Conversations about teaching mathematics don’t just magically happen.

Recognize these two staff members?

Person A (thinks he) has a lot to say. He likes to talk. He needs to talk. You can’t ignore Person A. He won’t let you.

Person B also has a lot to say. Maybe. He doesn’t like to talk. Besides, Person B also has a lot of marking. He brings it to staff meetings and pro-d workshops.

I’ve been both Person A and Person B. The following activity, “The Interview Matrix”, allows me to be neither. I first participated in “The Interview Matrix” in a session facilitated by Jordan Tinney.

The Process

Participant are divided into groups of four. Group members number themselves from 1 to 4.

Over six five-minute rounds (see below), each member interviews and is interviewed by the other three group members. For example, in Round 1, Person 1 interviews Person 2 about Question 1; in Round 2, Person 1 is interviewed by Person 4 about Question 4. In the seventh round, each person writes a summary of the responses to his/her question.

Participants are reorganized into four groups according to question number. Those who asked the same question gather together to share their findings.

Finally, everyone hears the summaries of the four questions from each of the four groups.

The Questions

I chose four themes rather than four questions. Question 1, for example, is actually made up of three questions. It is not necessary for participants to answer all three. Hopefully, at least one of them is of interest to the person being interviewed.


The word community is used in 3 of the 4 questions. It was interesting that groups interpreted this differently– community of teachers on staff, community of learners in the classroom, community of parents. This was deliberate on my part.

I’ve used this activity with three different groups and each time the participants have enjoyed it. Some math team mentors have taken this activity back to their schools to generate discussions.

One word of caution… at last, everyone gets to hear what that guy with the stack of marking has to say.

4 Replies to “Conversations about teaching mathematics don’t just magically happen.”

  1. I can’t wait to try something similar with students! I can see this being really valuable as interviewing their partner/group member about how they understand a problem or scenario. I’m a huge fan of protocols. Thanks Chris!

  2. Thanks Bryan. I’d love to see what you create for your classroom. Please keep me posted. What do you think of using an activity such as the truthiness continuum ( to get at the beliefs held by students in your hidden curriculum post ( Maybe revisit these beliefs at a later date and see the movement of statements such as “I need the teacher to tell me how to do a math problem before I can try it on my own”?

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