Introduction to functions

Math teachers: When teaching a concept, have you ever tried to improvise an example or analogy and have it go wrong? To the point you're just rambling made-up nonsense that isn't helping anybody? Of course you have - we've all had this happen. But a good math teacher will sense the frustration -- both from students and from themselves -- and try something different. Other math teachers, unfortunately, just repeat that poor example over 500,000 times in 6+ years.

Some Guilford schools won't offer algebra next year

I worry every time I read one of these stories that people have the idea that aligning to the Common Core State Standards requires little more than rearranging the classes they already have. This story from North Carolina reports on the concern that kids won't take 7th grade algebra, waiting for 8th grade instead. If you're really trying to align to the CCSSM, I don't see any reason to call a middle school course "Algebra." There's plenty of algebra in the middle school CCSSM standards, yes, but there's a lot of other content too, and in the end it shouldn't come down to what you call the course. It will, though, because parents and students want the prestige of taking "algebra" early, regardless of what's taught in it.

The ‘neovoucher strategy’ (and why it didn’t work in New Hampshire)

Kevin Welner, CU-Boulder professor and director of the National Education Policy Center, literally wrote the book on neovouchers ( While regular vouchers involve the government giving tax revenues to parents for their children to attend private schools, "neovouchers" involve the government giving tax breaks to people who donate money for children to attend private schools. Either way, argues Welner, the government is funding private schools, and therefore we shouldn't be surprised at the recent New Hampshire court case that ruled against a neovoucher program.

Province's new approach to teaching math long overdue: readers

It's always interesting to see the math wars spill over our northern border, especially when reader comments get included in the story itself.

NCTQ Teacher Prep Review 2013 Report

The National Center on Teacher Quality evaluated more than 1,100 teacher education programs using data like course syllabi and program requirements. This has apparently led to a rather weak analysis (like you'd expect if you only judge restaurants from their menus), as many are now pointing out. Linda Darling-Hammond pointed out some of the missing data (, which prompted a NCTQ reply ( and another reply from Darling-Hammond ( Essentially, it's very unclear that NCTQ has enough data to evaluate programs, and in at least one case, it seems NCTQ evaluated a program that doesn't exist at the school they say it does.

Bruce Baker points out some hypocrisy in the report ( NCTQ says teacher quality is the key to student achievement, yet did nothing to evaluate the quality of the teacher educators that prepare new teachers. Ed Fuller broke down the report as well at, and the AACTE has something to say, too:

EdNews Colorado looked at the Colorado results ( and got some local reactions, including one from the Dean of the School of Education at UC-Denver, who pointed out that NCTQ gave them a zero for student teaching, claiming they don't have it, when in fact UC-Denver is one of the 5% of teacher prep programs nationally that require a full-year of student teaching (

Learn to give Dr. Bartlett's presentation on arithmetic, population and energy

Ever given a really good lecture? No, I mean *really good* - so good that you get asked to give it over and over again? CU-Boulder professor Al Bartlett ( has given his "Arithmetic, Population, and Energy" lecture over 1600 times, and the mathematical theme driving the lecture is humankind's difficulty in grasping the consequences of exponential growth. In order to spread Bartlett's lecture more widely, the CU Environmental Center will be giving a full-day training to those who wish to give the lecture themselves. Details and links to application materials can be found at

Study: Homeless, Mobile Students Face Academic Risk Beyond Poverty

Several years ago I worked with a professor who was interested in the effects of student mobility on academic performance. We wanted to use a large, national data set, but I imagine our results would have resembled those of a new study using data from Minneapolis Public Schools. Researchers found that 14 percent of students had been homeless over a six year period, and those students had significantly lower achievement and growth than other students. Still, many students showed resiliency against their mobility and homelessness, although no patterns in the data explained why.

Valuing physics over P.E., Colorado schools test novel pay scale

As a math teacher, I was always (selfishly) interested in teacher pay scales that valued hard-to-fill positions more. I think the current model for paying teachers, one based on experience and credits earned, is unfair. (I've touched on this before at The thing is, I'm not sure most merit pay models are any more fair, and I'd rather work in a system with an unfair system that teachers agree with than an unfair system they hate. Douglas County, Colorado, will be experimenting with a market-based approach to paying teachers, and some teachers don't sound happy about it.

Re-Thinking Education

Wisconsin Public Radio does a nice show called "To the Best of Our Knowledge" and a recent episode included Alfie Kohn on progressive education, Dana Goldstein on homeschooling, and education for the incarcerated.

Audio Transcription

Qualitative researchers spend a lot of time turning the dialog from audio and video into text transcripts. There's very little I haven't liked about grad school, but transcribing interviews might be near the top of the list. Thankfully, there are people who will transcribe for you, and Rev seems like a fast (48 hour turnaround) and relatively affordable ($1/minute of audio) transcription service.

Faulty logic in the new Math Wars skirmish

When I read the recent opinion piece in the New York Times ( I wanted to just dismiss it. The straw man was hard at work, with the authors claiming that teachers no longer taught algorithms, and since that would be bad, then reformers should lose the math wars and put math education back in the hands of (a few) mathematicians. Or something like that. I didn't comment much on the article (, but thankfully, Keith Devlin breaks it down paragraph-by-paragraph. I may not agree with every one of Devlin's assertions, but I stand behind his main point: To the extent we can generalize what happens in U.S. classrooms, teachers *do* teach algorithms, and the way they're taught now improves upon previous efforts and reflects technology's influence on how we do arithmetic.

L.A. Unified awards Apple $30-million contract for iPads,0,3194906.story

LAUSD superintendent John Deasy - who had previously appeared in promotional videos for Apple - negotiated a deal with Apple to purchase 35,000 iPads for $30 million. That works out to $857 per iPad, which suggests to me that the district's negotiators went easier on Apple than they would their teachers' union. Another source ( says the district is actually paying $678 per unit (which totals to $23.7 million) and the remaining money will be used to hire 15 "facilitators" and provide training and support.

Teenage chemistry enthusiast won't be charged with felony, will go to space camp

I'm glad I caught up with this story, as I'd previously ( written about Kiera Wilmot's troubles after her scientific curiousity was leading to a possible expulsion from school. Thankfully, more sensible thoughts prevailed, and not only have the charges been dropped, money has been raised to send her and her twin sister to Space Camp.


This is a great collection of photos of people stating why they need feminism. Most people (and myself, often) take too limited a view of feminism, and the examples here touch on a broad variety of perspectives.

Poverty matters more in the US

Michael Pershan takes a look at some PISA data and the link between poverty and achievement. For more, I recommend Dennis Condron's article in Educational Researcher about equity and excellence, as seen in PISA data:

How the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wages war on public schools

In this post Scott McLeod channels the likes of Bruce Biddle and David Berliner, exposing how organizations become so adept at convincing us that our schools are failing despite so much evidence to the contrary. After all, you can't sell someone a "solution" until you convince them that they've got something that's broken.

The Faulty Logic of the ‘Math Wars’

Hey, has anyone seen the mathematics education reform straw man lately? He was quiet there for a bit, but he was recently seen at the New York Times and was reportedly hatin' on algorithms like it was 1989.

New UNI president has eye on the future

The new president at Northern Iowa seems to be saying the right things, and that's a good start. But whether ideas are new or old, the big issue I hope to see UNI get turned around is the rather persistent slip in enrollment that they've dealt with for much of the past decade. When enrollment grows, revenue grows, and you have options. Steady enrollment is manageable, but slipping enrollment squeezes the budget in uncomfortable ways, and budget cycles become an exercise in damage control.

Seattle Teacher Under Fire for Teaching Kids About Racism and Discrimination

Jon Greenberg is a Washington state teacher known in his school for teaching a popular class called, "Citizenship and Social Justice." However, discussions of race and privilege led a student to complain that it made her feel uncomfortable and intimidated, and now Greenberg is being transferred to another school. Further use of such pedagogy has been banned, despite the district's claims they believe in teaching about race and social justice.

MATHAGOGY | two minute mathematics education

Mathagogy is a site with teachers using two-minute videos to explain how they teach some aspect of mathematics. It could turn into a really cool site, but I'm somewhat skeptical due to the arbitrarily short length of the videos. Let me put it a different way: If Sal Khan kept all of his videos at 2 minutes or less, I'm sure many teachers would add that to their criticisms of Khan Academy.

The Unengageables | dy/dan

Dan Meyer takes on the skepticism that causes teachers to ask, "What if my kids just don't care?"