Episode #79: Same, But Different – Math Education In Israel
Listen in to Craig Guthrie share his insights on comparing learning and teaching math in Israel to learning and teaching math here in North America. Both Craig and our own Kyle Pearce recently visited Tel Aviv to learn what math looks like in Israel and share the Make Math Moments 3-Part Framework with their fantastic math educators.
Stick around to hear about what educators struggle with on the other side of the world and how students are learning math — is it different than here?
- Help educators get perspective beyond our own context.
- Learning is both similar and unique in different countries.
- Educators worldwide struggle with many of the same issues.
- Students all around the world want to be curious and learn math in interesting ways.
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Craig Guthrie: Yeah, it was kind of different in every classroom. It’s almost like every teacher had a different idea of what personalized learning was, and it’s funny, and Kyle and I came over with our own idea of what personalized learning is, and I think we kind of blew them away with what we were proposing because it wasn’t anything like they had seen, but it’s very much like differentiated instruction on a very micro level. what we saw students would have individual work packages. [Crosstalk 00:00:23]
Jon Orr: You’re listening to Craig Guthrie share his insights on comparing learning and teaching math and Israel to learning and teaching math here in North America. Both Craig and our own, Kyle Pierce, recently visited Tel Aviv to learn what math looks like in Israel.
Kyle Pearce: Yes John, that’s right. Craig and I hit the road with other math educators from here in Ontario, all the way to Israel so that we could create some synergy across education systems. Stick around to hear what math educators struggle with on the other side of the world and how students are learning math. Is it different than here or is it much the same?
Jon Orr: Let’s do it.
Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pierce 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. John, are you ready to dive into yet another episode with Mr. Craig Guthrie?
Jon Orr: Of course, Kyle, of course, as always, but before we get to our discussion with Craig, we want to share with you the great learning and reflections that are happening after teachers are listening to this podcast. It’s amazing to us to hear these reviews. It’s comments like this one from CB Dream that fuel us to keep making these episodes.
Kyle Pearce: Yes, you’re right John. CB Dream says, geared for math, powerful and applicable ideas for my classroom every time. It was short and sweet John, but we love hearing this feedback whether short or long and what better way to share it with us, then heading to Apple Podcasts and leaving a rating and a short review.
Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. Now, before we get into this talk with Craig, we are super excited to share some upcoming professional learning opportunities for the Math Moment Maker Community.
Kyle Pearce: That’s right, John, there has been such a high demand for learning around how to Make Math Moments from a distance, due to the COVID-19 crisis, and having to lead learning from afar. We will be continuing to build out our Make Math Moments Academy Course. That’s all about how to learn problem based lessons from a distance.
Jon Orr: Right. Now, while we usually script and record most of our Academy Course lessons in a studio, we’ll be creating these Academy lessons in the same method that you’ll be leading your distance learning lessons with students. Over the web.
Kyle Pearce: Yes, that means we’ll be doing this series of walk through lessons on different math tools that you can use to lead your lessons from afar live via what we will call, pop-up webinars.
Jon Orr: If you want to jump into the next pop-up webinar happening head to Makemathmoments.com/webinar and sign up. Also, if you’re looking to get fully caught up on all of the learning from our how to make math moments from a distance learning catalog, you can get into our Make Math Moments Academy for 30 days of free access by visiting Makemathmoments.com/trial. And now let’s get on with our talk with Greg.
Jon Orr: Hey there, Craig, welcome back to the Making Math Moments that Matter podcast. It’s been a while since we last chatted with you, you were with us at Brenda on episode 58, where we talked about your NORCAN Project. We talked about math council and how we can include student voice in our lessons, but also our planning process. So we’re super glad to have you back to talk about your next project and next set of learning. We’re eager to hear about that, but how are things over with you, Craig?
Craig Guthrie: Oh, things are doing pretty good, relatively speaking. Like everyone else, we’re stuck at home trying to figure out this online learning. So it makes it a little difficult to run math councils right now from home. Yeah, it was great, the last visit here, I actually got a lot of people who reached out to me from your podcast, asking for some more information, so that was awesome.
Jon Orr: Awesome stuff, awesome stuff. So Craig, I know you very well, your office actually is right next to mine and we get to do a lot of awesome projects throughout the workday, but also this most recent project where we had an opportunity to head out to Israel. But before we dive into that, I’m wondering can you remind the audience, the Math Moment Maker Community, who you are. We’re not going to go into our typical Math Moment Reflection, folks can head back to episode 58 to hear about Craig’s math moment he remembers. But we’re wondering though, for those who haven’t listened to that episode yet, who are you, where are you from and what is your current role in math education?
Craig Guthrie: Well, I am from Windsor, Ontario. I’ve been a intermediate teacher now for 22 years, the last three or four years or so, I’ve kind of been a math coach back into the classroom. Currently. I am the teacher consultant for 21st Century Skills for the school board, which is why my office is right next to yours.
Jon Orr: Gotcha. Awesome. Thanks for that update, Craig, for those of you American listeners, intermediate math teacher is a middle school math teacher or a middle school teacher. So thanks Craig again for that. We want to dive into the purpose of having you here on this discussion and that purpose for us is that you’ve been a little bit of a world traveler and I think you’ve gone to Norway. You brought some information back from Norway, some great learning there. You’ve now ventured to Israel to learn about what’s happening in Israel. And I think why we want this episode and what I think our listeners can gain from this episode is that there are different perspectives worldwide. And sometimes there are things that are different, but sometimes there are things that are the same. And I have not had the pleasure to chat with you about all of the things that you learned in Israel. And I actually want to learn here today with our listeners.
Jon Orr: So this is the reason for us to have this chat here today is for us to kind of learn, what did you learn while traveling and what are some of those tips and resources and ideas that we can start to think about here in our own classrooms, our own teaching, our own country? And even if that’s just like, things are the same or things are, are a little different, that comparison I’m really interested in and that you have got that unique perspective that you’ve been teaching here in Ontario, you’ve gone to Norway, you’ve now got another country here. What does it look like out there? But before we get into comparing all of that, let us know how did this come out to be like, how does a teacher, like you Craig, get to go to Israel and Norway? Where did this Israel trip come from?
Craig Guthrie: Well, it kind of goes back a few years. Kyle and I opened up company, Vista Academy, together, it was a brand new school and it was a K to 12 set up, and our classes were pretty close to each other, I was teaching eight, he was teaching nine and we got chatting. And he at the time was on a TLLP project. That’s a Teacher Learning and Leadership Program. And that was something that was offered by the Ministry and OTF, the Ontario Teachers Federation. And you put forward a proposal for an idea of something you want to do in the classroom, some learning you want to do in the classroom. And if they liked your idea, they would fund it. And Kyle was on one of those projects when we met, I think Kyle, you were doing iPads in the classroom or iPods in the classroom or something.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Lots of change from then for sure, yeah.
Craig Guthrie: He kind of dragged me along to the next one and he’s like, “You do one now.” So I did one and just through that, we made some contacts with people at the Ministry and OTF, and when this Norway partnership came about, they invited Kyle and I to be a part of it, which was amazing. And it was kind of funny because I remember going to visit a school in Toronto and I remember thinking, wow, a whole new school I’m getting to go see. And I remember walking away from that school going, wow, it’s a lot like my school. So that was my first experiences was I go into a school four hours away. And then I went to Norway and when I came back from Norway, my thoughts were the same. I go, wow, it’s kind of just like my school.
Craig Guthrie: And so through that TLLP and those contacts that we made at the Ministry, one of the ladies there, Linda Amoto is Jewish and travels to Israel, does a lot of work with the Trump foundation in Israel. And through that, she convinced them that they should start running TLLP like projects and the Trump foundation, and Kyle help me here, it’s like investors that invest in science and technology and education within Israel, correct?
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. And completely unrelated to the Trump that us North Americans know so same name, but different completely unrelated and actually too Craig,. I believe that they already had a project going on and they called it the innovation projects, the education innovation project, and they were funding these projects and when they actually read the NORCAN final report. So after Craig and I, and many other educators from across Norway, Ontario, and Alberta here in Canada, we had spent those three years collaborating and visiting schools and working together and learning from one another. We had to put together a final report and the leads in Israel working on that innovation project, actually read that and thought, that sounds an awful lot like what we’re trying to do here. So there was like a connection that was made like a synergy that began. And I believe they reached out to Lindy, and then Lindy reached out to ourselves as well as some of our friends from Pereyma in Oshawa.
Kyle Pearce: And we basically got pulled into this, we’ll call it like an extension, and for me it was like a fantastic opportunity and one that we are planning to continue as really it’s been about, we’ll say six months since we’ve been aware of it made aware of it and really about a month now, since we’ve been in Israel, but we’re really hoping that we’ll get to continue learning with one another. I’m wondering though, Craig, like now that we’re back from Israel, you finished your self quarantine. I myself had some more traveling to do so I’m still stuck in quarantine currently as we’re recording this.
Kyle Pearce: But Craig, when you got there, how was Israel as a country? Like I know I have my perspective, but I want to hear from you. I want everyone to hear your perspective. I know for myself, I had never really thought about traveling to Israel, it just wasn’t on my radar. There was no reason why not, it just wasn’t on my radar. It was an opportunity. And then I had a lot of learning to do to figure out, okay, like, what’s this going to be like? What were some of your impressions as you went to the country? And as we spend some time there together?
Craig Guthrie: Well, it totally blew away what I thought Israel would be like. And I’m like you, Israel was not on my travel radar. And to be honest with you, I did not know a lot about Israel. I had some idea of the history behind it, but I really didn’t understand what exactly Israel was. And of course, a lot of what I knew from Israel was from the media, right? And what do you hear in the media that there’s a lot of dissension and war and stuff like that going on there. So to be honest with you, I was a little worried about maybe my safety.
Craig Guthrie: I knew that Lindy wasn’t going to put me in harm’s way or anything, but I was just a little unsure of what to expect. And man, what I saw was that was not the case at all. It was an absolutely beautiful country. I felt totally safe everywhere I went. Kyle and I walked around at all times of the day and never did we have an issue once it was really an amazing city, or sorry country. And definitely one that I put on my radar to go back to want to have a little more time.
Jon Orr: What city were you guys located in?
Craig Guthrie: We were based out of Tel Aviv, but we did like visited schools that were outside of Tel Aviv. I think the farthest school was a little over two hours away.
Jon Orr: I’m always curious about culture. What’s it like in another country? No, I have never been to Tel Aviv or Israel. What would you say is the biggest change in culture that you noticed you felt compared to say North America?
Craig Guthrie: It was definitely the Palestinian-Jewish relationship. That was the top of a lot of conversation. And when we were there, they actually had elections there, so they don’t have provincial elections or state elections like we do, they’ve just got a national election. And everything that goes on in that country is bundled under that kind of federal umbrella. And one of the biggest things is the relationship with the Palestinians.
Jon Orr: Right. I could see that being a major factor in how the people interact and, and decision making inside the country. You did say that you noticed when you went to Norway, you thought I’m going to go to a new country and I’m going to bring back some maybe differences. And you said that one of the things you noticed when you went there was that that classroom looked the same and it felt the same as what you already have here in Canada, in North America. I’m wondering, Craig, did you get that same experience going to Israel? What did math education look like for you when you were in Israel?
Craig Guthrie: It was a little different there, I think because the classrooms that we were seeing, we were seeing these teachers that were taking part of these innovation fund projects. So we were seeing teachers that were doing things a little differently. And some of the stuff we saw is very much in line with what we’re working on here around assessment and evaluation and the way they deliver lessons. We saw some really, really good lessons. Kyle and I talked later, we had some ideas about how we could take those lessons, work with them, they were pretty good. So those things were, were really neat. But it’s more the overall school vibe, it’s like a, school’s a, school’s a school, no matter what country you’re in.
Kyle Pearce: I noticed as well, and I felt the same when we went to Norway that the overall, like if you just quickly, you get plopped into a class for, let’s say 20 seconds and then you were to disappear. You’d be like, “Yeah, this feels the same.” But then it’s like these little nuances that change, right, in terms of how students interact with teachers. Are they using first name, like in Norway using first name, and then the different schools we went to. Something else that I thought was really interesting is different schools, like When we were in Tel Aviv right inside the city, it was like an art focus school. The students really reminded me of students who are in art type programs. And I kind of felt the same vibe that I get at one of our local schools here at Walkerville where you walk in the front doors and you hear singing almost immediately, right? And you see lots of art displayed on the wall and lots of very creative, different things going on.
Kyle Pearce: So you can kind of see some of those connections, but then something else, we would go outside of the city and we’d go to a school that was a Jewish religious school and everyone’s wearing their religious attire and things are a little different from that perspective. But the one thing that was interesting to me with all of these different schools, with different religions, with different beliefs, it felt like everyone was accepting of one another. When we were in Tel Aviv walking around, you’d see someone dressed up with their Jewish attire and all of the different religious pieces that go along with it. And next you’d see someone that looks as trendy as anyone you would see on Hollywood Boulevard. And everyone just kind of was together. We got the sense anyway, that there was like an inclusive feel to the places we were in the country anyway. And I thought that was really nice to see.
Craig Guthrie: And you know, you spoke about the relationship with teachers. That’s probably the big thing for me that I’ve noticed in Norway and Israel that we don’t have here, students and teachers seem to be on more of the same level. And it’s funny because when they interact with one another, it’s more like peers interacting than it is with a teacher and a student that we’re so used to here. And when we would go into a classroom after we pull the students out and talk to them and it was very, very clear that they love their teacher. You could just see that relationship, it was really amazing.
Jon Orr: Now, did you get that everywhere? I know that you can go into a classroom here in North America and you can pull a kid out and they can say, I love my teacher, but you can also go into a classroom next door and pull a kid out, or even in the same class probably and pull a kid out and go, I actually do not enjoy my teacher. Sometimes it’s like, I don’t enjoy math translates into I don’t enjoy my teacher. And sometimes it’s reversed, I don’t enjoy my teachers, so I don’t enjoy math. Craig, so I know that you’re making a little bit of generalization about that, but is that relatively true? I guess you get the sense, you’d feel that in the culture itself, that they highly value teachers versus teachers are just sometimes the way they get viewed here in North America that they’re just babysitters. Sometimes parents might say that, especially when you read your Facebook comments lately. So I’m wondering generally, did you get that sense? I know you said it, but I don’t know if you can elaborate a little bit more on that?
Craig Guthrie: Again, I think a school is a school, no matter where you go and I’m sure if we did randomly pull out students and they were honest with us, they would tell us that they don’t like their teacher and all that. But just in the interactions that we’ve had and with those schools, that was the impression that we got.
Kyle Pearce: I was going to say, I wonder too, going back to your original comment earlier in the discussion about the fact that we were going into classrooms, where these are teachers involved in this innovation project, right? So for you to raise your hand and do that type of work, it’s additional work, right. And if you’re doing this additional work to innovate, my overall, I guess, assumption would be that, okay, you’re willing to put in this extra work, my guess is going to be, it’s a safe bet to say that you probably really care about your kids, just like every other educator does, but you’re trying things and trying to make it really show to them that you’re trying new things. And maybe it doesn’t always work the way you intended or hoped. But I think kids get that, they get that sense even when you change things up and you’re trying something, they get that you’re trying to do it for them. Even if maybe it doesn’t always come out the way that you had intended, or it doesn’t translate into a better experience every single time for students.
Craig Guthrie: And actually over there, teachers are not really a highly valued occupation. They’re not really well paid over there. They make about half of what we make here. So it was kind of interesting, we met people that left good paying jobs to go into teaching. So later in their careers, they left to go into teaching because it was such a passion for them. And some of the people that were traveling with us and they spoke with us and they said that they would have made enough money in whatever career that they left in order to do this because they could never, never financially survive just off that teaching salary.
Jon Orr: I’m always very curious about structured also in other school systems. Here in Ontario, we start in kindergarten, which is like, some of our kids are four years old, even sometimes three years old, starting in kindergarten, going right up to grade 12, which is your about 18, and then they go off to university and college after that or the workplace or apprenticeship after high school. I know that in other countries they have different systems, like I know that there’s a different system in the UK and there’s a different system in Australia. And even in those areas more local there’s even different systems. So Craig, what does the system look like over there? Do they have a kindergarten through grade 12 program? What’s it look like after high school? I know that there’s some interesting rules about citizens going to the military. Can you shed some light on what the actual like structure looks like? Is it the same as us or different?
Craig Guthrie: It’s very similar to us. They’ll do like a K to six school and then they’ll have like a seven to 12 school. There might be some seven, eight, nine middle schools in there, but it’s very similar to our system. But the one thing that is obviously very different is once they turn 18 and they’ve graduated from high school, they have to do mandatory military service for two years.
Jon Orr: And that’s everybody.
Craig Guthrie: Well, 99%, I think the stat was a population has to do it. The only ones that are exempt or the ultra Orthodox Jews. They don’t have to do it and I’m not sure why. So all these kids are going into the military at 18. And what I understand is that what happens in the military, a lot of them will opt to get like technical training. So it might be like our college kind of thing, they’ll end up staying in the military and using that training. If kids opt to leave after their two years, then yes, they can apply to university, just like it is here.
Jon Orr: Craig, I’m wondering if we move to think about actual learning in the classrooms. And I was talking with Kyle and he said, there is a focus on personalized learning there. Could you tell us more about what you experienced with personalized learning?
Craig Guthrie: Yeah. It was kind of different in every classroom. It’s almost like every teacher had a different idea of what personalized learning was and it’s funny, and Kyle and I came over with our own idea of what personalized learning is. And I think we kind of blew them away with what we were proposing because it wasn’t anything like they had seen, but it’s very much like differentiated instruction on a very micro level, what we saw students would have individual work packages. So one teacher, for instance, after he did his lesson, he had work packages that they could get and they were… weren’t they color-coded Kyle, with an animal or something?
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. It seemed like every class had kind of its own little spin on it, right? One was an animal, the other was like color. But the one thing we were discussing was these different, we’ll call them paths, that you could pick. It was fairly clear to students which was like a lower level of difficulty and which was a higher level. And some of the kids at least told us that they appreciated it, but we really struggled with it coming from Ontario where we try to differentiate in a different way. Like I think if we go in Ontario, when we first started thinking about differentiation, at least the understanding many teachers had, I know I was one of these teachers where I thought like, what I was being asked to do was what personalization is, which is this idea of making something different for every single kid.
Kyle Pearce: And now, the Make Math Moments kind of approach to things is this idea of lowering the floor, making it accessible to all and extending for some and kind of building it into the same activity. And that was what Craig and I really focused on when we did our workshops there because we had an opportunity to work with some teachers. And that was kind of like, you could see some light bulbs going on because what teachers were after is what everyone’s after, and Craig’s already alluded to it, everybody around the world is trying to find ways that they can reach more of their students in math class, have them enjoy the experience and to make sure that every student is learning. And that’s kind of why I think that personalization approach, the journey that many teachers are on is like, well if I craft things individually for each and every student, that’s going to be most helpful to them.
Kyle Pearce: And I would argue that a lot of what they’re doing there, that’s going to be useful and also kind of extending to like, how can I take my lesson and start making that lesson more accessible by all? And that was the part that I think we really honed in on. And we had some really good discussions with teachers and students about that. So for us, that was a big, I think, realization that was okay, this is what they’re seeing personalized learning as and how they’re approaching it. And rather than saying, no, we’re not going to do that at all. We really try to figure out, okay, what are some of the positives that you’re getting from this idea that you’re on? And then what are some other ideas that we might be able to incorporate and see if we can find this like happy balance between them.
Kyle Pearce: So that seems to be where a lot of teachers are currently thinking. And like Craig said, these educators are so passionate because their pay is not anything near what others in professional, especially in the technology field. Technology is a big industry in Israel and they could go to the tech world and make many times more in salary, which is why so many will leave that sector and then come into education because they truly want to make a difference in education and the lives of kids. So it’s like they’ve taken care of themselves financially, and now they can change careers, shift to this idea, and really pour their heart and soul into it. So my hat goes off to his educators who are just, it just seems like everybody’s in it for the right reason, just like we see so many other parts of the world, but in this particular case, like these are people who are making big financial decisions in order to be in the classroom teaching kids.
Craig Guthrie: And we should probably say Kyle, that the way our day was structured when we were there was that we visited schools all day, schools that were taking part in this innovation fund. And then at the end of the school day, we put on a three hour workshop for any teachers that wanted to sign up and the workshops were packed. But what amazed me the most was how far some of these people came to attend these workshops. We had one guy who did not speak any English, relied solely on the translator, he drove three hours one way just to attend the workshop.
Kyle Pearce: I was amazed at the level of commitment and also these were optional workshops. So teachers had to sign up and they were free for them to attend, but something that’s very different than the reality that we are experiencing here in Ontario is we have a very supportive Ministry of Education and our government, even though right now, we’ve got some government cutbacks happening and a little bit of a battle going on there trying to keep funding where it is. Up until now, we have had a substantial amount of funding to both provide adequate and very, very healthy salaries for us here in Ontario, as teachers. And our professional learning that is built into our working day, which is something that really hit home for Craig and I, especially since Craig and I are delivering so much PD now for our district and outside of the district as well, it really made me think about how lucky we are to have the opportunity to do so much learning.
Kyle Pearce: And even the learning that’s available to us online now, here in North America, just these additional workshops and things that are available, both for free and things that you can pay for. It really was a different world. And they were just so hungry for it, seeing people coming from all over Israel, trying to attend these afterschool workshops after they’ve already taught a full day or had to take a day off in order to drive in order to make it for that 4:00 PM start.
Jon Orr: So to be clear, guys, you’re saying that we’re used to, if we’re going to have a professional development on that say differentiated learning or differentiated instruction, we would because this is true here in Ontario, your school would say, “Hey, there’s a workshop, we’re going to send you there. It’s on Wednesday, which means you don’t teach your classes that day. You head over to the workshop on Wednesday, you do that. You come back, you teach your classes. That’s all part of our job. You get paid for all of that, it’s during our school day” This is not true everywhere in North America, but at least here in Ontario. But what you’re saying, in Israel, that’s not true. It’s like we teach all day. And then if I do want to do any sort of improvement on my own, I have to organize that on my own. Is that what you’re saying?
Craig Guthrie: Pretty much. That’s pretty much how it works. There is no release time during the day for teachers to attend PD. PLC seemed to be very limited in the people that we talked to. So any professional development was done basically by the teacher themselves.
Kyle Pearce: And I would say too, that Trump foundation and the innovation project, those are organizations that are really trying to leverage some of these opportunities, so they’re providing funding to assist because it really comes down to here in Canada, here in Ontario in particular, we are lucky to live in a country where we have a significant amount of funding and that’s not always the case or possible in other countries without getting into politics. And those pieces currently right now, their school system, I think over the past couple of decades has improved significantly in terms of funding. And just to that, we’re where we are now compared to where their system is. Keeping in mind that I think Craig, correct me if I’m wrong, I believe Israel only became a country, official country in like 1948, 1949?
Craig Guthrie: Yep.
Kyle Pearce: So when you think about that, that is a completely different reality too. I wouldn’t know where you would begin to try to create a publicly funded education system, right? If you’re fresh out the gate and really we’re talking like a handful of decades that a country has been together, has been created or officially declared a country. I guess what I should be saying is I’m really impressed with how far they’ve come to this point and they’re eager to continue moving forward. So that I think is positive for the future there.
Jon Orr: And sometimes in United States, teachers are required to do professional development to maintain their license. Here in Ontario, we don’t have that requirement to kind of go in and get professional development hours to keep teaching. However, we do have to do some of that to say, move ourselves on a pay scale, which also is true in other countries. Do you know, is Israel requiring them to do PD or is it if you want to, is there any incentive for them to do the PD?
Craig Guthrie: I don’t think there was any requirement for PD. I’m not even sure about the pay scale. I don’t think I talked to anybody about that. So these teachers that are doing it, they’re doing it out of their own self interest and best interest for their students.
Jon Orr: I guess my next wonder is like, is that everybody in what population percentage is that true for? We’re trying to push people here by incentivizing them to do PD by moving pay scale or we’re requiring it, which is one way to kind of like make sure that we are always improving. I guess my wonder is in this country that is say not requiring it, how much of the people are going, I do want to improve my professional development, even though it’s not required. It’s kind of just a wonder of mine. I’m not sure you would have the answer to that yet though.
Craig Guthrie: No, I really can’t answer that. I don’t know.
Jon Orr: Yeah. It’s just an interesting thing to think about, right? Like just how much professional development we do on our own. Like I know that most people here listening to this podcast, they are not getting any sort of credit to listen to this, but they are still doing it. So there’s a lot of that going out there that people like, I really want to get better because like you suggested those people that you worked with in Israel is because they really want to, I’m always just curious about how many people, how many teachers are in that boat versus how many aren’t in that boat. And I don’t know the answer to that.
Craig Guthrie: The one thing that I really noticed too, was that the passion of the principal. So, I mean, while we were in individual classrooms, we at every school had a meet and greet with the principals and some select staff and students and the principals themselves are very passionate about the learning and the ones that we dealt with did try and create an environment where professional development was possible, whether that was through trying to build PLCs within their school. And they would do things like create common preparation time for teachers so that they could meet together and collaborate. So the principals that we dealt with were doing their best to create an environment where these teachers could learn. I don’t know what that’s like across the country, but I know in the schools we were at, it was definitely evident.
Jon Orr: Craig, as we wrap up here, I’m wondering, you’ve had that experience there, you visited a lot of classrooms. I’m wondering, what did you bring back to the classroom here or in your role as a consultant to help with your teachers? Like what would you say is your biggest takeaway from this experience to help you in your role as an educator?
Craig Guthrie: The one thing that I realized, like I know are teaching of math right now tends to be one way and I tend to get caught up in that thinking that our way is always the right way. But what I saw in some of these classrooms, it was obvious that my way wasn’t always the right way. I saw some pretty cool things going on, things that I had kind of given up in the past, maybe moved away from. But when you saw the learning that was going on and even the students love for what they were doing is something that I think when I returned to the classroom or something that I’ll bring back, considering that, you know what, maybe there’s other opportunities and other ways to teach other than what I think is the right way.
Jon Orr: Kyle, what about you? Any big takeaways for you on this experience as well and any final kind of thoughts?
Kyle Pearce: I think kind of building on what Craig set and some of the pieces that we referenced earlier, just this idea that everywhere around the world, we’re all trying to do the same thing. Like at the end, the end goal is the same, we want to make math moments for students. We won’t stop at pretty much anything to try and figure it out. And I think all of us around the world are experimenting, are trying. Some people are further ahead in certain places than in others, but we can all learn from one another. And something I noticed, regardless of the class we went into, we had an opportunity to go to four different schools over only a handful of days. And we got to get into multiple classrooms.
Kyle Pearce: And even though these classrooms were very different in how they were delivering content, however, still methods that I’ve seen here in North America, just sort of different from one another, but still things that you will see here. Some were very traditional lessons. Others were very student led activity driven. Some were, in some cases very loud, because of the constructivist approach that was going on. There were all these things that we’ve seen before, but the one thing that I noticed when I would engage with students in each one of these classes, sometimes without even having a language to work with, we’d have to work through a translator. What I noticed is that kids want to be asked purposeful questions. So every student, I would try to ask them something about what it was they were doing. And it was like, you could see a look in their eye, It was like, their brains were, they were thinking and they wanted more. They wanted to figure out based on that purposeful questioning.
Kyle Pearce: I remember in particular, one student was working with triangles and they were trying to find the midpoint or sorry, they were trying to find the height of different triangles using string and a weight. So they were using gravity to try to find the height. And just asking purposeful questions about they would say, well, it’s right here, but they wouldn’t give any descriptor. And when I would ask them more challenging questions, I said, well, why not here, why not there? These students would then get into some great discourse, great mathematical discourse.
Kyle Pearce: So to me, what I realized is that students are craving this, like they’re craving purposeful questions, they’re craving the opportunity to engage in mathematical discourse with one another and with their teachers. And it just makes you feel good that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, we’re all human, and we’re all curious. And I think if we continue to keep our eyes open and think outside of our own classrooms, our own schools, our own context, and we start to look to other places in the world, we are going to learn new things and learn from one another so that we can get there at least a little bit more quickly or a little bit more efficiently over time working together.
Jon Orr: Big takeaways for sure. I appreciate all of that. And I think we can all kind of walk away from listening to this conversation with keeping those big ideas in mind. Craig, I want to thank you for joining Kyle and I here on this episode of the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. And we’re recording this in the time of COVID-19 where, like Kyle said, we’re kind of in lockdown right now. Here in Ontario, we are still in our kind of quarantine period, but hopefully you are safe, Craig moving forward and we’re back in the classroom relatively soon. But thanks again for being here and we wish you all the best.
Craig Guthrie: Well, thanks for having me back on guys, I love coming on here.
Jon Orr: Take care Craig, we’ll talk to you soon.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff. We want to thank our good friend and my very close colleague Craig again for spending some time with us and sharing his insights with us and you, the Math Moment Maker Community.
Jon Orr: Are you going to dive into one of our, how to make math moments pop-up webinars? If so you better check out, makemathmoments.com/webinar.
Kyle Pearce: Or if you want to check out the whole course at your own pace, then visit makemathmoments.com/trail with your 30 day free access to the Academy.
Jon Orr: In order to ensure you don’t miss out on new episodes of this podcast as they come out each week, be sure to subscribe on Apple podcasts or your favorite podcast platform.
Kyle Pearce: Show notes and links to resources from this episode can be found at makemathmoments/episode79. That’s makemathmoments.com/episode79.
Jon Orr: We release a new episode every Monday morning, keep an eye out for our next episode.
Kyle Pearce: Well, until next time, my friends I’m Kyle Pierce.
Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.
Jon Orr: And high five for you.
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