Episode #93: How to Clear A Path For Growth: A Math Mentoring Where Are They Now Moment

Sep 7, 2020 | Podcast | 0 comments


Today on this Where Are They Now Math Mentoring we speak with Laura Tomas from Palm Beach county in Florida. Laura ‘s been teaching for 28 years and she’s an instructional coach for her school.

Laura chats with us today about how she’s applied the suggestions and learning from our conversation back on episode 46 to help her teachers grow as educators. Laura shares how she implemented her plan, what struggles she had, and where she looks to go next as an instructional coach.

This is another  Math Mentoring Moment episode where we talk with a member of the Math Moment Maker Community who is working through struggles and together we brainstorm possible next steps and strategies to overcome them.

You’ll Learn

  • How to help teachers change their mindset towards growth. 
  • Using Lesson study to co-plan and co-teach math lessons. 
  • How to lead daringly
Start your school year off right by downloading the guide that you can save and print to share with colleagues during your next staff meeting, professional learning community meeting or just for your own reference!


Laura Tomas: I think I've probably done more lesson studies but informally than formal. When I was meeting with the fifth grade math teachers for PLCs, there were three of us. We would get together and especially during the fractions unit, we all came at it at different ways, and I'd say, "Okay, but how can we show it visually? How can we show it concretely?" Because the way that the three of us were thinking about it, abstractly-

Jon Orr: Today on this, Where Are They Now? Math Mentoring Moment. We speak with Laura Tomas from Palm Beach County in Florida. Laura's been teaching for 28 years and she's an instructional coach for her school.

Kyle Pearce: Laura chats with us today about how she's applied the suggestions and learning from our conversation back on episode 46 of the podcast to help her teachers grow as math educators. Laura shares how she's implemented her plan, what struggles she's had along the way, and where she looks to go next as a math instructional coach.

Jon Orr: This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode, where we talk with a member of the Math Moment Makers community who is working through struggles and together we brainstorm possible next steps and strategies to overcome them. Let's 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 curiosity.

Jon Orr: Fuel sense making.

Kyle Pearce: And ignite teacher moves. John, are you ready to dive into this? Where Are They Now? Math Mentoring Moment episode with our good friend, Laura.

Jon Orr: Of course, Kyle. Of course. Now, before we get to our discussion with Laura, we want to let you know that if you're listening to this before September 25th 2020, then you're cutting it close to joining us for our new PD offering on closing gaps with your grades two through 10 students. We've built a nine module course called The Concept Holding Your Students Back.

Kyle Pearce: When students struggle during tasks, it's often because of missed key learning opportunities, especially with your students who may have missed some key learning from the last school year due to COVID. In working with our own district and with our own students, we've narrowed down those gaps to struggles that exist in the area of proportional reasoning.

Jon Orr: In our new comprehensive PD course, we'll not only unfold the fundamental concepts for teaching proportional reasoning so you can close gaps with your students, we'll also show you and give you the lessons and resources to use in your classroom to make it all happen.

Kyle Pearce: If you're interested in learning about registering, be sure to check out makemathmoments.com/proportions. If you're listening after the fall 2020 registration close, which is September 25th 2020. That's my wife, [Shantel's 00:03:14] birthday, you can still head to makemathmoments.com/proportions to join the waiting list in order to get notified for your next opportunity to participate.

Jon Orr: That link again is make mathmoments.com/proportions, and now here's our chat with Laura.
Hey there, Laura, thanks again for being on the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. We chatted with you way back in episode 46 and we're super glad to have you back. Do us a favor and remind our audience if they haven't listened to episode 46. Now, if you haven't listeners listened to episode 46, do yourself a favor and crosstalk-

Kyle Pearce: Hit that pause button.

Jon Orr: Yeah. Get back over there and listen to it. It is a good one. Laura, just remind our audience, where are you from? What's your role in education, and what have you been up to since the last time we chatted like a year ago?

Laura Tomas: I can't believe it was a year ago and I remember it because it was so hot outside and once again, it's still so hot outside. I am in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the heat index today is going to be 107 degrees.

Jon Orr: That's it?

Laura Tomas: God. The other day it was 111. I said, come on.

Kyle Pearce: Oh boy.

Laura Tomas: Yes. I am a math coach at one school and I actually, during the pandemic, I got a new job for this upcoming school year. I'm switching schools. One thing I was able to do was pack up my entire classroom, rent a U-Haul truck and bring it all home to my house.

Kyle Pearce: crosstalk.

Laura Tomas: I have both dining room and I have half a living room right now and I am purging, organizing, sorting so when I go to my new school maybe I can rent a smaller U-Haul to bring it all there.

Kyle Pearce: That's fantastic. I was wondering if you were just going to park it and leave it, but I guess that would be a pretty costly opportunity or option, but there's always those storage containers, but you know what? I bet you, the family is loving having all of that stuff just busting out of your dining room. I find the younger the grade, the more the classroom stuff that you have to bring home. All those teachers out there who are switching schools or had to switch classrooms but they couldn't set them up due to maybe the COVID situation, I'm sure they're at home feeling your pain there. Awesome stuff.
We also heard from you, Laura, that you've got something else going on as well. Like when you say that what's been going on, not only do you have a new role, a new job, but you're also working on a little bit of a side project that folks who are listening to this show would probably be interested in it. Tell us more about it.

Laura Tomas: Thank you. Did I say thank you for having me on again? I don't think I did. Thanks for having me back. I truly appreciate you guys.

Male: No worries. Anytime.

Laura Tomas: And always listening to you.

Male: Yeah. We love having you.

Laura Tomas: And always learning from you. One of my friends, Karina and I, we've been talking about this for about two years. We started our own podcast. It's called Learning Through Math and you can find us on Twitter @LauraAndKarina. We couldn't use @LearningThroughMath because it's just a couple of characters too long, we discovered, but we have learningthroughmath.com now, and we dropped it on Apple podcasts and Spotify and YouTube and our own website.

Jon Orr: Awesome. Give us a little snippet of it. Like tell crosstalk about.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Want to know the theme. What's it all about? What's the deal with it?

Laura Tomas: Our mission, because I love to learn is to inspire ourselves and others to keep learning and improving with passion and hugs because you know me, I'm all the big huggers. That's part of our mission statement and it's killing me right now not to hug everybody.

Jon Orr: Right. I was definitely... You'd be going in withdrawals.

Laura Tomas: I'm. I have been.

Jon Orr: Awesome. We'll definitely make sure that we put those links in the show notes so listeners can head over there and check out your podcast after listening to that podcast. That's awesome and congrats, because we know there's lots of work involved in making a podcast and the dedication is there. We talked about that before we hit record here and you're finding out firsthand what's involved in a podcast, and if you ever need a hand, just reach out. We can provide some tips along the way, so congrats on that.

Laura Tomas: Thank you.

Jon Orr: Congrats on that.

Laura Tomas: Thank you.

Jon Orr: No problem. Last time you were here, Lauren, on the podcast, we chatted about lots of different things. In particular, we chatted about you trying to instill this love of learning in teachers that you were working with and you were thinking like we are teachers. If we have to have this level of learning so that our kids can do it too, we chatted about some tips on helping teachers kind of switch their mindsets. We talked about a few resources and books that has helped Kyle and I, as we've tried to switch teachers that we work with into a different mindset and help them grow.
I'm wondering how are things going with you on those ideas and that last conversations. Fill us in on the details since the last year on your progress, and then we'll eventually get into talking about some next steps.

Laura Tomas: I read the book, Switch, which was one of the books that you guys had recommended and there were three parts to that. One was direct the rider, the next one is motivate the elephant and the third one is shape the path. Directing the rider really talks to the logical aspects about whatever you want to happen. Motivating the elephant is that emotional aspect and then shaping the path is really making it super easy for somebody to do kind of what you want them to do so that the rider can motivate the elephant and eventually get to that path where you want them to be.
This year I focused mostly on shaping that path. I ended up in, I think it was November, rode out what I called "green sheets" and I asked the teachers to write two answers. It was a half a sheet. I put it in everybody's mailbox. I sent out an email and I said, "Just answer these two questions." One was what specific goal do you have for this year to become better at? And then the second one was, how can I specifically help you achieve that goal?
Of course, the first round I think I got two back by the first deadline that I set out of 22.

Kyle Pearce: Hey, but that's a start.

Jon Orr: Teachers make worse students.

Laura Tomas: That was, but then I sent out a friendly reminder on the deadline day saying, "Hey, don't forget. I want your green sheets back before you leave today." Monday comes and I give a shout out to the grade that got them all back to me first thinking, "Oof, maybe that'll motivate some other people to want to get theirs in." Then two days later I sent a follow-up email to the people who I didn't get it from and I said, "By the way, I'm putting another green sheet in your box, just in case you misplaced it." And then the next part was that they had to sign up on a Google Doc for a coaching session time with me.
Throughout December and January, I want to say that, yay. I met with 12 out of 22 teachers that I had given the green sheet to and replied back to me. We got to have a coaching session one-on-one except two of them wanted to meet together because they said they had the same struggle. I said, no problem and I gave very flexible times where I even said we have to be there at 7:30 in the morning. I said if you want to meet me at 7:00, fine and then our school day ends at three o'clock for the teachers. I said, if you want a 3:00 to 3:30 slot, we can do that. Which of course turned until about 4:15, which worked completely fine with me.
I tried to be as flexible I could with my time knowing that they have limited time.

Kyle Pearce: That's awesome. What a great way to start getting people thinking about their own practice and what they might be interested in moving forward in and we're wondering like what sort of responses did you get? Did you find that teachers answered both questions or did you find that maybe they lean to answer more one than the other? I'm picturing that second question maybe being a little bit harder, right? When we ask them, how can we actually help them achieve that goal?
That's almost like in a way, a bit of the path piece, right? Clearing the path. We're asking them, how can we help them clear the path? I wonder if maybe sometimes people struggle with identifying like what's actually in the way, which kind of lands on our shoulders in that coaching role trying to figure out like, what is in the way on that path. I'm curious, like were there any themes and what sorts of problems of practice where people bringing up?

Laura Tomas: It varied from soup to nuts, and I'm going to tell you that everybody came back with a specific way for me to help them. I got them thinking. They all answered both questions, which I was like, yay. That was a fantastic start. When I met with them one-on-one some people said, "I want to know more about this topic." And it might've been a number sense routine or a way to in fuse this thing, whatever that thing was into their classroom, or they wanted me to come and model something for them, or they wanted more information about something.
Some people just wanted to meet to vent because they know that I'm a good listener and I'm a vault. Whatever they say to me isn't going to go anywhere and that's what some people needed. I think it was everything. It was very open-ended. I got all different kinds of responses. Some people wanted materials. They said I need such and such. When I met with them, I said, "Okay, where are you going to use this? And what do you need this for?" Or they said something like, "I want to do something about this." And I said, "Well, you need X, Y, and Z." I said, "I'm putting that on the list order."

Jon Orr: Right. Nice, and I think this venting is... it's great that people had that outlet. Sometimes teachers we vent a lot, but sometimes we do because we don't feel like there isn't a place to do that. It sounds like allowing them, or giving them that time and space to do that gives them that opportunity for two things. They get to do that but also you get to, or they get to... sorry, you get to help identify the real challenge or the real problem if you listen.
Kyle and I tried to do this as often as we can here on the podcast, not saying our people that we talk to are venting, but we try to listen and keep saying like, what else is a struggle that you're having? And this is from the book that we referenced here many times, The Coaching Habit, that idea of just keep prodding at them to say dig deeper, can allow them to show what the real issue is. Where's the real help and it sounds like you've done that very well.
I'm wondering like one of your big things before was about mindset and helping those teachers with adopting that mindset. How do you think things were going now about that mindset after your coaching sessions?

Laura Tomas: Well, once people found out that I was leaving the school, I got messages like, where, why are you going? What's going on? I told them, "Look, I'm an email or a text away or Google Meet." Because now that's what we do. They know that no matter where I am, I'll still always have their back. I think I inspired people to want to have that love of learning, which was one of my goals.

Kyle Pearce: That's fantastic. Do you find that that blue sheet request or activity that you had put out there, has it led to maybe stronger coaching relationships? This might be... it could be across the staff where more people are reaching out in those relationships or strengthening, or maybe it's a handful of teachers that have kind of opened their practice a little bit to this idea and maybe helping them to improve their mindset along the way. I'm curious, like how do you feel that that specifically has impacted your role and your ability to kind of help coach along some of your colleagues?

Laura Tomas: I think definitely those 12 people that I got to meet with, the one-on-one or two to one, they definitely got into that mindset space of there's something I want to change about my practice. I figure, "Hey, if I reached just over half, that was really a good percentage." Right? One other thing that I was able to do this year is, the reading coach and myself sat down with the principal before the school year started and said, "These three things are what we want our PLCs to look like." And one thing that we talked about was having knowledge of content, not just the content standards but the actual content itself.
When we had PLCs, one thing that I made sure that we did was, when we broke off into subject areas was when I had the math people we would always start with our district's website, which has... My district has an amazing elementary math department. They're super. Part of the website is for teachers and it's called Blender and that's where all the curriculum things sit on. We would go to Blender and open up what they prepared, the critical information PowerPoint and we would literally go step by step by step through that PowerPoint to say, "What is most critical in this unit?" Then we would open up the assessment and say, "Okay, here's what the assessment looks like."
And then we would look and explore the other resources that our curriculum people put on the website. Then we could always bring in, okay, here's the manipulatives, here's the drawings, here's the abstract. I got to bring in CRA, the Concrete Representational Abstract almost every single time, which that's what helped build their capacity.

Kyle Pearce: Nice. I love that. Just to be clear Blender, is that like a... it's a learning platform I believe, but just to be clear like... so a place that your district puts all of the content and all of the PD, and then it sounds like at the school level, school level coaches like yourself are there to help take some of the messaging for consistency but then also tailor it more to the needs of the staff in the building?

Laura Tomas: Absolutely.

Kyle Pearce: Fantastic. Fantastic. I'm wishing the only negative of those types of platforms is that oftentimes you need a login. It's just too bad, probably don't have the ability to kind of show off some of the great work that the math team at your district is able to share, but we'll definitely do a Google search and we'll see if we can find anything that's out on public facing. I love that you're bringing in that concrete representational, that abstract, so really this idea of starting concrete and working towards abstraction, fantastic.
I'm wondering, can we start chatting a little bit about where do you find yourself at now? Back then you had this, a little bit of a challenge. We chatted about some of the things that we could do. I love that you actually followed through and read the book, Switch. Definitely every time we talk about it with someone, it brings back how much I want to go back and reread this book because it is so helpful and I think like you had said, clearing the path I think is so important.
Oftentimes teachers, what I find anyway is when we think about directing the rider, that first part of the book. This rational side, it's like teachers of course want the best for their students. Like the rational sides in line, they're emotional about their students, they're emotion... motivating the elephant, like they want their students to do well. They love them. They want to see them succeed.
To me it makes perfect sense that clearing the path is kind of the place that you've sort of nestled yourself, nestled your thinking and trying to think of like, "How can I help educators in my building clear the path so they can do the things that they want to do for their students." Making it as easy as possible. I really love the idea. I think I said blue sheets earlier, but it's a green sheet activity you had. I really love that as a way to kind of start that discussion.
I'm wondering, as you're picturing yourself and I know in Florida, you folks go back to school earlier than John and I do. You're starting to think of the school year ahead, what are you thinking about now? What are you currently working on, grappling with, reflecting on, and really trying to work on yourself? It's almost like we're green sheeting you here and asking you about your specific goals so we can try to push you further as well. What's going on in your mind now?

Laura Tomas: Assuming that we're going to not have a pandemic soon, I'm going to start at the beginning again with a brand new staff to me. Building relationships is definitely going to be part one. My new principal bought the leadership team the book, Get Better Faster by Paul Bambrick Santoyo and we're doing a book study over it over the summer. I'm diving into that but the other book that I'm definitely going to pick up and read this summer is daring to lead.
You guys had talked about that on our previous episode, and I did not get a chance to read it, but since I am one of those vulnerable people that I just put myself out there and see what happens, you had suggested reading that book to talk about the vulnerability aspect. I'm going to pick up Dare to Lead and read that as soon as possible.

Jon Orr: Those are good resources. I think that you're going to get a lot out of, especially. I think we recommended daring to lead. I have not read the other book that you referenced, getting better faster, but daring to lead was instrumental in thinking about not necessarily leading a group of teachers like you are going to be or helping a group of teachers, but even just in the classroom just realizing that in order for us to, say, lead appropriately. Lead with example is sometimes the way sometimes you think about it.
We have to put ourselves out there. We have to be honest, we have to be ready to accept, ready to be vulnerable so that we can actually lead the people that who are under us or with us, and so that they want to follow us and I think it's so important as leaders that we kind of listen to the messages that Brené Brown talks about in that book. I'm glad that you're going to read that and looking forward to hearing what your thoughts are on that book.
What else is on your plate? What else are you struggling with right now that we can aid you or help you out within the next few minutes in this conversation?

Laura Tomas: I think just continuing to figure out that million dollar question that I had, how do we get people to want to learn? I think if we just keep leading by example, that's how it's going to happen. I get very passionate, enthusiastic about things. Once people hear, oh my gosh, I listen to this podcast or I read this book and it really helped me because, and give them that logical reasoning, and then share how it worked with kids to give them that emotional aspect and then, "Oh, here it is. I happen to have it with me. Would you like to borrow it?"

Jon Orr: inaudible.

Laura Tomas: To clear that path for them and say-

Male: Absolutely.

Laura Tomas: "Hey, you want to discuss it? Let me know when you want to and we'll set up a Google Meet or something."

Kyle Pearce: I love too, because you're saying leading by example, of course, I think walking the walk is so important. It kind of ties in nicely to the daring to lead and then a big idea there with vulnerability and being vulnerable. I think that's one of the pieces that's hardest for everyone. It doesn't matter your personality type. It is hard to be vulnerable, especially when you're in a role where as much as people want to say, if you're a coach or you're a consultant, or you're in a role where you're helping others, maybe it's an administrator or even a department chair or a department head, you are in this place where you almost as a human being put this extra weight on your shoulders, like you're supposed to have more answers than the rest of the group.
I think that's one of the pieces like I'm hearing in a little bit of that daring to lead book tying back, which is really important, and then also just sort of being there and walking the walk. I'm wondering if we can dig into... I'm curious, like do you ever have the opportunity to dive into classes and actually do some co-teaching? And I know you're saying leading by example. Maybe that looks like you leading a lesson or maybe it's a co-teaching scenario. Like what does that look like when you get the opportunity to actually get in with a teacher and maybe a group of their learners?

Laura Tomas: I forgot to tell you, at the beginning of this episode that this school year I was actually not only a coach but a fifth grade math teacher of record, because we have these advanced classes, and I'm putting air quotes around there. We had a group of students in fifth grade and in fourth grade that needed a math home. I said, "I'll take the fifth graders. Somebody else got the fourth graders."
I had 14 of my own fifth graders this year every day, which was fantastic because all the stuff that I've been talking about for a few years, I got to put into practice with my fifth graders. There was also a time when I was not in town. I was actually doing math recovery training. One of my coworkers who also taught fifth grade math absorbed my 14 into his room so now we have almost 40.
By the way, when he was out, I took his class so it all worked out, and my kids, when they came back from that other class would say, "Wow, they don't do things the way we do things." Or I'd walk into their room and say, "Okay, here's what we're doing." And the kids that I normally didn't see were like, "What is this all about?" I got to actually experience it with 14 fifth graders this year.

Kyle Pearce: Nice.

Jon Orr: I think diving in and getting your... I guess your feet dirty or your hands dirty.

Laura Tomas: Yes.

Jon Orr: I guess is the phrase. I don't know, feet dirty.

Kyle Pearce: inaudible sure.

Jon Orr: Yeah, is the-

Laura Tomas: I'm diving in the deep end, I'm not getting my feet wet. Right?

Jon Orr: Right. Yeah. I'm blending all those metaphors. It sounds... you probably learned a lot, and I was talking with a friend of mine who was a consultant in our district. He was our consultant for 15, 20 years and then he went back to the classroom. He was scared. He was nervous because he'd been talking about all these different strategies to use with the ninth graders and for years and that was where he specialized to help us, like me become a better teacher and then he had to go back and do it.
He was super scared and he got to experience it again and I think he really appreciated getting back to have a touch point with students and put into practice some of the things and seeing where the loopholes were, where we needed to tighten up things when he had to talk to teachers. I think he really appreciated. It sounds like you did too and you learned a lot about some of the things that we've talked about, is some of the things that you've been talking about for years but with teachers. What would you say is probably the... going back to the classroom is, say the biggest lesson you learned in that experience.

Laura Tomas: I'd have to say that it confirmed my thought process of how grades are ridiculous. We don't do A, B, C, D, F in elementary school here. We have a standard space report card, but the parents and the kids want to see them have the highest mark on the report card. Yeah. I would say dealing with progress reports and report cards, again, that's something that I appreciate the teachers that take the time to dive into the standards and mark appropriately instead of just saying, "Oh, they're all proficient, or no they're all approaching or whatnot."

Jon Orr: Which has to do with like knowing your student and knowing like what they can and can't do and I think sometimes teachers slap a number on things or a mark on things because they think generally, or looking at a test with one piece of assessment or saying like, hey, here's my one test they did over course when they didn't actually factor into all the conversations they had or the observations from working with the students on a regular basis.
We tend to think that the test or the quiz is be-all take-all whereas we can use our professional judgment to give them feedback, give them the assessment, which is feedback, right? Like we're writing a number on a piece of paper with comments on a report card sounds so evaluative but if it's not the final report card, then it's still a piece of feedback that we want to try to push our kids learning forward. Yeah. Lots to learn there.

Laura Tomas: It's reeducating the parents again, how to take report cards not as... I wish we could just use got it and not yet. That would solve so many problems.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, exactly and it's a... especially from a report card standard or a report card perspective, since there's such a mindset. We're so fixated on like, well, that's the grade and no matter what. A few things are coming to mind here, because now that you're in the classroom and you're doing some of those things, I think in some ways like, first of all, it's great because you're in the classroom. You're walking the walk in your own classroom but then on the other hand, it can also make it a little bit more challenging from like a mentor role, like when you're trying to be in that mentorship role, that coaching type role and you're trying to work with educators and trying to help as a group, kind of all move forward. That can be tough and what popped into our minds just now is episode 30.
We had an opportunity to chat about the most... what they called anyway, our two guests called, the most effective PD that you're not doing. It was our friends who joined us, Jedidiah Butler and Gabrielle Mejia who came on the show and they shared their approach to lesson study. The one thing that I really like about it, and the reason I'm dropping it here, not just for you to consider, but also for everyone else who's wondering like, how do I get in there and co-plan and co-teach. Maybe I have like a part time coaching role and I only have one period a day available and all of my colleagues are doing mathematics in other periods of the day. How is it possible that I can do some more meaningful learning.
Doing some of this co-teaching whether it's changing your schedules around and actually doing some lesson study, I've found that some of my best learning is when I have an opportunity to sit down with educators and kind of tackle something, especially when it's a topic that I'm not super comfortable with and it comes back to that vulnerability piece. For me, that is such a big eyeopener, I suppose, because it was really easy for me to go and model a lesson, for example, that I was really confident in, but what's not comfortable at all is when we have to do something and do it with other educators, which means having that risk of failing in front of another adult.
Like it's hard enough when we try something and we sort of... our lesson flops, John and I always talk about lesson flops, you'll flop in front of the students. Nobody likes that. It's even harder when you're doing it with your colleagues but I find like when you get a good solid lesson flop in with your colleagues, it's like you right there have now totally achieved the vulnerability badge and I think it builds so much trust to kind of help that mindset piece that you were talking about shift forward but then also to build on, essentially those trusting coaching relationships, and then it's almost like the mentee becomes a bit of a mentor at times as well, which I think is really important so that we have that relational trust going on.
That's something that kind of comes to mind for me. I'm wondering what are your thoughts as you move forward and you're going to be doing some teaching, and your role, maybe it's not going to look the same as maybe it once did where maybe you were in a full time coaching role or having more time to coach with your colleagues. Like, what does that look like, sound like to you?

Laura Tomas: Well, as you were talking about lesson study, I was thinking, I think I've probably done more lesson studies but informally than formal. When I was meeting with the fifth grade math teachers for PLCs, there were three of us. We would get together and especially during the fractions unit that, oof, that was one of our favorite ones because we all came at it at different ways. I'd say, "Okay, but how can we show it visually? How can we show it concretely?" Because the way that the three of us were thinking about it abstractly were actually different from each other.
Kind of like we would end up doing number talks, right? And say, "Oh, we all got the same answer. How did you get there?" I was able to bring in the fraction strips or bars or whatnot and say, "Okay, how can we model this physically? And how can we model it visually?" That way I brought them into the CRA. I think I've probably done so many lessons studies without calling it a lesson study.

Jon Orr: True. Yeah. I think you're doing a lot to help the teachers that you're working with by bringing them ideas and also kind of coaching them along and taking lessons that you've learned in the classroom and bringing them to those interactions with those teachers. I think in your new role at your new school, you'll keep doing all of that. That's evidently clear from the conversations we're having now.
I'm wondering right now, Laura, in the conversations we've had here today but also stretching back to our... one from a year ago. What's the big takeaway that you've had in the conversations but also maybe just a big takeaway you've learned in the last year?

Laura Tomas: I think the biggest takeaway is to just keep the door open for friends and family and anybody, the general population, to just keep learning. I've done a lot of parent book clubs and this year I took Hillary and Matthew's book, Adding Parents to the Equation and I started a book club for parents in January. There were three of us the first time, six of us the next time, nine of us the following time, and then the pandemic hit.
I think we would have had a little more but the parents were so open and appreciative to learn all the new strategies that we're teaching kids and they got to see it in a new way. I think just keeping my mind open, my heart open, my ears open to have people know they can come to me as a resource and if I don't know, it I'll be the first one to say, "I have no idea, but I will sit right down next to you and figure it out with you."

Kyle Pearce: I think that's such a huge takeaway. You had also mentioned going back to the lesson study. Lesson study, sometimes we formalize processes or procedures or structures in education and sometimes by formalizing or over formalizing, it can sometimes get in the way. I really like how you've sort of said, it's like, you've been doing it but maybe haven't been calling it that way.
Something else that kind of pops into my mind as well as just this idea of, to continue this work on and focusing on clearing that path, you had mentioned that on those green sheets, a lot of people or some people you had said got together... it was almost like they knew that you were a great person to vent with and I think that's really connected to the work that you're currently working on. Like when someone comes and vents, that means that there is a challenge. There's a problem there, but maybe they're having a hard time articulating it, right?
Usually when we're venting, venting about a problem that we sort of wish would just go away. By kind of focusing in on clearing that path and constantly thinking about what we can do to help them, I think you're going to continue doing great work in your school and probably beyond by focusing in on like, what is in the way of each and every educator's path, be it mathematics or be it something else in their teaching day. That's the big takeaway I'm taking from this conversation and it sounds like you've got many more paths that you're setting yourself up to help clear.
The best part is, is clearing the path. It really is the educator themselves who are going to clear it. You're just helping them to identify it and you're just helping them a little bit with the planning and the actual job of moving that out of the way. I'm really liking that. I feel really positive for how things have come for you over this past year and hopefully into the future. We appreciate you helping add a few books to our list. We've got one to add to our list. We will include all the books you mentioned, but Get Better Faster is going to be one that I add to my list and we'll also include links to daring to lead as well as Adding Parents to the Equation. We'll have those in there.
Before we wrap up here, I'm wondering, can you remind the math moment makers, where can they reach out to Laura to get connected? Maybe it's for a hug or maybe it's for some math collaboration. Where can they get in touch with you? Laura

Laura Tomas: The easiest place would be on Twitter and I'm @iteachthewhy, W-H-Y.

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. We'll throw that in the show notes. Plus we'll put links to your podcast in the show notes.

Laura Tomas: Thank you.

Jon Orr: We're excited to listen to that. If you're listening to this one, get over there and have a listen to Laura over on her podcast. We'll throw that in there, but thanks Laura for joining us here on this episode and we wish all the best in your upcoming school year.

Laura Tomas: Thank you. You guys as well and once again, thank you not only for having me on your podcast but for continuing to put out these podcasts. They're so beneficial.

Jon Orr: Oh, thanks so much.

Kyle Pearce: Thanks so much here, Laura. We wish you all the best and I'm sure we will be staying in touch. We'll talk to you soon and have an awesome rest of your day.

Laura Tomas: You too.

Kyle Pearce: As always both John and I learned so much from these Math Mentoring Moment episodes and it's great to check in with our friend, Laura, but in order to ensure that we hang on to all of this new learning, we must reflect on what we've learned. An excellent way to ensure this new learning sticks is to reflect and create a plan for yourself to take action on something that stuck with you here today.

Jon Orr: A great way to hold yourself accountable is write it down or even better, share with someone, your partner, a colleague, a Math Moment Makers community member, or by commenting on the show notes page, or hey, tag us on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or all those social media places, or in our free private Facebook group, Math Moment Makers K to 12.

Kyle Pearce: And before you go, remember that we have our registration now open for The Concept Holding Your Students Back, Unlocking Key Understandings In Proportional Relationships To Reach Every Student. Our nine module comprehensive PD course will not only unpack the fundamental concepts for teaching proportional reasoning throughout, and this is like actually K through grade 10 so that you can close gaps with your students. We'll also show you and give you the lessons and resources to use in your classroom that can help you make it all happen.

Jon Orr: If you're interested in learning more about registering, be sure to check out, makemathmoments.com/proportions. If you're listening after the fall 2020 registration close, you can still head to make mathmoments.com/proportions to join the waiting list in order to get notified of your next opportunity to participate.

Kyle Pearce: And if you are interested in joining us for an upcoming Math Mentoring Moment episode, where you can share a big math class struggle, be sure to apply over at makemathmoments.com/mentor. Again, that's makemathmoments.com/mentor.

Jon Orr: In order to ensure you don't miss out on new episodes as they come out each Monday morning, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.

Kyle Pearce: Show notes and links to resources from this episode can be found at makemathmoments.com/episode93.

Jon Orr: 93.

Kyle Pearce: New Holy smokes. I can't believe. Yes. Seven away from 100. Again, makemathmoments.com/episode93 will get you all of those resources and even transcripts for this episode. Well, until next time, I'm Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.

Jon Orr: And a big high five for you.

powered by


Download the Cheat Sheets in PDF form so you can effectively run problem based lessons from a distance!

MMM From A Distance Cheat Sheets Smaller.001


There is a LOT to know, understand, and do to Make Math Moments From a Distance.

That’s why so many Math Moment Makers like YOU have joined the Academy for a month ON US!

You heard right: 30 days on us and you can cancel anytime. Dive into our distance learning course now…

Make Math Moments From A Distance Course
LEARN MORE about our Online Workshop: Making Math Moments That Matter: Helping Teachers Build Resilient Problem Solvers.

Thanks For Listening

To help out the show:



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Pedagogically aligned for teachers of K through Grade 12 with content specific examples from Grades 3 through Grade 10.

In our self-paced, 12-week Online Workshop, you'll learn how to craft new and transform your current lessons to Spark Curiosity, Fuel Sense Making, and Ignite Your Teacher Moves to promote resilient problem solvers.