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.