My NCTM Board Statement

While I am a better teacher because of my NCTM membership, NCTM has also provided inspiration and opportunities that ignited in me a passion for leadership.  This is why I feel humbled to be running in the NCTM Board of Directors election this fall.

NCTM allows 400 total words for candidate profiles, which must include employment history, professional activities, and other information.  That left me with about 250 words for my candidate statement when I really needed 2,500.

Fortunately this blog gives me unlimited words.  So here is my full profile, and below is my candidate statement.  In future posts I will unpack some of my claims and recommendations.  I would love to hear from you about my statement, and to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing NCTM.


As a classroom teacher, I benefit from NCTM’s high-quality resources and instructional support to its members—and so do my students. NCTM’s membership challenges have parallels to student engagement challenges we encounter in the classroom. Just as we know that each and every student has valuable contributions to make, NCTM must be more inclusive in seeking and leveraging contributions from each of its diverse members to benefit the entire community.

We need at least one NCTM member in every school so we can reach all student and educator populations—NCTM’s focus on equity demands it. Customizable, à la carte member benefits will reduce financial barriers and add value for all members. To make NCTM accessible to more educators, we should consider K–12 Institutional Memberships so member schools can offer their teachers customizable, teacher-led professional development. Educators want on-demand, just-in-time support; NCTM’s library of resources should be more easily searchable, customizable, and socially collaborative.

NCTM should amplify members’ voices and value their contributions in innovative ways. On the membership page of NCTM’s website, new and current members should be able to get involved immediately with NCTM’s community, perhaps by reviewing proposals through an “online seat” on program committees or by collecting student work samples for use in NCTM publications. Year-round collaborative growth opportunities will support educators and provide additional opportunities for involvement.

My top priority is to keep NCTM grounded in the work of dedicated classroom teachers and teacher educators striving to reach each and every student. I humbly welcome the opportunity to serve you.

#iTeachMath Sub-Communities


Well, as previously discussed, the Twitter Bots are humming away!  In the first week 72 people followed the main @iteachmathAll Bot (retweets all #iteachmath tweets).  I sent one tweet to announce the Sub-Communities with Twitter Bots, no other publicity, so a very encouraging first week – seems there is actually a need for streamlining how people follow hashtags.

The challenge now is to build up a critical mass within each sub-community to sustain effective conversations without the “echo chamber” effect of many unanswered tweets.  To support that build-up, the first step will be to populate the 3 sub-communities by school level: Elementary, Middle, or High.  Once each of these 3 sub-communities are thriving, we can begin populating the more specialized grade-level and course sub-communities.  So right now, please do the following:

  • Follow one (or more) of these school-level accounts: @iteachmathElem, @iteachmathMS, @iteachmathHS
  • When tweeting something particular to one of these 3 levels, start including the hashtag #iteachmathElem, #iteachmathMS, or #iteachmathHS – in addition to #iteachmath or other hashtags as space allows.
  • Share this widely!

These sub-communities will strengthen the responsiveness and efficiency of our interactions with each other, particularly for newcomers… so let’s take #iteachmath to the next level with sub-communities.

A solution (maybe) to the #mtbos / #iteachmath / echo chamber dilemma

Dan Meyer dropped a metaphorical bomb on the #MathTwitterBlogOSphere by suggesting we retire the #MTBoS hashtag.  Dan has identified important issues of awareness, barriers to entry, and inclusivity with the #MTBoS that we as a community must resolve.  Of course Twitter’s constraints and norms create additional barriers.  It seems that the online community has outgrown the #MTBoS conventions that were adequate in its smaller, earlier forms.  The “echo chamber” effect of unanswered tweets using the hashtag #MTBoS is a huge concern as new users do not experience the benefit of the community and do not see a viable path toward more productive interactions with established participants.

Harry O’Malley proposed subgroups of hashtags by grade level / course, city, and topic of interest.  I too have thought about subgroups through which tweet-writers could classify their tweets to reach a narrower audience more likely to respond.  But it is neither easy nor practical especially for new users to set up searches or filters for multiple hashtags, even if using OR statements in TweetDeck, for example.

When a new user creates a Twitter account, the first step is to follow some people.  But if you are new, you probably do not know many people to follow.  Even with listings of people to follow by category like this one, few people limit their tweets to these categories.  This fact creates barriers for new users by not knowing how to construct productive groups of people to follow, and by creating bloated timelines requiring users to sift through many tweets unrelated to their core interests to find tweets of interest to them.  We need a way to filter tweets into our timelines that more closely align with our interests.

So here is my solution: Twitter Bots.  Yep, Twitter accounts that exist solely to retweet tweets that include particular hashtags.  For example, I followed these steps and created a Twitter Bot for San Diego, @mtbosSD, that automatically retweets any tweet that includes the hashtag #mtbosSD.  Such a Bot may seem pointless, but it allows San Diegans to follow the San Diego MTBoS account once, a natural account to follow when first setting up a Twitter account, and then receive all San Diego-classified tweets in their timeline where they are more likely to be seen by other San Diegans.  For tweet-writers, upon typing the hashtag #mtbos____ there will be suggested hashtags with the various suffixes, like #mtbosSD if you have a San Diego-related tweet to send.

One note: Harry suggested using “#itmSD” based on Dan’s choice of “#iteachmath”.  Turns out that there are many existing Twitter accounts and/or hashtags using the “itm” prefix.  For example, the @itmK and @itm1 accounts are already taken by other users, as are others on Harry’s list.  To avoid confusion it is probably best to avoid mixing non-math-education accounts with math-education hashtags.  I used “mtbos” because it is a more unique prefix and did not have that duplication issue.

What do you think?  Would this “hack” help people more easily connect with smaller communities around their specific areas of interest, as early as at the time they create their Twitter account?  Might these Bots reduce the “echo chamber effect” of people posting questions to the broader #mtbos or #iteachmath hashtags and not getting responses?

Would love you feedback, post in comments please…





How do you answer “What is the #MTBoS?”

We all know the power of our #MTBoS community.  But how do we recruit and convince colleagues?

Here is my attempt to tell our story, in the words of several prominent #MTBoS contributors:

This video looped continually in the #MTBoS station of our Learning Lounge.  I also created a BINGO card (below) to give new participants some concrete first steps to get started in the #MTBoS.

Extending the conference experience beyond the closing session is critical in ensuring that conference take-aways actually make their way back into our classrooms.  Plus there are many teachers who have come to the #MTBoS because they lack effective PLCs at their sites.  Using my video and BINGO (err, MTBOS) card to promote the #MTBoS at your conferences, district and site trainings, and directly with colleagues is an easy way to support that transfer and grow our community even further.

Okay #MTBoS, share this widely and send it viral!


Special thanks to everyone in the video: Julie Reulbach (@jreulbach), Robert Kaplinsky (@robertkaplinsky), Matt Vaudrey (@mrvaudrey), Anne Schwartz (@sophgermain), Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer), Rebecka Peterson (@rebeckamozdeh), Chris Shore (@mathprojects), John Berray (@johnberray), Andrew Stadel (@mr_stadel), Daniel Luevanos (@danluevanos), Sarah Hagan (@mathequalslove).

Robert, Matt, Chris, John, Andrew, and Daniel all spoke at the GSDMC 2017 conference.  With this project in mind, prior to the conference I asked them to record their own answers to the questions that I asked in the video.  The others recorded similar videos available here.  I then hunkered down to do A TON of splicing.  Was actually surprised how well everyone’s answers fit together into a compelling narrative, despite nobody coordinating their responses with each other!

(click image to download original)MTBoS BINGO colored

The Learning Lounge

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Previously I wrote about static conference designs that do not reflect the effective teaching practices for which we advocate in the classroom.  In this post I will argue for conference committees to democratize, personalize, and collaborify (is that a word?!!) their conferences.  At the 2017 GSDMC conference we designed a Learning Lounge (LINK) that took meaningful steps toward these goals.  We had six stations:

  • Genius Bar – speakers are Apple’s version of “Geniuses”, and it makes sense to increase attendee access to these speakers beyond the scheduled session blocks. Attendees have questions about relating the presentation’s content to their individual classrooms, and speakers actually appreciate the opportunity and challenge of personalizing their presentations for individual classroom teachers.
  • #MTBoS (video) – a space for #MTBoS folks to connect in-person, meet new participants and recruit those who have not heard about us.
  • San Diego Math Teachers’ Circle – teachers are more likely to engage students with problem solving opportunities if they are more comfortable with solving unfamiliar problems themselves. Teacher Circles are safe spaces for teachers to do mathematics and rediscover the joy of problem solving that we all felt early in our careers.
  • San Diego Computer Science Teachers’ Association – computational thinking can (and should) have a place in the mathematics classroom. The San Diego affiliate of the CSTA brought robots for attendees to program, demonstrated AlgoGeom, and other learning experiences that connect the math and computer science disciplines.
  • Used-ful Bookstore – we all have used-but-still-useful books and other resources on our bookshelves. We invited attendees to bring these books to sell or donate to other attendees.
  • CMC Math Festivals – CMC supports teachers in bringing fun, carnival-like math festivals for students and parents. Bruce and Karen Grip created stations for attendees to sample some of their festival activities and promote bringing CMC Math Festivals back to their sites and communities.
  • Exhibit Hall – exhibitors appreciate more foot traffic, so having the Exhibit Hall in the same room as the Learning Lounge helped support foot traffic in both spaces.

This design is modular, so each year we can easily switch stations to feature other community organizations or to address hot topics in math education.  The result was a lively space where attendees could personalize their conference experience and learn from each other as well as from our scheduled speakers.

One thing we learned was that many attendees still thought they ought to attend scheduled speakers’ presentations during every session block, and therefore many did not want to skip speakers’ sessions to visit the Learning Lounge.  So next year we are increasing the time between sessions so attendees do not need to miss sessions to attend the Learning Lounge, Exhibit Hall, and to reflect with other attendees about sessions they attended.

Would love to hear your feedback, and ideas for other conference innovations…

What Most Conferences Get Wrong

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Most of us have attended a very large number of conferences.  If your experience has been like mine, most conferences look and feel the same, and sadly in ways that teachers KNOW are not effective in the classroom either.  To name a few:

  • Speaker-centered presentations
  • Passive demands on attendees
  • Little or no follow-up on learning outcomes
  • Little sense of community or collaboration

That is, the challenges of planning effective conferences are not that different from those of planning effective lessons.  If we want teachers to learn from attending conferences, then as conference planners we might want to “practice what we preach” – model the instructional practices that we know are more effective for student learning so attendees might have similarly effective learning experiences at our conferences.  

Two examples:  

  1. To its credit, NCTM has recognized the need for changing static conference designs, and has now rebranded 1 of its 3 regional conferences each year as Innov8 Conferences focused on a particular problem of practice.  I was on the program committee for St. Louis 2016 – Engaging the Struggling Learner and helped design the Innov8 Lounge to diversify the conference experience and establish community-based learning opportunities for attendees.  The Book Nook, Genius Bar (actually called the Innov8 Bar), Narrate – Stories from the Classroom, and TNT – Teachers Networking with Teachers spaces all engaged attendees more intimately and meaningfully.  The Innov8 Lounge model will be used in future Innov8 Conferences also.
  2. Locally, I chaired the Greater San Diego Math Council’s 2017 Annual Conference.  We designed a similar Learning Lounge to create stations run by local organizations that shared similar goals as GSDMC.  In this way we brought together local organizations and resources that attendees may not have known about, established GSDMC as a local leader in establishing partnerships in the community, and provided space to advance the missions of each partner organization through access to our conference attendees.

    For the 2018 conference we are also planning free follow-up meetings throughout the year for attendees to reconnect with their conference attendees.  We hope to extend the conference learning beyond the closing session, and provide ongoing and coordinated professional development to help ensure that conference learning outcomes make it back to the classroom effectively and permanently.

So, what more can conference planners do to re-imagine what it means to attend a conference?

To close, or not to close…

One theme you’ll see over the next few posts is connecting teachers’ lesson designs for students with conference committee members’ designs for attendees:

  • To what extent should conference planners and speakers model the effective teaching practices they advocate for use with students?  “Practice what you preach” anyone?
  • Are the instructional strategies that work for student learning the same strategies that work for teacher learning?

Time for a specific example.  Good lessons include effective closures that prompt students to reflect about their learning and solidify the essential understandings for students.  I would argue that the time spent with a well-designed closure gives the greatest bang-for-our-buck versus other ways to spend those last 1-2 minutes.  So…

Should conferences have a closing session, designed with the same purpose as lesson closures?

This question has strained my brain more than any other deliberation among our conference committee.  CMC-S Palm Springs does not have a closing session, just 8 blocks of sessions, and is extraordinarily well-attended (admittedly there are other reasons besides the lack of a closing session for this strong turnout).  In my experience with NCTM and other conference committees, 25-50% of attendees would rather leave the conference early than attend the closing session (for a variety of understandable and not-so-understandable reasons).  Yet the educational benefits of lesson closure, and by extension conference closure, still remain.

So would your ideal conference offer a closing session?  If yes, how would you design a more effective closing experience for your attendees?  If not, how do you separate the learning benefits for students in classrooms versus teachers at conferences?  As educators, we claim to know something about effective teaching and learning – but whether these insights apply to conferences for teachers has turned out to be a surprisingly sticky question for me.

Very eager to hear your thoughts…