Tuesday, 1 September 2015

About the 42nd Cdn Election

My previous post here involved a timeline of events leading up to this October's 2015 Canadian Election. At the end of it, I predicted a Conservative minority government. Here, I'll explain my reasoning.

Let me make a few things clear right off the bat:
1) I do not like Harper. (He killed the long form census, and I teach statistics.) But that doesn't mean all conservatives. I have good friends who are conservatives who might be reading this, so keep it classy in the comments. Also, don’t comment until after you’ve read the whole post.
2) I am not a political expert. As a general rule, I don’t like wading into politics, but I fear that someone has to. (Read this article about “getting ones head around politics” for some reasons why. Yes, I am aware that’s an American source.)
3) I am a teacher, I am in a union. If you now think I’m hopelessly biased, fine - personally I think we all are to some degree - but remember, I teach statistics, so it’s also possible that I know a few things you don’t. Also, these views are personal, not professional.

The reason I’m predicting the conservative minority is threefold:
1) The Backfire Effect
2) Status Quo is God
3) People Don’t Care Enough


THE BACKFIRE EFFECT


The effect is easy to state: When your beliefs are challenged by contradictory evidence, those beliefs get stronger. As I said in my post “Ask a Scientist”: Something Aunt Wendy asserted when drunk will need to be disproved by a panel of experts before you change your mind. Because she was FIRST, and you have emotional TIES to her, and it makes SENSE in your world view.


Ergo (to pick a topic at random), if you believe Harper didn't know about Duffy, no news article spewing testimony is going to alter that opinion. Similarly, if you believe Harper did know, same argument. And if supposed facts won’t alter your beliefs, they sure as hell won’t change because someone with a different political belief system says so! I venture that the only thing that might change your belief is personal experience.

One of the more well known adages in writing is “show, don’t tell”. (That’s a TV tropes link, be careful.) And there’s a very good reason for it’s existence, as humans have a tendency to be skeptical of things we’re merely told about. (Bella Swan’s all that and a bag of crisps, eh? Okay then.) One can pair the saying off with “seeing is believing”, except it’s worse: in this digital age, we tend to “see” more of what already conforms to our world view. (I see you liked those TV Tropes links - would you also enjoy these Top 5 Hated Character Tropes?)

This digital masking cuts both ways, by the way. I saw a message on social media the other day saying “If you are going to vote for Stephen Harper please unfriend me”. That’s horrifying. At best, this person is building a little echo chamber (if they didn’t already have one) and at worst, they’re turning more people off politics. Not conservative people, I’m talking about the majority of undecided people who now WILL NOT vote (or will spoil ballots), because screw this noise.

In other words, for every “10 reasons to Vote for Anyone but Harper” post you’ve also got “100 Reasons to Vote for Harper Conservatives”. You’re not convincing anybody with facts, not if they have already formed an opinion.

Granted, I’m not sure if there’s a case to be made if enough people who ALSO share your belief start to have doubts. I’m no expert - feel free to read this on The Backfire Effect if you want to explore more on your own. (By my own logic, anything I say won’t change your mind!) My point is, the more you attack the beliefs of ANY party, the more entrenched those views become... which pretty much assures the Conservatives of, say, at least 20% of the vote. Moving on.


STATUS QUO IS GOD



“People can be very frightened of change.” (Kirk, Star Trek VI) I believe this is partly to blame for TWO DEAD MEN GETTING ELECTED in the US, after one Democrat and one Republican died during their 2012 election campaign. And you have only to look at the Canadian Government’s targeted advertising to see the Conservatives believe this too, with their insistence that “Being Prime Minister isn’t an entry level job”.

Wait, sorry, that’s actually an NDP quote from 2014. (See? You're learning.) Still, the Conservatives are also claiming this isn’t the time for change. (Don’t interpret those attacks as me voting Liberal, Trudeau is simply getting attacked more.)

This dislike of the “unknown” means two things: First, even people who disagree with Harper’s politics might still vote Conservative (or Liberal, Bloc, etc) in their riding. Because that’s the local guy, and while things may be going to hell federally, at least where WE are, things are okay, right? (Granted there are 30 additional seats this election, and some key ministers aren’t running, but party lines are party lines.)

Second, people who did not vote in the last election aren’t going to vote in this one either. Why? Well, they don't know the process from back then, plus maybe they’ve heard it’s even more difficult this time, and what’s the big deal about politics anyway? Related, there has been a Declining Voter Turnout noted in the younger electors. Which brings me to my last point.


PEOPLE DON’T CARE ENOUGH



If you read my last post about the last 10+ years of elections, you’ll know that we elected a Conservative Majority Government after they were found to be in Contempt of Parliament (in 2011). Basically, all the other parties got together and told Harper “You need to be held accountable” and Canadian voters turned around and said “Nah”. (Yes that link is intended to be “Ironic”.)

Seriously, if that wasn’t the nail in the coffin, I don’t know what else could be bigger.

Now, I’m not saying EVERYONE doesn’t care enough. (In fact, some people seem to care too much, see my earlier remark about echo chambers.) But not enough people do - even the Americans have noticed how little we’re talking about things: see “The Closing of the Canadian Mind” (NY Times). We are uninformed. You are uninformed.

Yes, I’m calling you uninformed. That’s the only weapon left, really - not to attack your political beliefs, which cannot be shaken, but to say you are making an uninformed decision. You are blind to the other side (or blind to the idea that voting matters). And with the media mostly going after things you already have set beliefs on (the Duffy Trial, the Economy...), perhaps we need to look elsewhere for inspiration.

For instance, were you aware of the following 10 points?


1-The longer election campaign will cost more to taxpayers.
2-The City of Ottawa (and other groups) have asked the federal government to move their “Victims of Communism Memorial” (and they won’t).
3-The claim “2.5 million protected lakes and rivers is down to 159” is NOT true in an environmental sense, only a navigational one.
4-It’s been over 2 years since Harper last appointed a senator; this has led to him being sued by a BC lawyer. Ten of Harper’s 59 appointed senators have left the upper chamber (some of natural causes).
5-Data on Canada is drying up since the nation scrapped the mandatory long form census. And even if we get a new government, there won’t be time to fix this by 2016.
6-Proposed changes to the “Tax Free Savings Account” were said to be a problem for people in 2080. (Implication: not our problem)
7-The union for federal scientists broke their traditional neutrality in 2014, saying they will campaign against Harper. Seemingly more for his war on unions than his muzzling of scientists.
8-The federal government has retroactively rewritten laws (at least that one about guns) to suit itself. Omnibus bills!
9-The United Nations Human Rights Committee said the recent “Anti Terror Bill” (C-51, passed in June) may not contain enough legal safeguards. The Liberals supported this bill.
10-Less than 5% of Conservative candidates agree to interviews (unless they get the questions in advance).

If I’m incorrect on those, then I’M uninformed. Correct me. I don't know if that even makes a difference to you; maybe the Backfire Effect is still in full force, as it is with the media.


SOME INVALID ARGUMENTS


One final word for people who decide to point to “polls” - ooh, look the NDP is ahead! And they did well in Alberta! Well, the prediction in the United Kingdom for the May 2015 election was for a close race. The Conservatives took an easy majority there. There has been a bunch of later analysis. Rick Mercer’s had something to say about Canadian polls (in 2012) too.
"Obligatory" Mercer reference accomplished again.

If you’re still on “Backfire Effect” for your poll beliefs, here’s one predicting Conservatives as the favourites, and here’s a whole article about How Harper Will Win. (TL;DR: The Conservative plan is working if at any point you’ve thought “Trudeau is too inexperienced”.) Oh, but you've got a viral “HarperMan” song? Yeah, there was a song in 2011 too. And there was a website back then. And we still got a majority government, "in contempt of Parliament".

So yeah, I call conservative minority. A cynic might add: Followed by a prorogation, and as soon as oil prices go back up, another election. The nail went into this coffin back in 2011.

I believe the only one who can change that outcome now (assuming there is any interest in doing so) is you. Get informed, and vote.

Monday, 31 August 2015

History of Five Elections

Back in 2012 (before this blog), I posted a little timeline on Facebook I titled “History of Four Elections”. Seems like it’s time to update that. Follow along to learn a bit more about Canadian federal politics. I’m going to try to avoid bias, and look at this with an eye to democracy, though I have an opinion at the end.
This is Canada. Just to be clear.


1. THE 38th GENERAL ELECTION (2004)


It was June 28, 2004, after a 36-day campaign (the minimum required length at the time). Liberal minority government. This was the first election featuring the new Conservative Party (following the merge of the Progressive Conservatives and Reform Party). Of note, Paul Martin (Liberal), Stephen Harper (Conservative) and Jack Layton (NDP) were all new leaders for their parties in that election.

The sponsorship scandal had become a problem for the Liberals even before that. In 2005, Paul Martin went on national television, promising to call an election within 30 days of the final report coming out (scheduled for February 1st, 2006). But after Justice John Gomery’s first report came out on November 1st, 2005, opposition parties united against the Liberals.

On November 28, 2005, Stephen Harper tabled a motion of non-confidence bluntly reading "This House has lost confidence in the government". It passed. This was historic, as being the first time a Canadian government fell on a straight motion of non-confidence, not one attached to a budget or other legislation. (The sponsorship scandal was not part of the motion.)


2. THE 39th GENERAL ELECTION (2006)


Was January 23, 2006, after a 55-day campaign to allow for the holidays. Conservative minority government. On May 3, 2007, Parliament passed the Fixed Election Dates Act (“Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act”), which put federal elections every four years, unless the government loses the confidence of the House. (Meaning an election October 19, 2009.) The thought was that Harper was trying to prevent prime ministers from calling elections "on a whim".

In September 2007, Harper delayed the opening of Parliament. This was the first time he would “prorogue” the federal government. I admit that I probably wouldn’t bring this up, if not for the later instances (see below) and what happened one year later. Namely:

On September 7, 2008, Harper called an election "on a whim". Wait, what? (Doesn't this violate the above law? Loopholes?) His reasoning was “Parliament has become dysfunctional” and he needed a “renewed mandate”. September is apparently not his month.


3. THE 40th GENERAL ELECTION (2008)


Was October 14, 2008, after a 37-day campaign. This was literally the day after Canadian Thanksgiving, that’s why it wasn’t on a Monday. Conservative minority government. Again. (With a few more seats.) In November 2008, the Conservatives proposed an end to per-vote subsidies. Similar to 2005, opposition parties united, this time against the Conservatives.

On December 4th, 2008, Harper prorogued the government until the end of January. This prevented any vote of non-confidence or challenge from occurring (which could have led to a Liberal-NDP coalition government, rather than another election). For those unaware, all bills in progress DO get killed when this happens, so I feel it's relevant to election history.

On December 30th, 2009, a year later, Harper AGAIN prorogued the government for two months, which delayed hearings into the Afghan detainee scandal - though he cited the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games and economic “recalibration” as his reasons. To be fair, this had some precedent. Jean Chretien did it in November 2003, to avoid the tabling of the Adscam scandal - citing the Liberal leadership turnover to Martin.

Aside: July 2010. Conservative government kills the long form census. The Chief Statistician (himself appointed by Harper in 2008!) resigns over use of the new "voluntary survey". I know this isn’t strictly parliamentary, but it’s a personal pet peeve. Even Rick Mercer ranted about this.
Obligatory Rick Mercer reference made!

On March 25, 2011, Michael Ignatieff (then Liberal leader) tabled a motion expressing non-confidence, finding the government to be in contempt of Parliament. It passed. Harper’s Conservatives became the first government in Canadian history to be found in contempt. “A government that breaks the rules and conceals the facts from the Canadian people does not deserve to remain in office,” Ignatieff said.


4. THE 41st GENERAL ELECTION (2011)


Was May 2, 2011, after a 37-day campaign. Conservative majority government. Yes, Canada re-elected the government that had been found in contempt. The NDP (New Democratic Party) formed the Official Opposition, as opposed to the Liberals (Ignatieff lost his own seat). Elizabeth May also won the Green Party their first federal seat.

In September 2013, Harper delayed (“prorogued”) the opening of Parliament. If you’re keeping score, this is his fourth time - which again has precedent, Chretien also did it four times.


Pictured: Elections Canada
In February 2014, the “Fair Elections Act” (Bill C-23) was introduced. It would pass in June. Here’s Everything you need to know about the Fair Elections Act. Paring that down to three points here: 1) Elections Canada can no longer encourage people to cast ballots (no advertising). 2) “Vouching” (voting using your voter information card, among other ways) is out. And 3) donation limits to party campaigns went up, spending also pegged more to the length of election campaigns.

The “Fixed Election Dates Act” (see 2007) had already set the next election for October 19, 2015 (four years after 2011). Traditionally, there are two televised debates prior to the election - one in English, the other in French - arranged by the television consortium of the CBC, Global News, and CTV. The Conservatives rejected this, instead taking debate proposals from other sources. (The NDP has since said they won’t attend debates that don’t include the Prime Minister.)

On August 2nd, 2015, Harper set things in motion, meaning a 78-DAY CAMPAIGN. This is the longest Canadian election campaign in over 100 years. Compared to 2011, there are 15 additional seats in Ontario, 6 in Alberta, 6 in British Columbia and 3 in Quebec. This increases the total number of seats in the House to 338.


5. THE 42nd GENERAL ELECTION (2015)



Will be October 19, 2015. I am pretty sure we’re looking at a Conservative minority government. (FYI, we've reached the opinion section here.)

I’ve decided to put my reasoning for that into my subsequent post. If you want to shout at me for the opinion, go there. If you have FACTUAL corrections or clarifications, THOSE can go here. 

In the meantime, I'll conclude this post the same way I ended things in 2012: I think everyone needs to vote. If you support what Harper has done (or at least what his local MPP has done), vote Conservative. If, like me, you think this undemocratic nonsense has gone on long enough, vote for someone else. But vote. Don't sit back and "protest" by not voting or spoiling your ballot - because really, in my opinion, that's just condoning Harper's actions.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

OAME 2015: Days 2-3

This is a continuation of the previous Day 1-2 post, regarding the OAME math conference from May 2015.


FRIDAY MAY 8


(2B) Beyond Relevance & Real World: Stronger Strategies.


Friday Keynote Speaker Dan Meyer, basically asking “How do we engage kids in challenging mathematics?” The “When will we use this?” script has never been written down, but we all know it. The question is not ACTUALLY about their future, they’re complaining about their present! They don’t care, and why would they? (To a kid, isn’t unemployment kind of the goal? “Do school for 10-12 years, and we’ll reward you later with work.” Yay?)

There seems to be an attempt to make the covers as interesting as possible: “If math is not real world, it will not be interesting.” But in trying to make math more ‘real’, does math become more real, or more foreign? The real world is unreliable. We don’t think about triangles when looking at whales. “Make math real world” works less often than we’d like, “Make math job world” works even more rarely.

It’s got to be their world, not real world. Actually, not merely their world, it’s got to be RELATABLE. [“Teachers are so eager to get to the answer that we do not devote sufficient time to developing the question” -Daniel Willingham] We often start teaching the way we were taught, it’s hard to free oneself of that. Get creative.

Ideas for jump starting your own creativity: The “math” dial (min -> max). MAX: “Plug it in and get an answer!” How best can we turn the dial backwards, towards MIN: “Ask FOR questions.” Dan showed a graph of animals which had ‘too much’ information on it. Dial this back, so as not to scare people off - subtract the numbers and labels. If you can ask questions about it, it becomes real to you.

NEXT: Ask for wrong answers and best guesses. If you can guess about it, it is in your real world. (The fake world is unguessable.) Numbers brought in only now. NEXT: Start a fight. The effectiveness of constructive controversy - do you agree with what’s been said/shown? If you can fight about it, it is in your real world.

Dan illustrated this by asking for four numbers from 1-25. (17/3/22/8) Which number doesn’t belong, and why? Note there is no “right” answer, and he gave a shoutout to Mary Bourassa’s “@WODBMath (Which One Doesn’t Belong)”. Dan also showed an abstract problem involving circles and squares dynamically changing areas. The big change isn’t stapling a context onto boring math, it’s asking students to do different work with numbers and shapes.

“Barbie Bungee” is a classic problem, we want a fun ride for her but not a fatal one. Dan googled this, and found six different worksheets. The one with an existing table implies rushing to an answer. “There’s lots of dial turning to do before we get to an equation.” And yes, there has to be a Quad 1 grid/graph at some point, but spend time in a less precise land first.

The best move you can make to turn the dial backwards is to take textbook problems and delete things. Not because it’s BAD, but because it’s MIS-TIMED. Cover elements of the problem up, reveal them slowly to ask more interesting questions along the way. “Every new slide is a new dial setting.” Careful, it’s possible to erase too much! “I’m not saying be totally open and ask them where they want to go.” Great formative assessment is possible before revealing more later.

From my session (below): Line Rap
One last piece of advice about engagement: Consider your job, you have lots of them, teachers, explainers, caregivers... how about a salesperson for pain relief? Who is your best customer? Someone who’s feeling a bit of pain - not a migraine. If MATH is the aspirin, then what is the headache? (And how do I create it? If you just give a student a problem, they’re not feeling the headache, so why do they want it?)
[Addendum: Dan got some pushback on his blog here; should we be selling the relief if we’re the ones causing the pain? He counters the pain is there anyway, we’re exposing it.]

Dan likened the pitch to “You gotta take this pill”, so we’ll put some music to it to make it palatable (video shown), but that cheapens what we do. (I take mild offence to this. More on that later.) Instead, create a brief moment of pain, such that the math makes things easier; he did his “choose a point” activity, where labels make that easier. “I’m not here to deny the reality, I’m suggesting that there is other stuff going on, aside from the real world.”

In Summary: Ask yourself, “How can I remove stuff that can always be added back later?”,  “How do I create a constructive controversy?”, in essence, how do I turn the dial down and how do I create a headache? These are harder to answer than changing the context of a question, but often more successful. Also, there are missing places on the dial, because there are missing things we don’t know about student engagement. Find them out, and then come back and talk about them/share them with your students.

I dropped by E303 briefly between the keynote and my next session.

(3B) Growth Mindset in MCR3U

Gordana Rakonjac and Alison Pridham have looked at problem-based lessons in MCR 3U (Grade 11 Functions course). This from a ministry funded but teacher directed Leadership Program; colleagues worked on the Advanced Functions/Calculus course. They basically walked us through their course; it involves a lot of activities and group work.

They start with a hotdog contest commercial, and an apple tree problem, which prompts self-directed linear/quadratic review. The “lesson” is student consolidation, as they tell a scribe what to write. Next a function sort video and classification. Exponential functions in the context of hamburger toppings, paper folding and spreading diseases. (Make sure students mingle for this last one; infected trading with infected also creates realism.) TIPS documents can be used as homework.

From that into Trigonometry, a sorting terms activity, and spaghetti use to model the graphs. (I’ll be honest, I’m not an activity guy, but trying to break spaghetti in a precise manner had my interest.) This is put in the front of the book to refer back to later; then there are trig carousel activities. Of note, the Discrete Functions (sequences and series) is done as an Independent Study in order to free up two weeks, since this instruction method can take longer.

It was noted that you should still take at least 5 days for the Finance component towards the end of the course. There is student interest and it is relevant! There was a handout of the powerpoint, and they had us doing most of the activities. I can see this being good for someone with a different headspace from where I am now.

At this point it was my lunch, but having seen people yesterday walking into session having having picked theirs up, I decided to do the same. I went to OAME Ignite, which I did blog about in May. Because of the double format session, they actually started their second round at the beginning of break, so I stuck around... meaning 20 minutes into the next session... that made me a bit late for:

(5B) MathsJam!


Envelope folding...
This was with Dan Allen and Chad Richard. Because I was late, I missed the introduction, though I was already somewhat aware of it through Twitter. “MathsJam!” meetings started in the UK, and there are now two gatherings in Ontario... effectively people coming together to play math games, do puzzles, etc. That was in full swing when I arrived.

I helped to create a couple Sierpinski triangles from size 8 letter envelopes. I also looked at a few puzzles that had been offered - and created a much more involved solution for the nested circles question than was necessary. (Multiple methods...) Someone else there also proposed one involving nested radicals equaling 6. And while I’ve never been into games, there was one with funny cards that people were playing.


FRIDAY EVENING INTO SATURDAY


I went to the OAME AGM, because it’s not long and gives me an idea of the inner workings. Finances are still an issue, in that the books close long before the report is presented. Also moving the AGM needs a motion AT the AGM (it’s in the Constitution) which will likely happen next year (to implement for 2017). OAME 2016 announced at Georgian College in Barrie. I chatted briefly with William Lundy and Tim Sibbald; everything was adjourned by 4:18pm.

I’d opted not to go to the Banquet this year; it hadn’t really thrilled me the previous year, and moreover, I felt like I might want time away from people. Which was good, as I’d actually had a complete mental breakdown Wednesday night, upon arrival, when my keycard wouldn’t work. Crying and everything. I needed quiet time here.

I ended up taking a long walk, all the way to the nearest grocery store, where I bought some supper, brought it back, and wrote the post “You’re a Good Teacher”. It relates to people I heard discussing whether it was right that Marian Small was posting up tweets, and my feelings about Dan Meyer slamming music - it begins "There’s nothing quite so simultaneously invigorating and demoralizing as going to a math conference..."

(1C) Problem Solving without Algebra

To start Saturday was Serguei Ianine’s session focussed on ratios and proportions. (He had another for percents, but it was opposite my session below.) He’s a private school teacher teaching 7-9 and 10-12, and his session included a booklet of problems.

Students are introduced to the idea of using “x” really early, and while equations are good, that can be wrongly timed. Technical aspects should go in parallel with problems, we shouldn’t introduce operations, and then the applications, 80% of kids get lost in the transition... for the simple reason they lack experience. The very abstract isn’t tangible, and creating the equation is difficult.

From my session (below): Fraction rap
Do simple solving of equations and simple applications, then something slightly more difficult for both - don’t use equations in your applications. Eventually you reach problems that can’t be solved by inspection or other methods, and can merge then. Also watch for a tendency of students to work from left to right, instead of using order of operations.

Ratio problems: Can be a ratio of three. You’re a lawyer, problem of a man’s last will, his wife is pregnant, “If it is a son, he should get twice as much as his mother. If it’s a girl, the mother should get twice as much as the daughter.” (Sexist challenge? If you reverse it, there are no problems. Interesting.) The wife delivers TWINS, one boy, one girl, so how much should each person get?

There’s always a couple kids saying ‘let’s call this x and this y’, but we don’t need the abstraction - go visual. Son has more than mother, who has more than daughter. Partition out a line. Always start with the smaller part, end up with ratio 4:2:1 and can now solve based on initial amount. Don’t require the kids to remember words, establish concepts, the linking can come later (even at Grade 10 level).

Another problem was presented involving a timeline (not to be confused with a number line), where a difference between two ages stays the same, but the ratio of the numbers CHANGES (always decreasing, for mother and son) - and how old are they? Shift after this into rate problems, the “per one” (e.g. km/h) is not easy for students, and even the word “rate” is an abstraction.

Proportion problems: This is more than setting two fractions equal; there is both Directional Proportionality and Inverse (reciprocal) Proportionality. Again, don’t run to an equation. Classic example: “20 birds eat 20 kg of seed in 20 days. 30 birds eat how much in 30 days?” What does your intuition tell you?

If we kept days the same, and doubled birds, the kg would double. If we kept kg the same and doubled birds, days would cut in half. The first two are directly proportioned, while the outer two are inversely proportioned. But “I don’t need any variables here, only how to multiply fractions”... keep days the same, 1 kg/bird. Now divide down to one day, then pump back up to 30, all using direct reasoning. Now have 3/2, pump that up to 30 birds, and finished.

That problem should not appear too early, but somewhere in the middle of the process. Don’t expect students to go through these questions at your speed either - it WILL take longer, half a school year for sure. But if you try to set an equation for a problem like that, you will never win. Proportions also has applications in Grade 9 applied, more so than Academic. Do things over and over and over again, and remember there are alternatives to using ‘x’ as some unknown number.

(2C) Teaching & Learning Math Using Spatial Thinking

Saturday’s Keynote Speaker was Nora Newcombe. She approached the math from a more psychological viewpoint, noting “I might be right or wrong. I’m eager to get your reactions.”

There’s a starting point back when we’re born: A generalized magnitude system, for both spatial and mathematical thinking. Development occurs even before getting to a formal school system. Then there’s differentiation of space from number, and number for little kids becomes discrete integer values. Which is a different sense of quantity from continuous! Our intuitions about continuous quantities get superseded, even though we need them later, for fractions.

Piaget said metric coding of space appears late - “Children cannot measure, cannot compare heights that aren’t on the same base.” So there’s a confusion between number, length and density. Nora argues it’s not that this observation is WRONG, but what it actually TELLS us about a child’s understanding might have been incorrectly interpreted. Babies do look longer at places where things are “surprising”, like things popping out of a sandbox where they were not originally hidden.


Containers make the difference.
There are TWO TYPES of Quantity. Intensive (Proportional) vs Extensive (Amount). Given two half full containers, remove the context, and one actually has more in amount. It’s that proportional quantity that babies DO come with. They look more when 1/2 isn’t 1/2. Good news! Proportional/Intensive quantities are what we need for scaling, like reading maps. (Three year olds aren’t accurate in such activities, but neither are they random.) The implication is we can build scaling early... but teachers tend to resist this, and cite that Piaget study.

There are more connections. Spatial level ability at age 3 predicts spatial at age 5 (makes sense) but ALSO math at age 5. And spatial at age 5 predicts math (or “approximate symbolic calculation”) again at age 8. The caveat is, spatial is not the only thing that predicts mathematical functioning, there’s other variables (like “jumping around too much”). A number line (age 6) is seen as both spatial and numerical.

But the mapping of abstract numbers onto discrete objects is problematic. There’s interference, it’s harder to measure (3.4 mL) because they don’t know what to COUNT, it’s harder to deal with proportions (3:4) because they look for the COUNT, it’s harder for fractions (3/4) because those exist between the COUNTING values. Piaget’s argument that children do not understand number until the age of 6 or 7 is based on that confounding of density, weight, etc - continuous measures, of which there WAS awareness.

Many paradigms led to the conclusion that infants (and nonhuman animals) know number. It’s probable that small numbers (1-3, maybe 4) are subitized, perceived by a separate system. Though experiments in 2010 showed a sense of “moreness” or “lessness" is present (generalized magnitude system). Children then get hooked on integers, and count numbers on rulers - looking at a length from 2cm to 5cm, there are 4 numbers (2-3-4-5), so it’s 4cm long. (A “hash mark error”.) We must highlight the COUNTABLE units. Can use plastic/unit chips, or show with fingers a unit apart.

On Proportional Reasoning: Unfortunately, many children and adults struggle with this, even though infants and younger children are sensitive to such relationships. We have to get ourselves AWAY from the impulse to count. Proportional reasoning is better with continuous quantities. Don’t draw a picture breaking the drink down into discrete unit chunks, remove that thing that’s deceiving (“seducing”) them.

On Fractions: They’re difficult but important. Strong predictive relations exist between early fraction understanding and later math achievement (controlling for other factors). Kids in preschool (age 3) can add 3/4 and 1/2, with portions of a circle. When they do make errors, it’s based on “count words”... two thirds is really TWO OF THREE, but they fixate on “two something”. Different languages are a factor here! English: “One fourth” VS Korean: “Of four parts, one”. American children did better with fractions when done in the Korean style of terms, and we CAN do that without sounding like idiots. OF is a great word. 

Nora closed off by reminding us that she is not a teacher, but that the research suggests early math teaching should use continuous as well as discrete representations. Use number lines in which whole numbers do not dominate the fractions - and they can help teach negative numbers later too. “Taking away a negative number” means you should be adding to the positive side, not “you give someone five cents, so negative five cents”... five cents is five cents is a DISCRETE object. We need more ways to get across what negative numbers mean, like zero as a fulcrum.

(3C) Musical Mathematics

In the last slot was my session with Michael Lieff. It was kind of a blur; we’d also pitched a double, but only got a single. After some general introduction and pop music word frequency charts, I got into the idea of rap vs. parody, and encouraged people to try writing their own song about a difficult concept, possibly with a partner. I and Mike circulated, and got some people to share afterwards. I took photos, and asked permission to post; they're throughout this post, including here on the right.
From my session (left): Trig Rap

Towards the end, I did my live version of “Polar Plot”, as promised in the blurb. We also took questions. One person asked me about how I marked my Data Management song assignment (it was an option instead of doing a probability project), and I said that from the outset they’d have to have a minimum number of terms included - it wasn’t that different from “Counting Stories”, if you’ve heard of it.

Someone asked about students recording while performing; Mike pointed out that he’d asked for his act to be recorded. Me, I started with “don’t” and have since backed off to “if you like, but don’t post it anywhere”... mainly you need the students’ respect, I guess. One teacher had a horror story of posting something online, then someone (not a student) took her audio rap and made their OWN video, which included profanity! Be sure to click “No Video Response” when you YouTube post so others can’t do that without permission.

I got a couple other sites, updated my Music document (I now have over 60 links) and sent it out after the conference because one person had wanted it and I couldn’t remember who. Someone else responded too, saying thanks because they’d wanted to come, but had to leave early. (There were about 20 people who attended, much better than any previous time it’s been run.) And so that’s basically that!


SUMMARY


As I typed/edited this, one theme I’ve noticed running through the conference is the whole “multiple methods” angle. Both in terms of student solutions, and teaching strategies. Diversity is definitely seeing a lot of attention these days (on a number of fronts), I think in part because humans have difficulty with it. I know once I’ve found something that “generally works”, I tend to come back to it. Related to that there’s also the fact that what might be typical for me might be new for someone else, and it’s not always easy to recognize that.

Will I be back again next year? Well, I rarely make decisions on such things so far in advance; I guess we’ll see. Thanks for reading, I hope you found something in this post to interest you.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

OAME 2015: Days 1-2

Every year, the Ontario Association for Mathematics Education (OAME) holds a May conference somewhere in the province. In 2013 I "live blogged" about it. In 2014 I managed to post in June, after exams. This year (“Building Mathematical Mindsets”), we’re looking at August. So, this might be the last year; anyone getting anything out of these?


THURSDAY MAY 7



The day started very meta, as I dreamt about being sleep deprived at a math conference. They were trying to sell bibles at registration? I got nothing.

(1A) Pythagoras, the Man and his Theorem

C. Chan started with some of the background on Pythagoras (lived 570-490 BCE), and his school “All is Number”. In particular, some of the links made between numbers and characteristics; 1: Source of All; 2: Female/Opinion; 3: Male/Harmony; 4: Justice; 5: Marriage. 10 was the Divine, the sum of the four spatial dimensions (1+2+3+4). (Granted, we now see ‘1’ as the ‘0’ dimension.) Johannes Kepler once said “Geometry has two great treasures” (one of those being a^2 + b^2 = c^2).

Looking at the Theorem itself, the Berlin Papyrus 6610 (1300 BCE) was related to Pythagorean Triples much BEFORE Pythagoras. Babylonians (YBC 7289) also tried to calculate the diagonal of a square, and found proportions close to root(2) in their system of Base 60. (The special isosceles right triangle case, approximated: 1 + 24/60 + 51/60^2 + 10/60^3 ) And China had the “Gougu Theorem” (3-4-5) with 1 chih at about 23 cm.

The presentation then looked at the numerous proofs of the theorem over the years, and included a handout illustrating many. Euclid’s proof appears in his “Elements” (~250 BCE), Book 1, proposition 47. Extended in Book 6, Proposition 31 to any figure (not merely squared). A proof from the 3rd century AD is here: http://donwagner.dk/Pythagoras/Pythagoras.html Chan also showed how you can also create a fractal tree from the Theorem.

The big question: “Did Pythagoras prove the theorem?” Ancient sources do not say this, and Euclid’s “Elements” did not mention him. There’s a legend saying “Pythagoras sacrificed 100 oxen” upon the discovery, but the guy was a vegetarian so... unlikely? Either way, his name is linked now; I note it is spelt with “A”s there is no “U”.

(2A) There’s Student Mindset, what about Teacher Mindset?

Thursday Keynote Speaker Marian Small: “You’re used to me being all math all the time. ... This will be a bit more philosophical.”

As a teacher, what do you think about most in terms of your teaching?
(1) Covering the curriculum (good, that’s what they pay you for) and keeping kids engaged (given different mindsets: busy/interested/other);
(2) Higher EQAO (provincial test) scores (if you’re practicing they must matter somehow - is it boosting the higher students or bringing up the lower ones?);
(3) Instilling love (or ‘not hate’) for math (which secretly means being successful);
(4) Improvement of your own practice;
(5) Convincing other teachers to try what you do;
(6) Fitting in with current ideology (all teachers like belonging, just like kids).


How do you settle this?
Marian sent out 3 TWEETS including: “The best math class ever is one where..." Responses in ‘Group 1’ were sincere but sounded politically correct. Leaning towards what the class looks like, versus the learning. But even something like “All ideas are valued and many perspectives are explored” can be questioned - should it be ALL ideas? Her ‘Group 2’ classification focused more on something being accomplished, something being learned. She noted how hardly anyone responded to her tweet “I want my students to think that math is..." which itself is interesting.

As teachers, do we not think enough about what math is, or is not?
-VIEW 1: Do nice algebra stuff. That’s all it says to do. VIEW 2: The kid should understand that any relationships can be described in different ways. View 1 teachers bring out different highlights; there’s different mindsets here. That’s not to say one is always better.

As teachers, we have different assessment beliefs too. How do we measure success? A View 1 teacher is happy when a student can add fractions. A View 2 teacher is happy if the student can provide an addition using different denominators, such that the answer is out of 15 parts. Both of you are right, it’s just different perspectives. Don’t fixate on “Growth mindset is good, fixed mindset is bad”, think about your perspective!

Is math about getting answers to problems, or is it about having a deeper understanding of mathematical relationships? Is fun critical? Did you mean fun, or engagement, and is that enough? Marian then provided a number of statements, asking which one people agreed with more. For instance: You are a better math teacher if: (A) You know the math you’re teaching deeply OR (B) If you’ve struggled with math yourself so you better understand potential student struggles. (This isn’t “fixed vs growth”; it seems to be something else.)

Other statements: (A) If you work at your teaching, you improve and student learning improves. OR (B) You can only control some of what kids learn; most of it depends on the attitudes of your students. (I feel like that depends a bit on the day!) When you struggle with a new strategy: (A) You keep trying until you get it OR (B) You try a few times and abandon ship to look for others. (I’m definitely ‘B’, there’s too much out there, move on. It was noted that both are valid as long as you DID try the strategy!)

Wrapping up, is the point of school: to teach expectations? to build problem solvers? to build curiosity? to make learning attractive? More to the point, do you think the “purpose” affects the way you teach, and what do you expect of yourself and your colleagues? Marian says that neither she, nor school boards have the right to tell you what you think about being a teacher. The right to expect you to try something (not reject OR accept out of hand) but not the right to your thinking.

Teachers don’t have time to stop and think. That’s a social-political issue that she has no power over. Still, try to think about what your mindset it, and it may influence you.

(3A) Be More Dog: Enthusiastic and Curious Classrooms


Mu
This was Featured Speaker Amy Lin. I’ll be up front: I do not like dogs. I am a cat person. Partly it was delivering newspapers for close to a decade, but dogs also like to get up in your face whereas I wish they’d give me my damn space instead. So I went to this one mainly because it had to be a completely different perspective from me!

Dogs are playful and curious, they like to explore (a dog was first into space). They also have better senses than we do (smell & sound). Useful qualities for investigating mathematics; don’t be scared of adventure. What you didn’t learn from the books on mindsets: Changing mindsets is really hard. “Becoming is better than being.”

Have an element of surprise driving learning, and piquing curiosity. Dogs also live in the moment. They like to make messes - and math can be pretty messy. Big Idea: The same object can be described by people using different measurements and/or levels of precision. (Can we deliberately choose units so that the measurement is more valuable? A puddle is “10 steps wide” vs “12 steps wide” - smaller steps mean you’re right?)

Multiple Methods: “If 24 items are to be handed out to Ann and Ben in a ratio of 3:5, how many would each person get?” Answer via: Intuitive (guess). Additive (keep giving 3 & 5). Equivalent Ratios (9:15 same as 3:5). Finding the Unit: 24 whole, 3 subunits of 8. Try opening questions; instead of “there are 30 children on a bus, five more boys than girls”, there are more than 30, you decide the exact number.

Dogs are visual learners... okay, maybe that’s a lie, but let’s talk about visualization! Follow up questions can get students thinking this way. (“Where do you see 12? Why do you think a subtraction sentence was used?” “Why could you always write a division sentence if you have a multiplication?”) The same algebraic expression can be used to describe two different situations: “5p” could be total amount of money at $5/hr after p hours... or five fingers per hand means work out number of people.

More dog links: “Be dogged” means persistence, not finishing until you’re done. If you want what is buried, dig deep to find it. Dogs are also very social. A final performance task could be questions surrounding a picture; can week out non-mathematical ones by topic sorting, ranking what is a good question. “We are all in this together.”

(At this point, 4A, I had lunch and browsed the displays.)

(5A) They Can Do it! Supporting All Students’ Thinking.

This was Featured Speaker Chris Suurtamm. “All students are able to engage in mathematics. And to extend their mathematical thinking.”

She presented five ways to encourage students’ mathematical thinking:
1) Value prior learning and experience
2) Provide space for students’ own solutions
3) Pay attention to students’ thinking
4) Focus on connections rather than hierarchies of solutions
5) Encourage opportunities for success


#1: Consider “What math looks like at home” vs “What it looks like at school”. We need to connect things to prior learning, as a ‘blank slate’ leads to memorization. What models to students use, what understandings do they have? We were told to partner off (I was near to Jennifer M from St. Catherines) and discuss models for integers. “It doesn’t make sense for me to begin a lesson with a number line if prior knowledge is different.” (Use temperature? Algebra tiles? Money?)

#2: “Research has shown that allowing students to develop their own strategies deepens their own understanding of the problem and processes involved.” Because their method is seen to be valued. Turn off timers, no “mad minutes” use RPM (Reasoning strategies, Practice and Monitoring). We considered a ‘children on a school bus’ example (not unlike in Amy’s session above).

#3: The most important thing! It’s so easy for us to keep talking. She showed a student solving b+b+b-30=12. Of note: Listening to student thinking helps me with what they know, but it DOES NOT tell me what they DON’T know. “Just because someone doesn’t do something, doesn’t mean they don’t know it.” You can solve with one method, but still know others. You can drive through a stop sign, but still know you’re supposed to stop.

#4: Every bus solution (from #2) involved mathematical thinking. Avoid the idea of “I did it but I didn’t do it the math way.” They’re ALL math ways (merely some are more symbolic). What strengthens understanding is not that they can see one representation over the others but that they can make the connections between the different forms. Demonstration here from youcubed.org

#5: Problem: It’s easier for a student to not try and not hand it in and then fail, versus to ACTUALLY try and then fail. Chris mentioned a student who had produced work in class, but when work was due, didn’t have it and said they were willing to ‘take a zero’. We need to be rethinking ability-oriented language. Moving mathematical thinking forward is the goal, and a successful lesson is one that helps to do that. (We shouldn’t throw out success criteria, but don’t narrowly define them, we’re not aiming every kid at the same target.)


THURS EVENING INTO FRIDAY


After the Thursday sessions, there was the usual Wine and Cheese. I ran into a couple people, but my memory fails me. Then a number of Ottawa teachers got together. I saw Balazs, my former math head, now vice-principal (actually returning to our school this Sept). He proposed oral explanations, for anxious students (about tests or generally). It doesn’t need to be time consuming, you can record one student, then they interview the next as you’re back in the class, and so on. Listen to the recording later, you’ll know if they were prompting each other.

Then we went to “Lone Star”, as we had last year, for a “Tweet Up”. (I got a lift with Tania A and some other teachers.) I remember hearing a bit from Al Overwijk about some class struggles, and there was a fascinating conversation with Ann Arden about her sessions. She signed up for a “Themed Thread” (I couldn’t thread through, I was presenting during one) where they had been talking about so-called basics like “definition of multiplication”.

Here’s a problem: As an expert, you cannot see how two identical things could be perceived as different. But as a novice, you may not see how they are the same. Particularly when done with gestures and representations. (This may have pushed me into my recent popular post “Multiplication is Ridiculous”.) A rubber band model was referenced as one representation. Onwards to Friday:


(1B) Supporting Students with Learning Disabilities in Math

This was Connie Quadrini and Connie Gray (their Featured Session, not part of the “Thread” set). I was impressed that someone was translating into sign language in real time over on the right.


Matchstick task is on the screen.
We were presented with a matchstick task, and told to show work and explain thinking to create figure 10. Possible approaches:
a-Build figure 10 and “1 by 1 Count”. (“Creating a model” or “Concrete Representation”)
b-Extend the pattern with repeated addition (table; Additive Thinking)
c-Extend the pattern with a rate triangle (graph; Extrapolating)
d-Create an Explicit Pattern Rule (algebra; Multiplicative Thinking)

There was mention of the YCDSB (York District School Board) Middle Years Collaborative Inquiry Project. It was started with an eye to proportional reasoning and extended to patterning/algebra. Involved teachers Grades 4-9, special education teachers, consultants, administrators, 3 families of schools, 6 days per teacher. Idea of unpacking IEPs through a mathematics lens.

There were pre/post assessments. Mult choice, and open response scoring was assessed not only on completion but also math strategies used. Also clinical interviews. Some results:
-Students who arranged using a linear format with non-visible groups tended to use Additive reasoning, as opposed to Multiplicative (see above; multiplicative can also be linked to determining a unit rate).
-Students who interchanged multiplier and constant had perceptual reasoning listed as an area of need in IEP.
-70% of students indicated that using tiles supported them in learning patterning/algebra, both for those who had perceptual reasoning as a strength and as a need.
-Someone who had “memory” as a need liked the hands-on because ‘you can remember it’.

We also looked at a Caterpillar task and one related to “Doing 6 good deeds every 4 days” extended to 14 days. Despite materials being available, a student working on the latter did not use them. Yet once the learning tool was presented with the model (tracking both parts simultaneously) the student made links easily. Remember: Non-verbal mathematical actions can reveal important mathematical thinking, and learning tools can enable student perseverance through a mathematical task.


That’s all for Part 1, this will be concluded in Part 2 on Saturday (including mention of my own session).

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

ConBravo: Making It Online

This post is separate from the main ConBravo chronology. It focusses on a panel from Sunday called “So You Wanna Make It Online?”. There were three panelists, Joey Baggins (@joey_baggins), who said he managed to gain 300 subscribers to his show over a year, Obsessed Panda, who knows the Cosplay side, and Doctor Holocaust (@DoctorHolocaust), Toronto’s greatest gentleman villain.


GET IT OUT THERE



My camera may have been visible...
Rule one is, use every opportunity you’ve got. Dr. Holocaust noted near the panel's start  “I’m not the centre of my thing, my character is” (and so that’s what’s on his business cards). Also keep in mind that, psychologically, human beings weren’t built for fame.

If your plan is YouTube videos, you need good equipment. Start with a quality microphone - it’s easier to offend the ear than the eye. Your content needs to be worth watching. Consider “Phillip Franco”, who had quality equipment and advertising, but no noteworthy content, compared to “Toby Turner” who made videos using his phone, but had fun content.

For cosplay, videos come from photographers that you work with. You don’t have to do it alone, but you must search out good quality. Instagram is a big thing. Dr. Holocaust noted that he hates Twitter (“short sentences about people’s lives bother me”) but it IS a way to expand beyond YouTube viewers. Your followers can easily get ahold of you, and can be notified about updates.


Gotta finish inking and colouring
these math characters...
I asked about how to get more viewers for something that isn’t in video form, but that you are doing regularly (like my serial stuff). It was interpreted as getting interest for something still in progress (true, in a sense), so we’ll go with that. For cosplay, Panda said it can be good to show the progress of your work, though you may get people criticizing an unfinished costume. Putting out something incomplete can also make you accountable. “Now that you’ve seen I’m halfway through this project I have to finish it”. (Dragonball fan film was brought up.)

Don’t worry overly about quality - as long as you’re having FUN, that’s the absolute CORE. Be it podcasting, or music, or anything. That enthusiasm will bleed into those around you. Dr. Holocaust told a tale of once dressing as a transformer using a box, and was told by people “that’s silly, leave the con!”. He didn’t. Three years later, he was recognized as “the box guy” and people were taking pictures.

Someone asked about how to get people to buy prints. All I seem to have written is it can be a solidarity thing, “I want to support a person who likes a character that I also like”. Noted that if you aren’t the face behind your stuff, leverage word of mouth. Featherweight makes costume accessories; he did one or two costumes to start, now it’s largely referrals (“I found a guy who can use your stuff”).


TRY NEW THINGS



I will SHOW you Magic Steve's work!
Those are balloons, if you couldn't tell.
Another key element: Don’t TELL people, SHOW them. All the energy you have to EXPRESS your interests to people, turn it into DOING that thing - or at least starting it. That makes it real. And it may be that when you do it, you hate it: It’s not a failure, it’s something you tried that didn’t work. Move on, try something else. Joey also said that he found reviews weren’t his thing, so he stopped trying that, and now talks more about fandom, which is working better.

A collaboration is a great way to promote yourself, and is usually beneficial for both parties. Terrified to ask? Sometimes, you just have to. Not sure what to collaborate on? Perhaps simply ask the other person to send you some small amount of content. The worst you get is a ‘no’. Work on your PITCH. Aim for a single sentence, and try to relate it back to something that worked. (It’s like “Sin City” meets “Ninja Turtles”?) Dr. Holocaust uses the tag, “He’s the world’s nicest super villain”.

You may be able to get ideas for your pitch from people who play your game (or watch your content). The biggest complaint a panelist once got was “Your videos are great, but no one watches you.” You have to know how to sell yourself. If you’re not doing that, don’t get upset at having no viewers! Once people are hooked, build on that. (I also have here “Never satisfy your reader until they’ve read the book.”)


"Interesting. Doesn't change how my time travel
story is on a totally different blog, hmmm?!"
Don’t jump channels. Joey has lost his audience several times from doing this. Don’t totally shift your brand either - if something’s not working, that’s one thing, but if you decide to discuss gardening instead of reviewing anime, people likely won’t come back. If you lose your passion, don’t do it. If you need to rest for health reasons, do that. Yet often you have to push on - there will be bad days, days you don’t want to record - know you’ll love it later when you see the results.

Things can blow up unexpectedly. ObsessedPanda once took a selfie with some Iron Man friends before going to see the first movie. It was found and turned into a meme for one of the movie sequels - she stumbled on the picture, there were no names attached so no recognition out of it. Or things may not blow up! “If you think this isn’t going to grind you into the dust, you’re WRONG. It’s a huge amount of work.” Try to get people to help you (who can do sewing or special effects or whatever.)


FINAL THOUGHTS


From the panelists: If you love doing it, it pays for itself (Joey). Proofread, proofreading is your friend (Panda). And Doc’s motto: “Life is a war without end. Never stop fighting.”


Photo of Linkara and me from ConBravo 2012.
Because why not?
From me: Don’t be so focused on the long game that you miss the individual opportunities. Perhaps a bit of a contradiction given the marathon run, but hear me out.

Lots of what was said here was things I... not knew exactly, but sensed? For me, marketing and selling myself is the weak link. In large part because once something is done, and out there, I’m moving on to the next arc, or post, never trumpeting what I’ve already accomplished. Which means few know what I’m doing, and worse, I tend to get down on myself because I figure that means the long game isn’t worthwhile.

It goes back to "rule one". Don’t miss noticing a possible pitch, or a brand, or attending a convention, because you think you’re not good enough yet, or too busy with the next project. Because it might be what you need to make the next leg of the journey a bit easier. Thanks for reading!

(Incidentally, I am now personifying math in webcomic form. And I changed the tagline on my time travel serial to "Time Travel Redefined". It's like a cross between "Interstellar" and "Tomorrowland".)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

ConBravo: Music & Media

This post is separate from the main ConBravo chronology. It focusses on two panels that occurred in Room 314: Creating music (Saturday), and Crowd funding (Sunday).

MAKING MUSIC


Ben Briggs introduced everyone to “FL Studio” from ImageLine. Their free demo lets you work with all the features - you merely have no ability to save the file. He noted that electronic music is mostly copy/paste. 128 beats per minute is a standard beat for “house” music, so start with a drum machine there. You can “paint” the drum tool into the big board (Digital Audio Workstation).

If you select “make unique” you can alter the characteristics of one repetition. “Stretch” will let you increase the time span, but AVOID that, you want to crop and “fit to tempo”. Your most useful tool is Parametric Equilization, changing the level of frequency on a channel. Muddiness in a sound comes from frequencies existing that don’t need to be there.

Golden Rule: Never BOOST a sound, only CUT. If you need something to be louder, cut what’s around it. This is because you have no control over a boost, it simply creates “more sound”. Note that if you can amplify the upper middle frequencies (harmonics), this will boost the fundamental tone, and make your notes more clear. Mastering makes things loud without distortion.

Some other tips: “Change velocity” means change how hard a key is pressed, so volume. For dance music, you want the kick drum to power through. Space between the notes is almost as important as the notes themselves! You need vibrato and things. Don’t set out to copy, but if people get on you about “this sounds like..." remember that there’s only 12 notes, so “there’s gonna be some overlap”.

Amusingly, you can write a lousy melody and then put a chord progression underneath so it makes sense. That trick works the other way too! Ben also noted that he tends to listen to his own music on loop, not out of ego, but because that way he can hear the things that he needs to improve. There was some Q&A at the end, including Grant Kirkhope, but I didn’t write it down.

CROWDFUNDING


The “Crowdfunding and Online Patronage” panel featured Lar deSouza and... I think Grant Kirkhope. (Should have written it down.) It was noted how Patreon started as a video sponsoring site, and has now expanded. There is a crowd sourcing problem, in accountability of subscribers, as much as content creators. Such as someone who subscribes, looks at content, then immediately unsubscribes so as to not pay the extra money. (People are entitled assholes. “What’s this money used for?” What do you care??)

On Kickstarters: Make sure to ask for the money you need. There’s a danger in getting LESS, yet still needing to fulfil goals. Yet avoid asking for more than you need too - be honest with yourself. Really think and plan goals properly, don’t propose any stretches that might clutter your creative universe; you may think you won’t get much money, but you might. Note that crowd sources work if you HAVE an audience, it won’t CREATE an audience (there’s so much other noise out there). If you can make it without a Kickstarter, go that route.

Kickstarters will work best if you have the content, and only need to print and ship - kind of like a pre-order. But be clear that’s what you have (or don’t have!). Sobering tale here of “Goblins”, where Tarol had a company run things. Their Kickstarter pitch was that it was done, but then they backed off saying more testing was needed, and then the money and company vanished and Tarol was left on the hook. Effectively people stealing using his name.

IndieGogo is different, in that while Kickstarter is all or nothing, the former can pay out based on partial funds. Either way, be sure you ALWAYS DELIVER. Expect a big spike in donations at the start and end of a Kickstarter. In fact, you can almost predict if it will work when still near the start. If you’re close to your goal near the end, you CAN kick in the rest yourself, but make sure it doesn’t look like you’re doing it to get all the money (and run away).

RESEARCH


“You cannot do enough research.” Your homework can include looking at the relative worth of OTHER Kickstarters who are doing a similar thing. There was The Pomplamousse Kickstarter, they did a blog post breakdown showing they took a LOSS in the end, but ate the excess themselves because they were glad to be able to reach their audience. Blind Ferret is another person who did a blog breakdown. Don’t promise “gold coins” by ball-parking, price them out.

Watch for cost changes! On Jan 1st, 2015 the shipping rates in the US increased by about DOUBLE, leading to many sheepish individuals (in part because the change was not well advertised). Some forget to factor in tax and/or shipping entirely - that adds up, easily into the thousands. Even consider factoring in the cost of hiring someone ELSE to do aspects like shipping, which are really time consuming.

You likely don’t want to use a Kickstarter for marketing purposes. THAT SAID, a failed attempt can be a good way to see if your audience is legitimately there. If you don’t reach your limit, see about rearranging costs, cutting corners. “Can we do what we want for half that amount?” There are benefits to failing!! Though if you intend to try again, keep up your promotion, so people don’t forget.

Don’t assume people know you’re raising money. Tweeting twice isn’t enough, you need 15-20 times to get it to all followers... and yes, some who read everything might get annoyed. But you NEED people to see your Kickstarter before it’s gone. (Or you get “What? I didn’t know and I read the comic every day!” “But did you READ THE BLOG??”) Make sure to connect with people on a personal level at the same time - they’re investing in YOU as much as your product.

Don’t assume people even know what a Kickstarter is. (Do you know about BandCamp?) Ask for ReTweets, and for the word to get out, there’s no corporation behind this. You have to prostitute yourself. (But perhaps don’t ask the Pope to ReTweet about your new Metal album.) Also, don’t run a Kickstarter at Christmas, or even in January, as people don’t have as much money to throw around.

IronSpike was mentioned as a “Kickstarter Queen”, who has begun 7 Kickstarters and delivered on the first 5 thus far. There was also mention of a happier story towards the end: Cryptozoic who came in to offer funds, after a Kickstarter which involved someone running off with the money.

SUMMARY


I went to the music panel mostly because of my attempts to produce parody math videos. So it wasn’t immediately relevant to me, but there were enough tidbits of interest (and I stayed to the end). I went to the crowd funding panel mostly because literally everything I throw onto the web, from all my fiction writing, to my new web comic, to non-fiction recaps like this, is earning me zilch. So maybe I should have a donate button?

To that end, mostly I learned I need to do loads more research, and that my tiny audience doesn’t merit a Kickstarter at this point. (People have told me to publish personified math. I still doubt there’s a market, and you’ve seen my drawing, right?) Anyway, as a member of said audience, temporarily or not, I’m hoping you found this post useful!