## The 55^{th} Northwest Mathematics Conference in Yakima October 21-23 was AMAZING! My mind is still whirling with all the pedagogy and math that I learned from four amazing women of math.

**Ruth Parker**, the inventor of Number Talks, took a room full of math teachers through a Number Talk. Without using rules or algorithms, we had to come up with the answer for

## 81 – 26

AND we had to explain our strategy AND come up with more than one strategy. No “BORROWING.” I came to appreciate the value of the number line in solving addition and subtraction problems.

We came up with over 10 different ways to calculate the difference.

Ruth explained the teacher moves she was using as she led us through the Number Talk. Here’s a link to a Teaching Channel video of a 6^{th} grade example of a Number Talk. https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/number-talks-for-assessments

Two big ideas that Ruth stressed: Math has to

- make sense.
- be safe for kids.

**Melinda Knapp** of Oregon State University Bend shared ways to support productive struggle (PS) in the classroom. My takeaways from her session were:

- STOP rescuing kids when they struggle!
- Teach the value of productive struggle.
- Plan rich and challenging tasks for students.
- Plan purposeful questions.

**Shannon McCaw** taught us three strategies that can turn routine assignments into engaging activities where students have time to think, time to work with a partner, and a chance to check their work. Check out the website: ccssmathactivities.com

- Always, Sometimes, Never. Smarter Balanced assessments include “always true, sometimes true, or never true” prompts.
- Partner Math. My students really enjoyed this strategy. They didn’t realize how much math they were doing.
- Ticket Time. A super quick way to get formative data on student learning.

**Leslie Nielson** of Puget Sound ESD and Corelaborate took us through an amazingly deep and rich task involving quadratic equations. She modeled using roles—facilitator, resource manager, product manager and equity monitor. She also modeled effective talk moves. I am going to use her activity and adapt it to linear functions and trig functions.

In another session Leslie took us through a “10 Minute Talk.” The difference between a 10-Minute Talk and a Number Talk is that learners can write down their thoughts. The prompt was: Use as many representations as you can to illustrate that there are three times as many cats as there are dogs at the pet store. As we shared our thoughts, Leslie pushed us to add on to the thinking of others—a great talk move.

Four amazing women. Each providing leadership and promoting productive struggle, engaging activities and rich tasks.

### Patricia Gustin

Married to Larry, an old Coast Guard salt and amazing man.I get to share Larry with our yellow lab, Sherman.

#### Latest posts by Patricia Gustin (see all)

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Alecia McAdams-Sing says

In love with this idea: Productive Struggle! I often talk to kids about the necessity for them to find ways to endure and rest with and struggle with Mental Tension as they step into adult life (when things aren’t easily solved, or have numerous possible answers). I’ll definitely be referring to PS as well.

ejohnstonteach says

I think it is a great message to start the year with. No one has to be right all the time, but you have to try.

Kenneth says

I really enjoyed this blog. Teaching Kindergartners how to “embrace the struggle” is difficult. They come in already thinking that they need to be “right”. This culture is taught at a very early age and it is ingrained in them on the first day. This is one of my favorite community building things that I do from day one…Teach them to embrace the struggle…from learning lunch numbers to problem solving with peers to solving a math problem.

Andrea Ames says

Patricia, I really appreciate the insights you have shared here–they are applicable across many disciplines! Two comments you made really struck a chord with me:

“STOP rescuing kids when they struggle!

Teach the value of productive struggle.”

It takes a lot of courage to be willing to not “get it” right away, and to be wrong! It’s about learning to handle BEING WRONG more than the wrongness itself, if that makes sense. In other words, it’s hard for kids to acknowledge that they’re not there yet and be okay with it. It takes a lot of courage and comfort on their end, and a safe space in which they can learn to navigate uncertainty and move through it. I think that’s what ultimately helps them learn to be learners.

The term “productive struggle” is a new term for me, so thank you for sharing that. Looks like I’ll be doing some reading tonight! :)

Tom White says

Sounds like a great conference. But any conference with Ruth Parker is going to be great!

Douglas Ferguson says

Thanks Pat for sharing. Yes, I was fortunate enough to take roughly 6 weeks of training over the course of several years from Ruth Parker and her colleagues (mostly via the Mathematics Education Collaborative: MEC). I still have all of my notes and activities and it strongly informs my math instruction to this day. Strong leaders and great lessons! I’d certainly jump at the opportunity again :).

Patricia Gustin says

I will definitely look for an opportunity to work with MEC.

Jill Escalera says

I would have loved to check this out. I wish we had a primary math conference somewhere near by because math is my weakest area in subject matter, even for kindergarten! I love number talks, but sometimes I have trouble moving conversations forward because I myself don’t see all the possibilities of answers. Geeze. Sounds like you had a powerful experience at this conference with lots of take aways!

Patricia Gustin says

Next year the NW Math Conference is in Portland. There were lots of sessions for primary grades. Kindergarten is a huge year for kids and their relationships with math.

Debbie Webb says

Thank you for this informative summary of the conference you attended. I passed your blog on to my math colleagues as well as to other math teachers I know around the country since many of them were unable to attend. The gratitude and appreciation I received back was overwhelming.

My high school is currently working on improving our math knowledge by dedicating 35 minutes every Monday during our advisory to doing math. The ideas you shared touched me because I’m not a mathematician by any means. But as my students and I work through the weekly math challenges, we all learn to appreciate flexibility of thinking, perseverance, and the idea that there are more ways of looking at math than just a static math equation. This week we’re working on recognizing patterns and extending them. I’m going to try the 10 minute talk with my students this Monday. My questions will be “Where are patterns used in our society? and What patterns do you see in our community and your travels?”

Thank you for expanding my math vision. This was terrific!

Patricia Gustin says

I am impressed that your school is dedicating this time to math. Be sure to celebrate mistakes–especially your own–to encourage your students to take risks.

Carina Stillman says

Patti–I love to hear about powerful PD, even when it’s not related to my content area. Thank you for sharing!

Debbie–I’m intrigued by this advisory math idea and would like to know more. What is your advisory model? What kind of activities do you do? How is staff buy-in? We keep circling around the idea of advisory but our administration is hesitant. Our math scores could use a boost so maybe we could try something like this too.

Aaron Brecek says

I absolutely love the work of Ruth Parker!!! I was lucky enough to attend a MEC workshop she put on 5 years ago that focused on rich tasks and it transformed my teaching. I’m so glad you were able to see her. I recommend that anyone teaching math take the time to attend a MEC class when offered in your area.

Patricia Gustin says

What an amazing opportunity! I’m working my way through Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets right now. Rich tasks are key to building a mathematical growth mindset.

Aaron Brecek says

My building is also doing a book study with Mathematical Mindset. We are using it to anchor our study of what OSPI is calling Productive Mathematical Routines: Number Talks, My Favorite kNOw, Ten Minute Talks, and Rich Tasks.

It’s amazing all the brain research that is coming out of Stanford right now…

Mary Moser says

I love that there was an emphasis on “be safe”. I think we take this for granted often in our own teaching practice because I feel safe with my content that it’s hard to imagine others not feeling safe. This extends to so many other areas from the physical make-up of the room to the practices in place that will help all students feel safe.

Patricia Gustin says

Ruth Parker shared that when students were assured that they would not be called on to provide answers, they ended up wanting to share their answers and thought processes.

Brooke Carlyle Perry (@brookster29) says

Even though I’m not currently teaching math, I really connected with the line, “STOP rescuing kids when they struggle!” This is applicable in all areas of instruction! There’s really a lot to be said about letting kids grapple with complex tasks for a bit before guiding them. What I’ve noticed over the years, is when I guide too much, my students learn to just wait until I give them the help – they completely bypass the try it on your own step! Thanks for sharing this :)

Patricia Gustin says

They do catch on to our bad habits. It is easier in the long run to teach them how to persevere.

Alfonso Gonzalez says

That sounds amazing, Patricia! Thanks for sharing! I especially love how students are encouraged to come up with ways to solve problems. That is so different from the way we were taught: here’s THE strategy, watch me do it, then you do it over and over again until you get it. Well, that leaves so many students behind whereas when they solve a problem on their own, through their own struggles, they really learn how to solve it and they are problem solving all the way. I’ve seen that style of teaching math work for more kids.

Patricia Gustin says

THE strategy was usually a short cut that worked but did not necessarily make sense. Multiplying 2 digit numbers using the short cut made learning how to multiply things like (x + 2)(3x + 7) so much harder.