A series of small move haikus

We are focusing on making some small moves in our practice, and in honor of National Poetry Month, here are some haikus…


Doing something small

Can often mean a whole lot

Take those little steps


So what can I do

To connect education

To all my students?


Find something they like

Something important to them

And push their limits


I teach statistics

You find those in everything

They don’t even know


So now my small move

Is to help them connect it

And then explore it


And when they realize

That stats will enhance their life

They’re better for it


I can’t wait to see

How a small move makes a difference

That lasts a lifetime


An app to connect everyone

Hi everyone!

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, but I hope you find my app idea to be useful! In theory anyway, as I would need many people to help assemble this idea…

The name of the app is EquiConnect (I checked to make sure this wasn’t already a thing), and the idea is to help students connect to careers they otherwise wouldn’t know about and/or couldn’t explore.

Some background information about myself: I work in a vocational school, and I get to see first-hand the difference it makes when each student has a ‘thing’ they do to contribute to our community. Whether it’s creating a cool car design for a weekend car show to being in the chorus for our school musical, every student has some way they contribute. Not only does every student come to our school with a way to contribute, but they are also given every opportunity to contribute.

When I was in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do (maybe I still don’t). I jumped around from major to major in college, and I wish there was a way I could have honed in my skills earlier. If we give these opportunities and connections to students, they are more likely to succeed and have chances to succeed.

The app is not only for students, but professionals, as well. We have a school-to-work program at my school where some students are eligible to connect to a full-time job if their classes are completed prior to their last semester. Right now, this doesn’t apply to all the students at my school, but some students for whom college isn’t necessary get a jump start on joining a local union and/or getting valuable work experience.

This app serves as a more complete version of that liaison.

Some of the features would include (but aren’t limited to!):

-Connecting professionals to students for valuable work experience

-Connecting professionals to students for valuable pieces of advice and/or mentorships

-Connecting students to students for valuable pieces of advice and/or mentorships

-Connecting professionals to educators who in turn connect to their students

-Allowing students to review experiences and share with other students who may be looking for similar experiences


The app would be free for all students, creating an opportunity for every student to participate in a larger community to which they may not have been connected before.

I go back and forth on how to make money doing this. If I charge professionals to join, it is unlikely I would gather as many professionals as I could, and I would like to keep the barrier to entry as low as possible for students. I suppose I could charge advertisers from certain colleges or companies that want to be more prominently featured, but I’m not sure how that would manifest itself.

Educators are always told they’re preparing students for careers that don’t yet exist, but I think most educators and students don’t know the current careers that are out there! I certainly don’t. This app could expand my knowledge and help students connect to something in which they’re truly interested.

Starting a career usually comes through networking, and this app has the potential to build relationships and skills to form relationships.

Let me know what you think or if you have any other ideas to add to this!


Interest-Driven Education

To anyone that shapes a student’s math curriculum,

It appears as though we are at a crossroads. School has become a place where math is dreaded, and it is pervasive throughout the country. If you go online, ninth-grade level thinking is mocked through simple order of operations problems, and people actually brag about how bad they think they are at math. Where did we go wrong as to somehow encourage a lack of knowledge in mathematics?

It starts from the very top. If only students were interested in the subject material, we’d encourage higher-order thinking, exploration, and innovation. Right now, we have outdated, dry curricula that leave students stuck in a box, unable to escape. Teachers have to prepare students for test after test, filled with questions that don’t actually model the real world.

Right now, I feel a daily pressure in tested classes to have students learn something concrete every day. If we didn’t make progress toward the state test or the unit test, we’ve done something wrong. Students feel the same pressures about grades and don’t want to explore and innovate if given the opportunity. Is it for a grade? No? Then it’s not worth doing. Is it difficult? Then why are you making us do it? If it doesn’t take two or three minutes — if I might get it wrong before I get it right — it’s not worth doing.

This isn’t a learning environment. It’s a memorization and get-it-over-with environment.

What is the solution?

Let the students’ interests drive instruction. Every class is unique in its ability, needs, and interests, and should be treated as such. It has to begin early, in elementary school — many students are jaded and so grade-driven by the time they reach high school that it’s difficult to change them.

I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve seen the difference between a student who wants to learn and a student who is going through the motions. It makes teaching worthwhile. It actually shapes how people view the world rather than adding nothing to their educations.

As an example, in an Algebra II course, it is required by all students to learn how to graph a radical function and describe its transformations. Why is this something anyone has to learn? When students ask me why we learn this, I don’t have an answer for them. It’s an antiquated piece of information in a curriculum filled with them, and it erodes trust between the educator and student that what they’re being delivered is something important.

Conversely, in my elective probability course, the students ask — EVERY YEAR — how casino games work. In response, we do a project where the students pick a game to analyze and use all the techniques we’ve learned leading up to it. When I mention that what we’re learning can be used in poker playing, their eyes light up and they WANT to learn the material.

Teachers sometimes have to help students find their interests in the subject matter, but if the educator finds the students to be disinterested, it would be best practice to get rid of it from curriculum. Education, even in high school, should become much more specialized to individual students, driven by their interests that they discover via expert educators.

Developing new and innovative curricula is the start of getting our students back on the road to being the best in STEM classes and the most innovative throughout the world. Instead of force-feeding antiquated standards to them, let the educators help discover what they want to learn and deliver it the best we can.


Find 5 Sunday – Inquiries!

I’m going to try to find things related to my and others’ inquiries…

  1. Teachers Pay Teachers isn’t a new invention, but I have never used it. I always assume everyone knows about things like this, but maybe they don’t! If you’re looking to save time planning activities, it’s not expensive, and you’re at least giving your money to other educators.
  2. I found this interesting site with random free teacher blog posts, and I linked specifically to the classroom management section since I know some people spoke of that as their wobble and/or inquiry.
  3. I remember someone talking about students who interrupt a class, and I have the same issue! I’ve seen some other teachers model what to do, but for some reason I still wobble when it comes to this. I’m inconsistent. I thought maybe this blog post would be helpful. You can run a demonstration, and it’ll at least get the kids to laugh a little.
  4. Taking work home is the worst. Don’t do it! I know for some people it’s unavoidable, but use some little steps to make it feel like you aren’t on call 24/7 for a job that can’t possibly be like that.
  5. Some advice on creating inquiry questions.

Hope this is a good start! I liked hearing about everyone’s inquiries because it made me feel like I wasn’t the only one who was in search of some of these answers.

Wobbling, Reflecting, Staying Fresh

First, I want to apologize for missing last week’s blog post opportunity, but I’m going to combine the last two weeks into one, as I feel they are quite related!

I’m a big fan of Vinyasa yoga, so flowing, posing, and wobbling are a great way to connect teaching to reflection. When I think about the different aspects that make my teaching style unique, I can find things that fall into all three categories. First, though, I think I need to define the separate categories:

Posing – Your strengths. I really enjoy poses I can do because I know I can do them, and they become stronger the more you do them.

Wobbling – Areas where you may try, but not always succeed. Something a teacher may work up to over time.

Flowing – I think these are areas that were once wobbles that have become strong poses through hard work.

I believe my best teacher pose has always been connecting with students and creating an inclusive environment. I’m extremely sarcastic in and out of class, but I try to find a way for most students to contribute, regardless of level. I look at them as humans and compare them to when I was a teenager, trying to understand likes and dislikes about the education system.

Another pose is my content knowledge and ability to adapt. This could also be put in the flow category (I will elaborate later), but I have always been able to adapt to students’ skill level in each class. I don’t use prescribed notes, but instead give each class unique notes tailored to how the students respond to each topic.

My biggest wobble is classroom management. I’m not even sure the yoga blocks would help me here, as I’ve almost accepted that it will be a deficit for the remainder of my teaching career. Part of it is that a lot of behaviors that annoy other teachers/students don’t frustrate me. When I view adult behaviors in group settings, it’s not any better than how students act, so why would I force a group of teenagers to take orders and work as hard as possible for over an hour straight? I also want students to be independent, so I don’t care as much when a student isn’t paying attention or willfully ignoring instruction, where another teacher would correct the behavior immediately.

I also wobble when it comes to creating content; sometimes I feel too overwhelmed to create things from scratch. Since I started teaching, the curriculum for Algebra II has changed every year, and it’s exhausting. I don’t have the energy to create on top of re-creating. It’s also really difficult to take dry material and make it exciting and relevant.

One of my flows I believe is the same for most teachers: ability to spot mistakes from students before they happen. The first time I taught material, it’d take longer because every student misunderstanding was a surprise. I’ve learned over the years most of the possible stumbling blocks and predict them beforehand, mostly through changes in lesson planning. It’s gone from being a weakness to a large strength, although there are still situations where I teach material for the first time and have to start all over!


Staying fresh in most math classes is quite difficult. I have a moral objection to most word problems posed in dry curricula like:

Mike sold five watermelons and two oranges and made $22.

John sold eight watermelons and seven oranges and made $48.

How much does each fruit cost?

This word problem is not only irrelevant to life, but is sort of offensive to students who are quite aware of this fact. How are students supposed to buy into material that is this nonsensical? How do we create better curricula while keeping the information relevant?

I don’t know, but it’s the basis for my semester inquiry.

I feel like most other subjects easily stay fresh: English with current readings, history with current events, science with new discoveries. For some reason, math remains stagnant. It’s the same material that is decades old, yet we’re told to make it cool.

I have a unique opportunity with probability and statistics, which are becoming the most practical math around. I love it, and I created an elective class at school where I have a lot more freedom than a regular track class. I looked up the AP curriculum while not having the pressures of teaching to that test, so I’m really excited about the possibilities that could come of it.

I’m hoping to help the students connect to the world of math through things they’re interested in, which I can do with this class nobody else teaches. Further updates to come!



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:


http://www.shamsports.com/capulator (works better on iOS)