ThinkThankThunk

Dealing with the fear of being a boring teacher.

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Examples of Abstration in Math Education (with Failures)

There are some problems that just grab you. I’m not sure why, but they end up operating in the background sapping processing power away from your daily tasks. I don’t mean predicting primes or finding inverted eigenstates, I mean silly little things akin to the triangle-in-a-box from A Mathematician’s Lament. Recently, I was sitting at…

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Whoa, Whoa, Whoa: Competency-Based Education is NOT Standards-Based Grading

Turns out that the unflappable Matt Townsley already wrote this post… mine has Keanu? Jargon jargon jargon. I used to malign the use of education jargon, that is until one of my students at BIG started a project in immuno-oncology; oh my, the medical field is jargonified. All asides aside, we have a serious problem…

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Norms (Cheers, Assessment, Otherwise)

I didn’t want to be a teacher. Not even a little bit. Education as an institution is predominantly lame, filled with motivational posters that have never motivated anyone, and littered with people repeating patterns that don’t actually result in meaningful student products. But I love helping people who want to learn and do something. That’s…

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The Quanta of Design Thinking

I’m spending this weekend with Sean Wheeler and Ken Kozar in Cleveland, OH talking about the Maker/Competency-based school they’re looking to start. The interest in creating education options within public school systems is heartening on a lot of levels. Selfishly, it proves that BIG isn’t a vanity project, but a real national movement. For students,…

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As BIG gets Bigger…

Here’s the elevator speech: BIG is a program that puts students in control in a way that highlights their interests and teaches them content in way that is as deeply rigorous as it is motivational. We believe in three things when it comes to project design: You must be asking a real question. Something someone…

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The Pain and the Glory: Running Iowa’s BIG Competency Based School

So, my professional life has been completely consumed with running BIG. No tweeting, no blogging here or at Edutopia (sadly), little for-fun programming, but it’s worth it. The model is so simple: do a project that is big, do it for an audience that extends well beyond the school’s walls, do it because you have to know, and…

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Energy Pie Chart Quiz: Cats!

While transitioning from my old classroom to my new gig, I found this gem in my piles files: Link to pdf. I loved this quiz when I wrote it, and I was tickled by the greatness of this student’s response. I really really like to introduce students to energy pie charts (shamelessly lifted from the…

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Bacon-Wrapped Lessons Lives!

  We were planning a world tour, and then, as is wont to happen, we got given a project-based school to run. Bacon-Wrapped Lessons got back-burnered, hard. But now we’re back! We’ll be in Storm Lake, IA in October! Come join us! A Bacon-Wrapped Lessons Workshop is designed to give teachers time to collaborate freely…

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Teaching About Race and Class in the Midwest

This week I’ve had two confounding interactions with the issues of race and class. As a middle class white male with a master’s degree and an awesome job, I feel like a charlatan here. My wife took her preschool class to the park, which includes my 2 year-old daughter, Lenora. While at the park, a…

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How I Teach Calculus: A Comedy (Power Rule Families)

This is going to be awfully subtle, sorry if this is useless to you. Today we read the first part of A Mathematician’s Lament as I usually have kids do at the start of any math-based course. We ended up having a long discussion about what creativity is, and how we can inject some while…

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