Why Systemic Change In Mathematics Is So Hard

Throwing Spagetti At The Wall Isn’t Paying Off…


It is that time of the year where school districts and organizations are reflecting on the goals that were set the previous year and planning for the work that educators and system leaders will be striving for into the next.

The question we often ask the district leaders we support is whether they started boiling the water yet?

As much as it might be helpful, this article isn’t going to help you out with tonight’s recipe to feed the family (sorry about that).

What we are asking is whether the stakeholders across their organization are getting ready to cook up the mathematics goal setting tool that is most commonly used when engaging in mathematics improvement planning:


After meeting with over 100 district and organization mathematics leaders since we here at Make Math Moments began shifting our focus to supporting district leaders in their work to transform their organizational mathematics  programs, a mathematics facilitator from North Carolina said it best when she articulated the planning process as:

The annual mathematics planning meetings I’ve been a part of seem like we are just throwing spagetti against the wall to see what might stick related to our goal setting and focus for the next year.

Almost all calls we have been on involved a description of the mathematics improvement planning process taking place with a description that could be summarized synonymously as “throwing spagetti at the wall”.

District Mathematics Leaders: Ask Yourself…


  • How do you feel the mathematics improvement process is going in your organization?
  • Does your organization or school district have a clear, concise and well-communicated mathematics vision?
  • Do all stakeholders know the mathematics vision?
  • Do you have a sustainable professional development plan rooted in relevant, attainable, research-based and measurable goals?

If you said “no” to any (or all) of the above, don’t sweat. You’re not alone.

However, when we say “no” to any (or all) of the above, then chances are that the mathematics teachers in your district are likely working on one or more disconnected pieces of effective mathematics instruction that are likely leading only to pockets of success rather than systemic change in mathematics teaching practice and student achievement across your organization.

How District Mathematics Leaders Can Help

There are only 180 days in a typical school year, so of course time is valuable and we know you want to help push math teaching practice forward. Therefore, if your organization is not taking steps to craft and align specific goals now, then it is likely that next year at this time you’ll be still wondering how you’re going to make the changes and shifts you need to make to improve your mathematics program.

So what can mathematics consultants, curriculum directors, math facilitators, school principals, superintendents and directors do to help move from “pockets” of success to systemic change across their organization?

Ensure that your mathematics leadership team begins clarifying your organizational mathematics vision, crafting clear mathematics goals and identifying objectives that will be measured with key results over time.

Sounds easy, right?

We know this work is hard and that is why we have a free live webinar on Tuesday May 17th, 2023 that you can register for to get a massive head start on this work with your team.

What you’ll learn and achieve:

  • Why teaching math is hard and how you can make it easier for the educators you support;
  • What matters most when designing high quality math professional development; and,
  • How to set realistic and measurable goals that drive sustainable change in math education.


After taking action in this webinar you will be well on your way to ensure that at this time next year, you’ll have a year’s worth of measurable key results that help you truly know whether the work you and your organization are doing is contributing towards improving student achievement.

A massive problem we experience in education (not just mathematics education) is how we craft goals without real intentionality and expect change to almost magically take place.

Let’s take a moment here to notice and name that expecting a change without making change is the definition of insanity.

I know, it sounds harsh. I did it for 10+ years in my role as a district mathematics leader. Let’s cut that time down for you and your team to start getting a real, sustainable plan in place.

If you can’t make the date live, we’d encourage you to still register as you’ll automatically receive the replay for you to engage in on-demand.

Think you and your team could use a free individualized session where our team helps you identify some of your most significant challenges and craft next steps? Book a free call with our team now so we can help you take the next step.

Let’s do something now so you can scratch spagetti off of your organization’s grocery list.


Shifting Teacher Practice That truly Drives Student Achievement.

Create a direct and clear vision for mathematics improvement in your district and your teacher's pedagogical practice will shift from "I do, we do, you do" to a model that builds resilient problem solvers from grades K-12.


A Webinar For District Leaders Making Decisions for Math Programming.


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.

Your Customized Improvement Plan For Your Math Classroom.
Take the 12 minute assessment and you'll get a free, customized plan to shape and grow the 6 parts of any strong mathematics classroom program.
Take The Free Assessment
District leader/math coach? Take the District Assessment