I’ve started my unit on exponents the same exact way for the last five years. I’d give my students the definition of exponent and base, and give them examples of how each of them work. From there, we’d see what happens as I made tables to show growth patterns. What happens as the exponent increases? What happens as the exponent decreases? What if the exponent is zero? Negative? What’s the …

## Another Reason I Don’t Like FOIL In Math

I recently wrote an article for Edutopia about factoring polynomials using areas and why FOIL is absolute crap: For one, I’m not a fan of FOIL (first-outside-inside-last) for a plethora of reasons. While I think it’s handy to have an acronym that reminds students of a procedure, it only works in a very special case. In this case, FOIL works only for multiplying a binomial by another binomial. Does FOIL …

## So What If It’s Not Relevant Right Now? (Just Math It)

This week, I’m supposed to teach my students how to solve a system of equations by elimination. It’s the hardest of the four ways for solving systems (graphing, substitution, guess-and-checking), and I’m not entirely sure everyone in the class gets the first three. The main point of the unit is to determine exactly where two or more linear relationships meet, if they ever do. The situation could be realistic (two …

## Short Notes: Back To School 2013 OMG What Have I Done? Edition

A few notes: Hannah Nguyen bursts onto the scene with a comment at Michelle Rhee’s Teacher Town Hall last week. Check this out! [InspirEDucation] Richard Rothstein just earned himself a new fan with his dissection of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s assertion that integration should be “voluntary.” [Economic Policy Institute] Contrary to popular belief, the general public values math the most out of the general subjects taught. More on this …

## Grant Wiggins and How I View Math Curriculum

This week, a few of us got into a discussion, and involved Grant Wiggins. He calls himself a troublemaker, but I don’t remember seeing him at the last few meetings, and I’m the treasurer. In any case, for his 100th blog, he wrote this: Algebra is a dumb course. It survives only by unthinking habit. It cannot be justified intellectually as a subject, really. It is just a set of …

## Math As A Merit Badge (And Other Comments)

The responses to my last post about math (who said I’m not a math blogger again?) ranged from the plauditory to the super-critical. Here’s a selection of some of my favorite comments to my last piece. First, Michael Doyle sets the record straight: Algebra II has become a badge, one of many, that pretends to separate middle class white boys from, well, everybody else. You can pass A2 without understanding a whole …

## No One Puts Algebra 2 In A Corner (Math For All Kids)

First, let me say that this Nicholson Baker article already starts off wrong by not discussing al-Khwarizmi’s contributions to algebra, mainly NAMING it. Secondly, this conversation about math reminds me of the conversation we had about Andrew Hacker’s article last year. Here’s another guy who ostensibly doesn’t have a focus in any math-related subjects trying to reform math by limiting how much math students get. I wonder if he thinks …

## Short Notes: A Cautionary Tale for Edubloggers

A few notes: The New York Daily News wants you to nominate teachers for their Hometown Heroes award. Start your engines, ladies and gentlemen. [NY Daily News] If you’re sick of the “disruption” talk surrounding technology, specifically education, then read this paper by Audrey Watters. Another hit. [Hack Education] Peter DeWitt writes an interview, and the press secretary for the New York State Education Department called up his school to …

## My Philosophy On Math Pedagogy, And Other Tidbits [Edutopia]

Here’s an excerpt from my latest at Edutopia (including a diss on Robert Marzano and the like). It’s about engaging math teachers: Keep This Rule of Thumb: Complete, Consistent, Correct By “complete, consistent, correct,” I mean we should allow multiple pathways to a correct answer that a) allow for full understanding of a given procedure, b) can be used time and again without fail, and c) actually have a sound …

## Why Learning Math Is Political

For my own professional development, I picked up the book Radical Equations: Math Literacy and Civil Rights by Robert Moses. The book equates the struggles Moses had with developing voter representations amongst the most underrepresented in the South with developing math knowledge / pedagogy into the curriculum in America’s classrooms. Observe: So algebra, once solely in place as the gatekeeper for higher math and the priesthood who gained access to …