Ma & Pa Kettle and other mathematical dilemmas

This week’s #edublogsclub prompt 12 asks us to embed something into a post.

No problems!

One of my favourite videos that I use in many of my workshops to do with differentiation and non-funded special needs is Ma & Pa Kettle’s most convincing lesson in mathematics.

The problem: How many times does 5 go into 25?

I bet you said 5 …

Can you think of any other numbers that can be manipulated to do the same?


How about


Watch the video below. Costello (Albert and Costello fame) is pretty convincing…

Why are they so convincing?

I’ve used the Ma & Pa video in the past and asked students to convince me otherwise.

I would also imagine an open ended problem solving session where students explore the possibility that there may be other numbers for which we can present a similar argument.

How could you use these videos in your classes?

Feel free to share your ideas below.

Thanks for reading 🙂

“Cook dinner, don’t just supply the ingredients” (Tomlinson)

You know when you hear something that really gels with you? It’s that moment when culture meets a light bulb moment and suddenly you know. You know this is something that just has to be said.

That light bulb moment

That light bulb moment

The other day it happened to me, sitting in the ACEL conference listening to Carol Tomlinson talking differentiation. Now this was not the first or even second time I’ve had the pleasure to hear her speak in person. I had even heard the differentiated story she told, but it was the first time I connected with it in a new way.  It really brings to the fore the idea of readiness to learn. In order to learn, one must be open to learning. So when we teach, how do we know whether our students are ready to learn? How do we know if we are ready to learn from them in return?

Tomlinson at ACEL conference 2016

Tomlinson at ACEL conference 2016

Tomlinson compares the ingredients for dinner with that of curriculum. As ingredients, they stand alone but have very little to offer unless combined with other ingredients to make a meal. In fact, depending on the ingredients one can make a myriad of meals using them in different combinations. Let’s take similar ingredients to those that Tomlinson uses in her comparison:




The above, when combined, will make a meal (or 5 if you live at my place – if you want a list, I’d be happy to forward one) – the same as all the components of teaching. Teaching isn’t just one ingredient but should be a whole lot of ingredients which are combined to create a great learning experience. In combining the ingredients, however, one doesn’t necessarily have to use them all in every meal but they can be used in different combinations. Teaching is like this too. These ingredients on their own are not very inviting – but in combinations can make a number of really appetising meals.

So let’s compare this idea to teaching. What are some of the ingredients in teaching and learning?

Relationship? I suggest kilos and kilos of it. In fact, in my opinion, there is very little, if any teaching or learning that happens without this ingredient.

Curriculum – knowledge and skills?

Assessment – formative and summative?


Environment – inviting and safe?

Emotional Intelligence?







What else would you add?

Share the commitment to teaching and learning

Share the commitment to teaching and learning

In teaching and learning, there may be any combination of the above and more. Each class would need more or less of these depending on the needs of the students in that particular class. Even if one is teaching the same content to the same year level in two different classes, the ingredients would not be identical in both type and quantity. So when planning your next ‘cooking’ session with your class think carefully about the ingredients and combine them in such a way that really gels with your class. Take the time to ask your students, ‘What would you like for dinner?’ It will help you to become a much better cook, I guarantee it and ultimately they’ll enjoy the meal a whole lot more.

Dinner's READY!!!!

Dinner’s READY!!!!



Thanks for reading 🙂







The PPP in Differentiation



How are you going to teach it?
Hooking students in by igniting curiosity and giving them a sense of fun is a sure fire way of engaging them in the learning.
Read more: Presentation
What do you want the students to know and do?
Be specific about this – have a set of outcomes – write them down if you have to and share them with the students. The way you all arrive at those outcomes is what is differentiated – we are not changing the curriculum – it remains as do the criteria. Be specific on what you want them to know and what they are going to do to know it but be prepared to have different activities happening simultaneously.



How will the learning be done?
The quality is in the process, i.e. the learning journey. The product will happen if the process is ‘right’.
Students need to be exposed to many different ways of learning. As the facilitator of that learning you must allow them to explore and take risks knowing that they are safe to make mistakes and that you will be there to support them when they need it. Read more… Process

How will the students demonstrate learning?

In differentiating we do not change the criteria – we just allow for many alternatives in getting to it. If the end task requires they sit a written test then that’s what will be expected, but the process is where we can take liberties. However, if the final task can be negotiated to allow for more personal reflection and give student choice then this is also differentiating. Remember we are not changing the criteria but allowing the student to show their learning in different ways.
This does not mean that just because the student prefers to learn in visual/kinesthetic fashion that he should be allowed to use this every time in showing that learning, I allow it once on major projects but then I expect them to expand their learning repertoire and include other strategies for displaying learning. Read more… Product
Here are a few thoughts to get you thinking:light_bulb
  • Does the ‘test’ always have to be written?
  • Do teachers always have to write the test?
  • Does the student always have to do an oral presentation standing out the front of the whole class? Can he videotape himself and then play it back to the class?
  • Does the assignment have to be presented as a poster?
  • Does it have to be a powerpoint?
  • Can there be visuals added to the large block of text they have to read and comprehend?
Does changing any of the above advantage or disadvantage anyone in presenting their learning?
I don’t think so. What it does do is allow for choice, gives students an opportunity to engage with learning using multiple modes of learning. It might challenge them or allow them to access learning in their own way. AND if the original outcomes are met – then what’s the difference?
Real life project by real students
This video was made by Year 8 students after working on content to do with social justice. I introduced the topic with images and stories of homelessness. I had students reflect on their experiences with different types of media. I asked them to walk in the shoes of the people they saw, read and heard about. Their product was to produce something that would help the community understand and take action, to empathise and make a difference.
This video was produced after just a few weeks on topic and three classes devoted to research, planning, and development of the final product. They could work in partnerships or on their own. They had choice, they had means and they, it turns out, really understood and met the objectives. I was blown away not only with this example but the many other interpretations I received from the class as a whole. Let me know what you think.
So now?
Go ahead…
Differentiate tomorrow’s lesson. Ask yourself 3 questions

1. What do I want the students to know? 

2. What do I want the students to understand?

 3. What do I want the students to do?
Let me know how it goes.
Thanks for reading 🙂

Differentiation is ‘different’ not more, not less, just ‘different’.

DI_TechnologyIt is of no use to keep going the way we are if we don’t constantly reflect and review what we are doing in and out of the classroom. Students no longer accept that we as teachers know everything and that our sole purpose is to feed them the information so they can regurgitate it back to us in tests and exams. Our journey in investigating the differentiated curriculum is an introduction into a different way of thinking about knowledge and skills. Many of us already apply some of the strategies while others, well we are happy to continue giving them the same worksheets, the same tests and hoping for the best. We are very busy people after all.

However, we are also out to make a difference, or at least I hope we are. So if this is the main objective then we need to teach them content, yes, but more importantly we MUST teach them what to do with it once they’ve got it.

Let’s reflect for a moment:

  • The students we have in front of us today are the ones who will be looking after us tomorrow.
  • The students we teach today will be the parents of future children who will change forever what we know and do.
  • The student who today may be difficult could be a future Einstein or Rosalind Franklin or Shakespeare or Martin Luther King Jr. or even the next Dr. Who –and by this I don’t mean the actor who will play him, I mean the scientist who will invent something extraordinary like the 15 year old who has developed a test to diagnose pancreatic cancer.

Too much, well, they had to be in somebody’s class didn’t they?

Anyhow my point is that it’s worth the extra effort to ensure that all students are engaged and that they develop a love of learning. The only way this is going to happen is if you and they believe they can. One of the ways we can help this along is to meet them at their level, regardless of where that might be, and ensure they move along in value added learning.

One way to do this is to differentiate our classes. Differentiation “consists of the efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom. Whenever a teacher reaches out to an individual or small group to vary his or her teaching in order to create the best learning experience possible, that teacher is differentiating instruction.” (Tomlinson)

Call back next week for Part 2: The 3 Ps in Differentiation

Thanks for reading 🙂

“This is not how our teacher does it!”

Good Morning Folks,

The other day I had the privilege of delivering the  Keynote address at the TLN CRT Conference. I have to say I was rather nervous at first but once I put my hands on that lectern it was all over and off I went. I really love doing what I do and I love meeting and speaking with educators, sharing ideas and anecdotes about teaching and learning. During my Positive Classrooms workshops, at the same conference, there were many ideas thrown around that I hope participants might try the next time they are in the classroom. My favourite idea was the alphabet game where the first person chooses a word – say –  learning, the next person must then say a word beginning with the last letter of the previous word – growth – and so it goes until everyone has had a turn. We then tried it using only words relevant to the topic at hand, and while this was rather difficult it is an excellent way to really challenge the students and stay on topic. It might also be useful as a revision or prior / post knowledge game.

Many thanks to all those who participated on the day. Remember that each child is taught by a CRT for almost 2 years of their 13 years at school. We can make a BIG difference to their lives, make sure it’s a positive one!

Lastly…for those who would like to know how the “I failed preps” story ends please click here

tigerinjunglebookThanks for reading 🙂