"Maybe someday you could continue Jerry Becker's email listserv." --David Webb, circa 2015

Dr. Jerry Becker died on April 16 at the age of 85, leaving behind his wife, three children, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and a very useful set of email listservs. By way of my Ph.D., Dr. Becker is an academic great-uncle of mine, although I never had the pleasure of meeting him. I can't pretend to fill his shoes, but there is something I can do to continue in his tradition by providing a service similar to what he offered for so many years.

Today I'm announcing (Self-subscribe here.) It's an email distribution list to share the kinds of things people used to share through Dr. Becker: job openings, conference announcements, requests for articles for journal issues, and other items of interest to the mathematics education community. Instead of sending items to me, subscribers to the list can email the list address directly and I'll moderate items along that appear legitimate and useful. I'll tweak things along the way and, if there's demand for additional lists or services, I can consider offering them. The service is provided by an international GNU Mailman host. The software isn't flashy, but it works and isn't going anywhere. I may not live to 85 to keep hosting the list like Dr. Becker did, but I'll stick around as long as I can and I won't be surprised if Mailman sticks around that long, too.

So who am I and why am I doing this? I'm the mathematics specialist at the Colorado Department of Education, and prior to that I was a high school math teacher and a Ph.D. student at CU Boulder. Regardless if I was working in practice, research, or policy, I've been interested in the organization of education communities and how they communicate ideas. This includes professional organizations, Twitter, the Global Math Department, and forums like MyNCTM. Under the domain, I've blogged and maintained a wiki, and at one time spun up an experimental instance of a social network using free software. In my current role with CDE I operate the CoMath listserv, which has been in existence since 1995, and I help edit the Colorado Mathematics Teacher journal. My advisor, David Webb, made the comment above somewhat offhandedly partway through my graduate school experience and it's stuck in my head ever since. Dr. Becker didn't leave his listservs to a successor, and the subscription lists they contained are (as they should be) the private information of his university. But that doesn't mean we can't try starting anew to continue the old.

I've long believed that if mathematics teachers and educators are going to all be part of a professional community, it's going to take many different related sub-communities in many different forms, using different technologies, membership structures, languages, and different target audiences. We're too numerous to all huddle under one hashtag, and too smart to think that our ideas could—or should—fit in one place. Maybe others will start email list services of their own to meet a particular need, or find other ways to communicate. That would be excellent. The more the merrier. We all have a part in this, and my next part is to moderate a new email list. So if you have something to share, or need to have things shared with you, I'll be at waiting for you to subscribe and post your messages.

Update: The nomination for Elizabeth Fennema's NCTM Lifetime Achievement Award has been submitted!

The materials for Elizabeth Fennema's nomination for an NCTM Lifetime Achievement Award have been submitted! When I started this a few weeks ago (see my previous post), I really didn't know how much support I'd get. But do you know what? I found out that if you mention Fennema's name in the subject of your email, her collaborators and colleagues will reply, write letters, share petitions, and tell you stories. So I must thank Megan Franke, Jodean Grunow, Janice Gratch (with help from early CGI study teachers!), Linda Levi, and Walter Secada for writing five wonderful letters of recommendation. And I also need to thank David Webb, Meg Meyer, and Diana Kasbaum for helping to connect me with these generous friends of Elizabeth's, and to thank Farshid Safi for providing a list of Fennema's doctoral students. I didn't ask the letter writers for permission to share their letters to the world, but I'm posting the rest of the nomination materials below. We ended up with 276 co-signers of the nomination, including previous NCTM Lifetime Awardees Johnny Lott, Ed Dickey, Ed Silver, Frank Lester, Judith Jacobs, Douglas Grouws, Shirley Frye, and Mary Lindquist. Signatures were still coming in when I finalized the letter, so my apologies if you signed late today and your name didn't get included by the time I needed to email the nomination to NCTM. (I see you, Cathy Seeley!)


Let's Get Elizabeth Fennema an NCTM Lifetime Achievement Award

Elizabeth Fennema
I've never met Elizabeth Fennema and she retired long ago. But I know her body of work, and I believe she's conspicuously absent from NCTM's list of Lifetime Achievement Award winners. I've mentioned this on Twitter in the past in the hopes that someone who worked with her would snap to action, but this year I'm taking matters into my own hands and coordinating a nomination. And I'm giving you a chance to help me.

I'm assembling a letter of nomination and resume in a Google Doc that is open to public comments. Beyond this, I need up to 5 letters of recommendations. If you want to write one of the letters, let me know at I'll be recruiting a few potential letter writers personally, but will take any help people wish to offer. I encourage you to sign this petition in support of her nomination, and I'll collect names from this petition and include them as co-signers of the letter of nomination.

If you don't know Elizabeth Fennema or why she deserves an NCTM Lifetime Achievement Award, keep reading for a short biography of her below. You can also read her biographies on Wikipedia and the University of St. Andrews. And don't forget to review and contribute to the letter of nomination, resume and petition.

Elizabeth Fennema Biography:

Elizabeth Fennema is an Emerita Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her active career in mathematics spanned about 40 years, starting as a graduate student at UW-Madison in the 1960s, then as a faculty member until the mid-90s, then continuing in retirement as an emerita professor.

Fennema is known for two field-changing bodies of work, either of which alone would be worthy of lasting recognition. First is her work about gender in mathematics. After publishing a review of gender differences literature in JRME in 1974, she teamed with Julia Sherman to produce what are now known as the Fennema-Sherman studies. With methodological rigor and new measurement tools (the Fennema-Sherman Scales), the pair redefined knowledge and perspectives on the intersection between gender and achievement in mathematics, showing that under-performance by females was sociocultural in nature and a function of opportunity, and not due to differences in biology.

In the 1980s, Fennema combined with Thomas Carpenter and others for another grand body of work, now known as Cognitively Guided Instruction and summarized for teachers in the book Children’s Mathematics. The research program was a model for applying new theories of constructivism to children’s mathematics learning, and took equally seriously the development of professional development to empower teachers to use their findings to improve elementary mathematics education. Few, if any, mathematics research programs to date have been as comprehensive, rigorous, and beneficial to the field of mathematics education as CGI.

NCTM’s book Classics in Mathematics Education Research (2004) contains articles representing both of these bodies of work (Fennema & Sherman, 1977; Carpenter, Fennema, Peterson, Chiang, & Loef, 1989), making Elizabeth Fennema the only author with two articles recognized as classics in mathematics education. According to citation counts in Google Scholar, Fennema has authored 7 articles or books that have been cited over 1000 times. Searching the JSTOR archives of the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education for “Fennema” yields 431 results, putting her ahead of her contemporaries Thomas Romberg (332 results) and Douglas Grouws (379 results), both NCTM Lifetime Achievement Award recipients. Fennema served NCTM as the chair of the Research Advisory Committee in the late 1970s and was on the JRME editorial panel from 1977-1979, in addition to editing a number of books co-published by the council in the 1980s and 1990s. Fennema has been awarded for her work by the American Educational Research Association and the Association for Women in Mathematics Education, holds an honorary doctorate from Mount Mary College, and was named a member of the National Academy of Education in 1997.

Coherence Gap Spreadsheet

I'm overdue in getting this out into the wider world, but I've developed a spreadsheet that incorporates all the coherence connections found in the Coherence Map and adds to that instructional time data about how many lessons and hours a math curriculum spends on each standard. Yeah, it's a lot. But as I talked to math teachers and leaders at the end of last spring, I felt there were a lack of tools available that incorporated both coherence and instructional time, and my solution was a big Excel workbook with lots and lots of rows of lesson data, some long VLOOKUP formulas, and some conditional formatting to make the results readable. If you geek out over spreadsheets and math curriculum planning, I think you'll like it.

The lesson data comes from EngageNY for K-5 and Illustrative Mathematics for Grades 6 through Algebra 2. I didn't have any special preference for one set of curriculum materials over any other (and neither does the State of Colorado), but both of these are open educational resources with lesson alignments and time estimates, so I used them. You can substitute time data in for whatever materials you'd like, but be warned that you're looking at 3500+ rows of data, so either bring a team of people with you or learn to write some code that scrapes data from publishers' websites and formats it for you. (I chose the latter.)

With the help of a pivot table and some lookup functions, what this spreadsheet allows you to do is indicate some percentage of coverage you thought each standard has gotten (if making sense of past curriculum decisions) or will get (if planning for future curriculum decisions). In return, the spreadsheet reports back to you how much instruction for each standard is left unfinished, and how much future instruction (following arrows in the Coherence Map) might be at risk. Just be mindful that the spreadsheet is like a lot of models—wrong, but possibly useful. The instructional time estimates might be flawed, not everything aligns as neatly as I'd like, the data may not really reflect your materials or pacing, and the crude way the coverage formulas work might just be wrong. So if it gives you some data that you just know is flawed, then maybe it is. But if you're patient with it, and you aren't afraid to look beyond the conditional formatting color scheme and dig more deeply into why instructional time is allocated where it is, then I think this spreadsheet can give you something to work with as you make decisions about your curriculum planning.

This was one of my on-the-job projects as math specialist for the Colorado Department of Education, so CDE is hosting the spreadsheet itself. Head on over to the Coherence Gap Spreadsheet page to download the latest version of the file. I also urge you to watch the tutorial video, which I'll also embed here. I kept it as short as I could at 12 minutes, and if you're already familiar with the Coherence Map you can skip the first 2:00.

If you have any questions about the spreadsheet, please let me know. And if you modify the spreadsheet to make it better or more inclusive of more curriculum materials, I'd really like to know about that, too.

This Week in Math Ed: January 4, 2019

I'm back! I'll remember 2018 for finishing two enormous projects: The revision of the Colorado Academic Standards (where I had a hand in all 12 content areas, not just mathematics) and the completion of my dissertation and my Ph.D. It really became necessary to set aside this blog (and a whole lot of other things) to get those done. When 2019 is over, I hope to remember it as the year life resumed some sense of normalcy.

I'm going to make some tweaks to my previous TWiME format. Most notably, I'm not going to apply more editorial discretion instead of simply resharing whatever happened to be the most popular link on Twitter each day. Sometimes what is popular isn't what's best, and what we see on the internet is already controlled by enough half-baked algorithms without me, a human, trying to act like a half-baked algorithm myself. If you want raw data about what's popular, you can look the same place I look, my Nuzzel feed for my MathEd Twitter list. I think I'll also allow myself more flexibility week-to-week instead of thinking I need a certain amount of research, news, events, etc. in each post. With that said, let's get on to it, shall we?

Math Ed Said

As a preservice teacher, my advisor, Bonnie Litwiller, told us to read decimal numbers properly, i.e., read "5.43" as "five and forty-three hundredths." I'm a stickler about a lot of mathematical language, but I wasn't sold on this one. Sara Van Der Werf's post, "Small Change, Big Difference part 1. Why you should eliminate ‘POINT’ from your vocabulary" made me rethink my position about this because it makes such a compelling argument for how our language helps students build their understanding of place value and the base-10 number system.

George Woodbury read a lot of books last year and summarized the best in the post "Top 5 Education Books I Read Last Year". George seems to like reading about student learning and most of the books on this list were new to me.

Kyle Pearce and Jon Orr have a podcast? When did this start? Less than a month ago, it turns out, so if you're just finding out now, like me, you haven't missed very much. It's called "Making Math Moments that Matter" and the first few episodes have focused on curiousity, sensemaking, and mentoring.

Get Involved

On Tuesday, January 8, Sara Vaughn, Martin Joyce, Morgan Stipe, and Jen Arberg will lead the Global Math Department with a discussion of their experiences with the Open Up Resources 6-8 math curriculum.

Dr. Robert Berry, NCTM President
Dr. Robert Berry, President of NCTM, will hold a President's Message webinar on Wednesday, January 9 at 7pm EST. Register now to attend. While you're at it, check out NCTM's webinar archives to see what else you might have missed.

The first #TCMchat of 2019 will be Wednesday, January 9 at 9pm EST. The topic will be the article "'Sliding' into an Equitable Lesson" by Kelley Buchheister, Christa Jackson, and Cynthia Taylor.
The application deadline for the Teacher Leadership Program at the IAS/Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI) is Tuesday, January 15. This is a professional development program best suited for teachers of grades 5-12. Teachers of lower grades may apply but should be aware of the emphasis on mathematics in the program. Applicants to TLP must spend at least 50% of their time as classroom teachers. You'll need a resume and reference letters, so don't put off your application until the last minute! To learn more, you can go to the website and you may want to review this Global Math Department session from last month.

The PAEMST application cycle is open! Outstanding grade 7-12 teachers of mathematics, science, computer science, technology, and engineering can be nominated any time before March 1, 2019. Those teachers accepting their nomination have until May 1, 2019 to submit a completed application.

Are you interested in becoming a reviewer for If so, you can apply now on their website.

Math Ed in Colorado

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day with the Buffs and a basketball game on Thursday, January 10th! CU Boulder alums and friends of the School of Education are invited to a pre-game reception and can get discounted tickets to the basketball game.

Math on the "Planes" is coming February 22-23! This year's facilitator is Steve Leinwand and the event will be held in Adams 12. You can register on the CCLD website and those needing a scholarship to cover registration costs are encouraged to apply through the Mikkelson Mathematics and Science Scholarship Fund. The deadline for scholarship applications is January 18, 2019.