Math is Figure-Out-Able with Pam Harris

Ep 66: Shout out to leaders!

September 21, 2021 Pam Harris Episode 66
Math is Figure-Out-Able with Pam Harris
Ep 66: Shout out to leaders!
Show Notes Transcript

Math conferences are powerful ways to improve your teaching. But it's also really easy to go to a conference and accidently miss all the good sessions. In this episode Pam talks about powerful leaders in the math education community that she will always go see no matter what they're talking about. 
Talking Points:

Other people to follow: @JBayWilliams, @JohnSanGiovanni,
@ddmeyer,
@joboaler, @ekazemi, @ctfosnot, @thestrokeofluck, @saravdwerf

Pam Harris:

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

Kim Montague:

And I'm Kim.

Pam Harris:

And we make the case that mathematizing is not about mimicking steps, or rote memorizing facts. But it's about thinking and reasoning; about creating and using mental mathematical relationships. We take a strong stance that not only are algorithms not particularly helpful in teaching, but that mimicking algorithms actually keeps students from being the mathematicians they can be. We answer the question, if not algorithms and step by step procedures, then what?

Kim Montague:

Okay, Pam, I'm super excited about today, because we are in like, conference season, right? There's lots of things going back on. School is in session, and there's lots of things going on, in person, and in virtual. And so here's what I'm wondering: if Pam Harris goes to a conference, how in the world do you choose who to see, right? So you walk in, you're prob bly going to be speaking, but you walk in, there's this confer nce book, or it's online, and there's hundreds and hundred of things. There's so many choic es. Who do you go listen to? So I've asked you to think about I don't know, three or four peop le that if you were in th is session, you would be excit ed about

Pam Harris:

Yeah, that's interesting, because early on in my career, I remember going to some NCTM - National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, here in the States and Canada, that's our professional organization - and I went to a regional and I was a brand new teacher, and I read the session titles and the session descriptions and circled and I was excited and everything. And session after session, I was disappointed. I was like, what like, that's a trick. You're teaching us tricks, or it was like not cohesive, you know, it was like a bunch of things to just try, it's like a shot in the dark or, or the speakers weren't particularly engaging or wasn't what I was looking for. And I randomly happened on a speaker. And I thought to myself, I will go hear everything you have to say, because you were so intriguing. And so principle based, like it was stuff that I could think about and apply to other things. It was cohesive, it was thoughtful, she was interesting, entertaining. And Gail Burrell, I will shout out, right then I sitting in her session, I thought to myself, Oh, you are good. Okay, so then a little funny story on myself, that I went back to school, and I was like, hey, there's this new and up and coming - and they're like, Pam, she's the president of nctm. I was like... well, I know she's good too. Anyway, she was. And she did some amazing things in her tenure, I'm dating myself a little bit. That was in the early 1990s. And I literally went to every session that I could ever see her presenting after that. What I did was I started to go to conferences, and I would look in the back at the speaker index, and I would find Gail Burrell. And I would circle whatever she was doing. And I would go there and it, it started to permeate other ways. When I began to find other people who spoke to me who had sort of a principle based, like they said things that I was like, Oh, that is where I am right now. And I want to know more about that. Oh, let me actually say it was a little less about where I was in the moment. And it was a lot more about: this speaks to the way I think about teaching and learning. You know, there were definitely presenters or facilitators that I would go listen to who had kind of the shiny, like, this is the up and coming, this is the new, I would go listen to that. I was somewhat interested in that. But the ones that I looked for every time, that's kind of who I thought I would talk about today, the ones that no matter what they were talking about, I knew that they were going to have something worth hearing, because it wasn't just a flash in the pan. It wasn't just go try this because maybe it wasn't things that were research based. They were research based, they were interesting, and they knew kids, like I could tell these people actually treated students as human beings. So all of that to say, let me talk about some people. When you ask me to think about three or four people, I thought it would focus today on a few people who, who have that overarching that I will go look for and it kinda doesn't matter what they're talking about. I'm going to go listen to them. So one of those people who I'm finding really intriguing for the past couple of years and forgive me the name pronunciation. I am going to say some names today. And you know, this is how I say your name in my head. So I apologize if I'm messing it up. I think names are important. So I actually hate the fact that I'm probably gonna butcher some names. But Karim Ani is a writer and a teacher and a presenter and I've heard him, his company used to be called Mathalicious and now it's citizen math. And I find what he does, or what I've heard him speak about fascinating and intriguing and very thoughtful. The part that I heard -and I've only heard him a couple times I want to hear some more - is where he says, looking at the world today, we have a lot of disagreement, a lot of argument, a lot of just ugliness happening, where people like, take one side of an issue, and they go to the extreme on that side of the issue, and they kind of like won't even hear the other side. And we're not having conversations around the issue. We're just like, putting our flag in the ground. We're like, this is where we stand. And so what he does, and I think it's amazing how he does it is he chooses a hot button issue. And then he says, Let's use math, like we of all the people in the world need to use math to to support our arguments. Now, forgive me, Karim if I'm totally like destroying what you said, but this is what I got out of what you said. And I think it's fascinating. And I think we would all be served well to try to do more of this, where he takes that issue and then he says, alright, let's think about this side of it. And he puts forth numbers and data and a way of thinking about the issue that kind of is on one of the sides. And you could be tempted at that point to go Yeah, see, see. But then they dive into the math and ask all these questions about the mathematics around it, and make predictions and model and all the wonderful stuff. And then he says, but what about this side? And provides the data and learns more math. And now you have really the complexities of the argument to where it becomes much more easy to be a human being around the discussion and the conversation and realize that there are two sides to this argument. And a reasonable person could actually think the other way. Maybe we can acknowledge that. And that we could acknowledge that reasonable people could have maybe not the extreme on either side of the issue. But reasonable people could understand this issue this way. Let's use math. because we can, to help us make these really hard decisions.

Kim Montague:

That sounds so fascinating. Like it's a little sociology and psychology mixed with math.

Pam Harris:

And history and geography, how politics and religion and government and all of the crazy, let's maybe take some of the crazy out and put some of the reasoning in and use math to do it. And I support his work. And I think that that's amazing that he's doing that work. Yeah. Alright, so who else? Who else would I circle in my book, and I would go hear what they were talking about, kind of no matter what they were talking about, Peter Liljedahl is on that list. Again, I hope I'm saying that name correctly. So he has written Building Thinking Classrooms, and I actually have the book on my desk right now. And I am reading it. He and I are carrying out some conversations on Twitter about his work and on my work and how they dovetail together. And I think they do dovetail well together. Here's a couple things that he said, that really made me go ooh, I'm interested in what you have to say. So he also works - he's a mathematics teacher educator, he works with people becoming teachers. And he said that he got frustrated. So again, like all y'all that are listening to me put your words out there. I hope I'm representing them well. Whatever point you want to like, push back and go, I didn't say that. This is what I heard you say. He said that in trying to change the way teachers teach he found that he had less impact when he just sort of helped teachers think about change and make change and everything. And so he decided instead to change students. And he went about like changing kind of like throwing up in the air all the things and then experimenting with everything he could think of to change to see what would have the greatest impact on changing. I thought that was intriguing. And then the things that he is suggesting that we do, I find intriguing. I think the work that he does, especially his first three pillars about using vertical nonpermanent services and random grouping and rich tasks, we do a lot of that same kind of work that in when we do sort of investigations, rich task work. We have found it to be very effective to use a lot of his thinking and so I'm anxious to get more into his work and to hear more from him. So, Peter Liljedahl. I'm looking at the time, I'm like how many more people can I talk about, I'll maybe not talk about Deborah Ball as long. So Deborah Ball at the University of Michigan has done some amazing work about helping us think about the mathematics for teaching. And I really respect the idea she has helped us all think about that. There's mathematics And there's a subset of that mathematics that you might not need to know if you're just sort of doing mathematics, but that a teacher needs to know. And then we can even subdivide that more. And I'm not going to get into all of that, but the idea that there is a knowledge that we need as teachers that is special to our craft, as teachers, that's really helpful and has moved the conversation forward. I think some of the work that she's doing recently on micro moments and the micro decisions that we make affecting hugely like the bigger things that we do, I think I find that also very informative and helpful. So I'll mention just a couple of other people a little bit quicker. So Zaretta Hammond, I'm finding her to be very helpful in parsing out a lot of some of the jargon that I hear lately, and I don't mean that ugly. But I do mean that in the way that I think a lot of people are using words, to say things that maybe, because so many people are using those words, we might be talking past each other, we may not be as clear what they mean. And I find Zaretta Hammond is doing for me a really helpful job in parsing out this is actually what this research was, even though people are using words differently. And this is actually what this research was, which is slightly different. And this is actually what this research was, it's actually slightly different. And here are ways that they can work together. But when you use these words, this is you know, anyway, so I think she's helping me sort of be more clear on a lot of things. And I think the way that she talks about elevating all students as learners is very helpful.

Kim Montague:

Yeah, she - I actually got to hear her recently. And she spoke about the learning pit, which I found so interesting, and how we have to we want to maybe build a bridge sometimes to help kids get out of the learning pit and we have to help them -

Pam Harris:

Or never go in the learning pit.

Kim Montague:

Right, rescue a little bit. And I can't remember to be honest, if that was her work in language, or if she was sharing about somebody else's. I'll have to look into that. So I don't -

Pam Harris:

It's someone else's. But she did a really good job.

Kim Montague:

It was fascinating. I loved it.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, really nice. And also parsing out sort of culturally relevant teaching.

Kim Montague:

Cultural responsive teaching.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, yeah. Cultural responsive teaching. Thank you. Uh both, maybe? And again, yo u're gonna hear me not be so cl ear on the words yet, because I haven't heard her enough yet. So it's one of the reasons why it 's all just - I'll be tr ansparent. I'm diving into her wo rk, because it's helping me pa rse out a lot of things. That in some ways, again, because we 're talking past each other, an d in other ways, because I th ink sometimes there are some su ggestions out there that I fi nd less helpful, but because th ey're all lumped together are ki nd of all adopting all of th em. And I want to be able to p rse out the less helpful s ggestions from the ones that wi ll actually get us more bang fo r our buck. And then lastly, I wa nt to give a shout out to a se veral people who have in fluenced my teaching, who I thin k would be super interesting fo r y'all to go hear at a conferenc e or to pick up their work, div e in, follow them on Twitter and on all the social media. We' ll put their Twitter handles in the show notes. So Jenny Bay Williams has been a delight fo r me to get to know I actually "met her", I'm putting that in air quotes, when John Van de Walle and I presented at a small conference several years ago bef ore he passed away. And I'll ne ver forget that he, as we were talking, he said, you know, I'll share something with you. And I was like, first of all, I can't believe I'm talking to John Van de Walle. And secondly, I ca n't believe he's going to share something with me. He said, I think I have found my succe ssor, I think I have found the person who can carry on my wo rk. And it was Jenny Bay Williams . And I heard that and then I met Jenny, and she's as delightfu l as you would think. And it's been fascinating to work wi th her. And if I may, just the one thing, well, she's done a lo t of good work. And in fact, I' ll say first she, Jennifer Bay Williams, and John San Giovanni have just put out som e great work on numeracy. I eally appreciate their vo ice in the numeracy effort. I' ve been doing numeracy work for uite a while. And finally, someon e else is - no I shouldn't say th at. There are a lot of good peop le that have done numeracy work , but I really like the type of work that they're doing. And I find it really helpful. In fact, I remember, Kim, you men tioned John San Giovanni to me first before I met him.

Kim Montague:

I did, and I'm just gonna pipe in real quick. That people do the make and take sessions, right. Like I saw a lot of that. And what I have still found that I love and the reason why I was watching his session was because he did some fantastic number routines that mesh with my belief system about mathematics. It wasn't a like , cut out this stuff or do thes e like kind of nonsensical rout ines.

Pam Harris:

They were hokey?

Kim Montague:

Right. They were fantastic routines. That I would use on the regular.

Pam Harris:

And you you recognized that there was like a system like they belong together. It wasn't just like a shot in the dark, try this. But I was like, No, these actually build the kind of relationships we believe are important. Yeah. So check out their new work. The one thing I wanted to mention about Jenny was that she and I were at a conference, she didn't know me from anybody. And we started chatting. I think it might have been the second time that we chatted, you know, two separate conferences that I said, Do you mind? Do you mind if I like poke on some of the stuff that I'm hearing come out? I'd love your take on - and I said the word algorithm and the word fluency and how adding it up used fluency and how I disagreed with some of that. And I basically said, you have a voice, right? You have this platform. What I really appreciated is as I pushed back, she pushed back on me and we had this like, brilliant conversation of really give and take. Often I find when I try to push back on people's work, they won't push back, they just go Okay, well, that's your opinion, bye. And they walk away. I'm like, no, I want to have a conversation. I'm not just trying to like dig at your work. I really actually want to understand where you're coming from. Thank you, Jenny, for that conversation. That's been very helpful and fruitful in my growth as an educator. So a couple other people to shout out, Jo Boaler is doing amazing work. Dan Meyer is doing some fantastic stuff. Really appreciate the work he's doing. Elham Kazimi tried to say that right, I know people butcher your name, and I apologize, I actually looked up to try to see how to pronounce it. And there were three different ways. So I just chose the one that I - I heard you say once, how not to say your name. So I didn't say it that way. But you might have said I might have done another way not to say it anyway. I think she's done some amazing work up in the Seattle area with teachers. When I heard her talk about the systems work that she did with whole groups of teachers, it really influenced Kim the work that we do k-12, where we bring in problem streams as the instructional routine that you can work with in the whole system, so every day can be having similar conversations. And so I've really appreciated that nudge there. Also, Kathy Fosnot has been hugely instrumental in all the work. Julie Dixon, I think she does an amazing job at lots of things. But one of the things I like about the first time I ever heard Julie Dixon speak, Julie Kay Dixon, and the stroke of luck, was, she sort of, it was a keynote at a regional or State Conference. And she kind of said, Hey, here are some things that I hear teachers latching on to, but incorrectly, and then she kind of listed three or four things and debunked some of the kind of popular ways of looking at some of the kind of shiny research that was out. And she's like, just because you say the word yet, doesn't mean you have growth mindset. Like we've got to do more. And she kind of - I specifically remember where she poked on some growth mindset things that I was seeing as well, that were less helpful ways. And that we really had to get like into what it meant to have a growth mindset, not just use some superficial growth mindset language. And anyway, some things like that I found very helpful. And then laslty I'll shout out a fellow secondary person who went elementary Sarah Vanderworf is doing some good stuff. So there are some names, who -

Kim Montague:

I asked you for three or four. And we got a whole bunch of them, which is fantastic. No, it's fantastic. And but I might want to pipe in that maybe this isn't an exhaustive list.

Pam Harris:

Oh, it's certainly not. Please, I've left out tons of people who have been hugely influential, and I would suggest you listen to, but, there are some people who are at the top of my head.

Kim Montague:

Yeah. Fantastic.

Pam Harris:

So Kim, on social media, we've been putting out some of our favorite routines and just kind of smattering them out there. It's like when I get a, you know, hey, let's put one of those out this week. And I'll just, you know, I'm working with teachers and we create one, and I'm like, let's throw that on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. And people started asking, Is there a place where we can go find more of these? And I was like, well, actually, yeah, there's a ton of them in Building Powerful Numeracy for Middle and High School Students. There's also a ton of them in Lessons and Activities for Building Powerful Numeracy. But there's also these ones that we put out on social media. And so we started to gather those and we have kind of a repository of As Close as it Gets is a routine we like Relational Thinking is a routine. We like those. Problem Strings, I can't remember what else several, several routines that we like. Kind of our favorites. Not the ones that other people have done a great job with. So we love Which One Doesn't Belong. But that one's been done well, so we didn't try to repeat that one. But we've put a lot of our favorite routines that kind of aren't anywhere else in a repository, check them out on the website. We'll talk more about them later on the podcast, but you might want to check out MathisFigureOutAble.com. Go to "learn now" and look for those instructional rotates. Lastly, today, we've been talking about leaders of mathematics education, I just gave you several leaders that you could go listen to at conferences. So, as a leader, we have created this thing called JourneyLeader. If you are a leader and would like to join our cadre of leaders who are learning together and working towards helping teachers become more and more real math teachers, teachers that teach math is figure-out-able math, and you want to help join the math is figure-out-able leader movement, then join JourneyLeader. You can check that out at mathisfigureoutable.com/leader to get more information about that. If you want to learn more math and refine your mathematics teaching so that you and students are mathematizing more and more, then join the math is Figure-Out-Able movement and help us spread the word that math is figure-out-able!