# Ep 158: Building Thinking Classrooms and Math Is FigureOutAble Pt 1

June 27, 2023 Pam Harris Episode 158
Ep 158: Building Thinking Classrooms and Math Is FigureOutAble Pt 1
Math is Figure-Out-Able!
Math is Figure-Out-Able!
Ep 158: Building Thinking Classrooms and Math Is FigureOutAble Pt 1
Jun 27, 2023 Episode 158
Pam Harris

We love it when students are thinking and reasoning, and it's important to know how best to build and experience sophisticated strategies. In this episode Pam and Kim continue discussing Dr. Peter Liljedahl's work and finetune where it's appropriate to use vertical nonpermanent surfaces, and what other kind of tasks we should be doing whole class with students.

Talking Points:

• Randomized Groups at Vertical Non Permanent Surfaces in random groups are great for Rich Tasks that follow your curriculum
• Problem Strings are best used whole class to build specific strategies, models, and big ideas

See Episode 157 for Pam and Kim's introductory comments about Dr. Liljedahl's work.

Check out Pam's social media (I changed this to "Pam's" since it doesn't include mine)
Instagram: Pam Harris_math
Facebook: Pam Harris, author, mathematics education

We love it when students are thinking and reasoning, and it's important to know how best to build and experience sophisticated strategies. In this episode Pam and Kim continue discussing Dr. Peter Liljedahl's work and finetune where it's appropriate to use vertical nonpermanent surfaces, and what other kind of tasks we should be doing whole class with students.

Talking Points:

• Randomized Groups at Vertical Non Permanent Surfaces in random groups are great for Rich Tasks that follow your curriculum
• Problem Strings are best used whole class to build specific strategies, models, and big ideas

See Episode 157 for Pam and Kim's introductory comments about Dr. Liljedahl's work.

Check out Pam's social media (I changed this to "Pam's" since it doesn't include mine)
Instagram: Pam Harris_math
Facebook: Pam Harris, author, mathematics education

Pam  00:01

Hey, fellow mathematicians! Welcome to the podcast where Math is Figure-Out-Able! I'm Pam.

Kim  00:07

And I'm Kim.

Pam  00:08

And you have found a place where math is not about memorizing and mimicking, waiting to be told or shown what to do. But it's about making sense of problems, noticing patterns, and reasoning using mathematical relationships. We can mentor students to think and reason like mathematicians do. Not only are algorithms not particularly helpful in teaching mathematics, nor fun, but rotely repeating steps actually keep students from being the mathematicians they can be.

Kim  00:38

Absolutely. So, last week, we started talking about kind of a big topic, right? Building Thinking Classrooms. And you shared what you think about Peter Liljedhal's work and how we had done some of the things. And you get asked about his work all the time, and how your work fits together. So, today, we're going to talk a little bit more about maybe how you are a little different. Is that a fair way to stay that?

Pam  01:05

Yeah, I think so, I think so.

Kim  01:06

Little bit.

Pam  01:07

In just a very professionally, respectful way, I'll just make some suggestions about I think the best ways to maybe implement Dr. Liljedhal's work. By the way, Kim, I'm going to just compliment you on saying his name. Do you know how many people I've worked... I'll be talking to people, and they're like, "You know that Lil..." I'm like, "Guys, it's not that hard. Lil-ya-doll." Now, Dr. Liljedhal, you can tell me I'm saying it wrong, and I will then happily apologize because I hope I'm not.

Kim  01:35

Right.

Pam  01:36

Alright, so let's dive into maybe some nuances of kind of my perspective on the best ways to use his first three teaching practices. I do want to talk more about his other four chunks. He has four chunks of things. I want to talk about the other three at some point, but I'm going to hang with that first set of teaching practices in this episode. So, something really important. If you have not listened to the last episode, you're going to need to listen to that before this one because I'm not going to re-explain stuff. So, something really big to consider. I think that people that are on the BTC, Building Thinking Classrooms, sort of bandwagon are telling you to do vertical, nonpermanent surfaces in visibly, randomly chosen groups all the time. We are saying, some of the time.

Kim  02:27

Yep.

Pam  02:28

Kim  05:13

[Kim laughs] I'm sorry.

Pam  05:14

Good heavens. James, I know your name. Do I know how to pronounce his last name though? James...

Kim  05:19

Oh, we already butchered that once.

Pam  05:21

(unclear). You're going to... He'll tell me if I totally.

Kim  05:24

I think that's right.

Pam  05:25

Kim  11:41

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think so much of it in a Problem String is about reflection, and nudging, and conversation that you're the guide, right? Like, you are crafting the conversation based on an end goal, and you drop things along the way to make it become something within the kid's zone of proximal development. Like they're aware of the thing because of the hints that you've laid or that other students have laid along the way.

Pam  12:11

And it's interesting when you say "drop things", I think you mean "drop in". Like things that you lob out, things that you purposely, hints you give. But you also drop things, meaning that kids might be doing something that's fine, but it's not helping where we're headed, and so you de-emphasize it. You literally drop it. Like a student might say, "Hey, but I want to share my strategy." And you might be like, "I believe you. Not now." And then, you move on.

Kim  12:38

Yeah. Yes. Yeah.

Pam  12:39

Like, we very politely say, "Mm, during a Problem String, I choose who shares because I'm moving the math forward." Were always with an eye towards making sure that all students are being supported, and presented, and promoted a sense makers. Like, we're always with an eye towards making sure that we're giving students what they need to be successful. So, we're not choosing the... In fact, it's funny, Kim, we're not choosing necessarily the "right kid" or the "brightest kid" or the "quickest kid", right? We're often choosing the kid who will maybe make the conversation a little muddy, so that in the cleaning up of the conversation, in the refining of it, in the clarifying, everybody learns more. If we call on the kid with the most clear explanation. Then, if that's what teaching is, let me get the most clear explanation out, and oh, we're done. Then, why didn't I just say it? Why go through the whole? Because we would suggest that's not learning. That's not what gets us the most bang for our buck.  So, we are suggesting that putting kids up in visibly, randomly chosen groups at vertical, nonpermanent surfaces with rich curricular tasks is a fantastic thing to do when you are doing those Rich Tasks. In my kind of curriculum, that happens two maybe three times a week, where we're doing those rich things, and then we're going to follow up with a congress. I think... Yeah, I'm going to talk about that later. We follow that with what we call a Math Congress after Cathy Fosnot, where we have a conversation about that Rich Task. That's happening maybe two or three times a week.

Kim  14:17

Yeah.

Pam  14:18

More often than that, we are doing Problem Strings, which are kids in a whole group, at their desks, where the teacher is focused on, "I've got an outcome here to move the math forward." I'm nudging, I'm celebrating certain things, so that certain patterns today are the ones that we are fussing with. It's not like I'm slapping kids hands and saying "No, not that. No, stop that." Not at all. I'm just like we said, letting some things drop, and I'm dropping in things, so that certain patterns, relationships, and connections are the ones that are paramount for that day, and that we're creating more and more sophisticated thinking for that  particular day.

Kim  14:57

Yeah, and the exciting thing for the listeners is that it's not an either, or. You can have both. You can do both. And you should do both! It's not, you know, "Which path do I have to pick?"

Pam  15:10

Absolutely.

Kim  15:10

They just have their own importance, for their own moments, at different times.

Pam  15:15

Absolutely. So, definitely not saying, you know, "Chuck, that Building Thinking Classrooms book." No, I think there's some wonderful things in there.

Kim  15:22

Yeah. So valuable.

Pam  15:22

Especially. Very valuable. And we'll talk about more of them in his other three chunks of things. I think there's definitely some more value to be had in those pieces. But for today, I really wanted to focus on, if you believe in Problem Strings, then I don't recommend that you do those at vertical, nonpermanent surfaces with visibly, randomly chosen groups because they won't have the punch you can have if you do them, well, at all. They'll fall flat, and then you'll get frustrated, the kids will get frustrated, and we won't develop the math. And then, you have the potential to throw it all out. And I don't want you to throw it all out. Like Kim just said, I want you to use Peter Liljedhal's first first chunk there, when it's appropriate, with good, rich curricular tasks. And I want you to do whole class, teacher in charge in the right way.  Facilitating the learning towards a goal, representing thinking, crafting careful conversations, purposeful conversations, when you're doing things like Problem Strings and other instructional routines that are very helpful parts of a good balanced math curriculum. Alright, that was kind of fun. Hopefully, I did that justice. If anybody thinks that I kind of didn't do something justice, I'd love to hear more on your take. Keep in mind that we're going to talk about at least some of the rest of his points that deserve some some uplift for all of us. Highly recommend that we all build thinking classrooms. It's just maybe how we do it and which parts that we're going to kind of fine tune a little bit. And then, remember, I'm also about the "what". That there are major strategies. It's not just some random collection of whatever kids do. It's also not the algorithm. There are specific things we need on the landscape of learning that we need to develop in kids and we need to know what those are. We need to know our content and know our kids in order to really teach math that is figure-out-able. Alright, Kim do anything to add or is that good?

Kim  17:19

So good. Yeah.

Pam  17:21

Cool. Alright, ya'll, thank you for tuning in and teaching more and more real math. To figure out... To figure out. To find out about the Math is Figure-Out-Able movement, visit mathisfigureoutable.com. Let's keep spreading the word that Math is Figure-Out-Able!