This Week in Math Ed: January 6, 2017

Happy New Year! Here's the first TWiME of 2017, full of arguments for number sense, upcoming NCTM chats, and a lot of new research. If you want to see what I thought was the best of 2016, I found 30 noteworthy posts from the year's worth of TWiME in 2016.

Math Ed Said

December 30: Cory Turner of NPR writes, "Teachers Are Stressed, And That Should Stress Us All." Teachers are indicating stress levels similar to those of doctors. Thankfully, there are ways of relieving the stress.

Shared by: Lisa Choate, Nita Cochran, Shelby Aaberg, Chris Mueller, Sahar Khatri, Erika Bullock

December 31: David Radcliffe asks and answers, "Why is 2017 an interesting number?" There's a lot more going on with 2017 than being prime.

Shared by: Rebecca Gasper, Sara VanDerWerf, Mark McCourt, James Tanton, David Radcliffe

January 1: Keith Devlin wrote "All the mathematical methods I learned in my university math degree became obsolete in my lifetime" for the Huffington Post. This article is a mini-celebration of number sense, and the kind of understanding humans need to thrive with calculating machines.

Shared by: Mark Ellis, Kate Fisher, Joshua Bowman, Shauna Hedgepeth, Zack Miller, Tom Snarsky, Nerissa Gerodias, Judy Keeney, Keith Devlin

January 2: Sixteen more people shared Keith Devlin's post that became popular on New Year's Day, but an equal number were sharing "Labels Work Every Time" from the Desmos blog.

Shared by: Joshua Bowman, Nerissa Gerodias, Bryn Humberstone, Bridget Dunbar, Nolan Doyle, Jesse McNulty, Dan Anderson, Ben Rouse, Julia Finneyfrock, Aimee Shackleton, Audrey McLaren, Elizabeth Statmore,, Dan Meyer, Eddi Vulić, John Golden

January 3: In NCTM's Teaching Children Mathematics blog, Zak Champagne wrote, "2016: The year in review." He lists ten highlights from 2016 that had implications for elementary math education.

Shared by: Andrew Gael, Math Coach Rivera, Mike Flynn, TCM - NCTM, Cathy Yenca, Megan M. Allen, Zak Champagne

January 4: BEAM is short for "Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics" and they are seeking applicants for their summer programs. Some of those listed on the "shared by" list below have worked with BEAM and had positive things to say about the experience.

Shared by: Bethany SansingHeltn, David Keller, Dan Meyer, Michael Pershan, Jennifer Lawler, Kate Nowak

January 5: Keith Devlin's post "All The Methods I Learned In My Mathematics Degree Became Obsolete In My Lifetime" stayed popular throughout the week and was again most-shared on the 5th.

Shared by: Math Coach Rivera, Denis Sheeran, Ruth Knop, Jo Boaler, Jocelyn Dagenais, Matthew Oldridge, Beth Curran, Museum of Math, Jen Silverman, Keith Devlin

Around the Math Ed Web

Hidden Figures movie poster
Hidden Figures hit theaters nationwide this week and the reactions I've seen in my circles has been nothing but positive. I anticipated as much, so earlier in the week I assembled a list of Hidden Figures resources that could be useful to teachers and students. Annie Perkins has a similar list. I saw the movie Thursday night and I'm about halfway through the book. Not mentioned in the movie is that many of the "colored computers" had been math teachers prior to working in research, as teaching was generally the best job available for an African American woman with training in mathematics.

The Joint Math Meetings were this past week. I admit that I don't follow the JMM closely, but I know there were a number of math ed presentations. You can learn more from the JMM website or the #JMM2017 hashtag.

NCTM now has articles for all their chats this month:
Here's what's recent and upcoming from the Global Math Department:

Research Notes

The Journal for Research in Mathematics Education is out with their first issue of 2017:
The February 2017 issue of Educational Studies in Mathematics is here:
A couple articles have been added to the March 2017 issue of The Journal of Mathematical Behavior:
New in AERA Open:
Here's one last issue for the Journal of Statistics Education for 2016:
The first issue of the open access journal Numeracy is out:

Math Ed in the News

Math Ed in Colorado

Colorado Math Leaders

A CML meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 11 from 9:00 to noon in Pueblo. CML has had inconsistent attendance so far this school year (perhaps a result of inconsistent scheduling), so stay tuned to the CML mailing list if there are any last-minute changes.

Rocky Mountain Math Teachers' Circle

The Rocky Mountain Math Circle is meeting this Saturday from 8:30 to noon in Denver. See the RMMTC website for more information and to RSVP.

Also, mark your calendars for two summer workshops:
  • Southwest Colorado and Rocky Mountain Math Teachers' Circle workshop in Durango, June 12-16
  • Rocky Mountain Math Teachers' Circle in Denver, June 19-23

Online Standards Review System Extended Until Feb. 17

As CDE continues to develop its plan to guide the upcoming standards review and revision process, the department is actively seeking feedback on the Colorado Academic Standards from all interested parties. In November, CDE launched an online standards review system which enables all Coloradoans to provide specific feedback on each and every expectation within all 10 content areas of the Colorado Academic Standards. To provide sufficient time for meaningful feedback, the department has extended the timeline to provide feedback to Friday, February 17, 2017.

The results of the feedback received through the online system will inform the department's planning for the upcoming review and revision of the standards, required by Senate Bill 08-212, known as Colorado's Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K). The law requires a review and revision of the Colorado Academic Standards on or before July 1, 2018 and every six years thereafter.

In early 2017, CDE will provide comprehensive information about the timeline and phases of the standards review and revision process as well as information about how to become involved.

The online standards feedback system can be found at


The nominations are now open for PAEMST awards for 7-12 math teachers to be awarded in 2017.

Math on the "Planes"

Registration for next February's conference is open. The focus will be Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions for K-5 math students, with Dr. Karen Karp as the workshop leader. CCLD encourages you to apply for a Mikkelson Mathematics and Science Teachers Scholarship to cover the costs, as MOTP attendees from outside the metro area are eligible for travel, lodging, and registration reimbursement.

PARCC Released Items

PARCC has released a new set of items for grades 3-8. These are items that have been used on operational test multiple times and were slated for retirement, and the set of items approximates the content coverage of a typical test. High school items should be released in early 2017.

The Best of TWiME 2016

Starting January 1, 2016, I tracked the most-shared stories each day in my math ed Twitter list and assembled them as part of a weekly series called "This Week in Math Ed." This puts me in a pretty good position to review 2016. Instead of judging posts by what was most shared on the list, as I did each week, this time I'm using my own judgment and giving you the posts, stories, articles, resources, etc. that I liked the most. There's no way I could limit myself to ten (and no reason to), so I've listed 30 below. If you want to review all the year's TWiME posts for yourself, here's a handy table to find them all:

Jan 8 15 22 29
Feb 5 12 19 26
Mar 4 11 18 25
Apr 1 8 15 22 29
May 6 13 20 27
Jun 3 10 17 24
Jul 1 8 15 22 29
Aug 5 12 19 26
Sep 2 9 16 23 30
Oct 7 14 21 28
Nov 4 11 18 25
Dec 2 9 16 23 30

Here's what I found to be the best of Math Ed Said:

Kate Nowak
January 4: "f(t): In Defense of Unsexy" by Kate Nowak. Kate said it's all well and good for people to share their one-of-a-kind curricular masterpieces, but the world needs high-quality, everyday practice in their math curriculum, too.

January 5: "My Criteria for Fact-Based Apps" by Tracy Johnston Zager. I applauded this post a year ago for how it articulated criteria for the choice and use of curricular materials, and I'm happy to applaud it again.

February 1: "Many parents hated Common Core math at first, before figuring it out" by Jay Mathews. I don't know if this article got much attention, but Jay Mathews has a long history writing about math reform and much of it hadn't been this positive.

February 4: "Why I am not quitting teaching" by Anne Schwartz. It's not uncommon for teacher-bloggers to announce that their leadership abilities have led them out of the classroom. Anne wanted to push back and made sure the world knew that she was staying right where she was.

February 9: "A Group of American Teens Are Excelling at Advanced Math" by Peg Tyre. This article in The Atlantic did a great job highlighting math clubs and competitions, and the opportunities they create for students looking to push themselves.

February 21: "Purposeful Numberless Word Problems" by Brian Bushart. There have been some other posts about numberless word problems, but this one sticks out to me for its application of problem types identified in Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI).

February 27: "The Wrong Way to Teach Math" by Andrew Hacker. Hacker's Math Myth drove a lot of conversations this year and I chose this op-ed out of many articles and blog posts to represent those conversations. Hacker rubbed some math educators the wrong way, but did so while rubbing an itch that apparently needed to be scratched.

Ilana Horn
March 7: "Professional Development is Broken, but Be Careful How We Fix It" by Ilana Horn. In discussing the influence of local context on problems of practice, I love this observation from Lani: "In teaching, we see repeatedly that terms acquire the meaning of their setting more often than they bring new meanings to these places."

March 13: "On Purpose" by Karim Kai Ani. Karim answered his question, "What is the purpose of math education, and what does it mean for the experience to be complete?"

March 15: "Teaching to the Test" by Joe Schwartz. Joe had a number of well-shared posts in 2016, but I liked this one for the way it drew quality connections between instructional tasks and assessment tasks.

April 12: "Quarter the Cross" by David Butler. This was my favorite account of one person's mathematical exploration in 2016.

April 30: "The Search for Common-Core Curricula: Where Are Teachers Finding Materials?" by Liana Heitin. This Ed Week article summarizes some findings from a RAND Corporation study that found that teachers are using things from all over the place — and using a lot of materials they've developed themselves — in an attempt to align their curriculum to the Common Core.

Geoff Krall
May 5: "A presentation format for deeper student questioning and universal engagement" by Geoff Krall. Geoff described a nice routine for improving the quality of class presentations.

May 13: "Straight but Wiggled" by Tracy Johnston Zager. I'm not sure I really felt the impact of "Which One Doesn't Belong" until I read this post.

May 25: "First Grade Fraction Talks... What?" by Jamie Duncan. Jamie has a wonderful ability to tell the story of a lesson and illustrate it with student actions and artifacts.

June 7: "Lessons for Other People" by Chris Lusto. Chris's post was a good conversation-starter as lots of people have things to say about using curriculum materials from someone else versus things they've built for themselves. This was one of the things that triggered my series on lesson planning and sharing.

Matt Larson
June 17: "The Vision Thing" by Matt Larson. NCTM's new president regularly wrote good things this year, but I thought this post about his vision for NCTM stood out.

July 1: "Concept vs Procedure: An anecdote about what it means to be good at math" by Mark Chubb. Mark's post highlighted the understanding some students can demonstrate when we give them opportunities to look at non-routine problems.

July 22: "#ExpandMTBoS" by Sam Shah. Sam isn't just interested in getting more people involved. Here he got specific about the kinds of projects he'd like to see started and shared in the community.

July 31: "Habits of highly mathematical people" by Jeremy Kun. There are very real debates about the ability of knowledge to transfer from one situation to the next, but I basically agreed with Jeremy that enough time and experience doing mathematics (and being immersed in the culture of mathematics) can shape a person's skills and perspectives in math-oriented ways.

August 13: "This Is Why There Are So Many Ties In Swimming" by Timothy Burke. This Deadspin story came along with the Summer Olympics and was a nice example of attending to precision.

August 15: "#ObserveMe" by Robert Kaplinsky. I'm impressed by the staying power of the #ObserveMe idea, as just this morning I saw a math teacher post a picture of the #ObserveMe sign they've put on their door. Thanks, Robert, for giving us a concrete way to help make teaching more of a public, professional act.

August 28: "Why Black Men Quit Teaching" by Christopher Emdin. Emdin's post discussed the need to address systemic issues of race and power in education along with creating a more diverse teacher workforce.

September 11: "How to sabotage your classroom culture in 5 seconds" by Ilona Vashchyshyn. Ilona admirably admitted a classroom moment gone wrong, and the steps she'd take to prevent and repair fragile relationships with students and mathematics.

Dan Meyer
September 15: "The Desmos Guide to Building Great (Digital) Math Activities" by Dan Meyer. Dan gets a lot of airtime on TWiME because of his large following, and of all the posts I saw this year I chose this one as my favorite. Again, I like it when people articulate their criteria for quality classroom materials.

October 2: "Discovery" by Dylan Kane. Dylan interrogated the "discovery" side of the false "discovery vs. direct instruction" side of the dichotomy and found several reasons for using discovery approaches sparingly.

October 8: "Meet the New Math, Unlike the Old Math by Kevin Hartnett. This was the first in a well-written Quanta Magazine series about teaching math and science.

Fawn Nguyen
October 28: "Good-Enough-for-Now Curriculum" by Fawn Nguyen. Again on my favorite theme of articulating criteria for quality, Fawn helped us understand what curricular resources she uses and when she decides to use them.

December 8: "The Progression of Fractions" by Graham Fletcher. I could have chosen any of Graham's "Progression" video series, but I chose the most recent one for sharing here. They're all worth checking out.

December 28: "Exploring Fraction Constructs and Proportional Reasoning" by Kyle Pearce. I appreciate this post by Kyle for the obvious effort that went into the ideas and the illustrations. The community benefits from posts like this.


The Math Myth
If there was one story that stood out above the rest, it has to be Andrew Hacker's The Math Myth. Week after week something would appear on TWiME that was related to this book and its ideas. It's not a bad idea to periodically rethink what content students should be learning and when, but I was surprised by the staying power of these stories. I think Hacker's publishing agents did a very good job of spreading out reviews and other coverage of the book across a variety of outlets, which gave the online math ed community a lot of opportunities to react.

As I mention in multiple places above, the posts I found most valuable were the ones that got descriptive about why something was liked or effective. It's difficult for me to accept your praise of something unless you help me understand the criteria you're working with. The TWiME posts I found least valuable were the promotional ones for yet-to-be-released books or other products. The products and books themselves might be valuable, but links to announcements about their future availability are less so.

It took me about one day each week to put together a full edition of TWiME, assuming I included all the parts (shared links, events, research, news, and Colorado items) and I've taken the time to read things. Looking at the list above, I'm happy that I was able to track and help share so many stories and ideas. I'm also happy and grateful that I'm able to do this work as part of my role as a math specialist for the State of Colorado. I hope this kind of curation helps math teachers in Colorado (who get some of this on a mailing list) and beyond. I sometimes check my blog statistics to see if I was reaching an audience. I believe I am, although sometimes it's not entirely clear.

Monthly sessions on in 2015 and 2016

The above chart is from Google Analytics, with the top line being 2016 and the bottom 2015. I wrote 68 blog posts in 2016, and only four in 2015. I expected a bigger increase in pageviews, but not everything gets measured by Google Analytics. For example, I had 20 Feedburner email subscriptions when the year started, and 76 when it finished. I don't think views in Feedly get measured by Google Analytics, either. Anyway, pageviews are not something I'm particularly worried about, except that I want to make sure I'm using my time in a way that benefits others. Sitting down each week and digging into the popular posts of each day has certainly benefitted me, and I hope it has for you, too.

Resources for Hidden Figures

I'm excited to see Hidden Figures, the new movie based upon the true stories of NASA's early African American 'computers,' a job title that applied to humans long before it did to machines. The movie opens nationwide this Friday.

I've been enamored with space and space exploration since I was young, and as I've grown older I've enjoyed learning more about NASA's history through documentary projects like When We Left Earth. Astronauts have long gotten the bulk of the attention in these stories, with occasional glimpses of behind-the-scenes engineering work like we saw in Apollo 13. Hidden Figures tells a story that very few seem to have heard, and as a fan of NASA, a mathematician, and an educator, I'm excited about the potential for this film (and the book it's based upon) to educate and inspire students to pursue opportunities in math and science — especially female students of color. Rafranz Davis explains why.

John Burk, a physics and math teacher in Delaware, said "Lets Start a Movement for Hidden Figures." Count me as on board. His idea includes things like a teacher's reference guide, contests, and organized discussions. That sounds like a good start, and I'll be thinking about this as I read the book this week and see the movie this weekend. Simply getting students to the theater seems like an obvious Step #1, whether it's through encouraging them to attend on their own or with their families, or organizing it as a class or school outing.
Below I've curated some resources related to the book and the film. I can't say that much of this is lesson-ready, but there's plenty here to fuel the curiosity of students who want to know more about this story. If you find or create additional resources, or want to share your ideas about promoting the film to your students, feel free to mention it in the comments or let me know on social media.



Official Sites


Updates to Original Post:

  • 1/8/17: Added "Who is Katherine Johnson?" to resources
  • 1/8/17: Added "Hidden Figures: The Female Mathematicians of NACA and NASA" to resources
  • 1/8/17: Added "NASA Modern Figures Toolkit" to resources

This Week in Math Ed: December 30, 2016

Here it is, TWiME 52, the last of the year. I didn't know how far I'd get when I started, and there were times during the year I wasn't sure it was worth continuing. But I'm glad I stuck with it, and I plan to continue in 2017. Big thanks to all of you who have read and shared it!

Math Ed Said

December 23: For a second day in a row, "The High-School Mathematician's Crutch Is Not Allowed in Most Colleges" was the most-shared link on my math ed Twitter list.

Shared by: Michelle Russell, Robert Talbert, Anthony Purcell, Earl Samuelson, Shauna Hedgepeth, Amy Hogan, John Golden, Dan Anderson, Dan Allen

December 24: How cool (and very last-minute) was this? Paula Beardell Krieg took images from math teachers on Twitter and created "Last Minute Wrapping Paper."

Shared by: Mike Lawler, John Golden, Malke Rosenfeld, Simon Gregg

December 25: Yes, people were sharing links on Christmas Day. In this case, they were linking to more links, specifically these from the Ontario Math Links blog for the week ending December 23rd.

Shared by: Kyle Pearce, Bridget Dunbar, Mary Bourassa, David Petro

December 26: In Episode 1621 of the Math Ed Podcast, Samuel Otten interviewed Megan Taylor about her JRME commentary, "From Effective Curricula Toward Effective Curriculum Use."

Shared by: Egan Chernoff, John Golden, Samuel Otten

December 27: Did you hear about Tracy Zager's new book, Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had? People were talking about it on the 27th (when they weren't talking about Carrie Fisher).

Shared by: Andrew Gael, Crystal Lancour, Jill Gough, John Golden, Sahar Khatri, David Coffey, Dan Meyer

December 28: Kyle Pearce wrote, "Exploring Fraction Constructs and Proportional Reasoning." It's a post rich with all sorts of part-whole relationships, number line placements, concrete and visual representations, and operations.

Shared by: Crystal Lancour, Dan Allen, David Petro, Mark Chubb, Kyle Pearce, Matthew Oldridge

Annie Fetter at Innov8 2016
December 29: Suzanne Alejandre, Max Ray-Riek, and Annie Fetter, while working fall conferences for The Math Forum, posted bulletin boards in common spaces titled "Ask the NCTM Community." Suzanne's blog post here lists the questions and responses written on those boards, which has prompted maybe the best and most active comment section I've seen to any blog post in a long time.

Shared by: Megan Schmidt, Casey McCormick, Suzanne Alejandre, The Math Forum, Earl Samuelson, Gary Davis, Max Ray-Riek

Around the Math Ed Web

A quick check on the Global Math Department shows these recent and upcoming sessions:
I found a tweet from NCTM that says there will be a #TCMchat, #MTMSchat, and #MTchat in January on the 11th, 18th, and 25th, respectively, but no details about the articles. I also learned that one person used #TCMchat over the holiday while watching Turner Classic Movies.

Research Notes

The January 2017 issue of Educational Studies in Mathematics is out:
Three more articles have been added to the March 2017 issue of The Journal of Mathematical Behavior:
Some journals seemed to hurry up to get their last 2016 issue out before the end of the year. For the International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, they jumped to put out both their January and February 2017 issues. Here's the math-focused articles:
Whereas IJSME got out in front of 2017, AERA just squeezed out the March 2016 issue of the Review of Research in Education. It's a bit confusing, but RRE is really only published once a year, so the "March" timing is irrelevant. This year, there is one math-related article by Alan Schoenfeld, and it's a survey of the field — and open access!
Here's the newest from the January 2017 and February 2017 issues of Teaching and Teacher Education:
For the Twitter crowd, there are some familiar faces in the latest Journal of Urban Mathematics Education:

Math Ed in the News

The theme this week seems to be "teach math through music/philosophy/news/anythingotherthanmath."

Math Ed in Colorado

I only have two reminders, which I'll keep short:

This Week in Math Ed: December 23, 2016

I'm still catching up, so here are stories that were popular the week before Christmas. I'm saving other items for the next post, so you'll have to wait!

Math Ed Said

December 16: It's a Desmos holiday sweater!

Shared by: Shelley Carranza, Mike Maki, Stephanie Ling, Carolyn Spencer, Kathy Henderson, Melinda Lula, Ashley Bingenheimer, Andrew Shauver, Julia Finneyfrock, David Petersen,

December 17: In an interview with Carol Dweck in The Atlantic called "Don't Let Praise Become a Consolation Prize," we explore some of the ways growth mindset should and shouldn't be used.

Shared by: Patrick Honner, Marcie Lewis, Rebecca Gasper, Marilyn Burns, Chi Klein, Steven Strogatz, Ayodele Harrison

December 18: "How Big is 'Big'?" is another great post from Mark Chubb. It's difficult to develop number sense with large numbers, and in this post Mark explores some activities that can help or hinder the development of big-number sense.

Shared by: Mark Chubb, Andrea Ogden, Brandi Moore, Jamie Garner, Matthew Oldridge, Margie Pearse, Laura Wagenman

December 19: Dan Meyer asked us to makeover a system of equations.

Shared by: Jamie Duncan, Carolyn Spencer, George Woodbury, Nat Banting, Zach Cresswell, Denis Sheeran, Michael Welch, Amy Hogan, Matthew Oldridge, Rob Horcher, Dan Meyer

December 20: Progress continues on the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum.

Shared by: Ron King, Ashli Black, Andrew Gael, Sadie Estrella, Kristin Gray, Robert Kaplinsky, Geoff Krall, Kate Nowak, Judy Keeney, Vanessa Cerrahoglu, Joanie Funderburk, David Petersen, Mike Steele, Bowen Kerins, Nik Doran, Illustrative Maths

December 21: There's a companion website for Tracy Zager's new book, Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had.

Shared by: Tyler Anderson, Sara VanDerWerf, Genni Steele, Mary Gambrel, Vanessa Cerrahoglu

We might have been debating this in 1966.
December 22: "The High-School Mathematician's Crutch Is Not Allowed in Most Colleges" appeared in The Atlantic, and struck me as something that might have appeared more at home in 1986 or 1996 than 2016. We have a standard to "use appropriate tools strategically," but this article seems to seek for something closer to all-or-none. In 1986 my teachers were telling me I needed to master arithmetic because I wouldn't always have a calculator with me. My teachers were usually right, but on this point, they were wrong. I do always have a calculator with me — and it makes phone calls!

Shared by: Dan Meyer, Egan Chernoff, Brittany Cuchta, Steven Gnagni, Christopher Danielson, Vicki Carter, Andrew Gael, Matthew Oldridge, OCTM, Nick Gerhard