The Edge

Integrating Technology Into Math Curriculum with Debbie Tannenbaum

May 23, 2024 ISTE Season 2 Episode 19
Integrating Technology Into Math Curriculum with Debbie Tannenbaum
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The Edge
Integrating Technology Into Math Curriculum with Debbie Tannenbaum
May 23, 2024 Season 2 Episode 19

Join Georgia and The Edge producer Matt Winters for a conversation with Debbie Tannenbaum. Debbie shares her expertise on Math instruction and coaching with technology. 

Show Notes Transcript

Join Georgia and The Edge producer Matt Winters for a conversation with Debbie Tannenbaum. Debbie shares her expertise on Math instruction and coaching with technology. 

[00:00:00] Georgia Terlaje: Welcome to the edge, your go to podcast presented by it's the community leaders, whether you're an experienced educator, a forward thinking administrator, or simply someone deeply invested in the realm of education, get ready for an exciting ride. Join us as we delve into the vibrant landscape of education.

[00:00:17] Georgia Terlaje: Guided by our passionate ISTE community leaders. Throughout the upcoming episodes, we'll unveil firsthand accounts from the trenches, spotlighting the unwavering commitment and creative ingenuity, driving the evolution of education. Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for this unforgettable journey. Coming up today, we have a great guest on the show who's going to discuss digital tools in mathematics and transforming your mathematical classroom.

[00:00:43] Georgia Terlaje: I'm one of your community leaders, Georgia Terlahi. I'm a TK5 instructional coach and educator of 35 years. And I'm here with another one of my favorite partners in crime and our It's The Edge producer, Matt Winters. 

[00:00:58] Matthew Winters: Thanks, Georgia. I'm very excited to be here. My name is Matt winners and I am a product manager, Utah education network in Salt Lake city, Utah.

[00:01:06] Matthew Winters: Educated 14 years and proud community leader for ISTE. I'm very excited about our guests today. We were chatting a little bit before. I'm very excited to introduce another ISTE community leader. Debbie Tenenbaum. 

[00:01:20] Debbie Tannenbaum: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here tonight. 

[00:01:26] Matthew Winters: Could you tell us a little bit about your background, Debbie?

[00:01:27] Matthew Winters: What, where do you teach? What do you do for a living? 

[00:01:31] Debbie Tannenbaum: So this is my 25th year in education and I am an elementary school tech coach in Fairfax County, Virginia. And so I get the really cool role of, I get to help teachers really improve their instruction, but I also get to still work with students, which has been really amazing.

[00:01:48] Debbie Tannenbaum: This is my sixth year in the role and. I just really enjoy helping ours. I'm in a pre K to 6 school, helping our youngest learners really understand how to use digital tools. And then, in addition to that, I've been doing, I'm an ISTE community leader. I'm an ISTE certified educator. I am a newly, I guess, as of October ASED emerging leader and I've been doing some presenting and sharing and.

[00:02:18] Debbie Tannenbaum: Just really enjoying sharing some of my passions with other educators. I try to pick things that other educators don't talk as much about. I feel like there's enough sessions on Google slides that we don't need anymore. So I'm really trying to pick different things that I find that are things I needed that I couldn't find when I started in this role.

[00:02:42] Georgia Terlaje: So I know today we're going to talk about digital tools in a mathematic way. Classroom, but I wanted to kind of start with how you became passionate about transforming math classrooms. Cause I've been on a similar journey as a coach and I just wanted to hear how you came to that kind of place in your educational journey.

[00:03:03] Debbie Tannenbaum: So math has always been something I've really enjoyed teaching. It wasn't something I necessarily enjoyed learning. But I've really enjoyed teaching. I've been in I was in Maryland before I was in Virginia, so I was in that I was teaching at the point where in common core came in. So lots of different.

[00:03:21] Debbie Tannenbaum: I've taught Singapore math. I've taught all sorts of types of math. And so it's something I feel that I'm pretty good at teaching. And it's really been an important part of my journey. And when I started becoming a tech coach, and I went and asked teachers if I could come in and either co teach or model When I started to mention reading, they all gave me this look like, Oh, we can't have you come in for reading reading.

[00:03:44] Debbie Tannenbaum: There's too much, especially in Virginia. Right now. We're really big into the science of reading. And my teachers just had that deer and headlights type of look. So, when that happened, I was like, well, how about we, I come in for math and a lot of teachers I found struggle with really understanding how to integrate technology with math.

[00:04:06] Debbie Tannenbaum: Their most common response is, Oh, well, I use ST math or, Oh, I use dream box, but they don't really understand how they can use technology in a more transformative way to really amplify student learning. And so I started to investigate that and try and go into classrooms and share some of those resources.

[00:04:27] Debbie Tannenbaum: And when I did that, I started to notice that it was a huge need. And I, in addition to everything else I do, I blog regularly and so I started blogging about my technology and Matthews and before I knew it, it became a blog series. And when I get the kind of interest I got in that, I'm like, oh, well, that's eventually going to become something I'm going to present on because so often we don't see those resources, especially in that elementary space.

[00:04:56] Debbie Tannenbaum: I went to a Georgia technology conference and. When I was there, I went to a session on Desmos for secondary and I didn't know anything about Desmos at the time. And when I left, I started exploring and I was like, well, why aren't we using this in our schools? This is free. And it's just been so amazing to see the engagement that I find when we use the technology in a really meaningful way for math and it's something that sometimes.

[00:05:24] Debbie Tannenbaum: Teachers don't realize they can do, cause a lot of this is really simple and there's so many great resources, but a lot of times teachers, they try, you know, they just don't realize how they can do it. And so when I go into with teachers into teachers classrooms, I'm really able to model that for them.

[00:05:42] Debbie Tannenbaum: We're able to plan and it's really been an amazing experience. 

[00:05:49] Matthew Winters: I love that. And a lot of what you were saying echoes with me and my background as a coach. Things that I've experienced when I've walked into a classroom and tried to share what seems to me as somebody who's gone to conferences, talked to other experts in the field is a best practice.

[00:06:03] Matthew Winters: But for people who don't know, it's, it's very foreign to them and they, they push back a little bit. So. With your math, mathematics classrooms that you've worked with, how do you handle the teachers who push back and what are some best approaches to help ease teachers into kind of new models of learning?

[00:06:22] Debbie Tannenbaum: Well, one of the things that I found as I'm working with the teachers I've been working with is over the course of the last couple of years, I noticed that there's three main categories that I noticed that really. Technology helps with math. And so I've really tried to focus on those three categories.

[00:06:38] Debbie Tannenbaum: And those categories are using that technology to really help students visualize the math. To me, that's such an important way of using the technology, giving our students an opportunity to see things differently and to look at things differently. I've also really been spending a lot of time talking about how we can give them multimodal ways of sharing their thinking.

[00:07:01] Debbie Tannenbaum: The school I work at is 40 percent language minority, 25 percent Esau and we want to make sure that not all of our students are expected to share. And that's, that's important. The same exact way and so a lot of these resources allow us to, or these tech tools allow us to do that. But the 1 that I found is actually become 1 of the most important.

[00:07:21] Debbie Tannenbaum: And the work I've been doing is the interaction piece, which is my last 1 far too often. The teacher's the only audience for students math thinking. And that's not the way it should be. Our students should be able to hear each other's math thinking. They should be able to work with each other. We live in a society where our kids need to be able to do all of those things.

[00:07:43] Debbie Tannenbaum: And so, giving our students practice where they're sharing their mathematical thinking. It's just best practice. It's based on the National Council of teaching mathematics, guiding principles. And so we really want to make sure we give them those opportunities and far too often in math classrooms.

[00:08:01] Debbie Tannenbaum: Students aren't talking. They're just answering questions 

[00:08:05] Georgia Terlaje: and that's really, I think, like, why I wanted to talk about this with you is because it is, it is kind of a pedagogical shift in classrooms, especially for season teachers. And I can say that as a season teacher of moving to conceptualizing mathematics and.

[00:08:23] Georgia Terlaje: You know, I think that's why we were kind of asking about pushback because I think it's two fold. It's one changing your thinking about conceptualizing mathematic and it's not mathematics and it's not just the sage on the stage delivery and then to incorporating tools for students to show their thinking.

[00:08:43] Georgia Terlaje: I mean, that's very you know, that's you deal. Lesson design is absolutely important. Absolutely. Just one way to show your thinking. So I guess, you know, my curiosity is around, are you still having to have some conversations around the shift to conceptualizing math and. Using the tools. Both things. 

[00:09:07] Debbie Tannenbaum: Well, one of the things I've in our district and in our state, we've been really spending a lot of time talking about, you know, best practices with mathematics, and we've done a lot with math tests, especially in my district.

[00:09:19] Debbie Tannenbaum: And I know in my state as well. And so we spent a lot of time talking about that. It's not just about getting that right answer, but it's really about eliciting our students thinking and giving them the opportunity to learn from each other. For any. Be exposed to each other's thinking. So that isn't something that I'm finding as much pushback to as I might have a couple of years ago.

[00:09:42] Debbie Tannenbaum: Teachers, we've really worked hard to build that capacity. Our teachers, every unit have to do a math test with their students. And so they're getting more and more used to that practice of having their students talk about math, share different ways of solving things, be exposed to the fact that You know, at different people solve things, different ways, and they can help us grow as mathematicians.

[00:10:05] Debbie Tannenbaum: So that I've seen is a really been a great shift in practice. I know, you know, being a season teacher as well, when I 1st started teaching, it was all about getting that 1 answer. And now that's not the case. Our goal is really. To show our math thinking and really, you know, go deeper. And I think that's a great change because before it didn't matter how you got that answer, but now students are actually getting to hear each other's thoughts and hear each other's strategies.

[00:10:34] Debbie Tannenbaum: And that makes our math classroom so much more dynamic. So that's the 1st thing. And then the 2nd thing is, I really try to pick high leverage tech tools. When I do do these types of things. I don't pick a tech tool that they can just use. But I try to pick tech tools that once they've learned them, they can do multiple things with them.

[00:10:55] Debbie Tannenbaum: A lot of the tech tools that I talk about, I show them how you can use them for more than sometimes just math, but that they're really dynamic tools that have lots of different ways that they can use them. So it's not just, oh, well, I'm teaching you this 1 tech tool and that's. You can only use it for this one activity, but instead it's like, Oh, well, this tech tool provides you resources that you can use throughout what you're doing.

[00:11:21] Debbie Tannenbaum: So we can build gradually and, you know, build that capacity. 

[00:11:27] Matthew Winters: I absolutely love that. And I love that you're thinking about technology tools in terms of how they can be. I always equate it to like a Swiss army knife. Here's a tool. It can be used so many different ways. Let's make sure that they're there.

[00:11:41] Matthew Winters: The teacher knows that it can be used all of these different ways. And let's move it forward. When we move this into the classroom though, this really kind of reflects the process of personalized learning and helping teachers to get into that mindset of what are some of the best pathways for my students to learn, but also to show their learning, going back to what Georgia just said a second ago.

[00:12:01] Matthew Winters: So what are some of the ways tech or non tech that, what are some of your favorite ways that you've helped teachers to personalize learning for students in mathematics classes? 

[00:12:12] Debbie Tannenbaum: Well, one of the things that I found is You know, giving them a tool where they can have multiple ways of sharing their thinking.

[00:12:19] Debbie Tannenbaum: 1 of the things that my teachers, we use a lot in our school is a program called wixie. And in that program, students are able to respond using text. Speech to text audio video, they can draw. So, by giving our students so many different ways of responding that builds in some of that personalization, it builds in the universal design for learning in there as well.

[00:12:44] Debbie Tannenbaum: With that program, I can even take an object and clone it. So it creates automatic manipulatives. And so showing 1 of my teachers how we can do that is super, super powerful. Plus showing them that there are sometimes templates in there that they can use it. That are very dynamic. I think is a suit is is important.

[00:13:03] Debbie Tannenbaum: But, you know, yeah. Showing them that there are lots of programs that can do that, but I always want them to start with 1 that I feel like they can really use well. And so, once I've showed that to them, and when we start a lot of times, I'm making things on modeling things. And then once I'm done with that part.

[00:13:22] Debbie Tannenbaum: Then I, we were hopefully then going to be able to get into a coaching cycle. That's something I've been really pushing this year where we design things together. Sometimes I'm able to come in and co teach. Sometimes I'm not. But giving them those opportunities, that's just, you know, 1 example of, you know, 1 of the ways we've I've done that.

[00:13:45] Georgia Terlaje: So I heard you mentioned that your district's using Wixie. What are some other tools that you have found success with for teachers interested in maybe getting started with this idea of digital tools in math classroom? 

[00:14:01] Debbie Tannenbaum: Well, one of the ones that I find is actually the simplest tool to use is part of Pear Deck.

[00:14:06] Debbie Tannenbaum: It's called Flashcard Factory. And Basically, it wasn't something that originally I think was meant for math and I kind of discovered from talking to some other people that they were using it for math and I've really dug into it. And I don't know if you're familiar with it. But in flashcard factory, 1 student acts as the artist and they draw how to solve a problem and then the other student has to do something text based.

[00:14:32] Debbie Tannenbaum: So, for example, 1 of my 2nd grade teachers and I've been working on this and today she sent me a flashcard factory deck where she had word problems in there and she's going to have 1 of her students draw how to solve the word problem. And then the other 1's going to put the equation and they both do their own side of the, you know, flash card, it comes together. It falls down magically on a conveyor belt in the front of the room. And the kids actually have to talk to each other about how they're how they're drawing. How are they making sure that they're matching and when it does that, we're able to really see those kids having discussions about math and talking to each other and helping each other.

[00:15:13] Debbie Tannenbaum: And that's been really, really important. And then once they get past the creation part of that, there's something called quality control where then as a class, you can have collaborative discussions about whether the cards they met met the standard that we've asked them to does the problem that they did.

[00:15:30] Debbie Tannenbaum: Does that picture match the problem? Does the equation match the problem? And really have some great discussions as a class. I find that the kids are always super critical of themselves and each other. But they're thinking about math, which is the most important part. And I find when I have teachers who are the most resistant, that program is 1 of the easiest ones, because you can take any traditional, I would take more of a traditional worksheet.

[00:15:55] Debbie Tannenbaum: Copy the problems in there and it becomes a more interactive activity and it gets kids talking about math. That's just another example. 

[00:16:04] Georgia Terlaje: Well, it made me think like if listeners maybe don't have Pear Deck licenses, like it is really kind of the structure of the cyber sandwich for math and edgy protocol where like students would have the same math word problem.

[00:16:18] Georgia Terlaje: They both solve it and then they come together and compare how they, Solved it and they could draw pictures. Do you do you have any like free tech tools that maybe you could recommend to listeners if they, their districts don't have licenses to some of these things? 

[00:16:35] Debbie Tannenbaum: Well, Pear Deck's Flashcard Factory is actually a free part of Pear Deck.

[00:16:38] Debbie Tannenbaum: You do not need a license to use it. So I do want to mention that. But Desmos is probably my favorite tech tool of all tech tools. And Desmos Classroom is 100 percent free. And one of the things that Desmos Classroom, I'm sure if you work in the elementary space, Georgia, that you would, you know, is they've released all these brand new activities.

[00:16:58] Debbie Tannenbaum: And lessons and many and many lessons that are meant for K to 5 in addition to the fact that they've have things that were already there and Desmos is 100 percent free and it is really. It really has all of the things that I've been talking about. 1 of the things that Desmos has is something called a poly pad, which is essentially every manipulative you could ever think of.

[00:17:22] Debbie Tannenbaum: Gives our students lots of options, but when you're doing Desmos, it gives your students that opportunity to really show the chair. They're thinking in multiple ways. It gives them the opportunity to look at things differently. So, for example, we were talking about fractions in our collaborative team meetings today.

[00:17:41] Debbie Tannenbaum: Well, for a student to divide something into 7 is really difficult, but they have something called a slider, which is a type of graph where they can use that slider to partition that. They can use, you know, they, they, they can use those tools that are inside of there to really help them see that math in a different way.

[00:18:00] Debbie Tannenbaum: And then when it comes to that interaction piece, it has some. Desmos has something called a polygraph, which essentially is like a guess who for math and students are asking each other. Yes or no questions. And using math discourse in order to determine which of 16 squares their partners picked. And that's a super powerful tool as well.

[00:18:23] Debbie Tannenbaum: And now they've made it for the younger kids where it can be teacher led. So the teacher chooses 1 and the kids are asking those questions orally to determine what square it is, which is a 16 square. So Desmos to me is 1 of is a very powerful tool. And we, a lot of times people think Desmos and they either think calculator or secondary, but Desmos is a really powerful tool for elementary kids as well.

[00:18:51] Matthew Winters: So Debbie, you have a wealth of knowledge in mathematics and Georgia and I were talking earlier today. We think about classrooms often that are successful as, or at least the template for that has long been silent classrooms but the reality is, is that a successful classroom can be loud, can be boisterous.

[00:19:11] Matthew Winters: Kids are talking, things are exciting, chaotic. The learning is happening regardless. So. From your standpoint as an expert in the subject, when you walk into a mathematics classroom, when do you know it's being successful? And what are some of those highlights that you have as a coach who've seen these successes with teachers?

[00:19:33] Debbie Tannenbaum: I think it's really important that we have kids really having that discussion. I think the idea that all mathematics classrooms should be quiet, I think is an, More and more old fashioned idea, because when we have discussions about math, we're really bringing math alive, making sure that we're really getting our kids to share their thinking.

[00:19:55] Debbie Tannenbaum: Engage in that math discourse is really important and having kids question each other, ask each other questions, you know, say 1 person sharing and then people are asking questions about their strategy. That's how we really build that deeper understanding. And so I think it's. So important that we do that and we give our kids those opportunities and it doesn't necessarily have to be whole group.

[00:20:18] Debbie Tannenbaum: Sometimes the best conversations when I was especially teaching math we're happening in that small group. And during that teacher time, when we were all working on a rich problem together, and we were sharing strategies with the whiteboard. It doesn't necessarily always have to have that technology, but really giving our kids the opportunity to listen and learn from each other.

[00:20:38] Debbie Tannenbaum: And sometimes I'll learn something new from them as well, because sometimes the student will think of something in some way and I'll be like, Oh, I would never would have thought of it that way. It's really about building that culture of thinking and building that idea that we can learn from each other and we can grow from learning from each other.

[00:20:57] Debbie Tannenbaum: It's kind of hitting that collaboration idea because. Our goal when we collaborate is to really enrich our learning and by learning from each other and get other perspectives. And a lot of times I feel like people, when they think of math, don't think about the fact that they can learn from others perspectives.

[00:21:17] Georgia Terlaje: And I think it's also important for teaching the grit of if I get it wrong, it's okay. It's that if you have that collaborative conversation, you know, find out like maybe where you went astray a little bit and being able to revise your thinking and being completely okay with that, that, you know, this is a safe mathematical community and we can have these discussions and I'm okay to make a mistake.

[00:21:40] Georgia Terlaje: Teacher makes mistakes. I made mistakes all the time. And And just, and helping kids see that that's part of the journey, that mistakes are all right. 

[00:21:50] Debbie Tannenbaum: I agree a hundred percent. And I think that for so long, why I didn't like math was because I won, I felt like I always had to get the right answer and you know, I can, I'm sure that, you know, as being part of the ISTE community, you, you'll agree.

[00:22:05] Debbie Tannenbaum: I've actually learned that I've had the most success when I've embraced my mistakes and I've learned from them and I've grown from them. I always say that. I didn't realize being vulnerable was like one of my greatest strengths. And I try to model that for the students. I'm like, sometimes I don't know the answer.

[00:22:21] Debbie Tannenbaum: I'm learning too. We're all here to learn. And if I make a mistake and you, then I, it's a learning experience for me. And, you know, it's that whole idea of, you know, giving our kids that opportunity to build that grit, like you said, because far too often our students. You know, especially our students who math comes easy to don't have that persists perseverance and that's something they really need to build 

[00:22:49] Georgia Terlaje: That I don't know the exact number, but the research is staggering about students, kids success in math deconstructing a problem solved incorrectly. They get more bang for the buck than actually doing a problem and getting the right answer.

[00:23:05] Georgia Terlaje: And that that is actually more powerful. And I think we need to keep evangelizing that to teachers in math classrooms. I mean, yes, Getting to a correct answer is a good thing, but that's only, that's only part of the journey. And that actually how you get to the answer is really, and how you think about it is really more important.

[00:23:30] Georgia Terlaje: And I think we have to keep having those conversations because I know it's not happening everywhere. And so we have to be the bandwagon leaders on that idea. 

[00:23:41] Debbie Tannenbaum: Absolutely. And I think it's just a shift in education in general, where when I first started teaching, there was a lot of emphasis on that end product, on that answer just in general.

[00:23:52] Debbie Tannenbaum: And now we're spending a lot more time, at least I found in my experiences, really focusing on the process and really focusing on that journey during that process. And not just about what, what, what the end product is or what that answer is. But really focusing on building that capacity and, you know, getting our kids thinking out there and sharing it.

[00:24:16] Debbie Tannenbaum: I think that, you know, we just need to make, a lot of times that takes time. And I think that's sometimes the biggest hesitation for teachers is that we all feel so pressed for time. But the deeper your understanding of math is, the more it's going to stick. And then you don't have to reteach everything over and over again.

[00:24:33] Georgia Terlaje: This has been such a great conversation. Thank you again, Debbie, for being here today. We really appreciate your time and your thoughts around the subject. Before we let you go today, where can listeners connect with you if they want to continue this conversation?

[00:24:48] Debbie Tannenbaum: Well, I try to keep it really easy. My website is tannenbaumtech. com. Tannenbaumtech. com. On pretty much all social media and you can connect with me there. My email is Debbie at Tannenbaum tech. com. So I've tried to keep it as consistent as possible. But if you have more questions or you want to talk about math and technology, I'd love to talk more with you.

[00:25:11] Georgia Terlaje: Well, that wraps up this episode of the edge podcast. We hope you had a great time. My name is Georgia. You can find me at Georgia on X and at storytelling saves the world. com. 

[00:25:22] Matthew Winters: And I'm Matt Winters, and you can find me at TeacherWinters on X and at TeacherWinters. net. 

[00:25:28] Georgia Terlaje: On behalf of everyone at It's Dee's The Edge podcast, remember to keep exploring your passion, fostering your creativity, and continuing to take risks. All things that can bring you to the edge.