Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Designing Math Adventures

For the last several years, Kathy and I have been telling stories associated with our use of human-centered design to support the teaching and learning of meaningful K-8 mathematics. We decided to gather these stories in a book, Designing Math Adventures. After several prototypes, it is finally ready for release. It is available as an ebook or a paperback on Amazon.

Third Time is the Charm

We are also grateful to the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics who invited us to deliver the keynote at their 75th Annual Conference this summer. If you're interested in attending, you can register here.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Were you talkin' about me?

Yes, people might be talking about you, especially if you attend our live episode of the #TeachingLikeTedLasso podcast at GVSU's Math in Action Conference on February 25, 2023.

Here's the description of the live session:

We started the Teaching Like Ted Lasso Podcast because we BELIEVE in the rich connections we saw between teaching and the positive and popular Apple TV show. No knowledge of the show is required - just an interest in improving our teaching! CURIOUS? Then please join us for this live episode, where you are the special guests sharing what works for you.

The plan for our 10 episode podcast is to attend to 10 major themes that connect the show and teaching. Thus far, we have explored five themes: PlayCuriosity; Teamwork; Vulnerability; and Discourse. Because we are at the halfway point, we see the live episode at Math in Action as a retrospective - a way to reflect on what we've learned and add voices to the conversation. Participants in our Math in Action session will have the opportunity to share with each other (and potentially the world) how they see their teaching practice connecting to these themes.

Even if you are not going to be in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area on the 25th of February, there are a couple of ways you can still participate. 

Our session, like many others during the Math in Action Conference will be in a hybrid format. (The Conversations Among Colleagues Conference, focusing on teaching math, math education, and statistics in higher education, is taking place at the same time and also has hybrid session - two conferences for the price of one. You can see the schedules here and here.) That means you can Zoom in from anywhere in the world to participate and share your ideas.

Or, if you are busy that day, make a short (five minutes or less) video recording of your answers to the following questions and send them to us at teachingliketedlasso@gmail.com

  • Who are you?
  • Where are you from?
  • What is your relationship to education? and
  • How do you apply [play, curiosity, teamwork, vulnerability, or discourse] in your teaching practice? 
If you send the recording before February 25th, we might be able to share it during the session. Recordings sent before March 1, 2023 will be considered for the retrospective episode. We cannot guarantee that everyone's response will make the episode, but we will do our best. If your answers do make it onto the podcast, we will create for you one of these handsome Teaching Like Ted Lasso trading cards. (So, you'll also want to send an action photo in your email - just in case).

You can register for Math in Action here. Please send you video responses to teachingliketedlasso@gmail.com. We are excited to add your voices to the Teaching Like Ted Lasso conversation.

PS: In-person participants might meet some of the stars of TLTL Theatre

and experience the added bonus of biscuits!

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Whatcha been doing, Bobby Ewing?

My colleague and friend, John Golden, and I watched the first two seasons of Ted Lasso, the Emmy Award Winning AppleTV+ series, and thought, "This has a lot of great lessons for educators." So, we're creating 10 episodes addressing major themes from the show that might support teachers in improving their professional practice. Each episode will include teaching and learning examples from the show, from the research, and from practice. If you're interested in this sort of thing, we ask that you become part of the Ted Ed community and share your ideas on Twitter at #TeachingLikeTedLasso.

Here's the video we put out that introduces the podcast:

Each episode we will be sharing scenes from the show, but, like Roy, we are really bad at impressions. So we've decided to have some fun with it.

To make sure you don't miss any content, subscribe to our YouTube Channel or the audio version of the podcast
or both.

Let us know what teaching and learning themes you see in the show by sharing them in the comments.

We appreciate you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

How do you like your marshmallow?

Today, I moderated a panel of early elementary educators who discussed the Values underlying Michigan's Essential Instructional Practices in Early Mathematics [PDF]. 

The session began with my favorite ways to start a session/class: While We Wait. This is a nice way to give participants something to do while we wait for everyone to join the online space. It also provides an opportunity to get to know one another around a fun topic. Because today is National S'mores Day, I thought the following prompt was appropriate. (There's a whole calendar of National Days.)

I also thought the question was a good metaphor for the session: how the Values ought to inform our teaching practice. By thinking about our desired marshmallow and the ways that impacts how we toast them, we could transition to how teaching early math might change to reflect our desired values.
  • So, how do you like your marshmallows? 
  • What do you do to get them toasted just right?
  • And how might the Values provided above change the way we teach math in the early grades?
The comments are open.


Friday, July 23, 2021

What will you be teaching on October 20th?

My first real teaching job was at Grant Middle School. I was hired on the Thursday before school started and began teaching the next Monday. I taught 8th grade math in a portable classroom (much like the one shown on the right) and coached the girls and boys basketball teams. It was wonderful but also stressful. I always felt like l was just a few lessons ahead of my students.

At the end of the school year, I vowed that I'd never be so disorganized in my teaching ever again. I spent the entire summer planning my lessons for the next year. I was assigned 8th grade math again and also an Algebra class. By the time school started, I could tell you exactly what I'd be doing during either class any day of the year.

It was my worst year of teaching. I had spent so much time focusing on the content that I had totally forgotten about the students. And I put so much effort into the plans that I was resistant to altering them. My students and I were all miserable.

I share this story with the teachers I work with as a cautionary tale. It's tempting to want to be totally prepared for every lesson. Unfortunately, it's impossible. It's better to have a lesson prototype in mind that can be altered in response to feedback from students. We use a version of this One-Sentence Lesson Plan as a framework for our prototypes for designing math adventures. The incompleteness leaves room for student-voice and student-choice during the lesson experiment.

So, instead of spending the summer planning out every detail of the coming school year, please keep it simple and give yourself some time to recreate and restore. Maybe you could explore some new places. This will hopefully re-energize you and allow you to be more responsive to the students in your classes.

Scampy McScamperson visits Devils Tower

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

What's the problem we're trying to solving in math education?

The way we ask a question tends to frame our solution. This was one of the most long-lasting lessons that I learned at the d.school's week-long Teaching and Learning Studio. The activity we did early in the week to introduce this idea is one that I still do with teachers. I'll do my best to recreate that experience here.

First, I need you to break into one of two groups. Each group will do a different task. Let's assign your task based on your birthdate. If the day of your birth is odd, then do the first task. If it is even, then do the second one. (e.g. I was born on the 29th, so I'd be in group one.)

To begin, click on the appropriate link provided below. It will open up a copy of a Jamboard with the task's question. You can do your work on the Jamboard (it is yours to keep) or on a separate piece of paper.

Task One (odd birthdates)

Task Two (even birthdates)

Don't read any farther until you've completed your task or you'll ruin the surprise.

Once you've completed your task, click on the other task question and consider how that question might result in different solutions and why.

The first group often comes up with a variety of creative vases. Some have multiple openings at the top. Some hold the flowers sideways. However, because of the way the question is framed, they are all obviously vases.

Very few vases show up in the second group. Instead, flowers grow on the wall or hang from the ceiling. One participant had the flowers floating in a clear container with a fan at the bottom. Sure, it might not actually be feasible, but it is a much more creative way to start seeking solutions.

IBM does a version of this activity in their
Enterprise Design Thinking Course

I ask educators to do these tasks to highlight that most of our efforts to innovate in math classrooms amount to the first task. No matter what we do, we just end up with another vase. This is one reason why Kathy and I wrote Designing Math Adventures - because we want learners to experience something more than another math lesson.

So, what's the question you'll ask to frame your next school year? I'd like to collect them in the comments. Thanks for contributing to our creative problem-solving.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Why write Designing Math Adventures?

In planning the book, Designing Math Adventures, Kathy and I took Simon Sinek's advice and started by identifying our WHY: to support educators' efforts to improve K-8 math learning.

Based on our interactions with thousands of teachers, we can confirm that BrenĂ© Brown is right. Most of us are doing the best we can under the circumstances. This doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. We wrote this book to help teachers to make the subtle shifts necessary to change their current circumstances and improve the teaching and learning of math in their classrooms. 

HOW can teachers change their circumstances? Sometimes it's as simple as doing more of what’s working and less of what’s not. The level of intentionality we are talking about requires an honest examination of our teaching practice. This type of reflection isn't always easy.

WHAT Designing Math Adventures offers is a design thinking tool that supports teachers in creating meaningful math lessons. By considering five straightforward questions, teachers can write a lesson that responds to the mathematical brilliance of their students in thirty minutes or less. We know teachers are incredibly busy, so we want to ensure that the approach is both sustainable and satisfying.