Open Discussion: Would a PDF annual for math blogging be helpful? Or just a lot of work?

(Editor’s note: I’m going on vacation this week, so I hope to get lots of comments, feedback, pushback, etc. by the time I get back.)

I’m a huge fan of the McSweeney’s Annual “Best of American Non-Required Reading” edited by Dave Eggers. As a more-or-less weak reader (in terms of what I actually accomplish) I like having a go-to hard copy of a text that I know will be filled with great stuff.

Similarly, I’m, frankly, pretty bad about getting around to reading all the amazing stuff that happens in the Math blogosphere every single day. Often, I’ll see a link and say “ooh! I’d really like to read that!”, bookmark it, star it, get busy, and then I’ll forget about it. Much of this stems from simply how disorganized I am. Mea culpa.

What I’d really like, is some sort of annual, much like McSweeney’s, of the best, or most interesting, or helpful math blog posts that I could sit down and enjoy for an evening. I’d frankly like a physical copy that would allow for notes, bookmarks, and tabs. I understand that many of my colleagues are “over” physical books, but I’m not. But even those that are, usually use some sort of eReader and use Evernote to make their comments electronically. Either way, some sort of published or publishable form is required (i.e. a PDF or other document).

So what if we started collecting the best, say, seven blog posts on Middle School math, the best seven on Calculus, the best seven general commentary, the best seven reflective pieces out there floating in the ether of the blogosphere? We could aggregate it, copy it to a PDF, add a few “you might also like!” links, include the printouts in the posts (if there are any) and just, I don’t know, sort of have it. If you want to print it, take it to Kinkos and spend $20 (or whatever) it takes to print out, go for it. If you want to download it to an eReader go for it.

The most obvious question is: why? Why would you want to create a static PDF out of rather lively blog posts? Wouldn’t a blog post with your “favorite posts of 2011” be just as good (or better)? Aside from that creating another blog post to read (that I’ll probably forget about) and looking a tad too much like the weird Edublogging Awards, what’s the value-add of a carefully curated PDF version? The answers to some of these have been hinted at already, but here’s the value-add for me, personally.

1) I like holding things. I’m a tactile learner. I like to pick up and put down books. I like to flip back and reread. I like to make notes in the margins, put sticky notes in things I don’t want to forget, and ask questions to the author, knowing full well he or she will not be there to answer them. I like to read physical texts without having to worry about spilling coffee on them.

2) It can bring non-bloggers into the fold. A week ago, I was doing some teacher training, trying to explain how awesome blogging and twitter were for my professional development. So what did I do? I firehosed them: gave them 10 different links to 10 different blogs, and another 10 different twitter accounts and said “go explore”. I’m sure some of those teachers did, and others said “phew, this is just too much” or “where are the links again?” or “twitter is dumb.” Instead, if I could give them a concrete document and said “here are the 5 best things I read concerning Pre-Cal last year”, that might lower the bar of entry and give really great reading opportunities right from the get go.

3) You know how water slips through your hands, no matter how tightly you squeeze them together? This would help stop some of that. Like I said, I lose a lot of great stuff, by not ever “getting back to things.” Again, a personal thing, but one that I suspect applies to a lot of people. Or for teachers that are just coming to the revolution now, it would provide a sort of “what you missed” point of entry.  Hopefully, we’d (I’d) stop missing things like,

  • Kate’s awesome logic game (from January)
  • John’s also-awesome Area Block game (from 2009)
  • Sue’s post on common errors on a particular warm up (from 2010)
  • Jason’s reflective piece “hinge points” and checking for understanding (from 2010)

And before I continue further, let me ask you: did you even know any of these fantastic pieces even existed? If you’re late to the blogging/twitter game like myself (starting up in 2011), wouldn’t it be nice to have had those?

4) It would act as an artifact for the Year in Maths, and maybe even provide evidence of growth. When did all that #anyqs stuff start? What really captured the math education zietgiest?

5) Michael (@mpershan) tweets:

Book, PDF, whatever, but yes: some “north star” to point to.



All of this butts up against this, from Jason (@jybuell),

I don’t know either. If we are going to create a static document, it has to be really, really good. It would require a communal effort in terms of curating, editing, formatting, and designing, none of which I have experience in.

You could go to the McSweeney’s website, or find a table of contents and probably find many of the pieces listed in the “Best of Non-Required Reading.” But I don’t do that. I wait for a time when I’m free of distraction and really ready to be engaged.

So, saving logistics for a later date… comments? Is this a project that would only be value-add for me?

(side note: in my annual evaluation, my supervisor suggested one of the things I need to work on is this tendency of mine to start projects, get real excited, and move on to other things before they’re completed. I hope that’s not what’s happening here, but it totally could be.)

Resources and slides for my #NTAC12 sessions

Just like I did for April’s PBL and STEM conferences in North Carolina, I’m posting all the slide decks (as they currently exist) for my sessions at the New Tech Annual Conference next week right here. Whether you’re a New Tech teacher or not I hope you find them helpful and/or informative.

I also want to give credit where credit is due, which is pretty much everywhere. I grabbed resources, pictures, videos, and/or ideas from the following places, so you can follow-up or go thank them yourselves.


Session Slides: Toward Mathematical Thinking: Problem Based Learning. Sort of a PrBL 101 session. Overview of the WHAT and WHY of Problem Based Learning.

Session Slides: FALs 2.0: Spanning Math Content and Concepts. A review of the new materials published by the Mathematics Assessment Project and how it fits into a Problem Based Math class.

Session Slides: Promoting Mathematical Conflict: Eight Tasks That Produce Mathematical Discourse. Basically, an updated version of this right here, with a couple templates for in-class manipulatives:

Session Slides: PrBL Breakout Session. For the New Teacher track. Sort of like the Problem Based Learning session above, this is specifically for new New Tech Network teachers. 

Today, in improper use of Venn Diagrams

From the Mitt Romney campaign.

According to basic set notation, this is presented as A ∩ B, when they really mean the opposite. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first and won’t be the last improperly used mathematical tool of the 2012 campaign. Let’s be sure to name and shame it when it happens.

(Slate’s Dave Weigel all over this.)