Tag Archives: Michael Pershan

Michael Pershan: Beyond “Better-Luck-Next-Time” Feedback


By Michael Pershan

When I was a student, almost all the written feedback I got in math class came on tests. The main purpose of these notes was to justify a grade. This was frustrating to me and ever since I became a math teacher, I’ve wanted to give feedback of a different sort. Rather than reporting to my students what they did or didn’t understand, I wanted my feedback help them come to understand it on their own. Two years ago, I realized that, despite my best efforts, I was falling short of this standard. Since then, I’ve been searching for better ways to use comments to help learning along.

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The Heinemann Fellows: Video Spotlight on Michael Pershan


Earlier this year, Heinemann hosted a symposium for its 2014–2015 class of Fellows. Each Fellow gave a presentation on his or her action research project, and afterward sat down to answer some questions. Today, Michael Pershan offers advice to other teachers, and discusses pride as it relates to education. Videos below after the break.

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The Heinemann Fellows: Michael Pershan on a Year of Feedback


Michael Pershan is a Heinemann Fellow with the 2014–2016 class, and has been an educator for five years. In today's post, Michael updates us on his continuing research project: Is written feedback or oral feedback more beneficial for fostering geometric thinking in high school students?

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Why Our Hints Don’t Help


“Why don’t you just tell us the answer?” How often do you hear this in your math classroom?

Or this: “Oh, okay…I get it! Wait…what?”

Recently at Shadow Con, Heinemann Fellow Michael Pershan talked about how providing helpful hints to our math students is a bit of a lost art. According to Michael, there are four reasons we’re not as good at giving hints as we could be:

  1. Our hints are too vague
  2. Our hints kill thinking
  3. Our hints don’t have reasons
  4. We improvise too much

In his talk, he suggests three ways to improve the hints we give our students:

  • Add context
  • Add reasons
  • Be just specific enough

His big idea? Hints will be most effective when we take time to plan them in advance—allowing us to better address the three areas above. Watch Michael’s entire Shadow Con talk and then answer his call to action below.

Michael’s call to action:

Recognizing that your time as a teacher is limited, Michael is leading the charge to create the Internet Repository of Really Good Hints. Click here to share your most effective hints online; they’ll then be organized and published for everyone to use.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Michael Pershan is a math teacher at Saint Ann's School in New York City and a Heinemann Fellow who blogs at mathmistakes.org. Follow him on Twitter @mpershan.


Shadow Con is a teacher-led mini conference that was hosted this year during the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in Boston. Shadow Con included six talks from six speakers, each offering a provocative call to action and continuing opportunities to support other teachers with that work online. To learn more, or to watch other talks, please visit its web site.

The Heinemann Fellows: A Review

Over the last three months, the 2014–2016 class of Heinemann Fellows wrote posts for our blog. Each Fellow described his or her background and defended a specific line of questioning, while offering us valuable insight into an established professional belief. This is a group of dedicated, ambitious, and earnest educators, all of whom have the desire and capacity to effect lasting change in the profession. Below, you can find each of the Fellows with an excerpt from his or her post. Click through to read further.


Introduction by Ellin Keene

"Stay tuned because these insightful, curious, gifted educators are about to infuse our profession with something very rare: original knowledge about teaching and learning."


Lisa Birno: Purposeful Use of Talk 

"I realized that the purposeful use of talk unlocked many of the barriers my students faced. I saw that talk didn't just level the playing field for my struggling students."


Tamara Ward: Giving Voice to Rural Schools

"Because small rural schools lack the resources and staffing of larger schools, teaching in them is more than just teaching. I am called on to wear many hats and have to roll up my sleeves and pitch in no matter what."


​Sascha Robinett: Knowing You Matter

"It is exhausting, overwhelming, and lonely at times. But the opportunity to create a culture in which all members feel they matter and have impact is worth the effort."


Lorilee Cabrera: Coaching and Luck

"I have a secret, though. All of this "luck" isn't just luck. My luck exists at the intersection of hard work, good timing, and education."


Amy Greenbaum Clark: Teaching Poetry

"Writing is subjective. We can't ignore the ethos of teaching poetry—as if the various forms of writing don't inform one another!"


Jessica Lifshitz: The Questions That Change Everything

"There had to be a better way to talk to my students about their reading. There had to be a better way to help them pick up on their thinking and push them toward new insights."


Julie Nora: Having Students Write for a Global Audience

"Students report they prefer writing on a tablet or computer, however most school tasks and online assessments require students to use technology differently than they do at home."


Kate Norem: Supporting Purposeful Student Writing

"These very different pieces of writing were creative, ambitious, and highly motivating, and I wondered, 'What is it about these creative pieces that hooked some of my most reluctant writers?'"


Michael Pershan: Student Feedback

"I have been looking more carefully at feedback that makes a difference for my students. The closer I look, the worse the commonly offered advice seems."


The Heinemann Fellows is a group of educators who wish to pursue the shared goal of advancing the teaching profession. Membership in the group is not a reward for past accomplishments, but rather an investment in an educator's originality, insight, and potential impact on teaching. In today's post, Ellin Keene provides the introduction to an ongoing series of blog posts about and by the current class of fellows.

Visit the Heinemann Fellows home page and follow along on our public Twitter list.