards. You can’t change those. You develop your student learning outcome based upon the standard, but stage three is task selection, stage four is task implementation, stage five is task discourse. I usually lump these three together. A great mathematics lesson consists of a task, whether it’s a high level task or a low level task. I’m hoping our lessons are using high level tasks based upon the cognitive demand where students are actually engaging and doing the mathematics. A low level task are those rope routine procedural based tasks. Everyone who knows me, I call those Siri tasks. I’m a iPhone user. If Siri can… and my phone just picked it up.

Jon Orr: Yeah, she’s like, “I’m listening right now, Kris [crosstalk 00:16:28].”

Kristopher Childs: Yeah, Siri wants to be a part of. But if she can solve the task that you’re doing, the task is low level and too easy for student to complete. So you want to use a high level task and engage your students in the mathematics that makes them think.

Kristopher Childs: And stage four is the task implementation. It does you no good as an educator to pick this great rich problem solving task and implement it as a low level. And when I say implement it as a low level, we give the students breadcrumbs as a followup. “Do this step. Okay, do this step.” Leave it at a high level. Just provide students with the task and see what they come up with.

Kristopher Childs: And then stage five is task discourse. Allowing students to engage in a discussion regarding the task and that discussion is based upon his or her language. And what do I mean? A lot of times we jump out, “Where are the key academic vocabulary terms?” Let students just talk in terms of what feel comfortable to them and then naturally integrate their vocabulary into the key academic vocabulary, but give them a chance just to talk about the math. And then the last stage is assessment. I have a pretty cool rubric out there in regards to assessment and just assessing how students perform on the tasks.

Kristopher Childs: So a quick recap. We started off with stage one, the standards. Stage two is a student learning outcome. Stage three is task selection. Stage four, task implementation. Stage five is task discourse. Then stage six is your assessment. When you’re looking at your mathematics lesson, that’s literally the core of every lesson and just helping teachers get a framework for, “What am I trying to do within a lesson?” And it’s agnostic. Doesn’t matter what curriculum you’re using, what textbook, this gives you a framework for what you’re doing.

Kyle Pearce: That’s great. I really appreciate you framing that out for us here. We want to dive a little bit deeper into a couple of these here. One in particular that really caught my ear early on was your mention of the progressions documents [inaudible 00:18:17]. I’m going to mention it again, we’ll make sure to put links into the show notes to help folks find those. But if people haven’t looked at those as you had mentioned, there is a huge, huge wealth of knowledge in there to help us better understand what the curriculum, what your Common Core in the US is actually trying to achieve and in what order kind of how it explodes over time.

Kyle Pearce: For example, something that popped into my mind was those Graham Fletcher progression videos that he creates. I know with speaking with Graham that he relies on those progression documents as kind of one of those pieces to help him in the design of those types of videos. There’s so many others out there: trajectories, progressions and so on. How helpful that can be in not only trying to get a better understanding of the standard that you’re actually trying to teach, but then also to try to frame out specifically that student learning outcome that you had mentioned earlier. So I think that’s really huge.

Kyle Pearce: I’m wondering, for yourself, if you’re planning a math lesson, do you have any tips or tricks on how you would go about trying to frame out? Like once you’ve selected the standard, you know that standard you’re going to be focusing in on, how you would go about developing that student learning outcome? Are you relying on that progression document a little bit or are you pulling from multiple sources?

Kristopher Childs: For me, I’m pulling from multiple sources, and at this point, I forgot I was telling a group somewhere, I’m not unpacking the standards per se at this point anymore. And the reason I say that, there’s so many websites out there that have unpacked the standards. So right now, when it comes to student learning outcome, I am looking at what is the intent of the standard and I read one of the documents that have already unpacked it and then just trying to align a task based upon the standard and wedging that student learning outcome in between the two.

Kristopher Childs: And making a student learning outcome simple, not something that’s hard and convoluted for students to make sense of. Just, “Hey, today we will be using addition operations for fractions.” Or, “We use multiple operations for fractions.” Just trying to keep it simple and concise and really spend the bulk of my time on what task am I going to be using over the course of instruction.

Jon Orr: And I want to go back to your first one, the standard, and picking the standards out and you should be able to understand and do some of these standards. I think that’s so important and I think a lot of people overlook that. I think when you think about all of this framework that you’ve just provided us, people naturally, I think, focus on right to tasks and then pedagogy on the implementation of the task and assessment. But they skip number one which is thinking about picking out the standard and thinking about the standards themselves from your documents because I don’t know about you Kris, but I know that when I first started teaching and I know so many teachers that still do this that they don’t even look at, here in Ontario we use the word curriculum in replacement of standards, whereas I think you guys would say curriculum would be like your resources, your textbooks and that kind of stuff. But our curriculum document is like our standards document.

Jon Orr: And I would bet so many teachers in mathematics, in high school especially, don’t even look at those curriculum documents. They just grab the textbook and look at what the textbook is following along that teacher across the hall recommended for them to use or to follow. Just start with chapter one, but there’s so much in the textbook there and if you don’t kind of study the standards, you miss a lot of stuff. It’s not saying the textbooks, but it’s just like there’s a lot of nuances that I think that textbooks maybe don’t pick up on that you can connect in those standards. It’s so important and I’m glad you put that at number one because people just skip over the actual standards and go straight to what a textbook would teach.

Kristopher Childs: As educators, how do we go back to the roots of educators when we want to master our craft? And when I say master our craft, regardless of the… As we say in the States, the curriculum that you’re using whether it’s the textbook or a different website, how do we take more time, especially at the secondary levels where you just focus on math, and just really unpack and learn more as opposed to just what’s given in front of you? Now at the elementary levels down here in the States, it’s a little different because most teachers are generalists. They’re trying to study all the subject matter, so I get they need high quality materials because they just don’t have time.

Kristopher Childs: But at the secondary levels where you have time, we have to go beyond just what is given to us to really just truly fall in love with what we’re doing and master the craft and the art, and as you’ve pointed out, that’s why stage one’s the standards. In the US, that is the basis for what we’re teaching. We’ve always had them, so getting out of your head whether you like them or not, we’ve always had them. Literally if you look up the history of the standards, we’ve always had something. So we need to get out of that mindset, but more so, how do we unpack them in a meaningful way for students and then going beyond just the materials that we’re given, especially when you have time to really make sense of the math.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, for sure. For sure. And just kind of listening in on both of you having that conversation and for me, how often I bump into teachers where what’s the biggest challenge that teachers suggest they have and usually it’s time. It’s the lack of time and many times, textbooks have more content than you need to cover your particular curriculum or standards. So sometimes, you’re teaching things because you just flipped the page and you actually didn’t really need to go as in depth into that as that textbook is suggesting. So this is a really, really great tip.

Kyle Pearce: So I want to slide into task selection a little bit here because I think this is key too. It would be really easy for you to just say task and sort of have them, you had said three, four and five, you have task selection, task implementation and task discourse. A lot of people might group those all together and just say task, but I think by specifically calling out task selection, you’re really putting a spotlight on how important it is on the task that you actually select and ensuring that it relates and it actually will get at that learning standard and the particular learning outcome that you’ve set out for your students.

Kyle Pearce: So I’m wondering if somebody’s listening and going, “Right now, I’m pretty comfortable just flipping the page.” They’re like, “Maybe Jon just literally made them point at themself and say, ‘That’s me. I’m just using the textbook right now.'” And they’re thinking, “How am I going to shift this?” What tips or advice could you give someone who’s saying, “I’m not sure what task I should be using. I used to just give examples in my math lesson. How do I select a task that’s going to actually allow me to address the student learning outcome that I’ve set out to reach that day?”

Kristopher Childs: Something for us to think about, the typical mathematics time block is about 60 minutes and take out… Our listeners, actually pause the podcast and go find your curriculum materials if you use a textbook. And I want you to, especially if you use a textbook, I want you to just look at the typical flow. The typical flow is examples, some rope routine problem solving, at the very end, you have your word problems. That’s the typical flow of every book. Typically, what happens when we follow our curriculum or our book, we go to do the examples, we do those rope routine problems, the algorithm-based, “Let’s practice.” If we have time, we do the word problems, or the word problems are a bonus.

Kyle Pearce: Or the kids, if they don’t give up on them right?

Kristopher Childs: Correct.

Kyle Pearce: And you’re like, “Oh, they’re not going to be able to get that.” And that’s the way I used to think.

Kristopher Childs: When we use that mentality, that’s why I call out this thing called task selection. I have a philosophy called reverse engineering it. I believe most, I want to say all textbooks have decent problems within them, but we have to reverse engineer how we look at them. Meaning if the rich word problems at the end, why not start off with those? If the students can do the rich word problems, guess what? They can do those rope routine problems at the beginning of the section.

Kristopher Childs: So when we think about this thing called task selection, it’s broken up into levels of tasks from Smith and Stein, high level tasks and low level tasks. So with the high level tasks, those are your problem solving tasks where students are really going to do and engage in the mathematics. But what this means is, if we’re going to do and engage in the mathematics at a deeper level, we’re going to do less tasks over the course of instruction.

Kristopher Childs: So we have to get out of this false mantra, “I have to do a whole bunch of tasks, so I had a good math lesson.” When I work with my students, I do one to two tasks per period or per instructional block. Why? Because I’m going in depth with rich problem solving, knowing if my students can engage in those high order thinking problems, those rich word problems at the end of the section, they can easily knock out those rope routine tasks.

Kristopher Childs: So task selection is so critical because it dictates your task implementation. What do I mean? If I’m using a basic rope routine task, let’s say students are just adding two numbers, that’s going to impact also my discourse because there’s only so much I can talk about with the rope routine task. What is student A going to tell me? “I added the two numbers.” Student B is going to tell me, “I regrouped.” Student is just going to say, “I did what they did.” Discourse over.

Kristopher Childs: But if I gave them a rich problem solving task, oh man, the multitude of ways that students may solve the task, it impacts how I implement because I can have high level of discourse, ask questions, so different problem solving methods. “You did it this way. You did it this way. You did it this way.” Now I have a rich problem solving environment and going back to the beginning of the podcast, based upon the relationships because I’m using tasks that relate to my students.

Kristopher Childs: We’re now changing how we think and deliver math as opposed to rope routines and students say, “I did a worksheet,” as opposed to, “Man, we did problem solving today. This teacher posted on the board one problem,” and I’m not saying find the hardest problem in the back of some old school book that great-grandpa used years ago. In just your regular curriculum materials, a high level task, “and we came up with like 10 different solutions.” They can record in their math journal. You just changed how students engage and experience mathematics at a basic level. That’s why I call it my entry point discussions with using those type tasks.

Kyle Pearce: I’m so glad you mentioned, not only the difference between the high level task and the low level task, but so many teachers, they don’t want to do the high level task or the rich task because, like you said, you can only do one task [inaudible 00:28:27] the class, especially if you only got 60 minutes and then maybe some smaller ones after that. You can’t do as much and so teachers will say, “Well, I could cover so much more material if i just did it this way in this class,” versus you’re saying, “We’re not going to get the practice we need because we’re covering this long task in class.”

Kyle Pearce: But I’m so glad because I was going to ask you what do you say to teachers when they say that because I’ve heard that lots of times. I’m sure you’ve heard that before, and I think you’ve already answered that, right? You kind of said that you’re getting that rich discussion. You’re getting that deeper thinking. What I say also to teachers is that I’m learning so much about my students that I would never have learned about them, personally with their thinking and you’re creating that culture too. Think about how much you learn about a kid when you listen to what they’re saying and you can’t do that, like you said, if you’re just always doing [inaudible 00:29:19] tasks because there’s no discourse.

Kristopher Childs: And we have to think about it from the perspective, “Are we teaching for depth or are we teaching for width?” If we’re teaching for width, yes, let’s do as many problems as we can in a short amount of time, pack it all in there. Or if we’re teaching for depth, let’s slow down the problem solving process. I was telling a group of teachers last week, if students learn in your 60 minutes time block every single day, whatever you’re teaching, what point are we even a classroom if they’re learning that quick, something new every single day?

Kristopher Childs: So when we get out of that false notion they’re going to learn something new every single day in 60 minutes, we can slow down our lessons and start teaching for depth and then we have richer classroom discussions. Students can really make sense of the math, get some processing time. And again, it’s a lot of people, “Oh it’s so much slower,” but we have to think bigger picture, what are we trying to develop students to become? Are we trying to develop them to become rule followers or problem solvers? We have the technology nowadays, they can solve any rule-based, whether I can take a picture with that new app that’s out there, you take a photo. I think it’s Photomath. Take a picture, it gives me the answer. I can do a Siri, but we need people that can make sense of problems. It’s the problem solving situations.

Kyle Pearce: The thing that pops into my mind, as you say that, is the five mathematical proficiencies that are outlined in the National Research Council. I know NCTM talks about it all the time in Principles to Actions. It’s all over the place, but yet, I feel like it’s still relatively new, for me anyway. Really, it only came up on my radar about five, six years ago when I was on our district’s Math Task Force and we were diving into research, really just trying to figure this whole math thing out. Trying to figure out how do we help students achieve, and came across these five mathematical proficiencies and one of those proficiencies is procedural fluency and that’s this idea that, “I can follow steps and procedures and all of those things.”

Kyle Pearce: And that’s not something that we don’t want students to be able to do, but the sad reality is like from my math experience, I feel like that was pretty much the only one that really seemed to matter at least that really got all the attention anyways. So building in conceptual understanding and the adaptive reasoning, which is why that discourse, I think, is why task discourse is so important, like building your capacity for logical thought and reflection and being able to conjecture and justify, building your strategic competence and really just having that productive disposition. All five of those proficiencies are so key, and everything I’ve heard you say about this idea of just going and doing these low level tasks rather than high level tasks sort of points to really a lack of those four key pieces of the mathematical proficiencies, right? It sort of just siphons you down to this procedural fluency standpoint.

Kyle Pearce: So at this point, Jon was saying how, through these rich tasks and task discourse, we learn so much about our kids. I think that’s a great point for us to segue into number six, which is assessment. So what is the assessment process? What does it mean to you? Because I know there’s some people listening that think like, “Well, that just must mean a test and that’s it.” What does assessment mean to you in this six stage process that you’re outlining for us?

Kristopher Childs: So for me, when I look at assessment, my philosophical belief in regards to assessment is mastery learning. So when I look at assessment, not just, “Hey, let’s give a test and be done with it.” I look at it from the perspective of using grading rubrics to assess how students perform on a task. And if they don’t perform at a high level, give them a opportunity to showcase do they get it later. If someone’s riding a bike, if all of us were assessed on riding a bike the very first time we rode a bike, none of us would’ve passed.

Kristopher Childs: But, when we learn to ride a bike, we got multiple attempts, we fell off, we got back up, we fell off, we get back up. The same thing when it comes to assessing students. How do you, within your current, and I say within your current system, so I don’t want listeners to leave, “I got to totally change my grading system.” In a perfect world, yes. But I live in a reality where, if you don’t have that power, you can provide students multiple opportunity to complete an assignment. You should be building upon your assignments as you go so some things that we do on Monday, we’re going to do on Tuesday. Some things that we do on Wednesday, we’ve done on Monday and Tuesday. Everything should build so you’re constantly seeing how students are performing.

Kristopher Childs: And like I said, I use a grading rubric for that. It’s typically a four or five scale and it’s totally contingent upon what state I’m in at the moment working. I align it to the state level test, but just so students can see how are they progressing along the continuum. Are they getting it? Do they need more practice? And I’m not in the business of, “You’re wrong,” or, “You don’t know what you’re doing.” At the moment, “Hey, we need to practice a little bit more,” and we move on with it, but we need to think about how do we provide students multiple opportunities to showcase what they know.

Kyle Pearce: Great. Yeah, I totally agree and then I’ve been on that journey for a number of years now and something that always intrigues me is how specifically teachers are doing that. Kris, do you recommend standards-based grading, like looking at the standards and giving feedback and grades based on a standard or are you kind of in that, here’s the unit or the unit mark. You’re not doing that. You’re talking about standards more. Is that true?

Kristopher Childs: Yes, from the term of standards-based grading. For example, I’ve asked my daughter’s teachers in the past, let’s say she got a 80% on a assignment, I ask them, “What does the 80% mean?” “She got eight out of 10 right.” I say, “I got that part. She got eight out of 10 right. What does that mean?” “She got a B.” “I got that part. She got eight out 10 right. She got a B. She got 80%. What does that mean?” “She’s at 80% proficiency.” “What does that mean?”

Kristopher Childs: So when we look at from a standards-based grading perspective, we can say, “Hey,” and especially using the rubric, “your student understands adding within hypothetically 20. She does not understand subtracting within 20.” That gives me something to work with as a parent. Every parent at their heart wants to help their child and just they don’t know how. And what’s unique with us being mathematics educators, we can help because we’re in the field. But most of my friends are not educators, so they’re calling me, “My kid got a 80. What does that mean?” I’m like, “I don’t know what it means either.”

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, exactly.

Kristopher Childs: But if we gave them based upon the standards, your child needs help with blank. That can take a parent and say, “All right, you need help with adding. This weekend, we’re going to do some adding exercises. You need help with multiplying. We’re going to do some multiplying.” So we have to think about how can we simplify things for the parents who want to help and support us as opposed to just confusing everybody with these old school grading scales that are so antiquated where zero to 59 is a F, but the scale for a A is what? 90 to 100? Come on. We have to just start using common sense with some of the things that we’re doing and stop doing things for the sake of doing them.

Kyle Pearce: I think you nailed it there. That scenario, the part that I think is really interesting is you mention how helpful it is for the parents to know more than just 80% or eight out of 10 or whatever the grade is because, like you said, it doesn’t tell you a whole lot. If it’s just a competition, right, if it’s just to get on Honor Roll, if that’s all you care about the grade for, then great, you got Honor Roll. You got 80%. That’s fine.

Kyle Pearce: But if you actually are trying to help your son or daughter grow in as many ways as possible, you need more detail. But the other part that I think is huge, and especially for people listening because there’s probably a boatload more educators listening than parents, is how much doing that helps you as an educator. When I started doing a standards-based grading system, and Jon and I have talked about it at length about how we’d modified it over time and we’re always learning more and doing it differently and trying to do it better. So it’s not about doing it perfectly, but once we started doing that, we could actually help our own students better. Because before, I would go to my grade book and I’d look and I’d see, “Oh, this student did really poorly. They got a 58 on this assessment.” Well, I didn’t know what that meant either, and I couldn’t even help my own students.

Kyle Pearce: So I’m glad you mentioned parents, but also, even just for us as the educator, just to better understand what the kids are understanding and where we need to actually work or what we need to cycle back to as a teacher to try to give them those multiple attempts that you had mentioned. All of those things are so key.

Kyle Pearce: So we’ve all been there before and what I heard you sort of alluding to early on is this idea that maybe this I do, we do, you do format that the textbooks sort of kind of, I don’t think the textbook necessarily wanted us to do it that way, but that’s the way we sort of interpret textbooks. You had said, “We do the examples and then we do some basic problems and they get a little harder and then eventually we set them off and by the time they get off to do the word problems, students give up. They throw their hands in the air. They do all of these things.” That is this idea of the gradual release of responsibility and that’s something that I used to do a lot early in my career.

Kyle Pearce: So how am I the teacher, whether you’re a teacher teaching kids or maybe you’re a coach working with teachers and you’re trying to figure out a way to shift them from being stuck in this I do, we do, you do, this gradual release of responsibility situation. How do we help them implement these stages to shift towards more effective teaching and learning in mathematics classrooms?

Kristopher Childs: So let me say something very blunt. The gradual release of responsibility sucks when it comes to mathematics. Yes, I said it, and I’m on a recording saying it and I will say it on camera if there was a camera in the room. I want our listeners first, before we even unpacking what I do, see even think about where… Most people use the I do, we do, you do, your mama do, your cousin do, everybody do, et cetera, but we never thought about where did it come from. So just take a moment, listeners, where did this gradual release of responsibility come from as it relates to math? I ask that question in big, whole group workshops and when I say, “Who knows what it is?” Every hand goes up. “Who knows where it came from?” Crickets.

Kristopher Childs: Just to give you a brief history, it came from Fisher and Frey in the 90s and they originally developed it as a literacy model. Then, when you research Fisher and Frey, they got it from Pearson and Gallagher in the 1970s. Guess what, it was a literacy model. Somewhere over time, some genius administrator went to a conference and said, “Oh my gosh, I love this model. It’s great. I want something that’s easy to implement whole school so everybody’s going to do it.” And no one has thought over time, “Why do we do what we’re doing?” They’re just doing it for the sake of doing it.

Kristopher Childs: And while for literacy, I’m not in that field, I believe it works for them. For math, it doesn’t work and we never think about why it does not work because we were taught in that manner. My teacher showed me how to do an example. I worked on it on my own and then I did it. In the real world, when we think about problem solving, does someone come up to you and say, “Hey, I need you to…” I’m going to use my computer engineering background. “I need you to design this computer.” No one comes up to you and say, “Here’s the blueprint. Let me show you how to do it first. Let’s practice it together. Now you…” That doesn’t happen.

Kristopher Childs: And the same thing with our students in the classroom structure, so that’s why I go very hard against the gradual release of responsibility because when you use this at its essence, you tell students, “You know nothing. I know everything. You only can learn from me,” which is a false sense because we say, “Students, you don’t know anything,” when students come into the classroom with a variety of experiences. Thomas Carpenter said it best “Students come into the classroom with a variety of experiences. It’s our responsibility to build upon them.” If we think about every student coming in with something, some genius level potential, we can unlock that potential by providing them a high level task in which they can go through the problem solving process. As opposed to when I stand in front of my students and say, “I’m going to show you what to do.” I negate everything that they bring into that classroom environment.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, total shutdown.

Kristopher Childs: Total shutdown, and we constantly say, “I want you to be problem solvers. I want you to do these great things, but follow me first.” That’s not how math was designed, even when you study historical origins. That’s not how great things came about. It all came about through problem solving and not us indoctrinating students into a system, but getting them to question and think for themselves. So that’s why in math, we need to… and across the country, I go into classrooms across the country and you see the posters. This is how we do it. And then, so what I do to counter it, “Show me your test scores. How is that working out for you?” Typically it’s not.

Kristopher Childs: So we have to rethink, instead of using the gradual release of responsibilities, and one of the things I posit, I call it the DCM method. The DCM method. And the DCM method is the Dr. Childs method. Hey once I got a PhD, I was like, “Everybody’s been in college courses where the professor had their own book or their own method.” And I’m like, “Crap, once I get this degree, I’m going to make the same thing up.”

Kristopher Childs: But it’s pretty straightforward. It’s pretty straightforward, so I can’t lay sole claim to it. My whole piece is four steps with it, so if you haven’t noticed, I like stages, I like steps. The very first thing is we’re going to pose a task, whole group to all the students in the classroom. Give them a opportunity to work on the task individually. Allow students to turn and talk to work with their neighbors and then we bring students back whole group to talk about the task.

Kristopher Childs: And when we look at that model when we’re just posing the task for the students to work on it on their own, I’m not doing any direct instruction, goose egg. I’ve taught everything from pre-K to calculus using this method and I’ve done no direct instruction. I’m just building upon student’s experiences through years of rich problem solving method and we have to get out of the notion, “I got to show them. I got to show them.”

Kristopher Childs: Let them come up with some things and you facilitate a discussion. It’s going to enrich your experience with the students. It’s going to enrich their classroom experience. And most importantly, the students will leave the classroom not saying, “Mr. Smith and Mrs. Such and such did this.” They’re going to say, “Mom, Dad, we came up with this and thought about this in class today. The teacher just, she or he just showed us some different steps or gave us some facilitation, but we came up with this,” as opposed to, “What did you do today?” “I copied some notes. Here are my notes. I go study my notes.” It doesn’t happen that way. And when we get students to unlock problem solving in that manner, now we have the students that are going to solve some of the world’s problems because they can step into a room with a scenario and really make things happen.

Jon Orr: I’m so glad that you mentioned that. When we do the I do, we do, you do, it just negates every instinct or every belief or even any kind of learning that the student may have done that’s not the same as my learning. It goes out the window. In my eyes, we’re completely shut to that for so long and I always taught that way. It was, “This is the way you solve this problem.” And it was the teacher method, and I’m sure there was kids going home from my class and getting help from mom and dad at home. And mom and dad is like, “You could try it this way or you could try it this way.” And the kid probably stops them and says, “You know what, no, no. That’s not the way Mr. Orr wants me to do it.”

Jon Orr: And I’m sure that that was happening and it wasn’t until maybe five or six years ago where I’ve modeled the same way you’ve just modeled what a lesson would look like and letting them come up with the solution first just opened my eyes to different ways of approaching problems. I never accounted for a way a kid might solve a problem. And when I did that, all the sudden there’s like three different ways and they’re all right and they’re all amazing and they’re all great thinking. And when I think back to the way I did it, if i did it the way I did it and I said, “This is the way I want you to solve these problems,” a kid may have already started, when they see that problem, they might’ve already started thinking about how to do it.

Jon Orr: But then if it conflicted with what I was doing, they would immediately think they’re wrong. They would immediately think that, “That must’ve been wrong,” when it was completely right. I didn’t give validation to any of those strategies that the kids had. It all goes out the window. So I’m so glad that you’ve kind of modeled and outlined how you’re using your six stages in classrooms and how to pose those tasks in [inaudible 00:45:08] talk.

Kristopher Childs: But even going beyond what the students, we have to think about how we as educators, most of us start teaching from our experiences as teachers. And with that happening, we were taught that I do, we do, you do and then we’re doing the same thing in our classrooms. And since we became, as educators, robotic in what we do, but then on the other hand, we’re telling students to be free thinkers, what are you coming up with, but we’re just regurgitating the cycles so it’s now time to break that cycle and everybody become free thinkers and just facilitate discussion. Like you stated, it totally changes that environment and the experience for students and for the teacher in that environment.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, absolutely. The part for me that is critical is that we can say all we want. We use the example of growth mindset all the time. We can pitch this idea of a growth mindset to students, but if we don’t show them that we value those things that we keep saying, if we don’t walk the walk, then it all goes out the window like you said. And the big piece here and I’d really like to spend just a few minutes here talking about it as like Jon and I, when we changed our teaching practice, and it happened over time. This isn’t an overnight thing. It’s something that you have to think long and hard about and you have to practice and you have to keep coming back to it and reflecting on it. But once we started to really start shifting and moving away and ditching this gradual release of responsibility model, what we noticed was that more students in our class could access the task. We could see that we were actually doing a better job in meeting the needs of the students in our classroom, right?

Kyle Pearce: Now, we can’t say we met every single one, but over time, we were getting better at it just because everyone in the class could access, they felt like they belonged in the class and really we were just moving towards a more equitable mathematics education experience. I’m wondering if you can speak to that a little bit because I know that you’re very passionate about access and equity in mathematics.

Kristopher Childs: That’s the key. There’s a couple things as we unpack access and equity. First, when we change from that gradual release model and we build upon the experiences students bring into the classroom structure. Think about currently, regardless of which method you use, how many opportunities do students get to speak doing mathematics class? That’s every student, and this is aside from, “I have my low level students. I have my high level students. This student…” Take all labels off of your students. Does every student when they walk into your class have an opportunity to engage in a mathematical discussion? That’s first thing when you start discussing, before we get to access and equity. Because if every student’s not getting that opportunity, you’re disenfranchising students from the moment just with giving them a opportunity to engage in the mathematics lesson.

Kristopher Childs: I’m going to pick on my elementary teachers a little bit. I always joke there’s a big thing. You got to call on students by using the popsicles. In elementary, they pull out Popsicle sticks with the names. That’s not the method I’m talking about. Strategically calling upon students based upon their responses. That’s what we need to get at. That way, every student, regardless, regardless of who he or she is can engage in a mathematical discussion and participate in the mathematics. That is the basis that I want for the listeners to think about the next time you teach. This is something you can start immediately. Start making note of how many times your students get the opportunity to participate and getting it out of the notion… One of the access and equity issues is that raise your hand method because, if I know the answer, I’m going to naturally raise my hand. If I don’t, I’m not. How do you give every student think time and strategically call upon your students based upon what they’ve done in their individual think time and pull that out of them.

Kristopher Childs: That’s how you can get more students involved in the discussion as opposed to, “Raise your hand. Oh, you have the answer.” Move into the next one. We have to start really, when it comes to access and equity, rethinking who is posited as… I’ll go there in a minute, who is posited as mathematicians. But just in the classroom structure, we have to start rethinking does every student have opportunity to engage?

Kristopher Childs: Then when we think about students having an opportunity to engage, we also have to think about that task selection phase. I told you in the beginning, it’s just, “Hey, I want you to think about some high level tasks.” As you transition even further on your journey, I want you to start thinking about, “Do the tasks benefit my students or do the tasks benefit me or just some standardized curriculum?” Can they benefit me, I’m going to focus on things I like as a teacher. If they benefit my students, I’m going to start thinking about what tasks do my students like.

Kristopher Childs: I pick on my male teachers all the time. I go in their classrooms. “Dr. Childs, I love sports, so we’re going to do sports.” I have two girls at home, and I’m not stereotyping my two girls. They don’t care about sports. So we have to think about what do your students like? I know most students like right now the phase is Fortnite or the different games, so how do we build upon those things? Those are access and equity pieces when we think mathematics has to be tied to that book or the examples in the book that’s sometimes outdated, or we think mathematics has to be done in the way that we were taught.

Kristopher Childs: Mathematics needs to be done in a way that’s authentic to the students that we serve and bringing in their experiences. Naturally bringing in their experiences, not stereotypically bringing in their experiences. That’s just a base line for us to even begin this access and equity discussion. And you can probably tell in my voice, I’ve totally ramped it up because this is huge because when we think about access and equity, this is how we get the future mathematicians. This is how students begin to like math. This is also how students begin to hate math.

Kristopher Childs: It’s starting within our classroom structures because who do we posit as a mathematician? Who do we say math is for? We have to, as teachers, start unpacking our biases and we all have some biases in this regard, to truly give students a unmitigated best mathematics experience and getting out of this false notion that math is neutral, math is non-political. Math is everything. It has power. It can literally change the world through what we’re doing in our classes. So we have to get out our own personal narrative and biases and unlock the power of mathematics to change the world and to change students’ lives.

Kristopher Childs: And I say we have to unlock our biases because too many of us, I go back to that gradual release, I do, we do, we’re so robotic in what we do, we’re not thinking about that. We think from our lens, our background. We need to put ourself in that student seat and their lens and their background and start thinking like they think and what they’re going through. That’s going to change how we start to present what we teach. And we start thinking through their lens authentically, learning who they are, developing relationships as we said on the top of the episode, then now we can start to unpack math in a different manner and take all of our biases out of the equation, our stereotypes and our perceptions, our beliefs, our expectations and give students an authentic experience.

Kyle Pearce: What you’ve just helped people listening, including Jon and I, better understand is, first of all is how limiting the way that we were taught and the way we taught for many years was for so many students because, like you said, if you couldn’t raise your hand, you’re not going to raise your hand first of all to answer if you’re not sure or if you’re not confident. But then also, you’re not going to raise your hand to get additional help, right? You’d always do the typical, “Any questions?” And obviously the students who actually need the help and the assistance aren’t going to raise their hand. They’re not feeling good.

Kyle Pearce: What you just kind of made pop into my mind is the vision for my district that was developed a number of years ago and we’re still working hard to try to make this a reality in every single classroom because we’re still trying to learn how to do it. But our math vision for Essex provides mathematics education that engages and empowers students through collaboration, communication, inquiry, critical thinking and problem solving in order to support each student’s learning and nurture a positive attitude towards mathematics.

Kyle Pearce: And in that paragraph, I think back to my experience and I don’t remember my experience being that way. Actually doing true collaboration. The collaboration that you both mentioned from your experience back in the day, that was great for you both because you were both really eager into the mathematics. But when we think about the students that weren’t feeling comfortable in math class, they probably didn’t feel like it was a very collaborative culture in that classroom.

Kyle Pearce: So working to try to draw on that is really key and I think you mentioned this idea of being very strategic in getting students to share their thinking is so key. We had Peg Smith on, one of the authors of The Five Practices for Orchestrating Productive Discussions, or Mathematical Discussions I should say, and that selecting and sequencing is so key. It’s so important to ensure that not only are we hitting that learning goal, but that we’re also making sure that every student feels like they have a voice and that they actually have something to contribute because they do. But in the past, they probably just didn’t feel like they were a part of it, right? And I think that’s so key.

Kyle Pearce: So I’m wondering, for someone who’s at home, we’re getting close to the end of the episode here right when I think it’s starting to ramp up. I want to know, for people at home, do you have any low hanging fruits, any ideas, maybe it’s a resource that they could go after listening to this episode to be able to kind of amp up and get more aware of the access and equity issues around mathematics. Because I’ll be honest, up until a couple of years ago, I was oblivious. It wasn’t even on my radar. I had no idea because I just saw the world through my own eyes. So I’m wondering, how could you help someone who’s at home going, “What do I do now? How do I actually try to make a difference and try to push for access and equity in my own classroom?”

Kristopher Childs: I like how you mentioned your lens and your own eyes and I think we first have to acknowledge our biases are real just because of our own lenses and our own eyes. But as we start thinking about this access and equity, we think about unpacking classrooms. We have to start being authentic in regards to the educational system that we’re a part of today, regardless of where you live, who it was initially designed for and why. When we start to truthfully, and I only speak in facts, when we factually look at who the current educational system was designed for and why, and why when you look at data, as Jay-Z once said, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” When you look at data, certain sub-populations continue to do well. Some do not. Why? Because systematically, it was only deigned for certain people.

Kristopher Childs: With that being said for our listeners, as I’m challenging your thinking, and that’s my job and my goal is to challenge your thinking. Hopefully I call it, you’re doing like the butt dance and you’re listening like you’re [twidging 00:56:02] a little bit. I’m going to give you the easy read, a easy read. A easy read is called A Talk to Teachers by James Baldwin. If you do a Google search, it’ll pop up. A Talk to Teachers by James Baldwin. He’s going to paint a picture. He’s going to paint it through the lens of race and because race is important and a lot of people don’t like to talk about race. They want to say, “Let’s talk about everything else, Kris and kumbaya.” We have to think about historically, and even present day what is happening is only happening to certain groups of people.

Kristopher Childs: It’s a couple things we don’t like to talk about in this world. We don’t like to talk about race, we don’t like to talk about religion, we don’t like to talk about politics. If you come to any of my upcoming talks going forth, guess what I’m going to be talking about: race, religion and politics. The reason being when we come back to systems… I’m dropping nuggets right now for people to even just think about. I’m not even giving you the full thing. There’s a reason those are “taboo” topics. And the big picture reason when you don’t talk about those topics, you never start getting at the root issues of power and who is in power and how those systems and not talking about them help people maintain power.

Kristopher Childs: So for the listeners out there, I want you to start critically, critically questioning everything as it relates to what you do in your classroom: the good, the bad and the ugly. Stop just teaching it from the perspective, “Hey, I teach from the book that they gave me.” We have to start critically analyzing what we do, most importantly why we do it.

Kristopher Childs: One of my favorite authors has a quote and he probably one of my favorite scholars ever. It says the following, “Powerful people cannot afford to educate the people they oppress because once you are truly educated, you will not ask for power, you will take it.” And that’s by Dr. John Henry Clark. I want people to start thinking about things different as it relates to math and then from that practical standpoint, question everything. Have those courageous conversations and discussions, and when you start to unpack and seeing these things for your own eyes, then when we go back to what was mentioned earlier for that district’s vision, which most districts have similar vision, that vision now becomes personal to you because you’re not trying to just conform to a system.

Kristopher Childs: You’re now trying to disrupt a system where every child, every child… Think about picturing in your head a child that you care about and that you love. You only want the best for them. Just as you want the best for that child that you care about and love that you’re picturing, every parent wants the best for their child. So now when you start to unpack these things, it becomes personal not to just the children you care about, every kid that you encounter because someone cares about them just as much as you care about the kids that you care about.

Kristopher Childs: So now, how do we work together, how do we band together to start changing things so things can truly be better for each and every one of us, not just for the select few? And they can be better for each and every one of us. It’s just now I’m going to challenge the listeners, what are you going to do next? You’ve listened to us on this episode and one of the things someone jokingly told me one time and I jokingly tell people all the time: you can’t un-hear what you just heard. So now that you’ve heard it, what are you going to do next?

Kyle Pearce: I love that. I love that. Kris, we’re definitely going to be having that book in the show notes. We’ll also be putting that quote in the show notes because I think that is super powerful. So the book is A Talk to Teachers by James Baldwin, so we will link that up. Also, another book I’m going to put in, I believe we got this recommendation from Dan Meyer. It was called White Rage, and both Jon and I… Jon, you read this book too, I believe. We had a chat about it. I learned so much that I was oblivious to, and I realize and Jon realizes, we have so much more work to do in this area.

Kyle Pearce: This is actually kind of one of our personal learning goals when we go to conferences is really trying to seek out the access and equity sessions and really trying to get into social justice sessions and really trying to learn more about them. We’ve been so geeked out on math just for math’s sake and again, looking through those two eyes, it’s like trying to get outside of our own heads and really try to take in the perspectives of others is really important. So that’s on our to do for our professional and our personal growth, so we will be keeping up with that as well. So I really appreciate you helping us out with that.

Kristopher Childs: Something to think about. Something to think about. I’m jumping in. As we talked about going to social justice sessions, access and equity sessions, because we’re so used to doing math, I want to rephrase that. We’re so used to doing math in a traditional sense. We haven’t thought about how mathematics and social justice are intertwined. They’re one and the same. Access and equity and social justice are one and the same. So it’s how do we reframe “what is math”, how that narrative has been given to us over time, why in that manner and now how do we reframe a new narrative that’s more inclusive?

Kristopher Childs: And as you mentioned different literature for your listeners, for me with the White Rage, challenge your listeners also, read material, but there’s books, articles, think about who you follow from scholars of color and scholars that are not of color. That’s going to give you a better experience also because we all get in… It’s anti if we go down lanes, but we need to start, who do I need to learn more about and authentically get to have those, I call it courageous discussions because you’re going to learn something new on both sides. When you start stepping out of your comfort zone, it’s going to just help build you as a person and build things better.

Kyle Pearce: Kris, you have just given us all a ton, a ton of homework for sure, and I think you’ve really opened some teachers’ eyes right now from listening and there’s lots of work ahead of us for sure. Kris, we’re looking at the time and we want to start wrapping up here and we know you’ve got lots of resources and we want to give you a moment here to share where our listeners can learn more about you and the resources you’ve got going on. I know you’ve got a podcast and a website, so where can people learn more about what you’ve got going on?

Kristopher Childs: First, check out the website www.KristopherChilds.com. Make sure you sign up for the email newsletter. My goal is to provide updates of different things. I have the Inspiring Educators podcast. It comes out every week and it’s a great podcast to just give different listeners things to think about as it relates to education. Also, I have going on all my social media platforms, my username is @drkchilds. If you follow me, I have a YouTube channel with different videos that I’m posting on there. I have this new series called the Mathematics Mix Tape series. It comes out quite frequently like a actual mix tape.

Kristopher Childs: And my thing is also for our listeners, I’m presenting at different conferences around the country. If you ever encounter me in person at a conference, feel free to walk up, say, “Hey, let’s chitchat.” If I have time, let’s definitely sit down and talk. But if you ever see me, I always say if you ever see me in public, I’m adamant about this. I don’t ever want to be… Some people come across as that mythical person. That’s not me. I joke and say I’m that guy from the block, so definitely if you ever see me at a conference, just literally, I’ll really want to connect with listeners. I want to get to know you and just let me know what’s going on in your world, how can I help, how can I support and that helps me as I do different things and think about what benefits educators the most.

Kristopher Childs: But follow me on different social media. I love Twitter. I love Instagram, YouTube, and I jokingly tell people I’m on every platform that’s out and I’m on platforms that have yet to be invented and I’m still on the old platforms. So if you’re on MySpace, if you’re on College Club-

Kyle Pearce: All that old stuff, right?

Kristopher Childs: … all those old channels. Yeah, if Napster’s still around, LimeWire. I’m still on those-

Kyle Pearce: ICQ?

Kristopher Childs: … platforms. You can reach out to me there too. Anything, you just name it, I’m on those old platforms and the ones yet to be made.

Kyle Pearce: Just look for you.

Jon Orr: Awesome.

Kyle Pearce: Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, that’s awesome. And I know, Kris, you didn’t mention it, but I know at a number of conferences we’ve been at where we’ve bumped into you, you tend to have some sort of social event going on at times. Actually the last time we were together was in San Diego. Was it San Diego?

Jon Orr: San Antonio.

Kyle Pearce: No, it was San Antonio. That’s when it was, and we walked over and we actually missed, everybody had just left, so that was a bit of a bummer on our end. So if you’re at a conference, keep your eye on social media, on Kris’s @drkchilds and you’ll likely see a tweet about some sort of get together, tweet up, whatever you want to call it. So definitely keep an eye for that.

Kyle Pearce: So we want to thank you so much for joining us. We dove into so much great learning, not only just about how we want to change mathematics class and how we’re teaching it, but for the reason of access and equity. I love that idea that this isn’t different. This is what mathematics teaching is. It’s intertwined. It’s right there. So that is huge, so I know our Math Moment Maker community is going to eat up this episode. So we want to, both Jon and I, wish you the fantastic remainder of the day and we hope to bump into you again at an upcoming conference, hopefully at one of those meetups that you have going on.

Kristopher Childs: Thank you all so much for having me on the show. I truly appreciate it. Your listeners, thank you for all that you do, especially the educators out there. And yeah, we’ll definitely bump in together and we’ll cohost event somewhere. Next time we’re together, we can figure out how we can cohost an event-

Kyle Pearce: Let’s do it [crosstalk 01:05:31]. Let’s do it. Thanks so much, Kris. Take care. We want to thank Kris again for spending some time with us to share his insights with us and 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 notes, sent out a tweet, called a colleague? Be sure to engage in some form of reflection to ensure that the learning you’ve done here sticks with you.

Kyle Pearce: If you’re listening to this episode in the week or two after it goes live, then you might know that the spring conference season is underway and we know we’ll be seeing Kris at an upcoming conference. Maybe we’ll even bump into some of you.

Kyle Pearce: While we attend various conferences throughout the year, one of the big questions we always receive is, “Is this going to be worth it?” Or, “How do I maximize my experience at a conference?” Well, in episode number 15, we give you five tips on how to get the most out of the conferences you attend, and also what you can do if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to attend a conference this year.

Jon Orr: So, after you listen to this episode, head over to MakeMathMoments.com/episode15 or just scroll and search for it in your favorite podcast platform. When you listen to that episode, you’ll learn how you can get the most out of the conferences you attend.

Jon Orr: Plus, we have a resource that you can take with you to those conferences to maximize your learning. You can download the Make Math Moments Conference Companion at MakeMathMoments.com/companion. Kyle, tell them what the companion’s all about.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, the companion’s great. You can print it out or you can even use it digitally on your favorite device. It has places for you to keep important information like the contacts you meet, maybe some new ideas you pick up, and even some hashtags that you see on slides during the presentations. It even has a small scavenger hunt style reminder list along the edges so you don’t miss out on anything. Go ahead, download that conference companion at MakeMathMoments.com/companion.

Kyle Pearce: In order to ensure you don’t miss out on new episodes as they come out each week, be sure to hit that subscribe button on Apple Podcast or your favorite podcast platform.

Jon Orr: Also, if you’re liking what you’re hearing, please share the podcast with a colleague and help us reach a wider audience by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts. And tweet us your biggest takeaway and tag us @MakeMathMoments on Twitter and in Instagram.

Kyle Pearce: Show notes and links to resources from this episode can be found at MakeMathMoments.com/episode68. Again, that’s MakeMathMoments.com/episode68. Well, my Math Moment Maker friends, that’s it for us. Until next time, I’m Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.

Jon Orr: And high fives for you…

Speaker 4: (singing)


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  1. Episode #168: Highlighting The Missing Voices In Math Education - […] Episode 68: Gradual Release Of Responsibility SUCKS! An Interview With Kristopher Childs […]

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