Round Up of Week One of the Math Blogging Initiation

Hello all! Welcome to the round up of the first week of the math blogging initiation.

It’s rather unbelievable, but we have a little less that 140 of y’all participate in the first week. With the crunch time of school ramping up, I’m beyond impressed. A giant round of applause for all of you.

If you’d like to subscribe to all (or almost all… late submissions are probably not in this list) the new teacher blogs in Google Reader, simply copy and paste this long URL thingamajigger into the box that appears when you click “SUBSCRIBE”:

This bundle was made by John Burk (@occam98) and a thousand thank yous have to go out to him. I can’t imagine how much copying and pasting he had to go through to create this bundle. This giant list of blogs will probably be overwhelming to you, but what’s nice is that you can unsubscribe to individual blogs within this bundle. So pick and choose the ones you like, or do what I am planning on doing, and keep all of them for a while and do a lot of skimming!

As you know, each week of the Math Blogging Initiation, a number of different blogs will feature a select few of our new or revitalized bloggers. (I’ll update this post linking to all the other featuring posts, once they are completed.) This week I have the great pleasure of introducing 14 of your compatriots. Please take some time to read (or skim) through them. It’d be awfully kind if, after you read some of them, you take the time to write a short comment/note/word of encouragement. Even though I always say “write for yourself,” there is a special feeling when you know that someone else has read what you have to say and has taken something away from it. And maybe someone will do the same for you… and a blogger lovefest is born!

Without further ado:

Peg Cagle | Math Education News & Views You Can Use

Peg Cagle @pegcagle has a blog named Math Education News & Views You Can Use. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Curricula-proof teachers vs teacher-proof curricula” and the author sums it up as follows: “I have been thinking about the relative importance of classroom teachers vs. intended curricula. Policymakers are able to mandate curricula, therefore they want to believe that will adequately address current issues with mathematics achievement. If only it were that simple.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “It is at best naïve and at worst delusional to advocate or believe in the existence of such a thing as a “teacher-proof curriculum”; what is needed instead is “curricula-proof teachers”.” 

My personal response: I’ve met Peg. She’s passionate, thoughtful, and one of the most forward-thinking and concrete-and-honest-about-our-profession teachers out there. This short post encapsulates the direction which the arrow of the education-policy-weathervane ought to point. Unfortunately I suspect this simple and common-sense point of view gets drowned out often enough by other clamoring interests.

Jeremy Loukas | Making Math Work

Jeremy Loukas @jloukas has a blog named Making Math Work. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Writing My Own Job description” and the author sums it up as follows: “This year brings new opportunities and challenges. More than ever, I feel that I have the tools I need to succeed, but I also feel more pressure to get my peers involved in online communities.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “I have been given amazing ideas, and while I always give credit, I have never been able to move my peers to joining these amazing online communities.”

My personal response: Jeremy is at a place which feels similar to my own in teaching. He’s taught a total of five years (four consecutive), and I get the feeling he finds himself to be a good teacher trying to break through and become great. He struggles with similar things to me, and he has made them real by articulating them, and coming up with a real plan of action. I have yet to decide what my few big goals are this year (each year I come up with two or three, instead of a million, and try to follow through… I usually accomplish one), and this post is reminding me to get myself back into school-mode and decide on my own goals. It’s tough to transition into school-mode because I have a lot more Friday Night Lights to watch before I finish off the series. True story.

Jillian Paulen | Laplace Transforms for Life

Jillian Paulen @jlpaulen has a blog named Laplace Transforms for Life. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Hi Math Friends!” and the author sums it up as follows: “I wrote about how I decided to start blogging after reading so many awesome posts by other bloggers. I also wrote about the name of my blog, “Laplace Transforms for Life.” It may be corny, but I like it. ” A memorable quotation from the post is: “I have always appreciated ominous looking math problems that, after a long algebraic fight, turn into a nice pretty answer.”

My personal response: I love the blog title. Partly because I have a really funny memory of the particular lecture in college when we first learned about laplace transforms and inverse laplace tranforms — a memory that might not be totally appropriate for sharing here. (An inappropriate math class story! Indeed! Ah, college.) But mainly because the idea of a function which smooths out badness, and which converts something intractable into something tractable. They were really the height of beauty, when I learned about them. Jillian also shares that she wonders if she has anything worth sharing — and I just repeat my refrain… archive your thoughts, questions, lessons, post stuff you’re proud of, things that didn’t work, whatever. You will grow from it, and I promise that it will speak to others. As this first post did for me, reminding me of the beauty of simple higher level mathematics, and that sense of awe.

Mark Davis | Graph Paper Shirt

Mark Davis @graphpapershirt has a blog named Graph Paper Shirt. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Why Graph Paper Shirt?” and the author sums it up as follows: “My post is about why I began blogging and why my site is called Graph Paper Shirt. I have been blogging, very sporadically, for about a year, but I hope this project will kick start a more involved and focused learning process.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “So…here’s to contributing.”

My personal response: I want to see a photograph of this infamous graph paper shirt! I have lots of gingham shirts that I bought this summer, but no graph paper shirts. Now if we could get logarithmic scale graph paper shirts, I’d be in heaven! But back to the post — Mark is taking a leap moving from commenting and twittering to actually wanting to contribute. I remember going through a similar transition (except mathteachertwitter didn’t exist when I started)… where I spent all this time commenting, and then I realized: hey I have something I want to say myself! Not in response to someone else, but my own! So I started blogging. Thanks for wanting to contribute — science teacher, notwithstanding. (JK, I love science teachers!)

Justina Andrews | mathstina

Justina Andrews has a blog named mathstina. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Week 1 of the Blogging Initiative” and the author sums it up as follows: “I literally just started my 5-week teaching practicum three days ago, here are a couple of goals for this prac. Last prac I just tried to survive, this prac I want to excel.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “I felt like kicking myself when I realized how below his standard I had hit.”

My personal response: Justina is going through a teaching practicum. That’s hard stuff, but her goal is to be better than she was in her first practicum. The question is how is this going to happen? And Justina provides some answers — and for me, the most important lies around organization (having things like lesson plans done well in advance). It reminds me of the good advice given by @approx_normal to all her student teachers.

Anna | Borscht With Anna

Anna @Borschtwithanna has a blog named Borscht With Anna. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “First Week Goals” and the author sums it up as follows: “My first week goal is to change my struggling students’ perceptions of math class and create a positive class atmosphere. I want students thinking and working together, but most importantly, feeling hopeful about the year to come.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “Yup, that’s a raccoon group hug.”

My personal response: Anna’s post is essentially about the class culture she wants to create, and she’s right in that the classroom culture gets well-established in the first week or so of classes. And she has a strong sense of what her classroom culture is going to be — though the specifics of how she will achieve this will probably be revealed as the first week of classes unfold. I can’t wait to read all about it. I mean, who doesn’t want a giant huddle of raccoons cuddling in the middle of a classroom?

Damon Hedman | Wild Math

Damon Hedman @wildmath has a blog named Wild Math. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Procrastination” and the author sums it up as follows: “Two things I plan on implementing this year are 3 Act Math and Standards Based Grading. I think the buy in will be easy but the execution will be difficult.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “3 Act Math helps them see that some of the questions they encounter can be answered with mathematical reasoning.”

My personal response: I am ashamed to say that I haven’t tried any of Dan’s 3 Act Maths in my classroom, for no reason other than being overwhelmed with work and scared to change my mode of teaching. Damon is throwing himself in there — doing 3 Act Math and SBG! Wow! Also, here’s a random thought: the procrastination poster is awesome. We all procrastinate. I wonder if, a week or two into SBG, we have an assignment where we show the poster to our kids and say “respond, now that you’ve been introduced to SBG.” I think a really good discussion could come from that, as procrastination (and how that ties into personal responsibility) is one of the things students initially struggle with when it comes to SBG. 

Jocelyn | Making Science

Jocelyn @enigmaniac has a blog named Making Science. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Starting Teaching” and the author sums it up as follows: “This semester I’ll be a new teacher of a well-developed intro course in the Physics department.. I want to build on the existing use of educational research-based methods and make them my own.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “I want to actually walk the walk about learning goals that are required by the university policies.”

My personal response: Jocelyn says something that I decided I would do two years ago, but have had trouble being consistent with: explain to students why you are asking them to do something, in the way that you are asking them to do it. If kids know that you put thought into each part of the lesson, if you have a reason for asking for individual work vs. partner work vs. group work or for giving pop quizzes or for assigning a project, they will at least understand that you aren’t doing it only to torture them (but that’s a bonus, right? psyche!). More implicitly, it is showing them that you care about their learning because you’re thinking about these things, and your ultimate goal is to make sure they undergo some deep learning. Whether they enjoy it or not, at least they know you are doing things in a particular way because you care. (Of course, you don’t want to be all edu-jargony — blech — but just normal when explaining your choices… I would also probably have to be sure I don’t sound defensive…)

John McGowan | Math Tech Tips

John McGowan @jmacattak has a blog named Math Tech Tips. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Return to blogging” and the author sums it up as follows: “I blogged about returning to blogging and why I am excited to change schools and classes I teach. I am blogging to stay more organized for myself and future years!” A memorable quotation from the post is: “I just did my first day activities based on some great ideas I stole from a bunch of great teachers, I will blog about it soon, so tune in to see if you were stolen from (I will give credit and links ;)!!”

My personal response: What a transition — to middle school students! John, you are forgiven for posting late. There is infinite absolution in our community. 

Tangent Vector | Tangent Vectors

Tangent Vector @TangentVectors has a blog named Tangent Vectors. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Commence Blogification” and the author sums it up as follows: “This is a very short introductory post describing how I plan to set the tone for a year of group-centric learning to fall in line with the new Common Core standards. I briefly discuss the plans I’ve pilfered from Fnoschese to start things off on what I hope to be the right foot.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “To prepare for the first day of what will be a Commmon Core-centric, deep-thinking, no-longer-yesterday’s style set of math classes, I’ve lifted a few plans from Fnoschese–the subversive lab grouping and the marshmallow tower.”

My personal response: Yay! A first year teacher, who is already using Noschese-esque stuff! Already this new teacher is eons beyond where I was when starting (ummm… so… let’s look at the book and make a lesson plan mimicking the presentation in the book…). This teacher’s goal to create a sense of camaraderie in the first week (what a tough word to spell) is awesome, and I can’t wait to read specifics on how that goal is going to be achieved. 

Tyler Borek | RealProblems

Tyler Borek @tyler_borek has a blog named RealProblems. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Real Problems, Real Time” and the author sums it up as follows: “This post is about an idea for a free math problem bank, created and curated by K-12 teachers. It’s about the power of a great problem to evoke great work, and to communicate the relevance and power of mathematics. Finally, it’s about the ability of a community to create a resource that no individual could create alone.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “When we give a student a cookie-cutter problem, we are asking her for “work.” When we give a student a great problem, we are providing her with an opportunity to create an “opus.””

My personal response: This is a beautifully written post about a hard part of teaching: coming up with great problems. Not good problems, but great problems. I feel this is something I struggle with in my own teaching. I love the idea of a good math problem bank, cultivated by motivated teachers, for motivated teachers. I don’t know if and how it will succeed, but I’m rooting for it. Because it is precisely what we as teachers are trying to do: go beyond the textbook and the standard problems to teach deep concepts and deep thinking. I personally often fail at this… I fail more often than I succeed… but I’m okay with that, because there is no magic bullet for success. 

Jenny Kinter | kintermath

Jenny Kinter @jennykinter has a blog named kintermath. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Week 1 Blogger Initiation” and the author sums it up as follows: “It is responding to the suggestions. Mostly about my pre-algebra class which is bigger than any class I have ever taught as well as the youngest. I am feeling most challenged there.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “My favorite topic to teach is…how can I pick…my favorite topic is the one where I see the lightbulb turn on in a students mind, especially a struggling student.”

My personal response: Jenny has a number of really specific things she wrote about. My favorite is a large geometric prism hanging in her classroom with the simple question on it: “What is my volume?” I’m teaching in three or four different classrooms. I wonder if I had little solvable but curiosity-inducing puzzles hanging up and changing in my classrooms at random times, if that might be something my kids would be into. I think it would speak to a certain population of kids — and not necessarily those at the “top.” 

Roy Dallmann | Dallmann’s Deliberations

Roy Dallmann @RoyDallmann has a blog named Dallmann’s Deliberations. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Returning to Form” and the author sums it up as follows: “The hiring process happens quickly and takes us in directions that we don’t always expect. Within a month, I changed from slightly discouraged graduate teacher job hunter to Canadian expat preparing to teach within 17km of the great pyramids.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “Given that I tend to be on the slightly analytical side of the personality spectrum (if you define slightly as frequently paralyzing due to the time required to consider all angles), deliberations made the most sense.”

My personal response: A first year teacher! Teaching near the pyramids in Cairo, Egypt! We might have another http://bowmandickson.com/ on our hands… 

Steve Grossberg | It’s all math

Steve Grossberg @5teve6rossberg has a blog named It’s all math. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled “Why it’s all math.” and the author sums it up as follows: “Every math teacher has had a student ask them at one time or another why they have to learn whatever it is you’re trying to teach. Here’s how I answer this question.” A memorable quotation from the post is: “When you are learning how to [do] Algebra you are also learning tools for how to make better decisions in your own life.”

My personal response: I think how one responds to “The Question” is great. I hope I remember to put it as an option on one of the future week’s list of prompts. Because we are all faced with the “Why do we have to learn this?” question (where this is any math topic, or even math itself) … and I’m terrible at responding to it. I know, I know, everyone says being asked that question means you’re doing something wrong in the way that you’re teaching… so I know I’m doing stuff wrong… but that doesn’t quite help me respond to that question. So I am excited to crowdsource responses!

Update: Posts featuring all the others bloggers participating in the first week of the Math Blogging Initiation:

Julie, Fawn, Anne, Megan, Bowman, Sam, Lisa, John, Shelli, Tina, Kate, Sue

16 comments

  1. Wow, thanks for posting my blog. I think what you all are doing is great. And your blog is one of my favorites of the “veteran” bloggers. I’ve stolen all sorts of ideas…

    We should have a special name for the veteran bloggers….

  2. “I know, I know, everyone says being asked that question means you’re doing something wrong in the way that you’re teaching… so I know I’m doing stuff wrong…”

    Whoa, whoa, whoa… I would say this is a classic case of teachers being too hard on themselves. I personally don’t know anyone who’s said that, and if I ever did hear someone say it, I would challenge them on it. I think it’s expecting too much of high school students to want them to fully perceive and understand all the benefits of learning math when they’re “in the moment.”

    Also, let’s be honest, we are ALWAYS “doing something wrong.” I am well aware of the ways I fall short, and I think that most (good) teachers are. But I am not going to make as one of my GOALS “Never be asked ‘The Question'”. In fact, I WANT to have those conversations with my students, because it gives me an opportunity to challenge their assumptions about the purpose and significance of education.

    (Great post, by the way!)

    1. I don’t know — I feel both ways. I kind of agree with the statement, at least for me… because when kids are asking that, it’s normally when I’m doing something badly. (But not exclusively. No exclusively.) On the other hand, I too like the question because it gets me to question what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

      1. I agree that The Question is most likely to arise on a day when one is particularly boring (or, rather, when one is covering a particularly boring topic). And yes, that should get us to ask OURSELVES questions about our teaching of that particular topic. (Could I teach it better? Why do I need to teach it in the first place? etc.) I guess I’m just saying we don’t need to see being asked The Question as a special kind of defeat or disappointment.

  3. Once again, I’d just like to say thanks for being the impetus behind this. I’ve always been someone who does better with deadlines and having something concrete to respond to has helped me so far. You and many like you out there have been unknowing help to me countless times, and you have my sincere appreciation.

    1. You’re very welcome. It’s a whole group who has done this, but I’ll accept your thanks on behalf of all of us. More importantly, good on you for blogging! Applause!

  4. I love this idea! I just started my own math blog a couple of days ago (probably a week or so too late for this activity) over at http://trialbyblogging.blogspot.com/. I’ve been blogging about sports and baseball cards for three or four years now and only within the last week have I decided to jump into the education fray as well. Keep up the good work, I know I’ll be reading (and probably stealing ideas where I can)!

  5. Wow! Thanks for the kind words. But more importantly, thanks for spurring the mathblogoshpere to reach out to those of us who have been toying with the notion of jumping in but never quite made the plunge.

  6. Thank you so much for profiling my blog! I was really nervous about starting one, but this initiative really gave me the push I needed. I have already been so inspired by the math blogging community and I can’t wait to start giving back to it. I would really like to know about your laplace transform story though…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s