Archive for Uncategorized

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Art of Asking Good Questions

With my work with Mathematical Modeling and Teaching practices, I think hard about the art of asking questions.

Harvard Business School article by Pohlmann and Thomas (2015) write about “Relearning the Art of Asking Questions”

The curious four-year-old asks a lot of questions — incessant streams of “Why?” and “Why not?” might sound familiar — but as we grow older, our questioning decreases. In a recent poll of more than 200 of our clients, we found that those with children estimated that 70-80% of their kids’ dialogues with others were comprised of questions. But those same clients said that only 15-25% of their own interactions consisted of questions. Why the drop off? They suggest these four types of questions to achieve 4 different goals. Clarifying, adjoining, funneling (or focusing since funneling has a negative connotation with PtA practices) and elevating. It makes me think about the math questions we ask in our math classrooms. Some view of the problem is wide and some narrow- when we are looking for patterns that is trying to look at a set of repeated reasoning or patterns (narrow) then to make a generalization or general rule for cases (wide). Often times, we are clarifying what students are thinking and affirming their thinking and other times we are extending their thinking to discover something new.


Clarifying questions help us better understand what has been said. In many conversations, people speak past one another. Asking clarifying questions can help uncover the real intent behind what is said. These help us understand each other better and lead us toward relevant follow-up questions. “Can you tell me more?” and “Why do you say so?” both fall into this category. People often don’t ask these questions, because they tend to make assumptions and complete any missing parts themselves.

Adjoining questions are used to explore related aspects of the problem that are ignored in the conversation. Questions such as, “How would this concept apply in a different context?” or “What are the related uses of this technology?” fall into this category. For example, asking “How would these insights apply in Canada?” during a discussion on customer life-time value in the U.S. can open a useful discussion on behavioral differences between customers in the U.S. and Canada. Our laser-like focus on immediate tasks often inhibits our asking more of these exploratory questions, but taking time to ask them can help us gain a broader understanding of something.

Funneling questions are used to dive deeper. We ask these to understand how an answer was derived, to challenge assumptions, and to understand the root causes of problems. Examples include: “How did you do the analysis?” and “Why did you not include this step?” Funneling can naturally follow the design of an organization and its offerings, such as, “Can we take this analysis of outdoor products and drive it down to a certain brand of lawn furniture?” Most analytical teams – especially those embedded in business operations – do an excellent job of using these questions.

Elevating questions raise broader issues and highlight the bigger picture. They help you zoom out. Being too immersed in an immediate problem makes it harder to see the overall context behind it. So you can ask, “Taking a step back, what are the larger issues?” or “Are we even addressing the right question?” For example, a discussion on issues like margin decline and decreasing customer satisfaction could turn into a broader discussion of corporate strategy with an elevating question: “Instead of talking about these issues separately, what are the larger trends we should be concerned about? How do they all tie together?” These questions take us to a higher playing field where we can better see connections between individual problems.

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Sparking a sense of Wonder- Curiosity a Pathway to Learning



Kids are relentless in their urge to learn and master. As John Medina writes in Brain Rules, “This need for explanation is so powerfully stitched into their experience that some scientists describe it as a drive, just as hunger and thirst and sex are drives.” Curiosity is what makes us try something until we can do it, or think about something until we understand it. Great learners retain this childhood drive, or regain it through another application of self-talk. Instead of focusing on and reinforcing initial disinterest in a new subject, they learn to ask themselves “curious questions” about it and follow those questions up with actions. Carol Sansone, a psychology researcher, has found, for example, that people can increase their willingness to tackle necessary tasks by thinking about how they could do the work differently to make it more interesting. In other words, they change their self-talk from This is boring to I wonder if I could…?

You can employ the same strategy in your working life by noticing the language you use in thinking about things that already interest you—How…? Why…? I wonder…?—and drawing on it when you need to become curious. Then take just one step to answer a question you’ve asked yourself: Read an article, query an expert, find a teacher, join a group—whatever feels easiest.

Changing Your Inner Narrative


Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Embracing Failure-Focus on what you do after you fail

Productive Failure and Productive Struggle



Download (PDF, 475KB)

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

Korea Workshop 2017

Paradigm Shift- Cultural Reform in Mathematics Education in Korea To Foster Positive Dispositions towards Mathematics

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The trip was an invitation from the Korea Society of Educational Studies in Mathematics  (President Wan-Young Cho) to participate in a National Assembly forum to discuss theimportance of enhancing the culture of mathematics education and workshops in Kyungnam Office of Education hosted by the Kyeongnam Director of Education, Park Jong-hoon,

I was able to invite another math education colleague from USU and two doc students in math ed leadership – Sara Birkhead, Presidential scholar and Kathy Matson, Dean Scholar.

Director of Education from Kyeongnam Province, Park Jong-hoon, says that this change requires a cultural movement. As part of that movement, he funded the first Math Cultural Experience Center, that was envisioned by a local school teacher. This brings family and children together to explore and enjoy the wonder in mathematics.

This was part of larger and long-term math education initiative that celebrates the nation’s first Math Cultural Experience Center in Gyeongnam that was designed to bring children and families together enjoying mathematics. This effort is in large part to promote a more positive productive disposition towards mathematics. Internationally Korean students excel in mathematics as documented in TIMSS Studies. These international comparative studies showed that Korean students consistently achieved high scores not only in mathematical skills and procedures but also in problem-solving, but had very low interest and confidence in mathematics. Such negative attitudes toward mathematics have been problematic. This led curriculum developers and mathematics educators to highlight that students need to appreciate the value of mathematics and develop positive dispositions toward mathematics as articulated in the objectives of school mathematics.

Shifting the Focus on not just achievement in math but the affective aspects of teaching mathematics: Students Building a Closer Relationship with Math- Seeing Mathematics as Empowering!-Theme of Suh’s talk

Inquiry-based student centered instruction with a focus on Math modeling, STEM education fostering 21st century skills creativity, cooperation skills, communication skills, critical thinking skills, and solving problems that are needed to solve complex real world  problems.

Through case studies of research lessons, I shared how students engaged in community-based service learning projects that included a coin harvest and meals for families. In addition, I shared how we have provided Free STEM camp for students and a workshop for teachers to integrate STEM into their elementary curriculum. These powers were personally relatable for students but also demonstrated how math could be used as an empowering tool for students. The authentic nature of community based problem context now only allowed teachers to engage learners but teacher reported that students were able to link their curriculum lessons to meaningful contexts that students cared about.


Our trip included a workshop in Busan on Tuesday 9/13/17 with 50 elem, middle and high school teachers. National Assembly on Friday 9/16/17 Workshop and another workshop on Sat 9/17/18 with teacher leaders/curriculum designers called the Mathematics Task Development Research Team.

The international forum was a great opportunity to deepen our partnership with Korean Mathematics Educators  and look for ways to collaborate on future teaching and research projects. It is exciting to be involved in this cultural revolution that is forward thinking and for the enhancement of the Korean students and teachers. I hope to build on this foundation and help build an  infrastructure as the Korean math educators and leaders strengthen the foundation of the mathematics education ecosystem, such as bringing together mathematics education experts, teachers, local governments, education institutes, and parents for the improvement for the learners of all ages.

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Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Working with Dedicated Democracy Prep Teachers in DC

Today we talked about increasing the rigor to provide meaningful learning for each and every one of our learners!

Democracy Prep teachers are dedicated to their students’ learning important mathematics!
Enjoying the week with Dr. Toya Frank, Sara Birkhead and Jay Bradley and our teacher leaders from Democracy Prep, Tiana, Lyndon and Jasmin! What a dream team!

working with Democracy Prep teachers






Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Winter Graduation 2016

Congratulations to MASON graduates Winter 2016, especially Dr. Alice Petillo! You did it!


Saturday, October 15th, 2016

Analyzing Student Work &Math Authority and Agency

IMG_9285Analyzing student work provide us with an understanding of how students develop conceptual understanding and what misconceptions and partial understanding  exist at different learning points.

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Seminal research on teacher pd

Teacher knowledge studies pdf

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Family of Problems


Family of Problems is dedicated to building a warehouse of creative, interactive, flexible problems for innovative math teachers. All the problems within this site have been successfully used by experienced math teachers in the classroom. Problems are grouped in threes based upon related content and learning concepts. Each problem is documented with a front door, lesson plan, and black line master; and links to its two closely related problems. The problems are listed below organized by grade level, big idea, and alphabetic order. Enjoy!


Sunday, September 4th, 2016

Math Science and Technology

Math modeling, scientific modeling and computational thinking brings the standards together in brilliant ways!