Why Consistency Is More Important Than Intensity: Culture in the Math Classroom

Ok so you tried using a problem based lesson like a 3-Act Math Task or maybe you had students solve a task in groups with your brand new whiteboards and it …….flopped! Yep you’re worst nightmare was there with you in that classroom! A failed lesson! You were sure it was going to be a success. You heard that that activity was a great one but for you it just didn’t work.

Don’t worry. It wasn’t you. It’s normal. This comes down to an example of Intensity versus Consistency. I first heard Simon Sinek (an inspiring speaker and author on business and leadership) talk about this on the Tony Robbins Podcast.

Wait, what’s Intensity versus Consistency???

Ok, say I’m looking to get into shape. I want to be physically healthy and fit. Everybody knows that I can’t just go to the gym for 6 hours today and expect to instantly be fit and ripped! No one expects that. That is an example of intensity. Or consider brushing teeth. I can’t just brush my teeth once and hard and then expect my teeth to stay healthy! They’d all fall out after a while! Or let’s say reading books with my kids at bedtime. If I read for two hours before bed tonight with my daughter Lucie it’s not going to make her a better reader. Those are all acts of intensity. Brief intense moments of an event.

We know that we need to brush our teeth twice a day everyday to see results. We know that to go to get in physical shape we need to routinely work out 20 minutes a day and we will see results. We will absolutely get into shape. If we read with our kids every night then they will become better readers and better writers! We know this. These are acts of consistency.

It’s little consistent events that will make the difference not a big one-time or two-time event. But the problem is that we can’t see the benefits of the small acts in real time. I don’t see that my teeth are healthier after the one time brush or that my daughter reads any better…..I have to wait to see those benefits. And it’s hard because those benefits come at different times for different people.

When Simon talks about great leaders he says that great leaders have to build consistency and not intensity. It’s all the little things they do to create a great work culture and not the big hoopla one time event. A great leader can’t just throw an amazing holiday party and expect that to be the solution to a great work environment. They have to show acts everyday that they value their employees. That consistency will create a great work culture!

Intensity versus Consistency for Math Education:

That lesson that flopped was a one-time event! It was because we viewed it as an act of intensity. In order for those lessons to be successful and to bring out deep meaning and learning for our students we need acts of consistency. We need to do this as part of our routine.

That consistency will help create the amazing classroom culture you are dreaming of. That positive, safe, fun learning environment where kids learn with each other and with the teacher! But we have to be willing to put in the work to build consistency.

And the students are not going to be the ones to magically make this happen. We have to do it. We’re talking about middle school or high school here. Students would rather NOT talk to other peers they don’t know. We need to teach them how to help create this environment.

And It’s all the little things we do everyday that will make this happen.

  • It’s the Daily Warm ups where you have kids discussing arguing defending.
  • It’s routinely asking kids to struggle that teach them resilience.
  • It’s your assessment routines.
  • It’s the Random Grouping everyday and using Whiteboards that show them that you value their voice.
  • It’s the problems you use to teach with.
  • It’s how you demonstrate to your students what you value in learning.

It’s the things you do everyday that matter. Those are the things that will build the culture you are looking for. Routine and Consistency are what will drive change in your classroom and student learning.

This takes dedication. I know it’s hard so to help you out I’ve put together a handout that you can download, read and share with other teachers on 5 tips to to build amazing classroom culture. And you guessed it all of them involve being consistent instead of intense.

Click to download 5 Tips to Build Amazing Classroom Culture. 

What are your tips to build amazing classroom culture in your math classes? What are we missing? Just add those in the comments below.

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