My Wunderkammer: A Visual Resume

About 6 years ago, I remember receiving a stack of resumes for a math teaching job. We were looking to hire someone to join our department, and there were so many resumes and cover letters to go through. Over 50, maybe around 100. And my eyes started glazing over. The resumes looked similar, and the cover letters were banal. And then: one applicant stuck out.

It was a cover letter that gave a link to a really simple website, and on that website was an educational philosophy, a few sample tests, and some student work. Although it was pretty basic, what I liked was that on that simple site I got a much better sense of who this candidate was. I loved the idea. And I decided then and there that I would create my own teaching portfolio online that would capture who I was as a teacher.

This past summer, I did it.

To be clear: this isn’t a reflective teacher portfolio.  It’s a descriptive teacher portfolio. It is something that I put together — a mishmash of snippets — that together hopefully gives a solid sense of who I am, what I do, what I believe in. I think calling it a visual teaching resume or a wunderkammer best describes it. (Click on the image to go to the site.)


There are a few missing things that I would like to add to this site at some oint:

  • I would like to add everyday samples of student work. Not projects. Just everyday stuffs.
  • I would like to add a section about the two week history of science course I designed and implemented with another teacher this year. (See Days 80-87 on my 180 blog for more.)
  • I would like to add a section about the “Explore Math” project (more info here and here) I did in Precalculus this year.
  • I would like to finish the student quotation page. I actually have quotations typed for a number of previous years, but I do not have more recent years ready.

It was pretty simple to make (I used the free website creator weebly) and I hope if I ever were to go on the job market, it would catch the eyes of whoever had the giant stack of cover letters and resumes in front of them. I wasn’t really going to make a post about my visual resume, or share it with anyone, because I thought: who would care?

But heck: maybe someone out there is going on the job market and thinks the idea is worth replicating? So I decided to post.

Mission #8: Sharing is Caring in the MTBoS


Here I’m reblogging our last mission from the Explore the #MTBoS!

Originally posted on Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere:

It’s amazing. You’re amazing. You joined in the Explore the MathTwitterBlogosphere set of missions, and you’ve made it to the eighth week. It’s Sam Shah here, and whether you only did one or two missions, or you were able to carve out the time and energy to do all seven so far, I am proud of you.

I’ve seen so many of you find things you didn’t know were out there, and you tried them out. Not all of them worked for you. Maybe the twitter chats fell flat, or maybe the whole twitter thing wasn’t your thang. But I think I can be pretty confident in saying that you very likely found at least one thing that you found useful, interesting, and usable.

With that in mind, we have our last mission, and it is (in my opinion) the best mission. Why? Because you get to do something…

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Explore the MathTwitterBlogosphere

If you’re reading this post, it means that you are someone I think is amazing. Because you already are reading math teacher blogs. (Or at least one of them.) And if you’ve read stuff on my blog in the past two years, you’ll see that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with this math teacher community that I’ve found on the interwebs. They have become not only colleagues and collaborators and constant inspiration, but also they’ve become my friends.

I want as many math teachers that are out there to have as amazing an experience as I have had. I hate writing about this community because I think everyone out there thinks How hyperbolic is this guy!? Seriously?! But it’s not hyperbole. It’s real. IT’S REAL. IT’S REAL.

This past summer, four of us (Tina Cardone, Julie Reulbach, Justin Lanier, and me!) sat down and brainstormed how we could offer a way for someone to experience what we’ve experienced. We wanted to come up with a no-pressure way to help those new to the online math teacher world make their way into meeting others out there and finding access to amazing resources… and a way to let those who have been in this world all the shiny new and amazing stuff that has been generated in the past year. 

And then we had it! The idea!


If you are intrigued, click on the banner and see what it’s all about. The fun starts on October 6th, 2013.


TMC13: The State of Things (for Me)

I recently went to TMC13. If you don’t know what that is… there is a community of math teacher bloggers and twitterers who met up at a conference called “twitter math camp 2013.” It was a conference “for us, by us.” I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about our community in the past two years. Here’s my current iteration of my thoughts, after this conference.

I want to be clear that this is my experience and thoughts. I know I am not everyman, and I know my musings maybe (probably) do not match everyone’s experiences out there.


The day I came back from TMC13, I was scheduled to give a talk to about twenty peeps about to enter their first year of teaching in New York City. My goal was to show them that the mathtwitterblogosphere is a place that can help them – if they put in some initial legwork, and keep an open mind. I did my schtick for around 90 minutes, and then I left, feeling like I had failed.

It wasn’t that I actually had failed. I asked them to fill out notecards at the end with their honest opinions/thoughts/questions, and I had gotten really uplifting feedback.

But here’s the thing. I wasn’t able to package what we were, and how insanely perfect a community this is, and how insane it would be for someone in their shoes to not take advantage. And that’s because I don’t know how to bottle up that kind of fire and passion. All I can do are pale shadows of pale shadows. I showed them a bunch of things, I had them read tweets from others, I let them explore (in an open-ended but guided way) resources that I thought would be especially helpful to them. But I left knowing I could have done much better.

We’re inspirational. But how the hell do you get that across without sounding like a zealot? Maybe sounding like a zealot is the answer.

Because coming on the heels of TMC13, I have nothing but the most amazing feelings about MTBoS. Last year I left TMC12 grateful that I could now call my tweeps “friends” and mean it in the entire sense of the word. They got me – to the core – because who I am at the core is a math teacher. It defines me. And the  people at TMC12, with their “unnatural obsession with teaching math,” reveled in being with others of our own kind. We’re a rare breed.

This year, I had all those feelings – yes – but the main takeaway of the conference was new. It was that we are a powerful force. We are not a loosely connected network of professionals, but we are a growing, tightly-connected network of professionals engaged in something unbelievably awesome. Through this community, we are all – in our own ways – becoming teacher leaders [1].

Here’s what I mean. I have been teaching for only six years. I took a total of 5 classes on education in college during my senior year. And the honest truth is: I’m not amazing in the classroom. I will repeat that because it is crucial for this post. I’m not amazing in the classroom. Conclusion: I am not – by anyone’s criteria – an expert.

But I’ve learned through this community that I have value. And this, here, is precisely it. This is what I tried to make clear when talking about our community and TMC13, but kinda failed, to those about to embark in their first year in the classroom. Every single math teacher out there who cares about their students and their student’s learning has value. I don’t care if you’ve been teaching one year or one month. And that value could be confined to your classroom, or to your school. But what the mathtwitterblogosphere does is it allows us to have value for each other too. And that means suddenly that have value beyond our own local neighborhood. [2] By having our little cabal of math teachers connect online, things like age, years of experience, the type of school we are at… those things begin to matter less. It’s the personalities, the way we interact with each other, the ideas that we share and the resources we freely give, the emotional support that we provide… those things matter more.

I want to unpack the “tightly-connected” adjective used above, because I think this is actually what TMC13 is helping cultivate. The good things about the community that have made us tightly connected: compassion and empathy, encouragement, inspiration, generosity, and most importantly, a willingness to help each other out at any costs.

What aren’t we willing to do for each other? I’ve fielded midnight phonecalls from tweeps in distress, and written pick-me-up emails to people who are feeling down. I’ve shared a whole year’s worth of calculus materials I’ve created with people teaching calculus for the first time. I’ve had people share their entire precalculus course materials with me, when I said I was teaching it for the first time last year.  I’ve had chocolates sent to me and my department from a tweep, just because. I wanted to make a mathtwitterblogosphere website, and I had so many people immediately volunteer to make videos for me. I’ve been mistreated by (you name it and it’s probably happened) and have gone home in tears, where I felt listened to and supported by people in our tribe. I’ve written letters of recommendation for tweeps looking for new jobs, and I’ve had tweeps write a collective letter of recommendation for a summer program I was applying to. We’ve moved past just being a way to give and receive amazing resources and ideas for the classroom.

We’re invested in each other’s success. We’re invested in each other’s happiness. We’re invested in each other.

That’s why we’re tightly connected.

Another word to describe this? After TMC12, I argued that we could now call each other “friends.” Now, with another year under our belts, I kinda think we can call ourselves a “family.”

How do you bottle that feeling when you realize you, only a sixth year teacher, are valued by others outside of your school? That you are significant to a whole bunch of someones out there in the world? The confidence you get about your own teaching when someone comments saying kids in their classroom loved an activity you created?

How you share that phone call your tweep fielded when you were ready to give up and quit, because you felt like you sucked? And you left that phone call not only feeling better but en energized?

How do you share the rolling, side-splitting laughter that you get when you read a tweet about Air Bud?

How do you share the transformation that the community can give you in your outlook? When you felt like there were so much on your plate and so many obstacles that felt insurmountable – that all you had was a pit in your stomach and only anxiety about returning to school next year… and then you go to TMC13 and you suddenly began to see all the hurdles as opportunities, and you suddenly get excited about attacking them?  

I know this is a schmaltzy post. I know that different people are at different levels of familiarity with those in the community. But I have only love — with recognition that there are real people behind the words on a blogpost and behind the tweets, just trying to do their best, suck a little bit less at teaching, and being generous as much as they can. I have much love for that.

I learned a lot about TMC13 about teaching and learning. And I was going to make a blogpost recap all about those things. But this seemed like a better investment of my time.

(Dedicated to Lisa Henry, Shelli Temple, Max Ray, Anthony Rossetti, James Cleveland, and Jessica  Bogie.)


[1] That’s something I’m coming to realize recently. This community not only puts glass walls around our classrooms, so we can constantly be peering into multiple teaching laboratories and see best practices, but many people are peering into our own classrooms via our online presences. Being a part of this community allows us to grow professionally, and allows us smooth ways to become teacher leaders. We can offer to lead a session at TMC13. We can host a Global Math Department. We can compile a comprehensive set of resources that others can use to align with the Common Core. We can lead online initiatives or start online collaborations that result in something bigger than ourselves and our classrooms. And it’s all done in our safe, encouraging, accepting, helpful, generous community . We can begin to spread our wings as we emerge into professional leaders.

[2] We can have value by sharing windows into our classrooms. Sharing activities and lessons and worksheets. And experiences and ideas. And notes on what didn’t work. We have value by freely giving our experiences and work products to each other.

On the flip side, we can have value by using someone else’s ideas/lessons/activity in our classrooms. It may seem backwards, because we are consumers – freely taking from others. But when someone posts a comment on my blog saying they totally used something I did, I feel uplifted. I feel valued. I feel like my opinion and thoughts matter. So anyone who has ever used any of the things I’ve put out there have so much value to me.

You have value whether you are a consumer, a producer, or a consumer-producer… a lurker, an occasional pop-in-er.

Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere

Coming in October 2013!!!

This year, we’re going to be holding a updated version of the Math Blogger Initiation that happened last year! We were crazy surprised by how many people were interested in joining up and trying something new — blogging with other math teachers! This year, we are planning to have a slightly different program for people to join called…

We’re designing it to help those who are either just starting out with the mathtwitterblogosphere or for those who have dipped their toes in and want to get even more involved. Or even if you have dropped off the face of the virtual planet and want to join back in!

Each week we will post a new adventure for you to participate in involving the online math teacher community. And we are planning a virtual reward for those who participate in every event! However you don’t have to participate every week — you have to do what’s good for you. By the end, we hope you feel like you know much of what’s out there. Ultimately, the end goal is personal growth (not comments and blog readership).

Join us on this exciting adventure! Meet new friends! Get tons of new ideas!

So y’all can start school smoothly, we’re going to be starting this in October, and we’ll release more information in mid-September.

Let the fun begin!
Julie, Justin, Sam, Tina

My thoughts on #MTBoS

That acronym stands for the bulky and unwieldy (in name, in actuality) mathtwitterblogosphere. There have been some heated discussions lately online (on blogs, on twitter, on email) around a post that Dan Meyer wrote about the Global Math Department session called “Choose Your Lunch Table: A Warmer #MTBoS” (you can watch it online). My internet wasn’t working when the session was happening so I was only able to listen in from my phone.

I don’t really want to spend the energy to engage deeply with Dan’s post, as others have done (Approximately Normal, Divisible By 3, f(t)). Briefly, I think Dan has some really valuable things to say in his post, but when it came to his analysis of the session, I believe he was misreading a lot of what was going on. (There were no “corporate resolutions.” And there was no “High Council of the Math Teacher Bloggers.”) There is no better evidence for me thinking Dan was looking at what was happening through a strange lens than simply looking at the google doc that was made during the session, where I just see a thoughtful discussion and some great points.

But I don’t think anyone there saw it as anything more than a rich conversation. (And if I saw what Dan saw, I would agree with him wholeheartedly. I just didn’t see it that way.)

That being said, I wanted to throw my two cents out there during the session, but since I could only listen from my phone, I’ll type what I wanted to say here.

My Two Cents

I love that we’re a disjointed community. There are many conversations going on in many different places. On twitter, yes. On blogs, yes. Over emails, yes. At the global math department, yes. In person, yes. On facebook, yes. There is something ridiculously amazing about how non-centralized and grassroots this all is. And that it has sustained itself for so long, and has been growing so fast.

One of the awesome-est things for me is thinking about how many different ways someone can get involved. Lurking, of course, by reading blogs and tweets. Writing your own blog. Submitting to other blogs (a special moment on the one good thing blog, a graph to daily desmos, a student misconception to the math mistakes blog, an assessment to the better assessments blog…). Attending the global math department. And even starting your own thing because heck, you wanted to (e.g. the a day in the life initiative)!

It’s disjointed, and doesn’t have a center, and that allows for so much creativity and so many different entry points for people. I attribute that this is precisely why this whole community evolves in a positive way, and can grow in the way that it has. I don’t want the disjointedness to change. I don’t want to be an organization. I don’t want a hierarchy.

However, just because we’re disjointed and decentralized does not mean that we can’t ask who we are (knowing the answers are going to be multiple and individual) and what we want to get out of this community (knowing the answers are going to be multiple and individual) and what our experiences have been (knowing the answers are going to be multiple and individual). You get where I’m going here. I think these questions are great because they can lead to some awesome stuff. Approximately Normal got it right…

 I think it will continue to grow and evolve into whatever we need it to be.

But I have to say: growing and evolving doesn’t happen passively. We’re not bystanders in the process. We are actively doing it in the ways that we’re participating with the community — whether we’re conscious of it or not. So questions like: who are we? what do we want to be? how can we make our experiences better? what can we give back to others? How could those be bad questions — as long as we understand the answers are going to be multiple and individual? Those sorts of questions can lead to some awesome collaborative work by like-minded people.

Simply put, there is no taming of the #MTBoS, because it’s all of us, and we are not homogeneous. And that I love.

Engagement with the #MTBoS

There’s no right way to participate in this weird disjointed passionate community. Do what moves you. Do what makes sense for you. And give others those same allowances.

I limit who I follow and have a protected twitter account. That’s okay.

I don’t comment on other peoples’s blogs regularly anymore. That’s okay.

I have never done a 3 Act with my kids. That’s okay.

I like doing collaborative projects with other teachers online, but I rarely have time to. That’s okay.

I often ignore everything in the #MTBoS (sometimes for a month or more) because I’m too busy. That’s okay.

I almost never criticize/push back on other people’s teaching ideas. (I would rather do that sort of work in person when I have more context.) That’s okay.

I skip past almost 95% of blogposts in my rss reader, unless they give me concrete things I can do in my classroom. That’s okay.

I constantly feel anxiety that there are so so so many better teachers out there and I’ll never get there. That’s an okay feeling.

I haven’t updated my virtual filing cabinet in months or revamped my very very very outdated online portfolio or done a major overhaul on the mathtwitterblogosphere site since it was created. That’s okay.

I sometimes take an idea from a blogpost to use in my classroom, and forget to say thank you in the comments. Though rude, even that’s okay too.

I don’t care about the “big questions” about teaching and ed policy. That’s okay.

You should never feel guilty engaging with the community in ways that make sense to you [1]. We’re all coming at teaching from such different places in our careers, such different backgrounds, and such different environments. We all need and want different things. I’m okay with that. I’m more than okay with that, because the fact that we’re all coming together from such different vantage points is what makes this little village work well for so many different people.

[1] As long as you’re not a know-it-all-jerk-face. GROSS.

Some New Things On The Interwebs & HOLY COW WHAT IS HAPPENING!


Here are three quick things I wanted to mention are out there on the interwebs which have me twitterpated!

1. The Productive Struggle blog. A blog which anyone can submit to. The way I see it: we have a tendency to post about what works, but not about our process when something just bombs. This blog is a great repository to share our failures and learn from them (and each other). Consider submitting  or cross-posting. Here’s a nice short post which spoke to me.

2. The Infinite Tangents podcast. ZOMG! Here’s the thing: we are enough of a community now that we have our own podcast! Ashli Black (aka @mythagon, blog) has been taping podcasts which focus around math teaching. The inaugural podcast was an interview with second year math teacher Daniel Schneider (@mathymcmatherso, blog). It’s pretty  totally fantastic. Of course I hear the excitement and experimentation that he is doing in his classroom, it makes me think how tepid I was in my second year. In fact, he makes me feel tepid right now. Which is good, because this podcast reminded me to be more thoughtful about my practice.

It also is really fun to listen to on the subway. It sure beats listening to that crackly faux hiphop coming out of that person’s headphones sitting next to you.

3. DailyDesmos blog. Here. This. This is another collective effort of a number of people in the mathteacherblogotwittersphere (full disclosure: I begged, and I’m now, a regular contributor to the site). As a little background, is the most superior online graphing utility which is designed for teachers, and is so amazing, that I didn’t even teach my kids in precalculus to graph polar on the graphing calculators. (No, they aren’t paying me to say this. But they should! Hint!)

Each day two different graphs are posted (a basic one and an advanced one):

daily desmos

And then you use desmos (or any other graphing utility) to try to find the equation that matches the graph. It sort of reminds me of greenglobs (remember that awesome game!?) when I was a wee lad. But this is so much better. I’ve pulled a lot of muscles doing these challenges, and I love the feeling when I make a breakthrough. My favorite, so far, is here. And of the two I’ve contributed, my favorite is here. I have a really beautiful graph coming out next Thursday (3/28) so keep your eyes peeled!



One thing that is now crystal clear to me is that we’re shifting into a new phase. (“We’re” meaning our little math teacher online community.) Initially, we had blogs, and these blogs are where conversations happened (in the comments). Then we added twitter, and soon blogs were the asynchronous way for us to communicate and the “real” conversations started happening on twitter. (Blogs became this archive or repository, and less for discussion. Of course this isn’t true for all blog posts.)

Now in the past year or year and a half, there has been an explosion of activity. and this explosion seems to center around (a) collaboration and generating things which are (b) not really centered about us and our individual classrooms. We’re thinking bigger than ourselves.

I’m talking the letters to the first year teachers, I’m talking the Global Math Department, I’m talking the visualpatterns website, I’m talking the month long new blogger initiation, I’m talking the freaking inspirational One Good Thing group blog, I’m talking Math Munch, I’m talking the collaborative blog Math Mistakes, I’m talking MathRecap to share good math PD/talks with each other. And of course, now we have the Productive Struggle blog, Daily Desmos, and the Infinite Tangents podcast. [1]

We’re still keeping our blogs, and archiving our teaching and sharing ideas, and talking on twitter. But now we’re also moving into creating these other things which are crowdsourced and for people other than just those in our little communit…

It’s been a freakin’ pleasure to see all this stuff emerge out of the fertile soil that we already had. We’re starting to create something new and different… and… and… I can’t wait to see what happens. [2]

[1] There are more out there too. I’m trying to archive them here, but they just keep on coming!

[2] I have a session proposed (with two other people) at Twitter Math Camp 2013 about all this stuff that has been banging around in my brain… this seismic shift that we’re witnessing.