Friday, May 17, 2019

Future of Education

The future of education is present on the internet

I am not talking about MOOCs or SPOCs.

It lives on Youtube and Reddit servers, financed by their ad revenue. 

For example, if I want to learn Data Science I could enroll in some online courses... 

Or... I can dive in and start doing the work to develop the skills I need immediately. By watching youtubers and commenting on insider news I become a peripheral participant in the community of practice where I can freely test real algorithms on real data. When I start building a project I have interest in I can ask questions, share my challenges and accomplishments in chat communities on slack, discord, or twitter. To build clout in the python community, I can make some commits; or the R community, other commits. I can read open source code and follow leaders like these two from #Rstats Hadley Whickam and  David Robinson. The more serious I get, the more resources I discover.

Why pay for an expert's subjective structuring of content when you can structure your own learning based on your own personal interest and passion projects for free?

@E_Rushton #iteachmath  #mathchat #datascience

If you are unfamiliar with the youtuber 3b1b (Grant Sanderson) and/or his recent pi day video screenshared above. Experience it.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Emergent Curricula

As you may know, I was a cohort teacher for a 4-year NSF grant with the Algebra Project in 2009-2013. We had 2 years of curriculum developed ahead of time (not a textbook, per say) and 2 years of fly by the seat of your pants, here are some texts and full-length curricula to pull from, and hopefully we did enough during the 2-week summer workshop to prepare you - good luck!

Luckily, we weren't alone, and along with our university professor partners we would meet on weekends, co-teach some classes, and figure out how to structure material to meet the needs of our students.

This tweet by Anna Blinstein inspired this post.

Two areas of our class structure garnered follow-up questions from Anna. Just-in-time handouts and portfolios.

Just-in-time Handouts

All handouts were numbered, 3-hole punched, and expected to be kept in a 3-ring binder. I had the luxury of teaching in a sewing classroom with ample closet space for all students to keep their materials. Extra copies of all handouts were kept in folders in crates for absentees and lost papers.

In year 4, our Algebra Project cohort took discrete math and statistics as a double block. Here is a handout list, homework list, and journal list for my discrete/stats, algebra, and tutorial lab classes.

Here is a document containing the Spring Statistics Handouts. Notice that handout 12 split the class into 3 groups and differentiated the instructions of the performance task. We developed this task because our seniors didn't have a firm concept of percentage, and Bayesian statistics is lost without that.

You'll notice things like signature boxes asking students to commit to completing homework, because we were having homework completion issues (who doesn't?) and personalized messages to students and classes that you won't find in a traditional textbook.

Portfolio Tasks

Portfolio tasks asked students to find a mistake and correct it. I aimed to do this monthly, but in reality did 3-4 per semester. Here are some examples. Along with student portfolio submissions was a notebook and journal check - here are examples of the monthly-check format.


As a math coach I know that what works for one teacher in one context may have the opposite effects for a different teacher in the same or a different context. However, there are some universal points about classroom structure that are good for instruction.
  1. Have students define the major takeaways from lessons and activities.
  2. Have students recall previous major takeaways to apply to new lessons and activities.
  3. Have students refine major takeaways as new lessons and activities deepen their understanding.

kop _crush

Friday, March 15, 2019

Measuring Tape Radians Activity #piday

1) Give each group a 5-foot measuring tape roll.

2) Have them roll it around 4-5 fingers. The roll should measure more than 7 inches, otherwise re-wrap it larger. Then tighten it down to a little more than 6.25 inches (estimate 6.28").

3) How big is the radius of this rolled measuring tape?

4) Take predictions.

5) Measure from the outside toward the center of the roll.

6) Have students write reflections about how many radii fit around the circumference. Will this amount change for different sized circles?

Let me know how it goes in the comments!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

CMP@CPP: Task Design

I recently presented for the California Mathematics Project at Cal Poly Pomona and am sharing my talk and reflections here in hopes that someone can benefit and/or share their own thoughts and resources with me.

Stated goals

    Build trust
    Do math together
    Share strategies and resources

Here is a trimmed down video of the session along with the slides:

Overall Reflection

I felt more trust by the end of my session and feel that I was able to get many voices heard and shared during my talk. The introductory math task felt like a positive experience for everyone. Teachers shared their strategies and approaches in their small groups as well as during whole group discussions. I would like to get teachers to really visualize themselves in their actual classrooms, and plan lesson ideas around activities they intend to use with their students. This has proven difficult to do. Suggestions toward this goal are coveted.

Moment to celebrate

I was happy that I remembered to discuss the idea of taking estimates (albeit after the fact). I am not sure if making this mistake of ordering helped or hurt uptake to the idea of taking estimates before attempting a problem. I was proud that I was able to pull out of a single participants solution strategy to ask for another approach.

Missed opportunity

I intended to have multiple groups share-out after a period of small group work, and only had one group share. Then I shared my own approach. I think I made this adjustment because folks hadn't really gone down the path I intended. In retrospect, I should have shared a summary of my own approach before the group work so that the teachers had a clearer idea of what was expected of them. The conversations were too general and un-focused. Many teachers didn't talk about their lesson or unit planning at all, and the time felt less productive than it could have been. I also think that my circulating, listening, and probing was not where I want it to be in terms of active listening and pulling the nuggets from multiple groups in a short time.

What surprised me?

I was surprised at how quickly we used up the time and how little of my talk we got through. I plan to break it up into a few parts and try to deliver a more focused session on open questions later this year. My goals are the same, but my main evidence for success will be teachers leaving the session with problems they actually use in their classrooms, that have a fresh new feel thanks to our session.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Do the Math

What do folks mean when they say, "do the math"?

How about, "I'm not a math person"?

For what, by and large, do folks (randomly sampled from the entire population of English speakers who know the word
math) mean by math?

In a recent survey of LAUSD elementary teachers, most agreed with the statement "Some students have a natural talent for mathematics and others do not." There is a camp of math educators who disagree with this statement, but it seems they are in the minority. Is it possible that the primary confound in this conundrum is differing definitions of math?

To me, doing math means much more than the arithmetic that comes once a solution strategy has been followed to its natural end. Once a complex problem becomes a simple computation, the math is done, and the computers have homework.

I recently presented for the California Mathematics Project at Cal Poly Pomona and had this to say,

What are some things that the computer can't do that I am going to continuously do with my students to get them to reimagine what math is?
Over the course of two hours, I tried to make the point to a group of primary teachers that math is not about getting correct answers, rather it is about discovering patterns, the structure of solution strategies and critiquing each others reasoning.

Watching the entire video and writing this post, I realized some unstated goals:

    Demonstrate how math is a creative process
    Create dissonance around what it means to "Do the math"
    Create dissonance around what it means to be or not to be a "Math person"

If you or someone you know has a similar goal for their students, parents, or teachers; what are some strategies or suggestions you have to create such experiences for folk? I'd love to discuss ways to measure progress toward these goals in the comments.

This post is mainly a recapitulation of Lockhart's Lament and a resounding "hear hear" to Conrad Wolfram's 2010 TED, Teaching Kids Real Math.

SALVIATI: If everyone were exposed to mathematics in its natural state, with all the challenging fun and surprises that that entails, I think we would see a dramatic change both in the attitude of students toward mathematics, and in our conception of what it means to be “good at math.” We are losing so many potentially gifted mathematicians— creative, intelligent people who rightly reject what appears to be a meaningless and sterile subject. They are simply too smart to waste their time on such piffle.

Yet even though we have read and watched these ideas, think to yourself the next time you say or hear someone use the phrase "do the math" or "I'm not a math person": has anything changed... yet?

Written for Sam Shah's Virtual Conference of Mathematical Flavors

Monday, January 22, 2018

Learn Data Science 2018

I am building a portfolio on a new blog to apply to Data jobs in 2018. 

from letustweak
I would like to use Data Science to support teachers, students, and learning in the information age.

    I combed through resources and am sharing highlights.

What is Data Science?

As described in a recent DataCamp podcast with David Robinson,
Data Transformation - how can I clean this and reshape it?
Statistical inference - how can I separate signal from noise?
Prediction - I've got some inputs, how can I predict the outputs? (a classifier)
Visualization - how can I better understand this? (making graphs)
Communication - how can I share the results?

Where I am learning it?

I am reading help pages, documentation, github repos, and stackoverflow to analyze open data sets. 

I did EliteDataScience's 7 day email introduction and feel confident about learning all of their Machine Learning steps through projects, online resources, and Kaggle's courses + competitions.


- All courses with Dr. Chuck Severance at Python for Everybody.
- Practical Deep Learning for Coders with Jeremy Howard at
- Exercises on Project Euler


- Exercises on codeacademy, hackerrank, and leetcode.


- Tidyverse (Hadley Whickam's R for Data Science)
- Rachel Tatman's Data Science in R Kaggle course


freeCodeCamp has a beta site offering 6 modules
- Blocks contain examples

More Resources

- DataCamp has some great tutorials in R, python, SQL, and others.
- Andrew Ng's Machine Learning Coursera course (old Octave back when it was free).
- Version Control with Git Udacity course
- MITx Introduction to Probability: The Science of Uncertainty
- TypingClub is not a crime

Online curricula

David Venturi's DIY Masters (He did some blog updates in 2017)


I joined the Coursera Data Science community.
I attended various free Data Science meetups in SF at Galvanize and Metis.
I am stalking many Data Scientist blogposts and podcasts to keep up with trends and learn proper etiquette.
Looking for an in-person group of DIY Data Scientists who want to meet up and hack on data sets together.

Stretch Goals

- Kirill Eremenko's Data Science A-Z Udemy course
- Udacity Data Analyst Nanodegree

- crush

Hit me up if you are DIY Data Science learning also.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Algebra Project Keeps on Pushin'

>>>> Alliance Website <<<<

In my discussions with teachers I often drop a line like,  "The Algebra Project saved my life" or "The Algebra Project changed me irrevocably".  And folks ask me how they can learn more or get involved. 

There is a small website and a few books {Radical Equations, QECR, Educating for Insurgency}, but educators are left asking, where is the curriculum? the pedagogy? What is this “approach” that they espouse?

The Algebra Project has been working on Math Literacy as a vehicle to organize social change for the past 35 years. Join the "We the People" Alliance. (Edit 5/23/18, added link to website above)

It isn’t a textbook series, although there are curricular modules: Tripline, Road Coloring, Flagway, Winding Games… 

It isn’t a set of instructional activities, although there are design principles: share a common experience, 3 Ps (produce, present, and peer review mathematical reasoning), a mathematization process... 

It doesn’t claim to be a magic bullet. The Algebra Project understands that what works in one context will not necessarily work elsewhere. We have a wealth of knowledge and experience that can support math literacy efforts in your area, and we need math literacy workers across the nation to join forces.

Our shared goal is to amplify student and teacher voices from underserved contexts.

Watch the Student Voice video:
Watch the Teacher Voice video:
Watch the Community Voice video:
The Algebra Project is a bottom-up community organizing effort to prepare students performing in the bottom quartile of math achievement to take college math for college credit upon completion of high school. We use math literacy as an organizing tool.

There was an NSF-funded convening focused on the question: 
What roles and structures are needed for a mini-backbone organization in order to scale a "bottom up" model of social change into an organized, full scale collective impact model?
There currently is an NSF INCLUDES grant to establish a national network focused on building an Alliance around students in the bottom quartile of achievement in the lower grades being able to do college math for college credit post-treatment:
The proposed work will comprise the design of effective learning opportunities; building and supporting a cadre of teachers who can effectively work with students learning under the proposed approach; using technologies to enhance teaching and learning; and utilizing evaluation and research to drive continuous improvement. 
In speaking with Bob Moses and Ben Moynihan directly over the past few months I have uncovered some tacit goals:
1) Institutionalize the teacher voice
2) The issue of the materials
  • What to teach?
  • How to teach it?
  • How to assess what’s been taught and learned?
Wondering if any of this strikes a chord with you or if there are ways you'd like to be included further. Next steps would likely involve getting on a conference call, in-person meeting, or workshop/conference in the coming weeks/months. 
Upcoming opportunities:
1) Join the "We the People" alliance facebook group:
2) Park City Math Institute (PCMI) in summer 2018 Dates: July 1 - 21, 2018;
3) Critical Issues at MSRI

Please reach out in the comments, join the Facebook group, and share widely.

A former educator and colleague of mine, Marcus Hung, with Room 212 Photography produced the four videos embedded in this post that highlight The Algebra Project's current "We The People" Alliance work.