New Math Learning Site on StackExchange.com Needs You

Hey y’all.

There’s a new proposal at stackexchange.com for a Q&A site on Mathematics Learning, Studying, and Education.

Stack Exchange Q&A site proposal: Mathematics Learning, Studying, and Education

Of course the entire mathtwitterblogosphere is a massive Q&A site on Mathematics Learning, Studying, and Education. But based on my experience of the incredible usefulness of the StackExchange sites Math StackExchange and MathOverflow, I think this site could become a great resource.

Possibly also a great forum for some much-needed productive dialogue between the K-12 and collegiate levels. For that to happen, though, it needs you. The bulk of the folks currently signed up for the beta of the new site are active on Math StackExchange and MathOverflow, which are dominated by college-and-up level math. The conversation is going to be so much richer with serious K-12 representation! Go sign up!

If you haven’t heard of the StackExchange sites before, they are a very thoughtfully constructed Q&A structure. It all started with StackOverflow, which was for working programmers to ask and answer practical coding questions. MathOverflow copied this idea for working research mathematicians. Math StackExchange is in principle for Q&A about math at any level, although as I mentioned, in practice it’s usually (though not always) about college and graduate level. Now there are also StackExchange sites on cooking, gaming, English language learning, and a million other things. The design of the software, and the culture of the sites, do an impressive job keeping the Q&A productive and on topic.

In the case of the math sites, the culture can also feel a little normatively intense (as in, there’s a “way we do things” that can be pretty strongly policed) and not always welcoming. Denizens of the sites will tell you that this is how they keep the conversation so productive and on-topic. But imho, it also stems from the deep ambivalence that the academic math world has about whether it wants to

(A) Share all its goodies and invite everyone into its kingdom, or
(B) Bull-guard the considerable stash of privilege that accrues from its high intellectual status.

(More on this in future posts.) The incredible usefulness of the sites makes it worth it; but also, this is part of why I want you guys to go populate the new Math Education site. You are clear in your hearts that math is for everybody. This is our chance to go talk with some folks who represent a culture that is working through that for itself. Meanwhile, we get to benefit from their perspectives, which have seen very different parts of the mathematical kingdom in their travels.

Disclaimer: I think lots and lots of individuals on Math.SE and MO think math is for everybody. I am not trying to stereotype the sites or mathematicians more generally. And I think it’s likely that the people from Math.SE and MO who gravitate to the new Math Learning/Education site are going to be skewed toward the folks who think that math is for everybody. What I am trying to do is to name some notes that I hear in the cultural soundscape of academic math as a whole, and Math StackExchange and MathOverflow in particular; but I’m not trying to identify those notes with any individuals.

Sh*t I F*cking Love (Wherein I Am Moved to Profanity by Enthusiasm)

Shawn Cornally doing his thing.

My new favorite blog, chronicling an adventure in striving to keep math class true to your deepest commitments. (Thanks to Work in Pencil for the recommendation.)

Paul Salomon’s “imbalance problems”. You know how I love a thought-provoking picture.

Math Munch. If you haven’t yet checked out this joint project of Paul, Anna and Justin yet, you should get on that.

Kate Nowak Is Such a MF Bad*ss and Other Stories

Kate is walking the talk.

And writing about it, which, because it’s Kate, means she’s writing about what makes it hard, which means she’s putting into words the core of maybe the biggest obstacle I can see to the improvement of math education in this country.

I haven’t used the Regents exam as a threat, not one time. I casually mentioned it on day 1. I’m doing my best to ignore it.

Problems like Solve: x + |2x – 4| = 4x – 8 just piss me off to an alarming degree. Only if you tell me what x represents and what relationship those expressions describe and why you think they are equivalent, NYSED. Then maybe I’ll solve your equation, but right now I think it’s too uninteresting.

Nothing about what I just wrote does not provoke anxiety.

And then she’s tying her thoughts together with a nautical metaphor?

Oh right. She used to be in the navy.

* * * * *

I am working on the Talent Lie series but I don’t think I’ll have anything up for a good long while. I’m teaching two courses for teachers this fall, one for inservice folks and one for preservice folks, and I foresee a need to actively reflect on those courses, so if you hear anything from me in the next month it’ll probably be about that.

There Is No Reason for You To Read This Post (I Mean It)

The purpose of this blog has evolved since I started it. I’m just declaring that here for the sake of my own integrity. This is really no use to you.

Originally, the plan was to engage with research on math education from a practitioner point of view. The goal was so I could try to stay vaguely current on the literature by processing it out loud on this blog so when I read something it will be easier to remember.

The goal has broadened:

* First of all, what I engage with has ballooned to include anything I read about math or education, not just the fairly narrow category “math education research,” although I plan on continuing to read math education research and post about it among other things.

* I’ve found myself using this as a platform to articulate thoughts and values about math education that I want to go on record with because I believe they’re important.

* I’ve been using this as a place to hash out and process thoughts about teaching and learning that are inspired not only by reading but by conversations, classes I teach or observe, etc.

* I’ve occasionally indulged the impulse to enthuse about math itself.

* I haven’t done much of this so far, but in the coming months I foresee the need to use this blog from time to time as a place to actively reflect on my own practice.

* Combinations of any and all of the above.

My original intent was for 1 post a week. This has been hard to maintain. I hereby retract this as a declared intention, but retain it as an approximate goal.

While I’m chewing on what this blog has become, it seems appropriate to once again shout out Kate Nowak (my fairy blogmother), and Jesse Johnson (my fairy blog-big-sis).

Okay! Integrity restored! I’ll be back on topic soon…