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Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 133.  Today I’d like to look at Experiences and Equity & Access with Juliana Matherson, Dr. Hilary Kreisberg, Neily Boyd and Dionne Aminata.

The 2022 Virtual Math Summit is almost over, but at the time of this podcast being released, you still have a couple days to watch the sessions.  The sessions are available through March 8th at after that they go into the Build Math Minds PD site for our members to have access to.  So here is my last set of peeks into sessions in case you still haven’t come over and been a part of the summit.

I’ve been doing a series of episodes sharing some summit sessions that address each of The Flexibility Formula pillars of Equity & Access, Understanding, Observing, Connecting, and Experiencing.  Episode 130 we took a look at Understanding, episode 131 we dove into Observing, episode 132 we looked at Connecting, and in today’s episode we are going to look at both Equity & Access and Experiencing.


Our students come with all different backgrounds; socioeconomic status, differences in cognitive ability, race, home lives, etc. All the different areas where our students are different, oftentimes mathematics seems like it’s splitting our kids and making them not feel included. No matter where you’re at along your journey to becoming a Recovering Traditionalist, the reason I included Equity & Access in the pillars is that I want to encourage you to always be reflecting upon your practice as to whether or not the math classroom is including all students or excluding groups of students.

One area that makes a big difference in Equity & Access is the lessons and activities kids get exposed to in math class.  I call this Experiencing, because we want kids to experience math not just do lessons about math. To truly learn and understand math, kids must dig into, and experience, mathematical problems, not just learn to be rule followers by repeating steps & procedures laid out by the teacher.

Many of the presenters at the summit address Equity & Access and Experiencing but today I wanted to share clips from Juliana Matherson, Dr. Hilary Kreisberg, Neily Boyd and Dionne Aminata’s sessions.

Juliana Matherson’s session is Using Math Menus to Support Small Group Instruction.  Small group instruction with lots of choice means providing EXPERIENCES for your students that meet them where they are.  Juliana gives you lots of practical ideas in this session that you can use right away with your students but here is a clip of her talking about why she switched from Math Centers to Math Menus:

Juliana: “So here are some of the basics. Again, each group has about two to four ‘Must-Do’ activities each day. Students work through their Must-Do activities with their group at their own pace. So there’s no timer of when to switch activities, no requirement on which activity to do first, and there’s a lot of choice. In the beginning of this, I said I used to be math centers focused, and now I’ve moved to just guided math. And I say the timer is one of the biggest reasons why. When I used to do math centers, a timer would go off saying, ‘Okay. Now switch activities.’ But sometimes kids would already have finished that activity five minutes ago, or sometimes they need five more minutes.

    With math menus, I display one timer, and that’s the timer just until class is over, until we need to clean up. So students are able to… Let’s say, it’s Wednesday. I’m able to look at Wednesday. And with my group, I can decide, ‘Do I want to do fractions lab first or identity journal?’ Because whenever Ms. Matherson calls me over for our lesson with Ms. Matherson, I’ll pause what I’m doing. But before that, I have a choice of what I want to do first. And however long it takes me, that’s how long it takes me. So they have a lot of choice, even though it might not seem like a lot, deciding which activity to do first. As a third, fourth, fifth, or even sixth grader, that seems like a lot of choice. So not having a timer to tell kids when to switch and giving them the choice of which activity to do when are two of the big, big things for this.”

In the mini-session Structuring Mathematical Discourse to Enhance Problem Solving by Dr. Hilary Kreisberg you will learn how being linguistically responsive helps provide more EQUITY & ACCESS when giving your students problem solving EXPERIENCES:

Dr. Kreisberg: “Whatever works for you and your students is the right thing to do. But at the end of the day, try to make your routines focused on the math and make them predictable. But you also want to set students up for success by structuring their discourse.

    Let’s end by discussing the power of providing proper language supports where needed. Word problems are wordy and sometimes it can feel like we’re assessing reading skills over math. So supporting language isn’t the teacher reading aloud a problem because that doesn’t help students build language, and it’s not the teacher reducing the complexity of a problem because we can do challenging and rigorous math even if we need more intensive linguistic support.

    To ensure the focus is on the math, we believe language supports should address tiered vocabulary, which we’ll talk about in a minute, provide context support through images, videos, and gestures, attend to grammatical structures, and use routines with structured protocols like you’ve seen in this webinar.

    Showing images or videos or using gestures are ways to make sure that students understand a language-dense text or problem. Also providing opportunities for guided interaction, like we showed you with the structured discourse enables students to develop listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills through organized academic conversations with their peers. Remember, all students enter mathematics classrooms with their own experiences and knowledge bases and educators need to build on their knowledge bases to help students successfully collaborate, communicate, and make meaning in mathematics.”

Up next is a clip from Neily Boyd’s mini-session Making Math Homework Work. I’m not a fan of homework, yet many districts require it and many parents expect it.  Neily is giving us some great tips on how to make math homework a meaningful EXPERIENCE:

Neily: “I think kind of a summary of why we send math homework home is with the hope of reinforcing and strengthening an understanding of math concepts learned in school. And while that is such a noble goal and absolutely something that we want for our students, we want them to have opportunities to strengthen and reinforce the learning we’ve done in our classroom. It is worth taking time to evaluate whether or not that is always what’s happening when we send math homework home. And if you’re like me, you have probably seen dozens of jokes and memes across the internet about parents feeling frustrated with math and parents feeling frustrated with math homework.

    And so here is a specific one that I’ve seen recently. It starts with a store clerk saying, ‘May I help you?’ And the parent says, ‘I hope so. Sweetie, go get your math homework. This nice woman is going to help us.’ And if I’m being honest, my first feeling as a math educator when I see jokes or memes that poke fun at math or that kind of capture frustration about math is to feel like, ‘oh no, we can’t do that. We can’t make math seem like it’s a bad thing, or we can’t perpetuate these negative feelings about math.’ But then I pause and I think about the fact that it’s not that the jokes are creating the frustration or the negative feelings about math, but rather it is that the frustration and the negative feelings about math are happening. And then the jokes are providing an outlet or solidarity in that frustration.

    And so if we want to create a space where people don’t need to make the jokes about math because they don’t feel frustration about math, then we need to look at why is this frustration happening among parents? Why are parents feeling this negativity around math homework at home? And when we examine that, then we can start to get to undoing those negative feelings and getting back to this goal of reinforcing and strengthening the understanding of the math concepts learned in school. So what can we do?”

Our last clip from the 2022 Virtual Math Summit is from our closing keynote session by Dionne Aminata.  In her session, Dionne gives us a Framework for Trusting Our Students To Do The Math:

Dionne: “Teacher bias has a huge impact on student learning. I recently taught a methods course for pre-service teachers in residence at schools across the state of California teaching grades TK-8.

    They were tasked with teaching a lesson where student work would be analyzed and students would be sorted into four categories, depending on how well they performed on the task. The categories ranged from ‘did not meet the requirements of the task’ to ‘met all of the requirements of the task.’ Before teacher residents taught the lesson, they were asked to predict how students would perform and state the assumptions they made to make these predictions.

    Keep in mind, these residents had already experienced coursework that included months of readings and discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion. They made assumptions based on student performance in mathematics using, for example, data from the previous lesson, but they also based their assumptions on other factors, such as homework turn in rate, literacy scores, attendance, how often students raise their hand, how well they performed in other classes, their math identities, and of course behavior. Oftentimes students were grouped based on data from the beginning of the school year.

    Here is an example of predicted student outcomes based on the assumptions of one of the teacher residents. What I didn’t expect was finding that 100% of the 28 residents who completed this project were completely wrong in their predictions for a majority of their students. Looking at the actual student outcomes, students did both better and worse than expected.

    What was good was that teacher residents realized the impact of their own biases. They recognized that they had made instructional decisions to support or to not support students during the lesson based on their biased predictions. Some realized that their personal issues with their own mathematical identities was a contributing factor to the level and the types of support they offered.

    I truly encourage each of you to do this experiment on your own to check your own biases. The residents had some potentially career-altering ‘Aha’ moments, and you might be amazed at what you find.”

Come on over to to watch the sessions by March 8th.  After that, you can only watch them if you are a member of the Build Math Minds PD site.  Not only do members get access to the 2022 Virtual Math Summit, but they also get access to the past 5 years of summit videos plus so many other elementary math PD trainings.  You can get information about enrollment in the site at  If you don’t remember that URL, I’ll link everything up at

I hope this has helped you build your math mind so you can build the math minds of your students.

This episode is brought to you by the Build Math Minds professional development site.  It’s an online site full of PD videos designed specifically for elementary teachers to help you build your math mind so you can build the math minds of your students.  If you are interested in getting in-depth Math PD at Your Fingertips, become a member of Build Math Minds.  Just go to and depending upon when you are listening to this, enrollment might be open or you can join the waitlist and get notified when it opens again.

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.