Math is Figure-Out-Able with Pam Harris

Ep 104: Things We Have Learned

June 14, 2022 Pam Harris Episode 104
Math is Figure-Out-Able with Pam Harris
Ep 104: Things We Have Learned
Show Notes Transcript

It's our two year anniversary! We are so grateful you've spent this time with us. In this episode Pam and Kim discuss openly things they've learned and how they've grown during their journey as math teacher educators.
Talking Points:

  • It's not 'Pam Math', it's Real Math and developing mathematicians!
  • Coaching teachers is about mentoring, not just telling
  • The importance of a common vocabulary - Check out Episodes 58 and 101
  • Empowering teachers and leaders through Journey and Journey Leader
  • Deep dive online workshops for Kindergarten through middle school
  • Building Powerful Linear Functions for high school coming soon!
Pam Harris:

Hey fellow mathematicians, you're listening to the podcast where math is Figure-Out-Able. I'm Pam Harris,

Kim Montague:

And I'm Kim Montague.

Pam Harris:

And you found a place where mathematizing is not about memorizing and mimicking, waiting to be told or shown what to do. But mathematizing is about making sense of problems. Noticing patterns and reasoning using mathematical relationships. Y'all we can mentor mathematicians as we co-create meaning together. Not only are algorithms not particularly helpful in teaching mathematics, but rotely repeating steps actually keep students from being the mathematicians they can be. Y'all. This is our 104th episode. Two years of the Math is Figure-Out-Able. Podcast. We are so excited. What a fantastic journey. Owww!

Kim Montague:

Pam, I cannot believe that you have roped me in two years already. That's gone by so fast.

Pam Harris:

It has in some ways, so fast in some ways, not as fast with the whole pandemic and everything. But, Kim, I just want to thank you for being the push behind this. I knew there's no way that I could do a podcast on my own because it wouldn't have happened because yeah I'll just tell our listeners pretty much this. This happens because Kim says, "Pam, sit down. Open your calendar. We are scheduling a time to plan the next podcast. We are scheduling a time to record the next podcast." And because she does that we actually do. And then the podcast is here. So thank you, Kim, for joining me in this wonderful journey. I think we're having fun. Alright, let's tell everybody about today's episode.

Kim Montague:

Okay, so in this episode, we thought that we would actually reflect on things that we've talked about, and also our professional growth over the years. So here's a chance for us to kind of look back and see where we're headed

Pam Harris:

And be a little vulnerable about some things to. that we've learned. To be clear, teaching is a profession where you're never done. And teaching teachers is teaching and that we recognize that there are things that we learned. There are things we improve that we tweak, and we thought would be a little clearer about that today. We'll just sort of talk about some things that we've done early on that we don't do anymore, and that we do better now. So one of those things has everything to do with some of the language that we use now, the way that we talk about math. You'll notice that in the intro, we talked about mathematizing. Sometimes we'll talk about Real Math. So one of the things that we learned really early on when I very first started on my journey into numeracy, I was teaching high school math, my kids were growing up. And I started working with my kids' teachers, and just really doing things in my own personal kids' classrooms. And then the school got wind of it. I started doing some professional learning with a school. And then the district got wind and I started doing professional development with the district. We had about, what I think 11 elementaries at the time? And so I was doing a lot of professional learning with a lot of teachers. And I started hearing teachers say things like 'Pam math', or oh, you know, like I'm doing 'Pam math', or I'm not doing that 'Pam math'. Or we were at that point in time, the best resource that we had found, what was really sort of guiding a lot of what we were doing was Investigations in Data Number and Space, which is a fantastic resource. And especially at the time, I think it was the best thing that was out there. And we started hearing teachers say, "Oh, 'Investigations math'. We do Investigations math here." And for a while, it bothered me. And I wasn't quite sure why. I was trying to figure out what was sort of tweaking me about that. And I began to realize this sounds kind of, I don't know, too much humorous or something, but that I wasn't gonna be there forever. And that I wanted this movement to continue, that I wanted-

Kim Montague:

Sure.

Pam Harris:

The idea of teaching Real Math and actually teaching the mathematizing, that we could mentor students to be mathematicians. I wanted that idea to continue on past me. If I wasn't going to be there doing professional learning, I needed to have, I wanted to have an informed citizenry enough that the teachers really understood what was going on enough that when, for whatever reason, I wasn't there anymore, that it would continue. You know, I had four kids, they were in the district, they were still growing up. I wanted and not just for them, but you know, for my community and for the kids, frankly, for the world at large. That I want it to be, it can't be about a person. It has to be about Real Math and mathematizing and that we can mentor teachers and students to be mathematicians. And I learned that a little late in the game at the district. But I started to tell teachers and be much more clear about how this is not 'Pam math'. It's Math is Figure-Out-Able. It's not about Pam Harris math. The name of the website, the URL, all the things is Math is Figure-Out-Able. It's about math and Real Math and mentoring mathematicians. It's not about me. It's not about you. It's about all of us changing the way that we view math to be the real view.

Kim Montague:

Yeah.

Pam Harris:

And to second that, there was just recently, one of our Journey Leader members. So we have Journey Leaders, where we support the leaders of mathematics and mathematics teaching. And one of our Journey Leaders came to me and said, kind of an interesting, similar message where she had gone back to her region. So she was a leader of a region, and had gone back to the people that she worked with in the region, other other leaders, and was really excited about what she was learning and called it 'Pam math', or talked about Pam Harris. And had somebody say to her, "Look, we don't care about that Pam Harris person. We care about math." And she was talking to me and she said, "I realized it can't be about you." It was kind of a funny conversation, because I was agreeing with her. And she's like, "Oh, no, like, no offense or anything." I was like, "No, no, no, none taken, correct." Like it can't be about a person or people. That has to be about Real Math with the nature of mathematics, what it means to know and do and own mathematics. So that's something that I learned early on. Hopefully, we've been clear enough about it in the podcast. If we haven't been we'll continue to be as clear as we possibly can. Yeah.

Kim Montague:

That is so good. It's good that you recognize that that's kind of what people were thinking in their heads. And, you know, you could kind of divorce yourself from like, "Wait, whoa, whoa, that's not that's not what the message that I'm trying to share."

Pam Harris:

One more word I want to throw in there is 'development'. The idea that we are developing students and we're developing, our brains are developing and we're helping develop. It's not about unzipping heads and pouring in math. But another big idea that I want to just make sure as part of this movement, the Math is Figure-Out-Able movement, is that it's about development.

Kim Montague:

Yeah, that's good. Well, actually, I'm glad that you said that, because can I tell you about something that I can reflect on now and have learned so much over the years? So I think we've shared that I was a third, fourth, fifth grade teacher, and then spent some time outside of the classroom, doing some coaching on an individual campus. And I think, you know, when you look back, and you're like, "Wow, that was really not a great move." You can see it like, later on, it in Yeah, I can totally own it. So one of the things that I can reflect on now is that the time that I spent coaching early on was just not great. I was so excited when I was in, you know, when we met and when we were introduced, I hindsight. was introduced to kind of experienced teaching Real Math.

Pam Harris:

You can own it. You know, and like you've mentioned before, that I kind of You taught really good model lessons and the mess with numbers a lot. But I certainly in my early years didn't know how to teach this way. I didn't know how to teach teachers in the back may have been like grading or- Real Math. It was kind of like, you know, I was attempting to teach where I had always bent how I had been taught. And when I had the opportunity to talk with other teachers about it, I

Kim Montague:

Yeah.

Pam Harris:

- walk out of the room. Or kind of watch it was really excited and I wanted to share everything. And like I happened and be like, "Huh, alright. That's what you do. wanted to you know, they knew that I was kind of, you know, I'll go back to what I do." Yeah, it's so interesting. Keep mathy or whatever. And I did an awful lot of information dump on people. And I was very clear in my mind at the time, that if I just explained a lot, and if I just like, help you write lesson plans and told you all the things to say and do that you were going to equally own what I owned. And I look at that now. And I think, "Wow, that was really probably arrogant." And also just so misinformed about what coaching really is, you know. I attempted to do model lessons and with no conversation. And I just would swoop in and like, "Here, I'm gonna make this magic happen." And it was just so misinformed. going.

Kim Montague:

No, I was gonna say, what I didn't do was ask questions, right? I didn't ask the areas that they wanted to grow in. It was just, it was just so misinformed.

Pam Harris:

Well, so you've told me so many times, 'know your content, know your kids'.

Kim Montague:

Yeah.

Pam Harris:

So in a huge way you knew your content, but because you weren't asking questions and asking them about how they wanted to grow and learn, you kind of didn't know your kids. Like you didn't know the people that you were teaching.

Kim Montague:

Yeah.

Pam Harris:

You just knew the thing. And you're like, "I'm just gonna come and dump this on you." And so while you were really clear about teaching kids, that teaching kids, teaching Real Math, that you're not going to unzip their heads and dump stuff in, pour stuff in.

Kim Montague:

Oh, I sure did that.

Pam Harris:

teaching. If what we believe about teaching, is that it's about experience and helping create mental connections based on what you already know. And then giving you more experience and putting you in positions where we're intentionally causing disequilibrium. We're giving you a chance to like, make sense of things and grapple with ideas. And so your brain literally gets more and more sophisticated, as in its reasoning, because you have more and more connections. If that's what learning is, then it has to be that way with adults as well.

Kim Montague:

Right. Absolutely.

Pam Harris:

We teach teaching the same way that we believe about teaching math.

Kim Montague:

Yeah, Absolutely. Yeah.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, we both shared that one. Yep. A lot of telling in our early years, hopefully. And honestly, that's one of the reasons why you and I both balked about doing a podcast. Because it's so like, how do you not just tell

Kim Montague:

Yeah. in a podcast? So y'all give us some feedback, at some point. Times when you are like, "Pam, I think you guys, were just telling right there." And then we'll try to undo it, you know, and we'll try to give you some better experiences. Hopefully, we've done a little bit out here, a little bit. So what do you do now, Kim? I know, we've worked with some schools lately, where we've done some coaching. What are some ways that you coach now that's different than you did? Well, it absolutely will start with visiting with teachers, right? Like, I'm gonna have conversations and experience their world. So I'm in their classes, and I'm, like, spending time with their students and spending time with them. And there's a lot more of a co-plan, co-teach, kind of cycle situation. And really, it's about taking teachers from where they are to where they want to go. And because I know the mathematical terrain, and the kind of teaching terrain like I can help guide that. But it's not a situation where I'm dragging them along, like it would have been, you know, early on, or just dumping knowledge that they're not prepared to pick up.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, nice. And speaking of asking people questions and sort of understanding where they are, one of the things that we've just been talking about a lot is the idea of talking, how do I say this? Creating shared vocabulary, where we're actually clear what each other means. For example, we just did in Episode 101, we did a whole episode about the word 'strategy', because you and I became clear, the more that we were talking with people, that when I would say something about strategy, that there was a high probability that teachers were thinking about one of at least four definitions of strategy. And so check out Episode 101 if you want to hear, kind of what those four different ways of talking about strategy are. But we need to define terms. And not just in some, here's a vocabulary word, let me give you a definition. But we need to have common experiences, so that we actually have common definitions for terms. So that as we're discussing things, like, for example: modeling, in Episode 58, we talked all about the word model and modeling. I've had several conversations with a lot of really good mathematics teacher educators about modeling. And I now realize that where I thought I was communicating, I wonder big time if we were talking past each other, because we don't have, there's so many different ways to talk about models and modeling. And so again, that's why we put out episodes like Episode 58, where we, let's define terms, let's give us experiences with those, with the vocabulary that we're using, the way we're describing things, so that then as we work together, we're actually working together with some common understandings.

Kim Montague:

Yeah. I'm glad you said experiences, because I, another thing that I feel like I've really learned over the years is that we can't assume teacher knowledge. And I don't think that that means that I'm going to assume that teachers don't have any teacher, you know knowledge about mathematics. But we have different experiences. We have different upbringings. And we have different levels of experience. And for some of our teachers, math is just one subject out of many that they're trying to tackle. And so, you know, maybe some people have more mathematical expertise than others. And so, you know, I can't assume that just because something is in their standard that they know it as deeply as the next person. And so it's, again, it requires a conversation that requires getting to know teachers and like, helping them unpack, like maybe some of their previous worries about mathematics and helping them to understand that they can mathematize. And they can teach Real Math.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, totally.

Kim Montague:

Can I also share? You mentioned earlier about helping us get the podcast going, I just want to mention that one of the things that you've helped me the most with over the years is kind of getting stuff out of my head. And what I mean by that is that, you know, I kind of always thought about numbers and relationships and patterns. But I absolutely early on had no way of representing that thinking. And we may have mentioned this before, but once I saw ratio tables, and I had an opportunity to see different models that we love, I was able to represent kind of some sloppy thinking that was like rolling around in my brain. And so I thank you for that, because you brought models to me that I had never seen before. And it was like this awakening for what was happening inside that now I could put down on paper. And that's been a huge growth for me.

Pam Harris:

And it's not just the fact that you could put it on paper, it sharpens, like you said, a second ago, sloppy thinking, as you are able to represent it, and then we can have conversations about it and then do more with it just sharpens all that thinking, makes all the connections stronger, and deeper and more connections, more relationships. Yeah. And that's been a lot of fun. I think you and I work well together, because one of the things we do is, you know, like, how are you thinking about that, and then I'll try to represent it, you'll try to represent it, and then I'll try to represent my thinking. And we're both really willing to kind of go with each other. And here's how we don't handle it. So here's another thing, I think. I don't know that. How do I say this? Another thing I think I've learned is that, like you said, teachers have different levels of expertise in different things, is to not respond with, "Oh, Okay." So, like, there's so many times where I'm talking to teachers, and they'll say something to do something, and I'll go "Oh, well, that's interesting. I'm not sure I've thought about it that way." And they'll look at me like, "Wait, aren't you supposed to, like know everything?"

Kim Montague:

Yeah.

Pam Harris:

And no. Let's just, can we free everybody up from the idea that if we teach math, we know all math. And we own all connections all the time, everywhere. And so this idea of being able to respond with like, "Oh, that's interesting," instead "Ofh, shame on you that you didn't know that."

Kim Montague:

Right.

Pam Harris:

I wonder if that might help us all feel a little bit more willing to be vulnerable in kind of the connections that we do own and some that we own a little more tenuously that we would like to strengthen and that would be an okay thing.Because we don't believe that it's about unzipping heads and pouring information in. We believe that it's more about putting purposeful patterns in front of students. One of the things that I'm just sharpening lately is that I'm thinking about how to talk to people, how to help people understand why Problem Strings and the rich tasks that we like, are so impactful, and different than maybe what I see happening in so many classrooms. And I think that I'm beginning to develop a way of talking about this idea of putting patterns in a purposeful way in front of students. And then following that with a very purposeful set of patterns. And we talked about rich tasks, in a few episodes ago, where we talked about being replete with patterns. So taking situations that have just a ton of patterns, but putting them in front of students in very purposeful ways. So in bite-off-able chunks, and then asking questions that invite students to grapple with those patterns, and then use those relationships to solve a further problem. And then as they solve that further problem that sharpens the connections between that pattern and then they can use that relationship and then we start to generalize the relationship. Then I wonder if, I don't know how people hear what I just said. But I wonder if that helps describe just a little bit of how this Math is Figure-Out-Able movement is trying to engage teachers in a way of teaching that is different than unzipping heads, pouring information in and asking kids to mimic what we just poured in. So that's a, I'm on the edge of that, that's on my cutting edge right now is where I'm trying to figure out ways of helping in a quick way. What I've usually done, Kim, as what we've tried to do on this podcast, is give teachers experience. And so I'll do a workshop or presentation where I was like, "Alright, you don't care who I am or what I do, as long as I do it well, here we go." And then we'll dive right in and we'll do some math. And by the end of that experience, teachers are like, "Huh, well, that's different."

Kim Montague:

Yeah.

Pam Harris:

And I'm just trying to put some words, then to the experience that they just had, as I try to encapsulate how is that different maybe, than the way that we were taught?

Kim Montague:

Yeah, that's great. So In this anniversary edition, I'm gonna ask you just like what are some things that you're excited about? What's currently going on for you that you are excited about. We told past, but what's in the future?

Pam Harris:

Alright, so I gotta pick. I'm thrilled with how our Journey group and our Journey Leader group is doing. We are just having such an engaged community and all the wonderful things that we've been able to do. I don't know if you can appreciate, when often when I am doing workshops with teachers, something live, you know, I meet him for the first time. It's the first interaction that we've had. And so I do the thing, you know, it's like, here's the bang, here's the presentation I've done several times. I've got all the jokes, times and everything. But then maybe I'll, for example, I'm doing some work with some teachers in Utah right now. And so I'll go back two or three times, and on the fourth time that I'm there, like, we really get to start to dive a little deeper, and we get to do a little bit more. But let's be honest, usually, with teachers, it's about as far as we go, you know, and I get it, that's just the nature of the beast is that you don't get this longer prolonged, a chance to interact with people. So one of the reasons why I'm so grateful for the work that I did in the state of Texas, over the past 15 years, because we had some experiences where I was able to work with teachers for years, and leaders across the state for years. And so we really built up some wonderful relationships, and we could go deeper. That's what I'm trying to talk about here with Journey. So in Journey, we're able to go deeper. We're able to do things because we're together for longer periods of time, we have more experience, and we can build on kind of those initial experiences, to deeper. So that's one thing that I'm just thrilled that we're being able to go deeper and deeper and do more and more topics and more and more connections within those topics, and more and more K-12 vertical work. And I'm really excited about that. And speaking of vertical work, just as a smaller thing, but we've just created a downloadable graphic of the Development and Mathematical Reasoning. A lot of leaders were asking us to be able to print it out. So they could use it in, in training with their teachers or put it up in their office. So that you know, people could see it. And so if you'd like to download that graphic, it's totally available. You can get it at mathisFigureOutAble.com/DMRgraphic, like Developing Mathematical Reasoning graphic. So mathisFigureOutAble.com/DMRgraphic is just a downloadable, printable version of that Development of Mathematical Reasoning graphic. I will say a small caveat, we don't necessarily intend for you to hang this up in your classroom.

Kim Montague:

Right.

Pam Harris:

I might entertain if you have a really good, it's not really intended for students. It's really intended for teachers. So yeah, just small caveat there. And then maybe I'll just mention one other thing that I'm thrilled about. We have online asynchronous workshops that we've been putting out. So far, we've got Building Addition for Young Learners for K-2, and Building Powerful Multiplication for grades three and up, and Building Powerful Division for grades three and up, and Building Powerful Proportional Reasoning for middle grades. But we haven't yet had a workshop for high school. And I'm so thrilled that we are creating an almost ready to put out Building Powerful Linear Functions. And I think it may be my best work. I'm just so excited to, I think the work at the high school level is tricky and interesting and detailed in a way that is just different than other. Anyway, I'm very excited to be able to put that out there. I'm knee deep in creating that right now. And it's kind of all I'm thinking about right now. I'm very, very excited about Building Powerful Linear Functions.

Kim Montague:

So fantastic. Yep.

Pam Harris:

So we learned a little bit and hopefully we can share, hopefully, us sharing today with some things that we learned over time gives everybody a little bit more permission and, not that you need it from us, but a little bit more of like it's okay that we're all learning. We're all growing. When we know better, we can do better. And Kim, I'm so grateful that you have been on this journey with me, especially this last two years, the second year anniversary of our podcast.

Kim Montague:

It's unbelievable, right?

Pam Harris:

Yeah, so y'all if you want to learn more math and mathematics for teaching, then join the Math is Figure-Out-Able movement. Thank you for tuning in teaching more and more Real Math and spreading the word that math is Figure-Out-Able.