Welcoming Dissent

It’s been so gratifying to hear from people enjoying Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had all around the world. After five years of work on it, I’m over the moon that teachers are finding it useful, approachable, and inspiring (their words, not mine, but oh boy do I love those three words).

I’m worried, though.

I’m worried about the normal, human tendency to not want to hurt my feelings. I’m worried I’m not hearing from people who disagree, or think, “OK, maybe. But what about…” or “In my experience, actually…” I’m worried I’m missing out on my chance to learn from your critiques.

So I wanted to make it explicit. I’d love to hear how, when, and why you disagree or are unconvinced. You can tell me in the comments, on the forums, on twitter using #BecomingMath, via email, on the (nascent) facebook discussion page, or in person next time you see me.

Of course, please keep it civil and constructive. No need to tag in or poke a stick at the ideologues and name-callers from the math wars. I’m not that in need of dissent.

Extending the Book Experience?

By now you’ve probably heard about ShadowCon, the mini-conference hosted by Zak Champagne, Mike Flynn, and Dan Meyer. One of the governing principles of ShadowCon is that the organizers want to “extend the conference experience.” To this end, talks are videoed and put on a website where people can watch them and have conversations with other people, including the person who gave the talk. The session doesn’t live and die in a convention center in another city, but goes back home with attendees and connects to their work in schools.

I was thinking about ShadowCon the other day, and then about books. Which got me wondering, what would it mean to extend the book experience? In the interests of disclosure, I’ll tell you I’m asking that question as both an author and a publisher. I want to experiment with ways to increase interaction and discussion around books so 1) it’s a better reading experience for readers, and 2) authors would get smarter because they’d listen to people’s reactions and stories and perspective about what they wrote.

I’m starting to mull over ways to use my own book as a test case. I already have lots of online additional content to share. 13 blog posts–one for each chapter–are sitting in my drafts folder, waiting for me to press publish when we get close to book publication date. These blogs are full of videos and articles and resources and related blogs and all kinds of good stuff. But what I’m wondering about is how to turn those blogs into two-way spaces, where I share content, yes, but I also hear from readers. If someone reads something in the book and tries it in a classroom, I’d love to know about it. I’d love to hear what worked and didn’t. I’d love to give feedback, if desired, and get feedback (always desired).

So I’m hoping you can help me think about how to do that? When we read books, we usually don’t have access to the author. What I’m wondering is how could access to the author enrich the experience of reading a book? If I open up a forum (here or elsewhere) and make it so readers can talk to each other and to me, and I’d both moderate and be an active participant in the conversation, how would that deepen and extend the experience for all of us?

This internet thing is pretty marvelous, and I have come to treasure the ethos we have in the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (#MTBoS). At the same time, books are marvelous. I love them. I love the thoughtfulness, the depth, the level of argumentation, the pace, the quality.

I wonder how to bring what I love about books to the MTBoS? And what I love about the MTBoS to books?

If you feel like sharing ideas, I’d be much obliged. If you could talk to an author during and after reading a book, what would that do for you? How would you like to do that? Comments sections, webinars, uploading video and discussing it, book clubs? Other ideas?



My Manuscript, By the Numbers

Yesterday, I turned in the manuscript for Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had: Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classrooms. This is a math education blog, so I’ll mathematicize this process.

581 manuscript pages, 208 figures.


13 chapters.


These 13 chapters.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 5.52.41 AM

Observations of more than 40 highly recommended teachers to find my 4 anchors of this book: Heidi Fessenden, Jennifer Clerkin Muhammad, Deborah Nichols, and Shawn Towle. Enough observations of those teachers to make my hard drive look like this.

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(And those are just the observations I kept because they were book-worthy.)

6 libraries in my regular rotation. Support your libraries, people.

15,611 tweets. I joined the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere halfway through. I have no idea how I wrote the first half without it.

So many new friends. I’m not counting that one because, well, I’m not a jerk! Not everything important should be mathematized, after all. Doesn’t mean I’m not grateful.

There are the numbers that are technically countable but feel countless to me:

  • The emails, texts, and phone calls with my incredible editor, Toby Gordon. Oh man. Really big number.
  • Revision. I saw David Sedaris live and he prefaced a story by saying, “This is draft number 16.” Fantastic. I didn’t keep track like that because of the way I revise partial drafts. I’m no writing god like David Sedaris, but it was a lot.
  • Milligrams of caffeine. Don’t get me started.

Then there are the numbers I’d like to forget, but were part of this story:

  • 4 tumors.
  • 0 lymph nodes!
  • 4 cycles of chemotherapy.
  • 2 major surgeries, 1 minor one still waiting for me.
  • 262 doses so far from the 3,650 doses of Tamoxifen I’ll take.

This has been quite a journey.

I started this project in the fall of 2011. It grew, and grew, and grew in scope until I turned in this massive manuscript in February of 2016. For the last several months, everyone’s been waiting on me to finish. For the next several months, the team takes over. I get a front row seat and can’t wait to watch the manuscript go through editing, copy editing, typesetting, interior and exterior design, and production. My colleagues at Stenhouse will transform these efiles and manuscript pages into a beautiful, visual experience for the reader. It will be a big book with a lot of figures, and it will take time. Think fall of 2016.

Of course I’m excited to have this book in my hands. For now, I’m pretty excited to have held it in this form.