Thursday, 20 June 2013

MIX: Yi Am On Twitter

Welcome to my Yi series, installment 2. Circumstances prod me to continue the series before the summer. This time it's because I want to explain who I am, at a time when it feels relevant among people I know on Twitter. Also, I've been tweeting for 51 weeks now - so the upcoming anniversary is as good a time as any to look back.


Publicity stunt.

Yeah, I didn't join twitter for the math pedagogy ("Math-Twitter-Blog-O'Sphere", aka MTBoS), though it's mostly where I've ended up. That said:
1) I was aware of the math community prior to tweeting, through Professional Development sessions. It seemed a bit overwhelming.
2) I've since concluded that people don't follow you for what you do, they follow you for who you are. More on that below.

As implied, I joined in to promote my math fiction blog "Taylor's Polynomials", which is about the personification of equations. (What? Not a real-life blog with lessons? Yeah, I really don't fit into your traditional boxes.) I'd been running the stories for precisely a year at that time.

Some of the accounts I followed first (aside from friends) were Dan Meyer (duh), Rick Mercer (I'm Canadian) and Mr Burke Math - because he writes an awesome and clever webcomic about math, which is sort of what I was doing too. You should check him out, by the way. He's currently blogging about the Regents exams.

Through July and August 2012 I sent out 134 tweets (70 were retweets). In that time, I accumulated less than 10 followers. Thanks to information on this website, I was able to learn how to access my twitter archive, so here's a few of the things I sent out:

First two tweets ever; reverse order
Sometimes I would tweet out links to news articles
I started this second (non-fiction) blog on August 3rd 2012
Why yes! I did make a video for Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000.
I even stumbled into a GlobalMath discussion

And through it all, I would be tweeting updates to my personification of math web serial (which at the time, I didn't even know to classify as a "serial"). After 60 days of this? Not even 10 followers. Comparatively, I was following at least 40 or 50 others by then. THAT SAID, I was rarely tweeting AT anybody, I was merely broadcasting. You get lost in the shuffle doing that.

Then there's what I said earlier. People don't follow you for what you do, they follow you for who you are.
Enough. No one cares.


From September to June, teaching is my life. I'd be deluding myself to think I was anything but a teacher, because it's so all consuming, even when you don't factor in the chances of running into students on the weekend. It also didn't help that the Ontario Liberals legislated all educators back to work last Fall, even though we weren't even in a legal strike position. Go solidarity.

I'm either referring to me or the government. Or both.

So given my absolute failure to garner a fiction readership, I started to follow more teachers. (Of the maybe 50 people I was following then, less than 20% were teachers.) Then on October 21st I had to stop my web serial for personal reasons, so let's just say that freed up some extra time too.

By November I was actively tweeting back at folks, and commenting on blogs. (Tina Cardone with her "Day in the Life" puzzle was, I think, my first.) I eventually resumed my Web Serial to start 2013... and yeah, to this day, it receives about half the hits that this blog does (maybe 20 there, as opposed to 40 here). But honestly, that serial IS what brought me in! It's also the reason I now juggle math followers with writers and serial accounts. Though is it still the only reason I'm tweeting today?

Not so much.


Yeah, it didn't always do that. I used to be "A HS Math Teacher with SciFi leanings who tweets - because equations are people too". But in March 2013, when I realized what the heck I'd actually been DOING so passionately for the last two years of my life (ie- writing a serial), I brought it to the forefront.

Before you attack the gazebo, find out if it's bigger on the inside.

In her "Infinite Tangents" podcast, Ashli has a set of questions that she often asks of her guests, one of them being "If you weren't teaching, what would you be doing?". I am fairly certain I'd be an editor; perhaps even a writer. In fact, the story of how I got into teaching will be the topic for a future Yi, because some might find it interesting.

Of course, you can only be successful as a writer if people actually READ what you write. Would anyone read my stories? Well, the fiction isn't working out (yet), but... these days, at least some of the time, people are reading up to 140 characters of mine. And there are times when I know that those messages are making others think - or even better, smile.

That's why I am on Twitter.

Becoming a better teacher myself is honestly more of a fringe benefit. I suspect I'm actually at my BEST when I'm on the sidelines of the "MTBoS", pointing people towards the mainstream, or highlighting stuff cooler than me, or even just making observations about what it is I'm noticing. Being the weird outlier.

The only downside is the occasions when I see no comments and feel rather lonely.


  1. I started on Twitter when I found out students were live-tweeting my classes. Figured I couldn't be that interesting. Got more interesting when I started following other teachers, techies, and alt-finance types. I still tweet homework for each class, but as you pointed out, mass-broadcasting seems to have a low SNR.

  2. "And there are times when I know that those messages are making others think - or even better, smile."

    Thanks for making me smile!

  3. JP - You are that interesting, actually. Also, I think timing plays a part; I tweeted this article out when I first put it up Thurs night, and nothing. Saturday morning retweet, and now comments. My fiction blog also seems to get more hits Wednesday versus Sunday. Probably a pattern somewhere.

    Jennifer - Thanks for letting me know!