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Q & A from Our Webinar with EdWeek, 'Closing the Factory: Productive Struggle and the New Math Model'

Posted by Zacc Dukowitz

Feb 3, 2016 11:02:59 AM


Last week LearnBop sponsored a webinar in partnership with Education Week called "Closing the Factory: Productive Struggle and the New Math Model." During the webinar we were inundated with questions. This blog post contains those questions, grouped by topic, with answers typed in or notes on where the question(s) is addressed in the webinar recording.

For those looking for slides and a transcript of the webinar, you can find them here. For those looking for the live recording of the webinar, it can be found here.

Please note: We don't have all the answers! We decided to use this blog post format to answer questions so that people who are interested can chime in with their own thoughts and feedback, so please leave a comment below if you have more information on one of the questions, or more to say on any of these topics!

Q & A 

Mathematics Questions

In general, we refer those who asked these questions to Superintendent Carver's portion of the webinar, which begins at 31:12 in the recording (and which can be found here). However, we have also done our best to answer specific questions below.

1. Comments on Conrad Wolfram's Computer Based Mathematics please.

- Joseph Pistone

I am unfamiliar with Conrad Wolfram. Can others please chime in? 


2. Do we need to teach math every day?

- Bermeo Franklin

In the spirit of this webinar, I think we would answer that students should be using mathematics as part of some kind of problem-solving/cognitive challenge on a regular basis. So, students don't necessarily need to study the discipline of math every day (though that would certainly be a good thing to do, too!) but they should be presented with complex problems that require mathematics on a regular basis.


3. How can I use this in my Algebra Common Core class?

- Lisa Alterio

For an in-depth answer, check out Cindy Bryant's blog on Edutopia, "Growth Mindset and the Common Core Math Standards."


4. How can teachers address some of the 8 math practices in daily lessons?

- Dr. Evelyn Carter

I am unfamiliar with the 8 math practices but I've pinged Cindy, and we'll see if she has an answer for you shortly!


5. How can the New Math Model help to close the gap?

- Dr. Evelyn Carter

The New Math Model may not in itself help close the achievement gap, but personalizing instruction in a cost-effective manner can help to close the achievement gap, both in mathematics and in other disciplines. There are a number of technologies that can help personalize instruction, but it's crucial that we maintain an intentional attitude in how we evaluate and implement these technologies. That is, we can't simply expect a tool to fix a problem unlesss we apply it in a thoughtful manner.


6. How can we communicate the 'new' way we do math to parents/community members when they are holding tight to more traditional methods (memorizing algorithms)?

- Darla Peterson

See the very last five minutes of the webinar for a conversation about how to loop in parents and community members. In general, we need to talk often, not just with students but with other community stakeholders, about why we are changing things, and what we expect our students to gain through these changes. 


7. How can we embrace 'The Productive Struggle' model and Common Core simultaneously?

- David Bonner

For an in-depth answer, check out Cindy Bryant's blog on Edutopia, "Growth Mindset and the Common Core Math Standards." The way we see it, Growth Mindset/Productive Struggle is fully embodied by the CCSSM.


8. How can we facilitate open-minded dialogue between proponents of explicit and constructivist mathematics?

- Martha McLaren

Great question, but I'm not sure of the answer. I've pinged Cindy so she can chime in, and would love to hear others' thoughts as well. 


9. How can we make math homework more impactful without being overly time consuming to check or grade? 

- Giovanna DiPasquale

 Not to toot our own horn, but LearnBop actually addresses this question through it's step-by-step approach to learning mathematics, where in-depth data is collected on student performance (i.e., no extra time required for grading/checking) and even recommends interventions based on student knowledge gaps revealed. You can sign up to try it for free for 30 days at www.learnbop.com/register.


10. How do we marry the wonderful world of productive struggle and inquiry learning with the timelines and assessments connected to CCSS or State Standards that don't allow the time for deep exploration?

- Michele Stanton

 For an in-depth answer on how Productive Struggle and Growth Mindset related to the CCSSM, check out Cindy Bryant's blog on Edutopia, "Growth Mindset and the Common Core Math Standards." However, your point is well taken that we often don't have the time to dive in-depth into a particular problem, because we have to rush forward in our syllabi. I think your question illustrates the crossroads we are at right now - while on the one hand we are implementing new practices and approaches to learning, on the other we are stuck within a system that doesn't quite allow for these practices. I don't think there is a perfect answer, but we are all working together toward creating a new model.


11. How do we meet standards on which students are tested while infusing modernization into the mathematics learning?

- Connie Dolezal

 Please see #10 above - agreed that this is a tricky balancing act!


12. How do we prepare pre-service teachers to effectively teach the new math since they are extremely comfortable with the factory model?

- Adell Cothorn

This has to come from administrators and from their professors. The more we talk about this shift and why it's valuable, and the more it's emphasized throughout our education system, the more we will be working to effect chagne. 


13. How do you get buy in with high school teachers who teach math the same way that they learned and it was sufficient then?

- Staci Orr

For one, point out that the world has changed and the jobs our students will be seeking when they enter the work force will be radically different from the jobs of ten or twenty years ago. More and more, jobs are interdisciplinary and require creative thinking and adaptability over specific skillsets.


14. How does this approach support the Common Core goals in mathematics?

- Stephanie Kurtts

For an in-depth answer, check out Cindy Bryant's blog on Edutopia, "Growth Mindset and the Common Core Math Standards." The way we see it, Growth Mindset/Productive Struggle is fully embodied by the CCSSM. 


15. How will this new form of teaching and learning math be supported by state governments in particular testing to determine skill success and mastery.

- Julie Sharkey-Villars

Great question Julie. The truth is, we have no idea. But we can hope that, as our education model changes, our tools and measures for evaluating success will also change accordingly.


16. I am noticing a distinct gap between the students that 'grew up' on CC mathematics v. the students currently enrolled in High School. What if any modifications to the curriculum (specifically IM I   II).

- Karen Nares

It sounds like this gap is simply generational, akin to the gap between those who grew up with technology and those who had it introduced later on (I got my first email account at the age of 20, believe it or not!). Of course, we want to do the best we can to catch our high school students up to this new approach, understanding that they may have a more difficult time because it's being introduced to them later in their educaitonal paths.


17. Thank you for acknowledging the factory beginnings in education!  Do you also link math to real world problems that students encounter in their communities? 

- DeBora Mapp

Of course! John Carver talked about Project Based Learning (PBL) as a crucial way to tie different disciplines together, and we think connecting math and other disciplines (such as science, or social studies) to the real world should be done wherever possible. 


18. Was there a demonstrated positive impact on student achievement?

- Patricia Finnegan

Patricia, we're not sure about the context for this question, but we can tell you that an efficacy study has been done on LearnBop by a third party research group, and the study found that students who used LearnBop for one hour a week achieved 7-9 percentile points more growth than their peers on post-assessments. You can find more information about the study in this whiter paper.


19. What commercial math resources are available that teach to these math practices?

- Barbara Peck

LearnBop is certainly one. There are also a number of math curricula that can help, such as EngageNY. If you'd like to try LearnBop for free, you can get 30 days of access at www.learnbop.com/register.


20. What does the Freehold faculty offer students/parents for access during the lengthy (11-12 week) summer break?  All students  but especially those from marginalized environments  experience math application skill deterioration. Tools for keeping up the questioning and problem solving skills continuously around the year?

- Phyllis Frank

In math specifically, Freehold teachers can use LearnBop over the summer to help students stay on top of their learning. Because LearnBop was designed to mimic the one-on-one support a tutor provides, it can help prevent summer learning loss in math.


21. What engagement strategies do you incorporate to help students engage in the mathematical practices?

- Colleen Hanson

See Cindy Bryant's presentation starting at about 32:00 in the webinar recording (which you can find here). Also, check out Cindy's discussion of concrete applications at 47:00. She suggests having a 'Problem solving day' where the emphasis is more on process and less on results - but listen to her words to get more specific advice.


22. What internet resources are the best ones to consult on this topic?

- Diana Spain

Diana, check out the webinar presentation (which you can find here), and go to 45:42, where Cindy has a number of websites she recommends.


23. What is 'Productive Struggle? And why is yet another 'new math' being developed?

- Joseph Tortorici

Productive struggle means working through failure and challenges toward mastery of a given concept or skillset. Productive struggle is part of cultivating a growth mindset in students, where the emphasis is more on process (do you understand how to go about solving a given problem), and less on results (have you memorized the correct formula).

'New Math' was not meant to refer back to the 'New Math' movement, or to propose a new 'New Math' movement, but simply meant more generally to describe how we can apply the 21st Century practices of teaching students to be creative problem solvers, and to pursue answers on their own instead of simply memorizing them, to mathematics.


24. What is one activity I could take back to a primary grade class to utilize a growth mindset in students?

- Nikki Bishop-Kallmeyer

Nikki, during our discussion I asked Cindy about concrete practices to help teachers begin to implement productive struggle in their classrooms. If you watch the recording (which you can find here), you'll find my question and her answer starting around 47:00.


25. Will the New Math Model incorporate Common Core?

- CC Bankhead Jr. 

We see the CCSSM as interconnected with productive struggle and helping students cultivate a growth mindset in learning mathematics and other disciplines. Please For an in-depth answer, check out Cindy Bryant's blog on Edutopia, "Growth Mindset and the Common Core Math Standards." The way we see it, Growth Mindset/Productive Struggle is fully embodied by the CCSSM. 


20th to 21st Century Transition (Closing the Factory)

In general, we refer those who asked these questions to Superintendent Carver's portion of the webinar, which begins at 2:22 in the recording (and which can be found here). However, we have also done our best to answer specific questions below.


1. How can we adjust the focus of our society/schools/students to be on developing thinkers and producers versus being results orientated and consumers?

- Ian Dunst

Great question Ian. This is a huge change, and I think we have to start by talking about it with all of our community stakeholders - parents, students, colleagues, supervisors, government officials, and beyond. There is a discussion in the last ten minutes or so of the webinar (which you can find hereon how to get parents on board with this change that touches on your question, but I think we also just need to be expanding the dialogue and at the same time looking at our own daily habits as educators, and holding ourselves to higher standards as much as possible. 


2. How can we develop the mindset of Urban kids to become resilient?

- Bertrand Tchoumi

Resiliency is an important part of productive struggle, because the goal is to have students see wrong answers as one step on the path toward mastery, instead of simply an indication that they have failed and should quit. In general, we need to shift our own mindset and emphasis in the classroom away from results and more toward process - so, asking questions and encouraging students to ask questions too, instead of simply looking for the correct answer. When students start to see that you are emphasizing good thinking (i.e., process) over memorization (i.e., 'correct' answers) I do think this will help students in urban environments to be more resilient.


3. How do I help high school students feel comfortable with 'struggle' when they are very focused on GPA? 

- Charlotte Pavelka

Great question Charlotte, and one that gets to the heart of the struggle we're facing in education right now. I think one tactic is to be open with students, and tell them that the way you are teaching will help them in college (some students do well in high school and then quickly fail out of college b/c they weren't challenged/prepared well enough for the challenges of college) and in their future careers, which are important things to keep in mind. Also, you can shift your own grading to be on skills acquisitions and standards mastery, as well as student's individual learning growth, and away from generalized testing that may not reflect actual growth or knowledge acquired (within the constraints of your individual school's and district's allowances, of course).


4. How do we balance content requirements with time necessary for productive struggle? 

- Debra Sawyer

This is always a struggle. Cindy talks about how she originally just had one 'Problem Solving' day a week at around 49:15 in the webinar recording (which you can find here) to help her start to infuse her classes with a growth mindset and productive struggle attitude. It will always be a balancing act, but we do think it's important to begin the work of incorporating these practices.


5. How do we change 10 years of practice--and get students to inquire & struggle when they have developed fixed minsets?

- Tamara Hatcher 

One day at a time! Seriously, it can seem incredibly daunting at the outset, but if you can set aside just one part of one period and take it from there, we do think you can start to make a real change in your classroom. See the answer to #4 right above for a little more on this.


6. How do we change thinking and practices when early learning praises the naturally gifted  making kids afraid to try new things for fear of failure?

- Terre Tulsiak

Shift the class culture away from punishing incorrect answers as 'failures', and instead celebrate them as a step on the path toward mastery. This is a big cultural shift for students, but it can be done. See both #5 and #4 above for a little more on this.


7. I have a student who refuses to 'comply' with hw requirements. As you state...this is good...we don't want compliant students. However when it comes to productive struggle...the same student refuses to show his thinking or justify his answers...which makes it difficult for me to give feedback...I can't tell where the mistakes are being made. At the same time our school still operates on a numerical grading system so these things will be seen as zeros. How do you encourage productive struggle here...including in the hw (which btw is quite in line with what you have spoken about here)? I also have students (gifted) that refuse to incorporate the strategies I am teaching because they don't want to struggle so they run home to parents who 'teach them just the math (algebra in Grade 6).' In the end   the students can see that they still do not understand how to problem solve...but their parents are holding onto the 20th century model and telling them not to worry.

- Jennifer Wagar

This sounds like a frustrating situation, Jennifer, but it sounds like you are doing everything you can to help your students make this transition. Have you tried having a parent night, or sending out a parent newsletter, explaining why you are approaching things differently? Of course, not all parents are going to attend or read it, but if you can spread the word directly to them and get some of them on board, it may help. One point you could make in these communications is how rapidly the job market is changing, and that it requires people who can think on their feet, be creative problem solvers, and 'struggle productively' on their own to find answers to complex problems - and that being shown the answer, or memorizing, simply won't help them prepare for this world.


8. I would like to know strategies to share with teachers to engage students in tasks that will develop skills creativity and improve their performance as well as challenge them.

- Claudia Estrada

See the Homework section of the webinar presented by Dr. Kasun and team of Freehold township (starting at around 12:00 in the recording), as well as Cindy Bryant 'Orchestrating Productive Struggle' presentation (starting at around 30:00). The webinar recording can be found here).


9. John Carver states that the 21st Century STEM replaces the 20th Century 3Rs. Some would say STEAM not STEM - to include the arts and the encouragement of creativity.   What would be some best practices for including art and creativity in the classroom?

- Lisa Garbaty


10. Might there be suggestions as to curriculum programs that are currently doing a good job addressing this?

- Marian Scullion


11. Should the shift from the factory model also include a shift from a 19th C traditional school calendar year that plans for learning loss (11-12 weeks of summer) to a 21st Century academic calendar year?

- Phyllis Frank


12. Summer opportunities to maintain and extend the personalized opportunity to learn and think deeper?

- Phyllis Frank


13. Can you suggest successful strategies for helping parents understand  the instructional shift?

- Amy Zigler


14. What do you see as the most important areas for upcoming teachers to emphasize  both in their own education and in their first few years in the classroom?

- Caleb Boone


15. What is the best way to convince teachers/parapros to allow productive struggle?

- Lisa Olin


16. What is the role of Social Studies in the new STEM model?

- Michael Craftner


17. Yes, school administrators need to close the factory.  But what do they open in its place?

- Alan Rudt



Technology and Funding

In general, we refer those who asked these questions to Superintendent Carver's portion of the webinar, which begins at 2:22 in the recording (and which can be found here). However, we have also done our best to answer specific questions below.


1. How do you address the issue of lack of availablilty to students- whether that be a device or inability for students to access the internet from home (and have no way to get somewhere that does have access)?

- Darla Peterson


2. How do you propose to fund the curriculum and resources needed to implement this new model?

- Marie deYoung


3. How do you see this fitting into on-line courses?

- Connie Dolezal


4. How might the inclusion teacher/ designer/ edTech specialist help to facilitate the process?

- Bonita Hall


5. These apps sound incredible  but what other suggestions do you have for students with absolutely no access to technology at home?

- Giovanna DiPasquale


6. What accommodations does your school / district make for families without reliable access to technology at home? 

- David Hill


Special Needs Students

In general, we refer those who asked these questions to the portion of the discussion that touched on special needs students, which begins at 2:22 in the recording (and which can be found here). However, we have also done our best to answer specific questions below.


1. Any suggestions or strategies for students with Autism or Down Syndrome?

- Willietta Brown


2. Are there ideas/suggestions for students with special needs?

- Kim Vennewald


3. How can RTI services and Special Education Services work together to service students?

- Linda Pritchard


4. Is this approach seen as accesible to students with specific learning disabilities?

- Judith Jensen


5. Many special education teachers argue that their students need specific direct instruction for them to construct knowledge. How would you respond and how do we best address their learning needs?

- Kate Philpott




In general, we refer those who asked these questions to the section on homework presented by the Freehold Township team (Superintendent Ross Kasun; Principal Jeff Huguenin; and Principal Edward Aldarelli) which begins at 11:35 (and which can be found here). However, we have also done our best to answer specific questions below.


1. How do you get students to work on materials outside the school day? Students  and some parents have the attitude that school work should be completed within the school day.

- Connie Dolezal


Communicating with Parents and Other Stakeholders

In general, we refer those who asked these questions to the discussion of this topic, which begins at 2:22 in the recording (and which can be found here). However, we have also done our best to answer specific questions below.


1. What strategies can be used to help parents understand this shift in Math?

- Giavanni Coleman



2. Where within this framework is family engagement encouraged and maximized in partnership with the school community?

- JaDonnia Bishop

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