Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Teacher Streamers

A question I get a lot in conversations these days is, "What impact has covid had on teaching?"

Teachers are scrambling to create a "synchronous" online experience to simulate their former classrooms and are being asked to teach both in-person and online in hybrid models. One thing is certain, teachers have been forced to stream some of their content.

This is a roundup of Teacher-Streamers I've encountered to inspire educators looking to become streamers. Please link to other model streamers in the comments. This is a new skillset that millions of teachers and professors across the globe are having to pickup on the fly. Let's share what others figure out, so we all can improve.


Grant Sanderson is a Stanford math grad who started his online teaching career at Khanacademy and has since become a famous Youtuber with a large following and incredible Linear Algebra playlist. He recently did 10 live lessons and showed the world a modern rendition of the old lecture format. Check out his setup with Open Broadcaster Software (OBS)

Coding Train 

Dan Shiffman is an NYU CS professor who has been teaching online for roughly 5 years. His codingchallenges are a powerful way to learn to code and he has an impressive collection of community contributions. He made a video of how he streams

Michael Wesch 

The KSU prof who has been experimenting with and trailblazing online teaching for over a decade. He discusses OBS and his Fall teaching plans for the coming school year here. He has tips on setting up online classes more generally in a few shorter videos in this playlist

Matt Solomone 

A math professor at Bridgewater State Univ who teaches on Twitch? I am intrigued.  Here is his rig


Josh Starmer is a UNC Chapel Hill professor who has been uploading statistics concepts "Clearly Explained" to youtube for the past 5 years. BAM. 

David Robinson 

@drob is a former R instructor from Data Camp. He is a tidyverse expert who livestreams an hour a week analyzing a dataset he has never seen before. For practical coding skills like statistical programming in R, it doesn't get more instructional than a livestream practitioner IMO. 

"Dr. Chuck" Severance 

Python for Everybody (PY4E) has been a labor of love and a gift to the world in the spirit of open source under the guise of a MOOC. Chuck is a champion of learner privacy and has stayed at the forefront of online learning management tools since the dawn of the internet. 

Walter Lewin

Forever tainted by harassment allegations, Walter Lewin is one of the original teacher streamers who posted his lectures online and they were amazing. The internet has come so far since 1999, and the possibilities for interactions between learners has increased tremendously.

I think Lewin's legacy demonstrates an important point about the future of teacher-streamers. It is not enough to be incredible at explaining a concept and bringing it to life, in order to be a great teacher-streamer, you need to be an incredible human being too.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

[talk] The Art of Coaching, NCTM Boston 2019

I delivered a 30-min burst session at NCTM Boston last summer, The Art of Coaching. 

Initial script: This talk is about voices. Voices in education that have challenged my thinking and guided my beliefs. As coaches we often discuss actions. The look-fors in our instructional practice guides and teacher competency frameworks... We discuss beliefs. The mindsets and attitudes that people bring to the work. We don’t often discuss ways of being. These are voices that make my heart sing, and perhaps - some of what I share in these 30 minutes will resonate with you too.

 Here are the slides.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

[activity] Stick and String

Mysteries of Trigonometry, Jerzy Kocik

"trigonometry is the theory of a stick with a chord attached"

Wrote Jersy Kocik in his book, The Mysteries of Trigonometry (2005), along with a brilliant activity for teaching trig ratios, the stick and string.

Here is a handout and some files that support this activity.

I submitted this activity for a Rosenthal Prize, and here is my response to their implementation question,

Imagine that another teacher were trying to implement your activity in their classroom. If they had to start from scratch, what materials would they need? How much time would it take to prepare? What would be the cost (at market value) of all materials involved?*

This activity will likely take two 60-min periods or one 90-min block. It may take up to 2 hours to plan the first time around, but is relatively straightforward after that. Plan for groups of three. Each group should have a stick, string, protractor, 8.5x11 paper, scissors and markers. Ideally the sticks are as straight as possible, have no markings and are a range of sizes. If you can manage to have each individual build their own stick&string it might be worthwhile. One way to do that would be to ask each student to bring their own unmarked stick about 20 inches long and a string that is a bit longer. Whether you tell kids to bring materials or not, you’ll need your own supply. I find that shorter than 12 inches is crowded to mark (and less accurate) and longer than 40 inches is cumbersome to work with. I bought various lengths of (½”) dowels from home depot with a mean length of around 24 inches.

For a class of 30 with ten groups of three plan to buy:

- 4x72” dowel rods at $2.57 each and cut them at the store into 16”-40” lengths ($10-15 per class).
- A ball of twine or any inelastic string will do ($3-5).
- A class set of protractors ($10).
- A class set of markers ($20).
- A class set of scissors ($10).
- A ream of 8.5x11 paper ($3).

This activity would cost about $(50 + 12c) where c is the number of classes if you had none of these materials. I personally like doing it with branches because they feel like wands, and that cuts the cost to about $50 for the first time and less than $10 for each subsequent time. The class will benefit to have at least one computer to compile the data and graph the result, but it is not required.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Play Cribbage, Make 15s

I recommend this game to develop number sense using ten frames and have fun. Players find patterns and make 15 via addition. There is some beginning combinatorics when scoring 3 and 4 of a kind. (if I have three 2s, how many pairs do I have? What if I have four 2s?)

Rules for 2 players described below. (Rules for 3 players)

Cut to deal, low card is dealer. Face cards are 10, ace is 1.

The Players
    are dealt 4 cards each.

Pegging occurs.

Each player keeps 2 cards and puts 2 cards in the Crib.

Hands are scored and pegged. Scoring.

The Crib is scored and pegged.

Roles switch and repeat until someone pegs to finish.

#mathchat #elemmathchat #playmath

(image credit:

Monday, July 29, 2019

Making Tens Matters; Play Shut the Box

Math Toys and Games for Young Learners

In this post I highlight toys, games and habits to develop young mathematicians.

Age 0-3

The concepts of cardinality (numbers have quantity) and ordinality (numbers have order) are not obvious. It is one thing to learn a string of words "one, two, three, four..." and another to understand that each of those words represents a quantity, or that the order of those quantities carries meaning. These concepts are reinforced through multiple representations of number and quantity. Have fun. Learn from mistakes. Don't punish children's partial understandings. Build upon them.


Count physical objects with your kids
    Ask "How Many?"
           "How do you know?"
           "How else do you know?"
Play with patterns
    Ask "What comes next?"
           "What else could come next?"

Physical Toys

Be careful of choking hazards.
Check out Frebel's Gifts as a progression of mathy toys to orient a child for future mathematics.

Digital Toys


Age 3-7

Making tens is silly; why wouldn't a young child to rebel against such a mundane task? Memorizing a 12x12 table of numbers is worse yet. Many games reinforce these foundational math facts without the pain of forced repetition.


Ask "How many?" "How far?" "How long?" "How much?"
       "What units?"
       "How do you know?"
       "How else do you know?"
       "What comes next?" 
       "What else could come next?"

Physical Toys

  • Shut the box
  • Board games (Sorry, Candyland, Monopoly, Careers, Katan)
  • Card games
  • Dominos
  • Backgammon
  • Chess
  • Go
  • Cribbage

Digital Toys

Number Sense
  • Dragonbox Numbers
  • Motion Math Zoom
  • Motion Math HD
  • Dragonbox Big Numbers
  • Wuzzit Trouble
Visual Spatial
  • .projekt

Age 8-12

Fractions are daunting. All of the symbols and numbers have new rules that are easily confused. Abstraction seems so irrelevant. How is the letter x going to help me in the real world? The symbol barrier can be overcome when learners are given time to mathematize a concrete experience and use symbols to represent mathematical features of their lived experience. Games like Slice Fractions and Dragonbox Algebra demonstrate this idea.


Cook together. Weigh and measure objects. Cut things in halves, thirds, quarters... Fold clothes together. Demonstrate that math is all around us, don't pressure children into seeing math as right and wrong; and the rules and symbols will come with time.

Digital Toys

  • Slice Fractions
  • Amplify Fractions
  • Refraction
Proportional Reasoning
  • Ratio Rancher
  • Dragonbox Algebra
  • Game over Gopher

In a previous post I discussed resources for high math achievers. That may be relevant for you.

For Teachers

What apps, websites, software programs, etc. do you use with students (or have them use independently) to improve their math skills? Why do you use these tools? What are their strengths and weaknesses?


  • Google – search in class with students to teach searching strategies
  • Wolfram Alpha – use to demonstrate function behavior
  • Wikipedia – search in class and discuss how to validate claims and track sources

Skill Practice

  • Open Middle - open questions provide more practice and engagement
  • Kahoot - gamified knowledge quizzes
  • Motion Math HD - Fractions
  • Motion Math Hungry Fish – Adding positive/negative Integers
  • Motion Math Zoom – Number Line and Place Value
  • Sumdog – basic skills + some metrics to demonstrate gains
  • ST Math – spatial reasoning
  • Khanacademy – Knowledge Graph with Demonstration and Practice
  • IXL - vast range of topics

Conceptual Understanding

  • Desmos - engaging classroom activities to promote mathematical discourse
  • - engaging critical thinking tasks, sequenced into courses
  • Geometer’s Sketchpad/Geogebra - visualize/simulate mathematics
  • NLVM - virtual manipulatives
  • Shodor - interactive activities

Top 3-4 concepts/skills that hold students back

Algebraic expressions: Integers, Fractions, Order of Operations

Functions: Multiple Representations, Relational Reasoning, Inverse Functions

Proportional Reasoning: Scale Factors, Ratios, Percentage

Statistical Reasoning: Randomness, Normal Distribution, Conditional Probability

For more product reviews and tips for raising kids in our digital world, check out Common Sense Media.

This post is just a scratch at the surface. Reach out or follow-up in the comments with more resources to share with parents and teachers.

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