Find 5 Sunday 2/11

Hope these five things help you play a little bit more — Going to keep with my NBA/Math theme a little bit…

I enjoy using sports and math to help students develop decision-making skills and open-minded math skills. The less rigid math is, the more that can be done with it. Or in the words of this class, ‘play’ with it.

  1. I subscribe to Cleaning the Glass by Ben Falk, a former Sixers analytics guy, but you can see a lot of statistics without paying for it. This site offers some insights into ‘playing’ in a front office, as well as trying to find out different factors that make NBA teams good.
  2. Sam Hinkie, the former GM of the 76ers, wrote a famous resignation letter of how to navigate playing through factors of luck and opportunity cost and analytics. It’s a cool insight into his brain to approaching his job.
  3. This is more of a fun type of play — Tankathon simulates the NBA lottery system for draft picks. You can play it over and over again, and see all the different possibilities for the NBA Draft order. We’ve used it in class to illustrate how over a short sample, probabilities don’t play out as predicted, but over the long term they do.
  4. People often view success — in sports or anywhere — as good or bad, but there are really so many in betweens. Sometimes, it’s unreasonable to be upset if an outcome didn’t work out perfectly. For example, some teams want their top draft pick to be a superstar, while others want him to be a good role player. This is the beginning of an analysis into that lens of thinking.
  5. In class last week, we used this article about the 1998 Yankees to try to define what greatness meant. It didn’t have to be in a sports context, but the results were interesting. Did you use statistics or more qualitative attributes? There were no wrong answers, and it was really helpful in getting kids to think openly about math.


Go Eagles! What a week.


Playing with the NBA

I’ve always been a sports guy, but basketball was always my least favorite because I never played it. I loved the Sixers, but it wasn’t the same as any of the other teams I loved. That still might have manifested itself as more of a fanatic than most, but when they hired Sam Hinkie as their general manager a few years ago, my way of looking at sports changed for the better. It’s affected me in several ways I look a life – both professionally and personally.

In what made sense to me but not to too many others, the Sixers needed to lose to get better in what became known as “The Process.” It was lambasted by fans, media members, and other NBA people, but to people like me, it was like the light bulb went off. It was the extreme example of analytics being brought into sports. It became an enormously creative process that has brought the Sixers back to being relevant, even as Hinkie ‘sacrificed’ his own position to show how much faith he had in this new approach.

Anyway, I play with a lot of different scenarios acting as if I am the decision-maker of my beloved 76ers. Sports fans do this all the time with their teams, but it consumes a lot of my time, discussing it with my brothers, with my students, with my friends. It’s developed my love and appreciation of statistics, probability, randomness, and luck.

Although my love of math already existed, to better understand what my favorite team was doing, I learned more about union negotiations, contract law, how the salary cap worked, and all the possibilities the team could do to try to improve in the future while keeping opportunity cost as low as possible. Because I don’t actually get to make any decisions, I could be as creative as I wanted and create an infinite number of scenarios without any fear of retribution; this actually isn’t that different than what teams do in real life, except they have rewards and consequences.

I use a lot these resources in my probability/statistics elective class at school to allow students to be creative in math. I find that most curricula are rigid, and this at least provides some opportunity to foster decision-making skills where no one decision is inherently wrong as long as you can support it. It also introduces how randomness and luck are factors, but how you can possibly sway those factors in your favor just a little bit.

I could ramble on forever about how I play on these resources all the time to see how many different possibilities I can create or lessons I can teach. Here are a few of them if you would like to see for yourself: (works better on iOS)


Find 5 for the week of 1/29

Here are five interesting things I found this week relating to equity!

  1. First is a TED talk about equity in education. As a math teacher, I find it difficult to get students to think creatively or rebound from setbacks. The curricula are very plain, and I thought this did a good job speaking to that issue.
  2. I think part of creating equity involves allowing everyone to participate. The National SEED Project attempts to educate others on how to do that, offering seminars and blogging about their impact. Interesting stuff.
  3. A corollary to #the4thbox, this blog post critiques those images and creates one themselves.  I’m a skeptic by nature, so I appreciated a different way of looking at it from one I posted.
  4. I like really specific directions for how to accomplish something, so I found these 10 steps to equity pretty interesting. I also thought it was cool to look outside of the United States via the OECD for other viewpoints.
  5. The Education Commission of the States came up with specific questions to ask to help determine if a state if providing enough opportunities for educational equity. It was a good way to get your brain trying to come up with specific answers to a broad question.


Hope you find these interesting!




In #the4thbox, I believe participation is the final step following equality, equity, and liberation. Considering my lack of artistic ability, I searched for an image that I thought went with the theme and represented the end of the journey of those three people.

In equality, everyone is treated the same, regardless of any distinguishing feature. There are countless systems in place that are old and antiquated, creating a ‘wall’ that prevents some from not only success, but envisioning success. In education, there are outdated systems that prevent students from even imagining what success looks like.

In a math classroom, I gets kids in high school that have been ‘beaten down’ by previous curricula and leave them unable to even think about what math success looks like. Often, one semester’s worth of classes isn’t enough time to build back the confidence needed to get started on the path to success. All the students were treated equally, but it leaves some behind on a permanent basis.

Moving on to equity, some students are given a little bit more of a leg up on their situations than others, based on need. Some students require some more support, some are placed in higher-level classes, but the outdated systems still block most from success, even though everyone can see what it looks like.

Some students have an IEP or 504 plan, while some others are put into AP classes. Success is different for every student; some need to pass to get a job in a union, some need to be valedictorian. The teachers still control most of the learning, but success is achievable for every student.

In liberation, the wall has been torn down; new systems are put in place to allow every student to not only envision success, but experience it. I believe our education system largely languishes between this step and the previous one. The educators still control what the requirements are, but the students are more free to explore those requirements and take on a little more responsibility for their own learning.

I believe the story completes with participation, which could be looked at in several ways. The picture is supposed to signal that the people behind the wall are the ones playing the game. There are no walls, and everyone who wants to participate in the game is now free to come in from off the sidelines.

My connected learning dream is to have a class where the teachers and students are closer to being peers than anything else. Most of the learning comes from student-to-student rather than student-to-teacher. We can think of the teacher as the manager of a baseball team, while the students are players. The players are the ones having the experience and making the most difficult decisions, while the manager is there only if things go astray.

I also thought a Jackie Robinson picture was specifically important to recognize that there shouldn’t be any inherent impediment to participation. Those walls have to be torn down by changing antiquated systems, and it’s quite difficult, but taking risks can have really positive results.

Search 7 Sunday 1/28

Here are seven interesting tidbits I found this week:


  1. Last summer, I worked for a summer camp for Julian Krinsky programs, and it was a great viewpoint into connected learning. I am sharing the general website, although my program helped talented rising 9th graders in low-income areas create a non-profit organization aimed toward social justice. I was in charge of teaching statistical models, but I also facilitated the different groups toward creating something bigger. If I had to imagine connected learning, that was it.


2. This site seemed like a great resource for different projects and testimonials for connected learning in a classroom. I delved into it a little bit, but there’s so much here it was impossible for me to make my whole way through.


3. A cool TED talk on learning in the 21st century:

4. This is one of my favorite math websites, but is also pretty philosophical about education. The pictures are pretty funny, too.


5. I want to be able to do this someday.


6. This is a story of an administrator who becomes a student for several days and writes about his 21st century experiences. I have changed some of my teaching habits based on this article, such as being more patient when I get the same question more than once.


7. These are the types of students I’d like to create. They are similar to the kids from the website in the first thing I posted in here. Creating is more important than simply learning facts.

Annotated Learning

I actually enjoyed using the public annotations more than I thought. On most articles, the ‘comments’ section is usually one viewed as the scourge of the earth; tread lightly if you are to enter the dreaded comments section! With this, however, the comments aren’t in the same place, and you can dissect a story much more carefully.

Additionally, as someone with time constraints from time to time, the annotations help me pick out important pieces of the article and get a broad picture if I can’t spend the time to read every word. I also like that I have the option of viewing the annotations or turning them off if I prefer to have a more private reading experience.

Not only will this experience help me connect with my classmates on a very specific level, but I’m also communicating with former students and learners who aren’t in my class. I get to narrow down my viewpoints into very specific topics, and it helps shape my views on connected learning or any topic.

Hopefully, these annotations help me gather knowledge and viewpoints more quickly, and help me on my path in creating more useful education for students.

Childhood interests

I have always been a math geek and intertwine my love of math with my love of sports. Sports fans often judge one another on predictive analysis and ideas in team-building. My obsession with these ideas have spilled into my professional life and on the side as a hobby.

Growing up, my first sports memories come in 1993, when I was in second grade and the Phillies were surprisingly chasing a World Series trophy. I went to one of the playoff games with my dad, and they tragically lost the championship in six games. Some of my friends still don’t like talking about it. As I’ve grown older, I’m into way more than just baseball, and it’s about so much more than simply rooting for a win or a loss.

My childhood dream job was to be the general manager of a sports team. While that is no longer really a dream job, I do enjoy analyzing sports team building strategies. I tend to take a more statistical point of view, which is why I’ve developed a probability/statistics elective at my school, where I can shape the curriculum to tailor my and students’ interests. I enjoy challenging the norm of how to analyze sports with unknown variables and prefer to introduce new ways of thinking where numbers can tell the story.

I have found that talking about previously not well-known factors scares a lot of people in talking about sports; however, by now, most people who know me expect me to discuss sports in a unique way. I’d like to think that with my background as a teacher, I’m more likely to introduce unique discussion points in ways that people can understand rather than trying to ‘one-up’ someone else.

I really enjoy blending my two childhood loves of math and sports into a fun adult hobby that — hey, who knows — could lead to some career avenue one day. Regardless of it’s for fun or for a job, I’ll always enjoy coming up with strategies and analysis that are a little bit different from everyone else.