# Ep 167: How, What, Why to Change Math Class

August 29, 2023 Pam Harris Episode 167
Ep 167: How, What, Why to Change Math Class
Math is Figure-Out-Able with Pam Harris
Math is Figure-Out-Able with Pam Harris
Ep 167: How, What, Why to Change Math Class
Aug 29, 2023 Episode 167
Pam Harris

What does it mean for math to be figure-out-able? What will you teach? How? Why? In this episode Pam and Kim discuss their thoughts to changing the "how" and "what" of math education around the world and explore the "why".
Talking Points:

• "What" math we teach should come first
• "How" the math should be embedded in the "what"
• What Pam and Kim think about "Why" make the change?

Check out our social media
Instagram: Pam Harris_math
Facebook: Pam Harris, author, mathematics education

What does it mean for math to be figure-out-able? What will you teach? How? Why? In this episode Pam and Kim discuss their thoughts to changing the "how" and "what" of math education around the world and explore the "why".
Talking Points:

• "What" math we teach should come first
• "How" the math should be embedded in the "what"
• What Pam and Kim think about "Why" make the change?

Check out our social media
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 found a place where math is not about memorizing and mimicking, where you're waiting to be told or shown what to do. But we can make it be about sense making, and noticing patterns, and reasoning using mathematical relationships. Let's mentor students to think and reason like mathematicians. Not only are algorithms really not helpful in teaching mathematics, but roughly repeating steps actually keeps students from being the mathematicians they can be. Alright, Kim. Ya'll, we record a few podcast episodes at the same time. And I'll just say right now, Kim and I are a little punchy.

Kim  00:47

It's always the best ones.

Pam  00:48

So, it should be the best one here, if we can make sense of what we're doing. Neither of us slept well last night, and so this is going to be amazing. I can't wait to tell you. Kim, hey, I want to start off by talking to you. I was just in Florida. I had a blast in Florida. (unclear).

Kim  01:05

You've been traveling a ton.

Pam  01:07

I have been traveling a ton, yeah. And about to travel some more, which is. I like to travel. I love meeting new people. I really like hearing about how math is going in different classrooms around the world. It's super, super cool. And I worked with some amazing educators in Florida.

Kim  01:21

Yeah.

Pam  01:21

Kim  02:10

Yeah.

Pam  02:11

I've been think about that a lot. So, let's parse out what I talk about with the "how" and the "what". And then, let's kick around this idea of adding the "why".

Kim  02:20

Sure.

Pam  02:20

Kim  03:19

Yeah.

Pam  03:19

The teaching practices, the eight essential teaching practices are all about how to teach, right? The Mathematical Practice Standards for students are all about kind of the things that students are doing, as they're thinking and reasoning like mathematicians.

Kim  03:34

Yeah. A lot of teacher PD from their schools is about strategies for teaching, like grouping students. And yeah.

Pam  03:43

Yep, yep. Even looking at data, it's all about "how". And there's lots of that, and I think we need it. I think I'm also about "how". I think you and I have talked lots about how, especially in the last couple of podcasts that we've just put out, episodes we just put out. We also talked about "how". In fact, in my online workshops, we have seven module workshops. Oh, that's funny because we have seven right now, seven module workshops. We're about to have an eighth. In those seven modules, we devote a whole module to "how" in a really unique way. I'll maybe just mention really quickly. When we create those online, asynchronous workshops, I do a live workshop with real people.

Both Pam and Kim  04:26

(laughs).

Pam  04:27

Not fake people.

Kim  04:27

As opposed to fake people?

Both Pam and Kim  04:28

(laughs).

Pam  04:30

You always make fun of when I say that because it's always dumb when I say it. Alright, so I got people, like teachers in the room, and we do a two-day live workshop, and we film it, and then we turn that into the async workshop. And that turns into five of the modules of those seven.

Kim  04:45

Yep.

Pam  04:45

And of those other two modules, one of them is completely devoted to teacher moves. It's completely devoted to the "how". We talk about equity moves, and talk moves, and identity moves, and questioning moves, and we really parse out. And we do it in, I think, are super cool, unique way.

Kim  05:07

Yep.

Pam  05:07

Where what we do is we take video of those two live days that were in the five modules, and we grab moments where I did those teacher moves. And we can exemplify those to say, "Hey, you actually just experienced all these teacher moves." And we put them like right in a row. Bam, bam, bam. Like, we pick a teacher move, like getting students to talk to each other, not just to the teacher, and we'll put together moments that they just experienced over those two days, where they'll hear me say, "Oh, so you disagree with James. Well, tell James. Tell James that." Like, and I'll actually move my hand like, "Turn, and talk to James." And then, the clip will stop. And then, it will be a new clip, and I'll say something like, "Can you restate what Elise just said? "Oh, you can't? We'll, go ahead and ask Elise what she said. You don't remember what she said? Well, go ahead and ask her. Or you're not sure what she said. Go ahead and ask her." And then, it will stop and go to another one. And so, they'll see like a montage of seven different times in those two days, where that teacher move happened with them. And then also, in one of the modules we'll also always put a student, at least one or two classroom examples where it's happening with students. So, the thing that we're... If it's Building Powerful Multiplication, multiplications happening with students. And then, we'll also include not just me doing that teacher move, but that classroom teacher doing that teacher move. And so, they've already seen it, to get at the math, and now they're seeing it to get at the "how" and the teacher moves. And so, we think that's kind of a unique way of really doing the "how". So, we do the "how", right? We also advocate that it's important to talk about the "how". But you might have just noticed, when do we do the "how" in those workshops? After we do the "what".

Kim  06:52

Mmhmm.

Pam  06:54

Kim  09:25

Yeah.

Pam  09:26

I'm thinking about that. What did you think when I first said that?

Kim  09:28

Yeah, when you first mentioned it to me, I wondered if she meant like when kids say, "Why am I ever going to need this?" Right, like that could be a question. And older the students get, right, some of them are snarky, and they're like, "Why do I need to know this?" And so...

Pam  09:44

"When am I ever going to use this?"

Kim  09:45

Yeah, right. And so, you and I got talking a little bit about like how we respond to that. And I think I shared with you that, for me, it's less about the specific topic or question that the kids are learning about in that moment. It's kind of more about mathematics in general and how things are connected. Or maybe it's about kind of the eight practice standards, and the behaviors of problem solving, and tackling something, and finding connections between what we're doing.

Pam  10:13

Are you saying that when kids say to you, "Mrs. Montegue, when am I going to use this?" that you would say back to them, "Well, it's not about this particular..." I don't know "...problem that we just solved. It's not about knowing that the answer is 42."

Kim  10:28

Right.

Pam  10:29

Which is the answer to the question of the universe. But it's more about that you can now do this thing. You could have looked at this pattern and you've noticed a relationship. Hey, you'll be able to look at the patterns and use them, you know, later in your life. Or, you could say, "Hey, it's more that you can now model with mathematics."

Kim  10:49

Right.

Pam  10:49

Like, "We've been working with this model, so now you have gained something that you could use in the future modeling with mathematics."

Kim  10:55

Yeah, absolutely.

Pam  10:55

Or, "Hey, in this problem, we just solved this problem using tools strategically. What you just learned is how to use this tool strategically. Now, you have some sense of, 'Hey, when I'm solving a problem in the future, I could use a tool strategically.'" Something like that?

Kim  11:08

Yeah, absolutely.

Pam  11:09

Kind of what you're saying?

Kim  11:09

Yep.

Pam  11:10

So, an answer if student students ask you "why", you're saying, Alisha's 'why' to me could have been when students say, "When am I ever going to use this?" Or, "Why are we learning this kind of thing?"

Kim  11:20

Yeah.

Pam  11:20

We can say back to students, "Oh, it's about your brain." In fact, Kim, I am thinking hard right now trying to remember. Somebody just said. I can't think of who it was. Just a day or two ago, I was talking to somebody. Who am I talking to? Hmm. Somebody just said to me that when kids say, "When am I ever going to use this?" And it was a guy. I know it was a guy. So, guy, whoever you are out there said, "I answer students, 'You will use that every single day the rest of your life because your brain just grew.'"

Kim  11:53

Yeah.

Pam  11:53

"And so, when are you going to use this? That brain you just created, because now your brain is thinking more sophisticatedly, you're going use that brain the rest of your life every single day."

Kim  12:03

That's nice.

Pam  12:03

I kind of like that answer.

Kim  12:04

Yeah, yeah, yeah I do too.

Pam  12:05

Man, I can't remember. I can't believe I can't remember who that was. So. Well, maybe they can contact you.  Yeah, whoever that was. Please let me know. I want to give you credit. I want to give you credit for saying that because that is brilliant. It's a really nice way of answering that question that I think a lot of us get, especially the older that you teach.

Kim  12:20

Yeah.

Pam  12:20

Well, older you teach, and if you are teaching math as fake math, you're going to get that question a whole lot more often.

Kim  12:27

Yep.

Pam  12:28

Yeah. I'll just say, Kim. We don't get that question anymore.

Kim  12:30

No.

Pam  12:31

Like, ever. Like, yeah. We don't get it from students. We don't get it from teachers. Ever. Because we're just diving in and just having so much fun with it that they're not... It's not the drudgery of, "When are we ever going to use this?" They're like, "Oh, ask me another one! Give me another one!" Like, that's more, yeah, kind of we are.

Kim  12:49

But you said you didn't think that that's what Alisha meant?

Pam  12:52

Yeah.

Kim  12:53

Right, you were like, "I don't think so."

Pam  12:54

I don't think that was her "why". I don't think that's what she meant by "why". Yeah.

Kim  12:57

And I think the next thing I asked you was, do you think she might mean "know your 'why'?" Like.

Pam  13:04

Like, Kim, we almost didn't do this episode. Because you said, "No, Pam."

Kim  13:07

I was like, "Absolutely not."

Pam  13:08

"We're not talking about that." And I was like, "What? Why would we not talk about the 'why'?" So, tell everybody why you were pushing back."

Kim  13:13

Well, because I mean it's just a thing, right? Like, teachers do the hardest, hardest job. And, you know, in times of struggle. Like, when people say, "Just remember your 'why'." It's a little like vomit inducing. Like, teachers are great people, and they like love kids, and they whatever. But you shouldn't have to take on just an unimaginable amount of junk just because you like kids. And people... It's my opinion. It doesn't have to be yours. That people should not just throw out the phrase, "know your 'why'," so that you can have to suck it up for more stuff. Not alright.

Pam  13:47

Absolutely. And I think especially now, where we're just all kind of coming out of the Covid crazy, where teachers were asked to do untenable things. And the expectation was crazy. And I think what you were telling me is that you saw a lot of teachers kind of being patted on the head, and almost like kind of spanked a little bit like, "Remember your 'why'. Come on! Suck it up! Do the thing!" And so, let's be really clear, that is not what we are suggesting that we're going to do in this episode. We are not telling you teachers "Just remember your 'why' and everything will be okay." I do think that when life gets hard, it can be helpful to remember why we went into education. But that's a helpful thing for us to dredge up inside ourselves. I don't know that it's ever a helpful thing for someone to pat you on the head and say, "Remember your 'why', sucker. You went into teaching."

Kim  14:43

No.

Pam  14:44

You know like, "Suck it up!" No, that's never helpful. So, that's not. No, not what we thought.

Kim  14:49

So, what do you think Alisha meant when she...

Pam  14:52

Kim  23:08

I was just going to say. You kind of went there. But what you are trying to do for other people and with other people in workshops, and presentations, and whatever, is kind of duplicate that experience that you got as a young teacher, where somebody put you in a position to find your own need to change. You saw something that moved you. You latched on to that. And instead of you telling people why they need to change, which never works, you're also trying to do the same thing. And in whatever setting they're in, put them in a position where they are motivated to change because they see a different outcome that's possible.

Pam  23:49

Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, I really like how you said that. Because I was able to have experiences that actually changed the way I thought, that is exactly what I'm attempting to do with the "what", the "how", and the "why" is give teachers that experience. Yeah, nice. Alright. So, Alisha, what did you mean? But either way, whatever you met, we need to think about the "how", the "what", and I'm thinking my version of "why", but for sure some "why". Ya'll, let's affect the way we teach. See, I just didn't say change. Let's tweak. I don't know, I'm trying to say "change" because I don't want to make it this big whole thing. Let's all help our students grow their brains to think and reason like mathematicians just a little bit better than we were yesterday. How's that? Is that better than "change"?

Kim  24:38

Sounds great.

Pam  24:39

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