Tag Archives: social media

Social media and misconceptions

I’ve realized more and more how truly powerful the internet is for learning, if you want it to be. This is why I am so pleased to see that Google+ is available to the public today. Aside from its innovative privacy settings and excellent video chat, Google+ is social media right there with your gmail, google docs, and reader. (If you don’t have some of this stuff, you may be missing out, especially if you seriously want to get into something.) Google+ and Twitter are now central to the way I grow as a mathematician and a teacher. I once heard, “Facebook is for the people you went to high school with. Google+ is for the people you wish you went to high school with. G+ is for people you want to talk with over coffee, and Facebook is for people you wouldn’t meet for coffee if they were in the same town.

Two great places for exchanging ideas are the #edchat and #mathchat on Twitter. Tonight’s question was, “If you could clear one misconception about mathematics and/or teaching it, what would it be?” (Share your own in the comments?) I found this more enticing than my Field Theory class, so I fired a few off. Thought I’d share this mini-manifesto. (140 characters at a time)

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must change misconception: geniuses do real math. Otherwise math is math class.

you have to get As and 800s to do math or like math.

you’ve gotta climb the ladder to get to the good stuff in math.

you need the high school math to do ______ And you definitely can’t study topology until ______!

you’re either an applied person or a pure math person. Bleh.

math is math class and homework should look like homework.

you really need to know algebra for the real world.

fractions are wrong if their not reduced.

practice is the best way to get better. (personal experience actually is)

you have to play the role of “teacher” to get class to work.

must change misconception: “there are problems I need to solve, and I need someone to show me how to do that.” – Salman Khan! No joke!

“they” write the problems. I just answer them. Can we tell what “they’re” asking?

must realize: math is made by humans like the ones in the classroom. So let’s make math.

must change misconception: it’s ok to say “I’m so dumb at math. I’m not just not a math person.” especially for kids

stick to the book or you’re in trouble (aka I don’t trust you)

go with your first instinct. Your second is wrong (aka don’t trust yourself)

you need the teacher to learn math. You need school to learn math.

texting in class is bad. (I’m in field theory class enjoying this much more)


oh ok. Boo! Too many to choose. How about this one: you can tweet forever without battery death. (I have to go)

* * *

Lots of old thoughts there, and I could include links to old posts, but this is already too self-indulgent.

The preponderance of general misconceptions about math seems so overwhelming and frustrating at times. A large part of my teaching is an attempt to give math a good name with my students by showing them mathematical traits and habits already within them. This is my little force against the mathematical boogeyman. I’m glad I got some of that off my chest.

Let’s make school Facebook worthy

Last year my favorite course was my hardest to teach. I felt very strongly about the material, thinking almost constantly about it and how we could spend our time experiencing it. And yet, most days I felt class was stale and that the students felt and thought little during the experience. No matter what I tried, class wasn’t consistently satisfying. Fatal flaw: Class was too much about me, and not about them.

Some of what we did was spectacular – analyzing structure together, sharing and presenting creative insights. I’m also certain there is a terrific course in my approach that year, but most days I did most of the talking, to what felt like crickets. I was driving content. The students saw me speak passionately about the math, but the feeling wasn’t mirrored.

* * *

As the year ended we spent some time working with geofix, building polyhedra and tessellations. This went rather well, with almost everyone enjoying their work and talking a lot about their projects. Later that night, I got a pleasant surprise in my news feed. One of my quieter students, who was nonplussed all year, had posted Facebook pictures of his work in class that day, not on my wall, but out to the world of his friends. Though I didn’t say something at the time, I thought this was extremely cool. He posted again on both of the next two days. By the end he had posted eight pictures of three different projects, and I was thrilled.

In short, because people use Facebook to post things they care about. They post things they’re proud of, like new recordings and videos, clever thoughts, and their favorites from around the web. By posting, Facebook users are sharing themselves with their friends. I was so pleased to know he took that work personally. At least for those three days, class was about him, and his classwork was a part of his identity.

“And yet”, I thought, “this never happens.” Kids post about school all the time, but how often do they post their actual work? Is school too often not about them? I believe students need a personal relationship with their school careers. School should be a place to strengthen and develop who you are and want to become, but how can this occur if your courses and class schedule are largely out of your control, both daily and over time.

* * *

Isn’t it completely obvious that Facebook is important to young people? (and a lot of the rest of us too.) Social media is an incredible way to share ourselves and our ideas. Is school a part of that? I think it should be. Otherwise, we retain a disturbing chasm between student personal identity and their work for school.

If I told you students spent hours there a day, openly and passionately expressing themselves to their friends, often giving articulate thoughts and opinions, would I be talking about Facebook or school? I’m going to spend a lot of time in August thinking about what kinds of math activities my students can take personally. I want school to be like that.