Why Math Professional Development One-Offs Won’t Cut It

For about 10 years prior to the pandemic, Jon and I had been travelling to districts all over North America and beyond to deliver professional development for K-12 educators of mathematics. First, working for Apple as a part of their math professional development team and later, as independent consultants helping districts make transformations to their math pedagogical approach and to build mathematics content knowledge.

Although we enjoyed all of the connections made and excitement we inspired through those experiences, we try our best to avoid delivering math professional development sessions in this format we call “The One-Off“.

Don’t get me wrong: The One-Off approach is really helpful for districts who are at the beginning of their math professional learning journey towards shifting the math mindsets of their educators and inspiring them to see that math class can look different than the one they remember.

The struggle we have with The One-Off approach is what happens after we leave?

  1. What will the next steps be for educators?
  2. How will the work continue?
  3. What will implementation look like?

While we all wish that The One-Off was all we need to inspire and implement new ideas in the math classroom, the reality is that anything worth while is hard.

It takes time, effort and continuous support.

That is why we tend to reserve our time travelling to schools and districts that do not want The One-Off to be their “quick fix” for their math class woes.

Instead, we work with districts to plan their long- and short-range professional learning plans which may involve in-person or virtual sessions, access to the on-going self-paced learning in our Academy, and routine touch-point meetings with district math leaders to ensure they feel supported through the process.

So, maybe you’re wanting to ditch The One-Off approach to mathematics professional development, but you’re wondering what it might look like for your district.

There is no easy answer to this as every district is unique having unique educators and students, while also planning from very different places along their unique professional learning journey.

If your district is just beginning the journey to shift from an approach that is highly teacher centred to student centred, this might look like:

  1. Kick-off workshop that begins with “why” a shift in mindset  around what it means to be mathematically proficient and how we can help more students get there;
  2. Work with our planning team to debrief after the kick-off workshop and plan forward;
  3. District math leads (coaches, consultants) continuing to lead the work using a course such as our Building Resilient Problem Solvers Online Workshop or How To Transform Your Textbook Into A Curiosity Machine to deepen their own learning and guide the focus; and,
  4. End of year wrap-up session to consolidate learning throughout that particular school year and continue the next steps for the next school year.

For another district that has been focused on engaging students and shifting towards a problem based learning model might have already made the necessary mindset shifts and needs more support in crafting a path as a district to follow.

If your district is still stuck using The One-Off approach to mathematics professional learning, you’re not alone! This is the approach most districts are still using each year, despite little to no pedagogical or content knowledge change taking place afterwards.

Over the last week alone, Jon and I have received four (4) requests to do “One-Off” professional learning sessions for four (4) different districts in four (4) completely different parts of North America.

Do you know what we said?

Of course you do.

The answer we gave was:


Of course, we elaborated describing how we are simply finished flying all over North America and beyond to allow districts to waste professional learning funds on an ineffective professional learning model.

Now, don’t get me wrong: would participants be engaged and excited to continue on their math professional development journey?

Of course!

Would they learn something?


But the most important question should be:

Will educators make a true shift in their teaching practice 1 week, 1 month or 1 year from now?

Sadly, the research would suggest that the answer is: “no”.

That is why the Make Math Moments Team is focusing on districts who are committed to doing real learning, for real implementation and for real long-term impact.

Are you and your district professional development planning team members tired of reinventing your math learning plan each year only to be disappointed with the lack of true classroom impact?

If so, then we want to chat with you to learn more about your district professional learning challenges and how the Make Math Moments District Mentorship Program can help you reach your dream outcome for mathematics classrooms district wide.

And before we go, I have a couple questions for you to think on:

  1. How many “One-Off” math professional development sessions has your district engaged in over the past 5 years?
  2. How much influence or impact do you think that work has had on mathematics programming across your district?

Let us know in the comments below and we look forward to talking to you or a Math Mentor from your district real soon.

Resources Related To The Video

Want to Run Problem Based Lessons Without a Hitch In Your Classroom?

Head over to the Make Math Moments 3-Part Framework page to dive right in or click below to download the guidebook to take with you!


Why not bring the 3-Part Framework Guidebook with you?

Download the PDF so you can share with your professional learning network via print or email!


Each lesson consists of:

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson consists of a Teacher Guide to lead you step-by-step through the planning process to ensure your lesson runs without a hitch!

Each Teacher Guide consists of:

  • Intentionality of the lesson;
  • A step-by-step walk through of each phase of the lesson;
  • Visuals, animations, and videos unpacking big ideas, strategies, and models we intend to emerge during the lesson;
  • Sample student approaches to assist in anticipating what your students might do;
  • Resources and downloads including Keynote, Powerpoint, Media Files, and Teacher Guide printable PDF; and,
  • Much more!

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson begins with a story, visual, video, or other method to Spark Curiosity through context.

Students will often Notice and Wonder before making an estimate to draw them in and invest in the problem.

After student voice has been heard and acknowledged, we will set students off on a Productive Struggle via a prompt related to the Spark context.

These prompts are given each lesson with the following conditions:

  • No calculators are to be used; and,
  • Students are to focus on how they can convince their math community that their solution is valid.

Students are left to engage in a productive struggle as the facilitator circulates to observe and engage in conversation as a means of assessing formatively.

The facilitator is instructed through the Teacher Guide on what specific strategies and models could be used to make connections and consolidate the learning from the lesson.

Often times, animations and walk through videos are provided in the Teacher Guide to assist with planning and delivering the consolidation.

A review image, video, or animation is provided as a conclusion to the task from the lesson.

While this might feel like a natural ending to the context students have been exploring, it is just the beginning as we look to leverage this context via extensions and additional lessons to dig deeper.

At the end of each lesson, consolidation prompts and/or extensions are crafted for students to purposefully practice and demonstrate their current understanding. 

Facilitators are encouraged to collect these consolidation prompts as a means to engage in the assessment process and inform next moves for instruction.

In multi-day units of study, Math Talks are crafted to help build on the thinking from the previous day and build towards the next step in the developmental progression of the concept(s) we are exploring.

Each Math Talk is constructed as a string of related problems that build with intentionality to emerge specific big ideas, strategies, and mathematical models. 

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

MMM Unit - Snack Time Fractions Unit


Partitive Division Resulting in a Fraction

Shot Put Multi Day Problem Based Unit - Algebraic Substitution


Equivalence and Algebraic Substitution

Wooly Worm Race - Representing and Adding Fractions


Fractions and Metric Units


Scavenger Hunt - Data Management and Finding The Mean


Represent Categorical Data & Explore Mean

Downloadable resources including blackline mastershandouts, printable Tips Sheetsslide shows, and media files do require a Make Math Moments Academy Membership.

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!