Welcome to “Rounding Up” with the Math Learning Center. These conversations focus on topics that are important to Bridges teachers, administrators and anyone interested in Bridges in Mathematics. Hosted by Mike Wallus, VP of Educator Support at MLC.
Making the Shift: Moving From Additive to Multiplicative Thinking - Guest: Anderson Norton, Ph.D.
Rounding Up Season 2 | Episode 6 – Multiplicative Thinking
Guest: Dr. Anderson Norton
Mike Wallus: One of the most important shifts in students' thinking during their elementary years is also one of the least talked about. I'm talking about the shift from additive to multiplicative thinking. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, I suspect you're not alone. Today we talk with Dr. Anderson Norton about this important but underappreciated shift.
Mike: Welcome to the podcast, Andy. I'm excited to talk with you about additive and multiplicative thinking.
Andy Norton: Oh, thank you. Thanks for inviting me. I love talking about that.
Mike: So, I want to start with a basic question. When we're talking about additive and multiplicative thinking, are we just talking about strategies or operations that students would carry out to find a sum or a product of a problem? Or are we talking about something larger?
Andy: Yeah, definitely something larger, and it doesn't come down to strategies. Students can solve multiplication tasks, what to us look like multiplication tasks, using additive reasoning. And they often do, I think, they get through a lot of elementary school using, for example, repeated edition. If I gave a task like what is four times five? Then they might just say that's five and five and five and five, which is fine. They're solving a multiplication problem, but their method for solving it is repeated addition, so it's basically additive reasoning. But it starts to catch up to them in later grades where that kind of additive reasoning requires them to do more and more sophisticated or complicated strategies that maybe their teachers can teach them, but it starts to add up, especially when they get to fractions or algebra.
Mike: So, let's dig into this a little bit deeper. How would you describe the difference between additive and multiplicative thinking? And I'm wondering if there's an example of the differences in how a student might approach a task or a problem that could maybe highlight that distinction.
Andy: The main distinction is with additive reasoning, you're working within one level of unit. So, for example, if I want to know, and going back to that four times five example, really what I'm doing is I'm working with ones. So, I say I have five ones and five ones and five ones and five ones, and that's 20 ones. But in a multiplication problem, you're really transforming across units. If I want to understand four times five as a multiplication problem, what I'm saying is, “If I measure a quantity with a unit of five, the measure is four,” just to make it a little more concrete. Suppose my unit of measure is like a stick that's 5 feet long, and then I say, “OK, I measured this length, and it was four of these sticks. So, it's four of these 5-foot sticks. But I want to know what it is in just feet.” So, I've changed my unit. I'm saying, “I measured this thing in one unit, this stick length, but I want to understand its measure in a different unit, a unit of ones.” So, you're transforming between this one kind of unit into another kind of unit, and it's a five-to-one transformation. So, I'm not just doing five plus five plus five plus five, I'm saying every one of that stick length contains 5 feet, five of these 1-foot measures. And so, it's a transformation from one unit into another, one unit for measuring into a different unit for measuring.
Mike: I mean, that's a really big shift, and I'm glad that you were able to describe that with a practical example, that someone could listen to this and visualize. I think understanding that for me clarifies the importance of not thinking about this in terms of just procedural steps that kids would take to either add or multiply; that really there's a transformation in how kids are thinking about what's happening rather than just the steps that they're following.
Andy: Yeah, that's right. And a lot of times as teachers or even as researchers st
Enrichment for All - Guest: Tisha Jones
Rounding Up Season 2 | Episode 5 – Horizontal Enrichment
Guest: Tisha Jones
Mike Wallus: At their best, programs with titles such as “gifted and talented” seek to provide enrichment to a subset of learners. That said, these initiatives sometimes have unintended consequences, sending messages about which students are, or are not, capable doers of mathematics. What if there was a way educators could offer problems that extend grade-level learning to each and every student? Today we'll explore the concept of horizontal enrichment with Tisha Jones, MLC's senior manager of assessment.
Mike: Well, thanks for joining us, Tisha. I am excited to explore this idea of horizontal enrichment.
Tisha Jones: I am excited to be here and talk about it.
Mike: So, we're using the term “horizontal enrichment,” and I think we should define the term and talk about, what do we mean when we say that?
Tisha: When we're talking about horizontal enrichment, we are looking at how do we enrich the curriculum, but on grade level. So, not trying to accelerate into the next grade level. But how do we help them go deeper with the content that is at their developmental level currently?
Mike: That's really interesting because when I was teaching, I would've said enrichment and acceleration are exactly the same thing, which, I think, leads me to the next question, which is: What are the features of a task that might be designed with horizontal enrichment in mind?
Tisha: So, I like to think about horizontal enrichment as an opportunity to engage the practice standards. So, how do we help kids do more of the things that we think being a [mathematician] actually is? So, how can we get them more invested in problem-solving? How can we get them using tools? How can we get them thinking creatively in math and not just procedurally. And, of course, we try to do that on a daily basis in math, but when we're enriching, we want to give them tasks that raise the ceiling of their thinking, where they can approach things in lots of different ways and push their thinking in ways that maybe they haven't, where they can apply the concepts that they're using to solve interesting and novel problems.
Mike: I think that's really helpful because you're really clarifying for me, one way that we could “enrich” kids would be to teach them procedures that they might learn in a grade or several grades that are of beyond where they're at right now. But what you're suggesting is that enrichment really looks like problem-solving and novelty and creativity. And we can do that with grade-level ideas. Am I making sense of that correctly?
Tisha: Absolutely, and I get excited because I also think that it's fun working a problem where the path is not clear-cut to get to the answer and try some things out and see what happens and look at how can I learn from what I did to make new decisions to try to get to where I'm going? To me, that's bringing in the joy of doing math.
Mike: So, this is interesting. I think that maybe the best way to unpack these ideas might be to look at a specific task. So, I'm wondering, is there a specific task that you could help us take a look at more closely?
Tisha: Absolutely. So, we're going to take a look at a task from third grade, and it comes out of Concept Quests, which is a supplemental resource that's published by Math Learning Center, and this task is called “The Lasagna Task.” So, I'm just going to read it and then we can talk about what is it asking kids to do. So, it says, “You need to assume that you like lasagna and would like as much lasagna as possible. For each of the ‘Would you rather…?’ scenarios below, justify your reasoning with equations, pictures, or both.” So, that's the setup for the kids. And then there's three “Would you rather…?” scenarios. So, the first is, “Would you rather: a.) share three lasagnas between two families or share four lasagnas between three families? b.) Would you rather sh
Constructing Joyful Mathematics Classrooms - Guest: Amy Parks, Ph.D.
Rounding Up Season 2 | Episode 4 – Joy in the Elementary Math Classroom
Guest: Amy Parks, Ph.D.
Mike Wallus: Teaching is a complex and challenging job. It's also one where educators experience moments of deep joy and satisfaction. What might it look like to build a culture of joy in an elementary mathematics classroom? Michigan State professor Amy Parks has some ideas. Today on the podcast, we explore ways educators can construct joyful experiences for their youngest mathematics learners.
Mike: Well, welcome to the podcast, Amy. I'm so excited to be talking with you about joy in the elementary mathematics classroom.
Amy Parks: I'm so happy to be here.
Mike: So, your article in MTLT was titled, “Creating Joy in PK–Grade 2 Mathematics Classrooms.” And early on you draw a distinction between math classrooms where students are experiencing joy and those that are fun. And you quote Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, who say, “Being joyful is not just about having more fun, we're talking about a more empathic, more empowered, more spiritual state of mind that's totally engaged with the world.” That really is powerful. So, I'm wondering if you could tell me about the difference between classrooms that foster joy and those that are just more fun.
Amy: Yeah, I was very struck by that quote when I read it the first time in “The Book of Joy.” And I think one of the reasons that book is powerful for me is that the two people writing it didn't have these super easy lives, right? Particularly the Archbishop Desmond Tutu was imprisoned in the country that was openly hostile to him, and yet he was still really committed to approaching his work and the world with joy. And so, I often think if he could do that, then surely the rest of us can get up and do that. And it also tied into something I often see in elementary classrooms, which is this focus on activities that are fun, like sugary cereal, right? They're immediately attractive, but they don't stick with us and maybe they're not really good for us. I often think the prototypical example is, like, analyses of packets of M&Ms. When I think about the intellectual energy that has gone into counting and sorting and defining colors of M&Ms, it makes me a little sad, given all the big questions that are out there that even really young kids can engage with. And so, yes, I want children to be playful and to laugh and to engage with materials they enjoy. But also, I think there is this quieter kind of joy that comes from making mathematical connections and understanding the world in new ways and grasping the thinking and ideas of others. And so, when I'm pointing toward joy, that's part of what I'm trying to point toward.
Mike: So, I want to dig into this a little bit more because one of your first recommendations for sparking joy is this idea that we need to make some room for play. And my guess is that that raises many questions for elementary educators, like “What do you mean by play?” and “What role does the teacher play in play?” Can you talk a little bit about this recommendation, Amy?
Amy: Yeah. So, when I have more time than that very short article to talk about, one of the things that I like to bring out to teachers is that we can think of play in sort of three broad buckets. So, one is “free play,” and this is an area where the teacher may not have a lot of roles except to sort of define health and safety limits. So certainly, recess is a place of free play. But there are places at recess where children are encountering mathematical ideas, right? There are walking in straight lines and they're balancing on things and they're seeing whether they all have the same amount of materials and toys. So, those are all mathematical contexts that we can, as teachers later bring in and highlight in places where they can engage. But they're not places where teachers are setting learning goals and reinforcing things. And particularly in the lower grades, we m
Extending Opportunities for Engagement - Guest: Meghan Shaughnessy, PhD
Season 2 | Episode 3 – Student Engagement
Guest: Dr. Meghan Shaughnessy
Mike Wallus: When we say students are engaged in a discussion or a task, what do we really mean? There are observable behaviors that we often code as engaged, but those are just the things that we can see or hear. What does engagement really mean, particularly for students who may not verbally participate on a regular basis? Today on the podcast, we're talking with Dr. Meghan Shaughnessy about the meaning of engagement and a set of strategies teachers can use to extend opportunities for participation to each and every student.
Mike: Welcome to the podcast, Meghan. We are super excited to have you joining us.
Meghan: I'm excited to be here.
Mike: So, I want to start with a question that I think in the past I would've thought had an obvious answer. So, what does or what can participation look like?
Meghan: So, I think in answering that question, I want to start with thinking about one of the ways that teachers get feedback on participation in their classroom is through administrator observation. And oftentimes those observations are focused on students making whole-group verbal contributions and discussions, particularly with a focus on students sharing their own ideas. Administrators are often looking at how quiet the space is and how engaged students appear to be, which is often determined by looking at students' body language and whether or not that language matches what is often seen as listening body language, such as having your head up, facing the speaker, et cetera. And as I say all of this, I would also say that defining participation in this way for discussions is both a limited and a problematic view of participation. I say limited in the sense that not all participation is going to be verbal, and it certainly won't always include sharing new ideas.
Meghan: So, to give a concrete example, a student might participate by revoicing another student's strategy, which could be really important, providing other students a second chance to hear that strategy. A second example is that a student might create a representation of a strategy being shared verbally by a classmate. And this nonverbal move of creating a representation could be really useful for the class in developing collective understanding of the strategy. The traditional view is problematic, too, in the sense that it assumes that students are not participating when they don't display particular behaviors. To turn to a more equitable approach to conceptualizing and supporting participation, I and my colleagues would argue that this includes learning children's thinking body language, including a focus on written pair talk, and supporting contributions. In other words, moving beyond just having students share their own ideas, having students share what they learned from our classmate.
Mike: Yeah. I want to dig into this a little bit more. Because this idea that my read on a child's behavior influences my understanding of what's happening, but also my practice, is really interesting to me. You've really had me thinking a lot about the way that a teacher’s read on a student's engagement or participation, it has a lot to do with the cultural script for how adults and children are expected to interact, or at least what we've learned about that in our own lived experiences. I'm wondering if you could just talk a little bit about that.
Meghan: Yeah. One way to start answering that question might be to ask everyone to take a minute to think about how you participate in a discussion. Do you use the sort of listening behaviors that teachers are told matter? Are you always sharing new ideas when you participate in a discussion? You also might want to imagine sitting down with a group of your colleagues and asking them to think about when they engage in a discussion outside of class, what does it look and feel like? Are there lots of people talking at once or people talking o
Empathy Interviews - Guest: Kara Imm, PhD.
Season 2 | Episode 2 – Empathy Interviews
Guest: Dr. Kara Imm
Mike Wallus: If there were a list of social skills we hope to foster in children, empathy is likely close to the top. Empathy matters. It helps us understand how others are feeling so we can respond appropriately, and it can help teachers understand the way their students are experiencing school. Today on a podcast, we talk with Dr. Kara Imm about a practice referred to as an empathy interview. We'll discuss the ways empathy interviews can help educators understand their students' lived experience with mathematics and make productive adaptations to instructional practice.
Mike: Well, welcome to the podcast, Kara. We're excited to have you join us.
Kara Imm: Thanks, Mike. Happy to be here.
Mike: So, I have to confess that the language of an empathy interview was new to me when I started reading about this, and I'm wondering if you could just take a moment and unpack, what is an empathy interview, for folks who are new to the idea?
Kara: Yeah, sure. I think I came to understand empathy interviews in my work with design thinking as a former teacher, classroom teacher, and now teacher-educator. I've always thought of myself as a designer. So, when I came to understand that there was this whole field around design thinking, I got very intrigued. And the central feature of design thinking is that designers, who are essentially thinking about creating new products, services, interactions, ways of being for someone else, have to start with empathy because we have to get out of our own minds and our own experiences and make sure we're not making assumptions about somebody else's lived experience. So, an empathy interview, as I know it now, is first and foremost a conversation. It's meant to be as natural a conversation as possible. When I do empathy interviews, I have a set of questions in mind, but I often abandon those questions and follow the child in front of me or the teacher, depending on who I'm interviewing.
Kara: And the goal of an empathy interview is to elicit stories; really granular, important stories, the kind of stories that we tell ourselves that get reiterated and retold, and the kinds of stories that cumulatively make up our identities. So, I'm not trying to get a resumé, I'm not interested in the facts of the person, the biography of the person. I'm interested in the stories people tell about themselves. And in my context, the stories that kids tell themselves about their own learning and their own relationship to school, their classrooms, and to mathematics. I'm also trying to elicit emotions. So, designers are particularly listening for what they might call unmet needs, where as a designer we would then use the empathy interview to think about the unmet needs of this particular person and think about designing something uniquely and specifically for them—with the idea that if I designed something for them, it would probably have utility and purpose for other people who are experiencing that thing. So, what happened more recently is that I started to think, “Could empathy interviews change teachers' relationship to their students? Could it change leaders' relationships to the teachers?” And so far, we're learning that it's a different kind of conversation, and it's helping people move out of deficit thinking around children and really asking important questions about, what does it mean to be a kid in a math class?
Mike: There's some language that you've used that really stands out for me. And I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit more about it. You said “the stories that we tell about ourselves”; or, maybe paraphrased, the stories that kids tell themselves. And then you had this other bit of language that I'd like to come back to: “the cumulative impact of those stories on our identity.” Can you unpack those terms of phrase you used and talk a little bit about them specifically, as you said, when it comes to
Practical Ways to Build Strength-Based Math Classroom - Guest: Beth Kobett, EdD
Rounding Up Season 2 | Episode 1 – Practical Ways to Build Strengths-based Math Classrooms
Guest: Beth Kobett
Mike Wallus: What if it were possible to capture all of the words teachers said or thought about students and put them in word clouds that hovered over each student throughout the day? What impact might the words in the clouds have on students’ learning experience? This is the question that Beth Kobett and Karen Karp pose to start their book about strengths-based teaching and learning. Today on the podcast, we're talking about practices that support strengths-based teaching and learning and ways educators can implement them in their classrooms.
Mike: Hey, Beth, welcome to the podcast.
Beth Kobett: Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be here, Mike.
Mike: So, there's a paragraph at the start of the book that you wrote with Karen Karp. You said: ‘As teachers of mathematics, we've been taught that our role is to diagnose, eradicate, and erase students' misconceptions. We've been taught to focus on the challenges in students' work rather than recognizing the knowledge and expertise that exist within the learner.’ This really stopped me in my tracks, and it had me thinking about how I viewed my role as a classroom teacher and how I saw my students’ work. I think I just want to start with the question, ‘Why start there, Beth?’
Beth: Well, I think it has a lot to do with our identity as teachers, that we are fixers and changers and that students come to us, and we have to do something. And we have to change them and make sure that they learn a body of knowledge, which is absolutely important. But within that, if we dig a little bit deeper, is this notion of fixing this idea that, ‘Oh my goodness, they don't know this.’ And we have to really attend to the ways in which we talk about it, right? For example, ‘My students aren't ready. My students don't know this.’ And what we began noticing was all this deficit language for what was really very normal. When you show up in second grade, guess what? There's lots of things you know, and lots of things you're going to learn. And that's absolutely the job of a teacher and a student to navigate. So, that really helped us think about the ways in which we were entering into conversations with all kinds of people; teachers, families, leadership, and so on, so that we could attend to that. And it would help us think about our teaching in different ways.
Mike: So, let's help listeners build a counter-narrative. How would you describe what it means to take a strengths-based approach to teaching and learning? And what might that mean in someone's daily practice?
Beth: So, we can look at it globally or instructionally. Like, I'm getting ready to teach this particular lesson in this class. And the counter-narrative is, ‘What do they know? What have they been showing me?’ So, for example, I'm getting ready to teach place value to second-graders, and I want to think about all the things that they've already done that I know that they've done. They've been grouping and counting and probably making lots of collections of 10 and so on. And so, I want to think about drawing on their experiences, A. Or B, going in and providing an experience that will reactivate all those prior experiences that they've had and enable students to say, ‘Oh yeah, I've done this before. I've made sets or groups of 10 before.’ So, let's talk about what that is, what the names of it, why it's so important, and let's identify tasks that will just really engage them in ways that help them understand that they do bring a lot of knowledge into it. And sometimes we say things so well intentioned, like, ‘This is going to be hard, and you probably haven't thought about this yet.’ And so, we sort of set everybody on edge in ways that set it's going to be hard, which means, ‘That's bad.’ It's going to be hard, which means, ‘You don't know this yet.’ Well, why don't we turn tha
I’m loving this podcast!! Thank you for the thoughtful episodes. The length is perfect and the content is impactful. Looking forward to each new episode!