How Do Kids Learn and Remember? #motivationMonday

A conversation with Andrew Stadel on episode 86 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

How do kids learn and remember? Teacher Andrew Stadel, @mr_stadel founder of the popular site, talks about this pursuit of learning in the classroom. This topic is his summer research topic. As you plan your summer and ponder the classroom, look at what you'll research this summer.

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In today's show, Andrew Stadel talks about his look into learning:

  • Two books Andrew is reading this summer
  • How Andrew picked his topic to study this summer
  • What he’s learned so far about what we remember
  • What does work in the classroom
  • A pep talk about why we show up every day

I hope you enjoy this episode with Andrew Stadel!

Want to hear another episode on pursuing what we need to learn as teachers? Listen to David Geurin talk about Simple Ways to Find Your Teaching Blindspots in the Classroom.

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Full Bio As Submitted

Andrew StadelAndrew Stadel

Andrew Stadel is a Digital Learning Coach for Tustin Unified School District in California, working with secondary math teachers to use and implement technology in meaningful ways to enhance the teaching and learning of mathematics. Andrew is the creator of Estimation 180,, a website designed to provide students and teachers with daily challenges to help improve their number sense.

Transcript for this episode

Download the PDF transcript for episode 86

[Recording starts 0:00:00]

To celebrate the end of the first season of the Ten Minute Teacher Podcast on June 16th, we’re running a giveaway. The Dash and Dot robot wonder pack from Wonder Workshop Stay tuned at the end of the show for how to enter.

What really helps kids learn? Episode 86

The Ten-minute Teacher podcast with Vicki Davis. Every week day you’ll learn powerful practical ways to be a more remarkable teacher today.

VICKI:              Several episodes back, one of our educators (see Dan Meyer )  just went on and on about Andrew Stadel @mr_stadel

and his Estimate 180 website.  But today, we’re actually going to talk about learning. So Andrew, I was just listening to a teacher talk the other day and they were frustrated. And they’re looking at these final exams and, yeah, there’s some kids who’ve mastered it but there are some kids who just don’t seem to be leaning the material. And I know that you are passionate about understanding what helps things stick into the mind

ANDREW:   Yeah, I feel like I’m just getting on to the road of the beginning of my journey to really dive into the dive into the idea of what helps us learn as long term learners not only as adults but our students too and how can we support them in that. Creating and environment, creating activities and lessons and structures so that they thrive and also are able to remember the content that we teach.

I think right now, I’m going to say I’m at the beginning of my journey, there’s two books that I’m just kind of going back and forth with. One of the books is called Make It Stick,  there’s three authors on that; Peter Brown, Harry Roediger and Mark McDaniel and that’s just kind of learning the premise is pretty such the science of successful learning.

And then there’d David Sousa, I think is how you say his name, I could be wrong, and his is How The Brain Learns,  and he has a specific addition on mathematics. So as a math teacher by trade, just thought back of various time in my classroom when kids understand but will not remember a handout or a review packet or some worksheet because there’s really no meaning to it.


                    Yet they would remember the craziest things, if I told a story, I how I used math in life or for example, like you said in Estimation 180 I provided my students with visuals and ways for them to make sense of the world around them so I take pictures of things and ask them to estimate quantities or heights or distances. And I when I would show early estimation pictures at the beginning of the year and then I maybe use them a little bit later in the year or review – it was amazing, it blew my mind away that kids would actually remember some answers or be really close. And I was like there’s something there, there’s something that sticks.

And so, I’m a musician – two; music is a form of language and a way for people to communicate, find a communality. And I’m always amazed at how music strikes people differently and how it sticks with people. So as a musician may I’ll listen to the guitar tracks more than the vocals or the lyrics but yet for other people they listen to the lyrics more than me, yet it still sticks. You can’t memorize your favorite song on the first listen, it takes time, it takes repetition, it takes coming back to. And the more I’m reading and learning, it feel like education activities and learning and lessons need that idea that we have to kind of grapple with something at first, there’s something hooky there, you like it but you have to return to it.

You need practice on it, you need to be tested on it. So I’m listening to my favorite song and all of a sudden it stops. Could I continue that song on in my head, could I hum it, could I listen? The same kind of goes in education. Like, if the bell rings, could my students continue their thought process, could they continue making sense of what I was teaching that day in math? So that’s what I’m grappling with.

VICKI:          So Andrew, as you wrestle with this, I mean, we know we need meaningful practice but memorization and boring routine – I mean, isn’t the word boring and the word memorized reviled in education right now?


                    I mean, some people really rebel against repetition. So how can we repeat without being boring? And do we have to memorize? I mean, sometimes we have to, right?

ANDREW:   Yeah, it’s a good question. If we break those two words down, like, boring is totally relative, it’s objective. Memorization is more a matter of fact but think everybody’s brain is differently wired. So how do people memorize things more than others? It’s such a great question whereas something that I found was engaging to me might not have been engaging to my students, it might have been boring to them.

As educators, we could all sit around and joke like – you know, you hear it coming. Like, my hair could be on fire and no one is paying attention kind of thing. Like, we’ve all had those days. So in terms of memorization, yeah, I really want to know more about that because the more experience I got as an 8th grade teacher – multiplication facts were important to me that my students knew them but at the same time the more as I progresses in my craft of teaching it was like, well, what if my kids could just make sense of multiplying?

Like kids struggled with 12s, like that’s wired that kids struggled with 12s. It’s totally fine but then for some reason they were fine with 11s. So 5 x 11 kids would just go 55, great. So that can empower that kid to do that and I’d just say, “Look, add five more to that to get your 12th five and that makes it 60.” And that’s empowering and then hopefully that logic sticks and not the multiplication fact. I need to learn more.

VICKI:          Yeah, the thing I’m hearing you say is that you’re trying different ways and I’m actually having a flash back, at the end of the school year I do anonymous student surveys, I’ll ask you, “What do you like best, what do you like least.” And one question where they say they like best, half of the class said, “I love it when you circle up, you tell stories and we have conversations.” And then the other half class said, “You talk too much.”


                    And it’s like, “Well which is it?” I think that we somehow think that we’re going to get 100% approval form everybody for how we do this repetition. And I think that’s unrealistic. I mean, do you or is it just me?

ANDREW:   Yeah. I agree 100% and I’ve actually reminded myself of that when I do consulting, when I work with districts, teachers feel like I should come and present them with this overboard and yet we need repeition and we’re going to say, yeah, we’re not always going to have a high  of engagement, we’re not always going to be people pleasers, we can’t please everybody. And I don’t think that’s what we need to get into it for.

VICKI:          Yeah. And I always tell my students, you’re going to thank me when you’re 23.

ANDREW:   I agree 100% that you can’t please everybody.

VICKI:          But we don’t want to use that as a cop out either, I mean, I know teachers who are worksheet wonders and they just use worksheets. I mean, have your read enough, Andrew, to know that business as usual, worksheets as usual don’t work?

ANDREW:   For the most part, yeah, I’ve scratched the surface on that one a little bit. So the short answer, yeah, I think I’ve read enough, I’m convinced enough based off the reading I’ve done. But I’m also convinced on the personal experiences I’ve had. There’s a time and place for it, though. It’s playing sports. Like if I’m at practice and a coach shows me how to do something then now on my own time I can go work on that muscle memory. There’s a time and place where playing basketball I had to go practice my free throws. But at practice, the coach would specifically help me with my form, how to release the ball, how to set the ball up, the same thing that happens in the classroom. Like, as teachers, we got to be in a position to kind of help students understand things or use critical thinking or problem solve and work on those mechanics face to face with them. And then there might be a time and place where it’s like, “Look. You just need to kind of do some ground work here, you got to practice a few things.”


                    And that is part of making things stick a little bit but it’s not the end all where you just hand out a work sheet and be like, “Yeah, do 50 of these and you’ll remember it.”

VICKI:          Andrew, as we finished up, we’ve really talked about a lot of issues. This is almost like a conversation you and I might have if we were on the same school in the faculty teacher’s lounge about learning because these are things that we teachers talk about. But could you give a 30-second pep talk to those teachers who just feel like, “It’s the end of the year and have I actually taught anything?”

ANDREW:   What gets you excited about what you teach? I tend to fall back on Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk and why do you want to wake up and get out of bed? So on Monday what gets you excited that you’re going to get up out of bed, go to school, greet your students at the door and teach them. And so that for me is what helps guide my work as a teacher and as a coach. And so I share the enthusiasm with other teachers and say, “What gets you excited? What are some things that you experience in your life that you’re excited about and you can share with your kids?”

And it’s amazing, like you said, you have a conversation or a story-telling opportunity with your kids and those stick and the learning will actually come out of it. So find stuff you’re excited about and share it with your kids.

VICKI:          And, you know, teachers, teaching is a relentless pursuit of learning, it’s hard, it’s not easy. There are no easy answers. And I would just encourage you on this motivational Monday, what are you wrestling with now? What are you going to find your books on this summer? What are you going to look into so that you can be a better teacher in the fall because that, teachers, is what truly makes us remarkable?

On June 16th we’ll finish up Season 1 of the 10 Minute Teacher. So celebrate, we’ve partnered with one of my favorite robots for teaching coding, Dash and Dot form Wonder Workshop. Go to and enter to win your very own Wonder pack form Wonder workshop and to learn more about how you can use Dash and Dot to teach programming to kids, aged, kindergarten and up.

Thank you for listening to the Ten-minute Teacher Podcast. You can download the show notes and see the archive at Never stop learning.

[End of Audio 0:10:27]


[Transcription created by Some additional editing has been done to add grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. Every attempt has been made to correct spelling. For permissions, please email [email protected]]


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