Sunday, 27 October 2013

ETC: Collaboration Conundrum

Pic by Errol of Debs and Errol
Intro: Back in September, I signed up for "Explore MTBoS", an eight week event connecting math educators online. This is the third post connected to that event. If this is your first time on my blog, welcome! For the record, I post about writing in addition to math teaching. I also have a second blog, "Taylor's Polynomials", a story about personified math. Find it here:

This week's mission comes from Tina Cardone (@crstn85). It asked us to visit one of twelve different collaborative sites, join in, then write about it. This turned out to be something of a problem.


Warning: This post may come off as whiny and annoying. Apologies.

I don't like doing things in half measures. I'm either all in, or all out. I think part of it is a streak of perfectionism. One which I've been able to curb somewhat as my life goes on, but I'm still disinclined to take on a task unless I can see it through. "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well," and all that.

That's probably the only reason you're getting a post here - I signed up for "Explore MTBoS", so I'm seeing it through.

Related: I previously signed up for Triangleman's Decimal Institute. (Something else you might want to look into?) Yet my last couple weeks have felt brutal, I haven't made it back to TDI since Week 2. I still intend to go back and read each post, largely because it's valuable, but also because I signed on dammit, and it bothers me that I haven't been able to make the time for it.

Here's the first thing. If I haven't made the time for THAT, how can I even justify jumping on board somewhere ELSE? The second thing is that, despite twelve options, nothing clicked. With that in mind, I'm going to post up why I apparently don't play well with others, call it an Unproductive Struggle, and move on. Links to all the sites are here though, so that if you aren't part of Explore MTBoS, and see something you want to follow up on.

Dammit Jim, I'm a facilitator, and a web serial writer, not a collaborator.


For some reason, I've been abusing the phrase "rabbit hole" lately. Connected to "Alice in Wonderland", the idea is once you jump down the rabbit hole, you'll get swept away by everything happening there. Which in some sense is good, but not if you have other stuff you need to get done! Here is what I consider to be the "TV Tropes" of the math world:

DAILY DESMOS: I've used the Desmos website, and it's currently connected to one of my class summatives. I write and draw for a web serial with intimate connections to graphs. This is exactly why I'd probably kill too much time there, and why I haven't jumped down that rabbit hole. Just GLANCING at it now, I see @CmonMattTHINK has posted up a Cantor graph (#223b)! 

Candice Torrent aka Can-Tor
Likely part of your Daily Desmos
ESTIMATION 180 and VISUAL PATTERNS are similar rabbit holes. I've previously linked to them from episodes of my web serial, and mentioned them to others, that's as far as I dare go.


We all have things that, for whatever reason, don't work for us. Here's where I strike a few more options off the collaboration list:

ANY VIDEO: I do not have a video setup. I do make videos... but they're done completely online (with a four year old laptop) and take me forever. And while there was no need to do video for the following sites, NOT doing it feels like a half measure, and I already said I'm not down with that. So Collaborative Mathematics and Mathagogy are out.

101 QUESTIONS: Already have an account there, and I've posted up the occasional response. But I don't tend to question math everywhere, and again, video option tugs at me, so struck this from the list.

ONE GOOD THING: There's something about reading posts about wonderful events that just makes me feel miserable. Because I have trouble seeing that wonder in my life. (I'm not saying it's not there, but if it is, it's different.) Then I feel more miserable over the fact that something good makes me miserable. Moving on.

MADE4MATH: Make something! ... Yeah, my perfectionism kind of kills this too. Sorry.

MS SUNDAY FUNDAY: The MS is for middle school. So this is either not my style, or so much my style that it will be a rabbit hole. Yes, everything in life is black and white.


There's Math Mistakes. I've commented there on occasion, and submitted one or two things. But students make mistakes all the time, so something has to stand out for me here, and I didn't have that happen this week.

There's #matheme. Honestly, I feel like there's too much on that one site, without a clear idea of what fits into a category. (For instance, why is there only one post in Makeover Monday? Wasn't it a thing in the summer? Is that still going on?)

Finally, there's Productive Struggle. But that doesn't fit either, because while I struggled this week, it wasn't related to what was happening in the classroom. My lessons were (I think) passable. It was my own personal motivation to get things done that suffered.

Possible Context: Every week, I make two postings for my web serial, including writing, images and links - for the first time in 150 entries, I did not have a link this past Wednesday. Every week, I also run two clubs at lunch, but this week math club pretty much had to be self sufficient. This past week I also had two off site meetings, but in total they only stole about 8 hours of my time.


Maybe it's the little things? The student who's been away and who's coming back, the extra Cappies stuff I had to take care of, trying to get my head around Halloween events next week, the fact that Yoga got cancelled, the way it keeps raining when I have time to mow my lawn, I don't know. I am trying to revamp one course, while simultaneously teach two others, one of them completely new to me. But I was doing that last year too. (This time, I do feel like I'm botching statistics. That REALLY bugs me, but even that doesn't seem to be sparking me to action.)

So here's the thing. Why has this entire post turned into what I'd deem an Unproductive Struggle?? Ugh. Let me know if you see something. Assuming I hit publish... well, okay, that was never in doubt. Apologies again.


  1. Thank you for sharing your frustrations! It helps us all remember that it's not rosy all the time. I also need to get caught up on Explore the MTBoS.

    1. Thanks for making me feel better about doing it! Also nice to have a reminder that I'm not the only one who falls behind.

  2. Thank you for sharing I may not have the courage to do mine online but in many ways I have been feeling it this year. Like you things have changed and stayed the same but I have been feeling over whelmed and frustrated with all that needs to be done and not enough time to do it. In fact the MTBoS challenge is a love/do I have time for this struggle. Hopefully I can learn to take what I have time for and leave the rest. Your ranting brought a smile to my face.

    1. I hope you manage to work everything out on your end too! Honestly, I think we all feel overwhelmed and frustrated sometimes. There's always something more to do, isn't there? It's nuts.
      Glad I could make you smile! Always pleased when I manage that, and hadn't expected it here either, so I guess that says something. Not sure what, but something!

  3. No need to apologize! I think we all can relate to your experience this past week with decreased personal motivation. But don't you think it would be unnatural, even unhealthy, to be gung-ho, full-speed-ahead all of the time? I call these frustrating experiences my "relative minima," knowing that the upswing is not far away. Here's hoping you quickly find that spark to get you going again. On a positive note, I did enjoy reading your post and your take on each of the collaborative sites that were listed in mission #3 and found myself nodding in agreement several times.

    1. Thanks. It's a good point - shouldn't be thinking of my "highs" as necessarily my "normals". I like your perspective. (I think part of it was that my minima seemed to be dragging on somewhat last week... it's improving.)
      And yay to me actually having useful content in this post! I wasn't sure if I was being at all sensible, so I appreciate you remarking on it.