Archive for October, 2013


I have been thinking about how I use Twitter and how other people use Twitter (or could use it).  I usually go on every night, generally after dinner.  My husband starts watching his favorite television shows and I start “watching” Twitter.  While he is watching southerners catch alligators or Alaskans catch crabs, I watch the #Mtbos, the MathTwitterBlogoSphere.  Thanks to several especially entertaining people, my Twittervision is usually better than his television.  And if it is a slow night, I can always go blog surfing.

When I first started lurking on Twitter, it was a little more purposeful.  I was on the hunt for information about SBG (standards based grading).  I found it in spades.  I read so many blogs that they all started to run together.  Some of them stand out.

I started with Dan Meyer’s dy-dan.  After my first year of teaching, I had taken a class with him during an exciting week of summer PD at the Maine School of Science & Mathematics.  For me, it was a case of hang on and try to keep up.  But once I hit his blog, I found my way to other resources on SBG by reading the comments.  Thank god for comments on blogs; they’re the web that holds it all together.  Thanks, Dan for serving as a locus.

Following the web, I found Shawn Cornally’s Think, Thank, Thunk; this is a goldmine of information on SBG with links to other people who know SBG.  And Kate Nowak’s f(t), which didn’t have SBG, but sure is an interesting read.  Then it was on to Bowman Dickson’s whiteboards, and then Cheesemonkeysf (who could resist that handle?).  And Michael Pershan’s Rational Expressions.  I can’t list them all, but very stop had comments from interesting people and links to interesting blogs.

I felt like a drowning woman who has reached the oasis.  I could not. stop. drinking.  School started and I still could not stop.  Papers did not get graded.  Lessons were not well planned.  I read about Twitter Math Camp (TMC) and wished I could have gone.  I started following the whole #Mtbos gang.  I read people’s blog rolls to see who else had blog’s worth reading.  I spent my summer trying to figure a way to work in TMC13 (with no success).  I started tweeting and had some responses, but most nights I was content to watch.

Now I have to find a way to break the addiction.  I want, no I need the twitterverse to be more than twittervision.  I need to make it a purposeful part of my PD, not a spectator activity.  And I know the way to do that is to start sharing.  The catch (22) is that I have been so caught by Twitter, I haven’t been paying enough attention to my classes.  I have to cut waaayy back, set limits, stop.  And that won’t be easy.

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For our first mission in exploring the MTBoS, @samjshah has asked us to respond to one of two prompts.  I am excited to be a part of this great adventure and to see what other people have posted.

I am a pretty new teacher; this is only my third year.  My first year, I had a small group of high school students in a pre-algebra class.  As you can imagine, they were not excited to be taking a remedial math course.  But they sure were having fun baiting the new teacher.  I don’t remember how many times I cried after that period; I was so frustrated.

I did notice there was a common thread that was underneath their total disengagement.  They didn’t think math had any relevance to their lives and interests.  One day, one kid said for the umpteenth time, “This is stupid; I’ll never use this.”  And I blew up.


On the spur of the moment, I assigned the whole class a project, The Passion Project.  Their assignment was to choose something they loved and then show their classmates and me where the math could be found in that thing.  The moans were impressive.  I had a strong feeling of “There, take that!”

Then a funny thing happened.  As I started explaining the project, I started to calm down.  It began to seem like a good project, even if it did have its birth in anger.  Making it up as I went, I outlined the parameters.  It must be something you love, you had to find a way to present it to the class [Yes, everyone, even people who don’t like to get in front of the room.  There’s ways around that.], it would only count as much as a quiz, and there would be no class time.  No, none.  At first, I called the Second Quarter Project, but then it morphed into the Passion Project.

Some kids knew right away what they wanted to do, but weren’t sure how to find the math.  Some of the easy ones included basketball and dance.  However, some kids really struggled with just finding a topic.  So we had a discussion.

What do you like to do when you’re not at school?  Nuthin’.  Well, describe what you do when you get home.  Nuthin’. Ok, so you get home, you walk in the door, and then what?  Watch TV, maybe.  Uh huh, do you watch TV all weekend, too? No, I go muddin’, sometimes.  Ah, on a 4 wheeler or in a truck?  Neither, dirt bike.

So, finally, a topic, something the student is interested in.  Whew!  I only had a couple that were like that, thank goodness.

Then it was just a matter of making sure they knew what to do.  A couple of students were really distressed about finding math in their passion.  I had to make it clear that it didn’t have to complicated math.  It could be as simple as how many miles to the gallon or the dimensions of the basketball court.  But some of the students really jumped in and looked for math.

The best part was hearing and seeing what they all loved to do.  And they all started to see that there really is math everywhere.  Success!  It was such a fun project, that I did it again the next year.  I’m not sure about this year; my classes are a little different, but I hope to find a way to include it.

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