Educator Happy Hour

"I'm Not a Math Person" - How Math Identity Affects Us All (with Liesl McConchie)

Episode Summary

Identity formation affects all of us -- whether we are talking math identity, literacy identity, or any other academic field. In this episode, we take a deep dive with Liesl McConchie, math education expert, on how identity forms and why that matters.

Episode Notes

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Here are all the ways to get more Liesl McConchie in your life:

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Cheers to everyone joining this Happy Hour Hodgepodge :)

Episode Transcription

Speaker 0 = Liesl McConchie (Guest)

Speaker 1 = Chase Mielke (Host)


Speaker 0    00:00:00    It's the same in any subject, right? You want someone to have a, a, a positive relationship with reading. So that's why we talk about high interest reading materials and right, letting students read graphic novels and, and the joy of reading and not doing reading log. Same thing with writing. We let students write on topics that are interesting to them, these personal narratives and issues that they care about, that they're passionate about. Cuz we want them to have this positive relationship with it. Yeah, the same is true with math. It's just a little bit more complex.  


Speaker 1    00:00:30    Mathematics. That's the topic of our show today, which means a portion of you listening just got super excited and thought, cosig me up. And if you think that's the last dad joke, you'll hear this episode, buckle up my friends. But a portion of you maybe just got uncomfortable with this topic. Maybe you thought, I don't teach math, so what's in it for me? Or maybe you thought, uh, numbers and I don't get along. And both those responses are exactly why this topic is so critical, because we're not just talking about teaching math, we're talking about math identity. What is your relationship with mathematical thinking and processes and how has that relationship influenced your life in and beyond school? And it's really even deeper than that. We're talking about how any identity forms around academics and schools, literacy, art, music, physical health, everything, we're going to pinpoint exactly how identity develops in the big and little ways that every educator can help students develop identities and academic relationships that propel their future. So grab your cocktail and your calculator. It's time for educator, happy hour  

Speaker 1    00:01:51    Educator happy hour is brought to you by top youth speakers. Are you looking to inspire your students or staff to not only motivate their thinking but their actions in school and beyond? Then check out top youth speakers. Top youth speakers is a group of 32 carefully vetted speakers and professional development leaders whose messages are engaging evidence-based and life-changing. Browse speakers. Check out customer views and watch preview videos at 

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Speaker 1    00:02:52    So check that out if you would benefit. All right, let's get "Mathy." This topic is so interesting to me on a personal level because I used to love math. It was one of the few subjects that just made sense to me. But then enter 10th grade the moment math. And I drifted apart. My geometry teacher, who was an amazing teacher in human beings suffered some health problems and it kept him out of the class for months at a time. Between the revolving door of substitutes and the stepping beyond my algebraic comfort zone, it was a bad mixture. And so for the first time in my life, I felt terrible at math. And that shift in my identity has stayed with me long term. Now, to be clear, I'm not going down. The "woe is I" path of victim of bad teaching. I'm totally gonna own my part not having more perseverance, even as an adult to improve my math skills.  

Speaker 1    00:03:41    But I remember moments as a teacher after school or during a homeroom period when students would ask me if I could help with their math homework. And I cringe recalling the times when, because of my insecurity with math. I would say things like, oh, I'm not that good at math, or There's a reason I teach English. And there was a huge irony in those responses. For example, I would hear my students say things like, I don't like reading and then hop right on their phones after class to send text messages. I would challenge them on the idea that they might struggle with certain reading, but they can't say they don't like any reading. I would challenge them to refocus their literacy identity while I did the opposite with my math identity. Hypo crit, whether we're talking about math or any subject in school, identity is central to our experience, our development, and our potential.  

Speaker 1    00:04:32    So though we're talking about math specifically today, we're talking about something far deeper. And thankfully, my guest today is an expert not only on math education, but identity formation. Liesl McConchie has spent over 20 years doing what she loves most teaching. She has taught multiple grade levels from kindergarten to high school and has an enduring passion for working with teachers. Liesl is the co-author of the bestselling book, brain-Based Learning with Dr. Eric Jensen  and bridges her knowledge of how the brain best learns with her experience of teaching to create tangible strategies to support teachers and schools across the globe. She has a rich background in education that includes creating new schools, leading whole school reforms, delivering workshops for educators in speaking at conferences. And I'll add that she is one of the frigging smartest, most hilarious, most humble human beings I have ever met. All right, Liesl, welcome to the Educator Happy Hour podcast. We are geeked to have you share your geek with the rest of us  

Speaker 0    00:05:32    . I I got my geek.  

Speaker 1    00:05:33    Awesome. First question, if you're having a rough day or, or even just like an overwhelming day, stressful day, what is your drink or decompressor of choice?  

Speaker 0    00:05:45    Man, this, this is totally gonna out me here. So my, my drink, my go-to drink. This is so, it's so unhealthy, so, so unhealthy . Um, so I'm not an alcohol girl, but, but my drink of choice is I am, and I don't, I promise I do not eat fast food, but I go to Jack in the Box and which is a fast food chain. Well, I think it's like mostly on the west coast. Um, and I get a chocolate shake, no whip cream. Oh, with a cherry.  

Speaker 1    00:06:13    That is, I mean, you're, you're going for it. You are committing to like really decompressing. I love that.  

Speaker 0    00:06:19    These 800 calories of decompressing , they're so bad. They're so bad for you. And like, we're not gonna talk about the research on sugar and all of this other stuff and how bad it is for your body and for your brain. I know that. But it is still, if I'm having a bad day, you better believe it. If my husband knows I'm having a bad day, you better believe it. He, and I promise, like this is not like an every day, every week , but like, when I'm, when something's really going on, I really need to decompress. And, um, if my husband really wants to score some points, he will show up uhhuh with chocolate Shake from Jack in the Box.  

Speaker 1    00:06:52    Nice. Now, what makes the Jack in the Box shake so superior? Because I know like McDonald's milkshakes are always out of order. Like they don't even have ice cream functioning, but like vomit. What ma what makes Jack in the box the, the one to go to?  

Speaker 0    00:07:04    This is the important distinction. . So Jack in the Box was one of the first fast tube chains that that transitioned to using real ice cream. Oh, it's not some like icy nasty slushy, trashy chemically something, something. I mean, this doesn't make it healthy by any means, , but it's actually made with like real ice cream. There's a few other places who have, you know, since adopted that. But, you know, this is where it, it was, I first discovered it and I was like, oh my goodness, this is, so I'm a total chocolate shake snob. Okay. Um, and do not promote high consumption of sugar products. Yeah.  

Speaker 1    00:07:39    Well I like I I'm gonna have to find it cuz I live in Michigan. I don't know if there are many Jack in the Box restaurants around here. So I'm gonna have to do a, a deep on my travels search for one and I'm gonna have one and I'm gonna send you a picture. Yes. So you know that I, that I am going to that level. Awesome.  

Speaker 0    00:07:54    And you will tell me how amazing it is. Or we will stop being friends.  

Speaker 1    00:07:58    . That'll be the  

Speaker 0    00:07:59    End. Let's just make this really clear right now. . Okay. This, this is a really important, this  

Speaker 1    00:08:04    Is big. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, so I am geeked to talk with you about the formation of math identity. Like, su such a really important topic of not just math classrooms, but I think society in general. And so I wanna lead off with, if we're talking about math and we're talking about identity, why the heck does X need me to figure out its identity? Like why can't it solve its own equations? Figure yourself out. And I know a ton of listeners are like, did that guy just drop a dad joke? That is terrible. Um, no, I would really like to start with like, why should people care about math identity? Or even, like, what do we mean when we talk about identity?  

Speaker 0    00:08:40    The way I think about math identity, it's, it's all about a person's relationship with math. And so how do you, I how do you see yourself and identify yourself within a mathematical space? Do you see yourself as being a math person, not a math person? Um, like high math, anxiety, uh, you know, it's like all the things that come within how you see yourself in a math space. And because it's a relationship. Hmm. It is. My relationship with math and relationships are complex. Right. And relationships are messy and they take a lot of work in case anyone hasn't figured that out yet. , right? I mean, chase, I mean, I, I was, I was actually thinking about this when, if we're, can get personal for a minute since we're chatting here over our drinks. Um, like I remember when, like talking to you about the messiness of relationships and the complexities of relationships. Like a hundred years ago when you and I were working at like a summer program at, at Wake Forest University, I dunno if you remember this conversation, but I remember you like sitting me down and I was in relationship distress and you shared some like really helpful wisdom with me. And this literally was like a hundred years ago.  

Speaker 1    00:09:53    I don't remember this. I, I remember talking about relationships, but I don't remember having any insight that someone could  

Speaker 0    00:09:59     No, I, I have a super clear memory of like, I can see us sitting there next to each other. I'm distressed. You're like speaking like drop in wisdom, truth bombs like you do. And, and then like 20 years later, here I am like married to the man that I was in emotional distress about, you know? And you were like, look, relationships take work if you like, if it's, if it's what you want, go for it. Go fight for it. And I was like, darn right. Yeah. I'm gonna go fight for it. So, so thank you Chase.  

Speaker 1    00:10:31    Well I am so glad to know that that actually happened. Uh, I have no recollection I made again, like I remember those moments and I remember when, when you were, you know, in that mode like, oh, I, I don't know whether to pursue this or not with your now husband. So, hey, I'm gonna take that now. Like, thinking about, yeah. Shifting back to like the, the math idea of this now. Yeah, I know a lot of math teachers think a lot about math identity, but I am hoping that like listeners right now are, even if they're not math teachers, like why should they care about the development of someone's math identity?  

Speaker 0    00:11:05    In order for us, for us to like, be successful in this mathematical experience, we just have to recognize and honor and nurture this identity, this relationship that we have with math. It's the same in any subject, right? You want someone to have a, a, a positive relationship with reading. So that's why we talk about high interest reading materials and letting students read graphic novels and, and the joy of reading and not doing reading logs. Yeah. Because it's, it's like you gotta like, think about a regular relationship with a person, human to human. You don't have like a relationship log with your hu with your wife or your hus or your partner. Mm-hmm. , you don't do that. Like this is, it's, it's joyful and it's enjoyable. And it's enjoyable and you want that Same thing with writing. We let students write on topics that are interesting to them, these personal narratives and issues that they care about, that they're passionate about. Cuz we want them to have this positive relationship with it. Yeah. The same is true with math. It's just a little bit more complex, I think, or a little bit trickier.  

Speaker 1    00:12:06    I think. So I, before we started recording, as I was putting together my notes, I found myself wanting to drift so often to these disclaimers of like, now I'm just an English teacher, so I don't know anything about math. And like, I go back to where I developed that idea of like, I used to love math. I used to really love the experience of problems and trying to put pieces together. But, um, I shared earlier in the, in the podcast recording of some of the moments that led to me not feeling ass comfortable or confident about math. And I do think a lot about that relationship analogy of like, you know, I had a couple bad breakups and then from that point forward I felt insecure with my relationship with math. And now fast forward, I have kids, you know, I get a chance to, to work with teachers and students all the time. And more and more those moments are creeping up of like, ooh, I have baggage when it comes to my math experience that still affect me as a grown adult. So I'm hoping that you can kind of lend some insight of like, how, how does this identity form, what are, what are the major moments that it forms and how can that help us inform both for personally changing our relationship with math, but also for the students or the people we work with?  

Speaker 0    00:13:22    Exactly. I mean, I, I think of math identity having four different aspects. So I think of it in like a horizontal continuum or spectrum. And on one side you have your past experiences with math and this is what you're talking about your baggage. Yeah. Every student walks into our classrooms with baggage. Mm. We walk into our relationships with human beings, with baggage, . We spend thousands of dollars on with our therapist to try to unpackage understand and repackage the baggage we bring from other relationships into our current relationship. Right? Yeah. It's the same thing with math, just as it is in relationships with people. We all have our own past math experiences and they're all unique. But if we don't take time to look back, to examine those stories, to unpack that baggage and as a teacher to listen and to find ways to just discover when those, like you said, when those breakups happened. Yeah. Where were those big turning points? Like one of the activities, the lessons that I was crafting just this week is I'm, I'm designing a bunch of activities for teachers to help develop, uh, a positive math identity with students. And one of them is to do kind of what you were talking about Chase, is to look back and to kind of graph your relationship with math.  

Speaker 1    00:14:40    Interesting.  

Speaker 0    00:14:40    So when you look back to kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, and if you were literally to make a graph of it, like when were you like, on a really high level of the spectrum, like really, this is fun, this is joyful, I enjoyed this. And when those breakup moments happen, those turning points, you're like, boom. And you just plummeted your emotional relationship with math just free fault. Mm-hmm. , when did those happen? And then for students to explore, why did it happen then? What was going on? What shifted? Yeah. I mean, it's literally the same stuff that you would do with your therapist, with regular relationship and then being able to identify that and then to share that with your teacher. Yeah. Knowing that there's like a really strong relationship there of trust built and for students to see that like, wow, I've had periods of time or, or moments when things were at a really positive relationship and then when I didn't mm-hmm.  

Speaker 0    00:15:34    Mm-hmm. . And what I think is really powerful about that with my background in cognitive neuroscience is that that exercise alone proves to students the power of neuroplasticity, which is the fact that our brains are always changing and our experiences, our relationships change us all the time. And so the story going forward isn't written right. And it doesn't have to be a plateau at whatever level they're at right now in terms of their relationship with math. Mm-hmm. But it's gonna continue to, to oscillate and to change and that there are things that they can do to, to help 'em feel empowered. Yeah. Like you can do things to change what it looks like going forward and that's what we're gonna  

Speaker 1    00:16:16    Do. Yeah. I think it's, it's powerful to think about the demonstrating to students that change happens over time. Because I think math more than some of the other subjects that we teach gets like very connected to the idea of IQ that like, you either have it or you don't. You are either like a prodigy who like, you know, beautiful mind numbers, just sort of like making themselves appear right in front of you or like you have no business being there. Um, so that idea of like helping people look back on, on their relationship and how that has fluctuated and admin flowed could be really, really powerful for students to examine. I'm curious to know, I'm aware of negativity bias that the unpleasant memories tend to stick out in our, our development of identity more. Do you or how would you approach that idea of like, I remember my breakups, uh, with math, I remember the bad moments. I don't remember a whole lot of the good. So are students gonna be a little bit more biased as they reflect back on this and think like, oh no, I have all these bad moments. Or how could a teacher help them also see the power of the positive moments they may have had?  

Speaker 0    00:17:23    That's true. We do have a, a high negativity bias. Part of that can come with just modeling from the teacher. Like, I, I've seen this activity done with teachers, like math teachers, people like me who love, breathe, eat, drink. Yeah. Math. And even us, we have huge variety. It's not that like, woo out of the womb and then we're off hi on this plateau with math forever and for eternity. No. We, we've all had our own journeys. And so I think, um, in me modeling as all good teachers do, rather than model first, here's my math story, um, here is where some of my highs are and being really specific and explicit around what were things that gave me that those high levels in my math story can maybe like, trigger some of those other memories. I mean, I don't know. This is, this is good to be talking it out. Um, that's my first thought.  

Speaker 1    00:18:14    Yeah. Yeah. I think that that is a big piece of kind of, kind of normalizing cuz again, that gap between the perception of you either have math or you don't, you have the IQ or not. I think a lot of times math teachers get perceived as like, oh, math was easy for them. They know all the answers. And that can be hugely influential for a teacher to be able to say like, no, we did not always, I did not always have great relationships with math. Like we went through some turbulent times and, and again, just like you would with a therapist, that affirmation that that's normal and it's a part of the process, I think can, can really help people just shift how their identity feels with math. Um, so looking back in the past is a big part of that. Yep. Do we look towards the future next? Like, uh, what's, what's the next move we  

Speaker 0    00:18:59    We do, yeah. And, and it can happen simultaneously. It doesn't have to be like one or the other, but sometimes we look past back, look back to the past first, and then we look forward to the future. And that is all about being able to see myself as a math learner being successful in a math space. And though the best and only way to do that is to really foster a sense of belonging. Hmm. Math is a, geez, the data is really depressing. It's just really depressing in terms of who traditionally is excluded from math success mm-hmm. in, in a school, um, type of setting and, and thus beyond because that's where it starts and where we do stuff with their high identity, we either like build it or squash it. And so it's, it's all of the, the students who you are typically marginalized who don't feel like they belong in math spaces.  

Speaker 0    00:19:53    And then it shows up in the data in terms of math achievement mm-hmm. . And so creating a, a vision of being, uh, having a strong math identity is all about being able to see and recognize and be exposed and introduced to people whose culture matches mine who are killing it. Like they're doing it in the math space. Yeah. Yeah. And so that's another project I'm working on. They're called like belonging bios, where it's just every day we're just gonna be introduced to here is, you know, a, a Latinx like mathematician. Yeah. They are doing this right now in this part of the country. This is their quote of what they say about what it means to be good at math. Yeah. Like, look, you know, and then, and here's someone else who, you know, this is, uh, a mathematician who's in the LGBTQ community and here's another mathematician who is in an an African-American community. And, and just making sure that all of every single student, because what happens, chase? Oh my gosh, I get so fired up. I love it. You go to Google and you type in the Google search, it's like mathematician, uh, you know, math genius, someone who's good at math, and you look at those images Yeah. And you like chase right now give it, like, what, what do you think you're gonna see? Like what do like, just like what comes in your own mind?  

Speaker 1    00:21:11    I, I'm, I'm gonna, I'm gonna do it right now, like as we're talking right now, but I, I'm picturing like the white dude with, you know, the very, very Einstein esque with the frizzy hair, older Uhhuh lab coat chalk. Yeah. No, as literally like ,  

Speaker 0    00:21:27    The first image is theres  

Speaker 1    00:21:29    Dude I typed in  

Speaker 1    00:21:32    Mathematician and you could not stereotype more of first four images, white dudes holding chalkboard with beards and glasses. Oh man. That's, that's fascinating. And this, this makes so much sense. I do a lot of focusing on efficacy and how efficacy gets built in all different levels, which I, I know is very closely tied to identity. And when we talk about social modeling as one of the major underpinnings of efficacy, the more a person identifies with who's doing the modeling, the more it works. So like that makes sense to try to bridge that gap between helping students realize that like individuals like you, your culture, your background, your experiences are succeeding in utilizing math more than you even realize.  

Speaker 0    00:22:15    Yeah. So there's work to do, not only just in our Google image searches, but just in how society portrays it. Like it's, you know, pop culture and the media, you know, it's all of our advertisements that like trash math and you know, there's a lot of work to be done there. But, so those are the two spectrums in terms on, on the, the horizontal axis is the way I look at it, that identity formation is bidirectional in terms of time. It's the past and the future. Can I see people who look like me, who have a future of being successful in math? And there's so many things that can be done in our classroom to help support students in both of those directions. Mm-hmm. . And, and that's something I'm in the process of building right now and I'm really excited to share with, um, teachers. Um, as soon as I'm, as soon as I'm done. I love it. Building and  

Speaker 1    00:22:59    Creating the designing. I love it all the time. I, I hear the frustration of like students or I hear it from teachers who are venting about students who are like, when am I ever gonna need to learn this? Mm-hmm. , how does that come into play? Like, how, how can teachers help students realize that no matter what path they might go into or what what field interests them, that trying to take on mathematical concepts and understand them and tackling hard problems and, and getting their hands dirty in math is of benefit to their future?  

Speaker 0    00:23:30    Welcome to one of the biggest debates in the math atmosphere right  

Speaker 1    00:23:33    Now. Oh. Is it gonna get, is it gonna get juicy here?  

Speaker 0    00:23:35    You just watch the hot button chase. There's a few different trains of thought that are out there. Some people are like, it's not the actual math that matters. It's them, you know, developing their critical thinking skills and problem solving and, and yada yada yada. And there's, there's truth in that. Like, that's good. And you can do that with a lot of things. Yeah. But we use that as an excuse for having really, in my opinion Mm. We use that as an excuse if it's just you and me. It's just you and me right here, right now. Right. Like, we're just at a coffee shop chatting no one else. We don't have like thousands  

Speaker 1    00:24:05    Of people. No, not all  

Speaker 0    00:24:06    . No. Just you me, chase. Like, we use that as an excuse in math ed to allow for really bad math standards mm-hmm. at the secondary level. Okay. So I've taught math kindergarten through 12th grade and beyond, but most of my career was spent in like middle school and high school. And most of the stuff that we teach students in middle school and high school math is irrelevant. Mm. I'm like, when am I ever gonna use this? I don't know. Mm. And if we can't answer that question, then my question is then why the heck are we teaching it? Mm. Especially since students are leaving eighth grade and only 33% of those students are proficient in a, in math up through  

Speaker 1    00:24:47    Eighth grade. Right? Right.  

Speaker 0    00:24:49    We're just like blazing through K through eight math, which is the actual important relevant stuff you're gonna use in life. And then we throw 'em into high school with all this, A lot of it is irrelevant, I would say. There's, you know, there's a good, there's a, there's a good chunk that is relevant, but so that, that this is the big debate Yeah. Of like, do we like trash the, the high school math standards and redesign it? I would really love to just kind of spread things out. Yeah. Um, and just take more time to really dive into like the K eight math standards more. Yeah. Because I mean, you and I both know, like when a stu when a student says like, when am I ever gonna use this? I used to be super annoyed by that student , like zip it kid. Like I'm just, I'm like, I dunno. But, but I've come to realize, you know, like after two decades of studying the brain and how it learns, I'm now realizing that kid might be the smartest kid in this room. Right. Yeah. Because that kid knows that relevance is a high driver for motivation and for learning. Yeah. And so they're just grasping for something to hang onto to help them find some intrinsic motivation to stick with this. And it's not often there in the  

Speaker 1    00:25:58    Mouth space. I could see why this is like a hot topic because this is looking at very much dismantling and reshaping education as we have known it over the, the past, you know, decade centuries,  

Speaker 0    00:26:10    People like .  

Speaker 1    00:26:12    Well, this I think is where we can start to look now at the difference or the factors of how does math identity get influenced by the individual on the individual level and where does like the society or the systems and structures come into play. So like, where would you go with that topic? What, where should we be focusing our energy, individual level systems? All the above. Hit hit me with your insights here. Oh,  

Speaker 0    00:26:35    Well, chase, you and I are gonna agree on this cuz you have you, you know, this sphere in, you know, not in the math world mm-hmm. , but it's the, the same thing. Right. So let's review the horizontal axis we got like look to the past, look to the future. Yeah. Then I, I like envision it as this vertical axis and down at the bottom you have all the systemic forces and up at the top you have all the personal individual choices around my math identity. Mm-hmm. now chase, you and I, we, we work together decades ago we started in the same world. Yeah. And that was a world that was really rich and deep in personal stuff. Yeah. I don't even know what to call it. Right. It's like you just do it all on your own and, and like pull up those bootstraps and you know, it's taken, it's taken me quite a while to untangle the privilege.  

Speaker 0    00:27:24    Right. That is saturating that mindset. Yeah. Around personal change. You and I both have come to the realization that there is a lot that we can do at an individual level mm-hmm. to change ourselves and to change. You know, you talk a lot about wellbeing. Yeah. And, you know, and, and burnout and, and teachers, you know, fulfillment within this career. And we could, it's the same conversation within my math identity that there's a lot of personal things that I can do. I can't and I am, I'm still doing it. Like I'm writing lessons mm-hmm. on how to guide your students to create math affirmations mm-hmm. mm-hmm. because they work. Right. Affirmations work, self-talk work. And we can work through that. Yeah. You know, math anxiety is a real thing and some people struggle with that personally. And so, you know, this morning I was working on another lesson of talking about these little gremlins, these little math gremlins, it's sometimes in our shoulder and they're like, try to whisper this junk trash into our ears of like, oh, you're slow.  

Speaker 0    00:28:27    Mm-hmm. You're not good at this and that. Right. You know, like, oh, well you thought about that differently than everyone else in the class. You approached that problem totally differently. Mm-hmm. Doesn't matter that you got the same answer you to like your brain's whacked. Mm-hmm. Right. Like just these gremlins are just like pey little punks. Yeah. And so like, what can we do to like flick those little pieces of junk off of our shoulder And I get like, you know, like, this is, this is anxiety work. Yeah. And how do we, and you and I both know that that comes from like rooted in the amygdala Yeah. And how we can calm that down and, and flood our brain with more productive positive things. So you like we we have strong roots Yeah. In this personal world. But you and I, you and I have both come to the realization that, ah, shoot, there are all these systemic factors Right, right. That are at clay that are often invisible to many people that are creating a really shaky foundation. Yes. It's like an earthquake is constantly going on. Yes. While we're there up on ground trying to be like, Hey, flowers and roses and rainbows and unicorns. Here's my math affirmation. I'm a math person. I think critically and I can solve problems, you know, but like, you know, there's like a 9.2 underneath ground that's just like rocking your world. Yeah. Literally.  

Speaker 1    00:29:49    Yeah. I think that like, it's such a tricky balance. I have found on that evolution because I very much was, you know, very Americanized. Like, you gotta just pull, pull mindset. It's all you, like you, you own your destiny, master of your all that, blah, blah, blah. And now that I'm like actually realizing there's so much more to it than that. There's this tricky balance between, I want people to know that they do have influence over their lives cuz that's really important mm-hmm. , and at the same time affirming that some systemic things are coming into play. And I always try to like walk that line of how do I empower people but also affirm them that the system has created conditions that don't allow everyone equally to have the same access to any number of things. Identity, wealth, privilege, et cetera. So if a listener right now is like, well I am a teacher, what do I do? Like how do I affect the system? Or how do I spend my time between impacting the system versus on the individual level? Like, what, what are we to do on the individual level to help the systems?  

Speaker 0    00:31:00    It it's a both and Yeah. Right. And I think that's what we've come to realize in our own individual work Yeah. Is that you can both have influence and both can change and both need to change mm-hmm. . And in one moment, maybe I'm in front of my class and I'm leading them through an exercise that can help them personally, but at the same time, or you know, maybe that afternoon I'm in my PLC meeting and we are going through and exercise ourselves to work on one of the systemic issues. Mm. Mm-hmm. , you know, it's not an either or and it's just a co like you said, it's a constant dance of am I, am I kinda, you know, given too much effort on one, am I putting too much the responsibility on my students right now? Right. Do I need to step back and really focus on some of these systemic issues? Yeah. Because some of the systemic issues on the topic of math identity are the anxiety around math that the adults have around the student. Yeah. So there's so much robust research that says parents math, anxiety and teachers math anxiety is contagious. Yes.  

Speaker 0    00:32:12    So contagious that students pick up on it. Yeah. That's not the student's fault.  

Speaker 1    00:32:17    Right.  

Speaker 0    00:32:18    Like, we can't like blame the student and ex and like hold them responsible for the fact that their teacher, like their teachers pass baggage or their parents pass package and, and all these things. So the adults have work to do to really deal with our own anxiety around math. And then there is like teachers implicit bias. Mm.  

Speaker 1    00:32:40    Mm-hmm. ,  

Speaker 0    00:32:42    If I am a teacher and I harbor an implicit bias that I am conscious or unconscious of that certain students or this one student for whatever reason is not good at math because of a conversation I overheard and the teacher's lounge last year about this one student. Right. Or because these groups of students, oh, well, you know, it's just really tough for students who don't speak English with this first language. You know, math is a language and English and then it's just, it's just like they just, they don't, you know, they just don't do as well. Yeah. If I have that belief, which is bs Yes. Then that is felt by students very strongly and that is going to impact their math identity. We cannot lie to ourselves and say we can hide that.  

Speaker 1    00:33:30    Well, it's interesting to think that if I'm a teacher, I am a part of the system and by doing inward work of, uh, looking at my identity and how my interactions with math have impacted me and others, that it's almost like I am investing in my own ideas and, and who I am. Mm-hmm. . But that is rippling out to my students because since I'm a part of the system, I'm, I'm impacting the system, which Yeah. Which is really fascinating to think about that like, we as educators can create a new outcome of the system by just being real with ourselves and really constantly inward work and discussions and having those difficult conversations around how we approach math, how we talk about math, how we talk about students that can be so powerful now and in the future. Mm-hmm. .  

Speaker 0    00:34:17    Right. Or even just like, oh man, woo, that third period class, you know, or man, I've taught remedial math for four years in a row. Mm. Like, why? Like, what do you have against me? Like when are you gonna gimme the honors kids ? Right. I want the easy kids. Gimme the good kids. Oh my gosh. Right. Like all this like when you like tracking in math. Yeah.  

Speaker 1    00:34:38    Yeah.  

Speaker 0    00:34:39    And what that does to a student's math identity. Ah, like, ooh, I'm in  

Speaker 1    00:34:43    Remedial math. Oh yeah. Cuz no matter what we call it, no matter what, like name or label, I remember in college I took a class called Excursions in Mathematics. And I feel like if you're, if the title of your class has something about a journey or some destination, like you're gonna know what level of, of experience you're about to have there. So Yeah. No, they pick up on it so quick. They, the kids know that they identify and they have no problem talking about it. Um, and that language, I'm sure affects their identity.  

Speaker 0    00:35:14    Yeah. And, and that's, you know, this isn't exclusive to math. This happens with reading levels, you know, it doesn't matter. Like, oh, bear group and the unicorns. No. Yeah. The unicorns know  

Speaker 1    00:35:26    That. Well, I have one final question before we get into our, our section called statements. Let's say you have like a 32nd conversation with someone who utters the phrase, I'm just not a, a math person. What would that 32nd conversation sound  

Speaker 0    00:35:41    Like? I mean, I'd probably start with like validating or empathy. You know, like, I'm so sorry you feel that way. It sounds like you had some really rough math experiences. That's not true. Hmm. Everyone can do math and it'd probably just like in an invitation, like I'd, I'd love to, I'd love to work with you to help you explore all the bad things that experience that happened to you, that created that big fat lie that you have held onto and believe because someone lied to you. Hmm. Or the school system lied to you like you've been fooled. Mm  

Speaker 1    00:36:17    Mm That's like some, uh, some true getting into the therapy work there. The affirmation, the reflection on the past experience and the invitation to work together moving forward. I love that. Cause I, I, I, so many people have experienced that. Parents, I've heard parents say it. I, I know that I have said it and I cringe admitting that. Like I've had those moments before. Um, love, love that response. Okay. Let's get into our section called statements. I'm going to give you a statement and you have four potential answers. You can say you strongly disagree, disagree. Okay. Agree or strongly agree with the statement. Some of these are gonna have to do with like education. Some of them are not, we're gonna start with one that has nothing to do with education to get us warmed up. So here's your statement. Square sandwiches should be sliced diagonally  

Speaker 0    00:37:06    Agree.  

Speaker 1    00:37:07    It's, I, I feel like that's, that's a superior way to eat a sandwich. I don't know why, but I feel like that little part of like the crust sandwich combination like that, that's key. You have to have a nice balance of crust to non-trust bread. Okay. Whoa. I'm glad, I'm glad we can still be friends over that  

Speaker 0    00:37:26    One. Not really.  

Speaker 1    00:37:27    . All right, next statement. Teachers are most responsible for a student's math identity.  

Speaker 0    00:37:36    Oh, shoot. Most responsible. I'm gonna say disagree.  

Speaker 1    00:37:40    Tell us more.  

Speaker 0    00:37:43     well just be, it's kinda like it's half and half. Cuz when you look at those four points that we talked about, two of them are highly teacher dependent. Mm-hmm. Right. Like the, the past experiences, a lot of them came from past teachers. Mm-hmm. And when you look like we talked about with the system, that a lot of that comes from what we bring into a math space. You know, like if I am a math teacher and I believe that being good at math means you're fast and you get right answers right away and you follow the algorithm that I taught you, then that is going to exclude a lot of students who are really good at math, but do it differently. Right. And take your time and actually think about what they're doing. Yeah.  

Speaker 1    00:38:25    Yeah.  

Speaker 0    00:38:26    So shoot, maybe I would say . I mean, I don't, I don't wanna put the blame on students or on teachers, sorry. But they do, I want teachers to feel empowered Yeah. To know that they do have strong influence.  

Speaker 1    00:38:40    Yeah. Yeah. I think it's, it's that balance again of like the, the individual Yeah. Versus the system of like, we want people to feel like they, they have a major influence in their world and the lives of others. That makes sense. Uh, next statement. The most important thing when it comes to math ability is iq.  

Speaker 0    00:39:00    Boo. Strongly disagree. Okay.  

Speaker 1    00:39:02    Elaborate. Tell us more.  

Speaker 0    00:39:04    No trash. No, those are not related at all. You know, so math ability is, it's just so much, much more than iq like we said. It is about, you know, discovery in, in curiosity and exploring patterns and the beauty of mathematics. And then using those discoveries, in my opinion, using that for social change, for bettering the world and to being able to look critically at data and being like, oh, well that's jacked up. We need to fix this thing called gerrymandering. Mm-hmm. , you know, because the mathematics of this is showing us that this is extremely inequitable and very unfair mm-hmm. . And so we can use math for that. And that's not, that's not iq, that's not like being able to, you know, memorize pie to 3,729 digits or something, you  

Speaker 1    00:39:54    Know? Right. Love it. Okay. This will be our, our last statement. Right. Schools should teach growth mindset. I like, I like that you are like, you are having that same experience that I've had because again, I'm speaking for myself. You know, I had to have that evolution of experience of like being all about growth mindset and then really having to think about things a little differently. But nevertheless, I wanna, I wanna hear your answer.  

Speaker 0    00:40:22    I could be wrong, but my assumption about the image that comes to mind for most people when they say teaching growth mindset mm-hmm. Is a poster that st that's has two call-ins instead of thinking this, say this.  

Speaker 1    00:40:38    Right.  

Speaker 0    00:40:38    Yeah. You know, that, that redirect. Yeah. And if that's what you mean by growth mindset, then no. Yeah. Like, that's not gonna do anything. That's not gonna move the needle. You know, Carol direct's research on growth mindset is rooted in neuroplasticity. Yeah. That's what it is. A growth mindset is that I can change my brain can change, my experiences can change me and how I think and how I feel and how I show up and behave and perform. And so do I think we should teach neuroplasticity? Yes. We talked about this even with like, graphing your math journey. Like that's the whole point is to see that it's, it's constantly changing based on all these different factors. Right. And I believe that neuroplasticity is the most hopeful message that comes out of my field of study Yeah. In the last several decades Yeah. Is that we are constantly changing and the, the student who is struggling to read right now, I mean, here's what I really think  

Speaker 1    00:41:39     hit me with it. I want to hear it.  

Speaker 0    00:41:40    Well, I think us as teachers have, we, if we wanna serve the education sphere as a whole best, then we should be doing the personal work of doing our own mindset growth work in the way that we perceive and see students equitably. And, and, and I think there's research to support that. You know, when we believe that all students can learn at high levels, then those high expectations that we have for all of our students manifest themselves in, in so many great ways. Yeah. So I think students need hope. Mm-hmm. So they need to know that nothing's fixed for them mm-hmm. In, in the, in the context that we're talking about right now. And that there are things that they have ownership over that can change that and, and other things that are gonna happen to them. Yeah. That will change that for, for better or for worse.  

Speaker 1    00:42:41    Well, I think it's really interesting if you just even drop the word mindset. Schools should teach growth. Like they should. They should teach and they should base their practice off like helping students actually see and demonstrate growth. Because that's, it's been my latest frustration with the, the, the growth mindset buzzword is it's like, it is a lot of, it's a lot of rah rah mantra work, but then kids don't actually see the evidence of it. So like, I can talk all day long about like how your mindset matters, but if a kid consistently feels frustration and failure, it's not happening for them. You know, it's like they're, they're being inflated again with people telling them they can do things, but not actually coaching and supporting and demonstrating that they actually can do the things. And so, uh,  

Speaker 0    00:43:23    Yeah. Like where's the daily formative assessment? Yeah. So that every student leaves class every day knowing that they gave effort. Yeah. Learn something, grew in some way and then it's just, it's natural. Yeah. Instead of, Hey, here's our growth mindset  

Speaker 1    00:43:37    Assembly . Right.  

Speaker 0    00:43:40    For people not watching the video.  

Speaker 1    00:43:41    . I love it. Well, I, I mean, I could, I could geek out with you all day, but, uh, we should probably for now draw it to a close, although I, I feel a whole nother follow up episode on this neuroplasticity growth mindset debate here. Yes. Um, before we leave off, how can listeners find you? Where do they get more lethal in their lives?  

Speaker 0    00:44:04    Yeah. Some more lethal in your life. Be careful what you wish for . Um, you can find me, uh, on a few different places. I'm on most social media platforms and most active on Twitter at Lisa macci. Check chase's, show notes for spelling, I'm sure. And then my website. My website is a great place to find a lot of free resources. I write a lot of mini books that are all free, that are designed for teachers who don't have a lot of time, but want quick actionable strategies that are rooted in research. And so you can like, find those on my website. Um, as well as lots of other good things. I, I blog a lot about, um, the research on how the brain learns. And, uh, yeah. I mean, I wrote a book that one's not free over a couple books, but one's not free. Um, called Brain-Based Learning with Dr. Eric Jensen. You can find a lot of great stuff in there. Reach out to me on, you can contact me through my website and we can, um, start a conversation about any of this stuff and  

Speaker 1    00:45:03    We will have links, uh, all of that in the show notes for people to find more. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to you starting your math therapist practice, because I feel like that's a new area. But for everyone listening, uh, we're gonna bid a Jew to Lisa. I'm hoping everyone goes out to Jack in the Box, gets their chocolate shake. Oh my God. Just to celebrate and  

Speaker 0    00:45:23    Then go for a really long run afterwards. . That's better. It's helpful.  

Speaker 1    00:45:27    I love it. Lisa, thank you so much for your time and for the nerdiness that you share with the rest of us.  

Speaker 1    00:45:43    All right, y'all, last call before we shut this educator happy hour down math identity is a common denominator of our experiences as students and teachers. All right, I promise. That was my last dad joke. Today, as we close out our educator happy hour, here's your assignment. First, a personal reflection. Carve out 10 minutes and plot out the history of your relationship with math. Plot, the positive, good moments, and the negative unpleasant moments. And as you plot, think about how this relationship shaped not only your relationship with math, but your relationship with learning your identity as a student and human. Then think about the implications this may have on your role as an educator. Your second assignment is to do the same process with your class or a student on the topic you teach. Try to create a teachable moment where students can be honest on their feelings with your topic and how they got there.  

Speaker 1    00:46:33    Really affirm their experience, model your history for them, and then talk about how our identity is not concrete. Just as it was formed through past experiences. It can be shaped by new experiences and show. Don't just tell them. Show them how your content, your class will be different in giving them the identity they need to be successful. Oh, and extra credit assignments. Head over to and check out the work she does. She is frigging brilliant. Of course, I'll have links to all that in the show notes to make it easier for you to do that extra credit. As always, thank y'all for listening. Thank you for the work you do, and thank you for who you are. Cheers. 

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