Episode #96 : Focus & Grow – A Where Are They Now Math Mentoring Moment.
In another “Where are they now?” episode series we bring back on 5th grade math teacher Matt Makuch from Victoria BC. Matt’s back to talk about the changes he made in his classroom around Vertical non-permanent surfaces, anticipating student solutions, and differentiating his instruction to meet all levels of learners in his class.
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.
- How to help the varying levels of learners in your classroom;
- What it looks like to spiral your curriculum;
- How Vertical Non-Permanent surfaces can change your career!
- What we should really be focussing on when we’re planning our lessons.
Matthew Makuch: Still finding it hard to consolidate really consistently and figure out, I guess, a lot of the tasks that you guys have online are still targeted to middle school and all there. So sometimes simplifying it down to an elementary school level is tough and making sure I remember to lower the floor or find manipulatives, get all that stuff is still a challenge there too. One of the other things that really crosstalk
Kyle Pearce: In another where are they now Maths Mentoring Moment episode series, we bring back on fifth grade math teacher, Matt Makuch from Victoria, British Columbia. Matt's back to talk about the changes he's made in his classroom around vertical non-permanent surfaces, anticipating student solutions and differentiating his instruction to meet all levels of learners in his class.
Jon Orr: 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.
Kyle Pearce: All right, let's do it. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce from tapintoteenminds.
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 wants to build and deliver math lessons that spark curiosity, sense-making and ignite your teacher moves. Welcome everyone to episode number 96, Focus and Grow a where are they now Math Mentoring Moment with Matthew Makuch.
Jon Orr: Now, before we get to that interview with Matt, we want to remind you that you too can join us for an upcoming Math Mentoring Moment episode. In these episodes, we talk to teachers about real issues in their classrooms, and together we work through possible solutions. We know that our listeners, math educators like you will also get a lot of value out of the conversation by listening in on this conversation.
Kyle Pearce: If you have a struggle or an issue that you want to chat about and help others in the Math Moment Maker Community, why don't you head on over to makemathmoments.com/mentor and fill out a quick form. We look at each and every submission that comes in through the form, and we do our best to pick some of the most common challenges that those in the Math Moment Maker Community could be struggling with in their own classroom. So again, head on over to makemathmoments.com/mentor to apply.
Jon Orr: And we love hearing reviews roll in to Apple Podcasts. It keeps us fueled to keep going just like this one from Reggie2017, "I just needed to hear it. I have always felt this approach to teaching math would reach kids, but then I would hit the pitfalls and give up. I won't give up this time." Well, thanks to Reggie2017 for the awesome five star review and thoughtful review here. Just a couple sentences is all it takes to make these two guys smile.
Kyle Pearce: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, Jon, that's enough from us. Let's dive into this where are they now? Math Mentoring Moment episode with Matthew. Hey there, Matthew, welcome back to the Making Math Moments that Matter Podcast. It has been for ever since folks who are listening to the podcast have heard your voice. You were in the, what? Single digit episodes, or maybe in the teens, something like that?
Jon Orr: I think the teens.crosstalk
Matthew Makuch: Yeah, 17.
Jon Orr: 17.
Kyle Pearce: Oh, my gosh I think when this goes live, we're going to be over 100 episodes, which is just mind blowing. Jon and I are constantly reminded of how crazy it is to have come this far with the podcast, but we wanted to reach out to you and touch base because we see what you're up to on Twitter. You're so active, so committed to professional learning, and we wanted to get back in touch with you and see how things are going in your world. How are things over in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world, but obviously one of the most beautiful places in Canada as well out in British Columbia?
Matthew Makuch: Going really well here. We are hopefully easing back into regular school. We're just getting ready for the summer holidays, but optimistic that we will have students in class in September. We've just finished a month of partial attendance for students, but it's been fun to get back into the teaching face-to-face after several months of online. So it's been great and having listened to the podcast for a year and a half now, taking all kinds of new ideas, it's been wonderful.
Jon Orr: We were just talking before we hit record that we chatted with you and recorded that episode 17 before the podcast was even live. So that's been a long time since we've chatted. Actually, we want to chat about a few different things on this episode. We want to see how it's going for you since the last time we chatted and then also help you with any set of new struggles that you're having. But before we get into that, I'm actually really curious, Matthew, and I hope you feel comfortable enough to chat about it since we here in Ontario have not been back in the classroom, working with students. We would love to hear about what your thoughts are on going back to the classroom and how that's been going with the say, small groups of students that you've had so far. Would you mind sharing with us a little bit about what that looks like for people who have never been in that situation or in might be come September and then how it's going for you?
Matthew Makuch: Well, I think it's important to say that we went back with a month to go and so there was a definite end point there and there wasn't a curriculum crunch. Nobody was saying, "Get back and make sure you can make up for lost time," or anything like that. So in that sense, it's been a real pleasure to just take the time to connect with the kids, to take time to have lengthy chats with a group. I teach French Immersion so the focus was try to get some oral language happening again for these guys and then to review a little bit of what we've done and try to, for me, before I say goodbye to the grade fives on their way to middle school, to try to make sure that they have some of those key visual concepts, the groundings of the operations and everything before I pass them on and they go more on the symbolic and it's been interesting just having them in.
At first, everyone was quite nervous and we're lucky being, again, on Vancouver Island, we're in a better situation than even a lot of the rest of the province, but routines take so much more time. Coming in takes a good 10 minutes because they come in, they wash their hands, they sit down and you go for... anywhere they just wash hands, wash, hands, wash hands, and nine, 10 kids that takes five minutes. So inaudible to that. So the pace has been slow, it's been relaxed, it's been really enjoyable with small groups here. I'm not sure how it's going to be in the fall with the curriculum pressure and everything like that.
The other hard thing is any individual teaching or supporting when kids are working is very difficult. You can't really peer over their shoulder from two meters away. So that's a challenge and I'm glad that we haven't had a lot of that assessment pressure either this term. Our report cards are basically copy paste from the second term. So going forth, that will be an interesting thing to figure out how to adjust to.
Kyle Pearce: Something that just popped into my mind as you were sharing and just the routine pieces and I've had some conversations with some decision makers, some of our senior administration around what it might look like in our particular district where I am here in Ontario, Jon being a neighboring district may choose to do things a little differently, but for some time I was thinking, this was back at the beginning of May and I was thinking, "Even if things got better, let's say all the numbers were better and we could get back." In my mind I was wondering, "Would it really make sense to go back in June?"
And based on what you're saying, I could see there being a huge value in having this time to come back and essentially work through some of the kinks with maybe less pressure you had said. It wasn't like you're coming in and it's a brand new school year, it's students that you'd worked with before. So you're coming back, you have a smaller class sizes and like you're saying, trying to get your head wrapped around all those routines. I don't think anyone who isn't currently teaching in this, we'll call it this new world, or at least a new temporary world, depending on how long some of these precautions are going to be going on.
You can plan for it in your mind or prepare as best you can but I think until you get in there and start actually quote unquote, getting your hands dirty, which is the opposite of, I guess, what kids will be doing, but unless you get in there, I think teachers that are going back in, whether it's an August for some places in the US or in September like here in Ontario, it's going to take some time to get those routines down. I'm wondering in your mind before we get back and talk a little bit about what you shared with us in episode 17 and build on that, I'm curious, like what's going on in your mind right now, as you're working your way through these last few weeks of school, this being the last week of school here in Ontario, I think it's similar in BC. What are you thinking as maybe thinking about how you can use this and build on it for September? What sort of things are you reflecting on or trying to work on in that particular regard?
Matthew Makuch: I guess the biggest challenge is just trying to be efficient and also looking forward to some type of a hybrid model, the idea of front loading things, or maybe I give out some assignments or some practice or something like that before I do the in class teaching or vice versa. I front load everything and then have to send them home with a lot of stuff to work on in their other part of the week where they're at home or something like that. And that's the challenge of being organized enough and having the foresight to do things and not overload.
It's just a ton of organizational work on that piece there. So that's the challenge to think about just when you were talking Jon or Kyle as well, the idea of getting this one month was really valuable, not only for the teachers, I think, but for the students. There was enough anxiety for a lot of students coming into a new classroom in September and without having been in a class in almost six months would be very difficult for some of them. So I think it's really good for them to be in here as well.
Jon Orr: Right. And we didn't obviously get to that and our students aren't going to have that advantage. So yeah, there's going to be lots of extra patience for our teachers and our students coming in and warming things up as we go. So we'll be keeping tabs on that for sure. Matthew, as we get into stretching back to our previous episode with you episode 17, we want to want to find out how things have been going for you this year, even though we've been off from middle of March, thinking about your last say year and a half from when we last chatted. When we chatted that time, we talked about good resources to use in our classroom, we talked about the challenges of implementing notice and wonder in your classroom, we also chatted about perspectives to teaching in general, but we'd like to know how it's been going since then. Like what are some successes and maybe some changes you had along your journey here?
Matthew Makuch: The biggest thing has been the podcast and like you mentioned, when we first recorded the first one, I didn't even know that we are going to be on a podcast and it hadn't started yet. But having that as a weekly thing to tap into whether I'm driving or running or wherever has kept me really, really up to speed on where I want to go. Given me new ideas all the time and again, like I mentioned in the first podcast, I'm a generalist teacher so trying to balance my professional development amongst all the subjects, it's been really nice to have my foot in the door with the podcast there. And it's been really neat too, I reached out to the Twitter community and the Facebook community and Kirsten Dyck from Saskatchewan who was on... came back to me and gave me some ideas and we had a long exchange on Twitter.
We were going back and forth for well over an hour on a couple of different occasions, I think just trading ideas and suggestions and stuff. So it's been really neat. The resources that you have shared, whether it's inaudible, playing with perfect numbers or the James Tanton exploding dots stuff, there's been so much stuff that I've managed to integrate all over in my teaching practice. The biggest one I think was Peter Liljedahl's that's in the Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces and the Visibly Random Groupings, which I really enjoyed. Also got introduced to Christina Tondevold in the Building Math Minds and did her course this past winter. So it's been a really good year and a half in terms of growth and trying new things and being able to easily stay focused in the math professional development while doing other things as well.
Kyle Pearce: Nice. That's fantastic. One thing that I have to say is coming back to you had mentioned being a generalist teacher and really I have to commend you for how committed you are to trying to ensure that you're growing, not only in one subject area. Like for Jon and I, we hunkered down here in math. I can only imagine if we were trying to dig as deep in all the subject areas so that you can provide such a well rounded program. So hats off to you for that. And it's fantastic to hear all of the different resources that you're hearing and you're implementing, you're even reaching out to people like Kirsten's amazing, awesome individual. Anyone else who liked listening to her episode definitely reach out to her. Obviously they can reach out to you, Matthew, knowing you and your personality. I'm wondering if we go back to after that first podcast episode, or after that first time we were chatting, you had just come out of the online workshop and you were slowly transforming the way you were delivering your math curriculum.
It sounded like before you entered into the online workshop, you were already making these changes and you just sort of needed a little bit of that framework to help you guide you down that path. And when you came out, you'd talked about the Notice and Wonder Protocol. I'm curious, specific to that. How has it gone thinking way back to when you first started implementing Notice and Wonder and some of those challenges and when you do them now, and I'm even curious, are you able to do them now, now that you're back in school and you've brought this group in. Is it easier to do now? Are you seeing things happening or feeling like it's more natural or are there still some of those roadblocks there that you're still working your way through?
Matthew Makuch: No, I think that it's becoming again more and more of the common classroom culture. It's just an accepted piece of how we do things. It's been now better part of a year and a half and so whenever we talk about what do you notice, what do you wonder, we've been doing it cross curricular too in different things. Kids are coming out with things all the time. Things that I expect, things that I don't expect. Thinking back to the course, some other things that I've definitely changed and that has been the idea of anticipating student solutions and being able to plan better on what I'm going to use a particular task for or something like that. Still finding it hard to consolidate really consistently and figure out, I guess, a lot of the tasks that you guys have online are still targeted to middle school and all there.
So sometimes simplifying it down to an elementary school level is tough and making sure I remember to lower the floor, find manipulatives, get all that stuff is still a challenge there too. One of the other things I've really, really learned to notice, and I chatted with you guys as well about this is that I have one particular student who I really felt had a really good concrete understanding of math and knew what he was doing, knew what had to be done whereas some others would have a really good procedural understanding and would just fly through things, but they're just going in circles, spinning their wheels with calculations. So this one student I looked at and it really helped because we actually went further down the learning services route and found out that there was a developmental learning challenge there for him. And so we were able to address his strengths and figure out on what he actually needs the practice on. So thank you for that.
Jon Orr: That sounds like a great story there to even dive into itself. I want to stretch back a little bit to a couple of things you mentioned. One, saying that in our workshop, we have a whole module about the moves that teachers need to make before lessons and during lessons and after lessons. And you mentioned one of the steps from the five practices, which we talk about a lot, which is the anticipating student solutions. I'm wondering Matthew, if you want to chat about this just for a moment, because I've always found this to be one of the most beneficial pieces I've learned along the way too, being able to anticipate those solutions beforehand so that in the lesson, I'm a little bit more flexible to work with students.
And I'm curious to know, I guess two things, one is before you did the anticipation stage, so think back before that and thinking about all that, what did that look like? And then how did the classroom flow during that time? But then also after you learn about the anticipation stage, what did that allow you to do easier in the classroom once you've had that learning.
Matthew Makuch: I guess before I would be more quick to jump in and rescue a student, instead of see where they're going with something. More quick to redirect them in the way that I wanted them to go. This task is meant for multiplication, this is what we're doing instead of seeing where they're heading with that. And you've mentioned the coaching habit several times, and I know that each time I've heard it mentioned, I'm trying to notice that I am spending more time listening to students and less time telling them what to do. And that's one of the things that's on my dresser right now to read this summer is that book because I've heard it referred to so much.
Now it's a lot easier to just have the patience to watch kids go different ways and I think that's transferred onto the students as well, that they know they can start in different ways. We watched some of the Jo Boaler videos at the beginning of the year about how to start problems, simplify them, draw them, talk it out, that type of thing. I think almost every problem that I probably used in grade four or five has been something that can be solved or represented in a table. So there's almost a go to for the students to start with and they all have that, but then they might jump to shortcuts and things like that, that I've anticipated.
Kyle Pearce: That to me is huge. Hearing you say that you're doing more listening, instead of that telling it, it's almost like what we try to help other educators see because it took Jon and I so long for us to make this connection was that the work we're trying to do, it's not an add-on it's simply shifting around the order in which things are happening and we've referred to it sometimes as like the real flipped classroom, right? So it's giving kids that awesome exploration time, that time to tinker and then we can do that consolidating after. And you've mentioned some great resources here. I'm wondering out of curiosity, Matthew, I know that a lot of people who are listening at home and who are maybe closer to where you were the first time you were on the podcast, or maybe even earlier in your journey, because you had already engaged in that 12 week online workshop with Jon and I.
So you had really put in a lot of effort at that point to open up your mind to maybe a different way to engage your students and to fuel their sense-making. I'm wondering about planning, how has your planning process changed? And I wonder if maybe you can do a little bit of a compare and contrast because I'm going to go on a limb here and think that when you go to change your practice, planning tends to feel or actually take a lot longer because it's something that's not routine to us. It requires a lot more thinking, maybe a lot more uncertainty at first. Do you mind maybe comparing and contrasting what that might've felt like early in this journey versus now? Is it the same? Do you feel like it's become maybe more routine? I'm really curious to get your perspective on that and I'm sure people at home are also wondering.
Matthew Makuch: I don't know if this is where you're heading or not, but I mentioned too last time we chatted that I'm interested in spiraling and I still don't think I'm doing a good job of it, but I'm trying there. So before the planning was all very linear, it was okay, this is the next activity check, check it off, done it, done it, done it. Whereas now it's trying to think about concepts for a week or for a two week period at a time and making sure that I do identify those cross-curricular or cross-unit pieces there. As far as time and planning, I think the hard challenge is to make sure that I don't go too far ahead of myself because things always take longer than you anticipate, but at the same time, trying to make sure that I don't leave something off there that is mentioned. I've tried to do better planning in terms of my lesson times this year.
I know that you have talked about a warm ups as a mapping that might be connected to the current topic, or it might be completely different and help with that spiraling there. Before, I also found that I would get onto Steve White Barney's website and do an activity there or an estimation 180 and suddenly the math work would be not completely there. So trying to cut it off at 10 minutes and move on to something else is a point that I've tried to use this year. The other part of the planning that's really hard is making sure that I allow the time for the procedural practice with things and some form of assessment. That's the challenge there too. So it's hard to finish up, wrap up a three act task or a really engage in discussion or something like that, and then say, okay, hang on. Now I have really no idea who learned what and who was really quiet and that type of thing. So that's the challenge that's still there.
Jon Orr: I think lots of challenges from whenever we have like new learning and new trials, it opens up doors and opened up new challenges for us to tackle in. I think as long as we're open to accepting that we are going to have new challenges, we're always going to, and I think we'll just keep improving that way. It's one way that we keep improving is realizing there are these challenges that we have to overcome. So it sounds like you've got a great outlook on all of that and it sounds like this spiraling idea is really... You've caught onto that and some of the learning that you've done there so far has been worthwhile. In your opinion, since you've learned about spiraling, what is the biggest benefit for you and your class, your students?
Matthew Makuch: Well, this year, because we got cut off in March. The biggest benefit is I've touched on many things. The biggest pieces in a grade four or five curriculum, I think are the multiplication and division pieces too and going with a raise with basic facts right off the beginning of the year really helped when we went later into two digits times one digit and then three digit times, one digit and then two digit times two digits and progressed through that not all in one month, but over the course of three terms really that they could always go back to the first bit that we did using the same structure there. So that was really helpful.
Kyle Pearce: Oh, that's fantastic. Fantastic. So it sounds like and I'm going back to, when you first mentioned spiraling in this conversation, but you had said you still feel a little bit of that uncertainty there. I feel like people tend to feel this way for quite some time with spiraling until they've seen it through maybe a few times a handful of times, but you were saying like, whether you're doing it right. And I think that takes time to tinker with, to try, to pivot where you need to pivot. I'm wondering as you're looking ahead to next year, what's on your mind or I guess what in particular are you hoping to reflect on over this summer? Maybe it's about spiraling or maybe it's about something that's unrelated to spiraling, but what's on your mind right now that we might be able to riff on a little bit.
Matthew Makuch: It's probably bringing it back down from the whole class to the individual, making sure that my assessment is assessment for learning and it's individually based. It's not based on the class as a whole. Giving that time for procedural practice for everyone. Going back to those 100 charts and the number lines. But the challenge I guess, is that some kids are not needing those things at all whereas others are completely dependent on them and even need support with those tools. So diversifying, differentiating the instruction for all the levels within the class is challenge.
Jon Orr: I think everyone listening right now, no matter what grade they're teaching, high school, even post-secondary, elementary, kindergarten are thinking and nodding their heads that that is a common challenge that we have is that many students need this resource or need this help here, but then this person doesn't and how do we differentiate that learning, but also that instruction and that assessment all for that individual student. So a big challenge there to think about. Now, Matthew well, something that we always ask our guests when we are chatting with them about struggles is this one, is what have you done so far to help that struggle in your classroom right now? So if the struggle is, how do I balance this time in my classroom to help these students when they need this resource, but not, or this support, but these ones don't. What have you done so far to help address that?
Matthew Makuch: I guess the biggest one would be the Peter Liljedahl's stuff, the Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces, the Visibly Random Groupings. I noticed one student that I had, he's been in my class two years and he's really, really strong individually in math. Beginning it was hard for him to represent in multiple ways, but he embraced the challenge and I heard him a couple of weeks ago, pure tutoring a student just saying, "What are some of the other strategies that Mr. Makuch has talked about?" Things like that. So fostering, that is one thing that I really want to continue doing. Another one is using the individual whiteboards just to have them do some practice or using my rainbow table and having the ones that I'm less sure of around there giving them more of a procedural thing to do. There's always making sure that we start with manipulatives and gradually go more symbolic.
Jo Boaler's Limitless Mind book mentions a diamond sheet. I don't know if you're familiar with that one. Basically, she's taking a piece of paper and then folding it up and then folding the corner so that there's a diamond in the middle and you write the equation down there. And then you have four different representations of the same equation rather than four different equations. And that's been really helpful for not just scaffolding the learning for the students, but also helping buy in some of the parents with the different ways of representing equations. They see the connections between different things and they're actually really on board with where we're going rather than maybe creating some blocks or something like that. So those are some of the things that I have done.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, that's a template that she uses. I've seen her do a few talks and it's really versatile as well, right? I mean, you can be representations, you can change what goes in the four corners and make it work. It reminds me a bit of all like a modified Frayer Model for those who are familiar with that. So that's fantastic. I'm wondering Matthew, going back to the vertical non-permanent, you had mentioned that that was something that you were trying to help with that differentiation piece. And I'm wondering, how do you feel that the vertical non-permanent surfaces are helping? Obviously you're still feeling like it's not solved the problem, but you feel like that's something that you've done. How do you feel that that's helped to get you closer to that end goal of differentiating for students who are at varying levels of readiness?
Matthew Makuch: I think it's giving them somebody to work with. One thing I did notice, and that that was mentioned with the visibly random groupings is the ideal size is three. I have really, really noticed that if I have a group of four, there is always somebody on the outside. So the triangle is the best form for that. Two is sometimes too tight, but it's nice to have them be able to all take ownership of a pen and somebody want to write, and it might not be the person who knows what they're doing. So the others are telling them what to do, that type of thing.
So it's getting everyone engaged. They're giving them a starting point together and some peer support with things. They like using the whiteboards and getting up and moving around so that always helps too with the engagement and then trying to bring it back together afterwards with everyone having a different way of using things.
Jon Orr: I agree with you that when the students are standing, working together at the whiteboards, it does seem to be the differentiated is relieved. You've got students working different points, but I think helping and chatting about with themselves is so helpful for them to see. I also love that they look around the room. It's like, I'm not sure exactly how to start this problem. Sometimes early, like if you're doing this in the beginning of the year or the first time you're doing this, kids are going to be like, "Am I allowed to look around the room?" And you're like, "Yes, this is part actually of the reason is that you can get seeing someone else's model or resource they're using or strategy they're putting into place can actually trigger some memory from you or give you a starting point," and be like, "Oh, that person's making a table to solve this problem. That means that's okay for me to also do that."
Because kids, in my classes in high school still are thinking, "Is this the way I'm supposed to solve it? What does the teacher want me to show?" And they get bogged down with that instead of just trying different strategies. And I find that if the strategies are visual across the room, then the equalizer, the part where we can all come together is that connect stage of the five practices where we can start to say, "Look, we've got a table solution over here and we've got another one that's more algebraic, but they're tied together in this way. Does everyone see that, that number, the same as this number over here?" And then you can work towards your learning goal.
If the learning goal was the table, you can say, "Hey, look we've got a little bit farther with this algebraic solution, but let's all focus on the table for a moment." Or if your learning goal was the algebraic version or the calculations that maybe in different grades, you can say, "Look at this strategy over here, actually connects to this strategy over here. Let's focus on this one over here and let's try another one." Everyone can go back to the wall and try that. I feel like it definitely allows that differentiation to happen so much more easier and I'm glad you brought it up. So I guess I'm wondering before, when you first said that is, you mentioned differentiator as a struggle, but I guess what's the real struggle Matthew, because I feel like you're doing a great job to help address that struggle. Is there something else that's underlying? Or maybe it's like, why do you think that that's a struggle for you?
Matthew Makuch: Well, I guess the underlying piece for the kids is their fluency. Their fact fluency and their procedural fluency with any type of operations or calculations, as well as the anxiety that some students present when they come up with math problems that are already there. I like what you said about stopping and looking where other students are. I definitely do that when I notice one or two groups having trouble. It's okay, everyone stop let's look around, take a look what other people are doing. What's the same, what's different and now go back to it. That's one of the things that I did want to do this year was build the procedural fluency up in the underlying number sense abilities. And that's one of the things that came out of that Build Math Minds courses, that there were a lot of visual representations and multiple representations using 10 frames and everything else. So that was really good for those students that are struggling a little bit more for me to branch off with the problem solving, the applied problem, the perseverance through the task, and then some concrete number sense routines.
Kyle Pearce: Right. And what I'm hearing it makes me wonder as well with, we mentioned it on the podcast all the time that Jon and I both still have so much more work to do in the content knowledge area and yet I feel like I'm so much further ahead than where I was a year ago, three years ago obviously when I first began teaching. I sort of hear that a bit in some of this challenge that you're sharing is that we as educators, unfortunately, many of us didn't have a really strong conceptual based education, or we started, we were told to memorize a procedure first. Teachers did their best to try to explain why it works and it actually needs to happen the other way around. So that becomes not only a struggle for us as teachers, but it makes it even harder for us to try to help students through some of those struggles.
So I'm hearing this idea that flexibility, that fluency with number and trying to build those in and it makes me wonder as well. And for those who are listening and listen quite often, you may or may not have had an opportunity. I know you Matthew have had an opportunity to out some of our problem based tasks, but now we also have some problem based units up on the Academy site that are open for people to explore and try out. Some are four day units, some are six day units, really nice little chunks of learning that can be thrown into a spiraled curriculum. And what you had me thinking about is finding ways to help students along that developmental trajectory, which is really tough for us to do because we have all this content floating around. We have that curriculum, we need to make sure that we're delivering and the word we hear educators use a lot is like they have to cover it.
And we're always advocating for this uncovering of the curriculum. However, we also have to be thinking of and cognizant and be aware of where students are along their own developmental journey. So building in those math talks, but finding a way to connect them to the learning that we're doing can sometimes be difficult. So that's been something that we're working on as a team, trying to add that to our Academy bank of problem-based units and lessons where we build in some math talks at all connect. I'm wondering if maybe that might be a good place to maybe spend a little bit of time play with. I know that you've done so many of our tasks. I'm wondering though, Matthew, have you had a chance to check out any of those problem-based units that we've put together?
Matthew Makuch: I have not. This is the first I've heard of it and I'm writing it down and circling it in big ink.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, we'll definitely flip a couple for you to check out. One I'll mention now because if I remember seeing on Twitter, Matthew, I think that you've engaged in the Donut Delight Tasks with your students before or at least a task.
Matthew Makuch: Oh, we like the donuts. Yes we have.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. I was going to say I'm like sometimes I get the task wrong, my memory doesn't serve me correctly, but that particular task we've actually expanded out into a six day unit. So that might be a good place for you in particular to start since you're already familiar with the task. Some people who are listening and they're going, "I just want to do one, three act math tasks." That might be their short term goal to try to implement a task into their teaching. You've done that many, many different times and now to me, it sounds like you're trying to connect it all and link it up and make those connections wherever you can. So I'm going to flip that. We'll put that link in the show notes as well for anyone who's listening and who's curious. Day 1 would be probably the Donut Delight Task and essentially the same form as you've probably used it in the past.
But then to start off Day 2, there's actually a number talk that you do that's actually building on the skills that students are utilizing throughout that particular unit. So it's all very connected and can maybe give you an opportunity to hone in a little bit more on that differentiation piece while students are working at the non-permanent surfaces. So that might be something that maybe could be like a short term goal. I know you've only got a few days left to school, but who knows, maybe you have a chance to check it out and try a couple of days of it and see how that goes with your students.
Matthew Makuch: Sounds like it might be something really good to just plug into my year plan though too, with the spiraling that this is what we're doing for that whole week or something like that.
Jon Orr: Yep. It'll definitely flow nice with spiraling. They're going to build for that too. So it'd be great to hear back about that too. Matthew, I'm wondering, you've done lots of learning. You're obviously sharing it here, you shared it on the last podcast, you've been a member of the Academy and also the workshop. You've done lots of learning, especially with the Christina's stuff too. I'm wondering what advice would current Matthew give to old teacher Matthew, knowing what you know now about teaching mathematics and the huge journey of transformation you've been on and are continuing on. So what would you say to old teacher Matthew?
Matthew Makuch: Listen to the podcast.
Kyle Pearce: We love that one.
Matthew Makuch: crosstalk and it keeps your foot in there and it's been interesting too, because that's what's starting to change here in the last year and a half is that I have two colleagues that did the Build Math Minds course with me. One of them is also listening to all the podcasts and catching up there. The other day another colleague mentioned, "Hey, I just heard you on a podcast." And I'm like, "What? Okay." And she's catching up, starting them number one and on number 17 now, or something like that. The virtual summits, there were several teachers in our building who participated in that. So that's the other piece is the collaboration, the sharing and it's nice that it's starting to come together across the classrooms here.
So advice would be to try to get somebody else involved, to listen to the podcast and to just try one task or just try the vertical non-permanent surfaces or something like that. Try to do something different, try a diamond sheet here or there. There's a lot of things, but just one thing at a time. Pick one and try to do it.
Kyle Pearce: I love that advice. Obviously the podcast, the reason we put that together, we've mentioned it before is just a way for people to stay connected, but I think you just nailed it. One of the most important pieces is it can feel so overwhelming trying to change practice. It doesn't matter what subject area it is. Making change is really, really hard on our brains and I really like that idea of just taking off one little piece, trying one little thing and seeing where it takes you. And I think it's one of those things where for Jon and I, when we began this journey, it began as one little thing and that led to the next piece and it led to the next piece. So that's some great advice for those who were at home. Matthew, you had mentioned how you've connected with Kirsten Dyck, from having been on the podcast and her having on the podcast and now there's a little bit of a connection there. Where could folks who are listening those Math Moment Makers, if they want to reach out and connect with you, where can they reach out with Matthew?
Matthew Makuch: I'm on Twitter @MakuchMatthew, that's probably the best way. I'm trying to think if there's anything else I am on the Academy, except I have not been checking my messages there regularly. So the best way would be through Twitter.
Jon Orr: We'll put that in the show notes and I'm sure you will have some people reach out to you soon if they are inclined to. But Matthew, we want to thank you so much for joining us here on this episode of the podcast and we are pumped to chat with you again and also a hope that you enjoy your summer as we're getting into summer even though people listening to this now will probably be after summer or middle of summer, but thanks so much Matthew, and enjoy the rest of your day.
Kyle Pearce: Thanks so much, Matthew.
Matthew Makuch: Thank you.
Jon Orr: Well, there you have it, Matt Makuch from Victoria, BC. Matt, we know you're listening to this and we want to say one more time, thanks. We appreciate you and we look forward to having you back on the show again in the future to see how you progress on your journey.
Kyle Pearce: This was another Math Mentoring Moment episode with many more to come where we will have a conversation with a member of the Making Math Moments that Matter Community, just like you, who's working through a challenge and together we try to brainstorm ideas and next steps to overcome it.
Jon Orr: If you want to join us on the podcast for an upcoming Math Mentoring Moment episode, where you two can share a big math class struggle, you can apply over at makemathmoments.com/mentor. That's makemathmoments.com/mentor.
Kyle Pearce: In order to ensure you don't miss out on any new episodes as they come out each week, be sure to smash, hammer, drive that subscribe button on your favorite podcasting platforms. So you don't miss any of the awesomeness.
Jon Orr: Also, if you're liking what you're hearing, please share the podcast with a colleague, help us reach a wider audience by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts. It really helps the show, make it to new teachers years. So take a minute right now and hit the write a review button and leave us a five star review. Everyone makes our day.
Kyle Pearce: Show notes and links to resources along with full transcripts can be downloaded from the show notes page at makemathmoments.com/episode96. Jon, episode 96, we got four more to hit 100.
Jon Orr: Hit 100.
Kyle Pearce: Yes, again, that's makemathmoments.com/episode96.
Jon Orr: You can also find Make Math Moments on all social media platforms and seek out our free private Facebook group, Math Moment Makers K-12.
Kyle Pearce: Well, until next time everyone, I'm Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High fives for us, and high five for you.
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