Sending out an S.O.S.

Posted July 1, 2013 by Mike Mathews
Categories: Uncategorized

Hedge told me to do it.  

This is a desperate cry request for help to the MTBoS:  I will be teaching a new “Bridge to Algebra” class at my high school this coming year.  I’m pretty well on my own for curriculum, so of course I turn to my online community:  HELP!!

The deets: 

  • Students who did not pass 8th grade math and/or the 8th grade ISTEP (Indiana’s high stakes test)
  • The closest thing to a curriculum the school has is an Algebra book (I’m not even sure which it is, we used it a few years ago for a class we called “Algebra Tech”)
  • It’s officially called “Integrated Math” so I think it’d be best to tie in a fair amount of Geometry
  • The main goal is for them to move on from my class to Algebra 1 and be successful, especially on the End of Course Assessment, which is important for their graduation, our school grade and teacher evaluations. (Yeah, Indiana DOE!)
  • Of course the other goal is to get them to not fear/hate math.  Maybe even get them to appreciate/like it, just a little.

I’ve never designed a course from scratch before, so I will gratefully accept help in any area from essential questions, specific lessons, general design, homework ideas, et cetera, et cetera, and so on and so forth.  

Leave your thoughts, links, questions, etc. in the comments.  Thanks in advance, interwebs, I’m looking forward to the conversation.



Posted July 24, 2012 by Mike Mathews
Categories: Uncategorized

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Wow! TMC12 was a. . . I have no idea how to appropriately finish that sentence.

I guess the facts need to be established first.  A group of 40 math teachers from all over the U.S. and Canada who got to know each other on Twitter and through blogging came together in St. Louis for a few days of “guerilla professional development” a.k.a Twitter Math Camp 2012 (TMC12).  It was a conference of the teachers, by the teachers and for the teachers.  I don’t think there is any way I can even come close to describing the experience, but here is a basic run down of things that were meaningful to me:

First, the people. Because really, it’s all about the people and relationships in any endeavor.  There were 40 of us and I couldn’t get to know all of them the way I really wanted/needed to, so I apologize to all the awesome tweeps that I didn’t get to spend much time with.

The organizers:  Shelli andLisa did an outstanding job of planning and making this thing happen. THANK YOU!

The Heroes:  On the way over, my wife, Joni (who doesn’t teach or tweet), asked who I was most excited to meet.  Obviously, the answer was Sam and K8.  When I discovered the blogging, tweeting math teachers that prooved to be my lifeline, Kate and Sam were two of the first and most influential.  It seems that physical lurking to listen to their conversations is several magnitudes creepier than the digital lurking that I’m used to doing.  Whatever! It was great to be around their obvious genius.

The Expected: Funny thing about twitter, when I look at an avatar and read a tweet, I get to make up all the details about the person and what they are “saying.”  While I was at TMC12 I noticed that some of the tweeps matched my idea of them quite nicely, thank you very much:
Jami, Kristen, Sarah, Glenn, and David (who doesn’t teach calculus or go by Dave, huh.)  were all smart and funny in about the way I expected.
As big as Julie (who Joni now refers to as “the former cheerleader”) is on twitter (personality-wise) she is the same or maybe more so IRL. She is the life of the party and a master of middle school psyche.
Rachel is quirky, smart and funny in person, just like she is on the Twitter. I wasn’t surprised that she brought a ukulele to TMC, either; I just never knew she looked so much like Ally Sheedy in the Breakfast Club!

The Different From Expected: Elizabeth surprised me at first.  She is older than I expected (not that you’re old, just that your ideas, blog posts, and tweets are young, fresh and inspiring).  She is off-the-hook smart and still down to Earth and fun to hang with.
Hedge. What can I say about the fiery one from Mississippi that breaks out the dubstep to work Exeter problems to, rides on Sam’s back for part of the brewery tour and teaches us how to make marshmallow guns?  I didn’t see that coming.

Previously Unknown/No Expectations:  Max is very smart and funny (notice a trend here?), soft spoken but when he speaks you will want to listen because it’ll be worth hearing.
Bowman. I wish I could be in the same league as Bowman.  He is light years ahead of me in too many ways to list.
Simmons – “Bacon and Beer” ‘nuff said.
Karim is a rock star.  He stood out as a genius among really, really smart people. I would like to hire him as my personal math lesson sensei.
Marsha – the extrovert for the week with all the cool shirts.  Class of ’92 rules!
During our epic time at Pi Pizza, I learned that Jamie would eat anything on his pizza, or anyone else’s for that matter.

Now, about the content.  I couldn’t imagine a better professional development time.   I’ve been to many PD sessions in my time as a teacher, some might have been more professional but when it comes to development there’s no comparison.

I’m not going to give lots of detail about the sessions.  I think they might lose some awesomeness in my trying to write about them.  Here’s an overview:

My favorite time was the “My Favorites” time.  This is where some of my favorite teachers ever shared their favorite things to do in the classroom.  I’ve already started using Elissa’s “say 2 nice things” with my own children.

Bowman needed more time to really teach me how to use Geogebra, but he got me off to a great start.

Julie rocked the foldables. I really want to step outside of my comfort zone and use these all the time.

Megan did an equally rockin’ job explaining the interactive notebook.  Again not my natural style, something I’m going to force myself to do to help my students.

David’s presentation on thinking like a mathematician was excellent.  I want to steal the whole thing from him and show it to my students. Or maybe I could get him to come and present it, whaddya think @calcdave?

Hearing Elizabeth share about motivation from the point of Dan Pink’s book Drive was another highlight of my time in St. Louis.  Her ideas on flow were especially though provoking for this logical thinker.

I could go on and on, but many more talented writers have done a much better job of blogging about the experience.  I’m just glad that they let me come and that it will almost surely happen again next year.  And for that I am truly thankful.

End of course self evaluation

Posted July 15, 2011 by Mike Mathews
Categories: Uncategorized

I wanted to begin blogging. I really believe that it can and will improove my teaching. I want to take time to focus and reflect on what I am doing in the classroom. I started a blog over a year ago, but I didn’t blog until a few weeks ago. That’s part of the reason I chose to call it “Educational Paradox.” I only actually wrote and published a blog post when I had to do if as part of my Technology in Education class.

Now, the class is coming to an end and the only things I’ve posted on this blog have been assignments. I am glad that I’ve begun putting things out there (out here?) on the internet, but I’m worried that I won’t if I don’t have to.

Besides forcing me to use my blog, this class has been helpful for me in terms of becoming comfortable using different educational technologies. I’m not afraid to try new things, and I always want to and plant to, but just like my blogging, I don’t often find the time to actually learn and use these new tools. I’m now proud to say that I have created a webquest, a web page and found several other ways to enhance my teaching with technology.

I fell like I have learned a lot. Now when it comes to putting it into practice, it won”t be new, I will already have the experience to implement some of the new tools I’ve learned about.

A teacher leader?

Posted July 8, 2011 by Mike Mathews
Categories: Uncategorized

I don’t consider myself a leader.  I believe I could be an OK leader, but I don’t want the leadership mantle.  I do not crave the spotlight.  I’ve always thought I’d rather be an adviser to the President than be the President.  But leaders don’t have to be in the spotlight.  Leaders can lead by example and through individual conversations.

If I am going to try to be a teacher-leader at my school, this is how it will have to be.  The culture with regards to technology needs to change at our school.  We need to become a school that embraces technology.  I can help by changing the conversations.  I can talk with enthusiasm and excitement about the things that are happening in my classroom through the use of technology.
As I begin to apply the things I am learning (blogs, web page design, webquests, etc.), I would be willing to work with our administration and tech people to lead some after school workshops for interested teachers to try out some of these new technologies.  I think there might be some interest from some of the teachers at my school, but there would be resistance from others.  Because some of the teachers would be resistant, that is why I think my role as a leader would need to be generating interest and leading optional professional development.

Concerning Technology

Posted June 24, 2011 by Mike Mathews
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m beginning to think that if it wasn’t for my EDU554 class, I wouldn’t ever take the time to post on this blog.  I’m not a natural writer, so it is hard for me to put thoughts down on screen.  But this blog is something I’ve really wanted to do for a long time because I’m sure it will make me a better teacher.  Anyway, this post is just the next for my technology in education class.  I’m thankful I have to do at least one per week for the class or I might never blog.

This week’s questions are:

1.)  What are your concerns about using various internet technologies in your teaching practice? and
2.)  How can you alleviate these concerns?

I don’t really have a lot of concerns about the technologies themselves (I guess reliability is about the only concern I have).  What I lack is a confidence in my abilities to create high quality lessons using the internet and other technology.   I have yet to really  come up with ways that challenge my students to think deeply and critically about math.  With any medium.  The one thing I wish I had more of was creativity.  I’m not concerned about the technologies (the tools) I’m concerned about my ability to use them.

The only way I can think of to overcome these inadequacies is to share.  Like I’m trying to do on this blog thingy here.  I need to get out of my shell, try some things, fail, write about it, analyze it, get feedback from others and try again.  The only way to get better at something is to do it.  I have to suck up my pride, get out of my comfort zone and try some new things.

Woo!  pep talks always get me going.  Teach like a champion today or something.


Posted June 17, 2011 by Mike Mathews
Categories: Uncategorized

This post is the 3rd in the series for my Technology in Education class through Indiana Wesleyan University.  We were to address the following:  What software applications do you use regularly in your teaching practice?  What other software skills would you like to improve to increase your professional efficacy? Propose an action plan to improve these skills.  

The software that I use most often is the good old Microsoft Office Suite.  I use a lot of Word documents to create worksheets, tests and quizzes.  I use PowerPoint for at least half of my lecture notes.  I also am a big fan of Excel for any thing I can, either with students or to keep track of them and their learning.  I’ve also begun to shift more of my work load to Google Docs to do much of the same things but store my work in the cloud.

I would like to use a calender program such as the one in Google Docs to help improove my organization and planning.  This summer I will try to plan out my first nine weeks of lessons (soft plans of course, because you just can’t predict how quickly kids will learn) on Google calender.  Every Friday I will look at the following week and make the necessary adjustments.  I will also keep all of my basketball games and practices on a Google calendar so my wife won’t be surprised when I don’t come home right after school.

21st century? Already?

Posted May 27, 2011 by Mike Mathews
Categories: Uncategorized

Really?  I’m surprised.  All the talk in education these days seems to be about getting kids ready for 21st century jobs, with 21st century skills in 21st century schools, I thought it was rapidly approaching but never dreamed it was already here.

But seriously folks, maybe it’s just because I’m in my second online graduate course that talks about 21st century students and teaching, but I’m tired of seeing “21st century” as an adjective for everything.  I know the world is changing and changing quickly.  The “21st century” craze was useful in the ’80s and ’90s, but now, over ten years into the new millennium, it just seems, well. . . lame.  I guess it still serves its purpose, conveying the idea that the future will be different from the past, dramatically different.  But, as I read this week about 21st century skills, I started leaving out the “21 century” part and in my head just said “skills.”  You know what?  Almost everything still made a lot of sense.  The lesson in there, I think, is that 21st century skills are the same skills that have prooven effective since the time of Socrates.

Speaking of Socrates, I think I am preparing my students for the 21st century in the same way he did (not that I’m any kind of legendary teacher, mind you, I just borrow some from his style).  My strength as a teacher lies in getting kids to think.  Thinking critically and being creative problem solvers are skills that are useful for success in any century, but never more so than now.  When students leave my classroom, I feel like I’ve done my part toward getting them ready to meet the challenges of the future.  I have to admit that I worry that the teachers that follow me might set them back a little.  I work very hard to move my math students beyond “what steps do I do to get the right answer?” and get them to think about the how and the why beyond the current problem.

My biggest challenge is to do even more by doing much less (another one of those educational paradoxes).  I want to do more to help my kids think for themselves by doing less for them (if that sounds like @ddmeyer, it’s not a coincidence).  I need to learn to let go and let them struggle.  The best way that I know how to pull that off is to use more interesting questions and their natural curiosity.  Before next year, I want to work out more #anyqs and #WCYDWT problems.