Friday, 5 September 2014

Summer's End 2014

Summer? What summer? Well, I did a wrapup for 2013, I might as well repeat the process this year. Once again, I failed to get to a bunch of stuff I wanted to - while simultaneously getting a bunch done too. Here's the record!


One of the first things I did was attend a tweet up at Mary Bourassa’s place, whereby I met Audrey McLaren in person for the first time! My parents and my aunt also came by for a visit. Beyond that though, the first couple of weeks of July were spent trying to do things I hadn’t had time for in the 5 months previous.  Namely: Edit Book 3 of my Time Travel story (which I managed by July 10th), fully read Mawi’s book “The 5 Powers of an Educator” (I blogged about him here), and catch up on my blog posting both for here and on MuseHack.

I blogged more in July 2014 than in any previous month.

Let's squeeze in a 5 minute break
I felt like I’d FINALLY caught up to the end of June around maybe the 14th of July. My wife took some time off work, we did some bicycling and took a day trip out to the beach. I tidied my office, started reading Steven Strogatz’s “The Joy of X”, and sketched out the back story of new characters for my Time Travel story sequel. (Taking place at University of Ottawa.) The plot itself, like all time travel plots, turned out to be one I’ll have to fully map out in advance. I also wrote a single song parody.

So that was maybe 4 days of summer.

Rehearsals started up for Pygmalion at school by the 17th (weekdays only, weekends free). To say there were some complications from parents would be an understatement. In the midst of it, I skipped out to “Twitter Math Camp” in Jenks, Oklahoma from July 23rd to 27th (and I blogged about that too, starting here). I actually hadn’t been sure about “live blogging” again, but effectively the day before, I decided to make it a point form “facts game”, as my motivation. I even managed to finish “Joy of X” on the plane ride back.

Upon my return to town, “Pygmalion” rehearsals were going on in earnest, so I was at school nearly every day (for less than 6 hours?), doing what I could. I also wrote some post-TMC blog posts; weekends were still free, but the last day of July was a Thursday.

Thus... 5 days of nothing-to-do summer by this point? I’m counting weekends here, because I’m usually working on the weekends during school. Granted, I suppose it’s less days if you consider needing to tend my lawn. My wife helped me clip the hedges.


Not that kind of archive dive
We can make the total 8 days by August 5th (long weekend), if we ignore me randomly worrying about things. During that time, I finally got to reading Andrea Milne’s “Short Story Project”, started an archive dive on the (x, why?) webcomic by @mrburkemath, and watched a wee bit of the anime “Suite Pretty Cure”. Following that weekend, I wrote this post to bow out of the “MTBoS”, because I hated that I hadn’t been doing more fiction writing myself. Speaking of, with most of the planning for my Time Travel sequel done at that point, I DID write a good 3 pages or so. Also remembered to celebrate my anniversary.

Then, August 9th, off to Scotland for two weeks with 23 teenagers and 4 other chaperones. (Have I mentioned I’ve never even taken a school trip out of the city before?) That actually went pretty well, the students didn’t have major medical emergencies and Mrs. Schrum (lead chaperone) didn’t go completely crazy (that might have left me in charge). I even saw some great sites/sights, and I then managed to finish reading a third book (which I’d started late July): “A Strange Wilderness: Lives of the Great Mathematicians”. (Completed on the plane ride back.) Only managed a couple pages of writing though, unless you count the daily journal.

Got back August 22nd. Not counting the trip with students, I can now add more onto my 9 days of summer!

Logged some Napier in Edinburgh
Finalized this TV Tropes webpage for (x, why?) - FYI, I now have two at that site, the first was the “Being Erica” page. (I’m not counting the partial page I made for my own web serial because it’s pathetic.) Saw the new Dr Who, and blogged about that. Got my MuseHack post done. Bought a new watch strap (it broke in Scotland) and dropped by University of Ottawa to get a better sense of my story setting. FINALLY started reading “Shadows over Sheradan”, a book I bought last October, written by a local teacher. Updated my personal webpage. Completed editing on Book 4 of my Time Travel Story, which means the whole thing is now converted. I THINK that on August 26th, I did nothing but edits. PRETTY sure that's as close to a nothing day as I had.

At 14 days of summer, I had to return to school... well, I suppose I didn’t HAVE to, no one was paying me, but it was August 28th, I wanted to reorganize my classroom, and I’d already received an email from a parent regarding an IEP (Individual Education Plan). As I write this, I realize I never bought caulking for something I needed to take care of at the house. Darn it.


SO... productive summer? I guess... but I’d also wanted to catch up on Scott Delahunt’s blog, spend time on the Web Fiction Guide Forums, and generally get a better sense of serial writing. There was sewing I didn’t get to, and home improvement (the kitchen faucet still behaves funny, and I need to clean the vents). I didn’t make any new videos, and only managed one song parody. I wanted to actually watch an anime series I’ve had in my possession for a while, and one I don’t.

A teacher colleague of mine says they were able to cross off everything on their “To Do” list this summer. I literally have NO idea what that’s like - is that even possible? Has that ever happened in my life?? (Genuinely curious, is ALWAYS having something else that needs doing just a “me” thing?)

Read, man!
However, I feel like I redeemed my lack of writing a wee bit with an initiative that coalesced in my head on August 31st. I have a lot of characters. If “Guardians of the Galaxy” can pull together a working team from different backgrounds, how about I do something like that? Based on reader suggestions! It’s serial writing without a buffer, you can follow it over at my new (third) blog: Numbers Game Index.

I hope it goes well. Writing is one of the few things that still invigorates me after a week of exhaustion. Time will tell. Coming in some future post: Actual Goals going forwards.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Deep Issues with Deep Breath

Yes, it's another post talking "Doctor Who", and yes, it's about the premiere episode for Peter Capaldi last night. My last "Who" post was back in January, about Clara. It finished with the remark, "To conclude, if the new series currently being filmed is all about Peter Capaldi, and ONLY him... it will bother me." So, I'm bothered.

That said, the issues may not be as deep as the header implies, however they will contain spoilers, so if you don't want those, don't read beyond the image below. To those leaving, I'll sum things up with what I had in my tweet last night: 'Abysmal start to the episode, but it redeemed itself in the end.'

Image from this Space Channel Blogs Article

Let's start with the very good, namely the opening sequence, which I learned is based upon the graphics work of a Doctor Who fan, Billy Hanshaw.  Brilliant.  Also, I thought Capaldi was great in his take on The Doctor.  With that said, here's the five biggest issues I had with the episode, in increasing order of annoyance.  Feel free to take me to task in the comments if you disagree.

5) The Doctor is Scottish

He's not. He's Gallifreyan. He even points out he's not human late in the episode. More to the point, Capaldi isn't even the first Scottish actor to play the Doctor, David Tennant is Scottish. Do we now define people by the way they speak?

Seen in Edinburgh last week
With that said, this was a very minor issue. It got a few chuckles from me, and can even be chalked up in continuity to The Doctor being all befuddled after his regeneration. As long as they don't harp on this later, I'm fine with it. Ending the episode in Glasgow was also an amusing touch.

4) Paternoster Gang

To be clear, my issue isn't that they were included, but how they were included. (I'm speaking of Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax.) In fact, including them is actually rather clever - it gives Clara someone to bounce ideas off of, provides them with knowledge of the new Doctor, and provides the audience with additional grounding in familiar characters as we adjust to Capaldi.

My problem is the laid back attitude they seemed to have. This is the first time we've seen them interact with a Doctor other than Matt Smith, and they seemed to take it in stride. (Much more so than Clara, who's seen ALL his other faces! More on that later.) There also seemed to be completely throwaway scenes for them, like Strax running his medical diagnostic of Clara. To what end? I can tell they were trying to be funny, but it felt out of place. Finally, the writers really seemed to be hammering in the "lesbian relationship" angle between Vastra and Jenny. There was no reason for the multiple references, except perhaps as an attempt to say "look, we're being progressive!". Nothing against the relationship, but there are times subtlety is called for. The whole Peternoster arc felt mismanaged to me.

3) The Dinosaur: Why?

In fact, even before we get to the why, let's address the HOW. We've seen people get pulled along by being on the outside of the TARDIS twice. Jack Harkness, which killed him (temporarily). And Clara herself, in the previous episode, where the time trip got extended by centuries because the TARDIS had to extend it's protective field around her. How the devil is this dinosaur still alive?

Also seen in Edinburgh last week
Worse, it seems to have had no bearing on the plot, meaning the whole thing smacks of "let's do this because it looks cool". I know the mechanical guy talks about needing "an inch of optic nerve" or some such, but it's a throwaway line to justify the whole act. Additionally, I was at the National Museum of Scotland less than a week ago where they have a life-sized skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. We're talking 6 metres high, not whatever size that dinosaur was.  I'll grant some dinosaurs could be much larger, but if we're going to pander to the audience, let's at least do it with more scientific accuracy.

2) Missy

Dear lord, do we really need another antagonist/lover/enigma woman for the Doctor? NO. We have two wonderful plot arcs we can use going forwards. The search for Gallifrey, as established in the 50th anniversary special, and the idea that the Doctor wants to "do something about his mistakes", as seen in the promotional clips. Despite that, we've now thrown in this mystery Missy who rules Heaven and may have given Clara the Doctor's phone number or placed a newspaper ad and for crying out loud, just give us something straightforward for once. The head games were fun for a time, but I'm tired of them. This is going to have to have a really good payoff to get me on board.

1) Clara. Until the last 10 minutes.

I was actively cringing during the first half hour. I was actually wondering if I'd be watching this season of Doctor Who more out of habit rather than out of any enthusiasm. There's a serious problem here.

The problem is that Clara has become a vehicle for the audience rather than a character in her own right.

Think about it. Companions are (at least of late) meant to be our gateway into the Doctor Who universe, our "everyman" (everywoman?) who gets swept up into the cosmic adventure. And Clara's gone beyond this, she's now the "Impossible Girl", who's seen all the Doctors, who's even saved them, and yet she can still return to her own life as a teacher in between episodes. (Speaking as a teacher, I'd probably use a TARDIS to catch up on my grading, but whatever.) So when the casting of an older doctor occurred, and there was a fear that the audience wouldn't buy in, she became that doubting voice of the audience too... even though THAT'S AGAINST HER ESTABLISHED CHARACTER.

We can't trust a parabola's Vertex Form!
It looks totally different than Standard Form!
I've lamented on Clara not considering all her previous incarnations in my prior post, so let's not go over that again. However, let's consider that she HAS seen fragments of ALL the prior Doctors, from when she entered his timeline. She even had a perfectly good discussion with the War Doctor (John Hurt) back in the 50th anniversary episode, without remarking on the fact that he "looked old". I can buy her uncertainty with a new Doctor, but her fear should come from the fact that it's the only one she doesn't know. One that exists because he defied the rules, and changed his own timeline. One that she has no prior experiences to draw on for her interactions.

Instead of that angle, we get Clara questioning why it was a regeneration if he looks so much older. (Well, he looks younger than Smith did at the end of his 1,000 year arc!) We get references to flirting, and the Doctor having "changed" too much. We even get three women (two of them lesbians) in a room chatting about relationships with the Doctor in a rather spectacular fail of The Bechdel Test. (Yes, I know the Test applies to more than single scenes, but the fact that it occurred to me while watching is not a good sign.) Also, what was the deal with Clara being an "egomaniac"? Someone who is a nanny and a teacher, who gives up her own time to help others has ego problems? Or are you taking another jab at the audience, hmmm?

As I say, I spent a good deal of the first part of the episode cringing. (The dinosaur didn't help.) Then the plot kicked in. I rather liked the scene in the restaurant, where I was going to cry "foul!" for having the Doctor place an ad in a specific location in a newspaper when he had no money, so well done subverting that. Clara actually drawing on an event from her past in dealing with the cyborg was also nice. I also like that we don't know who "blinked first" (as it were) between the Doctor and the Half-Face Man. Then, in the last 10 minutes, came the moment that told me someone, somewhere, does understand Clara.

It was when, as Vastra pointed out, Clara put on her 21st century clothes - right before the Doctor returned. On some subconscious level, she's still connected to him. It harkens back to the earlier scene, when she was reaching back for him while being accosted by the cyborgs - and he was there too. Their relationship is based on more than mere appearances.

And yes, there was the last call with Matt Smith, and that was very clever and helped to cement things. But it was that earlier part that gave me hope. Hope that Clara is finally coming into her own as a companion, and that's she's not merely a vicarious experience or a walking plot point. Please, PLEASE, let's see more of her acting like this.

Note: All of this is me pulling on memories from a single viewing. Let me know if I'm misremembering.

Other opinions:
 - Debut Episode Finds TARDIS in Safe Hands (huffington post)
 - Deep Breath a Heroic Failure (forbes)
 - Doctor Who is for Whovians only (scotland herald)
 - Peter Capaldi is Already Carrying Doctor Who (io9)

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Bye For Now

With “Twitter Math Camp” over, I’ve been looking forwards again - as I suppose are many teachers. I’m troubled. Not by the teaching, but by the rest of it. By what goes on outside of teaching. As such, I will be departing the Social Media Math Community (the “MTBoS”) for a time. Have a soundtrack!

AMV Friday #38
I’m posting this publicly for two reasons: 1) I don’t want anyone to think I’m ignoring them if they see me online. 2) If I am spotted online, your first question should probably be “how’s the writing?”. Because here’s the thing.


I’m a writer first, and a teacher second. Time I own up to that. It says it in my Twitter description. My first post to this blog said I would talk about 1) Writing; 2) Math. I have a personal page for all the writing I’ve done, and (aside from my course webpage) nothing for my teaching. I only started blogging in connection with the “Math Twitter Blog O’ Sphere” when my math serial went on hiatus (due to some personal issues) back in late 2012. Since my serial ended last May, the posting has mostly been about the teaching.

This is not working for me.

You want to talk about being a fraud in the MTBoS? Look no further. Improving my teaching doesn’t make me near as happy as improving my writing.

Amusingly enough, I think that this fact has been obvious on the blog itself. Perhaps I haven’t been paying enough attention? (Have you?) I can’t go four posts here without a posting related to my writing. I’ve constantly been looking to vary up my style, from posting multiple points of view in my first “Day in the Life” series, to recently to inserting “find the lies” games into my TMC summary recaps. I also complain about how I write too much on tests and evaluations.

I'll even say that I've always been a bit out of synch. Some MTBoS people I’ve talked to speak of how they have “draft posts never published” or how “blog writing is hard” and WOW do I not get that. I mean, I get that it’s hard in terms of being time consuming, but the writing and having people read it is fun as all get out. Then again, have you ever seen me write a short post? For better or probably worse?

The main problem is that I now know I won’t have the time for both recreational AND teaching related writing come September 2014. Because: 1) After only 15 hours at school the last two days, I’m too spent to write; 2) The fiction story I’m presently working on is harder than my mathematical serial was. To be realistic, I have to kick something to the curb - and it’s going to be the teacher conversations. It’s not like I’ve been churning out useful lessons for anyone anyway, that’s not why I post. And there are others out there with a sympathetic ear.

I doubt it will be a permanent departure. In fact, once I (hopefully) have found some other people out there who like my writing style in fiction, I may see if they’ll follow me back to personified math. It may take months or years, but I left a fairly large narrative hook on the end of my last “Taylor’s Polynomials” storyline - I just didn’t have it in me to follow up. Not then. Still, it’s there if I (or another person) decides to use it.

First sketch. No inking.
If anyone’s curious, here’s the basics of my new story! Katherine “Kat” Irving is a girl who died in a fire when she was young. She is currently the university roommate of Carrie Waterson, a freshman from Ontario, who learned in her junior year of high school that she has the ability to control time. How is this possible? And what’s the deal with the OTHER person able to control time, who seems bent on destroying Carrie?

Time travel stories are a joy to write, but a pain in the ass in terms of plotting, due to the non-linear cause and effect. Depending on the next few weeks, I may toss out my JulNoWriMo from 2012 as my next serial instead: “Balancing Act”. Melissa Virga, a former university student who knows sorcery, is being targeted. James Conway, the Watson to her Holmes, picks up the story from the time of their graduation.

And I’m certain that 90% of those in the MTBoS who read those last paragraphs went “uh... okay?” Which is why you’re not my audience. You probably weren’t my audience for personified mathematics either, seeing as most of the MTBoS is looking for things to improve their teaching, and on that front I got nothing. (Maybe songs. Little else.) Nothing against any of you - it makes sense that reading the equivalent of “Agents of SHIELD” isn’t going to make you teach any better. But writing it will make me happier. Which may help me teach better. Time to be investigating things like #TeachersWrite. Anyone else know more about that?


Now, if you do think I can be of some help, you can still let me know. I won’t be scrolling through my Twitter feed, but I’ll pop on infrequently to have a look at “Notifications” and “DM”s (Direct Messages), as I will still be tweeting: (1) Interesting stats articles and any serial updates; (2) #AMVFriday (like the soundtrack you clicked on earlier); and (3) My education column “There Are No Dumb Questions”, at MuseHack (hopefully less than 50% of you said ‘what’s that?’). So many you may not even notice a difference. If you do, again, I’m not deliberately ignoring you.

It’s just I can’t do it. I can’t teach all day, then come home and do more teaching related things online. I’m already losing my mind. I need recreation. This summer isn’t providing it. My belief - my hope - is that writing can.

In the middle of my backswing?!

I will grant there’s a bit of a contradiction going on, in that I seem to have gained a measure of credibility within the MTBoS... even as I leave it. And since I’ve said that I don’t get close to people - perhaps my being accepted as part of a group is what makes me want to step away from it? I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, but if you think I’m wrong, feel free to call me out on it. By the same token, if you feel like that could be a thing within YOURSELF when it comes to groups, you may want to analyze it.

As to why I’m doing this NOW, and not at the start of SEPTEMBER (when I actually start teaching - I’ve only been out of school since June 30), it’s because I’m preparing to go to Edinburgh this weekend, for two weeks, with a bunch of teenagers (and my dept head and parents), to perform a play at the Fringe. This means I won’t be checking my online accounts that much ANYWAY, very soon. So rather than try and catch up in late August only to face this again, I’m calling it here.


The house is now taking bets on whether I can write more if I'm focussed on it, through sheer force of will... given I’m not prepared to do what Michael Pershan did, and have someone lock out my social media passwords. Time will tell. What I may have going for me is that I got through a degree in Computer Science without any coffee. (Seriously people, if you need a cup of coffee to feel awake in the morning, that’s a problem. Do something about it. #ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion)

Fare thee well, MTBoS. What you’re doing is magical... but it’s not the magic I need right now.

I need the Magic Circle of Stats?

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Tips for TMC

Observant people may notice that despite my attending two “Twitter Math Camps”, I haven’t actually blogged about personal connections. Encounters, yes. Experiences, yes. But not connections. It’s not my way. I’m not a social person.

That’s something to bear in mind as I present the following tips for future (and past) attendees. In other words, I’ll be approaching this from a very practical perspective. Your mileage may vary. I’ll also be mentioning some of the stuff I’m taking away from TMC 2014, which despite all my prior posting, I haven’t really touched on either.

TMC: This is not an accurate representation.


1) Hook up with someone else. ... Which sounds a bit like dating. Not that kind of “hook up”. I just mean have someone you can personally connect with before you show up at the conference. This could be someone you bring along, or someone you network with through twitter in advance.

The first year I went (TMC13), I knew people through Twitter. I’d even done a Google chat with some of them. But there wasn’t anyone I felt comfortable with, no one I felt I could approach when I felt disconnected. (Hence my remarks last year about Introverts and Conferences.) This year (TMC14), I travelled down from Ottawa with @MaryBourassa, @AlexOverwijk and @SheriWalker72. So when I ended up stuck at the Jenks high school due to a shuttle miscommunication, I felt I could message Alex back at the Glenpool hotel to look into things. My alternative was floundering, feeling like no matter what, I was putting people out, even though I probably wasn’t, and ending up with a really awkward experience. Instead, I got an interesting story. (And a free dinner. Seriously, the people down in Oklahoma are really nice!)

May be easier for certain personality types.

2) Know your particular goal in attending. By which I mean don’t merely HAVE that goal, KNOW it. This is shockingly hard. Or at least it was for me the first time I went. Truthfully, I don’t think I figured out my innermost goal for TMC13 until a couple days ago, meaning over a year after the conference ended.

The goal can be simple. Maybe it’s to meet 3 new people. It can be complex. Maybe it’s to completely redesign some of your lessons. Your goal may even change once you get there, and that’s fine. The problem is the goal can’t be too vague. If it’s just to “learn about TMC” or to “discover new things” - not only will that happen, you will feel INUNDATED to the point where you’ll start feeling lost. Use the goal as your anchor. Be able to walk away feeling like you accomplished what you set out to do, or that you at least moved closer to achieving that goal. The rest becomes fringe benefits.

Warning: Your goal may be hidden, in that you may have a purpose that you’re not admitting to yourself. Try to tease that out into your conscious mind. For TMC13, while I wanted to “find out the deal” (vague!!), some part of me also wanted to talk music and share stories... but I failed to acknowledge it, so I never made much of an effort, so I felt like the conference was lacking for me. For TMC14, my goal was to observe, and to try to act as a bridge between new and old attendees. I feel like I managed that.


1) Assume no one knows what you tweet about. I’m not picking on new people here, what I’m saying is that tweeting about Stats online amid a cacophony of other voices is different than being the main Stats teacher at your school. For, say, the last 5 years. The local broadcast is naturally louder than what appears online, even if for you both outputs are roughly equivalent. Add to that these other problems.

First, people may know your work, but not your face. Some people don’t look like their profile pictures, and some less visual people may not even go by profile pictures as much as handles. Second, people may know who you are, but miss the connection. I’m one of those people - unless someone is ALWAYS tweeting on the same topic, it’s a bit of a math whitewash. You could have been talking math origami to me last month - if it’s out of my short term memory, I’m sorry, don’t count on me realizing. Finally, there’s the fear of mixing people up, particularly if there’s similar sounding names. So a more shy person may suspect, but say nothing. What I’m saying is it never hurts to be up front about these things. I even brought business cards to the first TMC. With all that SAID...

Corollary: Don’t be surprised if some DO make the connection. Some people are just that good at associations. Others may have personally “elevated” you in terms of being a blog they follow, or someone they turn to for advice. All I’m saying here is don’t count on it happening, otherwise there’s a chance you’ll be disappointed.

There's always visual accessories too.

2) Announce your intentions loudly. Ideally not just on twitter. (Some of us have old phones and face high roaming costs in the United States. Just saying.) Honestly, people are really good at this already, so mostly I’m just reinforcing it for new people and jogging the memory of repeat attendees.

The main reason I ended up at a social dinner at TMC13 was because people in the lobby were all like “We’re going to dinner!”. This year, I had a great time with Kathryn, Kathryn and John for a similar reason. I even tried it myself on the Jenks bus, calling out “I’m going to the Aquarium!” and Jamie and Chris were willing to join me on that visit. I also still feel like signup lists are a great thing, which occurred this year for the ‘Melting Pot’; I’m not sure if it was the list or walking over together, but it felt less awkward than some of the social outings from TMC13. Could also be the fact it was the second conference for me.

3) Remember everyone engages differently. We’re educators, so this is kind of obvious. But it’s also easy to miss when you’re among a bunch of people with so many similar interests. Add to it the fact that people may act differently online than they do in person, and I feel it’s worth mentioning.

For instance, one thing Justin’s “Twordle” experiment showed me is that I’m big on jumping in to amplify other opinions or articles, then sitting back and observing. Given my personality, this really isn’t a surprise - I hate taking the lead. I love being in a supporting role. That’s my thing. I have no idea if you understand that mentality. Conversely, others may not speak until spoken to, may engage more for friendship than pedagogy, or may be complete extroverts. I don’t necessarily get that.

I do have some interesting proportions.

So I reiterate that we need to be aware. Again, I think we are, but I also think that we can forget. We may think that the person “everyone knows” is outgoing, or that the person presenting a “My Favourite” is well known, or that the educator standing off to the side is deliberately keeping their distance. That’s not necessarily true.


Reflect. Seriously, that’s the key thing at the end. You can do it on a public blog, or in a private conversation, but don’t keep it all in your head. Decide whether you you achieved that goal I mentioned earlier. If not, why not, and regardless, what your next step might be. Decide who you want to have further conversations with. Let them know. Because once school starts up again, time to do all that stuff is limited.

To that end, here’s my final tally for “WHAT I TAKE FROM TMC14”:

a) Knowledge of United States Curriculum. I’ve never really understood the throughput. After TMC13 I had a better sense of the Statistics, but it’s (regrettably) somewhat isolated. This year, having been to the PreCalculus session by Tina C (@crstn85) and Jim Doherty (@mrdardy), I think I finally get the gist of how the courses are pieced together - and how content can vary between schools. I also appreciate how everyone was open to hearing from me and Nik D (@nik_d_maths) about how our systems differ.

b) Lesson Studies. Seriously, it can be like a mini-TMC in your own district. Talk to @JudithKeeney. Or @wahedhabug (Sadie). Or @AlexOverwijk. Or perhaps @robintg (from my district). Even me. I seem to have picked up an ability to spot certain things ahead of the curve (like serials), so I’m calling this now. Collaborative lesson studies. They’re going to be big. I blogged about it on Day 2.

Here's the "plug" for my serial.
c) Tech Stuff. It’s looking like I’m going to be losing Fathom in the foreseeable future. This sucks, because that software is a sizeable component of how I teach my Stats course. But after the Tech Tools session by @bobloch and a “My Favourites” talking about Stat Key, I feel like there’s some alternative routes I can explore. Because histograms and Excel do not mix.

d) I’m more well known than I give myself credit for. This last one blows my mind more than a little. I grant that I’m not entirely sure WHAT gives me any notoriety (The failed serial? The drawings? The records I keep? The beard? All that?) but there was one afternoon when Shelli (@drinok) asked me how I was enjoying this TMC compared to the last one. Which she’d read about on my blog. Meaning she not only read, but remembered, and now wanted my opinion, when we’d never even met in person before Wednesday. Okay then.

I am trying to own that sort of recognition, except my very nature is to be self-depreciating. (I show my cell phone from 2001 as a badge of honour!) Which makes me wonder if saying “I’m not very good” in some way invalidates someone else’s decision to acknowledge me. Which isn’t something I want to do. Not to mention how it invalidates my own identity to a certain extent. Anyway, I’m still working it out, but this is partly why I wrote the prior post “Who You Are and TMC”.

As to friendships... it’s as I said in the beginning. I don’t get close to people. Call it a personal fear. But you are welcome to approach me! Some memories that stick along those lines are introducing John Scammell (@thescamdog) and John Golden (@mathhombre) on games night, because those kinds of awesome needed to meet. Then there were the various people at meals, and Jamie and Chris joining me at the Aquarium. Add to that Andy Pethan (@rockychat3) at Justin Lanier’s “Speed Dating”, with an interesting story about contact lenses, plus Stats. And chatting with Brian Stockus (@bstokus), my roommate, on the last night about some of the teaching hardships he’d run into. Also, shoutout to Nathan Kraft (@nathankraft1) who was the first tweep I spotted (outside our Ottawa folk) in Chicago, and who was generally great about giving lifts.


A couple thoughts for future TMCs: Perhaps some sort of mixer right after getting registration badges, or right before the first lunch. I heard from some people that arriving to the Wednesday games night later on wasn’t necessarily conducive to meeting people, if they were already engaged in a game and you weren’t sure who they were anyway. Second, if there’s going to be two accommodation venues, an evening shuttle (like on Wed) may be a good idea too. I do not know of anyone who went back to Glenpool at 6pm and felt isolated there, but I can see it happening to me, had I been back at the comfort level I had during TMC13. And... honestly, those are the only things that jump out.

Moving on down the road...

Will I go to TMC15? Well, it happens to be 3 days after my cousin’s wedding. In Germany. So that might be a bit of a trick. No promises.

Should you go to TMC15? If you’ve already been to a TMC, you probably know the answer to that question. If you haven’t, I have one last story for you.

On the shuttle in from Glenpool the last morning of the conference, I heard Anna and Max Ray talking about some sort of math problem. Something about a set of numbers, where some cycled immediately back to themselves, and others cycled elsewhere then back in a “two step” process. I piped up that it sounded kind of like inverses. I soon granted that I had no idea what the heck they were talking about. Max’s response, roughly paraphrased: “That’s what makes talking to you interesting. Your thinking isn’t limited by any constraints.”

Meaning if you think this post just imposed some constraints on you, feel free to ignore the hell out of it.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Who You Are and TMC

Q: “You’re not prepared for what awaits you.”
Picard: “How can we be prepared for that which we do not know? But I do know that we are ready to encounter it.”
Q: “Really?”
Picard: “Yes, absolutely, that’s why we’re out here.”
--ST:TNG, “Q Who?”

Any Qs?

By this point, most of the people who attended “Twitter Math Camp 2014” (and a number who didn’t) are aware of the “I am a fraud” post by Mr. Kent. There’s been loads of blogs, and a bit of a rallying cry to the effect of everyone feeling inadequate, if not now than in the past, and really we’re all just muddling through this together. Don’t worry about it, chill out, no one’s there yet, no one’s really that special.

Screw that. Some people are special.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they’re "there". Nor I am saying we shouldn’t be supportive, sharing our own experiences, and offering encouragement to anyone who needs it. But consider that your inadequacy is NOT NECESSARILY someone else’s. You do them a disservice if you believe that it is.


I’m going to pull a couple of quotes from Mr. Kent’s post:
-“I truly feel as I am nothing compared to those I met here. Going from feeling like top dog to nothing is crushing to everything that I held dear to me.”
-“Even as I write this blog it is really hard not to write things to manipulate others into liking me.”

The first resonates with me because I had a very similar experience. The second because I don’t feel it’s like me at all. So as I go through this post, it's very likely that everyone will find something to disagree with. GOOD. We’re all individuals.

I started a mathematical web serial in July of 2011. I wrote a song parody to go along with it in August 2011. The song parodies quickly took on a life of their own. I was the first to parody “Call Me Maybe”, in December 2011, before the United States even knew of a Canadian named Carly Rae Jepsen. As I continued, the more I did the research and accumulated links, the more I realized I had something I could finally give back to the mathematical community. (Because I’m still puzzling over how the darn serial can be of use to anyone.)

I pulled together an entire presentation which I delivered locally in Ottawa in February 2013. This was around the same time as the presentation call for TMC13, so I figured what the hell, people there might be interested too. I submitted a proposal, it was approved, preliminary numbers said I’d have 6 people. I had one person. Some may recall my tweet from that time, which was in last year’s post:

That wasn’t the crushing thing though. A couple people even asked me about the presentation afterwards. No, the real crushing thing was who didn’t talk to me. I discovered there was a group of people out there writing a Song Parody for TMC13. At this point, I had no less than 20 song parodies to my name, I had delivered a SESSION about parody AT the conference... and yet I was not even on the radar of a half dozen like-minded people. Some of whom I’d TALKED with on Twitter.

“Going from feeling like top dog to nothing is crushing to everything that I held dear to me.”

Was this a special group? Perhaps not by their account. But it felt special to me. Very special, actually. So I sent a message about hey, um, I’m here... and I was invited in for a lunch session, and I came up with the rhyme of ‘throne’ for the High Priestess line... and that was pretty much it. Later on there was some talk of me presenting song parody at Global Math but the schedule was full until November and no one got back to me on it. Because I’m no one special. Not that way, not in the TMC group.

[EDIT: I don't even remember exactly who the writers were. Apologies for the example, I'm not trying to paint anyone in a bad light, it was a context thing. For that matter, in the larger context, no one asked me to karaoke with them either. Though I do treasure one particular tweet of @Mythagon.]

"I'm no good"? Seriously? That's supposed
to motivate this department?
But you know what? Just because you’ve ended up joining a larger community, and gone from what feels like the top down to nothing... in smaller communities, you’re still up there. Even if, for you, the bar is now higher, YOU ARE SPECIAL TO SOMEONE. Maybe it's a colleague. Maybe a student. Maybe a member of school support staff. I ask that you DO NOT DENY THAT. For if you do, you risk making that person feel worse, because you have invalidated their (perhaps unspoken) belief in you. Perhaps, by extension, in themselves. Notice I’m not saying you have to accept it. Only that you should not deny it. Which applies to certain people in the larger community as well.

THAT ACCEPTANCE IS HARD. It’s easier to shrug things off and say “I’m no better than you”, or even “I’m actually so much worse than those other people”. But as individuals, some people CAN and DO stand out in a crowd - for other individuals.

I get it. You don’t want to acknowledge that you could be such a person. After all, it might be as much due to your seniority or your appearance as opposed to your interests or abilities. You may even feel that others have the completely wrong impression of you. But microinvalidation IS a thing. I implore you, look for what others might be seeing, and acknowledge it within yourself. As with anything important, it’s easier said than done.

For me, I can say I’m the best musical math teacher in my school. I will grant that this admission isn’t so hard, given how it’s such a niche market. I suppose I can add that I’m a pretty good GPS beyond that.


At this point, things cut both ways. Having just told you that you are right to see certain people as being special, and that your belief in them is valid (or that their belief in you is valid), I’m going to agree that we don’t need that validation nonsense. Be your own individual within the group.

“Even as I write this blog it is really hard not to write things to manipulate others into liking me.”

Screw them. If they go on about how they’re "nothing special" and "we’ve all been" there, and you don’t agree, fine. They don’t know you - any more than you know them. Only YOU can know you. Embrace that. (Upon rereading, it looks a bit like this paragraph is talking to the blog quote. In actuality, I’m speaking more generically to anyone who feels they don’t "fit in", and who doesn’t feel like all the happy "that’s just like us" feelings are helping them out. Though hey, if the happy feelings ARE helping, ignore me completely. You have that power.)

But look back at yourself. WHY do you want to be accepted by these "special" people in the larger group? Better question: Why do you feel you are NOT ALREADY accepted?

Sis, I'm not feeling the love here...
Is it because of their existing network? One could argue that by engaging in dialogue, you’ve already become a part of that network. If you’re worried about being kicked out, if that happens because of your beliefs, you probably didn’t want to be a member anyway. If the problem is that they can’t hear you, talk louder. Are you not feeling accepted because of their seniority? That does give a group more experience, but not necessarily better ideas. Alternatively, if it IS their ideas (or abilities) you like, most people are only too happy to share such expertise anyway. Ask for it. Is the problem that you think they’re so different? Flip it around - you must have something in common, or you wouldn’t be in a position to talk with them in the first place. Build from there.

THIS IS ALSO HARD. What I said earlier involves acknowledging that some people are higher than others... while THIS involves acknowledging that (paradoxically) you are not any lower than them. In the group, we are all on an even playing field. Picture being on a team with someone that people regard as the star quarterback... that person would be nothing without the rest of you. Do you need this star player’s permission to participate? Hopefully not. Does his being there mean you cannot also do awesome things? Surely not. (We’ll take it as given that the quarterback isn’t full of himself, because the one thing that DOES tend to create problems in a group is ego. That said, I propose it may be equally annoying if he constantly says he’s no good.)

I’d better address the issue of envy and jealousy too. I bring it up because, hell, I know I’m envious. There’s these "star" people out there who can get many comments on a blog post, or 10 responses to a tweet, or who can rally a crowd around a song parody, or who (most damning of all) get constant RTs. Seemingly without effort. (Actual truth: It takes effort.) I want in on that action! But if the only way for me to get that action is to change who I am or what I do to "fit in"... NO. The cost is too great. After all, I don’t need any comments on this blog post to tell me I’m awesome, when I already know that! (Which, I grant, probably means I violate the "ego" rule. Oh well.)

Consider this: Dan Meyer’s talk at TMC concluded with the thought “Be Selfish”. The context was to get as much as you can out of the community in terms of knowledge and assistance. To use that to change your teaching, and to change your perspective... but being selfish implies you already have an identity. Don’t change that. Don’t change who you are at your core. Or at the least, don’t feel you have to do it in order to move forwards and connect with others.


The answer to that big question is, of course, to be honest with yourself. But at the same time, you MUST consider that the opinions of others play some part in who you are as well. For better or worse. Acknowledge it - and acknowledge that accepting their opinions don’t make you a fraud any more than accepting money makes you fraudulently wealthy. It’s not like you have a printing press in your basement.

Having now potentially annoyed or confused of the majority of the TMC crowd, I’m going back into my corner. With my little pop culture references. I’m starting to think my problem is not so much that I’m an introvert, but that I simply don’t function well in groups.

Angelus: “Now that’s everything, huh? No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take all that away, and what’s left?”
Buffy: “Me.”
--BtVS, “Becoming”

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

TMC 2014 Entry 3 - Development

Recap of the game: As I record what happened at Twitter Math Camp, I will be inserting ONE false statement into every section (as separated by the headers). Granted, almost no one’s playing, and this was probably a bad idea, but I’m following through regardless. The recap for Day 1 is here, and for Day 2 is here. My mathematical song parodies are here. The last entry for TMC is below:


-At breakfast, ran into @PumphreysMath, who used to teach in the UK. He said his upcoming move to middle school from high school might be a bigger chance than crossing the ocean.

-My Favourite #12: Jenn Crase (@Fibanachos)
-Equation Discombobulation Celebration. She likes the idea of multiple representations and “show me another way”, this looks at formulas in a new way.
-1) Part-Whole relation. Additive structure. Consider rectangle with whole A over Part B, Part C, what things have this relationship? From A=B+C to perimeter to Pythagorus.
-2) Factor-Product relation. Multiplicative structure. Consider triangle with p over q and r. This relationship includes area, density, and other science formulas.

-#13: Pam Wilson (@pamjwilson)
-Plickers and More
-Chalk Talk: We have routines to take up papers, etc, why not routines for thinking? It’s an activity that involves no verbal communication. A question is posed, they write with highlighters under black light (arrange the desks so it’s safe to move around in the dark). Fun twist, engages the students.
-Shoutouts to Kim Hughey for “Ghosts in the Graveyard” and Nathan Kraft for “Never Play a Review Game”.
-Plickers: Paper clickers. Poll your class with no electronic devices for students (only teacher). Website has cards from 1-40 with different ways of showing A/B/C/D, so all students vote differently by holding one up. Can adjust sizing to be seen at distance. Teacher’s phone snapshots the pluckers to get the results
-Pam illustrated with a poll on # Tweets today, instantaneous results from volunteers. (Overheard: “What?!”)

-#14: Max Ray (@maxmathforum)
-Encompass and the
-They’re trying to figure out how it looks to share student thinking online, for communication and later retrieval.
-Site now includes a problem of the week; it’s like a binder of great ideas. You can find and tag things/solutions.
-As work is provided, it can be classified into bins (reasonable solutions; strategies; ridiculous; etc). Favourite feedback for instructor to give can be stored and applied.
-Can make exemplars, ask others/students how you would grade this.
-It’s NOT for public yet, but from Aug 4-8, 16 teachers will be doing hybrid online conversations in Hangouts (twice per day), if you’re interested in helping.
-Sign up using Teacher Participation Tab on ; bonus for helping is free access to site for a year.
-As Max finished, at least 12 people jumped up and said we should also read his book, “Powerful Problem Solving”.

-#15: Heather Kohn (@heather_kohn)
About 4n Languages...

-Math Strategies for English Language Learners (ELL).
-After taking a RETELL (Rethinking Equity and Teaching for ELL) course, working where 21% of students aren’t speaking English at home, Heather shared strategies for bringing it into math.
-Key domains for focus are Reading/Writing/Speaking/Listening.
-1) Partner Reading for Comprehension helps “Active Listening”, plus ELL won’t read aloud to whole class but may to partner.
-2) Cut and Grow helps writing, in English they are to cut/edit any sentence. In math this can be cutting a level 2 solution apart and reframing as a level 4.
-3) Strategy is on her blog. (Spoiler: “Write Around” for word problems.)
-“We can’t just say ‘I’m going to let the English Teacher handle it.’”

-#16: Sam Shah (@samjshah)
-ExploreMTBoS was an initiative last September to encourage new bloggers. Keep your eyes open for this again, esp. for anyone who wants prompts to continue blogging.
-Also plans this year for a second section, to harness the already comfortable bloggers to show cool stuff (eg. letter you might write to a new teacher).

-Tina Cardone spoke briefly about the Infinite Tangents podcast, and some misfortunes that befell @Mythagon.
-Steve Leinwand stole the chair and modelled how to give thanks to @lmhenry9 for pulling the programme together. Lisa also acknowledged Shelli.
-Shelli advised us that, with this being the weekend, we may need to double check in the rooms that the “man is in the house”.


-Like every day, we started with an activity. There were 32 index cards, 8 sets in groups of 4 (limit, description, graph, equation) to match up.
-This “We Belong Together” activity not only about the math, but can ask where do you start? Equation to graph? Are we imposing our prejudices on our students? (Do students care about a grid?)
-Also, is this activity better done alone or together? Or start alone, then group to compare? Noted that while there are always multiple methods, some students may want closure. (“I thought we were done with that problem!”)
-Side discussion on Fonts came up. I don’t tend to notice Comic Sans or whatever.
"I think I spotted some Trig over there."
-Back in groups to finish up, then present. Question: Do most in the US need to memorize the unit circle? (For me and Nik, this was not a requirement.)
-1) TRIG (me, Nik D, Hannah S, Connie H, Julia H) had a handout relating graph/circle/algebra/units (degrees v radians) with some questions. Also a desmos link. See precalculus on the wiki.
-2) VECTORS (Jim D, Susan E, Laurie L, Meghan C) had a week long activity. Hook: a video of planes landing in a crosswind. No ai+bj first day, use geometric representation and foldable for vocabulary. Lead up to several crosswind force diagrams, can also talk boats going downriver. Formalize on second day. Third day, allow throwing paper planes, a fan can be a crosswind. Fun twist, hang planes in the room. Consider design modifications (add a paperclip?). Can extend work with other vectors, also the
-Side discussion of dot product. If you vector temperature data from year to year, does the Cosine value (-1 to 1) provide a correlation coefficient? (Where 0 is orthogonal) Jury’s dubious. Flagging stats tweeps did turn up a Cosine Law link.
-The stats group then burst into the room and shot the place up with marshmallow guns before running off again.
-3) CONICS (Tina C, Cindy J, John C, Matt B) were looking at connections, determined that one cannot derive the formula easily from the distance formula for Cartesian. (“Aren’t all conics nicer in polar coordinates?”) They also found the hypotenuse of a right triangle placed on centre and focus (of ellipse) will be same length as half the major axis. Concluded that working with the equations first, then doing a folding exercise can help make the connections. Consider something similar for hyperbola.
-Last ten minutes was a discussion of whether the focus of a parabola was linked more closely to it’s equation, and whether the altitude of an isosceles triangle (from focus to curve to directrix) would be tangent to said curve. It is always beneath the curve.
-Random aside, discovered that h & k are used for centre of circle (away from origin) which makes a connection with vertex of a (moved) parabola, though in my mind is still inconsistent with function notation af(bx-c)+d.


-For lunch, decided not to take the bus, but instead hang out and see where people were headed. Ended up going to the famed “Los Cabos” with John Golden, Jedidiah Butler, Audrey McLaren, Viktoria Hart & Melanie.
Thanks to John Golden for taking the pic!
-Watermelon was available on the way out of the HS, and upon returning.

-#17: Andrew Mazarakis (@froynboy)
-A seating chart with groups based on bands. (Could be hip-hop, rock... or change it up to Pokemon.)
-First class assignment was to research the group they’re named for, and present. Makes environment more conducive to talking. Can also then call on a group by playlisting their songs.

#18: Cindy Johnson (@johnsonmath)
-The “conic card lady”. Cards came about because conics seemed impossible, keeping everything straight in complex formulas. Trouble is in identifying.
-She made cards of the 4 types, each having 5 variations to match up for graphs, equations, information, formula/title. This last never mentioned in class, only there for “formula babies”.
-Handed out the entire deck and said “Sort them!”. (Figured in the worst case, “they can’t do conics, which is the same as if I lectured them every day”.)
-Done initially in groups of 4, now uses groups of 2.
-Students found similarities/differences, which can be turned into conjectures. Decks do have answer keys, recommend teacher check or they’ll just fill in the answer without thinking.
-She had cards there - that were from another teacher attending! If you want the ZIP file with the cards, email:

#19: Meghan Craig (@mathymeg07)
-Prelude: Identified self as lurker on Twitter. Remarked that if you notice a new follower, invite them to chat, though be clear if that’s online or in person.
-Equation Editor Tips: In a document, using it means square root signs have hats and 1/2 isn’t written that way, but rather as a one character fraction.
-See document (linked above) for videos Meghan showed, including how to make a Macro to open the editor since “the world’s worst equation editor button in the world is the one on the toolbar”.
-Also, symbol shortcuts using “AutoCorrect”. You can set up a correction so that when you type (for instance) 1p/4 it autocorrects to have a fraction in radian measure. (gasps)
-Also, CTRL-K will turn > into ≥. (FYI, on a Mac, just option + >)

-Announcements: Certificates are Downstairs. ThankYou cards are available to thank those involved (behind the scenes) on site. “Melting Pot” dinner signup for tonight.
-Lisa Henry then provided the options for that afternoon’s last session:
+Planetarium Show, announced by Shelli.
+Interactive Notebooks, announced by Kathryn B.
+Getting Talks Going at Home, announced by Lisa B.
+Games and Processes from MS Math, announced by Sebastian S.
+Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces & Visibly Randomized Groups, announced by Alex O.
+Body Scale Number Lines (to complex plane), announced by Max.
+Group Work Recap, announced by Elizabeth (cheesemonkeysf)
+Speed Dating, announced by Justin L.
+Cut Vertex, announced by Para B.
+Also Princess Dido (cont’d), would be back at Hotel at 5pm.


-Eli Luberoff: “It Takes a Village..." talking about Desmos.
-Eli can’t remember how that phrase ends. He was also impressed by an app that allowed him to control slides with his phone.
-Eli individually introduced the group at Desmos, including @davidreiman who tweets the times to solve the Times daily puzzle. Hedge is a fan of the data.
-Their job was described as incredibly hard/frustrating/tiring, and messages from teachers make a measurable difference in how happy they are.
-“If you send us candy, we’ll give you free Desmos for life.”
-Eli showed how Desmos looked a year ago. “I’m shocked by how much worse it was.” This year it’s been translated into 26 languages (by volunteers), they’ve partnered with API and people are paying them to integrate it.
-Quick demo of how to import images. He used the image of a popular Japanese anime.
-You can input coordinates for the image centre, even dynamic ones like “(a, sin a)”. Also change the size, where a negative number will flip the picture.
-Also redid settings menu, can label the axes as more than “x” & “y” (it all took longer to build than expected).
-Shoutout to Desmos on math mistakes and mathalicious (lesson out-of-left-field)

-Going forward, Desmos 2014 is fundamentally different. Parterships (like with API) will allow them to continue the way they want, and they’re starting more teacher collaborations as “we don’t have the classroom experience”.
Parks, and Recreation
-Coming Soon: ; Classroom activities, designed by teachers, built with love by Desmos. Eg. Function Carnival, done with input from Dan Meyer and Christopher Danielson.
-1) Interpret everything we possibly can. Especially incorrect work. Cannonball man could appear in 4 places simultaneously rather than saying “invalid input”. Students will want to refine, to get it exactly right (competitive). Noted: “We like sliders. A lot.”
-2) Never say when to go on. Let students make that call. In the real world, no one ever says “this is good enough, move on” (desire to make things better).
-3) Pedagogy is in charge. Technology follows. When pencil and paper is the right tool, use it. The Desmos process is from the IDEA move to both Treatment and Blog Post (to record what they’re excited about). Then to Design, Coding, Polishing, Testing and back to Design. (“You can never leave.” attributed to @gelada)
-How the process worked: Dan Meyer idea, four picture frames, place them so the wall space is evenly distributed between them. Difficult to envision. Morphed into give space, make four equal parking spaces. “We don’t want to just tell students that algebra is useful. We want them to experience that algebra is useful.” -@trianglemancsd
-That is now “Central Park” a parking car/boat activity we did in small groups, I was with Lori Likens (@likensclass). Started with no measurements, then added numbers, then algebra (eg. if more than four spaces?).
-Next Year & Beyond: “I get in trouble when I promise things because then we have to do them.” Regressions are coming, they’ll want help to make it work for students. iPhone app is coming. Have a vision of teachers unlocking activities, “Dan does not have a monopoly on good ideas”.
-If you want to help with classroom testing, Desmos signup at:
-“You guys are my village, I’m so grateful, we couldn’t do this without you.” -@eluberoff
-Three minutes at the end for questions.


-I had tech indecision here. Debated Geogebra, but went to Tech Tools with Bob Lochel (@bobloch).
-1) : Like localized twitter. No login needed, can choose name and post comments, Bob had us try it out to talk tech at our schools (1-1 or not).
-2) Document camera (only item he mentions that costs, IPEVO $69) for showing student solutions. He doesn’t grade homework, does this instead, ensures all students get a chance to be selected.
-Can select with dice. Useful in class; more tactile than a generator, some websites come and go year-to-year (though see
-Did an activity where, given a graph, a description is written, to illustrate this.
-Dropbox mentioned by a participant as an alternative: Can automatically upload photos, so take a picture then it will be displayed on SmartBoard.
-3) : Crowdsources ideas on a virtual wall. (Bit like pinterest.)
-Had link to a desmos activity on absolute value graph pinned, invited comments on the board.
-4) : Like “Facebook” for classes, is not anonymous, can track students and keep a grade book. Two teachers can also co-share, each make comments. Polls also possible.
-Activity asking “what is the primary difference between theoretical and experimental probability” (done through TodaysMeet again).
-Looked at some student responses, including ones to the question “how does the number of trials affect the graph”.
-Aside: Bob has a “Student of the Day”. Their job is to summarize what happened on the previous day for anyone who was away. Avoids question of “What did we do?” to teacher.
Anyone here poll-ish?
-5) (Poll Everywhere) : Can either text (sending a message after the numbered response) or answer through the website. 
-Comments are anonymous, teacher can decide quickly which 3 or 4 to talk about and elaborate on.
-Question presented with data about “An Unusual Incident” to analyze.
-Concluded with Illustrative Mathematics question: Given definitions for variables, then some expressions, what does each expression represent in terms of the problem posed?
-Question raised about “anonymous response” causing inappropriate comments to appear on the board? Bob says let them be silly preventatively. Give one minute of free time to text free form on a dummy poll. Then get to the material.

-Snuck into the GeoGebra room to steal their resource link:

-Then went to Planetarium, because astronomy. (Makes a nice link back with @sandramiller_tx session from TMC13)
-Introduction was narrated by students from Jenks PS class of 2014.
-Planetarium Principal (Dan) said space is bookable by classes and the curved dome has the calculus teacher go nuts.
-Watched “Passport to the Universe” narrated by Tom Hanks. Video remarked on how ancient sky was more visible (light pollution now), then we went on a trip out past the Virgo Supercluster (which contains the Milky Way Galaxy, among others). “We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”
-Planetarium Dan remarked how High School students tend to be centred on themselves and have nothing to relate to as far as sizes go. That presentation helps create perspective. (“Those are other galaxies, not stars.”)
-We were shown “LayerEarth”, a beta program with satellite images that pinpointed the school (what we saw was 3 years old, still some construction).
-Dan: “Are you raising your hand in the DARK?” led to a quick Q&A session.
-Feeder schools also come, from 1st grade, 3rd, 5th and 8th. His laser pointer has a personality (and fear of the light) for the first graders.
-Demo of a math lesson: Geometry won out over Trig, we saw “Summer Triangle” pictured, identified with star Vega. Question: What area of the visible sky does it cover?
-Triangle is put onto Cartesian Plane. First observation: Looks different. 3D to 2D does affect the look. World Map has similar issue in looking at distance between California and Japan: The map cuts off. Of interest when teaching World War II.
-Conclusion, the Triangle was found to take up 117% of the sky.
-Dan then showed what the night sky would look like at 9:30pm that night. Scorpio (his fave constellation), Saturn and Mars visible. Program can fast forward through time too. He noted that he tries to avoid reversing time, as that makes the sky go the other way, which can cause misconceptions to students.
-Concluded with some science, a look at riding a Roller Coaster on Jupiter (or might have been one of it’s moons). Hands in the air moved the wrong way sometimes.


-Didn’t leave, went to the last 5 minutes of “Speed Dating” with @j_lanier
Old emails die hard.
-About six people had come, it was thought this would be a good idea closer to the start of the conference. I did get “” as a methodology aligning to my interests.
-Then chatted with Andy Pethan (@rockychat3) who has interesting contact lenses. His twitter handle is from AOL days, and Rachel Kernodle (@rdkpickle) had a similar story. Drawn logos were also shared.
-Someone in a monkey suit ran past the second floor lounge shortly after 5:15pm, but nobody noticed.
-After 5:30pm it was suggested we should be moving on. Got a lift back to Jenks hotel to await dinner.

-Did some blogging in back of Jenks hotel until “Melting Pot” dinner group headed out. About 40 of us in their back room.
-At a table with Meghan Craig, Audrey McLaren, Brian Stokus, Tina Palmer, Bridget Kapala, Casey McCormick. Started with cheese fondue. Nearly set off the smoke alarm as our heater didn’t get turned down. (Easy fix.)
-Took pictures around the room. Got teased about my phone again. But I wear it as a badge of pride.
-Proceeded to chocolate fondue. (I skipped having salad, and large group meant all bypassing cooked meat.) There was then a cupcake run by Meghan and Tina; I got a strawberry cheesecake.
-Got a lift from dinner right back to Glenpool hotel with thanks to Jenn Crase. Back at my room by 10pm for the first time since arrival!
-Forgot to look up into the sky to spot Saturn. Kicking myself. Blogged instead.


-Checked out no problem (roommate @bstockus crept out of our room to get to airport early), talked a bit with Max Ray and Anna Blinstein on shuttle en route to HS.
Here's the "After" picture.
-Morning is all “My Favourites”, Lisa Henry provided context for origin: At the first TMC, some were tiring of doing Exeter problems.

-#20: Sebastian Speer (@Sebastian__S) on Number Sense & Playing Cards
-Favourite game is 99, objective: Don't go over 99. No winner, just one loser (whoever violates objective). Ten is -10, there’s also a zero card. This is how he learned math with his dad. It's great when (middle school) students figure out strategy.
-Also game Zilch. Cards in hand must add to zero with red/black being positive/negative. Sebastian points out that 4 cards is not as beneficial as 5. With an odd number, you can't pair, must do more math.
-Student: "Wait... you taught that to me because you wanted me to learn something!"
-Sebastian enjoys card use in general and games where many people win. Invented the game '50' where the winning condition is to make the pile 50. They tried to rebel against him by playing to 450!
-There may be admin pushback for using playing cards. (Students may play poker!) But you can make your own cards, just put numbers on some card stock using two colours (like black & green).

-#21: Anthony (@aanthonya) on Stats Mafia
-Can join in at, the logo is Anthony's. Students like to say "This is a job for the stats mafia!"
-Also 'Absolute Value Blackjack' (with admin approval) where red cards are negative and you can win with 21 OR -21. But a black ten and red ten mean you have zero.
-Also a Moneyball webquest with some found videos, including connecting pythagorus to sports, see

-#22: Hannah S (@hschuchhardt) on Cell Phone Problems
-Ever have the issue of students using phone when they're not supposed to? She gives them one warning on the first day, then implements the following.
-When she sees it, she gives the student an envelope. Name goes onto it, phone goes into the envelope, it goes on the teacher's desk until the end of the day.
-If students do not comply or give pushback, give notecard instead. Card reads "I, ________, am choosing not to give my phone and accept the consequences of that."
-Allows teacher to control this behaviour without disrupting the entire class.

-#23: Jasmine Walker (@jaz_math) on Tabletop Twitter & Quad Dating
-She borrowed an Apple adaptor from the audience.
-TT: On the first day, she asks four questions. 1) Why do we learn math? 2) What makes a good learning environment? 3) How can one be a good math student? 4) What makes a good math teacher?
-Room is SILENT. Students write responses on sheets (including name, participation grade and accountability) with Twitter notation. They rotate through the four stations, then go around AGAIN to see how conversations changed after they left that question.
-QD: Quadrilateral Dating Game involves identifying various quadrilateral shapes without taking any notes.
-Jasmine starts the year with solving systems of 2 equations. Then moves into geometry, extending the two lines to THREE. Is it always a triangle? Moving to FOUR they'll need to start naming the shapes created.
-Every student gets an index card for the 7 quad types (rhombus, kite, rectangle, etc.) doubling up as needed. Along with the SHAPE is space for SLOPES and DISTANCES so students can look up info and write in what's true. This defines them/their personality.
-Teacher checks accuracy to make sure misinformation doesn't get out.
-Pair up students. A student talks for 2 minutes (without using the shape name!), then the other student has to guess the shape. Then give time to record ID data on recording sheet, and move to another person.
-Students get the information in the context of line equations without copying it off the board.

-#24: Megan S, Andy & Bob L - Who’s your TMC Bestie?
I have 9 in the green, 3 in the red.
-@bobloch had sent a quick survey around twitter about movie preferences. Had to rank from 1-10 ten genres of movies, where each number had to be used once. The group of them now revealed “Movie Correlation Magic”.
-The information was put in a Google doc spreadsheet, then DATA ANALYSIS was activated (I believe it’s a free add-in). This meant every person was paired with the others, with 10 data points per pairing, to create a shared correlation coefficient between everyone.
-The results were placed on the screen in another spreadsheet. (Glenn had almost no high positive correlations...) Noted that this could be used to pair up students on topics, to set up a debate. (I think I saw this in Dan Meyer’s presentation too.)
-I’ve written “60 sec video” and “” but don’t remember what that was about. Someone feel free to enlighten me.

-#25: Bob L & Shelli on Stats Key
-Website is
-Using the data there (eg. Mammal Longevity) you can jump between different graphs (eg. histogram, box plot) and adjust bin sizes.
-Can create comparison graphs too, between variables.
-Can also show data table and make edits.
-Random sampling is now in the lower grades, if there’s trouble picturing an entire distribution, can have program flip coins (proportion 50/50) in samples of size 20, and flip 1 set before flipping 100.

-#26: Kathryn B (@iisanumber) on Students’ True Colours
-She credits blog posts by Sarah Hagan, Sarah Rubin, and herself.
-Don Lowry’s True Colors (and Mary Miscisin’s “Showing Our True Colors” book) looks at personality types, and can help explain “Why does my kid always do this?”
-Kathryn gives the test to start the year, can then plan lessons to appeal to students. Also increases students’ own self-awareness and helps make them more empathetic to differences.
-She gave an overview of the four colours: Blue, Orange, Green, Gold. (That last organized “teacher” types. She also had a class of over half Orange, a very active group.)
-“I’m not going to try to fit them in a mold that doesn’t work for them.”

-#27: Dylan Kane (@math8_teacher) on My Fave Math Experience
-Before TMC he was backpacking alone in California. He got bored sometimes in his tent, but brought some math. In particular one of the Five Triangles problems.
-See the graphic on his blog, basically picture three equilateral triangles side by side, with a line from the lower left to the upper tip, partially shaded. What proportion is shaded?
-He had an insight, and created some equations. Of 4, he got 3 wrong. Solving an equation itself wasn’t difficult, but it was in “a long multi-step problem”. Found himself having the experience of his students.
-Conclusion: Hard questions can take two paths. 1) Lots of Steps (often the text way); 2) Few Steps with One Insight (and he wants his students to have that moment)

-#28: Glenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs) on Buy Your Own Domain Name
-He has his domain, his own space on the net:
-A website creates professional freedom. He IS a professional, and can represent himself as such.
-Initially he wanted to do it for kids. Now, this is his public face, not tied to other things.
-Took him about 5 days to make the site. $250 chunk every 3 years; $14/year to add a domain.
-Tina Cardone added that will provide hosting for free if it’s tied to a school.

-#29: Chris Shore (@MathProjects) on Princess Dido & Ox Skin
-This is a culminating activity in Geometry, devised in the year 2000. Parts of it appropriate at other grade levels. Chris presented on it yesterday.
-Basic story: Dido fled violence (in what is now Lebanon), went to Africa, was told she would only receive as much land “as you can enclose with the skin of an ox”.
Strangers in the hotel lobby didn't get it.
-Chris uses a king size bed sheet and pillowcase to represent the ox. Whole activity takes a week. Eventually class will cut everything into strips, but starts with small scale. Valid questions include strip size, shape type.
-Normally he encircles a football field. Jenks football field is “sacred ground” (for 60,000 spectators) so decided to try to encircle the Jenks hotel (5pm yesterday).
-Took 10 people a bit over an hour to cut and assemble, they made it around the hotel and then some. Extension: What if half inch strips, instead of an inch?
-What if you were told this was the story of how Carthage (on a promontory) was founded?
-Brief discussion with @JustinAion as to what “enclose” means, 2D versus 3D.

-#30: Elissa Miller (@misscalcul8) on Storing Manipulatives Plus
-Tupperware bins with handles on the end can be obtained for $4 each, got her school to pay, organizes them by course. Colour coded. Avoid creating the same lesson 3 times because you can’t find what you did before!
-Plus: “2 nice things”. Students can be sarcastic, but if you hear something depreciating, catch them on it. They must counter by saying two nice things about the person instead. Be consistent in this even if they don’t buy in at the start (they’ll hope you’ll forget). Kids will eventually start to catch each other (even you!). Should apply to everyone, even Justin Bieber!
-Plus: To build a culture of caring, every Monday, ask each student about their weekend. Some may say nothing, some may have 35 things, but asking shows you care.

-#31: Julie (@jreulbach) with a Plickers Add-On
-Plickers were featured yesterday/above (#13). Julie suggested getting every student a notebook with the image on the back, covering it with clear contact paper. This allows creation of a database since kids will have the SAME plicker card all year.
-This may help not only with recording, but remembering and noticing consistent trouble.
-Can tie in to Nik’s “Hinge Questions” session where every multiple choice answer is tied to a misconception.
-Question of whether having them on notebooks may allow other students to work out how someone is answering. Noted that they can be put on in different manners so notebook orientation isn’t a giveaway to response.

-#32: Sam Shah (@samjshah) on Intersections
-“Intersections” is a publication at his school to help get kids to see math outside the curriculum. The math journal was created with help from a science teacher, and they wanted other teachers on board too.
-There are student editors, assigned to different people. Gets kids to engage in a way they can be proud of, breaks down barriers (eg. commissioned art from a student)
-Advice: “Create it... and harass people until they come.”

-#33: John Stevens (@jstevens009) on Would You Rather
-John prefaced by saying he felt “inferior to the masses” but shared anyway.
-His website “Would You Rather” compares two math related possibilities. It was started for his kids, to get them talking. No right or wrong answers, just “convince me”.
-“I need your help.” John is running out of ideas, but would like to get up to a sample of 100. Check out the site, if you have ideas, please send him a message!

-Alex Overwijk (@alexoverwijk) was then convinced to demonstrate his freehand “circle drawing abilities”.
-Christopher Danielson (@Trianglemancsd) then got up to draw some freehand triangles.
-Lisa retook the podium, commenting on Dan’s message of “Be Selfish” and how time passed so quickly. Math people were talking in the hotel’s back lobby even after 11:30pm.
-There is no song this year: People gave the gift of themselves rather than song.
-Thanks was given to members of the committee, Lisa’s family, Shelli and the Jenks community.
-FINAL CHALLENGE: We have all said we feel inadequate and/or scared of change. Talk to somebody. Whether in this room or in your personal life, find someone who can tell you that you can do it.
-COROLLARY: Be that person for someone else, not only for your students.
-Meet up with others as you can locally.
-TMC15 will be at Harvey Mudd College in Los Angeles from July 23-26 (After PCMI). “West coast people, get off my back!” Tweet it out now!


Thanks to Summer S for taking the photo!
-Nathan Kraft is awesome and gave the Ottawa contingent a lift back to the airport.
-There were a number of other TMCers there. We experienced slow lunch service.
-Saw Michael Pershan tweeting out some results from his survey. Find out “Who Goes To Twitter Math Camp
-Ended up on the same plane to Chicago as @aanthonya. He mentioned running the “Wisdom of the Crowd” activity in his class, from last year’s Stats.
-I finished reading “Joy of X” in flight and bought a new book during stopover in Chicago: “Thinking in Numbers”.
-Managed to get all the way back home for 11pm, thanks to convenient bus times.
-This very statement is the false one for this section.

And THERE you have it. Sorry for the delay, all the linking within the My Favourites takes time, and over half of them are in this post. Actual analysis of elements of the conference will come in a later post. In the meantime, feel free to comment on something you found useful! Or try to identify some of the false statements! Or simply tell me why that was not a smart idea! Hope you got something out of the recap.