First, I set myself up with a new blog theme. (If you’re reading this via email or an RSS reader, you’ll have to click through to check it out.)

Second, rather than reflect on ten years of *my posts*, I wanted to reflect on ten years of *your comments*. Over the last ten years, 4,600 people have written 20,000 comments on this blog, spanning two million words, the very first of which was written by Chris Lehmann.

My goal in blogging is to become curiouser and wiser with every post. Some of that happens in the post itself – through research, analysis, writing, etc – but so much of it happens in the comments.

To offer one current example, I posted Cathy Yenca’s method for teaching zero exponents last week. Forty comments later, my commenters offered two *more* methods for teaching them and helped me see how all three methods are related. I’m curiouser and wiser now than I was forty comments ago. That happened because of all of you and I wanted to thank a few you of you personally.

For example, here are the ten people who commented most often in every year that I’ve blogged.

Year | Name | Comments |
---|---|---|

1 | Todd Seal | 84 |

2 | ken | 106 |

3 | Jason Dyer | 74 |

4 | Jason Dyer | 53 |

5 | Bowen Kerins | 50 |

6 | l hodge | 72 |

7 | Kevin Hall | 46 |

8 | Kevin Hall | 39 |

9 | Ken Tilton | 49 |

10 | Paul Hartzer | 42 |

And these are the ten people whose comments have helped shape my work for the longest span of time – from their first comment to their last.

Year | Name | Years |
---|---|---|

1 | Karl Fisch | 9.2 |

2 | Tom Hoffman | 8.5 |

3 | Kate Nowak | 8.5 |

4 | Ian H. | 8.2 |

5 | Sam Shah | 8.2 |

6 | Chuck | 8.0 |

7 | John Pederson | 7.8 |

8 | Michael Paul Goldenberg | 7.8 |

9 | Nick | 7.7 |

10 | Michael Serra | 7.6 |

In 2011, I started to understand the gift of an active comments section, and how that gift needed encouragement and tending. So I began to add particularly helpful comments to the body of the post itself in a “Featured Comments” section. I made sure my commenters knew they had been promoted, hoping the endorsement would encourage them to continue bringing that kind of value.

These are the twenty people whose comments have been featured two or more times since 2011.

Name | Featured Comments |
---|---|

Bowen Kerins | 6 |

Dan Anderson | 3 |

Dave | 3 |

Michael Pershan | 3 |

Barry Smith | 2 |

Bruce James | 2 |

William Carey | 2 |

Tom Woodward | 2 |

l hodge | 2 |

Larry Copes | 2 |

David Wees | 2 |

Steve | 2 |

Laura Hawkins | 2 |

Jason Dyer | 2 |

Jason Buell | 2 |

Kate Nowak | 2 |

Michael Serra | 2 |

Nathan Kraft | 2 |

Ryan Brown | 2 |

Scott Farrar | 2 |

I sent a personal note of thanks to everybody mentioned in this post. Each person has made a significant donation of time, words, and insight to the project of making me curiouser and wiser.

Whenever people ask me how I got wherever it is I am right now, I always tell them about you, about how my ideas and thinking developed twice as fast as they had any right to. And I attribute that difference entirely to your time, words, and insight.

Wherever it is I’m going, I intend to get there exactly the same way.

**Featured Comment**

]]>Congrats and well done! I think I remember that day back in 2007. I got to work, threw in a Nelly CD, fired up my Netscape browser and made my comment. Incidentally I drove the same Toyota Camry that I still drive to work. Later on I think I went home and watched Lost and then read about #hashtags

We’re proud to debut our free Classroom Conversation Toolset, which has been the labor of our last three months. You can pause your students’ work. You can anonymize your students’ names. You can restrict the pace of your students through the activity. We believe there are productive and counterproductive ways to use these tools, so let us explain why we built them.

First, the edtech community is extremely excited about personalized learning – students learning at their own pace, uninhibited by their teacher or classmates. Our Activity Builder shares some of that enthusiasm but not all. Until last week, students could click through an activity from the first screen to the last, inhibited by nothing and nobody.

But the cost of personalized learning is often a silent classroom. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll walk into a classroom and see students wearing headphones, plugged into computers, watching videos or clicking multiple choice questions with *just *enough interest to keep their eyes open. But even when the activities are more interesting and cognitively demanding than video-watching and multiple choice question-clicking, there is still an important cost. You lose collective effervescence.

Collective effervescence is a term that calls to mind the bubbles in fizzy liquid. It’s a term from Émile Durkheim used to describe a particular force that knits social groups together. Collective effervescence explains why you still attend church even though the sermons are online, why you still attend sporting events even though they’re broadcast in much higher quality with much more comfortable seats from your living room. Collective effervescence explains why we still go to movie theaters; laughing, crying, or screaming in a room full of people is more satisfying than laughing, crying, or screaming alone.

An illustrative anecdote. We were testing these features in classes last week. We watched a teacher – Lieva Whitbeck in San Francisco – elicit a manic cheer from a class of ninth-graders simply by revealing the graph of a line. She brought her class together and asked them to predict what they’d see when she turned on the graph. They buzzed for a moment together, predicted a line, and then she gave the crowd what they came for.

She brought them *together*. She brought *back *the kids who were a bit ahead and she brought *forward *the kids who were a bit behind. She de-personalized the learning so she could socialize it. Because arguments are best with other people. Because the negotiation of ideas is most effective when you’re negotiating *with *somebody. And because collective effervescence is impossible to experience alone.

So these tools could very easily have been called our Classroom Management Toolset. They *are *useful for managing a class, for pausing the work so you can issue a new prompt or so you can redirect your class. But we didn’t build them for those purposes. We built them to restore what we feel the personalized-learning moment has missed. We built them for conversation and collective effervescence.

**Featured Tweets**

.@Desmos remains one of the only things in ed-tech worth a damn https://t.co/Z82Aw7Wo2m

— Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) September 20, 2016

Quick video tutorial & preview: @Desmos New Features: Pause, Teacher Pace, Anonymize https://t.co/rHvlOOhYyr #mathchat #edtech @EdSurge

— Stacey Roshan (@buddyxo) September 22, 2016

Social learning can be magical. @ddmeyer on building "collective effervescence" as kids work on #edtech. @desmos: https://t.co/46HrHCaaph

— Alex Hernandez (@thinkschools) September 20, 2016

All the discovery of @Desmos, combined w/ your teacher pace: it's the Reese's Cup of class management! https://t.co/KPdEAQUaXv via @Desmos

— Bob Lochel (@bobloch) September 20, 2016

This is a great example of how to think about the problems of personalized learning https://t.co/iit5ffu3De cc @mfeldstein67

— Mike Caulfield (@holden) September 20, 2016

Brilliant. https://t.co/scEioXmjE8 @ddmeyer

— Jennifer Carolan (@jencarolan) September 21, 2016

How do we handle the moment when it becomes clear, in front of the class, that we don’t understand some math we thought we understood? Do we handle it like Mr. Davis did, and view kids’ questions as challenges to our expertise and authority? Or do we say, “You know, your question is making me realize I don’t understand this as deeply as I thought I did. That’s awesome, because now I get to learn something. Let’s figure it out together.”

You don’t transition from a novice teacher to an expert in a day. The transition isn’t obvious and it isn’t stable. You become an expert at certain aspects of teaching before others and some days you regress. But one day you wake up and you realize that certain problems of practice just aren’t consistent problems anymore.

One strong indicator for me that I had changed as a teacher in at least one aspect was when I no longer felt threatened by students who caught me in an error at the board or who asked me a question which I couldn’t quickly answer. I knew some of my Twitter followers would feel the same way, so I asked them a version of Tracy’s question above:

What do we do when it becomes clear, in front of a class, that we don’t understand the math like we thought?

Here are my ten favorite responses. If you have a response that isn’t represented here, please add it to the comments.

@ddmeyer we model, but for real, a learning stance, curious, puzzled, conjecturing about possible next steps...

— Vicki Madden (@vlmadden) September 22, 2016

@vlmadden @ddmeyer We want to dazzle. To punt brilliantly. To think on our feet. But the dazzling move is to make public our not-knowing.

— Tracy Johnston Zager (@TracyZager) September 22, 2016

@ddmeyer "I have to think about this some more. I'll get back to with what I discovered you tomorrow." Urge Ss to do the same.

— Elizabeth Raskin (@elizraskin) September 22, 2016

@ddmeyer Admit it and learn from it with your Ss. Teach taking risks by example!

— Ann Gaffney (@annmgaffney) September 23, 2016

@ddmeyer hopefully model how to figure stuff out - rare chance for ss to see how to learn; dead ends, conjectures, testing assumptions, etc

— TheChalkface (@the_chalkface) September 22, 2016

@ddmeyer Be honest in front of your students & model the power of "I don't know but I want to know". Someone in the room needs to hear that.

— Sheila Hardin (@smh8129) September 22, 2016

.@ddmeyer Be human. Apply good problem solving skills. Model what to do when challenged. If stumped, research rinse repeat.

— Jim Deane (@jim_deane) September 22, 2016

@ddmeyer Think. Out loud and on the spot. Sometimes Ss ask Qs that perplex me. I congratulate them and let them hear my thought process.

— R Eichholtz (@YorkMathE) September 22, 2016

@ddmeyer Celebrate!!!! The truth is revealed!

— jayne everson (@everjay) September 22, 2016

@ddmeyer coach in room? take a T timeout do discuss in FRONT of Ss! so powerful for Ss to see Ts don't have all the answers.

— Jody (math coach) (@jodymathcoach) September 22, 2016

**BTW**. David Coffey has answered the same question about college mathematics, where students are sometimes *very* unforgiving of mathematical errors and lapses.

**Featured Comments**

The most lasting memory from my Modern Algebra I class: It was a Monday, and the instructor was about 20 minutes into his lecture when he got stuck in the middle of a proof. He stopped and stared at the board, then down at his notes, then back at the board, then back at his notes. The class paused their notetaking as the instructor (who was well-respected and always prepared) mumbled and tried to sort things out. After an awkward few moments, he said, “I know there’s something wrong here and I can’t figure it out, and my notes aren’t helping. We really can’t go on before we’ve proven this, so you are all dismissed and we’ll start here again on Wednesday.” We left, returned two days later, and the instructor enthusiastically explained what had caused the problem, how he worked past it, and we moved on. The episode might not have represented great pedagogy, but it was a refreshing example of humility.

I have a space on my whiteboard for questions that come up that I don’t have answers for at the moment. So far this year, I have a couple of favorites:

“What do you call quadrants in 3d?”

“Why do we use p and q in logic? Is it the same origin as ‘Mind your p’s and q’s’?”

Students can find answers or I find answers but either way, it reminds students (and me) that I don’t know it all and I don’t have to.

I hated making mistakes in front of students when i first started teaching. I became conformable with not appearing perfect when my classroom culture transitioned from being myself as the expert and students as the learners to all of us learning from each other.

Mr K:

I’m teaching a small, highly gifted class this year. One of the things we’ve started doing is solving 538’s Riddler each Friday.

For the first couple of weeks, they always looked to me for an answer. It took them a while to realize that I didn’t know it either. Today, while we were doing it, they treated me more as a colleague than as an authority. They’d propose ideas, I’d ask them to justify the ideas, we’d try them out, and decide whether it got us closer to the final answer or not.

It’s really fun modeling my thinking process, and narrating it at the same time. I’ve started identifying when I have interesting things to look at, aha experiences, and most importantly how I test out my suppositions rather than just assuming that they’re correct.

Ruth:

Students who catch my mistakes at the board receive a prize: a mechanical pencil. They become sought-after tokens by the end of the year, and keep students following my reasoning as we work through complex problems!

In my middle school classroom, I also use 24, WODB, and Set as daily warm ups. Because I don’t “automatically” know the solutions, when students don’t find them, we are able to reason them out together. They observe me trying things out and persevering, and are often inspired to “beat” me which keeps the engagement level high. They all become more comfortable risk takers over time.

Maria Rose offers similar thoughts to Diane’s, right down to the activities they use.

]]>There is a certain amount of excitement in not knowing. I try to translate that to the students. We wouldn’t be in this game if we didn’t want to know an answer to a question but had no idea where to begin! That’s the beauty of both mathematics and of teaching. Share that enthusiasm for the chase with them. Some questions are unknown to the teacher but easily answered. Others are not. Try your best to answer them, but more than that, try to engage them with your excitement for discovering the unknown.

Here are two approaches to teaching zero exponents that are worth comparing and contrasting:

First, a Virtual Nerd video:

Once you have your non-zero number or variable picked out, put it to the zero power. Now no matter what number or variable you picked, once you put it to the zero power, I know what the answer is. One. How do I know this? Well in math, if we put any non-zero number or variable to the zero power it always equals one. No matter what.

Second, Cathy Yenca’s activity, which has students completing the following table:

One approach will lead students to understand that math is a fragile set of rules that have to be transmitted and validated by adults. The other will help students realize that these rules are strong and flexible, and exist to make math internally coherent, with or without any adults around.

**BTW**. This is as good a time as any to re-mention Nix the Tricks, the MTBOS’s collection of meaningless math tricks and great strategies for teaching those concepts with meaning instead.

**BTW**. Check out Cathy Yenca’s own post on the comparison.

**BTW**. Check out the comments on that YouTube video. Interesting, *right*? What do we *do* with that?

**Featured Comment**

I wrote a story about this exact moment in my book. Cliffs notes version: 8th grade. Mr. Davis told us the rule a^0=1. I questioned why. “Because that’s the rule.” I said, “But why?” Stern voice now. “Because that’s what’s I just told you.” The first boy I’d ever kissed said, “Give it up T! It’s in the book, that’s why!” Everybody laughed. Me too, on the outside. Not on the inside. On the inside I was angry and frustrated and humiliated. If I write my math autobiography, this moment goes in it. It’s one of the moments math lost me.

By the way, my favorite way to see the pattern Cathy shows here is with Cuisinaire rods. You literally go from cubes to squares to rods to single unit squares. It’s this amazing moment to see one as the fundamental unit.

But I didn’t get to see that in 8th grade. I didn’t see that until my late 30s.

The saddest part? Most kids don’t try again after they’re burned. They never come back. The not-quite-saddest-part-but-still-sad-part? I doubt Mr. Davis ever learned why either.

That’s the biggest legacy of that story to me, as a teacher. How do we handle the moment when it becomes clear, in front of the class, that we don’t understand some math we thought we understood? Do we handle it like Mr. Davis did, and view kids’ questions as challenges to our expertise and authority? Or do we say, “You know, your question is making me realize I don’t understand this as deeply as I thought I did. That’s awesome, because now I get to learn something. Let’s figure it out together.”

Something that has been effective for me (that I mention in the video above) is to really emphasize that 1 is the origin and invisible starting point of all multiplication problems.

Scott Farrand offers another helpful way for students to make sense of zero exponents:

There’s a truly great old lesson on exponentiation that I believe comes from Project SEED, that has been used with amazing success in hundreds of elementary classrooms.

education realist brings up a Ben Orlin post that includes a) a beautiful technique for teaching *lots* of rules of exponentiation and b) this beautiful paragraph:

]]>Math’s saving grace, though, is that it can make us feel smart for another reason: because we’ve mastered an ancient, powerful craft. Because we’ve laid down rails of logic, and guided a train of thought smoothly to its destination. Because we’re masters—not over our peers, but over the deep patterns of the universe itself.

We wrote an activity building code for two reasons:

- People have asked us what Desmos pedagogy looks like. They’ve asked about our values.
- We spend a lot of our work time debating the merits and demerits of different activities and we needed some kind of guide for those conversations beyond our individual intuitions and prejudices.

So the Desmos Faculty – Shelley Carranza, Christopher Danielson, Michael Fenton, me – wrote this guide. It has already improved our conversations internally. We hope it will improve our conversations *externally* as well, with the broader community of math educators we’re proud to serve.

**NB**. We work with digital media but we think these recommendations apply pretty well to print media also.

**Incorporate a variety of verbs and nouns**. An activity becomes tedious if students do the same kind of verb over and over again (calculating, let’s say) and that verb results in the same kind of noun over and over again (a multiple choice response, let’s say). So attend to the verbs you’re assigning to students. Is there a variety? Are they calculating, but also arguing, predicting, validating, comparing, etc? And attend to the kinds of nouns those verbs produce. Are students producing numbers, but also representing those numbers on a number line and writing sentences about those numbers?

**Ask for informal analysis before formal analysis**. Computer math tends to emphasize the most formal, abstract, and precise mathematics possible. We know that kind of math is powerful, accurate, and efficient. It’s also the kind of math that computers are well-equipped to assess. But we need to access and promote a student’s informal understanding of mathematics also, both as a means to interest the student in more formal mathematics *and* to prepare her to *learn* that formal mathematics. So ask for estimations before calculations. Conjectures before proofs. Sketches before graphs. Verbal rules before algebraic rules. Home language before school language.

**Create an intellectual need for new mathematical skills**. Ask yourself, “Why did a mathematician invent the skill I’m trying to help students learn? What problem were they trying to solve? How did this skill make their intellectual life easier?” Then ask yourself, “How can I help students experience that need?” We calculate because calculations offer more certainty than estimations. We use variables so we don’t have to run the same calculation over and over again. We prove because we want to settle some doubt. Before we offer the aspirin, we need to make sure students are experiencing a headache.

**Create problematic activities**. A problematic activity feels *focused* while a problem-free activity *meanders*. A problem-free activity picks at a piece of mathematics and asks lots of small questions about it, but the larger frame for those smaller questions isn’t apparent. A problem-free task gives students a parabola and then asks questions about its vertex, about its line of symmetry, about its intercepts, simply because it *can* ask those questions, not because it *must*. Don’t create an activity with lots of small pieces of analysis at the start that are only clarified by some larger problem later. Help us understand why we’re here. Give us the larger problem now.

**Give students opportunities to be right and wrong in different, interesting ways**. Ask students to sketch the graph of a linear equation, but also ask them to sketch *any* linear equation that has a positive slope and a negative y-intercept. Thirty correct answers to that second question will illuminate mathematical ideas that thirty correct answers to the first question will not. Likewise, the number of interesting ways a student can answer a question incorrectly signals the value of the question as formative assessment.

**Delay feedback for reflection, especially during concept development activities**. A student manipulates one part of the graph and another part changes. If we ask students to change the first part of the graph so the second reaches a particular target value or coordinate, it’s possible – even likely – the student will complete the task through guess-and-check, without thinking mathematically at all. Instead, delay that feedback briefly. Ask the student to reflect on where the first part of the graph should be so the second will hit the target. Then ask the student to check her prediction on a *subsequent* screen. That interference in the feedback loop may restore reflection and meta-cognition to the task.

**Connect representations**. Understanding the connections between representations of a situation – tables, equations, graphs, and contexts – helps students understand the representations themselves. In a typical word problem, the student converts the context into a table, equation, or graph, and then translates between those three formats, leaving the context behind. (Thanks, context! Bye!) The digital medium allows us to re-connect the math to the context. You can see how changing your equation changes the parking lines. You can see how changing your graph changes the path of the Cannon Man. “And in any case joy in being a cause is well-nigh universal.”

**Create objects that promote mathematical conversations between teachers and students**. Create perplexing situations that put teachers in a position to ask students questions like, “What if we changed this? What would happen?” Ask questions that will generate arguments and conversations that the teacher can help students settle. Maximize the ratio of conversation time per screen, particularly in concept development activities. All other things being equal, fewer screens and inputs are better than more. If one screen is extensible and interesting enough to support ten minutes of conversation, ring the gong.

**Create cognitive conflict**. Ask students for a prediction – perhaps about the trajectory of a data set. If they feel confident about that prediction and it turns out to be wrong, that alerts their brain that it’s time to shrink the gap between their prediction and reality, which is “learning,” by another name. Likewise, aggregate student thinking on a graph. If students were convinced the answer is obvious and shared by all, the fact that there is widespread disagreement may provoke the same readiness.

**Keep expository screens short, focused, and connected to existing student thinking**. Students tend to ignore screens with paragraphs and paragraphs of expository text. Those screens may connect poorly, also, to what a student already knows, making them ineffective even if students pay attention. Instead, add that exposition to a teacher note. A good teacher has the skill a computer lacks to determine what subtle connections she can make between a student’s existing conceptions to the formal mathematics. Or, try to use computation layer to refer back to what students already think, incorporating and responding to those thoughts in the exposition. (eg. “On screen 6, you thought the blue line would have the greater slope. Actually, it’s the red line. Here’s how you can know for sure next time.”)

**Integrate strategy and practice**. Rather than just asking students to solve a practice set, also ask those students to decide in advance which problem in the set will be hardest and why. Ask them to decide before solving the set which problem will produce the largest answer and how they know. Ask them to create a problem that will have a larger answer than any of the problems given. This technique raises the ceiling on our definition of “mastery” and it adds more dimensions to a task – practice – that often feels unidimensional.

**Create activities that are easy to start and difficult to finish**. Bad activities are too difficult to start and too easy to finish. They ask students to operate at a level that’s too formal too soon and then they grant “mastery” status after the student has operated at that level after some small amount of repetition. Instead, start the activity by inviting students’ informal ideas and then make mastery hard to achieve. Give advanced students challenging tasks so teachers can help students who are struggling.

**Ask proxy questions**. Would I use this with my own students? Would I recommend this if someone asked if we had an activity for that mathematical concept? Would I check out the laptop cart and drag it across campus for this activity? Would I want to put my work from this activity on a refrigerator? Does this activity generate delight? How much better is this activity than the same activity on paper?

Students who can reproduce all the steps of a problem while failing to evidence any understanding of why or how their procedures work.

When I think about mathematical zombies, I think about z-scores – how easy it is to *calculate* them relative to how difficult it is to *explain* those calculations.

Check it out. Here is the formula for a z-score:

In words:

1. You subtract the mean from your sample.

2. You divide that by the standard deviation.

Subtraction and division. Operations simple enough for a elementary schooler. But the *explanation* of those operations – why they result in a z-score, what a z-score is, and when you should *use* a z-score – is so challenging it eludes many graduates of high school statistics. Think about how easily you could solve these exercises without knowing what you’re doing.

That difference brings this chart to mind and helps me understand all of the times I’m tempted to just tell students, *here’s how you do it already so now just do it*. That’s where the operational shortcuts are most tempting.

All of this is preface to a lesson plan on hypothesis testing by Jeremy Strayer and Amber Matuszewski, which is one of the best I’ve read all year.

Hypothesis testing is, again, one of those skills that’s far easier to *do* than to *understand*. As you read the lesson plan, please keep in mind that difference. Also notice how capably the teachers develop the question, disclosing the mathematics progressively, and resisting the temptation to shortcut their way to operational fluency.

It’s spectacular. I’m struck every time by a moment where Strayer and Matuszewski ask students to model an experiment with playing cards, only to model the exact same experiment with a computer later. They didn’t just jump straight to the computer simulation!

Here is a video of an airline pilot landing an Airbus A380 in a crosswind. This is that for teachers.

**Featured Comment**

Amy:

I always think of z-scores as a set of transformations from one plain-vanilla normal curve to the hot-fudge-sundae Standard Normal curve. Maybe once you see it this way, you can’t unsee it. To me, that helps make sense of the “why” you would bother standardizing and the “how” it’s done.

I’m not sure I agree that z-score is so conceptually difficult as to be worth the shortcut. Though I suppose it requires understanding of standard deviation, which is kind of hard. But if you think of standard deviation as “typical weirdness distance” then z-score as the idea of “how many times the typical weirdness is this point” becomes pretty straightforward. A z-score magnitude of 1 becomes average weirdness, less than 1 becomes less weird than average, etc. The bigger the magnitude of the z-score, the weirder the point.

]]>In introductory stats courses, much of what we do simply comes down to separating “Is it possible?” from “Is it plausible?”. We have seen a wonderful growth in the number of free, online applets which allow teachers and students to perform simulations designed to assess these subtly different questions.

- Coherence in curriculum is important.
- A curriculum is more than just a sequence of activities.
- Activities that are downloaded from the Internet vary in quality and often undermine curriculum coherence.
- If you’re going to download activities
*anyway*, then download them from NCTM’s lesson site or download them in learning communities where there might be more accountability for coherence.

I’ll co-sign all of the above. I hadn’t thought about collaborative lesson planning as insurance against incoherence. That’s clever. All of that said, I’m disappointed at how much of the essay obliges teachers and how little of it obliges publishers.

It reminds me of desire paths.

Desire paths occurs when people walk off the path you pre-determined and create their own. They create another route because it satisfies their needs better than yours did. In that situation, you have options. You can post signs directing people to stay on the path. You can hire security to *make sure* people stay on the path. Or you can admit that you messed it up on your first try and pave the desire path.

NCTM is putting up a sign.

Aside from a brief mention of sympathy for teachers who “lack highly engaging, high-cognitive demand tasks or lessons,” the essay doesn’t acknowledge the *desire* that leads to online activities.

It isn’t as if many teachers are *eager* to spend nights and weekends cobbling together a curriculum from scratch. What gives? I asked teachers about their desire. Most prominently they want materials a) that are engaging, b) that are scaffolded appropriately, and c) that create high cognitive demand. A large number of them don’t think their core curriculum is particularly coherent.

I appreciate Larson’s leadership and support NCTM’s interest in coherent mathematical experiences for kids. But if teachers – especially at secondary levels – had access to resources that offered those features above, I suspect the desire lines, and consequently NCTM’s sign, would be unnecessary.

**So an open question**: What would it mean to pave the desire path here? Now that we’re at the point where people are tromping across the lawn, marching towards online activities, what would it look like to say, “Okay,” and then pave that path for teachers.

**Recommended**. Tyler Auer’s analysis.

**Also recommended**. The comments of the essay, where Larson is taking questions and adding commentary, including what appears to be an answer to my open question above.

**Featured Comments**

Please read Matt Larson’s comment.

While Matt’s piece didn’t rub me the wrong way, it does seem to me that treating this as a challenge for people who want to influence what teachers do is going to be a better framing than trying to convince teachers to change their online patterns.

One of the projects that the Math Forum at NCTM is beginning to plan within NCTM concerns the idea of an online collaboration space and supporting repository through which the community can move along the continuum from sharing good tasks to identifying and playing with sequences and instructional practices that lead to the engagement, depth of understanding, rigor, and competence we all seek for our students.

Curricula coherence is my biggest struggle. I work in a small charter high school and we have not purchased a commercial math curriculum. Instead of only 20% of my time spent planning, I am lucky to have the freedom to spend lots of time attempting to develop a cohesive unit by vetting online materials. This autonomy is both wonderful and terrifying.

One way NCTM might help with both coherence and quality is to offer a

really-corecurricular framework (as opposed to the much-too-massive CCSSM), and within that offer curated links to high-quality online materials. A positive contribution along those lines would be a lot more useful than anxiety-provoking warnings about coherence.

One last deep thought — I sure am getting tired of being blamed for the incoherence of standards and curricula that are way above my pay grade. Unfortunately, the way all of this has been set up (or

notset up), everything rolls downhill into my yard.

]]>Perhaps the “next big opportunity” for NCTM is in connecting members online around its quality content. NCTM’s average member age is 55 years and fewer teachers are buying memberships, opting instead for free online connectivity with other teachers that is still quite good overall.

Stenhouse just released Christopher Danielson’s book, *Which One Doesn’t Belong?*

It’s a must-have if you’re a parent or a teacher with any interest in helping your children or students learn to speak mathematically.

There are few tasks that offer so much mathematical value yet require so few instructions as Which One Doesn’t Belong?

You see four mathematical objects. You ask kids, “Which one doesn’t belong?” You help them negotiate their overlapping and conflicting answers, developing vocabulary and the capacity for argument and abstraction along the way. That’s it.

You can find loads of great WODB prompts online but you can’t find Christopher’s unique presentation, narrative, and teacher’s guide, which is its own kind of graduate-level course in pedagogy.

]]>Students only ask three types of questions: (1) proximity questions – asked when the teacher is close; (2) stop thinking questions – most often of the form “is this right”; and (3) keep thinking questions – questions that students ask so they can get back to work. Only the third of these types should be answered. The first two need to be acknowledged, but not answered.

[via Dylan Kane]

**Featured Comment**

]]>When my students ask “Is this right?” or express uncertainty about their answer I like to ask them what their confidence level is. 25%? 50%? 75%? etc… If it’s less than 50% then I ask them why they are unsure. If it’s over 50% then I ask them what gives them confidence.

Basically, after dealing the cards, the basic idea is for kids to pass one card to the left while at the same time receiving one card from the player to their right. The object of the game is to collect all cards with the same suit/type/category. Here are two examples that I recently created for next year.

**Julie Morgan** offers three sharp lesson-closing activities. My favorite is “Guess My Number”:

I choose a number between 1 and 1000 and write it on a piece of paper. Each group takes it in turns to ask me a questions about my number. The questions can vary from “is it even?” to “what do the digits add up to?” to “is it a palindrome?” (my classes know I like palindromes!) When a group thinks they have figured it out they write it down and bring it up to me. Each group is only allowed three attempts so cannot keep guessing randomly. I like this for emphasising mathematical knowledge such as multiples, primes, squares, etc.

**Pam Rawson** contributes to #LessonClose with both a flowchart that illustrates her thought process at the end of classes and then some example exit polls for both “content” and “process” objectives:

As a member of the Better Math Teaching Network, I had to come up with a plan – something in my practice that I can tweak, test, and adjust with ease. So, I decided to focus on class closure. Since I don’t have an actual process for this, I had to think intentionally about what I might be able to do. I created this process map.

**Robert Kaplinsky** offers the #ObserveMe challenge:

]]>We can make the idea of peer observations commonplace. It’s time to take the first step.