Episode #72: How Can I Spark Curiosity During Emergency Remote Learning: A Math Mentoring Moment

Apr 13, 2020 | Podcast | 0 comments


In another “Where Are They Now?” episode we chat with Katrien Vance a teacher of 25+ years from Charlottesville, Virginia  who has participated in our online workshop over a year ago; she’s a member of the Make Math Moments Academy, and she’s a make math moments podcast alumni.  

We spoke with Katrien way back on episode 8 where we heard all about her transformation from a traditional teacher into a curiosity instigator. If you haven’t listened to episode 8 yet, we won’t hold it against you if you pause this one and cue up that episode. You won’t regret it. 

In this Where are they now episode Katrien fills us in on what her classroom has looked liked and sounded like over the past year, as well as how she is dealing with emergency remote teaching in this age of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

You’ll Learn


  • How you can build curiosity remotely. 
  • What does the 5 practices look like when we’re not all together?
  • How we can slow down and focus on what matters.



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Katrien Vance: I wish I had sent them home with a whiteboard, that would really be the best. If they all did the problem and then held the whiteboard up and then we could play and discuss and do all those five practices. I could look and see what was out there, and sequence it, and talk about it and this way. That’s the hardest part for me is I can’t see what they’re doing I have no idea I don’t know if they’re looking out the window or they are doing the work, unless they’re doing that one problem-

Kyle Pearce: In another Where Are They Now episode, we chat with Katrien Vance, a teacher of 25 plus years from Charlottesville, Virginia who has participated in our online workshop over a year ago. She’s a member of the Make Math Moments Academy and she’s a Make Math Moments podcast alumni.

Jon Orr: We spoke with Katrien way back on episode eight where we heard all about her transformation from a traditional teacher into a curiosity instigator. If you haven’t listened to episode eight yet, we won’t hold it against you if you pause this one and queue up that episode instead, you won’t regret it. In this Where Are They Now episode Katrien fills us in on what her classroom has looked like and sounded like over the past year as well as how she’s dealing with emergency remote teaching in this age of the COVID-19 pandemic. All right, Kyle, let’s do this. Hit it.

Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce from tapintoteenminds.com.

Jon Orr: And I’m John 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. Welcome, Math Moment Makers from around the world, we are at episode number 72. And we rushed this one to the top of the queue because today we’re going to talk about how we can spark curiosity during emergency remote learning. This is a math mentoring moment episode with our alumni Katrien Vance.

Jon Orr: Let’s dive into this buddy, you know what’s fantastic, opening up Apple Podcast and seeing that brand new five-star rating and review from the Math Moment Maker community just like this five-star rating and review from Coach Smith.

Kyle Pearce: Coach Smith says, “This is the podcast for math teachers. This is the podcast I was hoping for when I typed math teacher into the podcast search bar. Such a gem, extremely helpful for teachers at all levels, tangible takeaways, every episode. Keep it up, guys.”

Jon Orr: Wow, thanks again to our fantastic Math Moment Maker, Coach Smith who took the time to help ensure the podcast reaches the ears of more math teachers around the globe. Go ahead, what are you waiting for? It only takes a minute, fire us an honest rating and review and smash that button in your podcast player.

Kyle Pearce: Wow Jon, did you know we’ve got a lot of goodies to share with the Math Moment Maker community and it all revolves around the Make Math Moments Academy right now for a limited time we have a 30-day free teacher license available to any Math Moment Maker from around the world to access our Academy professional development courses including our courses on spiraling, assessment, math tech tools, and even our latest course that we just released on the fundamentals of mathematics.

Kyle Pearce: These self-paced courses are jam-packed with videos and action items to get you reflecting and growing your math content knowledge and pedagogical practice. And what better time to do it than right now where many of us are stuck at home, cooped up and we can’t really go out and do anything. So why not sharpen up some of our math skills.

Jon Orr: Also, our monthly Q&A web calls with our Academy members have become weekly with the COVID-19 situation and emergency remote learning in full effect around the world. All Academy members can join live like the over 80 members we had in our last Q&A call and all the replays are posted inside the Academy to view later.

Kyle Pearce: Or maybe you want to dive into any of the over 20 virtual summit sessions that we hosted back in November, like Jo Boaler’s session or Peter Lildholdts or Pam Harris. You may not have had time to fit it in, but they’re all waiting for you inside the Academy right now.

Jon Orr: Finally, and maybe most importantly, given our current remote learning situation, our Make Math Moments, problem-based tasks, and full units of study with teacher guides are available for you to access. Plus, you can now post a link to the task in your learning of management platform. So student curiosity can still be sparked despite the very asynchronous learning situation we find ourselves in.

Kyle Pearce: Get on in before it goes away at makemathmoments.com/trial, that’s makemathmoments.com/trial.

Jon Orr: All right, now let’s get on with our chat with Katrien Vance.

Kyle Pearce: Hi there, Katrien. Welcome back to the show. We are so excited to have you back because actually you were one of our first guests way back in the single digits, in episode number eight. How are things going on in your world?

Katrien Vance: Well, thank you for having me back. Things are going well oddly now that we’re in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, but I wanted to update you a little bit about what I’ve been trying out in my classroom and then something I realized because of the coronavirus and having to teach from home and teach remotely.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff, we can’t wait to dive into that. And I know that so many of us educators are itching to hear what other teachers are doing in their classrooms. I know that having us all isolated in our homes or in our places, wherever we happen to be this can be somewhat scary, is somewhat frustrating, somewhat lonely in the sense that normally, we talk to so many educators every day, even when we’re in our own classrooms, lunch tables walking around the halls and we don’t get that while we’re at home.

Kyle Pearce: So I’m actually really itching to hear what you’ve been doing because I think the more we learn from each other in this kind of scenario, the better we can do. So you’ve been busy, you were an online workshop participant last year, you then joined the Make Math Moments Academy, you’ve been rocking your class ever since. We would love to hear about what you’ve been doing in the meantime, what’s been going on with you before we get into stuff that you want to chat with us about? Fill us in on the last year.

Katrien Vance: Well, my colleague and I had the chance to completely rewrite our math curriculum this year. She is also a member of the Make Math Moments Academy. And so we have this unique opportunity because of the students we were teaching to just try to do a combined pre-algebra curriculum but not follow any textbook. And so we just took units that we were very interested in and that we thought would lend themselves to the curiosity path and to sparking curiosity and doing a lot more questioning and a lot less giving information. And so we-

Kyle Pearce: That’s fantastic.

Katrien Vance: Yeah, it was scary and brand new and there was a lot of moments of is this working, are the kids getting anything? It’s just such a different experience. But we did that through the middle of February, I guess to the end of February, did a unit on slope and linear equations, but it was called roads, ramps and rockets. And it was based partly off of a curriculum that I had from creative publications, which is called roads and ramps and then I added the rockets part. But it was a lot of hands-on figuring out how to talk about slope as an angle, and as a ratio and as a percent. And then what do you do when you can’t measure things like the height of a rocket.

Katrien Vance: So that got us into some trigonometry and the tangent ratio and that was super fun, very hands-on, very active. Kids up at either the whiteboards on the walls or the whiteboards at their tables or outside measuring things. And at the same time my colleague was doing something about rates and proportions and that led itself to unit rate and food. And she actually took them shopping and had them in the store, figure out a budget and unit rates for different things and plan a meal for the whole class.

Katrien Vance: So through the fall that was wonderful. And then again in November, December we did another unit that was very similar, similar in that it was hands-on, same kind of things that lent itself. This one, for me, was about functions and I called it growing numbers and she was doing some two-dimensional geometry. And then we would flip our groups so that every student is getting all of these units. And then in January, I took my eighth graders, my school goes up to eighth grade and we need to get them ready for high school. And so I did a little bit more with the textbook to just show them this is what it’s going to look like next year when you see these problems, this is the vocabulary and this is the format. And boy, it reminded me how much I don’t like the textbook.

Katrien Vance: It just drives me crazy when you’re teaching them a brand-new concept. And the second problem in there has like a negative fraction in there or something where there’s, they’re just trying to learn the distributive property and you’re throwing things at them that make them think they don’t understand the concept when really they just got thrown off by the arithmetic in it.

Katrien Vance: So I went on to do… my most recent unit is about solving equations and I did that completely with manipulatives, with the Algebra Lab Gear and made my own workbook with… all of it was drawings of the blocks and the work math and things like that. Did that, and then suddenly we got thrust into this remote learning and so I can’t do that or I couldn’t, I didn’t know anything about Brainingcamp at that point and the possibility of online manipulatives. So I just said, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to have to do this whole unit old school and sent the kids home with the textbook and links to videos and it was just so hard to go back to teaching that way.”

Katrien Vance: On the one hand it feels very efficient, like here’s a concept and here are examples and now you know that concept. But on the other hand, it’s just deadly dull and I don’t know if they do know the concept. They know how to follow steps. They don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. So it’s been incredibly eye-opening for me to be forced back into that kind of old way of teaching and realized how much I’ve grown and how much I don’t like it anymore.

Kyle Pearce: Right, I have so many questions for you and I appreciate you giving us some insight into how your classroom has changed and transformed over this year and… well, really more than a year, year and a bit. And I think you just nailed it is this idea that I think it’s so easy to be tricked into thinking that teaching procedurally is more efficient because I can “get through” content very quickly. I can share it and basically tell students a bunch of ways, steps and procedures and rush to that algorithm. But at the end of the day, I don’t know if they actually understand what they’re doing.

Kyle Pearce: They might be able to mimic, but when things start to break down, when things get a little bit different, looking a little bit different, the context changes from what we were exploring, that’s where we start to see things melt down. And I think one of the parts that is really challenging for us in this, we’re calling it emergency remote learning because we definitely don’t want to make it look like this is true e-learning and we had a great discussion in a recent question in the answer web call with some of our Academy members recently.

Jon Orr: I think Katrien was there with us.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, I think you were in the room at the time and I think it was Laura from Toronto who was just saying, let’s not catch ourselves calling this e-learning because we’ve just been thrown in, we don’t actually know how to do e-learning very well yet as a whole. But something for us to consider is now that students are at home, if I am teaching procedurally, how am I going to know what they know? How am I going to understand whether they do understand? How am I going to know if they just looked it up online and copied it out? These are all challenges that I think many people are thinking about and maybe even you yourself are thinking about.

Kyle Pearce: But before we get to that, I’m wondering, could we roll back though, and I know that for those who have listened to episode eight, they know a little bit more about your journey. I’m wondering it sounds like you’ve really grown to a point where you’re creating a lot of the resources that you’re using, which is something that I think over time we developed, but that might be scary to people who are listening.

Kyle Pearce: So I’m wondering if someone’s listening right now, what would be their first step? What would you recommend so that they don’t overwhelm themselves if they want to start following this Katrien sort of path, but not get too scared to do it or overwhelmed or stressed out that, “Oh my gosh, she’s making all of these things? She made her own workbook for solving equations, there’s no way I could possibly do that.”

Kyle Pearce: Where did that start and like how did you bite off a little tiny piece when you weren’t maybe certain whether heading down this curiosity path, this Make Math Moments, three-part framework path, when you weren’t sure if that was going to work for you, where did you begin and I guess what advice would you give someone who’s just trying to get their feet dipped in a little bit here?

Katrien Vance: Well, one thing to clarify as I have never invented anything in my life for teaching, I use pieces from all over the place. And so I think what’s necessary is to just be like this treasure hunter and go searching for materials that you really like and that resonate with you as a teacher and try them out and see if they resonate with your students. For example, the workbook that I made is completely from the Algebra Lab Gear books that are out there. And so I just pick and choose what’s the sequence that I want, what are the activities that I think are going to resonate the best with my kids. And I definitely would have switched it up even from doing it the first time with my first group of kids to the second time where I realized, “Oh I didn’t need nearly as much of that but I needed way more of this other thing and don’t forget to practice integers because they’re still shaky on that kind of thing.”

Katrien Vance: So it’s finding resources that you trust and sometimes that’s just luck, you stumble into it and sometimes it’s word of mouth. And actually, right now, I think teachers are a little bit overwhelmed with resources, that every company is emailing me and saying, “We have the perfect thing for remote learning and here’s an entire curriculum.” And I actually am just starting to delete, I can’t even look at it because it’s overwhelming and sticking to the ones that I know and I trust.

Katrien Vance: And so a lot of that would be things I’ve heard of through you guys or through Robert Kaplinsky, was probably where I started looking at those open middle problems. And then there’s a company called Didax that has a lot of the manipulatives and that’s where I found the Lab Gear and the Lab Gear Books. And so it’s when I say I create a curriculum or I create a workbook, what I’m doing is, it’s a hodgepodge of a lot of other people’s material, so don’t feel like you have to invent it, find it, find the things that you love online.

Jon Orr: Perfect, I think you’ve done that. You just mentioned that you’re picking and choosing some things that you’ve tried and tested and you’re like, “I’m going to go that way and I’m going to use this person’s stuff and modify it.” and I think the modification is the key thing, like your slopes unit, it was based on some textbook stuff and some resource stuff that was just modified to make more curious, make more interesting to the students. So I think that’s a really great piece of advice for educators. When you hear about what’s going on and you hear about these great lessons, the first thing you’re going to do to change your practice is let’s modify some stuff that we know somebody also tried. Because it also, what I’ve experienced, and I’m sure this is true for you Katrien and also Kyle, is that when you get that resource from someone or you see it and you try to do it exactly as is, it might not go exactly the same way that someone else described it because your class is different and we have to do that modification for sure.

Jon Orr: Katrien, I’m wondering if we can focus a little bit on, so you’ve got a lot of success working with kids and getting them to do investigations and you kind of helping fill in gaps and these are wonderful lessons you’ve described already here and also… and on the past episode. I’m wondering what specifically are you struggling with that say you can’t wrap your mind around right now? What’s bogging you down about, either that or recently what we’re going through?

Katrien Vance: Well, we’re on spring break right now, so we have a little bit of time to stop and breathe and do a little bit better preparation for our remote learning. And so my colleague Maggie and I just looked at each other, virtually, and said, “What do we want to do for math? Because it’s not what we thought we were going to do.” And so we brainstormed, what are some things that we want the kids to have because it feels a little bit like all bets are off in terms of ‘covering the curriculum’ and that even the accountability is lifted a little bit of nobody’s going to get through algebra one this year.

Katrien Vance: Okay, so given that, what are the things, what are the skills and the concepts and the practices that we really want the kids to have this year? So we brainstormed and sort of talked until we both got really lit up about something and started going, “Oh, that would be fun. Oh, I could see how to do that.” And so one of our ideas is a probability unit that has the kids inventing games and then getting data about their games. And that not only would solidify as fractions and percents and ratios and proportions, but also you get to do some graphing and thinking about statistics and that sort of thing.

Katrien Vance: And then another thing I’d really like to do is some math in the real world, we keep hearing exponential curve and exponential growth, what does that mean exactly? Because I think most people don’t actually know what that means. And then thinking about finances and the economy and interest rates and all of this math that’s out there in front of the kids all the time and trying to make some sense of that. So we got really excited about doing that. What’s scary then is inventing that from scratch and again by inventing, I mean going out and finding what’s out there, but it is pretty much from scratch.

Katrien Vance: Usually there’s something in a textbook that I can lean on and this one other than the basic, like I know the formula for compound interest kind of thing, I know that’s in the textbook, but other than that it’s really going to be a lot of inventing it from whole cloth. So that is a little bit nerve wracking and I can tell I’m nervous about it because I haven’t done it yet. I’m procrastinating this spring break, I will get to it but not there yet.

Katrien Vance: And then the other piece is something that I know you guys are about to address in a webinar and it’s how to do that sparking curiosity remotely. Because when I’ve done it well, you’re really in the room with the kids asking questions, what do you notice and what do you wonder? And revealing information piece by piece. And I, for the first iteration of this remote learning, the three weeks we had before break wasn’t even going to go there and just said, “I don’t know how to do that remotely.” So I did the textbook method and now I’d like to do it, but I’m not exactly sure how to make it translate.

Kyle Pearce: It sounds like, so you’ve done all of this growth, all this transforming in your classroom and learning as you go. And there’s kind of two, I guess, problems of practice here. The first one about, how am I going to tackle these new ideas and try to do them in different ways? And I think we could probably have a whole episode on that, but I’m wondering maybe just because it’s timely if we were to maybe dig a little deeper here on this online emergency remote learning that we’re going to be taking place in right now.

Kyle Pearce: Many people have been doing it for a little while like yourself, others like us as we record this, we’re in our first official week, we had a couple of weeks of trying to figure out as a province what we were going to do and how we were going to do it. I wonder what do things look like currently because you’ve shared with us what things look like when it’s face to face and I’m right there with you; face to face, my lesson I think is going to look quite different and sound quite different than how I might deliver it online in this asynchronous environment. Some of us have the opportunity to have some synchronous content, but the reality is that not all of our students are going to be able to access in that way. So I’m wondering can you share how has that gone so far? What does that look like and sound like for your classroom currently?

Katrien Vance: What we’ve been doing so far is meeting every other day. The first week we met every day and it was exhausting for the kids and the parents. We are in a community that doesn’t love screen time for their kids, and so suddenly it was just all screen time all the time. And so we got some parent feedback and we said, “All right, let’s do classes Monday, Wednesday, Friday and they are half an hour long, so it’s just a chance to really check in and see each other.” That’s really the best part is to see those faces and do a little bit of learning, sometimes direct instruction, sometimes conversation. And then the days in between we try to give them something that would extend or enrich what they’re doing or anticipate what we want to do in one of the meetings.

Katrien Vance: And so it’s much less time, obviously much less face to face time, and so finding that thing that the kids can do independently on the Tuesdays and Thursdays is probably the trickiest part. What’s enough of a challenge that’s not too much of a challenge? That sort of low floor, high ceiling that they can enter into on their own and get somewhere, I think that’s the biggest challenge for me right now.

Jon Orr: Right, I totally agree. I think we can chat about that a little bit here and I’m wondering before we kind of get in there, how can we spark curiosity on a deeper level because there’s so much that has to change. And one of the things that I’m really trying to wrap my head around is in your classroom, and it sounds like this is what your classroom would look like is that we rely so much on the conversations the kids have with one another. And I think we’ve been talking about, especially in the Three Part Framework, how to build that community, how to build that in your classrooms so that the kids will talk to each other and they will learn from each other and they can share ideas back and forth.

Jon Orr: And I think when we moved to remote learning, it’s almost all gone out the window, we’re nowhere near each other, we’re physically distant from each other, we’re all in our own homes. And even when we do this synchronously, we all get online, it’s really hard to have those one on one side conversations that you’re used to seeing and having in your classroom when they’re doing group work. And it’s almost like you can’t, it’s almost like these video kind of chats have to be one person talking at a time and we lose out on that discussion that we value so much.

Jon Orr: And I’m not sure how to fix that yet other than this… one idea that’s popping into my mind is that why do we have to do this video learning? Like you said, you went from every day and it was exhausting and you went down and maybe even down some more to not every day and not three times a week. It’s kind of we’re just doing direct replacement when we’re doing that.

Jon Orr: We’re substituting trying to get back exactly the way we were, and almost resort to what we had done a long time ago, but how can we modify what we’re using here to kind of keep discussions going? I’d really like to figure that part out. How can I create these small group discussions so that kids feel safe again and I’m really wondering about that but this brings up huge ideas, Katrien. And I’m wondering what you’ve experienced so far, you’ve done this for a little bit, even so more than Kyle and I, is this idea of access inequity to the technology. What’s happening, are all your students being able to access online? Did your school help you with that? I’m wondering what it looked like for you guys early on because I know that this remote learning is putting huge gaps in access, especially in our area. Not everyone has internet, not everyone has access to a device. What’d that look like for you?

Katrien Vance: So I’m at a tiny school and it’s a private school, but there’s still a wide range of socioeconomic class and access. And even because we’re out in the country, that can be part of the access problem too. So we had about a day to prepare for it, well, about two days; about Wednesday our head of school said, “Start preparing as if you’re not going to come back after Friday.” So we surveyed the kids and said, “Do you have a laptop of your own at home?” And the ones who didn’t, we lent them one from school and that was about a quarter to a third of the class, I think have taken one from school. But the things we didn’t know to ask were like, and how’s your wifi and how many people will be using the wifi at the same time, once you’re all stuck at home? We just… no one knew to ask that.

Katrien Vance: So that’s been tricky, we have people using their phone as a hotspot and people who will just say, “I can’t do it today, I’m not going to be there.” So there’s been a lot of forgiveness about this and nobody’s taking attendance. It’s just trying to keep everybody with some kind of momentum and really with some kind of, like you said, community connection, emotional connection to each other. I was proud of myself for grabbing my whiteboards and my markers as I left because I’ve heard you guys say you’re not allowed back in your school and I’m allowed back in my school, thank goodness but… So I teach by holding the whiteboard up to the camera and doing the equation and talking through.

Katrien Vance: And what I found works best is to call on the kids like cold call, which I never do in the classroom, but call on the kids one at a time to walk me through a problem and then I write down what they’re saying and that has worked pretty well, they can hear it and they can see it. Some of them will be like, move your board. I can’t see, well what’s that last thing in the equation.

Jon Orr: Or I didn’t say that, why are you drawing it that way?

Katrien Vance: I wish I had sent them home with a whiteboard, that would really be the best. If they all did the problem and then held the whiteboard up and then we could play and discuss and do all those five practices. I could look and see what was out there and sequence it and talk about it, and this way, that’s the hardest part for me is I can’t see what they’re doing. And Maggie said the same thing, Maggie said, “I’m really good at looking over a kid shoulder and just pointing to one thing and asking a question and moving them forward and I have no idea, I don’t know if they’re looking out the window or doing the work, unless they’re doing that one problem that I asked them to be the person to talk us through.” So very challenging.

Kyle Pearce: You’ve brought up so many different challenges that really, really are struggles for us and I think one of the big ones is we were given a day to figure this out. It’s not… even here in Ontario where we were going into spring break the announcement, the thought was, we’re just going to shut down for two weeks as if there was like a problem with the building, like if the generator went in a building, you’d be like, “Oh, well we’re just shutting the school down, there’s a snow day.” That was kind of the thought initially and then we came back to learn that, “Oh, this is going to be much longer and we better start thinking about what this might look like, sound like.” But here in Ontario, it’s kind of funny, I’ve seen little animated gifs showing, if you remember those shopping sprees and grocery stores where-

Jon Orr: That was me on Monday.

Kyle Pearce: In Ontario, you only had… Yeah, you had 15 minutes to get into your class and get everything you needed. And they’re just showing these shopping spree contestants running and grabbing things from the grocery store and that’s how every teacher’s feeling.

Jon Orr: I brought those shopping bins that we do use now instead of plastic bags. We’ve got those green hard plastic bins, I brought like two of them, so one in each hand. I’m like, all right go and then you’re busting it down the hallway because my room was on the other side of the building and they’re literally saying you have 15 minutes because the next person’s going to go after you. We’re all kind of going one at a time in a sense; one person’s going to one on the building, the other person’s going together in building so we stay away. But definitely that was me on Monday, I was the one going in the classroom to get my algebra tiles, my cubes, my fake money, all my little things so that I can do some demonstrations at home and some ideas, but yeah, crazy.

Kyle Pearce: And when you go back to the equity piece, so now that… Okay, let’s say you were lucky enough to grab everything you needed, so you grabbed your whiteboards, which is great and maybe some manipulatives or whatever it might’ve been. Then it becomes how do we help those students? So now many districts like our districts, Jon and my district as well have tried to provide technology to families. Now it’s this inequity with internet access and I think we’re all becoming very aware that this is a huge issue and I haven’t looked into this and we live in Canada so I don’t know the situation whether this is true or not, but we heard in that Q&A call, that last week’s Q&A call that Comcast has free internet right now and then after $10 a month. So when they say after, I think after a couple of months, once this COVID-19 piece goes away. And then T-Mobile’s offering hotspots for free loans.

Kyle Pearce: So there are companies that are stepping up to the plate, which is great to hear, but it still doesn’t level the playing field enough in our minds and it sounds like in your mind as well. If we can help with that inequity and if we can get kids the technology and the connectivity they need in order to get connected, there are some tools out there, and we can talk about a few of those here, but one that I think is going to be or so far has been underutilized is even just the camera on your phone or on your Chromebook or MacBook or PC or whatever it might be.

Kyle Pearce: And I’m picturing myself, I think even if you had to or students had to and they wanted to share so you can engage in those five practices in a live setting, even if it’s only five kids from your class and you can record that session going through five different pieces of student work and working from there to help make connections, you can have students flip and you’re going to have to use your spatial reasoning here, but you can actually take your laptop and flip it.

Kyle Pearce: So I’m on, I’m going to share, my webcam is on and I’m going to flip it around so my webcam’s facing away from me and I’m going to snug my webcam up or the back of my computer up against my chest and I’m going to hold my pad of paper or my whiteboard in front of the computer. So now it’s like I’m behind my computer, my whiteboard’s in front of my computer and it’s almost like you’re cradling your computer like a baby in a way, and now you can actually write and as you’re writing it’s sharing over the webcam.

Kyle Pearce: So getting creative with some of the tools that we have, assuming that the students have been given this technology, those who need it, I think there’s some ways that we can get creative on it and it doesn’t… We don’t need to have all 25-30-30 plus students in the room, we can use a few of those students solutions to provide at least a rich consolidation.

Kyle Pearce: And I think it’s going to become very apparent for us when we do try to do these synchronous experiences with students that their time, their attention span is going to be even lower than if they were in the classroom with us. So it’s going to really make us have to plan ahead and think about what is important about this particular math concept. What is it I’m hoping to connect now and what might I need to save for another opportunity or another experience so just some ideas for us to think about here. Katrien, what else is on your mind there? Is there any reflections based on what we’ve discussed so far or is there any other pieces that we might be able to dig into and dive a little deeper?

Katrien Vance: I just would encourage all teachers to have such forgiveness for themselves in, especially if the technology is unfamiliar. I have listened to so many webinars and half of them are advertising new tools to use and the other half were saying don’t try to use anything new, this is not the time to be learning these new tools. And I’m definitely a diver into new tools, and so I had two math classes in a row that were incredibly frustrating because I was trying to run a game show on a tool that I wasn’t that familiar with and it just, one kid was frozen and it couldn’t move forward until everybody had put in their answer to the question and it was just 20 minutes that were entirely useless.

Katrien Vance: And so I keep notes on all my classes and that class just has a huge, in all caps, I just wrote SUPER WASTE OF TIME. The kids are fine, they don’t care, they’re not upset that it didn’t work. I find my heart rate going up, my blood pressure rising because I’m so frustrated that I have this tiny amount of time and it’s not being used perfectly. Forgiving ourselves for not doing it perfectly is hugely important, I think.

Jon Orr: I totally agree to that and I totally want to kind of add to that too in the sense that we also have to be okay with, you said it at the top of the episode, okay with that everyone is in the same position as us and no one is covering Algebra 1 this year. And I know you said that but here in Ontario, it’s kind of even a little bit weirder in the sense that we have a semester system; most schools are semestered, and therefore half the classes are already done, say grade nine academic math and then we got really a quarter of the way into that next semester. So we’ve got half our kids done in grade nine; we got half our kids started a quarter of the grade nine curriculum or missed it with the rest maybe or it depends on what we’re doing. We’re moving also at a slower pace, here in Ontario, are directed not to give more than say three hours of work a week, that includes instructional time and includes practice time and includes one-on-one time on the computer.

Jon Orr: And I think that’s something we have to tell our teachers or remind ourselves that we are moving slower and that’s a good thing. We can take some time to look after ourselves, think about our program, but keeping in mind that we are not going to cover the curriculum, we can do other things and I think that gives people some… should give people some freedom to explore some different things in a certain way. And I’m not sure what’s happening with the assessment on your end, what marks are going to look like or final grades. And there hasn’t been too much talk about here in our area, but I think there’s going to be some definitely professional judgment happening in that area of where kids would stand on final grades moving into the next grade.

Jon Orr: So I think we have to give ourselves that reassurance that it’s okay to move at a slower rate because we were talking with a teacher online last week or the week before and they were saying, “If we’re moving at a third of the pace because we’re only doing three hours of work a week, how am I supposed to make up for the two weeks we are off before and cover everything else there is to cover still three quarters of the course in the next two to two and a half, three months, and we had to stop.” So you’re not going to, it’s okay to not do that. So I’m really glad that you’ve brought that up as some feedback and some suggestions.

Jon Orr: I do want to kind of dive into one of the struggles you mentioned a little bit earlier about how can we get kids to have that low floor, high ceiling, that notice, that wonder that sparking curiosity while we’re so far away from each other. And I wanted to let you know, and also the audience here about our Make Math Moments Academy, we have released two important things and I think going forward for resources for teachers.

Jon Orr: One, is that we have a free trial right now for teachers to get in and they got 30 days to kind of explore, learn professional development modules, all our newest teachings are in there. But also, the second thing, which is also part of the Academy is that we have many curious tasks in there with full teacher resources, full teacher lesson guides, walk-through guides, ready for teachers to kind of learn how to teach with these tasks. But what we’ve also done just recently is Kyle’s put a lot of work into redesigning some of those tasks so that you can share them with your students so that they can access the site remotely, so that you can almost assign these curious tasks to students to do remotely. You can have them watch the video and comment and make noticings and wonderings start that low floor so that you can build up to kind of diving into feeling some sense making. Kyle do you want to share a little bit more about what you’ve been working on?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, one of the biggest challenges is exactly that that Katrien has shared with us and we’ll be exploring that in our webinar that we’ll be doing tomorrow. I know this is going to be released afterwards but that replay’s going to be available inside the Academy, so we’ll share links in the bumpers of this episode. But in particular trying to figure out how can I try? I’ve been trying to spark curiosity face to face with my students and now I feel like that carpet or that rug has been pulled from under me. We heard that in your thinking earlier there Katrien was you’ve been working so hard in transforming the way you’re presenting math content and sharing math content and allowing it to emerge with students and then suddenly it’s like now you’ve got to start from scratch again and feeling like you’re resorting back to a more traditional approach, maybe a more procedural approach and trying to figure out how do I get that back?

Kyle Pearce: So we’ve taken these curious tasks that typically are inside the Academy and we’ve actually found a way so that the teacher guide, there’s actually tabs for anyone who’s used the tasks in the Academy, those who are listening, you’ll know that we have tabs. One tab is a guide for teachers and it really walks you through the entire lesson and we actually have multi-day units available. So it’ll walk you through, give you some guidance around what are the big ideas that we can emerge in our class with this task and it’ll actually give you some teacher moves to help you anticipate the students solutions you might see. We have actual student solution examples given and what you might ask or say or do when students use those particular strategies or approaches. And then the other tabs are basically guiding you through the lesson so that you can run it in your classroom and lead your class through a really curious investigation.

Kyle Pearce: Well, what we’ve done is we’ve locked up that teacher guide so you can now freely share the task with students on a Learning Management System, whether it’s Google Classroom, or in my district it’s Edsby, or some other people are using other LMS’s like Brightspace or whatever, Schoology. You can actually share the actual task link and students can go through, they’re going to have to walk through themselves, but it starts typically with a provocation, some sort of notice or wonder to get them thinking, getting them estimating. You can then instruct them to share it in their LMS and say, “Hey, what is your estimate before moving on?” And you’re going to have to just trust students to do the right thing and to not rush right through. You’re of course going to have a few students who do that.

Kyle Pearce: But to get that discussion going and try to get, even if it’s asynchronous, trying to get kids talking and still exploring and looking at the greatness of mathematics. And then from there students can actually solve this problem and then see the reveal video at the end, share their thinking and then we even have some consolidation prompts where students can go and kind of take their thinking and try to essentially consolidate and make those connections, crystallize that thinking. And then you as the teacher get to decide how they share that work back, are they going to upload it to a Flipgrid? Are they going upload it right to your LMS or are you going to do something different with it?

Kyle Pearce: So we’ve really tried to make it as flexible as possible. This is brand new, so I literally spent most of the weekend doing it and we’re on a call here with you on a Tuesday. So my guess is you might not even be aware that this is possible, but that might be something that you might want to check out. For those who are listening, you can see the tasks and see what’s available by going to makemathmoments.com/tasks and that’ll bring you to all the Academy tasks and you’ll be able to search through them and they should all be set and ready for you to implement right into your emergency remote learning situation and try to get that curiosity going with your students.

Katrien Vance: That is awesome. That’ll be my next stop when we stop recording that’s where I’m going. I wanted to make sure to say to you guys, we did parent-teacher conferences in February and I did something a little different this year where I had my eighth graders lead their own conferences and that was wonderful.

Katrien Vance: And I asked them, “Have you noticed anything different about math this year?” And they would say, “I don’t know, maybe, I’m not sure.” And then I would say, “How do you feel about math this year?” And to a person, both the eighth graders and the seventh graders would talk about how much more confident they felt in math this year and how much more they liked math this year. They couldn’t put their finger on what was different, but they knew they felt different in class and that’s 100% because of this change in approach and having it be so much more conversational and they get to enter into it right away and feel like their voice is important, and they know just as much as anybody else in the room and there isn’t some kid who’s going to be good at math and know all the answers, so why should they even try. It was really exciting to hear the growth in their confidence.

Kyle Pearce: That is so awesome and I know that a lot of schools and districts are doing sort of this collaborative parent-teacher interview where a lot of times the students are there, but to actually have the students take the ball and run with it, it immediately reminds me of a lot of the work the student voice work that Craig Guthrie and Brenda Del Duca shared on Episode 58 where they talk about math council, because really all a math council is is just one of those platforms, one of many different platforms where students can actually share their voice and be heard. And to me that sounds like what a fantastic opportunity. And oftentimes students do have a hard time articulating what’s different and that’s okay. They might still be working through it, comparing and contrasting what is different about the culture now versus maybe a previous math experience where things were maybe a little more procedural, a little bit more guided. And that might be hard for them to try to wrap their heads around like what is different but they know something as and they’re enjoying it. So that I think is fantastic.

Kyle Pearce: So I’m wondering here as we wrap up this particular episode, I’m thinking about what would be one takeaway? And I want to say first as well, we so appreciate you bringing us up to speed on all the different pieces and growth opportunities you’ve had over this past year, year and a half since we spoke with you last. It’s amazing to learn alongside you inside the Make Math Moments Academy and with your colleague and now that we’ve had this conversation, what might be one takeaway, you don’t have to limit it to one, but one takeaway that you may be able to take from this conversation today and move forward or move deeper into this emergency remote learning experience with, what might that be? If you had to pick one, if you want to pick more than one, we’re not going to hold you back, but just something that you might be chewing on moving forward and planning around.

Katrien Vance: Well, I really liked this idea of asking the kids maybe on these days when we’re not meeting to share their solutions with me and then use a few of those to provide the kind of sequence and conversation and then consolidation that I would normally do with the whole group, but to do it with just a few at a time, but then present that maybe to the whole group. So there’s more possibility for this approach than it felt like at the beginning of this conversation, which is great.

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. Yeah, that’s a really good take away for sure and I think that’s something that I’ve been trying to set up as we kind of move into this new world is that normally you would do this all in one lesson but splitting it into two or three can allow for that discussion to stretch over time that you can gather some of that information, gather those solutions, and then you have a chance to consolidate that in your mind and sequence it and select it so that on your next say video, even if you’re doing it asynchronously or if you’re adding them all together, you can share those solutions with the group. I think that’s a great way to continue to do what we’ve been doing and modify how we were doing it in one lesson, but in span over say two lessons.

Jon Orr: One tool that I know that can work really nicely that we’ve done in the past is Knowledgehook snapshots tool. If you go to Knowledgehook and create a free account there, and I think actually right now until the end of the summer, they’re offering their premium service for free like a lot of other edtech companies are, they have a snapshot tool where kids will sign into a code and then they can take pictures of work and then you get access to them almost immediately. So it’s a way to do it synchronously but also asynchronously. So that’s a tool I’m planning on using, you definitely can check that out.

Jon Orr: But thanks so much Katrien for sharing that big takeaway with us. And I’m imagining, this is your second time on the podcast, I’m imagining a third and I think we really love to have these check-ins. We’ve already had a few different episodes where we’ve checked in with other teachers on how they’ve gone from one place to the other after our conversations and I think we would love to keep this going to check in with you again next year and keep these, Where are you now kind of episodes happening. So Katrien would you still like to do that, say next year after maybe this is all behind us and we’re back in the classroom? Love to kind of see where you are then. Would you like to come on again in another a year?

Katrien Vance: I’d love to, absolutely. And it’s so funny because I hear and see the other names that you have on and I remember thinking, when they got me in it was Episode eight and they were just starting off and it was sort of embarrassing that I was up against, I don’t know, Graham Fletcher or Jo Boaler, any of those people. And so to be asked to come back was amazing, and then the third time that’s pretty exciting. I feel like Sally Field, [inaudible 00:48:05].

Kyle Pearce: Well, you know what? We often feel the exact same way when we’re bringing on all kinds of amazing math minds but also when we’re bringing on teachers right from the field, sharing their current successes, the areas that they want to grow in and continue transforming their classrooms. So we look up to the educators the most who come on and share openly, vulnerably with the audience. And to that, I think we, and I know the Math Moment Maker community are so grateful. So keep on doing that great work. I loved your advice earlier about everybody giving themselves a little bit of a break in terms of not over stressing yourself and expecting too much out of themselves. I know that’s just in the nature of educators; we always want to do our best and our best is never good enough.

Kyle Pearce: So while we want to continue moving forward, I think that advice is so important for everyone who’s listening right now is, do the best that you can given what we know and can do now, always look for ways to get better but at the same time we definitely don’t want to be beating ourselves up over this or causing ourselves too much stress or anxiety over it. We will get through it together and it’s because of folks like you coming on and sharing your experience that I think is really going to help a lot of people. So thanks again for coming and joining us in the Math Moment Maker community and we definitely will be in touch to get you back on here in about 9-12 months again and we hope to stay in touch with you through the Academy and learn alongside with you.

Katrien Vance: Well, great, thank you, you’re very welcome.

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. Thanks so much, take care.

Katrien Vance: Take care.

Jon Orr: Well, there you have it. That was Katrien Vance from the Math Moment Maker community. We’re looking forward to checking back in with her to see what’s new with her this next year.

Kyle Pearce: This was another Math Mentoring Moment episode with many more to come where we’re going to have a conversation with a member of the Making Math Moments that matter community like you who’s working through a challenge and together we’ll brainstorm ideas and next step’s to help overcome it. If you want to join us on the podcast for an upcoming Math Mentoring Moment Episode where you too could share that big math class struggle, you can apply over at makemathmoments.com/mentor, that is makemathmoments.com/mentor.

Kyle Pearce: As we mentioned in the intro, for a limited time we have a 30 day free teacher license available for any Math Moment Maker from around the world who wants to access our Academy Professional Development Courses, our monthly but now pretty much weekly Q&A web calls given the COVID-19 situation and the replays that go up shortly thereafter or maybe it’s summit sessions you’re after, those replays are available. And finally, the recently created emergency remote learning friendly Make Math Moments problem-based tasks and units.

Jon Orr: Get on with it before it goes away at makemathmoments.com/trial, that’s makemathmoments.com/trial.

Kyle Pearce: In order to ensure you don’t miss out on any new episodes as they come out each Monday morning at 5:30 AM Eastern time be sure to subscribe on iTunes or now what we call Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast platform like Spotify, Google Play or any of the other platforms that are out there, it is available for you to subscribe to. Also, if you’re liking what you’re hearing, please share the podcast with a colleague or help us reach out wider audience by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or tweet us your biggest takeaway and tag us @makemathmoments on Twitter or Instagram, and you can also find us on Facebook. Show notes and links to resources from this episode can be found at makemathmoments.com/episode72, that’s makemathmoments.com/episode72. Well, my friends, until next time, I’m Kyle Pearce-

Jon Orr: And I’m John Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us and high fives for you.

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