#DBC50Summer 15/50: The Classroom Chef

In May of 2006 I graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina with a degree in Elementary Education and a concentration in mathematics.  I wanted to teach math, and only math.  I had absolutely no interest in teaching kids how to read (ironic that I now work in a media center).  I enjoy reading (obviously… um, hello #DBC50Summer, haha), but the process of “how to read” was lost on me the entire time I was in college.  When I was hired for my first teaching job in a small town in northwestern North Carolina, I was overjoyed to teach math exclusively, three times a day, to 5th grade students! When I saw the next book in the line up, I was thrilled to get it and read about my favorite subject area (more on that little misconception about the book soon enough)!

During my undergrad coursework, I was required to take multiple math methods courses, one of which was insanely difficult taught by a professor who rode a motorcycle and requested a classroom with whiteboards or chalkboards on every wall.  The assignments in this class were always the same. Problem Sets of 6-8 math problems (on white computer paper, mind you) were given to groups of 3 or 4.  Each person had to solve at least two problems before the next class period.  We had to write up how we would solve the problem with examples in order to be able to explain the process to a kindergarten student, even if it was a 5th grade concept.  Upon returning to class, we had to present our problems to the class in detail using the chalkboards or whiteboards that were on the walls.  I hated that class.  It was tough; it made me think.  I had to discover mathematical reasoning and problem solving for myself for the first time in my educational career.  It was also the class that was the most beneficial of any math class I ever took.  I even went on to take the next course she taught, which was taught in the exact same format.  She allowed us to struggle.  Because of that, I understood math.


John Stevens and Matt Vaudrey coauthored the 15th book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line up.  This book, called The Classroom Chef, focuses on ways to make math meaningful to students.  Because of my mathematical background, I was beyond excited to crack the cover on this book!  I expected to be taken back to my days in the classroom teaching students math concepts.  I did not expect to be blown away by the insanely amazing lessons John & Matt describe in this book!  The restaurant theme runs throughout the entire book from setting the table to appetizers, entrees, and dessert!

In Dave Burgess’s post “Table Talk Math: Finally a Math Resource for Parents is Here!” Dave refers to The Classroom Chef as Teach Like a Pirate “with every single example straight from a math classroom”.  This assessment is spot on!  However, I have to stop and mention one little thing…

Don’t let the fact that this book specifically says “math” on the cover deter you from getting a copy!  Just as Dave’s book sharing examples from a high school social studies class doesn’t make it a “social studies only” book, John & Matt’s book sharing math examples doesn’t make it a “math only” book!  This book is for everyone, no matter your content or grade level!

See, the book isn’t just about a subject, it’s about a shift in education.  It’s about preparing a lesson, not lesson planning.  It’s about making your content meaningful to students.  It’s about giving students time to struggle with an idea.  When students discover the answer themselves, it’s much more meaningful to them, thereby allowing them to remember it longer.  Whether our students are struggling with the FOIL method in math, with discovering how people impact erosion in the environment in science, why we went to war in Korea, or what would have happened if Romeo & Juliet had lived in today’s time period… students need to experience struggle & failure in every class.  We must create a space in which students feel like failure is okay, as long as they take the opportunity to correct their mistakes.

Within the pages of this book, John & Matt present multiple ideas to make math fun!  Again, this doesn’t only apply to math, though.  Just because the focus of this book is math doesn’t mean that math is the only course that can use a little injection of fun!  Fun quickly became “the F word” and educators tend to steer their educational ship clear of that.  I, personally, want to run my little educational pirate ship straight up to Fun and invite it onboard!  In fact, I don’t even want to be on the ship unless Fun is on it with me! Otherwise, it’s just another lonely old boat ride around the island.  I think this recurring theme of bringing fun back (Did you just sing Justin Timberlake? Because I did!!) in the DBC books are a piece of what keeps me coming back book after book.  Multiple books, just within the first 15, mention making school fun/amazing/exciting again.  Each of the following books (linked to their respective #DBC50Summer blog) revolves around this common theme.  School should be fun!  It shouldn’t be easy.  There are ways to use your brain, think critically, fail, and still have fun!

When I think of DBC books, my mind automatically shifts to Teach Like A Pirate and all of the “Like A Pirate” books, Kids Deserve It, Innovator’s Mindset, etc.  Before reading it for #DBC50Summer, if I’d been asked to name the DBC books, I would have struggled to remember this one.  After reading it though, it will likely be partnered up with Teach Like A Pirate in my head! I will be recommended it to EVERY ONE!  I want my children in classes where teachers are preparing a lesson, not lesson planning!  I want to know that my daughters have been served an appropriate multi-course educational meal.  And not just in math!

The obvious implementation for this book would be to pull in my friend, Holli Hudson, who teaches 7th and 8th grade math at my school.  We have co-planned (or should I say… co-prepared) and co-taught some incredible lessons together!  She read this book earlier in the summer, and she’s already been brainstorming for our first planning session.  Next year we’re preparing an immersive lesson in which students will engage in a book tasting in the media “cafe” with books they can actually purchase with Mustang Money and decide if they have enough money after subtracting the amount of any discount they may have earned, along with adding the tax.  Sounds cool, right?

However… that’s not my implementation for this book.  Instead, I’m going to encourage my accelerated classes to sign up for three times to bring students to the media center and facilitate BreakoutEDU sessions with me.  For those that aren’t aware, BreakoutEDU is an immersive learning game in which students must think critically to decipher clues to reveal or receive the combinations to multiple locks on a hasp on a box.  They must do this as a clock is counting down and with only two hints that can be used.  Last year every content area teacher in the building signed up for BreakoutEDU sessions, except 3 of my 4 accelerated classes.  This is why I want those classes to try it out.  It is widely known that many times our advanced students despise struggle and challenges more than any other student.  They just want to the answers so they can spit it back out on a test, feel accomplished, and move on.  I felt that way, too.  It will be good to watch the playing field be leveled a bit while they struggle through a BreakoutEDU game.

Discovering teachers’ love for implementing BreakoutEDU was actually a direct result of an epic failure!  Our htc Vive virtual reality headset had a broken lighthouse station (the part that allows you to walk around, which basically rendered the headset useless until repair) which derailed multiple experiences for about four-six weeks when we could get the replacement part.  I didn’t want to lose the momentum I had built with teachers signing up for time in the media center and the collaboration occurring between the teachers and me, so I suggested a BreakoutEDU game to a science teacher, who immediately jumped onboard.  It was so difficult for her to watch the students struggle through their first experience with BreakoutEDU.  No one in the class broke out of their box.  By the end of the year, nearly every content area teacher had brought their students to experience BreakoutEDU because the buzz about how awesome it was had reached their room.  Students were begging to do more, even after some students did 5 or 6 different games last year. Students thought much more critically and, as Matt & John mention in the book, they solved a problem (as opposed to being problem-solvers).  They figured out what to do when they didn’t know what to do.

Through the creation of a safe place to fail in our media center at school, it is my hope that I have encouraged risk-taking, critical thinking, and a desire to solve problems in both my students and my teachers.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Classroom Chef, and I look forward to diving deeper into the Classroom Chef website, linked here.  On the website, you can find shirts, book study documents, and a menu which serves “take-out” (additional math resources).  John’s website is pretty awesome, as is Matt’s.  You’ll find many of the math lessons from the book linked on Matt’s blog.  You can also check out the #MTBoS community on Twitter to connect with other math teachers sharing ideas!  You may also want to follow the community in #ClassroomChef or the account of the same name.  Finally, the Flipgrid (thanks to Andrea Paulakovich for the incredible idea of using Flipgrid as a global book study) is ready for your thoughts!  Share using the passcode DBCSummer.

Well…what are you waiting for?  Go get your copy of DBC’s 15th book, The Classroom Chef!

*Edit: I goofed!!!  It happens!  Messed up the order of release dates on previous version of post! OOPS! The correct Book #16 is Launch by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani!  This is the era of DBC, Inc in which the releases started happening back to back in rapid fire.  I LOVE that I am struggling to figure out which one was first – it means that the demand for conversation, authentic, TLAP-style educational/professional development books had skyrocketed!  So…what an incredible problem to have!  So many amazing ideas coming from the home of Dave & Shelley Burgess that the information couldn’t get to us fast enough!  I am beyond excited to read about Design Thinking and bringing out the maker in every student!  I firmly believe we should be creating creators and not consumers and this book looks like a great addition to the DBC, Inc line up!  Let’s get it done!

7 thoughts on “#DBC50Summer 15/50: The Classroom Chef

  1. Pingback: #DBC50Summer Book 11-20 Recap | AliciaRay.com

  2. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 23/50: Lead Like A Pirate | AliciaRay.com

  3. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 24/50: Table Talk Math | AliciaRay.com

  4. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 25/50: Teaching Math with Google Apps | AliciaRay.com

  5. Pingback: #DBC50Summer Book 21-30 Recap | AliciaRay.com

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