Saturday, 30 July 2016

Not Teaching: Week 4

To start this past week, as I was looking at all of the things I want to get through, a switch flipped in my brain. It was like suddenly I realized, I actually have more than 4 weeks left to accomplish the rest of this. I could take a day and NOT do anything. Novel idea! The sensation lasted a few hours on Sunday before I decided that was too weird and got back to my lists.

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I’m at ConBravo in Hamilton this week though, and working on not feeling any guilt over that. Which is easier to do because there’s no grading that I’m putting off, unlike with Anime North.

Item counts run Sunday (July 24) to Saturday (July 30).

Step Count: About 63,660.
Every day I managed over 7,000 steps, even if it was walking around the centre island in my kitchen while perusing social media at the end of the day. Then ConBravo, so over 10k steps the last couple days. Aside: Normally I ballpark this when the post goes up, figuring a few more steps in the evening, but we’re pretty much on par. (I’m back in my hotel now.)

Teaching Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -A wrap-up post about “Twitter Math Camp” and some general social media scrolling.

I'm at a hotel.

Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Finished inking math comic co-venture with John Golden
 -Wrote, drew and set the math comic for the coming Monday
 -Edited more T&T with last Friday and next Friday’s episode set on the blog.

Other items (not teaching or writing) for the past week:
 -Got to Star Trek exhibit at Aviation Museum
 -Met up with friends on Monday evening
 -Dealt with air conditioner and related issues on Mon, Tues AND Wed
 -Mowed lawn, and pest control came
 -Thursday yoga session
 -A bunch of stuff at ConBravo including pictures with some great online reviewers
 -Slight bit of reading while waiting in lines/dinner.

MUST DO items in the coming week:
 -Visiting family on Monday
 -Doctor’s appointment on Tuesday
 -Orkin guy coming on Thursday
 -See about getting a roofer for reshingling (*Started Research)
 -Start the process for French Citizenship (*NOT DONE)
 -Post recap about OAME (from May) (*NOT DONE)

The lack of air conditioning kind of consumed my mind for the last week. Two of the lingering “Must Do” are things with a LONG turnaround, so I need to get to those. The OAME recap I added here because I was doing all the TMC recapping and thought “I’ll keep going!” and no, I was kind of burned out on that. We’ll see where that goes, if anywhere.

 -Sewing up some clothes
 -Catch up with #OttSlowChat on Twitter
 -Renew my passport
 -Recreate a buffer for my math comic... or just SHELVE IT??
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Post recap about ConBravo (from July) (*NEW)
With Erika Szabo!
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Post recap about CAN-CON (from Oct)
 -Read the ‘Craving Change’ book for Lifestyle Changes (*NEW)
 -Do more editing on my T&T story
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Catch up more on “Sailor Moon Crystal” (no spoilers!)
 -Catch up on “Bones” (no spoilers!)
 -Get back onto tumblr... before everything changes after it’s sale
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

And that’s where I’m at, now that we’re HALFWAY (AGH!) into the summer, what now? Come back next week to see if I can actually get more of this stuff done.

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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

TMC 2016: Why Me?

If you are reading this, and you are from the MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog O’ Sphere)? I am very different from you. Granted, everyone is unique no matter what particular groups you happen to associate with, but my differences make me feel a certain disconnect from the MTBoS in particular. And yet at the same time there is a connection, and so that paradox is what we’re about to delve into with my final reflections after “Twitter Math Camp 2016”.

Buckle up, this could be a bumpy ride.


Let’s start with the main reason I feel “very different” within the MTBoS. Namely, I don’t need you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m better for being a part of the collective, but at TMC so many people were saying “I love this place!” and finding it so different and invigorating - while I was kind of shrugging. To quote from Lisa Henry’s closing speech: “We were looking for the people looking for us ... We were pulled together by passion.” If you were, that's great.

Not in my case.

I am going to use the dangerous analogy of white privilege, that state of being on top of things more due to circumstance and history rather than by personal effort, and apply it to my teaching. Because here’s the thing. I flew down to Minnesota with Alex Overwijk (@AlexOverwijk), Sheri Walker (@SheriWalker72) and Mary Bourassa (@MaryBourassa), who all teach in the same board as me. Also in (or connected to) the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board are: Laura Wheeler (@wheeler_laura) who runs #OttSlowChat, Jimmy Pai (@PaiMath), Bruce McLaurin (@BDMcLaurin), Robin McAteer (@robintg), Nouha Obagi-Fakhouri (@NouhaOAME) and a whole host of other powerful teachers. Oh yeah, and Marian Small (@marian_small), you might have heard of some big ideas from her.

Even right at my SCHOOL, our head of math is JP Brichta (@JPBrichta) who had his computer class doing marble runs last semester, Anne Fitton (@MathFitton) who pulled me out from behind my desk two years ago when I was crying and got me to seek counselling, Denise White (@Mrs_White_Math), and the list goes on. Final shoutout to Kerry Chalmers (@kchalmers) who is now retired but who helped me set up a Google page for my classes way back in 2009.

Followed all them yet? But wait, there’s more. Noteworthy within the OCDSB, we all have one day for local math PD in February (despite the Board’s protests), and then the option for a number of Ontario teachers to travel to the OAME (Ontario Association for Mathematics Education) conference every year. It’s not free, but at least your registration is covered if you present, and often there’s some money to schools for supply teachers.

People at TMC are talking about expansion, and needing local versions of the MTBoS and I’m lifting an eyebrow jotting down, “local is not a typical thing...”. I didn’t even initially join Twitter for education purposes! I joined to try and promote my writing. (How’s that going? Terribly, thanks for asking.)

Again, please don’t get the wrong idea. I have issues with my teaching and question myself too, hopefully as much as the next person. But I have the luxury of practically taking that for granted where I am. Thus I’m only passively searching the MTBoS, and the fact that I’m taking a year off for my own sanity is due to local conversations rather than ones within the MTBoS online community.

That said, it’s perhaps rather arrogant of me to presume I’m in a position of "teaching privilege", so perhaps I should leave that final decision to you, the reader. My point is, if the whole MTBoS structure were to implode tomorrow? I would manage okay. Which feels luckier than some (most?).


So that’s one way I am “different”. Another way is, of course, I’m Canadian. And while after TMC14 I have a somewhat better understanding of what “Algebra2” and “PreCalculus” actually refer to (maybe, kinda), when things get that granular, I don’t feel I have a lot to contribute. And certain specific resources and talks aren’t as useful. To reach for an analogy, everyone is talking about baking croissants, and while I’m also a pastry chef and can maybe recommend some quality ingredients, I’m making bread instead soooo... good luck with the curling into a moon shape thing you guys do?

For reference, the Ontario structure is different from the rest of Canada too. Hell, back when I did my practicum, there was still a Grade 13, so it’s probably good that some of us can network locally up here. So having a different structure is not unique, and in fact I saw a teacher from Scotland make a remark recently about the specific course issue in chats on her blog. But it does add to my disconnect.

If those differences are strike one and strike two, strike three comes from my core. I see mathematics as a precise tool, not a thing to be estimated. Teaching it is not fundamental to who I am, I’m more about generally helping people. And I list “writing” first in my Twitter handle. Because outside of my career, I read, I write, I edit, I curate... I am kind of the Borg (from Star Trek). I adapt whatever’s out there to service me, and if it doesn’t fit for me (3 acts, estimation180, etc) I shunt that to the side. Replacing it instead with open ended probability projects or, as you saw, singing mathematics.

For me, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is not presently a thing. Having “so many resources and not knowing what to do” is not a thing. Perhaps related, of the six afternoon sessions I went to, HALF of them had less than 10 people there. So mainstream in general may not be my thing, inside the MTBoS or even locally. (That said, two of the remaining three afternoon sessions had many, they were Social Justice sessions.)

Even when people like Sue Van Hattum, Edmund Harriss, and Tracy Zager talk about being “a writer” and/or “an editor”, which IS my thing, I still feel a disconnect because my writing is primarily FICTION. Heck, even when people are all sitting around and writing a song parody together, something I do with my teaching, I feel like I don’t understand their creative process as compared to my own!

To sum up: I don’t need the MTBoS resources, I don’t really understand the MTBoS, and the majority of your interests and pursuits seem very different from my own.

Why did I even go to Twitter Math Camp?


Backstory time. My first TMC in 2013 was not a foregone conclusion. I weighed pros and cons against attending a more local convention instead. In retrospect, I think I ended up going for the same reason most everyone else did - to find like-minded people.

In a sense, I did not find them.

Sure, there were math geeks, but everyone else was keen on resources, and big pedagogy ideas, and interpersonal connections, and I already HAD lots of that stuff. (Well, less so the interpersonal, because huge introvert, but anyway.) What I DIDN’T have was people to talk with about math cartoons and song parodies, which locally is my missing piece. Hence throwing around a lot of business cards to that effect, and getting little response.

Right - if you don’t know me, for the last five years (even before the first “Twitter Math Camp”), my big things have been personified math (I now have over 270 entries) and song parody (I have over 30). I have never, ever, ever figured out how to market the former, especially within the MTBoS. The latter I had already brought forward locally, and to OAME in 2013 (with some response), but when I extended it to TMC13 only one person showed up, and the only time after that people talked to me about it was to maybe present at GlobalMath which never happened.

So that felt like the end of that.

It took TMC14 for me to realize that those discussion connections had even BEEN my goal in 2013, and to further push ahead with the idea that “Comparison Kills”. Which came about in part because by then I had decided I was feeling like the shallow, inadequate version of Ben Orlin (I also do bad drawings), the unknown version of Sean Sweeney (he can get more hits on one video than my entire YouTube channel), the discounted version of SolveMyMaths (their Mr Men Math drawings seemingly pop up everywhere)... and while we all have people we might look up to, TMC14 was when I finally came out with the notion that “validation” from those people or their peers wasn’t necessary to move forwards.

I moved forwards. I quit the MTBoS. And yet I’ve come back, and (obviously) attended TMC 2016. Because even though the MTBoS wasn’t my group, I saw the value in it, and I wanted to do my best to send the message out to others, and the only way I felt I could do that was in being there. I didn’t go for the comics and the parodies, it was largely for the live blogging. The “My Favourite” performance was, in essence, an afterthought.

But there’s a bit more to it. Because to rewind, I did find some like-minded people that first time.

Back then, I was trying to find my place in a fictional, creative, parody world of math - and that is still my quest. (One plagued by false starts.) And others were trying to find their place in the education system, in the learning journey, in their teaching craft - and while to me the destinations seem different, the struggle feels the same. And THAT is where my connection lies.

Hence my feeling of disconnect from the MTBoS in almost every way - my reasons for joining, approaches, goals - but not in the struggle.
"Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself." -Chinese Proverb

So yes, I did make some friends (it’s actually hard to use that word) in that first year, and I did want to see them again this year. And it was those conversations last week, and the ones with new attendees there, that I got the most out of. And given how “people” is a fact echoed in the blogs of others, maybe I’m being more than a bit pretentious by this point by saying I’m so “different”, and could simply use a good smack upside the head... I should wrap this up.


So, I do need the MTBoS. I need it to remind me that everything is a process. To see how issues in education (social justice in particular) are evolving, and need constant attention. To remind myself that no one has all the answers. And for it to occasionally smack me in the head and tell me to stop obsessing over my desperate need for feedback on some of the writing things I do, keep going. Maybe find a writers group.

Does the MTBoS need ME? That’s a bigger question that I can’t answer. I know I don’t speak up that much, and this blog is inconsistent mostly because my focus is elsewhere. I know my niche work doesn’t fulfill any need or want. And I suspect that no one will notice my upcoming break. (Yeah, I need to get away and do more fiction writing, TMC has crammed my head too full professionally again. Bye!) But, since I need it, I’ll likely be back, whether it wants me or not.

Final Takeaways:
 -A number of people seemed to find the recaps helpful, notably Joel Bezaire who seemed to be anticipating them. So my non-fiction writing is still on point.
 -Both John Golden and Max Ray-Riek approached me about my math comic, Jami Danielle liked the FB page, and Justin Aion retweeted my latest. Meanwhile, Sean Sweeney approached me about the song parody. Monday was a good day, creatively.
 -The “My Favourite” cubic formula went over better than it perhaps had any right to given my track record. 36 Twitter notifications within half an hour, what? Thanks for that response.
 -Claims and Warrants should likely be my #1TMCThing, I can see potential for it in my statistics class. Given my time off, not sure when I’ll get to it, but I shouldn’t forget it.
 -Too many other sessions, keynotes and themes to get into, but then that’s what my prior recap posts are for.

Will I be at TMC17? It’s always a bit of a die roll with me. Next year, it will be again. I won’t have the excuse of being away; I may have the excuse of finances, there’s a whole personal life angle I didn’t get into here. Time will tell.

If you were at TMC16, remember to do the survey:

And if you did a post, or video, or other, please take a moment to submit to the archive?

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Not Teaching: Week 3

I am taking a year off of teaching. And it does NOT feel like summer yet. (Emotionally, that is. Physically it does because our air conditioner gave out.) So much stuff needs to get done, and I feel like I’m not making much headway. Sigh. I even spent all of last Wednesday at home. On the bright side, hella writing this week.

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Item counts run Sunday (July 17) to Saturday (July 23).

Step Count: About 63,300.
I only got my 7,000 steps on 4 of the 7 days. But on Monday in Minnesota I had 21,880 steps from travelling to the other bank of the Mississippi (and back).

Teaching Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Second, third and fourth (half) day of Twitter Math Camp
 (Just too many sessions to name individually. Read the recaps.)

Home, nothing's really changed.

Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Completed recap post for JLV session (2800 words)
 -Completed recap post for Saturday TMC (2000 words)
 -Completed recap post for Sunday TMC (3500 words)
 -Completed recap post for Monday TMC (7000 words)
 -Completed recap post for Tuesday TMC (4200 words)
 -Completed recap post for Morning TMCs (2700 words)
 -Co-sketching of personified math with John Golden
 -Statistics post for T&T blog (1700 words)

Total: 23,900 words (not including this post); with recaps, it’s the editing that’s a killer.

Other items (not teaching or writing) for the past week:
 -TMC outing on Sunday to Minnehaha Falls & some other encounters
 -Medical phone appointment on Wednesday
 -Psych appointment on Thursday
 -Thursday yoga session
 -Did a bit more reading in “Outlander” while in transit
 -Saw the “Peanuts” movie on fast forward in a plane
 -Met up with a friend on Saturday
 -Went to the housewarming of my wife’s coworkers

MUST DO items in the coming week:
 -Finish inking math comic co-venture with J Golden by Monday
 -Write and draw another math comic before Thursday night
 -Finish TMC recap posts with final thoughts
 -Appointments about new air conditioner on Monday & Tuesday
 -Mow Lawn ideally before Thursday
 -Orkin guy coming on Thursday
 -Start the process for French Citizenship (*NOT DONE)
 -See about getting a roofer for reshingling (*NOT DONE)
 -Post recap about OAME (from May) (*NOT DONE)
 -Go to Star Trek exhibit at Aviation Museum++

++ That last actually jumped from my offline list (yes there’s ANOTHER list outside these ones) straight to the MUST, so I can go with my wife and friend, bypassing the Would be Nice; had planned to add it there next week.

More stuff needs to GET DONE, dammit.

I'm taking next weekend off.

 -Sewing up some clothes
 -Catch up with #OttSlowChat on Twitter
 -Renew my passport
 -Recreate a buffer for my math comic
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Catch up with more web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Post recap about CAN-CON (from Oct)
 -Do more editing on my T&T story
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Catch up more on “Sailor Moon Crystal” (no spoilers!)
 -Catch up on “Bones” (no spoilers!)
 -Get back onto tumblr
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

And that’s where I’m at, now that we’re OVER ONE THIRD into the summer. This is why teachers like me go crazy. Come back next week to see if I can actually get more of this stuff done.

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Friday, 22 July 2016

TMC 2016 Morning Entry

To make the prior recap posts a bit more manageable (less long), and help consolidate, I've put the "Just Enough" Approach to Intervention for Students with Gaps, from Michelle Naidu's session, into this post. If that's your main interest, enjoy!


I went to Michelle Naidu's "Just Enough" Approach to Intervention for Students with Gaps. There were over 30 of us there. We started by introducing ourselves. Then there was a video on "Herding Cats" (From, to discuss at tables where we were sitting. (Cats would become a theme.) Seemed to work as a metaphor. Students want to go anywhere, we have to get them to a certain spot at a certain TIME too.

From there discussion went into "Modification" versus "Differentiation". We were to write down something we knew, and something we wondered, about each term. Then we crumpled the paper, threw it across the room to someone else, and in Round 2 either: Added to our new paper, contributed something more, or corrected something. In a class with less knowledge, a third round could be done. We then shared something, either from the third paper or our own mind.

Debrief: Why might this be a good activity? Gives an idea of where everyone is, has the know/wonder format, it's anonymous and can see others with the same struggles. And build off others' ideas. Writing should be a thing in math classrooms too. We need to make time for students who take time to think first, and those who share immediately. When might it be used? Can be midstream, it's a safe way to correct misunderstandings; ideally the class corrects it as a whole.

In terms of what we knew for differentiation: Good for all students. Individualization is important. Can include different tasks/strategies. Addresses different types of learners. Need to know your students. Meets needs for all. Everyone learns differently. Spontaneous/planned. Hard. Feels overwhelming. Same objective different ways. Not WHAT but HOW we teach.

In terms of what we wonder for differentiation: How do you get through everything? Pacing. Use preassessment and data how. What resources for low floor, high ceiling? Enrich and gap fill simultaneously? Which methods are most effective? Efficient, meaningful, like second nature? Self-monitoring?

In terms of what we knew for modification: May be pre-determined (by what’s allowed in state testing). Documented; IEP (Individual Education Plan), “504”. Legal definitions. Different outcomes. Testing allows for use of calculator or computer, etc.

Wondering for modification related to what we're expected to handle, and things are different in different states. In Oklahoma, students on modifications have to meet the same test standards, in Illinois they have an alternative assessment. For the purposes of the next three days, Michelle said we would live within the sphere of differentiation; we're not changing our teaching standards. In changing outcomes, everyone would need to know.

How do we review old instruction, or stretch other kids forwards while we're going back over something? Everyone split into five groups, publicly posting the barriers that currently exist for doing a great job at differentiation. Serving as a visual reference. I noticed that "Time" was the first thing written for most groups.

Michelle then led us through "The Planning Process" as a cycle which included: (1) Understanding by Design, meaning planning with outcomes in mind and working back from end goals - versus anything rigid; (2) Learner Circles, putting brains together to get better ideas than an individual, -using the same outcomes/expectations and perhaps even kids in a same school situation; (3) Lesson Study, conversations after to see how to improve the next time.

There were also three "Instructional Pillars": (1) Mastery Learning; (2) Learner Readiness; (3) Formative Assessment. What were we going to value in a classroom? Knowing only 50% going forwards is not okay, necessitates dealing with mastery learning.

'Curriculum Sort' was mentioned as a tool, whereby grade level standards are printed and played with. Put things you might teach together into piles, then those become units. Statistics may fit with number sense. "I don't use a textbook. Or I try not to. They are written for someone, but I am not that someone; they are for students, but not my students."

We will focus on one unit of study, and "Grade 6 fractions" was suggested as an example. Create a map of what the expectations would be of the student, bearing in mind where the boundaries for your grade level are. "Where I'm from, you cannot report on non-grade level material." We are throwing out "would be nice to know" - what do they NEED to know?

For "Division of Fractions", you NEED to know how to multiply fractions. And what division is. What size numbers are we dealing with? Less than 10? Really narrow your focus. What concepts are okay, in essence when can I stop caring? For homework, everyone was to pick a standard and attempt to map it out. (I may run out of time...) Incidentally, in Ontario, fraction division is Grade 8 (Grade 6 is comparison, not even addition yet).

Return To Day 1 Post


Planning involves mapping the grade level and pre-skills. It can help find holes in the curriculum, things that get dropped for a year or two - we're perhaps expecting students to recall and know a concept they haven't used in over a year. Also deciding on vocabulary (particularly in geometry) is important to be consistent with colleagues. (Aside: In Ontario, we use "Tables of value" in high school, but before that they're called "T-Charts".)

Related to tables, in Grade 3 they only look to extend patterns vertically. So if a Grade 4 teacher is wondering "why are they doing THAT" when the lesson plan had been horizontal, they're doing it because it's what they learned. We didn't know, and the prior teacher likely didn't know it was going to switch. We need to have this conversation.

As we clump concepts, know that the size can be different for a Grade 6 and a Grade 9 student, for instance the former may need to review adding separately from multiplying. How much can we intervene on at a time? Well, if the standard is "graph a line", we don't need to reiterate slope-intercepts, there's nothing saying HOW to graph a line. Give a new instruction, and from that they can develop better skills at graphing themselves.

Someone in the session noted, for those who teach common core, "" shows the standards in previous grades that they feel are relevant to the current one you have, and moves forward to look at where it might be useful. We paused at this point to shade in the bullet points regarding how much resolution we had to our "Barriers" from the previous day.

On PreAssessments: Don't go through all the stuff on the upcoming curriculum, it's no surprise the majority don't know it (and the ones who do, you already knew). Moreover, nothing about it can change your overall actions. PreAssess on what we THINK they should know from last year. (It took Michelle 8 years of teaching to figure that out, some education colleges still haven't.) A good preassessment should have one skill per question (to know in 20 seconds what a problem is, not wonder if it's denominators or mixed numbers), be organized, and be short (for students with perseverance issues - limit to a page, double sided, unless there's diagrams).

Remove as much language as you can from the questions. We also need to know if the barrier is the language, may be lots of English Language Learners. Be clear that there's no penalty for doing poorly, other than being helped. If you feel like you would love to play but are buried in paperwork, consider using coloured stickers. If kids get everything in a section, they get a certain sticker. All stickers means 100%, otherwise it's easy to scan and see where the holes are, what colour section is lacking. Makes it easier to turn things around for the next day, versus needing a weekend.

Time was given at this point to work on developing individual issues regarding mapping and writing preassessments. I linked up with Connie H, who was doing some work with the Unit Circle based on Texas expectations. (Of note, special angles is a pre-skill, whereas it's the same level or higher in the Ontario curriculum.)


Michelle pulled us back in later to look at another cat video, with a cat very interested in the workings of a printer, swatting at paper. She then asked, how is that like preassessment? "It's a losing battle with paper." Or there may be certain misconceptions you expect, but get something out of left field instead. And every year it's different. NOTE: For those who facilitate professional development, try showing a goofy video then seeing what people come up with, it can elicit totally different interpretations and gives a sense of what the room is thinking.

The activity "Give One Get One" was then done. A sheet was given with six boxes on it, we were asked to fill a square with our favourite way to differentiate in the class. Then to go around the room and meet other people to fill in whatever conversations we had. I'd started with multiple representations, then got formative assessment quizzes, grouping, writing thinking on desks to check off, split classes between rooms and accelerated homework.

How and why might that be used in our classroom? On the first day with the prompt "how to be successful in class". Because it's something they generate, and taking a note can be valuable. It can involve students teaching each other ways to do a problem rather than individually. The number of boxes can be changed. Noted that there can be a moment of stress to pick own topic at start, could be done in partners. Can also modify where my message goes, if I state the prior one I got, processing what's in my head rather than my original idea.

Now that a preassessment is done, ignoring it isn't ideal for students - so "if you're not going to do anything with [it], don't do it." (Waste of teaching and learning time.) Some learning opportunities if they do NOT KNOW: Video (found, or can make your own because "the internet is a horrible black hole"), Symbolic/Written (more clear than textbook), Game, Practice, Visual/Concrete. All five of these cycled around a "math concept". Assume colleagues do the best job they can, whatever happened didn't do it for this kid, so hopefully they'll now find something to latch onto.

What if they DO KNOW? We have to do something with that too, and enrichment of a select few can't be next week's work early, or you're messing yourself (or their next teacher) over. Find meaningful interaction and extension rather than acceleration: Can Create something (Egyptian fraction investigation), Curate something (Make a video), or Critique something (Is 0 even?). Great for artsy kids, can count with even a weak math link, address different skill sets.

Michelle then showed a model for "Year Flow". Preassess the necessary skills, then do a new instruction part. Then repeat. Length will vary (geometry is crazy with definitions and using tools) but we can take this pre assessing time from the six weeks of going back over things at the start of September. Address pieces before they're needed, not at the start. Each skill is a station, and have an enrichment station also. When they have everything they need, they do enrichment until everyone is there.

Lesson itself after, say, 8 days (the kid who needs 2 days per station) can be whatever form (task or lecture, I'm not judging you) the point is kids are more prepared to engage with it. Noted that they do like the stickers for completing stations (given out after an exit quiz). Takes a couple rounds for them to get the hang of it. Testing does become tricky to manage, don't want to be the "test manager", another adult in the room can help. Tomorrow? We unpack structure.

Return To Day 2 Post


Back in our morning session (which I have splintered out into this post), we looked at concrete examples of the preassessments from yesterday - trifold boards have a few advantages. First, they can fold up and go away to not take up outrageous space. (Putting sheets at tables tends to have students grabbing sheets and going elsewhere.) Second, the structure stays the same, the top title is the only thing that needs changing. (One teacher without room for trifolds used a bulletin board.)

If needed, there can be two sets of things in the folders. For instance, if multiplying fraction requirements are to the number 15, do that, but if multiplication of double digit numbers is relevant (not necessarily on fractions) you can add that skill building. We can ignore some of the basic skills in high school (when there's calculators) as time gets more condensed in the upper end of the curriculum. Find time to DO the preassessment and assess needs, but then students need to make time for an intervention themselves (with you or online). It's a fair trade off, we don't have time to redo graphing in Grade 11, and it would be a small percentage of students.

How much structure is repeated? Do it once, don't repeat pre-assessing multiplication at a station in November if you did it in September, but you can have a handout for those who need a reminder or bump up. The overall mapping was done for a strand, but can be a few units. Some structure elements to consider: physical environment, organization, student behaviour, tracking. The reality for teachers is barriers and benefits.

Michelle noted that they didn't transition their Grade 9s in one year, it was a three year process. They started backwards; as most are comfortable with the "patterns" unit, which is smaller, they transitioned there to get a handle on the process. The following year they tackled "number sense", the big ugly one. Then the last strand. "It's a slow process, and you can't do everything all at once." Your personal health and work-life balance really matter.

Doing that, they finished their Grade 9 curriculum six weeks early. Go slow to go fast. With the time, they went to Grade 10 teachers and asked what those gaps or problems where. Response, "if you could at least introduce factoring?", so they did. Hypothetically, this could take more time for you. And have a backup plan for if WiFi doesn't work (a game piece that needed computer videos).

Some kids beyond intervention need someone shoulder-to-shoulder, which became possible on preassessment days - you can do it and know that everyone else is being productive. If someone else is in the class, you have even more flexibility. Michelle noted that she needed time to circulate on Mon/Wed/Fri, so couldn't do the quiz on those days. So on Thursday, maybe someone takes three exit quizzes, but that's okay. Set classroom understanding and norms.

Michelle said this helped attendance, because students were being successful (less anxiety) and we gain ability to respond to need (almost) immediately. She said was a set of resources possible for the Games aspect (called "Well Played", K-5, 6-8), and Visual/Concrete wants a hands-on component, to make students okay with gong to the board and taking manipulatives. It's work to get things up and running, pre-think what you'll see in your classroom, but on those pre-assess days? There's no prep, and marking can be done on the spot - during this cycle, you can forgo the guilt bag (of grading).

It was at this point we did a last revisit of our sheets where we had been tracking our barriers, to see if anything was left to cover. Then there was some time for individual work. I'm going to give the las words here to a couple of our group members, Connie H, "We now have a place to begin." and Elissa M, "It might take five or six years to fully get it, but that gives me something to look forward to".

Return to Day 3 Post

I did actually leave with 30+ minutes on the clock (see the Day 3 post for why) so if anyone wants to make additional concluding remarks, feel free! Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

TMC 2016 Entry 4: Connections

Here's the last half day of "Twitter Math Camp". Previously there was Entry 0 (Descon), Entry 1 (So It Resumes), Entry 2 (Getting Personal) and Entry 3 (Breathe). Now, the rest of the story. Which begins with these quotes from Glenn Waddell, Tom Hall, and Lisa Henry - but do you know who said what? Read on.
  • "'That' wasn't the best, but I'm trying here - and here's what I'm going to do to make sure 'that' doesn't happen again."
  • "You are great, and you inspire me, and everybody in this room, and in the MTBoS community, and don't you ever forget it."
  • "Fears are what keep ourselves from reaching the potentials we can reach."


I had a choice to make on Tuesday, except it wasn't really a choice. Sean asked me if I wanted to help with singing the final song, that more people involved would be helpful. I'd also been speaking with John Golden, about doing a math comic together. Both of these things would be happening at 8am, before the sessions.
The question becomes, which would I regret more: Not being part of a community group and event that would be talked about for days and weeks to come? Or, not being able share something that has been so personal to me for the last five years with a friend? For me, not really a choice.

Why even bring it up here? On the off chance that anyone actually wondered why I didn't participate, and got the wrong idea. I don't want people to think they can't talk to me about music. It's just I've been personifying math for longer than I've been writing math song parodies, and I care more about it. Anyway.

I had breakfast at another new place, namely Einstein Bagels right on campus, because convenience. Triangleman later joined the table where me and John were drawing, and there was some playing around with turtles. At 9am, everything got going.

#17: "Plickers" by Jonathan (@jschool0218). Yes, schoolcraft is his last name. He learned about these from a history teacher back in Tenessee. Go to, sign in as teacher (vs student). Create classes and add students, you can copy and paste, it took him only 10 minutes to set everything up.

The site then provides cards, and each student gets a unique one. He writes the student's name on their card. Then students hold up their "QR card", and depending on the orientation it registers as A, B, C or D. Download the app, scan device across the room, click on computer, and it pulls up the data of how many chose each option.

Jonathan uses it as a simple exit ticket, a way to get immediate data (like on bell curve understanding), or "Which One Doesn't Belong" Wednesdays. His senior students are so eager they start while he's still doing attendance - "Put 'em down, I'm not ready yet, your arm'll fall off." It's also a quick way of seeing how a geometry class perhaps thought differently from an algebra class. If a student loses a card, it can be reprinted. Any questions, feel free to contact Jonathan.

#18: "" by Tom (@trigoTOMetry). His fave thing is saying that a lesson sucked - to students. Not just in the teachers' lounge. Tom is going into his third year, teaching 6th grade math, and there were days that felt terrible. He wasn't sure where to go with that, so would write about it in his personal journal, talk to other teachers and pick up the pieces, making tweaks along the way.

In early November of year one, a percentages lesson was going nowhere, and so he stopped what he was doing, saying: "I know this sucks right now. I'm going to come back to it tomorrow, I can make this better.". The students gave him a look like 'Is that okay? I don't think a teacher is supposed to do that.' The following day, he elaborated, saying it while that might have been hard to hear, it was harder to say. But he didn't want to do a disservice to them, not admitting when modification is needed.

Afterwards, even on a mediocre lesson, the following day Tom would start by saying "I know that wasn't the best", partly to find out if it was really as bad as he'd thought. And in the months that followed, students got to see his humanity. Failure is built into the learning process, but how often are we not okay with it? How often do we blame the students, or an activity, or time, instead of taking a moment to say, "That wasn't the best, but I'm trying here - and here's what I'm going to do to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Or if it does happen again, forgive yourself - how often have people made an error on a concept they knew four months ago? Own your failure, but don't let it stop you, and be honest with students. It adds another layer of accountability to your practice.

#19: "Break the Ice" by Amy (@zimmerdiamonds). She has an activity with a hidden agenda, done at the start of the year (1st or 2nd day). Get table groups, usually four students, figure out who is the oldest to youngest. After that's known, say that youngest is the scribe, next is timekeeper, next makes sure all have input, and eldest is the reporter/speaker at the end.

Timed task - you have 3 minutes to collectively come up with a favourite book, movie and game that you can all agree on. After this, give 90 seconds for them to list all the ways they came to a final decision as a team. Then "popcorn" the list, getting the reporter to explain, "massaging" the answer to fit our hidden agenda.

Amy started by suggesting "strong arming". Other items that came up were something everyone had in common. Voting (which Amy "massaged" to imply majority rules). Modifying the prompt (like narrowing to kids books). Noted that the pickiest person isn't necessarily the loudest person. Sometimes "Hamlet" is the favourite book because it's the only one they've all read.

The hidden agenda is how you can work as a group. You can't always pick your team in real life, so know team dynamics, and how to work as a group so that it's effective, and everyone's ideas are heard.

#20: "Triangle Congruence Art" by Max (@maxmathforum). Max, with some other teachers, got to go to where NCTM is, and make some art. Resources were scattered, they made a collection, and 'Triangle congruence' was especially fun because Common Core said "don't do it the way all texts do except this one - show congruence with transformations". Derive SSS, SAS, AAS from transformations.

The pieces: (1) Congruent Halves. (2) Standard introduction to triangle congruence. (3) A game: You try to draw a triangle based on given features, to get one that matches. Then one that would not match. Then ask for three pieces of information to draw. (4) The proving of triangle congruence shortcuts. All we have is that point A is congruent to D, et cetera, with measured side lengths. One person has no triangles, and they tell their partners how to transform, for instance "Do a translation left so that A is on top of D."

Is that enough for the triangles to line up? Maybe not - is there a rotation or reflection that is needed? A transformation proof means that there EXISTS a transformation, even one without me seeing it. This is a sneak preview, not on the website yet, send Max a message to know when it goes online.

#21: "Guided Visualization" by Sue (@suevanhattum). Who has heard "I knew the material but I freaked out"? I was tired of that and thought it was true, so looked into test anxiety. Your subconscious (like dogs) doesn't understand the word "NO". If you tell yourself "do NOT be nervous, do NOT be anxious" all your body hears is "nervous! anxious!".

We have to frame things in a positive way, so that we focus. Hence her "Math Relax" audio track (to avoid saying "anxiety") - see that link. She has students get it on their phones. Credit to Wayne for the flute music. The more often you listen, the more effect it will have.

Sue also mentioned her book, "Playing With Math", started in 2008 - and she got to meet a number of people here who contributed, for the first time in person. She asks, how many people love to lecture aside from me? (Interesting response; some, like me, not sure about committing.) The teacher can be a facilitator, leading discussion. Some good ways of becoming invisible, "Holding your cards close" and "Vague thinking prompts".

For the former, responses like "That's a good way to put it, why does that work?" or "I don't know, I'm just the secretary." For the latter, responses like "Can we make this simpler?" or "Do you see what the previous speaker was saying?". See Sue's blog for more; her book is also available at whatever price you can pay, on pdf, because Creative Commons.

#22: "Integrating Computer Science" by Jeremy (@greenbloch). He is an 8th grade math teacher who was asked to include coding in his math class. Jeremy felt he didn't know computer science and was not in a position to do that - but about a year ago, he went to a workshop led by Bootstrap computer coding (see

They do algebraic video game programming and are having a conference in Colorado this week. The coding works in "WeScheme", with hooks into embedding functions, domain and range; Jeremy has access to Chromebooks. You take a math expression, to a circle of evaluation, then Racket code. Jeremy had his class make world flags - some associated with their own heritage.

He showed a number of examples, including a set of personal flags. "Zoe was off the hook." Finally, there were video games. Each had these components: The player, the danger, and the target. The students were so creative in picking the images and theme, and he tried to show one: "In Shock cuz of Mr. Bloch", where he's the danger. There were loading issues.

You can relate function based thinking and link function tables to this work. It's one of those decisions where we'll do something interesting/fun versus more traditional curriculum. Check it out.


#23: "Facing Your Fears" by Glenn (@gwaddellnvhs). He began by saying he almost didn't speak here. What he has to say is very meta, very introspective. He's had a very challenging weekend; he found out Friday that his grandma was passing away, and then she passed on Saturday morning. In a place with friends but no family, it makes you think about who you are.

What keeps people from going out and talking to other people is your fears, and where your comfort zone is, which Glenn got from the keynote sessions. Regarding growth and fears, "Four years ago, my fear was you. No joke." He is an incredible introvert who cannot stand to be in a room with other people, and you may laugh, but it's true.

Four years ago, he decided he had to do something. With the people on the internet that he could communicate with because it wasn't in the same room, he made the decision the face this fear. He got on his motorcycle. He didn't fly, because it means when you're there, you're STUCK, but on a motorcycle, you can give up and escape at any time. His map said 1,800 miles and with a 1 gallon tank, that's a lot of stopping for gas.

Every time Glenn stopped, he sat on his motorcycle and thought, "you can turn around, and no one will ever care, and no one will ever know". (Lisa Henry interjects, I would know!) Each time, Glenn would hit the button to turn on the cycle, and keep going. And every morning when leaving the next hotel, he said "you can turn around right now, and no one will ever care, and no one will ever know". And he kept going, having that conversation with himself 50 times over those 1,800 miles.

You have to face your fears REGULARLY to beat them.

When Glenn at last drove into the parking lot, he sat there, and not even his wife knows that he sat there for five minutes. Because he could turn around right now, and no one would ever care, and no one would ever know. Then, instead of leaving, he did the most courageous thing he'd ever done his entire life. He walked through the doors into the hotel lobby.

You hear courageous things others do, "this was mine". And it connects to those keynotes, because it's always fear that keeps us from doing things. "But when I met people, with the personal touch, the fear evaporated." And when he got home afterwards, he thought about his local colleagues. And that no one was going to listen to him.

And then he thought, WHO CARES, because he walked through those doors! And pretty soon, there was an email going out, and people were saying, to talk math, go to Glenn. And then universities were considering him for a class, and he didn't need to teach that, but SCREW that because he walked THROUGH those doors. And a PhD became an option, and that seemed scary, but SCREW THAT because HE WALKED THROUGH THOSE DOORS.

"Fears are what keep ourselves from reaching the potentials we can reach." And so his personal challenge to everyone is to find your fear, and do what you can to overcome it. Even if it's a three day motorcycle ride, DO it. ... But don't do it in July.

After Glenn spoke, Lisa added, that is why you do a My Favourite. If you're not sure, it's these types of things that we need to remember.

#24: "Nominations" by Kathryn (@iisanumber). Some students were only giving the bare minimum in assignments, while others were putting in more effort - and she wanted to encourage those doing less to up their work. So that open ended assignments weren't something they did in three minutes on the bus.

Her solution was a gallery walk, and nominations. Since work was in notebooks, and couldn't be hung on the wall, she had everyone walk around the room to see it. And they got two post-it notes, being asked to write two positive or challenging comments, feedback to push their peers a little further.

The work could be a lesson, a word web, or defining terms. One student rewrote "All Star" by Smashmouth to be about quadratics. Many students were impressed but didn't know the song, so Kathryn found a karaoke version on the internet. The next day, that student said they hadn't had time to do the whole song, and felt bad about that, "so is it okay that I went back and finished it last night?" (Yup!)

The "nominations" are work displayed on the room's document camera. A nominator must give a reason, and a nominee may accept or decline. (To avoid people trying to get friends in trouble or the like.) Now those who had spent 5 minutes were spending 20 minutes. And if someone didn't do something, they wouldn't get to do the gallery walk. It's great because the kids define what is best, peer feedback is valuable, and they get attention with creative freedom.

#25: "Clever Spiral Title" by Megan (@veganmathbeagle). Megan felt like Tracy's talk really hit home for her - she'd spent the last week in Baltimore at training for teachers, learning about connections with elementary. Many elementary educators are very, very hard on themselves about their math abilities, in part due to high school teachers being hard on them. So one commitment is to being more aware of how she talks about math with elementary teachers.

Which has nothing to do with spirals. Here's the thing, Megan's degree is accounting and math education, so she never thought of herself as a mathematician. But she thought, what if I took the numbers 1-100 and wrote them in a spiral, and then marked all the multiples of four. (During a meeting.) And it was interesting, so she made a copy from 1-1024, and then shaded in squared numbers. All on the diagonal. So what does x^2 + x look like? Or x^2 + 2x?

She made an animated gif out of it, and Christopher Danielson said "that's really cool", which gave Megan the confidence to explore a little further. Triangular numbers, hexagonal numbers, and pentagonal numbers are her favourite, because positive values for x give a different result from negatives. It became a spiral explosion. "I don't even remember what I was doing here, some variation." The coolest was the double spiral.

And then the thrill of her life was being asked to be the visiting mathematician for one day at "Math on a Stick" at the Minnesota State Fair. She's thrilled to have the opportunity, looks forward to getting to know the other guests, and wanted to share somehow. Final aside, thanks for coming to Minneapolis, this place that I tolerate, and now realize is not that bad.

#26: "Birthdays + Function" by Hannah (@girl_got_range). The inspiration comes from a tweet by Rebecka Peterson (who introduced Friday Letters at TMC13), asking if any secondary teachers have ways of celebrating student birthdays. Many did, from birthday stickers to a chair cover you can put on a seat. Hannah's "birthday board" is her way to build student relationships, which is simple and cheap.

She makes a spreadsheet of dates at the beginning of the year, highlighting and tracking, weekly updating that section of the whiteboard. It's the last thing she does before leaving on Friday, so she feels good about it too. She teaches all freshmen, but they bought into it, warning her "miss, my birthday is coming up in two months and five days!". And it's also her favourite analogy for teaching functions!

In the beginning, she lists name and birthday. Then as they learn input/output and domain/range, she'd list in tables. And with mapping diagrams, because they don't connect as well to the toaster or machine analogies. Here, students can have the same birthday, but Andy cannot have two birthdays. Students will eventually catch it - sometimes right away, sometimes later.

That concludes the "My Favourites", which had some announcements between:

  • Many people have done storifies or blogs or videos, and Glenn works the magic to get everything in one place. Go to and submit, including what KIND of thing you are submitting. Do double-check on copyright if you recorded someone's session.
  • Please take the final survey:
  • Lisa Henry will work on sending out certificates by end of July (some are done that were submitted earlier), monitor @TMathC. If you need last year's (or don't know where it is) they can be pulled up, let Lisa know. See also
  • The Twitter Math Camp Wiki often sees the most activity not prior to the conference, but in the week or two after. Editor permissions have gone out to anyone as a presenter, keep in mind you have to LOGIN before you can edit. If anyone with a flex session was missed, send Lisa a quick email.
  • Before you leave, post #1TMCThing as something to try. And find another on the hashtag that speaks to you, as a person or as a similar choice. Check in with each other, in particular on October 19th (exactly 3 months, aka Megan's birthday).

The "My Favourites" originally came out of not wanting to do more problem sets on the last morning. And Sean Sweeney came to Lisa saying he had one, but it had to be last. And Sean thought he was being super sneaky, but Lisa was next to him in the car, and it's dark, and her eyes wandered. So she had a sense, but not where he was going with it. It was a camp song, to give back to the community.

The "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO was then re-interpreted.

Finally, Lisa wrapped things up - "I recognize that I am responsible for the vision but there are many people who carry out the vision". She name dropped, noting she still needs to work on delegating, but is getting better. Also, shoutout to her parents and brother, who take the kids for a week so both she and Jason can be here.

Her recent fortune cookie was "Get away from home for a while to restore your energy". Stop and think about that - every year, without fail, TMC does that for her. And she hopes that for everyone else, some restoration has occurred in teaching energy. For her, this year has been one of those years, and she needed it. Moreover, four years ago, there's no way that she would have envisioned standing there doing it for the fifth time.

"We were looking for the people looking for us ... We were pulled together by passion. We couldn't NOT be ... and I'm still amazed at what this has created." Lisa wants this locally, in her own community. She suggests finding somebody. Shoutout to a person who got on Twitter because of a conversation they had. Connect with somebody, on a daily basis, start sharing about your craft and your work on improving yourself.

A book from Lisa's 9th grade English class was "Illusions", and it gives you quotes you need. When she opened it yesterday, the quote was: "You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however." We wish to be better teachers. "It's not my effort, not the community's effort, not the boards' effort ... it's all our efforts together." We can make that wish come true.

Lisa quoted again from Pat Summitt, she served as head coach of women's basketball, and recently passed away due to Alzheimer's. She expected excellence - and that's what greatness does, it inspires more greatness. Sometimes we think we're pretty lousy teachers. "But you're not. You are great, and you inspire me, and everybody in this room, and in the MTBoS community, and don't you ever forget it." Even if it's the worst thing, put it out there.

It's tough to leave, but a farewell is necessary to meet again, and meeting again is certain for those who are friends. July 28th 2017 is the next TMC, which is Atlanta - east coast, and south.


There were goodbyes. And as someone observed, I'm not really a hugger, but in some circumstances it's okay. I tried to make sure I said goodbye to a few people in particular, and Glenn took a selfie with me. The last thing in my 04 text file is a reminder to me that singing the 'My Favourite' meant a lot to Megan - perhaps because it was her tweet that sparked the song? I didn't think to ask.

Mark Sanford had generously been driving the Ottawa crowd (me, Al, Sheri and Mary) around since our initial arrival, and also drove us to the airport. We stopped for some food along the way, and in particular an ice cream place called "Izzy's" which I hadn't been aware of. We arrived, I got my map of the area (I collect maps)... and our flight was delayed. And a bunch of TMC people ended up stumbling across us, and so there were goodbyes all over again. I got to chat with Bob Janes about his music session though, and how you can break a periodic function down into sine waves, which you can't do with other functions (they have multiple decompositions).

We did get to Toronto, and after hurrying through customs, we found our 4th flight was ALSO DELAYED (that's 4 out of 4, Air Canada, impressive). In fact, it transpired that our plane had to be completely replaced with a new plane. After wading through Twitter for the first time since 11am, I bought a "Noble" sandwich to eat before we boarded.

Having my own headphones ended up being handy, as I started listening to the "Peanuts" movie on the entertainment system shortly after boarding. I didn't quite fit a 90 minute movie into a 50 minute flight, many pieces were seen on fast forward, but I got the gist. We landed over an hour late, at 10:45pm, and Al took a selfie. My wife had been kind enough to email me a bus route that would get me home (I don't take the bus much and it was now the late routes). Walked through the door a little after 12:15am on Wednesday. And dealt with a smoke detector.

All of that to say, excuse the lateness of this post! Shoutouts to people who have retweeted my recaps: Joel Bezaire, Audrey McLaren, John Golden and the MTBoS_Blogbot. Bonus shoutouts to Justin Aion & Morgan Ballantine for retweeting my comic, with Jami PackerMichelle Naidu for TMCTYs. Speaking as an author, visibility is everything. (Quick shoutout to David Butler also, for his comment showing me the recaps are making it outside the conference.) There will be one more post which is more personal reflection... likely tomorrow.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

TMC 2016 Entry 3: Breathe

I'm blogging about "Twitter Math Camp" in a daily fashion, a bit retroactively. I think I sensed with Sunday's update that I was stretching things, and on Monday it all spun a bit out of control. How? Let's see. Alternatively, you can check out Entry 0 (Descon), Entry 1 (So It Resumes) and Entry 2 (Getting Personal) before reading this, if you would like. And who said these quotes? You'll have to read below to find out if it was: Wendy Menard, Dylan Kane, Annie Perkins or Elissa Miller.

  • "I didn't take that perspective at the time, I didn't learn those lessons."
  • "I'd had a really successful career, and then I went into this job, and I wasn't good at it for a long time."
  • "I'm not trying to make the white kids in the classroom feel terrible."
  • "It might take five or six years to fully get it, but that gives me something to look forward to."


Talking with others coming back from the Falls last night, the "Seward Cafe" had been floated as a breakfast possibility. I decided to go there, and I'm glad I did - turns out they're closed Tuesdays. Two other TMCers arrived after I'd ordered the Special, and we ended up chatting; one, Craig Ortner, had come off the "waiting list". I always find that sort of encounter interesting, I met another at the Newbie/Veteran dinner (I forget if I mentioned that).

I left by 8:30 because I wanted to run through my song, which I did standing by the interstate overpass. I then headed to the chapel, and after some words by Lisa Henry we launch into My Favourites:

#10: "Variable Analysis Games" by Joel (@joelbezaire). He started by mentioning a well of anxiety before his presentation yesterday, given who else was presenting in the 4-5pm slot. Casey tweeted back at him. TrigTOMetry was then the only person in his session. And so here is the first of many personal diversions on my part.

(Back in 2013, my first TMC, I was presenting on the first day, "Musical Mathematics". Only one person came, Erin Scott. I just looked her up, she only has one tweet this year. It makes me wonder about the people who leave this community, and their reasons for it. That whole experience was chronicled in my blog, back when I tweeted out "The difference between 0 and 1 is infinity.")

Joel's "My Favourite" addressed why many classroom math games suck: The same kid always wins, they're too hard for some students, the game ends when the first person "gets it", there's too much setup ahead of time, the rules are too complicated to explain quickly, they're boring, it's more about the game than the math, etc. "This isn't true for every game, I've run into some good ones" but also ones that are combinations of these flaws.

So here's "Variable Analysis": Joel is running the game at the front, he puts columns of numbers on the board headed 'a' 'b' 'c' 'd'. What's the object of the game? After some noticing/wondering, @Fouss sees that "a times b minus c equals d". Joel says, that gives the answer away, so here's what he does - if a student thinks they "get it", the student (Sam?) goes up and creates a new row to fit the model. Which not only shows 'Sam' understands it, but provides everyone else with more evidence.

Then maybe 'Sharon' puts something down. Joel asks SAM, does Sharon get it? Then Bruce comes up, and the game continues. The ones who don't get it yet keep getting evidence, those who have completed it become co-judges, and they can even help in keeping track of students. As more have it, Joel can provide challenges: can you create a solution with as many negatives as possible? That uses zeroes? That would be a dead giveaway?

Even THEN, they're not done. Because in the end, he can ask Sam, what was the rule? And Sam may say ab - c = d, to which another student says "I thought it was ab = c + d, and you said I had it!" So there's the properties of equality. And how many different ways can the relationship be expressed? Joel has created 8 games so far, he'll keep adding, he has some stickers on the main table, if you want to share, do so.

Photo courtesy Megan: @megyzr
#11: "Musical Mathematics" by Greg (@mathtans). I started with some shout-outs to other musical efforts in the community, then went into math song parody. There's a lot of YouTube parodies already out there (shoutout to my 2013 presentation, and Joel), and you can perhaps get students to write one instead of a project. I sing in class, and at our school's annual Christmas assembly. And I capped the presentation by singing my "Cubic Formula" song, to show why the music can be so powerful.

The reaction was one that I've always kind of hoped for in my heart of hearts - some people even stood up, applauding - but which I had honestly stopped believing would happen. And there is a LOT to unpack about that through this post, so let's start with some context.

(Back in 2013 again, and after my session, there was karaoke that night. And I opened the whole set with "Mean", my statistics version of the Taylor Swift song. It earned a tweet by Mythagon, which I screen capped and treasure to this day, and despite a couple other songs I did, I have no memory of anyone talking music with me.

If you went to the blog post I made that day, there were comments, including one saying I should present my topic at 'Global Math' one night. And you'll see I was skeptical of that, but it did come up again when someone associated with them said that maybe I could do a half hour split with someone else. I said if you really think so, and that was the last I heard of that, there was no further followup.

A takeaway from 2013 was that my niche is not something this community is interested in - song parodies are for the camp as a whole, not for the classroom. I continued to develop it locally, because I have that luxury - TMC wasn't the first time I'd presented it - strongly linking it with my personified math. Fast forward to June 29th of this year, when I fired out to the MTBoS, do I promote at TMC16? Or accept that you are not an audience for personified math?

I got responses from Audrey McLaren, Manan Shah, and Chris Burke, effectively saying go for it. That's when I decided I would bring some cards, and even do a video to "My Fave" that math song. So you have them to thank for the performance. Also Joel Bezaire, who let me use his connector when I forgot to bring mine to the front, and who reminded me of how to mirror my laptop.)

I got 36 Twitter notifications within half an hour, which for me is unheard of. You'll see me go through them later, but one that stood out was TheJLV, who simply tweeted "This guy." with a minute of video. I single him out first, because of how he was a keynote speaker, and having a shout-out by someone of that calibre who wasn't even following me just blew me away. More later.

#12: ""by Edmund Harriss (@Gelada). He said that thanks to us, he has a successful math colouring book. As a reward, there will be another colouring book! Arriving Nov 29th. He added that since he did all the obvious mathematics illustrations in the first one, he really got to play around this time. Edmund showed a number of interesting images.

An illustration of the unfortunately named "hairy ball theorem". Sangaku, which are Japanese geometry puzzles, here relating circle ratios. A map of the world, still Mercator projection, but the north pole is in the middle. A fractal which he suspects people will start to colour and only then realize it's 3D. A slide had all the different ways of adding 11. "Young Diagrams" are important in high level geometry but can be introduced to elementary level students (per yesterday's keynote). A three dimensional visualization of the "orchard illusion".

To conclude, Edmund noted that if your kids are struggling with something, that's fine because everyone is struggling with this stuff, and that's part of the joy. There will also be four lesson plans based on the images.

#13: "NCTM" by Steve Weimar (@sweimar). Last year "The Math Forum" joined NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) - as he said "we've truly caught the attention of NCTM". We have people serving on committees, and have been asked to bring the council to the community, rather than it being a formal organization of standards and policy. And they want help to do that, if you think of anything that would help.

Two memberships were randomly drawn to give to attendees in the room. (Glenn cleverly suggested a RandInt calculated for a spreadsheet, rather than names into a basket.) Noted that the e-membership costs less, and you can see everything online. Remember, "NCTM is supposed to be us, and it doesn't represent us if we are not part of it." 


Back in our morning session we looked at concrete examples of the preassessments from yesterday - it's again part of it's own post. Click here to go to Day 3. It's where you'll see one of the quotes. There is another link to bring you back.

In fact, I left with 30+ minutes still on the clock, so if someone else who was there wants to speak to how the session wrapped up, please do. The reason I left was to see Sean S and David P, as Sean had asked if I wanted to help out with or sing the TMC song. 

(Back to 2013, when after hearing about Sean and getting up the courage to poke at him, he also told me when they were working on the song, also on Day 3. And I was told there was a google document that people added to, and I was given access, and there was some talk of bouncing rhymes around. But based on my approaching them, the perceived lack of discussion of music with me to that point, and how informal they were, I saw the experience as being dismissive. Wow, was that wrong. Their informal method is still how it works in 2016. Time, it provides perspective.)

I talked with Sean and David for a bit, and let me say, I'm even more impressed with the final song result now, because of how it seems to emerge so organically. I guess I'd envisioned certain people tackling certain verses, or deadlines, or something more than "here it is, got thoughts?". I don't operate very well when things are so open, I require structure.

The point being, I got lunch with them (went to Jimmy John's sandwiches for the first time), but ended up gravitating towards a couple other people instead. I chatted with David Cohen, and then Sara Vaughn - in large part because she had some song parodies of her own. She'd written them in 2004, and they were neat! One on Pythagorus was to the tune of some rally/cheer, which had the slow-fast thing down perfect, and another involved zero to the tune of "Rudolph". And they were in powerpoint, the same way I usually do it!

As we talked, I was also trying to upload photos to the Shutterfly site, figuring that contributing images was probably the best way I could help the music group at this point. But reception in Murphy Square was terrible, so after a second failed attempt at an upload, I excused myself to go closer to the dorms to do it. That's when I started going back through, and responding to, the tweets from 3 hours earlier.

Many were similar to what people had said to me personally that morning, variations on how they enjoyed it, it was awesome, but a couple things stood out to me. Kathryn Freed, who said "thanks for being vulnerable". Interesting fact - I didn't feel vulnerable. I wasn't worried about what people would say or how they would react (heck, I've done a "My Favourite" and karaoke in front of this audience before, merely not at the same time). I saw it more as having nothing to lose.

Literally, the WORST thing that could have happened to me was that I would get polite applause and be ignored. (Throwing of tomatoes in a church is frowned on.) And I am VERY used to the feeling of doing creative stuff, and having it be ignored. I think I mentioned performing the last four years at Christmas assemblies? I have approached School Council every single time. No one has come to me saying, "Do you have another one this year?" My time travel writing, weekly for over a year, has less than 10 regular readers. Someone even told me at TMC how they seem to recall me tweeting about these complaints, and yeah, sorry for that.

It's not because I want people to "look at me!", not exactly. It's because I can't improve my writing and other creative efforts without someone saying WHY "that was awesome" or "that sucked". Yes, I got a couple tweets when the parody first came out, but Megan S is the only new voice who followed up later. Sure, I get some information from students, but I can't tell them to please share my videos, because when you're in a position of authority, that really doesn't fly.

So yeah. Not vulnerable. Just another desperate cry for feedback.

The second thing that stood out for me was Julie Reulbach who tweeted out a Periscope. It stood out partly because I am still not clear on what that app is about, and because EPIC was scrawled across it at the end. But mostly because I heard her singing quietly along in the background. Yes, GOOD. While up there, I heard some people chiming in at the yellow text parts, and that is what I do to try and encourage joining in if it doesn't happen right away. But mostly people were listening.

And I want to know why. Because I have found in a classroom setting, students often won't join in, probably because they're with their peers. But in a school assembly, almost every student joins in, even though most have no idea what a "polar plot" is. I figured safety in numbers, more anonymity. And yet, big crowd here, and any singing during my song was pretty quiet - so was it because you were too caught off guard? Or self conscious? Was it because the tune was unfamiliar? Or did you see it as a thing I was doing that you could not do? Inquiring minds want to know. Because I feel like the last isn't true.

In other news, rehearse your talks, I'd ball-parked 2 minutes for my slides, and turns out I took 4 minutes. I also say "um" and "uh" a lot. Derp.

After going through all the tweets (and uploading pics), it was somehow 5 minutes to one o'clock, and I had to head back for the next round of Favourites. I got some enlightenment from Max on my comic and kudos from Jose in the process.

#14: "Pencil Sharpener Ingenuity" by Sara (@vaughn_trapped). She felt the last year had gone badly. She'd tried sign up desks, mini white board supplies, bulletin boards, it didn't feel good - the best thing she did all year was the following. Placing an electric pencil sharpener, plugged in, outside her classroom. Taped to a stool.

The students will have sharp pencils. The noise is outside, and there's a camera so they won't mess around with it. People from other classes can also walk by and sharpen. The principal even took a picture. Because when you're having a bad year, sometimes this is the best thing that can happen - "and I'll take it."

#15: "Conversations that Matter" by Brian (@TheMillerMath). A take on one of his favourite Mathalicious lessons, "Licensed to Ill", he draws a connection with probability. But first, Brian noted how a post of karimkai gave him the title, with "math class as a place for conversations that matter" - math can help a student to better understand something in the real world.

The lesson itself looks at the price of heart surgery, the probability people will need it, and the students become the insurance company. Scenario 1: Price so that the company will break even. There's a disconnect found between what's good for people and the company. Scenario 2: Set your single price and now there's no way to make a profit (only break even at $20,000 when one guy buys). Scenario 3: Mandated insurance. Scenario 4: Deny only Daniel (preexisting condition).

Brian doesn't want to manipulate their moral compass too much, but after they compute an answer without the guy (he's over half the expected cost), Brian asks, what happened to Daniel? And they still have a coin in their hand to flip, to see if he had a heart attack. And does it matter who Daniel is? Then Scenario 5, where the hospital will operate, but lose money, and have to raise the cost of surgery, and now look at poor Claire.

Scenario 6 took a more realistic population distribution, more like the Mathalicious lesson. What are the advantages here? High ceiling, and having a conversation that mattered. the mathematics will help students become better citizens.

#16: "I See Math" by Denis (@MathDenisNJ). He started by saying he loved TMC, thank you for sharing, and also how his morning session on "Instant Relevance" (day by day statistics) is related to a book coming out in 3 weeks with help from Dave Burgess Consulting.

He then shows images, including his lunch, pointing out the math. And after doing these graphics for a while, he found it wasn't as exciting, because it takes time to graph a lot of things. Enter Alice Keeler and "50 things you can do with google classroom" and now Denis has a 3-Slide format in Google Slides. Keep it simple: White background, default text, the following format: (1) Title. (2) Image. (3) Vague guiding question (make a story out of it).

Some examples were: (A) "Too Much Coffee". A picture of iced coffee sizes versus hot coffee sizes and prices. "I love coffee (wife anecdote) what's the best bang for my buck?" (B) "Stick or Log?" A picture of a fox. "That fox has something in it's mouth, why would I say a log and not a stick?" (C) "How Big Is That?" A picture of Isamu Noguchi's cube art in NYC. "What does the question 'how big is that' mean to you?" (relative to people, to volume, etc) Here's a shared folder of more! Add yours!

If you get google slides on your phone, you can even set this up right away after taking a picture, and retell the story that got you there. Hopefully kids will start to say "I saw this math, you won't believe what I saw!" Denis also plugged something called GeoGuesser.

At this point, I noticed that with all the extra activity today, my computer was already down to 15% power. So I shut off the WiFi and ran silent in order to make it through the next 60 minutes.


The topic of Dylan Kane's keynote makes for a good sub header here too. After some technical glitches, filled with people talking about their flex sessions, Dylan hit us with the following: What made you a better teacher, and what were the conditions which made that happen?

I happened to be sitting near Joel B, so we talked. He mentioned his Masters in Math, I more vaguely had trouble pinning down a moment I decided I "couldn't do everything", and learned to let some things go. Dylan then took us back to when he had a Mentor. When he could converse with people about teaching and learning, instead of filling a bag of bigger tricks. With time, we get better, but there are ways we can influence that.

In his first year of teaching, Dylan was "I do. We do. You do." all the time. He felt good about his teaching until a twist in the second week, but he had an instructional coach, and got better at explaining and breaking things down. He also immersed himself in blogs, lurking on Twitter, and learning about what engagement looks like and what great math teaching can be. That helped him keep going, while he was plugging through the daily grind.

February rolls around, and he hasn't been doing the things that he's been seeing. Now, volumes of cylinders and spheres was the topic in his 8th grade class, so he went to Dan Meyer's "Meatballs 3 Act". How many meatballs make the sauce pot overflow? Fertile ground for reasoning, Dylan was excited, planned the lesson out, and felt really good about it afterwards.

Later that afternoon, he got an email from his instructional coach with some feedback. "What was it you wanted kids to learn?" "When you say you don't care about the wrong answer, they disengage." "The video got them off task." "They weren't engaging in multiple ways." And Dylan's response was pretty much, "screw that, it's Dan Meyer's hand in the video!" But while he thought a 3-Act would be a magic elixir, his coach was right, and the kids didn't learn much.

In retrospect, here's two lessons he says he could have learned that day, and didn't. First: My intuition isn't very good. And that's being human - in places as complex as classrooms, there's tons of things flying by, so we'll focus on the things we want to see. I saw 4 excited kids, not 20 who were kind of chilling. Second: There are no easy fixes. We cannot just plug something in to create magic, it's about building a skill, like steering kids towards engaging in estimation, not one more weird thing a teacher is asking in class.

But "I didn't take that perspective at the time, I didn't learn those lessons. I threw everything at the wall to see what would stick." Problem based lessons, new style quiz, et cetera, all the while fighting to keep his head above water, because he didn't know what made the tools work. What questions to ask to facilitate discussions. And now, because each day was different from the last, students who needed routine required extra support.

His title "more than resources" is because this community is really incredible for what it's created, but the paradigm is missing something. Clever ideas is NOT equivalent to coherent curriculum. Clever ideas tend to help the clever kids the most. "Once I could look objectively at my students, and see how they were becoming greater, I realized I needed to be more purposeful, more thoughtful."

Quote: "No, the ten thousand hour rule isn't really a rule" -Anders Ericsson, whose research Malcolm Gladwell cited when coining the 10,000 hour rule. The idea being that you spend that much time on something, you become an expert. But there are a lot of drivers who have spent 10,000 hours on the road, and they're pretty terrible drivers. Yes, you have to practice, but you need DELIBERATE practice. Great chess players don't just play great games of chess.

Deliberate Practice: Gets you out of your comfort zone. (Take risks, and share failures.) Is focussed. (Pushes every day to be a little better.) Involves feedback. (Like from Dylan's coach.) Has well-defined, specific goals. (Even with the other pieces, you need a set of goals.)

(Another quick aside on my part -- while I feel like my creative stuff does the first two things in spades, it's the feedback that's killing me. Mainly because I don't know who to talk to, and feel like if I speak directly to someone rather than vaguely to everyone, that one person won't "get it". At least in the classroom, you don't have to ask who your audience is! Am I the only one with this problem? Also, my goals keep changing. Originally, personified math was to make math fun, then it was to look at different math concepts, and now it seems to be to create a reflection of society. I keep changing it because my ultimate goals of entertainment and engagement are elusive. )

Related to feedback, Dylan got ambitious with "Nix the Tricks" and removed all of them. It went badly! The tricks needed to be replaced with understanding, and Dylan missed students who said they didn't get it, couldn't get it without the "trick". Related to goals, there was the book "Intentional Talk", and breaking discussions down into six types. We shouldn't say "I'll get better at teaching - by MTBoS!" Rather, say "I'll get better at discussion". As an example, Open Middle Problems were another tool Dylan found hard. Kids didn't magically learn, it took sequencing individual answers, and getting kids to take risks.

People love to say things like 'teachers stop improving after their third year', or whatever. Crazy. Like the world believes we're bad, until we're okay, then we're like that forever. It all comes back to deliberate practice - what is lacking? Be critical of yourself in a constructive way. The other crazy thing is 'the deconstruction of the K-12 teacher'. Like the future of education is a computer screen with a "tech" to make sure the equipment works and the students behave. Lots of people have these paradigms.

Dylan doesn't have these paradigms. We have to change, but the solution isn't to turn everything on it's head, rejecting the research and what we've done in our careers. What's powerful is when we take the unique experiences of the kids in class, and build on that. "I believe in teaching." To quote from Dylan William, "Like so much else in education, 'what works' is the wrong question, because everything works somewhere and nothing works everywhere." (p. 139) It's expertise, it's knowing the tools you have and where they work.

This is Dylan's vision for great teaching: Teachers who come to work every day with a ton of tools, expertise, and knowledge for what will work in what context. Making our tools better all the time. This community, this giant wall of resources, can have teachers track and develop and see what works, helping year after year to teach math a little better.

He points out (breaking some hearts?) that Barbie Bungee is not his favourite thing. When he first taught it, it was a mess. No connections between rubber bands and representation. But he did it again, and he's not terrible at it, but we shouldn't think of it as one lesson, it's one iteration of this TYPE of lesson - where kids are networking with something concrete. Move to how that way of thinking can influence a dozen lessons, and a ton of concepts.

It's unrealistic to ask teachers to change more than 10% of their teaching at once. But it's unprofessional to expect teachers won't try and change. He notes, "I think I'm a less terrible teacher than I was", and a lot of improvement has come from having more in the toolbox. "I'm not going to transform overnight." It's about deliberate practice - be open to it.

Dylan's "Call to Action"? First, he wants to know what your 10% is going to be, and how you can be more purposeful about it. Second, how can this community create tools that are more useful for more teachers? How do we share, and influence other people, and encourage risk taking? "I have way more questions than answers about how this looks. I want to finish with a really sincere thank you."

With my computer at 3% power, I ran by the dorms for my power cord before proceeding to "New Teachers", the session where 55 of you answered the survey sent out before TMC. Coordinated by Amy Zimmer, Wendy Menard, and Glenn Waddell, there were three of us there - Tom Hall, John Golden, and me. I was there partly because I've wondered about taking on a student teacher.

The session started with introductions, then a quote from Angie Miller, 2011 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, who said "As a new teacher I felt completely blindsided..." and then went on to mention a number of things veteran teachers STILL struggle with. Because kids change, and classrooms do have personalities. The "Family Feud" plan was shelved due to a technical glitch and not enough people for teams, but we looked through the top 3 answers for the questions.

1) A word to describe your first year: Overwhelmed/Stressed (14). Enthusiastic/Engaged (7). Clueless/Unprepared (4). Innovative came up more than once; someone said arrogant. Wendy adds, "I didn't understand the whole idea of a lesson plan every day." - one course she taught didn't even have a defined curriculum. (*I'd said 'Busy')

2) How many years teaching? 10-16 years (18). 4-9 years (11). Less than 3 years (8). Glenn was surprised by the large number (half) of teachers still in their first 10 years - are there younger people at PCMI? Is social media the younger demographic? Also, where ARE the other 18 who answered the survey and aren't at this panel? More right below. (*I'm at 10+ years)

3) What did you do best your first year? Build relationships with students (19). Be organized (6). Ask for help (4). We teach people, not content, and it's important to help new teachers understand that early. Students have to trust you. At college, that's harder, you see them less. Could it be that many newer teachers are chasing content and tools at TMC? This community can be overwhelming for veterans, so it can be hard to filter things out. (*I'd said organized)

4) What you needed the most help with: Classroom Management (14). Curriculum (5). Good Mentor (3). A perception can be that if it's quiet, that's good, and chaos is not. But a routine doesn't have to mean rigorous, it can be as simple as where to turn in papers. (Glenn: Have one place for all classes rather than different period bins they need to check.) After Dylan's keynote, are we giving new teachers tricks, not deep understanding? (Glenn: We would never, ever take a rocket scientist and say, 'the first few rockets you send will blow up, that's expected', yet our mindset seems to be that the first year of teaching is going to suck. First year should be a positive, supportive environment as they struggle.) (*I'd said relaxing)

5) Most embarrassing new teacher moment: Had virtually no repeats. Some were themes on crying (in front of students or other teachers or parents). Someone said "mispronouncing names of Hispanic students because I was unfamiliar with their culture". It's hard to categorize open response stuff like this. Noted that doing math wrong being embarrassing assumes a need for perfection; if we do everything right, it's as if they have to do everything right. (*I'd said terminology.)

6) Recurring teacher nightmare: Being unprepared (6). Being late (4). "That" class (2). Not much to add here, see above. (*I'd said unprepared.)

7) What do kids ask the most: "Are you married?" (11) "How old are you?" (10) "Do you have kids?" (7). They're trying to figure out who we are as people. Advice: Don't share anything you're not comfortable with the entire school knowing in ten minutes, but share enough to appear human. (*I'd said, how many ties do you own?)

8) Something you wish someone had told you before: "It's all about the kids." (10) "It's okay to be wrong." (8) "It will suck at first, but it will get better." (8) ... That last flies in the face of comments in #4, and how can you recruit people to a profession by saying 'it'll suck'? Perhaps tell them, "It will be hard, and it takes time to learn to do something that's hard." (*I'd said adding one class adds workload while cutting time - don't teach two summer school classes at once.)

9) Teaching which topic gives you Imposter Syndrome? Probability (7). Statistics (6). Trigonometry (5). A teacher may not see Trig in college, which could account for it. I'D said "Finance", which may be a Canadian thing, as the others there told me it tends to be in "Economics" which is the social science department. Glenn added that, in Nevada, Finance is taught by the class on government! ("What do we give up to teach finance?" "Whatever you want.")

Mentoring: It's one of the most positive, supportive things we can do. People may not think that's what's missing, but mentoring can make new teaching easier. I mentioned the mentoring class I went through, which some people resented because it pulled them out of class (was during school hours). The person Tom Hall found to be a mentor was a social studies teacher down the hall. KEY: Due to the radical difference in content, he talked more about instruction and what students were doing.

The inclination is to pair secondary teachers by subject. But back to yesterday's keynote by Tracy, this means talk turns to curriculum ("I was teaching fractions") rather than pedagogy ("These students weren't getting along"). Perhaps we need to shift the idea of mentorship outside of subjects, and purposefully cross-seed it? To take the focus away from content?

Three areas of need were mentioned by the presenters: Academic (paperwork, grading, parents, systems*). Social/Political (finding your niche, being vocal in dept, saying no, creating classroom culture). Personal (How to ask for help, impostor syndrome, taking care of yourself, systems*). A few further tips: 

  • Plan a substitute day, and take it before you need it. That way you get to see the process, decide what to leave behind, and get a chance to be a normal human before you're freaking out.
  • If you're going to volunteer for something, make it during school hours only, so it doesn't suck the life out of your weekends. If asked, inquire "when does it meet and how often". It's great to get to know kids, but set boundaries.
  • Newer, younger teachers can have more energy - great, but know that work-life balance is something even veteran teachers are still figuring out. Don't be embarrassed to do things that help, like having someone else clean your house for you.
  • I mentioned how I withdrew from social media and the MTBoS for a while because it was too much, and others added we must remember our primary commitment is to ourselves, and our family, not an online community.
Wendy noted, "I'd had a really successful career, and then I went into this job, and I wasn't good at it for a long time. It was hard feeling incompetent." Following this were the flex sessions, and I went to "Mathematicians, More than just white dudes", by Annie Perkins. Returning to the social justice side of things.

Annie had given this talk at NCTM. It's not her idea, it's that of her students'. She had been talking about Pythagorus, trying to get the kids involved, and one kid - Emilio - asked her "Why do we always talk about white dudes?". And I look, there's this big white bust on the board. (Interestingly, Pythagorus probably looked more dark than we credit, but that's not what the student was asking.) She said, "Would it matter if we talked about a Mexican mathematician?", and he said "Do you think there are any?"

She's thinking 'of course' but didn't know any, so said she would find out. And after showing one such guy, and seeing how over the moon the kid was, the "mathematicians project" was born. Because where she teaches (locally), 50% of her class are caucasian, the others are not - and so when we say "you can do the math" they don't have a reference point. So on Fridays, she took 5-10 minutes to present a mathematician... anyone except "old, white, rich, dead men".

Annie noted, "I'm not trying to make the white kids in the classroom feel terrible. I'm very clear about why I'm doing this." She often goes to wikipedia, and she's a history major so she knows that's bad research, but the point is to have someone they can relate to. She mentions any awards and the math specialty, even if it's over the heads of middle school students.

A pitfall she fell into is that a lot of women's stories really suck. ("Guess what happened next?" "Nobody supported her!" "You're right!") So balance with some who don't have a terrible time - Fan Chung is a great example. Spin a story from the flavour a website gives. Another pitfall: Annie found an African-American woman and thought 'two-for-one' but the kids pushed back because she didn't have light skin, or her hairstyle wasn't like theirs. There was also difficulty finding a trans mathematician, and one with non-binary sexuality.  (She crowdsourced a bit.)

"I cannot stress to you enough how this has impacted my students." They're also pretty understanding and forgiving if she has to defer a type of person by a week - "Kids accept our failings better than we do." Some feedback included 'well done', 'stop', 'boring' and 'do any like cows?' (Kids are also weird.) But the relationship payoff is a no brainer, and she learned more about her students this way too.

Annie also had them do student projects, where they made a slide of themselves. Requirements: General bio, any accomplishments (math or not) and specialities (had to include one math thing). Some kids had to be pushed in terms of the speciality, perhaps something they worked really hard on and got better at. A next step might be a bulletin board, as a more constant visual reminder, and contacting living mathematicians.

Annie will be looking for sites to tweet out, and Sara VanDerWerf asked her to guest blog on her site. For the last 25 minutes, there was some general discussion of Social Justice math. It was mentioned that none of the free Mathalicious lessons use that for the topic. The site has lots of statistics (but was becoming dated in 2008). Max Ray's talk, tweeted by Dan, was brought up (and there had been pushback on the title).

Megan Schmidt, who had presented at a state conference, brought up a graph of MCA score average compared to percentages of free reduced lunch (a federal program). James Cleveland proposed #SJMath as a tag for future discussion, and Dylan Kane the website Max Ray-Riek remarked on where we position teachers of colour, perhaps rural teachers can collaborate with urban teachers. And Megan noted how one of NCTM's principles is ensuring access and equity - can you say with confidence every student has the same in mathematics?


That ended at 5pm, and I headed back to the dorms. I uploaded a few more pictures of people playing around with things in Foss, then took a nap. I don't recall a time when I've ever felt more mentally exhausted. Not physically, not even emotionally, there was simply too much for my brain to parse. And I wasn't interested in the trip to the "Mall of America". (I buy Sheri's comparison to the West Edmonton Mall.)

I was up again by 6pm. I finally decided to add something to the "TMC Song" file, but my timing was bad - about 10 minutes later, the whole document had been reformatted, and my stuff was overwritten soon after. I really do not have the hang of organic social networking, which VERY plausibly explains my feedback problems. I guess I need to upgrade my phone?

I also went back through Twitter, and found an interesting piece by Brian Bushart (as tweeted by Heather) looking into how we reference numbers. We start by seeing them as adjectives ('one fish') and transition to them being nouns ('one plus two'). The same start occurs with fractions, but we DON'T provide the same chance to transition them to nouns ('one over two'), which could explain some of the trouble.

There were vague dinner plans in the feed, but in the end, at 7pm, I decided to take a walk. A long walk. A 12,000 step walk. It included going over the pedestrian/rail bridge to the University of Minnesota, where I read some of the quotes on their "Scholar's Walk". One relevant one I tweeted: "The biggest hindrance to learning is fear of showing one's self a fool." -William Least Heat-Moon. Had dinner, used the $1 off coupon I got at the ball game at Dairy Queen, and came back after sunset, the long way around.

Got in after 10:30pm, had a good chuckle over the fact that Glenn's YouTube of my "My Favourite" had more views than my own initial video (18 to 16). And now I'm curious... okay, 7pm on July 20th, looks like 65 viewers on Julie's Periscope, 38 views for Glenn, and 28 for me. I'm not sure what that says aside from Views being a terrible metric for anything, but often I have no alternative.

I debated what to do about this Recap Post. I decided there would be too much in it to handle (the text file is over 50kB). I tweeted out apologies, saying I didn't have the brainpower to do it right, not really expecting a response, but Meg Craig responded anyway. (Thanks!) Instead, I packed up my suitcase, so I wouldn't have to do it in the morning. And I was up for another hour, but I do not remember what I did anymore - so yeah. There you have it. Thanks for reading to the end - or if you skipped down, thanks for reading the end! One more day left to blog. It shouldn't take six hours.