Talk Less

I saw Julie’s tweet a few days ago with the hashtag #talklessam (started from one of the sessions at Twitter Math Camp).

My family and I have been listening to Hamilton nonstop for the past 3 weeks, so when I saw talk less, I immediately heard (in tune) Aaron Burr’s advice to Alexander Hamilton when they first met:

Talk less

Smile more

Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for

Although Burr’s advice is a sign of his weakness, I wonder whether it a sign of strength for teachers in a Slow Math classroom. I’ve seen and learned from so many teachers with a great poker face during class discussions. With practice, I have gotten better at not giving away who is correct and who is incorrect. I’ve gotten better at asking “are you sure” to both correct and incorrect responses so that students have to discuss why they are answering what they are answering.

How might you implement Burr’s advice in your next lesson?

I think of Tim Kanold’s blog post Leaving the Front of the Classroom Behind, in which he urges us to look at how much time we are leading from the front and how much time students have the opportunity for peer to peer discourse.

Robert Kaplinsky recently issued a call to action to post a sign on your door, welcoming observers to your classroom to give feedback on what you’re working on. Maybe you want to combine Tim’s advice with Aaron Burr’s and ask someone to time the interactions in your classroom. How many minutes are you talking compared to your students?

I’ll look forward to reading about your experience over at #ObserveMe and #talklessam.


The Slow Approach

Pearl S. Buck is one of my favorite authors. This Proud Heart is my favorite novel of hers, and I am currently reading The Eternal Wonder. The Eternal Wonder was written in the early 1960s, but then it was stolen and hidden by a former secretary and only recently recovered. I read the highlighted passage more than once when I got to it earlier this week.

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Pearl Buck was before her time on so many issues:

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It doesn’t surprise me that she alluded to The Slow Movement before it had a name.

What connection does “the slow approach” have to how we teach mathematics?

Suppose our destination is “I can write the equation of a circle in the coordinate plane given its center and radius”. If we tell students the connection between the equation, center, and radius, it will only take a few minutes.

But don’t we want our students to know more, see more, much more, before they reach the destination?


And so we choose the slow approach, hoping our students see, in order that our students might know the mathematics.

Buck, Pearl S. The Eternal Wonder: A Novel. New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2013. 1564. Print.


No Teacher Was in a Hurry

I’ve just finished reading The Classroom Chef, by John Stevens and Matt Vaudrey. The premise has #SlowFood/#SlowMath written all over it, and there are references to slowing down and taking time to listen throughout.


One quote in The Plating – Presentation Is Everything chapter struck me:

Go back through the Entrée stories you just read, and look specifically at the questions each teacher asked the students. Notice how no teacher was in a hurry; they let students discuss a topic or an idea until they were satisfied that the students fully understood it.

How do you make it evident to your students that we (students and teachers) have time to ask questions and learn together?

Steven, John, and Matt Vaudrey. The Classroom Chef: Sharpen Your Lessons, Season Your Classes, and Make Math Meaningful. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.: San Diego, CA., 2016. Print. page 109.

Math … in One Word

How do your students feel about math coming into your classroom?

We asked our Algebra 1, Geometry, and Calculus students that question on the first day of class last year.




How do your students feel about math after spending a year in your classroom? Can a Slow Math classroom change students impressions of what math is and how they feel about doing it?

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What word do you want your students to think of when they hear math?

What will you do this year to make that happen?

What Is Slow Math?

What is slow math? What does it look like in the classroom?

In a recent learning experience with mathematics educators, we used the 3-2-1 Bridge visible thinking routine for viewing and reflecting on my Ignite Talk from NCTM 2016.

Before you watch the talk, what is your initial response to the topic “Slow Math”?

  • 3 words/thoughts/ideas
  • 2 questions
  • 1 analogy/metaphor/simile (How you write this is your choice. You might start your sentence with “Slow Math is like … “)

3 words, before:

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Now watch The Slow Math Movement ignite talk.


What are your new responses to the topic “Slow Math”?

  • 3 words/thoughts/ideas
  • 2 questions
  • 1 analogy/metaphor/simile

3 words, after:

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1 analogy, after:

  • Slow math is like having a personal trainer who makes sure you do every rep the RIGHT way instead of just going to the gym alone and rushing through a workout with bad form just because you can get by.
  • Slow math is like enjoying a Sunday afternoon visit with family.
  • Slow math is like taking the time to let vegetables grow to their full potential.
  • Slow math is like a true friend who takes the time to listen to what you have to say instead of always making the conversation topic about themselves and knowing all the answers!
  • Slow math is like planting a garden. The wait seems forever, but the results are worth the wait.
  • Slow Math is responding with appropriate questions when students ask questions. It is taking the time to find out why something works. And “Slow Math” is taking the time to listen to others.
  • Slow math is like giving a child a lifejacket until you teach them to swim on their own.
  • Slow Math is like eating a nutritious meal – satisfying and useful immediately but continues providing benefits long after.
  • Slow math is like building something; it takes time, effort, support, work, and trial and error.

What is Slow Math for you and your students?

Learning for a Lifetime

You’ve heard the Chinese proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

You’ve also heard said about someone who gives too much information: Ask her what time it is and she’ll tell you how to build a clock.

(Or maybe you haven’t; my attempts to Google exactly how to say the latter phrase were mostly unsuccessful.)


I recently received an email from a parent.

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What a gift for a student to recognize the value of understanding formulas instead of just memorizing them.


Several years ago, another student wrote “In middle school, I hated math, but having Mrs. Wilson for geometry changed that. She never just tells her students a formula to memorize or a method to apply to problems. Instead, her students discover the mathematic truths for themselves through classroom discussion and individual exploration, making math a story and a compelling one at that.”


I want to think that I’m providing my students the opportunity to learn how to learn for a lifetime: we explore dynamic figures using technology, ask questions, make conjectures, build arguments, prove conjectures.


But how many of them feel like I’m making them “build a clock”?

How many of them prefer “Tell, Don’t Ask” to “Ask, Don’t Tell”?


“Many times I grew extremely frustrated during class and wanted to just give up. Though Mrs. Wilson’s expectations are unwavering, her willingness to help her students in any way made us able to meet her expectations, though not without hard work and a healthy dose of frustration.”


I have some students who love the challenge, others who are willing persevere through it whether they like it or not, and others who roll their eyes, waiting to be told.

So I wonder: How might we provide #SlowMath learning opportunities for our students that sustain them for longer than the next test yet don’t make them feel like they’re being told how to build a clock they don’t care about building?

How might we create and foster a culture of learning in our classrooms, among our students, that will last long after they take our final exam?

We’ve got plenty to work on, as the journey continues …

Work vs. Learning

I’ve been reading Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools by Ron Ritchhart this summer.

In his chapter on Expectations, Ritchhart wonders “What difference does it make if a teacher asks, ‘Is your work done?’ or ‘Where are you in your learning?’”

He cites a study in one London school that found the word “work” was used forty-nine times more often than the word “learning” when teachers were talking with students. Since I’ve read this chapter, I’ve noticed some of my friends and colleagues using “work” vs. “learning” in conversation about classes and students.

I wonder whether asking “Where are you in your learning” has something to do with the Slow Math Movement.

How might students respond to “Is your work done?” versus “Where are you in your learning?”

To which question would a student answer:

I am almost finished.

I am finished.

I’m on #17.

I have learned ___.

I still wonder ___.

I have figured out ___, but I have a question about ___.

I need to know ___.

What’s the point of doing this?

How often do we introduce a task with an emphasis on the learning that can occur from it? How often do we introduce an assignment with an emphasis on the requirements of the assignment?

What will you do to make it evident to your students that you want to “focus on the learning”?

Ritchhart, Ron. “Expectations: Recognizing How Our Beliefs Shape Our Behavior.” Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools. Jossey-Bass, 2015. 43-46. Print.