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Math Therapy

Education Podcasts

Math Therapy explores the root causes of math trauma, and the empowering ways we can heal from it. Each week host Vanessa Vakharia, aka The Math Guru, dives into what we get right and wrong about math education, and chats with some of today’s most inspiring and visionary minds working to make math more accessible, diverse, and fun for students of all ages. Whether you think you’re a "math person" or not, you’re about to find out that math people don’t actually exist – but the scars that math class left on many of us, definitely do. And don’t worry, no calculators or actual math were involved in the making of this podcast ;)




Math Therapy explores the root causes of math trauma, and the empowering ways we can heal from it. Each week host Vanessa Vakharia, aka The Math Guru, dives into what we get right and wrong about math education, and chats with some of today’s most inspiring and visionary minds working to make math more accessible, diverse, and fun for students of all ages. Whether you think you’re a "math person" or not, you’re about to find out that math people don’t actually exist – but the scars that math class left on many of us, definitely do. And don’t worry, no calculators or actual math were involved in the making of this podcast ;)





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We are born to love math w/ Dan Finkel

Dan Finkel is an author/educator who believes that humans are wired to be curious from birth, and that play is the secret to maintaining that joy of learning throughout childhood. On today’s season 6 finale, he and Vanessa discuss how teaching kids about math can be so much more fun than we think; it can mean playing board games, counting on their fingers, anything that helps them develop an intuitive sense that there are patterns and structures in the world for them to discover. They also discuss how play-based approaches can even help grown-ups heal from math trauma! About Dan (Website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) Dan Finkel is the Founder and Director of Operations of Math for Love, a Seattle-based organization devoted to transforming how math is taught and learned. Dan is an author and game designer, develops curriculum, leads teacher workshops, and gives talks on mathematics and education. He contributes regularly to the New York Times Numberplay blog and hosts Seattle’s Julia Robinson Math Festival annually. Show notes: Five Principles of Extraordinary Math TeachingMartin Gardner’s “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific Americanearlyfamilymath.orgPattern BreakersUpscale pattern blocksConnect with us: InstaTwitterTikTokTwitter


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Grit is your superpower w/ Dr. India White

Dr. India White learned grit and resilience the hard way: facing down obstacles throughout her life and deciding she wouldn’t back down. Now she coaches teachers and students on developing their own gritty superpowers, and she joins Vanessa today for wide-ranging and inspiring conversation. They discuss her journey from a homeless shelter to a college dorm, how equity is about so much more than just race, and the power of lifting each other up as an antidote to fear. About India (Website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn) As a TEDx speaker, I motivate students who are disadvantaged and at-risk of dropping out! As an educational consultant, I help teachers understand equity and grit in a math classroom! As a speaker coach, I help leaders grow their speaking business! As a co-author for Big Ideas Learning, I provide a diverse lens on teaching math for all learners! As a #1 best-selling Published Author, I help aspiring authors thrive and finish writing their book! Show notes: The Power of GritConnect with us: InstaTwitterTikTokTwitter


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How to change someone's mind w/ Chris Luzniak

What if the secret to winning a debate was actually listening to your opponent? What if you could build confidence and overcome anxiety through the practice of public speaking? And HOW does someone go from dreams of Broadway fame to teaching debate in math class?! Find out today as Vanessa chats with math educator/coach Chris Luzniak, host of The DebateMath Podcast! About Chris (Website, Twitter, Instagram) Chris Luzniak is an international math consultant and instructional coach. While teaching in New York City public schools he founded the Speech and Debate team, and through this combination of teaching and coaching Chris has developed debate routines that bring student voice and discussion into the math classroom. He coaches teachers in both math and science to develop real-world debate activities for students, hosts The DebateMath Podcast (Subscribe, Twitter, YouTube), and explores these themes further in his book Up for Debate! Connect with us: Vanessa VakhariaInstaTwitterTikTokMath TherapyTwitter


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Math doesn't cause trauma, people do w/ Sean Nank

When Vanessa saw today’s guest deliver a deeply personal talk at a recent math conference, she was left with more questions than answers; all she knew for certain was she had to get him on the podcast. Sean Nank is a math educator who believes that the power of our students' stories is the most valuable tool we can harness in our math classrooms, and he illustrates this by sharing his own journey of growing up in an abusive environment, learning to understand and embrace his OCD, and the fateful day that math, for real, saved his own life. On that note, a heads up that today’s episode involves a brief discussion early on about abuse and suicide. About Sean (Website, Twitter) Sean Nank, PhD, is an award-winning math educator and author. He has worked in various positions with the United States Department of Education, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Science Foundation, and the California Department of Education. Sean currently serves on the Executive Board at the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) and is the Associate Editor of their Journal of Mathematics Education Leadership (JMEL), and works at Amplify as a math content designer. Show notes: “Mathematics saved my life”Connect with us: InstaTwitterTikTokTwitter


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Turns out some folks hate math w/ Jon Orr & Kyle Pearce

Today’s another one for the teachers, featuring Jon Orr & Kyle Pearce of the Make Math Moments empire - they have a podcast, a framework, workshops & courses & virtual summits galore, and who knows probably even a cooking show at this point?! They join Vanessa today to discuss the SHOCKING realization early in their career that not all students would be as excited about math as they were … which propelled them to adapt their teaching methods to fuel curiosity in kids so they don’t just get the right answers, but rather develop a true understanding of what they’re learning in class and beyond. About Make Math Moments: (Website, Podcast, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) Make Math Moments is on a mission to provide an opportunity for all mathematics educators around the world to access professional learning opportunities that will elevate their teaching practice and promote an equitable learning experience for all students. Show notes: https://growyourmathprogram.comTwitterTwitterVanessa’s episode on Make Math MomentsConnect with us: InstaTwitterTikTokTwitter


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Teachers have trauma too w/ Brittany Hege

We’re often talking about trauma from the student perspective: how it happens in the classroom, and how it follows them into adulthood. But one group is often overlooked in this discussion - teachers! Today Vanessa chats with educator Brittany Hege about the challenges teachers often face in keeping up with changing pedagogies, while already being strapped for time and often struggling with math traumas of their own! This is an honest and heartfelt discussion about how education can evolve without leaving either students or teachers behind, how shame in the classroom can lead to anxiety for both, and how curiosity and community can lay the path to healing. About Brittany (Website, Insta, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter) Brittany Hege is a math educator who has worked with students and teachers in both upper elementary and middle grades. She holds a master's degree in Elementary Mathematics Education and is passionate about helping teachers grow their understanding of the math concepts they teach. Brittany believes in the power of experiencing math through hands-on work and uses her platform, Mix and Math, to equip upper elementary teachers with the knowledge and confidence to inspire a generation of empowered math learners. Show notes: with us: InstaTwitterTikTokTwitter


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More clickbait in the classroom! w/ Howie Hua

Of the truly infinite things Vanessa likes to rant about, few top the list like math’s marketing problem - which is why she was elated to chat with social media mathstar Howie Hua! Today Howie shares how his own experiences with math anxiety sucked the joy out of math when he was a student, and how he started to bring it back for both himself and his students when he became a teacher. He’s built a massive following on TikTok and beyond by sharing quick and fun explainer videos and math memes, and his enthusiasm for learning is a true delight - enjoy! About Howie (Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube) Howie Hua is a math instructor at Fresno State teaching math to future elementary school teachers. He has built a large following online, sharing short teaching tips, memes, and math explainer videos on TikTok and other social media platforms in a mission to make math more fun and accessible to all. Show notes: websitelinktreeThe birthday paradoxConnect with us: InstaTwitterTikTokTwitter


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The spiritual side of math w/ Francis Su

When you picture a mathematician, what comes to mind? Now … what about a “mathematical explorer”? Well, that’s what Francis Su calls himself, and when Vanessa picked up his book Mathematics for Human Flourishing, she couldn’t put it down. On today's episode they explore how mathematical discovery can unleash the wonder and curiosity innate within us all. They also discuss some deep questions, like why do people have different emotional reactions to math compared to other fields? How can humans cultivate the virtues we'll need to keep AI in check? And why is change so hard, both in educational reform but also in our own lives? About Francis (Website, Twitter) Francis Su is an award-winning professor and author who writes about the dignity of human beings and the wonder of mathematical teaching. The Benediktsson-Karwa Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College and a former president of the Mathematical Association of America, his work has been featured in Quanta Magazine, Wired, and the New York Times. Show notes: S5E02 w/ Deborah Peart, head of the "Mather" movementConnect with us: Vanessa Vakharia: InstaTwitterTikTokMath Therapy: Twitter


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Tell your students you trust them w/ Zak Champagne

Longtime listeners (like today’s guest, as you’ll discover…) will recall one name popping up in almost every interview last season, so Vanessa needed to find out for herself: who is Zak Champagne & why do people like him so much?! Through today’s rollercoaster episode she discovered a teacher with boundless enthusiasm for the joys of teaching, grounded in a deep respect for his students. They unpack what we really mean by terms like “student voice” and “building trust”, offer practical advice on how to actually integrate those ideas into the classroom when teachers are already so strapped for time, and discuss how giving students a sense of purpose and community doesn’t just help them learn - it could even save their lives. About Zak (Website, Twitter) Zak Champagne began his career as an elementary school teacher in Jacksonville, Florida, receiving many state and national awards including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Zak then spent six years as a researcher at the Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (FCR-STEM) at FSU before serving as the Director of Teacher Leadership at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. Zak returned to the classroom in the fall of 2019 as a Lower Elementary Teacher (grades 3 and 4), Director of Mathematics, and Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) at The Discovery School. Show notes: Control vs. trust in the classromConnect with us: InstaTwitterTikTokTwitter


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The difference between equity & equality w/ Dr. Pamela Seda

On the Season 6 premiere of Math Therapy, Vanessa chats with Dr. Pamela Seda, an expert in all things education and inspiration! They dive deep into hot topics like how teachers can build trust in the classroom by modelling vulnerability, the benefits of cultivating community over competition, and a fascinating metaphor that illustrates what equity and accommodations truly mean in our schools. About Pam (Website, Insta, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) Dr. Pamela Seda, Founder and CEO of Seda Educational Consulting, is the creator of the VANG Math Card Game and co-author of "Choosing to See: A Framework for Equity in the Math Classroom." Dr. Seda's career spans roles as a high school math teacher, instructional coach, college instructor, and district math supervisor. Dr. Seda is a prominent speaker on math equity, committed to transforming how marginalized students experience mathematics and advocates for mathematics instruction that develops all students as thinkers and problem-solvers. Show notes: frameworkConnect with us: Vanessa VakhariaInstaTwitterTikTokMath TherapyTwitter


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Season 6 Trailer

Season 6 drops March 28th - here’s a sample of who and what you’ll hear!


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Refresher: Pi Day in Prison

It's March 14th, aka 3.14 ... so Happy Pi Day! To help you get in the zone, we're re-airing an episode from last year recounting the Math Therapy team's Pi Day 2023 trip to Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Michigan. This stemmed from Vanessa's Season 3, Episode 10 interview with Christopher Havens, an inmate serving a 25-year sentence for murder who has rehabilitated himself with math and founded the Prison Mathematics Project. Find out more about PMP at where you can: Connect with us: Vanessa VakhariaInstaTwitterTikTokMath TherapyTwitter


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The Awkward Return?! (S6 is coming)

The rumours are true! (The rumours that Vanessa has been spreading herself.) Season 6 of Math Therapy launches March 28th! To get you hyped while we get this batch of episodes ready for you, here are some brief thoughts she recorded immediately after we finished a marathon 10 interviews over 4 days. What themes did she cover? Will she or her guests get cancelled this season? How much did she annoy her producer David? You be the judge ... Make sure you're subscribed to the podcast feed, and tell a friend about Math Therapy!


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The Awkward Goodbye

Don't worry, Math Therapy isn't going anywhere ... but here's a fun bonus episode as we look back on an incredible 5th season! It was a total success in every possible way, except one: for whatever reason, Vanessa lost the ability to simply say "goodbye" at the end of the interviews. This hadn't been an issue in previous seasons but she somehow got very in her head about it, and when her producer David recently listened back to them he thought they were hilarious and had to be shared our listeners. If you have any advice for how Vanessa can deal with her sudden onset "goodbye anxiety", you can hit her up as always on socials @themathguru - feel free to let her know what topics/guests we should consider for next season! Thank you so much for listening - BYE! ;)


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Embracing your limitless mind w/ Jo Boaler

In Vanessa's masters thesis titled "Imagining a World Where Paris Hilton Loves Math", there was nobody quoted more frequently than today's guest, Stanford professor Dr. Jo Boaler. On the season 5 finale of Math Therapy, Vanessa sits down with her math ed hero to discuss how limiting beliefs vs a growth mindset impact the brain, how struggle and mistake-making benefit learning, and the extremely personal resistance she's faced in a career dedicated to making math more equitable and accessible. About Jo: (Website, Twitter) Stanford Professor Dr Jo Boaler is author of 18 books, numerous articles, and a White House presenter on women and girls. Her latest book is called: Limitless Mind: Learn, Lead and Live without Barriers. She co-founded, is currently one of the writing team creating a new Mathematics Framework for the state of California, co-leading a K-12 Data Science Initiative and was named as one of the 8 educators “changing the face of education” by the BBC. Links mentioned: Strugglywww.youcubed.orgLimitless MindStandford studyStory of Nicholas LetchfordConnect with us: Vanessa VakhariaInstaTwitterTikTokMath TherapyTwitter


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Teaching students to ... think?! w/ Peter Liljedahl

Peter Liljedahl is literally changing the math classroom. His book "Building Thinking Classrooms" has taken the educational world by storm with a simple message: instead of teaching students to memorize, we have to teach them to think. Sounds trite, but if you ... think about it, traditional classrooms are not designed that way! Today, Peter explains to Vanessa how a "thinking classroom" swaps out tables for vertical whiteboards to reduce barriers for student interaction in problem-solving, and how small randomized groups foster collaboration that lifts the whole class. He also shares what his time as an Olympic athlete (yep!) taught him about the difference between focusing on the rewarding work of process vs the perilous trap of focusing on outcomes. About Peter: (Website, Twitter) Dr. Peter Liljedahl is a Professor of Mathematics Education in the Faculty of Education and an associate member in the Department of Mathematics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. He consults regularly with schools, school districts, and ministries of education on issues of teaching and learning, assessment, and numeracy. Connect with us: Vanessa VakhariaInstaTwitterTikTokMath TherapyTwitter


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Mistakes: Villains or Heroes?

Should mistake-making be encouraged in math class? Or should mistakes be shamed because “in the real world” you can get fired from your job from making a mistake? You can probably guess how Vanessa feels, but a fellow educator recently disagreed … so of course she took to Twitter and a spirited convo ensued! On today’s episode she further outer-processes her thoughts on this topic, and shares two classroom exercises that encourage constructive mistake-making and help normalize growth from failure. Connect with us: Vanessa VakhariaInstaTwitterTikTokMath TherapyTwitter


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Centering student voice in math class w/ Crystal Watson

Today's guest literally entered the chat wearing a t-shirt that read "TRUTH MATTERS”, and that sure set the tone for this wide-ranging episode! Crystal M. Watson is an educator who firmly believes in centering student voices in the classroom, and she also advocates for empowering students by making math practical and meaningful to their life experience. Throw in some discussion on defining success, different approaches to grading, and a simple but thorough explanation of what "critical race theory" is and what it definitely isn't, and we've got an astonishingly jam-packed episode that left Vanessa with even more questions than she came in with! About Crystal: (Website, Twitter, Instagram) Crystal M. Watson, Ed.M is an innovative, passionate mathematics educator and life long learner who you can count on to always ask “What do the students think?” Her work is centered around providing space for student voice and identity development in order for everyone, particularly those from marginalized and historically excluded backgrounds, to experience high quality, deep, and personal mathematics. Links referenced: Unearthing JoyPear DeckNolan FossumDr. Kristopher J. ChildsKimberlé CrenshawDerrick BellIbram X. KendiConnect with us: Vanessa VakhariaInstaTwitterTikTokMath TherapyTwitter


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Redefining "Success"

In today's episode, Vanessa explores the dangers of narrowly defining success and argues that contrary to popular belief, failure and success are actually BFF, not opposites (looking at you, Merriam-Webster!). She also shares a practical classroom tool for teachers and students to collaborate on shared definitions of success to support everyone's learning. Connect with us: Vanessa Vakharia: @themathguru InstaTwitterTikTokMath Therapy: @maththerapy Twitter


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Refresher: Drag queens & math class w/ Kyne Santos

In honour of Pride Month, we're taking a mid-season 5 break to re-air one of our all-time fave episodes featuring mathematician / drag queen Kyne Santos. Drag has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons, so we wanted to share Kyne's inspiring story of breaking stereotypes and defying the haters. If you're new to the podcast we also highly recommend going back and listening to the season 4 finale with Dr. Anthony Bonato which dove further into the fraught relationship between academia and the queer community and the trailblazers working to change the status quo every day. *this interview first aired Apr 8th 2021* Links mentioned: S4E10: Queering math w/ Dr. Anthony BonatoThink Queen @onlinekyne InstaTwitterTikTokYouTubeKyne's websiteConnect with us: Vanessa Vakharia: @themathguru InstaTwitterTikTokMath Therapy: @maththerapy Twitter