Sunday, December 8, 2013

You didn't use algebra today?

Just because you got through today without using algebra doesn't mean that you shouldn't have used it!

So often I hear people say they hate algebra!  They go out of their way to explain how they don't use it in the real world and still get by, or make a ton of money, or [insert excuse here].

There are two things that I usually respond if I don't think it will cause further argument.

1. You actually are using algebra, you just don't realize it.
2. If you did use algebra, you might have made a better decision, saved money, saved time, or [insert excuse from above here] better.

Check out this article in the NY TIMES.  I am both happy and sad to see sunlight being allowed this particular topic.  I would love to see positive changes, but also know that most of the people who impact the way our education system works are not informed enough to make good decisions.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

TMC 2014

Twitter Math Camp 2014 (Jenks, OK)

We are starting our gear up for TMC14, which will be at Jenks High School in Jenks, OK (outside of Tulsa – map is here) from Thursday, July 24 through Sunday, July 27, 2014.

We are looking forward to a great event. Part of what makes TMC special is the wonderful presentations we have from math teachers who are facing the same challenges that we all are.

To get an idea of what the community is interested in hearing about and/or learning about we set up a Google Doc ( It’s an open GDoc for people to list their interests and someone who might be good to present that topic. If multiple people were interested in a session idea, he/she added a “+1” after it. The doc is still open for editing, so if you have an idea of what you’d like to see someone else present as you’re writing your own proposal, feel free to add it!

This conference is by teachers, for teachers. That means we need you to present. Yes, you! What can you share that you do in your classroom that others can learn from? Presentations can be anything from a strategy you use to how you organize your entire curriculum. Anything someone has ever asked you about is something worth sharing. And that thing that no one has asked about but you wish they would? That’s worth sharing too. Once you’ve decided on a topic, come up with a title and description and submit the form.

If you have an idea for something short (between 5 and 15 minutes) to share, plan on doing a My Favorite. Those will be submitted at a later date.

The deadline for submitting your TMC Speaker Proposal is January 20, 2014. This is a firm deadline since we will reserve spots for all presenters before we begin to open registration on February 1, 2014.

Thank you for your interest!
Team TMC – Lisa Henry, Lead Organizer, Shelli Temple, Justin Aion, Mary Bourassa, Tina Cardone, James Cleveland, Cortni Kemlage, Jami Packer, Anthony Rossetti, and Glenn Waddell

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Arm Chair Quarterback ( I should run for office)


Football is pretty easy when you're sitting at home with a bowl of chips and a cold drink.  "I can do that!" I should be coaching this team! (or at least run for office)

I tell my students all the time that "I know it looks easy to you when I do it, you need to do it yourself to know if you really get it."  Some take my advice and practice, but many just refuse to immerse themselves into it.  

By the way, I'm not saying that they can't do it or that it isn't easy, but it's likely that when they are assessed on the skill or need to use it, it will be harder for them than they thought. 

The more I shout at the coaches on TV telling them how they should be coaching their team, the more I realize how similar an armchair quarterback telling a coach how to do their job is to a politician who tells me how to teach.

The difference is that coaches don't give a crap or even hear what I have to say, Politicians can actually make their nonsense law!

I'm just a dope who has no idea how to coach a pro football team but thinks he can. Politicians really have no idea how to teach, or do much of anything else, but think they know how to do everything.

Football is just a game, an awesome game! ... but your education affects your life.  

I just wish politicians would leave teaching to me the same way they leave surgery to surgeons, law to lawyers, and auto repairs to mechanics. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Random thought about technology

Plain and simple,I am all for using Technology for education's sake, but not using technology for technology's sake.   

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How I try to explain that the basics matter

I often wonder if students still need to learn basic number facts like multiplication tables. I'm told that they do, but I see so many that don't know basic multiplication facts.

Students, parents and even some of those affecting the direction of education seem to think that students don't need to "memorize" math facts.  That's "old school" like when teachers used to hit students with pointers, (remember the wooden sticks with the rubber tips)?

Memorize multiplication tables?  That's simply torture with no rationale or valuable outcome.  You'd think it's Abu Ghraib or something!  After all, we all have access to calculators pretty much all the time.

Pretty soon students probably won't need to write script/cursive.  Oh wait...I think that already happened too.  I guess being able to read script isn't important either.

Anyway, the analogy I use that seems to work for me is comparing knowing number facts to driving.  Could you imagine if every time while you were driving and saw a sign you had to stop, interpret and then proceed?  That analogy works if you assume that students eventually get their number facts correct after thinking about it (even though they often don't).

So I come to a red, eight sided sign that says "stop".  Do I need to think about what to do?  No.  Am I even reading the sign?  Maybe not.

I can drive from here to work and sometimes not remember anything about the whole ride.  My brain helps me drive almost subconsciously.

When a ball rolls across the street, I automatically hit the breaks.  No active interpretation needed.  Ball = STOP!  Street lights, merging into traffic, turning, whatever.

There was a time in my life that I needed to consciously decide what to do and how every moment through the process. 

With mathematical facts, I just know them because I had to learn them.  I think this is what many students are missing and why they stumble through math.  They stop to think about every step in the process of solving mathematical problems.  6 X 7...uhhhhhhh.  Damn! 36? uhhhhhhh.  Ok 42.

Obviously these problems are may differ in different areas, schools, etc.... but when I encounter a struggling student, I usually find that the issue is with basic math.

If the simple processes could be truly mastered and internalized and become part of students thinking process, they would do much better.

I feel that the basic skills mastery is usually the difference between good students and bad ones.

-Multiplication tables
-Working with fractions 
-Operations with integers

These are the root of many of my students' problems.  I usually hold pop boot camps several times throughout the year, and I think I've been able to do some good.

I'd love to know how others feel about this and what if anything they do to combat this problem.

Added 8/9:
Chris Robinson has an interesting blog post about number sense here, check it out.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Parent Roadmaps for CCSS

While looking for some simplified explanations of the CCSS, I stumbled across the Council of the Great City Schools website.

For your convenience and mine, I have also placed links to these docs in the subject/topic specific pages I created here.

This organization has created PDF documents that can be shared with parents to help simplify the CCSS.  Take a are links to the 6th Grade through High School Math docs:


There are also similar documents for the English CCSS.


***The Parent Roadmaps to the Common Core State Standards may be reprinted or posted online for non-commercial purposes without the Council’s prior consent. Please include attribution to the Council of the Great City Schools.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My Favorite: Remind 101 (text students and parents)

One of my "my favorites" at TMC13 was Remind 101 and using it to communicate with my students and their parents. Remind 101 is a free service that allows teachers to set up lists they can send text messages to. The important thing is that users do not know each others' phone numbers. 

  • I set up a class called "TMC13" and invited all participants to join the group.
  • I sent out the instructions via Twitter explaining how to be added to the list.
click to enlarge instructions
  •  The image is generated by the system and is easy to share with students and parents.  Once they follow the instructions, they are added to the list for their class and will receive texts on their phone.
  • To send messages, I used the dashboard to select the correct class "TMC13", type in the message and send.
My dashboard as i looked at TMC13

You can even publish your messages to your website or blog by inserting some HTML code. Go to the "My Widgets" screen to access the code you'll need to insert.

The text you'll need to insert can be seen in this image.  There is even a preview of what it will look like on your site. (I covered my token number which is unique to my account)

Here is a quick sample of how you might use on your own website:

Notice I also added a feed from my class blog into the right column.  These widgets will allow one stop shopping for all of my communications.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like more more info or help setting your up.

Twitter: @aanthonya

Saturday, August 3, 2013


So it's been almost a week since TMC13 ended.  It comes and goes so quickly, but it's impact will stay with me for a long while. While writing this I wanted to mention that although I loved TMC13, it was just missing something for me since and were not there.

Even though my grey hair tells you I've been teaching for a hundred years, the fact is I am only entering year four.  In fact, I was probably one of the oldest people at TMC13, but have less experience than most people there.  My experience is mainly in the non-teaching world.  This experience serves me well in general, but I will always feel that I have a lot to learn.

Even though in my business career I was responsible for tens of millions of dollars and managed dozens of people, there will always be twinge of inadequacy in me when I am in a teaching environment.

Teaching makes me feel younger than I am because of the nature of what it takes to be a teacher and that I am mostly around younger people.  After 15+ years in the stuffy marketing/advertising world, I am more energized for life in general now more than ever.  One of my favorite parts of teaching is that I get to re-boot each year.  In my previous career, any frustrations I had tended to fester and build.  Maybe this is why in that industry people generally turn over and switch companies or roles frequently.

As a teacher, we can work hard in year x, succeed some and fail some, but in x+1 start over with some extra knowledge we didn't have before.  This for me is heaven.  I get to keep trying to fix what I know is wrong.  It's like using a pencil with eraser in your career.

Anyway, one thing that has stayed consistent for me is my tweeps.  My first two tweeps that I tweeted with frequently were  and .  The people that had been helping me survive from a distance are always there for me (and I for them) year after year.  That list has grown in a big way.

Last year when the prospect of a Math Teacher cruise cropped up, I was excited!  To be honest, I felt much better when the cruise idea died and the idea for math camp in St. Louis took priority.  In fact I even remember and others trying to see who was interested

I really felt a connection with those peeps.  To be honest, I don't think I could have made it through my first couple of years without them.  Even if I didn't actually know them or even follow them, there was something about what we shared that swept me up.  Bottom line, that crew , and the rest of TMC12 swept me off my professional feet.

TMC13 was equally awesome personally and professionally although I think the vibe was slightly different.  I suppose there will be growing pains for "la cosine nostra".  I use that term as a joke. I kind of feel like I am part of the Math teacher mafia now, La Cosine Nostra!  Growing up on Staten Island and now living in New Jersey, both homes to "La Cosa Nostra", translated "this thing of ours"....the mafia.

Statistics in the Morning
Although I am mainly an Algebra 1 teacher, I wanted to spend my morning sessions with the stats group.  I am much less comfortable teaching stats than algebra so was in desperate need of arms to fall into.  I'm pretty sure @approx_normal could catch me if I fell.  Hedge, your stats presentation was my single favorite session of the whole event!

@maxmathforum you simply rock!  Your session will remain one of my favorites.  You are a good person and a great thinker and teacher.  Thank you for "notice" and "wonder"! Now I do more than ever before.  Also it was wonderful that your colleagues from Drexel helped us get around.  The facility was amazing and the people were wonderful.  Please tell those folks thanks again (and good luck to the undergrads).

@gwaddellnvhs (Glenn), you are a great roommate and great mentor.  Your knowledge of statistics is mindblowing!

-I need a break here.  I can't believe I even rambled this much!  I  still have a lot more to write.  Wanted to post this for now...will add more later.  :-)


Friday, April 26, 2013

Zero Factor Property in Assessment of Teachers

 A little bit of a venting session here...

(good teacher) (good lesson planning) (x) (y) (z) (aa) (ab) ....... (student effort = zero) = 0

In other words, a student can have the best teacher in the world...the best teacher that has ever lived...the Babe Ruth of teachers...the Beatles of teachers...but if they don't do their part, they won't learn anything.  Learning requires effort on the part of the learner.

As we all move into formal assessment of teacher effectiveness, I can't help but wonder about a lot of things.

Politicians and bureaucrats have put together assessment requirements which consider factors that contribute to teacher effectiveness.  But to my math teacher mind, we must have all of the factors to get the "right" answer.  That of course depends on which question you're trying to answer.

How should a teacher be evaluated if one of those factors out of his/her control is zero?  or very small? Isn't the student a factor in their own performance?

I have not seen much reference to student factors in teacher effectiveness, (Does the student want to learn?) and (Does the student do the things required)?

A further factorization of student factors gives us...

(does he attend class) (does she pay attention/take notes) (does he study) (x) (y).... (z)

.........But these are not used to evaluate our teachers or our educational system.  Almost all of the weight is placed on the teacher.  The teacher factor is important, but if student effort is zero, the result will be zero, right?

I am all for evaluation of teachers, but I am not for unfair assessment.  Teacher quality is surely one of the most important factors in learning, but becomes irrelevant if factored with zero or a fraction.

Why don't any of the assessments I've seen consider what the student is doing to learn?

I see video examples of great teaching all the time.  These videos typically show a scene in a charter school with students wearing uniforms, 100% engaged and aggressively TRYING to learn.

In my teaching I work very hard at making it easier for students to want to be engaged.  In a sense, I am a performer on stage, I make lessons interesting, fun, relevant, organized, and all of the other things.  I believe that I am a good teacher who continues to try to improve.  I'm not perfect, but I am working towards it.

But the fact is, many students just don't care and let's face it....some students work hard to NOT learn

I would like to see this student factor in the equation. 

(good teacher) (good lesson planning) (x) (y) (z) (aa) (ab) ....... (student factor = zero) = 0

Don't even get me started on students who add a negative factor to the equation!