Today, I witnessed an excellent old-school lesson. The teacher was engaging, funny, and had play-doh on the desks with toothpicks to demonstrate angle relationships to the sophomore Geometry students.

Students inserted a Cloze Notes-Style handout into their plastic dry-erase sleeve and followed along, filling in words to define the vocabulary in sentence frames. By the end of class, all the students were giving the correct hand signal for Adjacent Angles, Vertical Angles, and more.

But something… just didn’t feel right about it.

No… not right… something didn’t feel complete about it.

Earlier this week, I was chatting with John Stevens and Jed Butler on Voxer.

Picture group texts, but with voice messages instead. It's awesome.

Voxer – group texts, but with voice messages instead. It’s awesome.

We had just gotten our issue of CoMmuniCator (the monthly publication of CMC) which featured two-page descriptions of lessons, like visual patterns and drawing the ideal polygon.

It occurred to me, those are two things that prominent math educators have done extensive work with online, yet CMC has no idea, nor do the teachers who are submitting these articles.

We appear to have two schools of math teachers.

The first school is the Math-Twitter-Blog-o-sphere (affectionately and mercifully abbreviated #MTBOS).


Hundreds of math educators across the world weigh in on blogs, twitter feeds, and Voxer channels to inform best practices on teachers thousands of miles away that they’ve never met. The focus is professional growth that helps students learn mathematics in a meaningful way.

The second school is the CoMmuniCator crowd.

They spend hours writing a two-page description of visual patterns in their math classroom, include a worksheet, and submit it to the local Math Education journal, feeling satisfied: that their environment is full of opportunities like this.

To these, I insist; there is so much more than your pond.

Clouds_over_the_Atlantic_Ocean from wikimedia

Outside the pond, there is a wide large world full of dynamic educators whose students aren’t just learning the standards, they’re learning to wrestle,

to challenge,

to critique,

to debate,

to seek meaning out of chaos.

In short, there is an ocean of educators growing children into little mathematicians while others are making really cool photocopies in their pond.

I’m not saying that they’re bad teachers. Not that they’re boring.

Just that they’re missing out.

I’ve had dozens of conversations with math teachers since my recent job change to EdTech Coach. Less than half have heard of Dan Meyer or Desmos.

Evelyn Baracaldo, a representative of NCTM 2015 – Nashville, sent out a few emails to teachers (including me), inviting us to present on “Emerging Technologies”. Some digging on my part revealed:

  • The deadline to submit proposals is 15 months before the conference date. (Proposals for a conference on “emerging technologies”.)
  • There will be no wireless internet available.


NCTM, the largest group of Math Educators in the nation, is missing the point.

EDIT: Shortly after posting this, I had lunch with Robert Kaplinksy, who convinced me that NCTM reaching out to blogging, tweeting teachers like me is a step in the right direction, and I should lighten up.

He’s correct. Afterward, I applied to give a workshop at NCTM Nashville.

This feels like the keynote address at Twitter Math Camp (which I didn’t attend this year, though I heard whispers and elevator summaries). Those of us in the ocean have a vested interest in the thousands of ponds across the country.

Backyard Pond by Todd Ryburn

Some of those ponds are excellent and need no help.

This year, I’m excited to show the pond-fish just how big the ocean is.

UPDATE 3 MARCH 2015: The California Mathematics Council continues to borrow blog posts in print form, with three-acts and visual patterns in the March issue. I have mad respect for Brad Fulton, but surely he’s aware of Dan Meyer’s work on the three acts of a mathematical story.

Also, it’s cringeworthy that CMC appears unaware of Desmos and still uses Comic Sans.

~Matt “The Sand Shark” Vaudrey