Outreach / Misc

Deliberate Practice

Along with a passion for mathematics education, I am also a pretty big sports geek.  Some of it is the numbers that go along with every sport.  For me, it started as a kid growing up in Oakland with easy access to both the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giant’s baseball teams, and trying to collect every baseball card in existence.  Oh the joy of comparing stats and arguing who was better based off of those cards!  Since then, I have diversified and there are very few sports that I don’t enjoy watching or playing.  So, it may come as no surprise that I was recently reading an article by James Clear about Ben Hogan who is a very famous golfer from the 1950’s, for those who follow these types of things.

Ben was known for his incredible practice ethic.  He would hit golf balls for hours working on different parts of his swing until other golf experts said he had the most beautiful and effective swing ever.  His practice wasn’t about mindless repetitions, but rather it was focused with the specific goal of improving performance.  It was a kind of deliberate practice.  The article said, “The greatest challenge of deliberate practice is to remain focused.  In the beginning, showing up and putting in your reps is the most important thing.  But after a while we begin to carelessly overlook small errors and miss daily opportunities for improvement.  This is because the natural tendency of the human brain is to transform repeated behaviors into automatic habits….the more we repeat a task, the more mindless it becomes.”

I can’t help but immediately jump to how the idea of deliberate practice in sports relates so well to the ideas within professional noticing in teaching.  As beginning teachers, we are just trying to cut through the chaos and figure out what is important.  In other words, we are figuring out what to notice.  But it is incredible how once we get comfortable within our classroom, we quickly start to make our repeated behaviors and routines of the classroom into automatic habits.  We no longer are being deliberate in our practice.  Our reflection of the process is little or none.  Sometimes, this is because our plates are full and we feel overwhelmed, but other times we simply aren’t pushing ourselves to focus and attend to the small errors and opportunities for improvement that are happening within our teaching practice.  

Are you on “cruise control” in your classroom right now?  Ask yourself, “What is one thing I can focus on during class tomorrow that will improve my practice?”  Maybe it’s as simple as changing the questions you are asking during a certain lesson, or increasing wait time to allow more students to develop responses.  Whatever it is, as you attend to what you are doing, you will get new responses from your students that you will need to interpret and then attempt to infer their meanings.  As you do that you will have to decide how to respond and you will have taken the first steps in creating change and growth in your practice – which is never a bad thing.

Student Adaptive Pedagogy

When our Director of Research attended the Psychology of Mathematics Education – North American conference this year along with a couple of our Senior Researchers, they had the opportunity to meet Dr. Ron Tzur from the University of Colorado in Denver.  Like many others that we have now begun communicating with, Dr. Tzur studied with… Continue Reading

The Shift, Continued

In my last post, I mentioned that I had been seeing a pattern in the presentations at conferences this past fall. Many of the keynote and special guest speakers had incorporated a frame of reference that seemed to me to be a focus on student thinking. “Why is this an important shift?” you might ask.… Continue Reading

What is Changing and What Will Never Change

It is an interesting time in America; there is change all around us.  But, what will never change is the need to educate our children…the need to continue improving the education of our children.  That improvement comes through the hard work of our teachers, improving their skills to improve the experiences of their students. At… Continue Reading

Called on the Carpet: A Reminder of My Own Beliefs

As a constructivist, I believe that young students bring a vast amount of knowledge with them when they first begin school. Whether that time is pre-school, transitional kindergarten, or kindergarten, all students come with experiences that have influenced how they think, what they believe, and what they know. They have constructed knowledge in the area… Continue Reading


When Dr. Thiessen first discussed his ideas about launching the AIMS Center for Math and Science Education with me, he suggested that our motto should be:      “Know the Math; Know the Science; Know the Research.” And, he said, even more importantly, we can never forget that:      “We believe in children’s knowledge!” I have been working… Continue Reading

A Welcome Shift

The Fall semester (I have been in education so long I don’t see seasons as much as school terms), is one that is full of conferences and opportunities to reach out into the broader educational community. In my dual roles between AIMS and FPU, I end up at a significant number of conferences. This Fall… Continue Reading

2016 – The Ampersand

When Dr. Thiessen recruited me to launch this new Center, he shared with me his vision of collaboration.  He believed, as do I, that we are much stronger together and that this work of knowledge translation was going to be difficult work.  In 2014, the AIMS Education Foundation Board agreed to totally renovate our existing… Continue Reading

Number Talks and Assimilation

Number talks were developed for classroom teachers to engage students in “mental math” by collaboratively grappling with interesting mathematics problems. I was first introduced to the idea of number talks from the book, “Number Talks” by Sherry Parrish. Recently, I had the pleasure of facilitating number talks in 6 third grade classrooms, all at the… Continue Reading