The Light Bulb Problem

There are a lot of ways to look at 24. In elementary school, students start to learn how to break down numbers in different ways. So then when they see 24, they may see 8*3 instead. Or maybe they see 12*2. Or maybe they see 6*4. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24, then, are called factors of the number 24. While directly teaching students about factors can be effective, sometimes it's nice to hide a concept within a certain problem. So, although I have given a big hint by rambling about factoring, you shouldn't give your students the same hint. I also won't give you anymore hints either. Here is the light bulb problem, a problem that I think is a great exercise for students who are learning about factors. It is also a great exercise for older students who also know about factors. It's also a great exercise for adults who may or may not be math teachers and who may or may not be a few drinks in. Do what you want with it!



Strategies for Talking to Our Children About Math

If you have children who are currently in school, homework time can be difficult. You may have struggled with math during school or you may be unfamiliar with the methods being used today, which can cause frustration for both you and your student as you struggle through the assignment. One teacher made a video explaining how she teaches two digit multiplication using an area model, and a lot of parents flipped. A common response was that this is a ridiculous waste of time. They learned a much easier and faster way when they were in school. I made a response video, which you can watch below, that explains the benefit of an area model as well as the damage that can be caused by invalidating different methods for solving problems.

If you don't want to watch the whole video, here are the 4 main points I make at the end:

1. Do not invalidate certain ways of solving a problem. Rather, it could be a fun exercise to let your child solve the problem, then compare their method to how you …

Can We Settle This Please? What Should We Do About Homework?

Teacher burn out is a real issue. Many teachers do not survive past their third year, and even less make it past their fifth year. The most common advice that veteran teachers give to new teachers is to not bring work home. Set boundaries. Work is work and home is home. I believe there is a lot of merit to that advice. However, if we are going to stick to that, HOW in the world are we still assigning homework to students? We cannot say home is my space and I will not work there if we are expecting students to take work home. You know what? Stop. I don't want to hear about how you are only assigning 20 minutes a night. If students have six classes and all their teachers do that, that is still 2 hours of work per night. Are you working two extra hours per night? Do you expect all of your colleagues to work two extra hours per night? If the answer is no, then you can't give kids your 20 minute assignment. If the answer is yes, then maybe we need to look at that.

Examining Work-L…

Competition in the Teaching World is OK and Maybe Even Important

I want to be the best math teacher. That means that I have a strong desire to be better than I was last year. That also means that I want to be better than you.

Teachers get worried that including competition takes the focus away from why we are really here: the students. It should not be about competing against each other. Rather, it should be about helping each other be the best we can be for our students. So why doesn't competition belong, then? I will share all of my curriculum. I will give advice to teachers if they ask and share any wisdom I have gained. If you are working with me, I am going to do everything I can to help you be a better teacher, and I hope you will do the same for me. I will also work really hard to be better than you, and I hope you will do the same for me. Competition does not have to be ruthless. It can be a positive factor that ultimately drives us all to be better for our students. At the end of the day, if you are better than me, well great. Your s…

Group quizzes and why my students are kind of awesome sometimes

I have been kind of against group quizzes in the past and they certainly aren't something that I would use frequently. However, the schedule was tight and we had a weird week last week. When the dust settled, I was trying to give a Monday quiz to some students who I hadn't seen since the previous Monday. I knew that wasn't fair, so to reduce their stress, I moved the quiz to Tuesday and made it a group quiz. Though I felt like this was a necessary adjustment to make, I ended up being really happy with how it ended up playing out.

In my experience, students beg for group quizzes. I would think it is because they want to latch on to a "smart" kid and ride on their coat tails. Though maybe that is their intention, that is not what ended up happening. It required active monitoring, but I ended up seeing some of the best collaboration that has occurred in my classroom. They were catching each other's mistakes, giving each other ideas, and working through areas of …

What Attracts New Teachers to Schools?

I started thinking about this question when I found out that one my former professors is researching this exact question. New teachers are not exactly flocking to urban public schools, so rather than asking why new teachers are avoiding urban public schools, Manya Whitaker of Colorado College is flipping the question and instead asking what factors are important to new teachers when choosing a school. Her research will be far more telling than my anecdote, but for now all I can provide are the reasons I chose my current school and why I could see myself staying there for a long time.

1. The hiring process was rigorous

This might sound counter-intuitive, but it was one of the first things I noticed. There is definitely a sweet spot here, because making applicants jump through too many hoops could turn them away. However, in this case, every part of the hiring process felt necessary. This is tough, because some schools may be struggling to get enough applicants, in which case it is harder…

Why Loving Each Other and Color Blindness Are Not the Answer

It's the classic response when racial tension arises. "My mom taught me to treat everyone the same, that race does not matter because we are all part of the human race." Except that it does matter. and if you are white, you are probably part of the problem. Yes, you, who voted for Obama, who has "tons of black friends," who listens to Kendrick Lamar, who may have even attended a "Black Lives Matter" rally or two. You are part of the problem and you benefit from the racial inequality in our country.

I know I am part of the problem because if I see a black man walking down the street at night, a slight physiological response occurs. My heart might start beating a little faster. I'm not proud of it, but sometimes I feel fear. I have never been attacked by a black person. I have never even personally witnessed a violent black person. The fear has no rational grounding. Yet the implicit bias is present, and the reaction happens. And because it happens,…