CMC North 2016

I love math teachers.

Exhibit A: I just spent an hour with a group of math teachers who woke up early on a Saturday morning to hone their craft. We’re just steps away from the beach in Monterey, and yet they’re willing—hungry, even—to gather in a room to reflect on their own learning and teaching, even at 8 am. That’s just awesome.


If you weren’t able to join us, here’s a quick snapshot of the session:

  1. Some of the ways we use technology in the math classroom waste the human potential in the room. Picture computer cubicles. Kiddos wearing headphones. Teachers grading papers while students work in isolation.
  2. Let’s build something better. Let’s build activities—digital or otherwise—that spark more conversation, more discussion, more human engagement. And let’s build tools to help teachers facilitate those activities more effectively.
  3. With that in mind, the team at Desmos built a Classroom Conversation Toolset. You can read about it here.
  4. We’ve also spent considerable time thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of the activities we’ve built over the last year or so, and codified those thoughts into our Activity Building Code. You can read about it here.

Activities + Principles

Here’s a list of the activities we looked at during the session, along with the principles I had in mind for each one:

My hope is that these activities serve as exemplars for the principles, and that folks in the session walked away with a sense of how the principles might apply in other situations (whether Desmos or non-Desmos, digital or non-digital). We ended with a brief quiz to encourage folks to wrestle with these principles in new contexts.


Here’s the quiz. Take a look at each task, and let me know in the comments which principle(s) you think each activity exemplifies.

  1. Lift the Rainbow
  2. Marcellus the Giant
  3. Split 25

(To check your answers, turn the cereal box upside down. Wait, no. That’s something else. Never mind.)


The original presentation included quite a lot of video (to quickly show off the activities linked above), as well as a presenter (hi there!). So this version of the slide deck (which includes neither) may not be very helpful. But, in case it is, you can download it here.

Chapter 2

In March 2013, I started my first blog. I wrote to reflect. To consider my teaching practice in the hope that I might improve.

Three and a half years later, I still write to reflect. And I still hope to improve.

But I’d like a fresh start. A clean slate. A blog without all the cruft that crept into my first writing adventure.

So here I am, starting a second blog.

I’m not 100% sure what shape it’ll take over the months ahead. I do know that math education will take center stage. And I may even import a few posts from the old blog to create a single, more coherent archive. Or maybe I won’t. We’ll see.

Anyway, here’s to clearing the way for simple reflections. To the continuation of something old, and yet the start of something new.