This Week at Global Math – 10/29/19


Edited By Casey McCormick  @cmmteach

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From the World of Math Ed

The delicate balance between solidarity & erasure

For the past 10 days, our fellow educators in Chicago have been teaching. But, they haven’t been teaching their normal lesson plans, filled with rich tasks, investigations, and developing mathematical inquiry. Rather, they’ve spent their last 10 days educating their students, community members, local political officials, and the rest of the world what it looks like to organize a strike that is about more than money. 

The Chicago Teachers Union (@CTULocal1) has not only been striking for fair pay, but for smaller class sizes, affordable housing for students, sanctuary policies for immigrant families, and the assurance that every student would have access to a nurse and a school psychologist. Since October 18th, 32,000+ Chicago Public School teachers and staff have been standing their ground as their local unions (Service Employees International Union Local ‘73 & Chicago Teachers Union) have negotiated terms with Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@LightfootforChi). 

With the announcement of the strike, Mayor Lightfoot announced the canceling of classes for approximately 360,000 students until a settlement can be reached. Parents, impacted by the sudden lack of consistent and free childcare offered through the services of public school, may fear that their students will fall behind in their studies, having missed six days (and counting!) of formal schooling. Yet, as educators, we must consider that students may learn far more during this six-day reprieve of formal education with the informal learning they are currently garnering. It is in this same vein that I read Glenn Waddell’s (@gwaddellnvhs) tweet, posted earlier this week: “Every act of teaching is a political act. Every. Single. One”. While this post was directed at the topic of lesson planning with a monolingual and monocultural lens based on the work of Dr. Josè Medina (@josemedinajr89), the concept transfers to acknowledge that the learning of these 360,000 students is also political in nature.

In the event of the Chicago Teachers Union Strike, students may be learning about the politics involved in what can often appear to be an apolitical public education. Students may begin to gain understanding as they watch their teachers model what it means to stand for justice. Students may begin to feel the local inconvenience of having a public right (e.g. the right to education) paused in the name of a larger, global civic right and duty. Students may even recognize the agency and power that they hold within themselves to create change. 

There is a great deal of education that we fail to name and/or honor because it does not fit in the nice, neat confines of the public schooling of which we have become accustomed. And so, out of necessity, oppression, or ease, it is erased. 

Below, I share three examples of erasure in education that I found this week on the wide open world of Twitter. 


  1. The amount of land loss of Native Americans in the last 150 years.  Shared by Ranjani Chackraborty (@ranjchak)

This is an example of physical erasure. Many still refuse to recognize the effects of colonization on Native American people, and the acculturation enforced on their children as they attend schools that are centered on the Eurocentric values of their oppressor. Yet, this graphic makes that erasure evident. 

What do you notice and wonder about the differences between these two graphs? (Click for the dynamic video; also scroll for others, & follow Rajani). 



  1. #BlackWallStreet & the #TulsaMassacre: With the hit show “Watchmen’s” premiere featuring the Tulsa Massacre, many observers were left wondering why they had never heard of 1) one of the largest massacres in US history, 2) the existence of Black Wall Street, and/or 3) how our public education could erase such a pivotal event. Regina King (@ReginaKing), the star superhero of the show, shared the following tweet to assist viewers in (re)learning the history behind this event. 


  1. Doug Robertson (@TheWeirdTeacher) discussed his desire to erase the phrase, “Does that make sense?” from his teaching vocabulary. The replies in this thread give great examples of how to replace this question with others that may distribute power to students that issues them agency to participate in question forming and answering. 


 I share these three examples to demonstrate how easily events can be erased from history, from our presence of mind, and from our vocabulary. I also share these examples as an act of solidarity with the teachers of Chicago, as they continue to place their mark on history, and refuse to be erased, while also refusing the erasure of their students’ needs. I celebrate the movement of bringing those on the margins towards the center, and the (re)learning and (re)centering of what we want our students to learn as citizens of our society-at-large. It is most certainly more than just the mathematics we are tasked with teaching in school. 

There have been many acts of kindness shown towards the teachers on strike in Chicago. Some have sent pizza, others doughnuts and coffee, and others have shared their time. Chance the Rapper (@ChancetheRapper), a Chicagoan by birth, shared his platform on “Saturday Night Live” to demonstrate solidarity with the teachers, staff, and students, and to remind them that the fight is worth it. 

You may wonder how you, individually, can show solidarity with our fellow educators in Chicago. On Twitter, they are using the tags #CTUSEIUstrike, #PutItInWriting, #FairContractNow. The more traffic to these tags, the larger presence that the strike receives from local and national media, and the more pressure applied for both sides to come to an agreement over the terms at stake. The Chicago Teachers Union has asked for educators across the country to use social media to show support by wearing #RedForEd, a similar demonstration of unity in the unprecedented number teacher strikes in 2018, including my home state of North Carolina. We also know from last year that this teacher strike is not specifically about Chicago, and that this movement for justice for this group may usher in justice and opportunity for others. 


Whatever your choice in showing solidarity for this group and this moment, may it simply not be to erase it from consciousness and history. 

Written by Lauren Baucom, @LBmathemagician

Hidden Gems of the MTBoS

Sitting on the couch, scrolling through the seemingly endless number of TV series at my fingertips, I found myself searching for something to watch that was as close as possible to the previous series I had just binged my way through. My wife and I are obsessed with British crime shows, especially those featuring David Tennant. After little success, I habitually picked up my phone to keep up-to-date on the 100 Twitter users I closely follow. In that moment I realised that, just like my Netflix choices, my Twitter choices represented an extremely narrow and unvaried sample of what is available. I had previously convinced myself that I was supportive of the growth of the #MTBoS and #iTeachMath communities, but the mere presence of my Top Drawer list shows my bias towards users with an already large number of followers. My rule of “I’ll follow any teacher that follows me” was clearly not enough. So, this week on the Global Math Department Newsletter, I’ve picked five fabulous teachers with 100 followers or less. If you’re wondering how you can do the same, head here for inspiration and here for the roadmap to get there.


It’s no secret that Maths Twitter folk love a good Open Middle problem. I myself have gotten my fair share of the MTBoS limelight for a few problems I’ve shared with the community. What I love about this post is the simplicity of the prompt this teacher gave to their students, the mode in which they set the challenge to them, and their thoughts on the experience overall. A lot in one tweet!




Here’s a post that, when I started using Twitter a few years ago, would have seen veteran MTBoS users come to the rescue. A lot of Maths teachers who have persevered through the early stages of using Twitter often recall having their cries for help answered. Sadly, too many tweets go unheard. Whether it’s through a slightly incorrect hashtag (as appears to be the case here, although using #nctm is arguably better than the official ones for NCTM events), a quiet time of day or year, or just a lack of active followers, getting help is not easy when you’re starting out.




I picked this next one out because Annette’s experience on Twitter seems quite common amongst many of the maths folk who jump online for some inspiration. From her feed, it appears that Annette likes to share good stuff that comes her way through retweets and jumps online every so often. This tweet typifies the love that is so often shared through the platform, while also including such a courageous reflection and a commitment to contribute to the community. Quite early, I took on the approach “Dance like nobody’s watching and sing like nobody’s listening”, which enabled me to use Twitter first for myself as a mode of reflection, leaving any attention or insight from others as a welcome, but not expected, bonus.



Many frequent users of the MTBoS started engaging in the online sphere through their blogs. Well, I certainly did. Typing up a post was often the result of my mind overloading with thoughts about something that caused my eyebrows to scrunch – whether it was for good or bad. Mrs. Portnoy (AKA @talking_math) occasionally shares her blog posts through her Twitter account. She’s been teaching for more than twenty years, so there’s clearly no lack of substance in what she writes. Here’s my favourite bit from her latest post in which she’s reflecting about her own children’s views toward mathematics:

“I just wish, somewhere along the line, someone, or something had sparked a love of math… Math can be more than just learning concepts and completing assignments.”




Amaru is a frequent user of Twitter and regularly retweets great highlights from the iTeachMath and MTBoS communities, often with a nice little insight. He also tends to post great little snippets of his students doing and talking about maths, which is guaranteed to enrich anyone’s feed. I decided to include Amaru in this post mainly because I wasn’t already following him before! Somehow, his account slipped past my “follow back other teachers” rule and I’m so glad that I was able to discover his account and bring more maths joy to my screen. This tweet is just a sample of the great things he shares regularly.


I’m going to leave this here as a call to action to regular users of the Twitter maths community to continue to support those who are still determining whether they are getting as much out of the Twitter community as they themselves put in. These are only a handful of many amazing educators whose number of followers does not represent the quality of the tweets they put out.


Written by John Rowe, @MrJohnRowe

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