Let’s Talk About The Future of NCTM

Disclaimer

I doubt I’m NCTM’s median or ideal member. Accommodating all my wishes below might be a great way to doom the organization. That said, my wishes are the only ones I have. So make yours known too.

The Promise

NCTM membership promises lots of benefits, but chief among them in my mind are advocacy, professional development, and community. Here are some thoughts about NCTM’s present work in each of those three categories and some hopes for its future.

Advocacy

In the era of the Common Core State Standards, math education is a matter of national and local interest. Nationally, witness Andrew Hacker’s op eds in the New York Times. Locally, witness your Facebook timeline and all the parents complaining about lousy “Common Core” worksheets. (“What do you mean the Common Core didn’t make this worksheet? It says it’s theirs right in the link!“)

At a time when everybody seems to have an opinion or a comment, it’s really hard for me to locate NCTM’s opinion or comment.

There were three years between the release of the final Common Core State Standards and NCTM’s statement announcing its support. Borrowing from Twain, lies about the array model can travel halfway around the world when NCTM takes three years to put on its shoes.

Or try to find NCTM’s advocacy more recently. By my count, The Atlantic has published six articles about math education since December. NCTM is quoted in none of them. Am I expecting too much? Do these reporters even have NCTM’s number in Reston, VA? I throw my dues into the collection plate so that, collectively, math teachers can have a louder megaphone than any one of us would have individually.

Professional Development

I experience NCTM’s professional development efforts through its journals and its conferences. Let’s talk about each.

I’ve had the latest issue of Mathematics Teacher in my backpack for the last three weeks. I’m trying to figure out why it doesn’t seem like urgent reading to me whereas there are about twenty math education bloggers in my feed whose posts will not wait and must be read immediately. I’m also wondering why I give JRME, NCTM’s academic journal, a lot more scrutiny relative to the teaching journals.

Here’s my idea. The teaching journals lack the kinetic energy of JRME and they lack the potential energy of blogs.

By “energy” I mean that the energy of a piece of writing is partly kinetic – what the author actually wrote – but also potential. Given the right forum, readers will come alongside those words, offer their own, and co-construct incredible kinetic energy out of that potential.

JRME articles have low potential energy but incredible kinetic energy. Responses to articles are only published after months or years but the articles themselves and their ideas are often very well-researched and very well-written. Articles in the teaching journals have lower kinetic energy than JRME articles (because it’s much harder to publish in JRME) and their potential energy is … also pretty low. For example, Albert Goetz’s response to my modeling article appeared 11 months after the original publication. That latency won’t allow us to convert the potential energy of my article into anything kinetic.

So the teaching journals are stuck somewhere in the middle. I don’t know if this is cause or effect, but no one has tweeted out a link to any article from any of the teaching journals. None of them. Ever. [2016 Apr 27. This is too strong. Here’s a tweet. I’m not clear why it isn’t returned in Twitter’s search results. I think my general point about the low potential energy of the teaching journals holds.]

Short of taking down the paywalls, I don’t have a great idea for increasing the potential energy of the teaching journals. My colleagues Zak Champagne, Mike Flynn, and I have put in a great deal of thought trying to increase the potential energy of the conferences, though. For two years now, NCTM’s leadership has given us some room to play around with the very simple idea of giving every speaker a webpage for their conference session and then getting out of their way. Relative to dropping the paywall on the teaching journals, this is a very cheap idea.

And it seems successful also. They gave a small handful of speakers webpages this year. A week after NCTM’s annual meeting, there are 135 comments, all turning potential energy into kinetic energy without any marginal effort from NCTM. (Check out the energy at Kaneka Turner’s page for example. We haven’t even released video of her talk yet!) That system will scale. NCTM needs to make that system available to every speaker and they need to add the question to their speaker application form, “How will you help your attendees convert your ideas from potential energy to kinetic energy?” (Or something more appropriate for people who haven’t read this post. “How will you support your participants’ work after the conference?” maybe.)

Community

Here is an area where my intuition totally failed me. My assumption was that math teachers who have found community online for free are less interested in paying money to find community in some distant city at an annual or regional meeting.

I was way wrong.

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Feel free to scroll through the comments and read person after person describing how much more interested they are in attending a national conference knowing their online community will be there also.

NCTM needs to do everything they can to import and export that community.

They can import that community by making sure we’re all aware who the first time presenters are so veterans can attend their talks, support them, and also benefit from their perspectives. They can import that community by helping these unwashed bloggers and tweeps find their way to longstanding NCTM functions and events. And vice versa, by exporting themselves to blogging and tweeting events like ShadowCon, the Desmos Happy Hour, and Math Game Night. (Matt Larson checked me for not passing him an invite to the Desmos Happy Hour. That’s fair. This obligation goes both ways.)

NCTM can support these blogging and tweeting attendees after the conferences by giving them lots to blog and tweet about. Feed the community. It seems no one is tweeting about the teaching journals. But lots of people are tweeting about the release of the videos from the Ignite and ShadowCon talks. Jo Boaler’s talk was at capacity with a thousand people locked outside. You wouldn’t know from her conference listing that someone captured video of that talk. No one knows where to find it so no one is talking about it.

Fix that! Give every speaker a webpage. Help them understand how to turn its potential energy into kinetic energy, how to turn isolation into community.

Spoiled

Again, I imagine my needs are pretty idiosyncratic. I’ve been spoiled by blogging and tweeting and by the teaching community that lives on my phone and travels with me in my pocket wherever I go. So what are your professional needs? How well has NCTM been servicing them? What hopes do you have for its future?

Featured Comments

Please read NCTM President Matt Larson’s response to my post. His description of NCTM’s advocacy efforts was particularly useful.

Also read NCTM Past President Linda Gojak’s comment.

Kim Morrow-Leong:

Is the role of NCTM to be the leader of the frenetic #MTBoS blogosphere? Or is it to be the slow, more “craft beer” or “fine wine” place for ideas to ferment? What is the in between? Make your suggestions known because it is hard to be both.

Zak Champagne:

The editorial board of TCM (full disclosure – which includes me) is working hard to create some kinetic energy around the journal. We are hold a #TCMChat each month on twitter around the free preview manuscript (Which coincidentally means we tweet the heck out of link to the free preview every month).

Megan Schmidt:

Early Friday morning of NCTM, I attended a focus group to discuss the future of NCTM and more specifically, their partnership with the Math Forum. Many issues were discussed including the ones you bring up here. But one that seemed to resonate with everyone in attendance was the people who work for the Math Forum. Joining the Math Forum and NCTM has given NCTM a face and a personality exemplified through the wonderful people that make up the Math Forum. They have helped bridge the divide, physically and metaphorically, between NCTM and the greater Math Twitter Blogosphere and have been a catalyst for the continuing conversation between these groups.

Sam Otten:

I have (what I think is) a really great linear systems lesson that I developed with my brother. It’s been accepted for publication in MT but it’s going to be about a two year gap between submission and publication.

Sam Shah posts his internal monolog every time he imagines inviting a teacher to submit an article to the teaching journals versus posting it on a blog. He closes with:

But for me as a part of a community which already shares ideas freely, comments on them, improves them… I don’t see how an NCTM journal can compare. Immediacy, feedback, and encouragement make blogging the choice for me.

Mary calls out her interest in extending the conversation in several sessions she attended. NCTM can support this.

There were several K-2 talks I attended at NTCM that I would love “to continue the conversation.” I tried Twitter, but the sessions had low turnout so there was no interaction. One was ELD and math, giving students position and power. They used Go Pros to observe from a child’s perspective and introduce change to their teaching. It was awesome; every k-2 teacher should have been there and needs to think about how we are giving voice and power to our students.

Norma:

In regard to Advocacy, it isn’t all invisible. Check out http://www.nctm.org/news/ for NCTM press releases as well links to press coverage (with quotes from NCTM Presidents).

Julie Wright adds an appeal for participation in your local affiliate.

About 
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

51 Comments

  1. This is just a quick comment to say that something must be up with the Twitter search results regarding articles in MT, MTMS, or TCM. I know I’ve tweeted many times to my own or others’ articles in those journals, linking specifically to the NCTM article pages.

    But I agree that the practitioner journals are way too slow to build energy or momentum for their ideas. For example, I have (what I think is) a really great linear systems lesson that I developed with my brother. It’s been accepted for publication in MT but it’s going to be about a two year gap between submission and publication.

  2. I would like to see more summaries of assembled expertise that are independent of the Common Core. There are good reasons to retain some independence from the Common Core. Whether this remains the national standards or not, and there are enough political fissures surrounding the effort (note Trump’s battle cry to eliminate it and many states’ new hesitance to embrace the standards), that maintaining laser focus on what the best research says and getting it out to teachers should be the primary goal. There is evidence that some CCSS standards are not appropriate in the years they are presented. If and when this evidence mounts some organization must be independent enough to stand for the best evidence and not the monolith COMMON CORE. I hope NCTM has the temerity to do so.
    All that said, the pace of response and energy is slow. One could see this pace as studied or lethargic and both would be correct to some degree. NCTM is understandably gun shy, as the collateral damage of the “math wars” of a decade or two ago fell forcefully on the organization. There are some on staff who still remember the vitriol directed at the organization by every “back to basics” loudmouth with political leanings.
    Is the role of NCTM to be the leader of the frenetic #MTBoS blogosphere? Or is it to be the slow, more “craft beer” or “fine wine” place for ideas to ferment? What is the in between?
    Make your suggestions known because it is hard to be both.

  3. Zak Champagne

    April 27, 2016 - 10:17 am -

    Hey Dan – thanks for this. There’s some really important stuff in here. One correction though (that coincides with Sam’s response).

    The editorial board of TCM (full disclosure – which includes me) is working hard to create some kinetic energy around the journal. We are hold a #TCMChat each month on twitter around the free preview manuscript (Which coincidentally means we tweet the heck out of link to the free preview every month).

    We think this chat aims to do exactly what you’re writing about. It allows for the potential energy to quickly be channeled into kenetic much quicker than the 11 month turnaround for written responses to be published in the journal. We’ve invited the authors to join the chat and some of them have not only joined but provided some of the guiding questions for the chat.

    We also held a tweet up in San Francisco and had about a dozen folks attend the monthly chat in person at NCTM Central.

  4. I added excerpts of all of these to the post. Obliged.

    Kim:

    Is the role of NCTM to be the leader of the frenetic #MTBoS blogosphere? Or is it to be the slow, more “craft beer” or “fine wine” place for ideas to ferment? What is the in between?

    If I had to choose one, I’d choose the fine wine, the deliberate peer review of JRME and the year-long speaker application process of the annual meeting. The MTBOS can’t replace that. But NCTM needs to understand the changing processes through which people develop themselves professionally, and have something to say about it, and some way to contribute.

    Which is to say, NCTM’s support of teachers through journals and conferences would look perfectly modern in the 1980s, which means it looks antiquated in the 2010s. I don’t have a complete solution for bridging that temporal gap, for becoming more things to more people. But I’ve offered a partial one.

    Zak:

    The editorial board of TCM (full disclosure – which includes me) is working hard to create some kinetic energy around the journal. We are hold a #TCMChat each month on twitter around the free preview manuscript (Which coincidentally means we tweet the heck out of link to the free preview every month).

    Nice. How are those efforts going? Any data or anecdata to share?

  5. Zak Champagne

    April 27, 2016 - 10:34 am -

    Yep! We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of individuals who are visiting the page each month for the free preview manuscript (both as compared to the same month last year and month to month). And we storify each conversation and I think there is some nice anecdotes in there to support that there is more engagement around the manuscripts then there was previously. Check them out here: https://storify.com/TCM_at_NCTM

  6. Early Friday morning of NCTM, I attended a focus group to discuss the future of NCTM and more specifically, their partnership with the Math Forum. Many issues were discussed including the ones you bring up here. But one that seemed to resonate with everyone in attendance was the people who work for the Math Forum. Joining the Math Forum and NCTM has given NCTM a face and a personality exemplified through the wonderful people that make up the Math Forum. They have helped bridge the divide, physically and metaphorically, between NCTM and the greater Math Twitter Blogosphere and have been a catalyst for the continuing conversation between these groups.

  7. Only in the past few years have I realized how important it is to see myself as part of a profession, and to give dues to a professional organization which advocates on my behalf on the broadest scale. (A lot of this thinking came from talking with Peg Cagle.) And NCTM does this advocacy, and I’m happy to be a member this reason. (Though I would love for there to be a place to see where this advocacy is taking place and what is being advocated (maybe that exists already?)). So for that alone, NCTM is important to me.

    I have a more complex relationship with NCTM’s journal _Mathematics Teacher_, as a #MTBoS-er. I am a volunteer editor for one of the departments of MT. I see it a way for me to give back to the profession. But I have mixed feelings about it as a #MTBoS-er.

    Every so often, I come across a blogpost or amazing blogger and have the urge to say “Hey! Submit to the journal!” But I haven’t done so. Even though I desperately want to see more actual classroom teachers have their activities/articles appear in the journal (and fewer grad students/college professors). Why? This internal conversation:

    Me: What a great activity! It would make such an awesome article for MT!
    OtherMe: But… then the teacher would have to formally write it up and submit it… and risk putting that work in for a rejection??? And… if it IS accepted, what good does it do them? They aren’t college professors who need publications. They just need time to get to that pile of grading that has been sitting on their desk way too long…
    Me: Well… maybe publication would makes them feel good?
    OtherMe: But they can blog and tweet about it! And let’s say they do submit, and it does get accepted. Then their ideas are trapped behind a paywall, so they wouldn’t be sharing their activity freely to the world like they are doing now.
    Me: Couldn’t they just post it on their blog once it gets published?
    OtherMe: I don’t think that’s allowed.
    Me: Oh. So a time commitment to write the article, the risk of rejection, and if accepted, their ideas trapped behind a paywall? When they are part of a community of people who believe in a gift culture?

    To be clear, I’m not saying people shouldn’t submit articles to NCTM journals. I think there can be great value in working with an editor to improve the article/activity. I feel pretty confident that the number of people who reads these journals is higher than the number of people who read math teacher blogs. But for me as a part of a community which already shares ideas freely, comments on them, improves them… I don’t see how an NCTM journal can compare. Immediacy, feedback, and encouragement make blogging the choice for me.

    (For me as a reader, I know which blogs I like to follow whose approach to teaching and ideas speak to me, that relate to what I’m doing in the classroom… with MT, in every issue are a number of articles that don’t directly interest me because of who or what I’m teaching.)

    I don’t have a central thought, but I figured I’d share what has been rattling around my head for a while now.

  8. THANK YOU for sharing your thoughts on this topic! You know what I am most thankful for? That you put a link to Jo Boaler’s presentation! There was NO WAY I could get to San Francisco for the conference (it’s the middle of state testing!), so I REALLY APPRECIATE that someone took the video and that you put up a link!!!

  9. Thank you for explaining a lot of what NCTM is and how they operate. Thank you for always encouraging us to blog, tweet, write, be noisy, not to hear ourselves, but to be say what we believe (esp. in the hopes that someone who wouldn’t necessarily shout it out, but can hear themselves in your words, be heard .

    1) A lovely member of the NCTM board came by the MTBoS booth on Sunday when I was hosting to thank us for our work and the importance it has in building community.

    2) The second benefit I thought was putting NCTM membership on my resume.But I don’t know what I belong to, because I have no sense of belongign. I guess NCTM doesn’t speak to me because it is a one way communication feed. With MTBoS, I can sometimes ask for help and sometimes be helpful. I feel empowered and important that way.

    3) I used to think the biggest benefit from being an NCTM member was the MT journal. I have a Master’s Degree in Education, a BA in Math and I can hardly understand a thing it says and rarely find anything that speaks to me or is useful.

    4) Why is there nothing from NCTM that I could find at the annual to help our school district and in particular, the 6-12 schools, meet our desperate need for decent CCSS curriculum?

    5) I love how Kaneka used her page as a forum and felt very heard. More energy to encourage those interactions please.

    Thanks again Dan for encouraging me to speak freely.

  10. Very well said! There were several K-2 talks I attended at NTCM that I would love “to continue the conversation.” I tried Twitter, but the sessions had low turnout so there was no interaction. One was ELD and math, giving students position and power. They used Go Pros to observe from a child’s perspective and introduce change to their teaching. It was awesome; every k-2 teacher should have been there and needs to think about how we are giving voice and power to our students. The second session that was stellar, but poorly attended, was on the topic of counting and how harder “unorganized” tasks helped students develop/reveal higher levels of understanding. Last, thanks for sharing that Jo Boaler’s talk was recorded; I was one of those thousand who were locked out.

  11. Dan –

    Thank you for your blog post. The central issue you raise is the one that keeps me up at night: the future of NCTM and its value to members. Rest assured the issues you raise are the very ones that have been, and that will continue to be part of NCTM Board meeting discussions. I do want to take the opportunity to update you and your readers on some of the issues you raise.

    Advocacy

    One of the unfortunate things about advocacy work is that it is often invisible. For example, past-president Diane Briars and NCTM staff were involved on Capitol Hill with Congressional staff on the reauthorization of ESEA, now ESSA; with the Hunt Institute, NCTM held an advocacy conference in February for state Affiliate and state department of education leaders to support collaborative advocacy planning – a pilot project we intend to continue. In addition NCTM provides advocacy tools, such as the Teaching and Learning Mathematics with the Common Core video series to support local and national advocacy efforts of others. On a personal note, I dedicated my presentations at NCSM and NCTM in San Francisco to issues surrounding advocacy. I share your dream that NCTM’s advocacy work becomes both more aggressive and visible.

    Journals

    You are correct; our journals are not nimble. Some of this is simply the nature of a peer-reviewed journal versus a blog post or tweet. As some of the responses to your blog indicate, there have been and continue to be tweets about articles. We will continue to explore ways to improve engagement, e.g. Twitter chats, with our journals. I believe there is a need, and room, for both forms of publishing.

    Conferences

    We have been excited to see the positive results from giving NCTM Annual Conference speakers their own webpage and we intend to extend the conference webpage feature this fall.

    Community

    I wholeheartedly agree with your point that NCTM needs to import community and that the obligation goes both ways. This is why I have personally appointed a number of high-profile individuals from the MTBoS to several NCTM standing committees as well as program committees. It’s also why you and I, along with NCTM staff, are working together in the next few weeks to make sure that longstanding NCTM functions and events don’t conflict with new events so that various communities can interact and share perspectives.

    The “Ideal Member”

    While you may not be the “median” member Dan, you are from my perspective the ideal member – as is anyone who is committed to ensuring that the needs and interests of mathematics teachers are supported and that each and every mathematics student receives the education he/she needs to become a productive member of our democratic society. I welcome our continued collaboration as I do the larger mathematics education community, so that we together can build a more effective NCTM.

    Matt Larson
    NCTM President

  12. Thanks for the comments, everybody. I’ve added several to the main body of the post.

    Hey Sam, I saw you on the MT masthead recently and thought that was pretty cool. That was the first I knew you had any affiliation – even membership – with NCTM.

    And I resonate with your hypothetical dialog. Not just about NCTM journals but any peer-reviewed, paywalled journal where you to have sign over your copyright. FWIW, I asked (told?) the MT editor that I would only give them a month of exclusive access to my modeling article at which point I’d post it on my blog. They agreed and eventually made it the free preview article. I don’t know how well that would scale for everybody, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask. If they say no, your hypothetical blogger can just post it on her blog anyway.

    @Mary, thanks for posting your experience. If one of the presenters had worn a GoPro and had a place to post the video, I’m sure many more people would have participated online.

    @Matt, thanks for your response here. I’ve added a link to your comment in the main post. Your point about advocacy being largely invisible was especially helpful and will help me recalibrate my expectations. Looking forward to more collaboration between NCTM’s online and offline (emergent online?) communities.

  13. Michael Paul Goldenberg

    April 28, 2016 - 7:45 am -

    Intriguing post, Dan. Hope you get heard by the powers that be in NCTM. I never was able to manage to get more than the occasional polite nod. You’re speaking to a very political entity that for decades has been controlled by its mostly conservative (in a variety of senses) board. Maybe things have changed in the two years since I quit the organization (I’m so out of it, I had no clue who the current president was), or perhaps they’re in the process of changing. But my guess is that you and like-minded younger members will have to drag NCTM kicking and screaming into the second half of the 20th century. Getting it into the 21st century might take another half century or so.

  14. Interesting observations and great discussion. I only have a few points to add:

    In regard to Advocacy, it isn’t all invisible. Check out http://www.nctm.org/news/ for NCTM press releases as well links to press coverage (with quotes from NCTM Presidents).

    In addition to the monthly #TCMchats that Zak mentioned the NCTM school-based journals host blogs and regularly tweet about articles in each issue. Those tweets are then retweeted by followers. There is no need to wait 11-months if a reader wants to publicly react to a published article you can comment on articles right at the bottom of the article HTML-page.

  15. As I’ve gotten more involved with Oregon Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which is one of many NCTM affiliates, I’ve been wondering whether it would be fruitful for the MTBoS community to get more involved with these local affiliates generally.

    For advocacy, local affiliates aren’t as powerful as NCTM because they don’t represent as many people, but just as you’re more likely to get your letter to the editor published in the local news than in the New York Times, local affiliates could advocate to local school boards, press outlets, and politicians and might be heard. As far as I know, OCTM does not do this, but I don’t see why we couldn’t if it were important to our members.

    OCTM does do professional development, and it’s far more accessible to us in Oregon than NCTM’s regional or national conferences are. In addition to local events around the state, OCTM has a yearly Oregon Math Leaders conference in Salem every summer with presentations by members, and hosts the stellar Northwest Mathematics Conference every third year, alternating with Washington and British Columbia’s NCTM affiliates. We are particularly lucky that NWMC has been run by MTBoS-savvy people like Jennifer Bell, so the synergy with the online community is terrific.

    As for community, I feel the same as I do about NCTM’s conferences: participating in the MTBoS community makes me value “real life” interactions with the same people more, and vice versa, although currently, this is less true for OCTM than for NCTM, because most OCTM members formed their connections and community offline and aren’t (yet?) very involved with the MTBoS. However, at last summer’s Oregon Math Leaders conference, people were very interested in becoming more active online, and many turned out to be very aware of prominent MTBoS tweeters, bloggers, and presenters, even if they were fairly quiet online themselves.

    It was partly my early connections to the MTBoS that brought me back into contact with Jennifer Bell, and she and others gradually lured me into a role with OCTM. Through that, I’ve organized local math educator gatherings at a Portland brewpub, then ended up redoing OCTM’s webpage, octm.org , not so much because I’m professional at it as because I knew I could do it and it was a useful thing to do. And through THAT involvement, of course I end up promoting the MTBoS and related sites just because that’s where so much cool math is! I made the home page as a Desmos graph (it looks crappy on phones but I like it on computers), and my updates to the links list at http://www.octm.org/links.html had a decidedly MTBoSy tilt.

    Also, I’ve written articles for OCTM’s journal (The Oregon Math Teacher) on joining Twitter and the MTBos, “Jewels on the Web” (cool websites), and on giving my class a “How old is the shepherd”-like problem after reading about it on Tracy Zager’s and Robert Kaplinsky’s blogs.

    Now, I don’t consider myself as involved in the MTBoS OR in OCTM as many other people, but aren’t those overlaps great? What if we all did something similar with our local affiliates?

  16. Thanks for the reflection on NCTM. As Matt said you have identified a number of key areas on which we are working. As the staff liaison to JRME, I appreciate your comments on JRME and the work of the authors and the readers to engage in deep thought and analysis on a specific topic.

    With respect to the school journals, you are correct — there is a need to have more opportunities for immediate dialogue. NCTM has just put in place a commenting section associated with online journal articles. We have the technology in place now and have the opportunity to integrate into the community and build off of what we see in the comments. We hope you and your readers will take advantage of this new feature to generate on-going dialogue around critical issues in mathematics education.

  17. Norma J.:

    In regard to Advocacy, it isn’t all invisible. Check out http://www.nctm.org/news/ for NCTM press releases as well links to press coverage (with quotes from NCTM Presidents).

    Thanks for calling this out. I’ve added it to the post.

    @Julie, something about your participation in local affiliates calls to mind the relative importance of voting in national v. local elections. The national is awfully important but our day-to-day may be more affected by the local work. Added to the post also.

    Dave Barnes:

    NCTM has just put in place a commenting section associated with online journal articles. We have the technology in place now and have the opportunity to integrate into the community and build off of what we see in the comments.

    Hi Dave, thanks for your efforts. I’ll be very curious to see what the uptake is on that feature. I hope your team will find some way to alert authors that there are comments on their articles.

  18. Interesting post! Three comments:

    1

    Teachers are all different. I have become involved in #MTBoS, but I only read one or two blog posts a week. If I’m sitting at the computer, I’d rather be creating something than reading something. Call me ADHD.

    On the other hand, I always read The Mathematics Teacher, and more often than not, there is a worthwhile article or two. When i come across those, I try to send an e-mail to the authors to thank them.

    I had a stint as editor of the Activities in MT some time ago, and I’m really proud of some of the stuff I edited. It was gratifying to put some of my skills as a curriculum developer in the service of the profession by giving feedback to the authors, and helping them shape their ideas into effective activities.

    In other words, you’re right: your preferences are not everyone’s preferences.

    2

    Asking people to submit their posts to NCTM journals is a waste of time. The editors occasionally waver on this, but the basic policy is that if it has appeared online, it does not belong in the journal. The idea, apparently, is that people should get something that is not available for free in exchange for their dues. I think that policy is totally lame, because it perpetuates the split between live and curated that your post addresses. It’s only by violations of this policy that some of my stuff got into the journal.

    On the other hand, they have given me permission to publish my MT articles on my Web site after the fact. Go figure.

    3

    I do have a somewhat different concern about NCTM and Common Core. I wrote a somewhat in-depth analysis of the high school standards (http://www.mathedpage.org/teaching/common-core/) which has gotten fairly rave reviews from teachers, and even from some NCTM leaders. However I have not been able to present these ideas at conferences: rejected once by the NCTM annual meeting and twice by CMC-North. The latter in fact made clear that I should only submit talks that would help teachers implement the standards, not discuss them.

    An ex-editor of the MT encouraged me to submit something for Sound Off, which I did. The MT reviewer liked it, but it was rejected because of the rule against publishing things that have been on the Web. Sigh.

    Anyway, I’ll present some of those thoughts at Twitter Math Camp, but frankly it is shocking that NCTM is not encouraging an organization-wide discussion about the Common Core’s strengths and weaknesses. That would certainly liven things up. It is a necessary conversation, unless you believe that the standards are already perfect and will require no change ever. Or that a handful of professors should write the next version with no input from actual teachers.

  19. I suppose this is an adjacent suggestion to NCTM, but it seems like a good place.
    I’ve gotten some benefit as a classroom teacher who has presented at NCTM Annual Meeting over the past two years. But what is holding me back from going every year is the cost of going to the conference.
    1. The time cost. To attend SF this year, I missed 4 days of class, and for Boston last year, 3 days. I teach AP (IB this year) classes, so missing these particular days is very hard. Missing any school time is a tough proposition, and time during review for these important exams is even more tough. I’d guess that asking classroom teachers to miss school time in April eliminates about half of those interested in attending. I’m happy to hear that the annual meeting will be soon shifted to the fall.
    2. The financial cost. I am partly supported by my school for going to NCTM, but I still had to pay for about half. I’d be willing to bet that classroom teachers pay the biggest share of the cost when compared to district math coaches, university professors, or anyone who works for a private company. Also, why in the world are you asking for presenters to pay a nearly full rate? Doesn’t this limit the quantity (and hence quality) of the applicants? I present partly out of justification to the cost to my district, and partly because I like it. But it’s an internal struggle for me to see why I should pay to present.
    3. The presenting cost. Preparing a talk as a presenter takes time, and I like the thought that happens in this process. But, having to submit a talk idea 11.5 months before giving it? That’s bizarre. It also makes it more difficult to prepare for; thoughts and ideas can change drastically after thinking about them for 11.5 months. I thankfully didn’t have these troubles for my two talks, but it forces me to limit the scope of what topics I’d like to present.

    If we want more classroom teachers present at NCTM’s Annual meeting, and if we want more of them presenting, I’d love for some actions to be done to address these three costs. I don’t want to take it for granted that many people actually want more classroom teachers presenting, but I’d sure like to see their voices amplified. I think it’d make for a stronger conference, and maybe a stronger set of teachers who are in contact with actual students every day.

  20. First, Dan (and commenters), thanks for your tireless efforts to make all of us better. I think this echoes conversations that have gone on in Ed Tech (i.e., “what’s the point of the ISTE conference when we can all connect all year long”), and I imagine among the active folks in NCTE and other organizations (both ed-related and not). My personal (somewhat uninformed) opinion is that the big organizations like NCTM do have to become much more nimble, much more responsive, much more interactive – much like the MTBoS, but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t a “fine wine, peer review” role for them.

    I think there’s another piece of this (which I think you’ve alluded to before), which is the number of schools/math teachers that neither NCTM nor MTBoS seems to impact. It looks like I’ll have the opportunity to teach one section of Algebra again next year (after a couple of years not teaching math), and as I begin to interact more with the full-time math folks in my building I am again struck by how little either organization (if you can call MTBoS an “organization”, but go with it) seems to impact their practice. In comparison, NCTM is on the cutting edge with their attempts to integrate ShadowCon and similar ideas into their conferences.

    My worry is that both NCTM and MTBoS are only impacting a small proportion of math teachers, and therefore a small proportion of students. So while I think (admittedly from afar) that NCTM can continue to make improvements, and that the MTBoS can continue to be awesome, how do we bolster the actual impact of both of them?

  21. Dan, great article!

    I appreciate your points about the NCTM. I’m also DYING to see the blog list you follow. I LOVE math bloggers and cannot get enough.

    I have found some amazing teachers and math professionals out there in the blog world and I’m always looking for more. Who do you recommend? Can you post some of the blogs you follow? Thanks!

  22. Karl:

    My worry is that both NCTM and MTBoS are only impacting a small proportion of math teachers, and therefore a small proportion of students.

    I admit I struggle to understand how much effort this ragtag #MTBOS bunch should invest in outreach. (That’s in addition to the already spectacular work the Explore MTBOS team has put in.) I take your point, though. Maybe this is far off field, but I found it so useful to read Andy Pethan’s recent (concrete!) proposal for mobilizing his local community into an online space.

    Adam, thanks for the inquiry. I toss a lot of exceptional bloggers over onto my “Blogroll” on the right side of my blog. Some have stopped updating their blogs and it lacks some newer interesting blogs. Thanks for prodding me to update it.

  23. Linda Gojak

    May 2, 2016 - 9:34 am -

    HI Dan,

    I have to admit I am not a big blog reader, but this came to me from a friend via a email and as an NCTM past president, I read it with great interest. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and candor with these issues.

    As Matt said, many of these ideas/concerns/issues have been on the plate of the NCTM board at least since my return to the NCTM board in 2012 as president-elect (and likely earlier.) In 2000 NCTM had a membership of over 100,000 (possibly due to the publication and impact of PSSM) Also true in 2000, social media, as we know it today was in it’s infancy.

    Interestingly an extensive survey was taken back around 2011 asking members why they joined NCTM and one of the highest ranked answers was to receive one or more of the journals. I agree that time lapse between receipt and review of a manuscript and potential publication is way too long, especially in this day of instagram, facebook, twitter and blogs. And while you see the value of JRME, as a classroom teacher TCM and MTMS were my first go to’s for my own PD and continue to be for articles to share with colleagues. Recent articles of interest (13 rules that expire; Assessing basic fact fluency) and older articles (Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say) continue to inspire rich conversations in my classes and workshops. The thorough vetting process for manuscripts to be accepted for publication ensures ongoing high quality in each journal. I hope that NCTM continues to look for ways to make this process more efficient. Do I read the journals from cover to cover? Hardly…but I do look for articles of interest and, when I want information on a particular topic being able to search for journal articles online will often yield the best result from one of NCTM’s journals.

    Advocacy…I had quite an education in all that happens in NCTM under the umbrella of advocacy when I returned to the BoD. And we, as members are so unaware of all that goes on behind the scenes NCTM has to do a better job of “self-promotion” and getting information out to the public. This was something that I repeatedly requested as president. How do we know what is happening if no one tells us? Why doesn’t NCTM use facebook, twitter, etc etc to better inform its members — not only of the work of the organization but also of other important “happenings” in the world of mathematics education. I read summing up (the online newsletter) each month…but that is not enough. I want more timely information and that should be something we (and our members) can help to address immediately.

    Conferences. I have to admit, I am a conference junky! I learn, I share, I review materials in the exhibit hall, I network with old friends and make new friends and colleagues. Conferences are like a huge professional party. At the same time, my expenses to attend NCTM and NCSM in Oakland/San Francisco were over $3,000. Wow! What classroom teacher can afford to do that yearly? I love all that you, the Math Forum and others are doing to bring the conference to those who cannot attend for financial or other reasons. I am not surprised that NCTM is supporting you all in these efforts and hope to see that continue.

    I am a “seasoned” mathematics teacher..my needs are different from an early career teacher. They are different from a mid-career teacher. The needs of a mathematics education researcher are different from those of a classroom teacher. The needs of a person who works with pre-service teachers are different from someone who provides PD to current teachers. What is important is to realize that we are all in this together to help students see and appreciate the beauty of mathematics and to learn mathematics in ways that are meaningful to them. To encourage, to inspire and to hand our hopes on these kids who we and our colleagues see everyday. To be everything to everyone is a pretty tall order…even for a national organization.

    One of the things I have learned is that the biggest step members and non-members can take is to continue to have hard, challenging discussions with the board and staff of NCTM. Trust me, they are willing to listen and eager for your input. Just as students can’t sit back and wait for the “learnin’ to happen” mathematics teachers must be actively involved in the profession, whether than means a math teachers’ circle, membership in an affiliate or in NCTM, creating a blog. It’s so easy to complain and so hard to make a difference!

    Thank you for restarting this conversation publicly. I look forward to reading the ideas of others!

  24. Thanks for weighing in here, Linda. I’ve added your comment to the body of the post. Your remarks on the cost of conferencing are echoed by Dan Anderson in comment #19 above among many others I’m sure.

  25. Dan, I wonder if this represents your thoughts ala the tasty/easy fruit? (http://blog.mrmeyer.com/wp-content/uploads/080305_3.jpg via xkcd)

    http://i.imgur.com/wuNaaC8.png disclaimer: those points are extremely haphazardly placed!

    I see NCTM’s magazines as a possible way to legitimize practitioner work, but a couple things work against it:

    1. it is time intensive to prepare an article
    2. the magazine has limited space and is therefore selective.

    why should a teacher invest a lot of time in an article that may not be selected and printed? Especially when there is an easier mode of publication: blogging.

    So I think an NCTM curated blog could aim to fit in-between the magazines and public blogs. The selection process could be relaxed a little, but it would also up the quality from a run of the mill blog. Many teachers also blog about other things than math education — nothing wrong with that of course, but it gives an opportunity for an NCTMblogzone ™ to publish insightful articles, categorize them, increase readership of them.

    It could begin by selecting from existing blogs, and then could morph into a submission process.

  26. To clarify a bit more:

    I see this as opening the floodgates (a smidge) to produce 1-5 magazines worth (?!) of high quality blogposts drawing from more of the NCTM membership.

    How many NCTM members are there? How many math teachers are there in the U.S.? A lot of voices are not heard via the official NCTM publications. Open it up access little more and we’d get a tighter feeling of community as well.

    This might require some IT and server architecture investment by NCTM but the more I think about it, the more I think it has great… potential :)

  27. One thing NCTM could do is have you (say) curate a “best of the blogs” department in the journals. It would help bridge the gap, and compensate for the unwise ban on publishing materials that have been seen on the Web.

  28. Henri:

    One thing NCTM could do is have you (say) curate a “best of the blogs” department in the journals. It would help bridge the gap, and compensate for the unwise ban on publishing materials that have been seen on the Web.

    Wow do I love this idea.

  29. Dan- whoops shows what I know. But just glancing now it apparently doesn’t quite hit the mark. I see posts from one person. Nothing wrong with her, but I was envisioning many more voices perhaps enabling more community.

    Henri said it so succinctly. It can be a curation of existing great posts from current teachers. These may not be up to kinetic par with a magazine article: but there are more of them and they have more immediate potential for engagement. Pretty much exactly what you do with your “Great Classrom Action” posts. (But more of them!)

    This might also be a helpful starting place for someone who wants to read and comment on blogs but doesn’t know where to start– where to find something high quality and relevant.

  30. Henri, Dan, Scott and others,

    As an NCTM Journal Editor I am posting these questions in an effort to gather some feedback for the Editorial Panels to consider.

    Due to the time it takes to produce each journal, a “best of the blogs” department published in the journal would be subject to lag time between when the highlighted blog post is posted online and when the related department article is published. Would the time lapse undermine the intent and effectiveness of such a department? Would the lag time be acceptable?

    Scott suggested a curated blog. As Dan replied, the NCTM Journals have hosted blogs for over two years. (SHAMELESS PLUG–we would LOVE for the #MTBos community to engage in discussion on these blog posts. This is the link to the TCM blog. Note the bloggers change on a regular basis. http://www.nctm.org/tcm-blog/ )

    Each of the current journal blogs focus on a specific theme. What are your thoughts on the current themes/topics? Should the journals continue or retire the current themes? What are your thoughts on the NCTM Journals launching additional blogs? For example, a modified version of what Henri suggested as a published department where each blog post highlights other blogs/bloggers. Or, a blog that is for really good ideas that for various reasons might night be acceptable for a full length journal article. Or a blog that highlights the great things happening in classrooms. Or……what other ideas would be of interest to the #MTBos community. What is NCTM uniquely positioned to do that is not already being addressed in the blogosphere?

    Before any of you respond to this query keep in mind that NCTM is a volunteer driven organization. It is one thing to suggest that the Council launch something new–it is another to find volunteers willing to give their time and expertise to make it happen. Let NCTM know that you are willing to volunteer to serve on one of the many committees that bring great suggestions into being. http://www.nctm.org/About/President,-Board-and-Committees/Volunteer-for-a-Committee/

    Thank you in advance,

    Beth Skipper
    NCTM Journal Editor

  31. Due to the time it takes to produce each journal, a “best of the blogs” department published in the journal would be subject to lag time between when the highlighted blog post is posted online and when the related department article is published. Would the time lapse undermine the intent and effectiveness of such a department? Would the lag time be acceptable?

    Before any of you respond to this query keep in mind that NCTM is a volunteer driven organization. It is one thing to suggest that the Council launch something new–it is another to find volunteers willing to give their time and expertise to make it happen.

    Dan would have a better sense about this, but I predict it would not be difficult to find volunteers for this particular task.

    The point of “best of the blogs” would precisely be to select posts with lasting relevance: especially insightful, inspiring, controversial, or interesting for some other reason. Such posts would retain their value over a few months, they would bring the posts (and the blogs where they originated) to a new audience, and even people who saw them online would appreciate another look at them.

    Prior to publication, the authors of the posts could incorporate and respond to some of the responses they got, like Dan does.

    This would help bridge the gaps between NCTM and #MTBoS, and would benefit both.

    –Henri
    NCTM member, volunteer in various capacities over the years

  32. Hi Beth,

    I was originally thinking “best of the blogs” would be online but I can see a place in the paper journals as well — as you and Henri.

    I appreciate that NCTM is volunteer based, I do want to thank all the volunteers who have put their time in!!

    Let me define some terms for myself so I can keep them straight:
    Journal – like JRME
    Magazine – like Mathematics Teacher or Teaching Children Mathematics
    Publication Blog – like http://www.nctm.org/tcm-blog/
    Personal Blog – like blog.mrmeyer.com or http://fawnnguyen.com/

    I think I’m a fan of adding voices to that spot between the Magazines and the Personal Blogs. Publication Blogs occupy this middle ground right now from a “generalized” point of view: they offer detailed posts in a kind of reflective or idealized voice.

    How about the “immediacy” point of view? The “I just had a great lesson I’ve got to tell somebody” aspect? This can be achieved by collecting online “the best of the personal blogs”. I’d say posts don’t need to be truly immediate, within a week or month even can still be good– but the *feeling* of it I think needs to be “in the moment”

    I think these two aspects are symbiotic. “In the moment” blog posts are not going to be as well thought out or be as complete an offering as the Publication Blogs you have right now — but perhaps by interspacing in a “curated personal blog post” you can balance them out. And– this might attract a larger participatory audience to the Publication Blogs.

    I think I also like Henri’s suggestion that perhaps there is a second level of curation that makes it into the paper magazines. (I think that’s what he’s saying?) And I like his idea that the writers could respond to some of their comments to put a “2nd version” in paper publication.

  33. Hi Beth, thanks for your response. For reasons that elude me, NCTM’s blogs haven’t found a great deal of traction. For that reason, and also because the Global Math Department already publishes an online best of the blogs digest (subscribe) I don’t think NCTM has a competitive advantage there.

    My interpretation of Henri’s suggestion is that NCTM would publish a “best of the Internet” column in their journals, introducing print-based teachers to the best ideas of digital teachers and introducing the digital teachers to the best comments and suggestions from the print-based teachers.

    If that idea sounds interesting to the panels, I’m very confident we could find editors to scour the Internet and write up the digest. I’d certainly volunteer. I’m also confident the lag time wouldn’t matter to print-based readers. Seeing the post a month or two after publication is better than never seeing the post at all!

  34. Love this conversation and spirit. I think we’d need to have an intermediate webpage where NCTM hosts the links to the best of blogs. Write a lovely column in prose summarizing the blogs and why they should go read them right now, but direct everybody to a single website where the links are collected. Otherwise you’d have URL alphabet soup in your printed column. And QR codes are too ugly.

  35. A number of years ago “News from the Net” was a regular department of Teaching Children Mathematics that featured web sites that were “potentially useful for elementary mathematics teachers in teaching mathematics content, connecting with the community, and furthering professional development opportunities.” This is a link to one example of the type of articles that ran in the department http://www.nctm.org/Publications/teaching-children-mathematics/2004/Vol10/Issue7/News-from-the-Net_-Thinking-Geometrically_-Totally-Tessellated/ If such a department were to revived and expanded to highlight blogs might it meet the need that has been discussed here? Why or why not?

    Beth

  36. Interesting. Beth, it looks like “News from the Net” was more focused on resources than blogs, correct? That would be a big difference.

  37. Tracy, yes, “News from the Net” was focused on resources not blogs. (Did blogs even exist in the late 90’s?) A similar department/column published today could be devoted to blogs or review both blogs and other web-based resources.

    I should have been more specific with my question…would a similar one-page format with a general description of the blog with, perhaps, a brief summary of some of the entries begin to meet the need detailed in the previous comments here? By that I mean serve as a bridge between the printed journal(s) and the blogosphere?

  38. Beth: a one-page summary would be better than nothing, but I’d much rather see a full blog post, selected by a department editor and massaged by the original author into something suitable for the print journals. In part, that could include incorporating and addressing the responses. The department editor would have to be someone like Dan, who stays on top of the blogs. They would pick one significant piece a month for each journal.

    That’s the best way to bridge that gap: I could see myself reading such a piece in The Mathematics Teacher and checking out that blog (which will have in the meantime accumulated more content.)

    As far as links to blogs and other Web resources, I agree with Tracy: that should be an online feature. If I saw a bunch of annotated links, I would almost certainly just turn the page.

  39. This is where my ears perk up because, as an editor, I see a real difference between blogs and print. I think a lot of bloggers don’t see that difference, but it’s an important one. So the question of how much “massaging” to do would come up if the journals started printing blogs. We’re not talking a quick shoulder rub. It’s more of the deep tissue Swedish stuff.

    Not to mention the legal and logistical issues of permission slips for student work and images and the requirement of higher quality/resolution photos, etc.

    Given all that, I think a more realistic option is a summary, GMD-style, of a handful of really strong blogs from the last month. Give enough info for the reader to want to go check it out for herself. Isn’t that the point? To get the print readers online and the online people more feedback? If we print the blogs, then the print readers only read the magazine because it’s right there for them. I want to tease enough to get some percentage to actually go read the blog, which will hopefully lead to more links and blogs and archives and such. And readers would feel like NCTM was helping them by curating high quality stuff.

  40. Tracy,

    Remind me please, what is “GMD.”

    Also, explain what you mean by the journals giving GMD a column.

  41. No worries! I knew I had seen it before. Thank you for the reminder.

    Wow! This is a treasure trove of information. I will certainly pass this along to the Editorial Panels as something to be considered.

  42. Obviously this conversation needs to continue among the NCTM editors and board, but I can’t resist adding a couple of personal anecdotes here, to show that the gap between blog posts and articles is not necessarily an abyss.

    A few years ago, after posting something on my blog, I was contacted by the editor of the Mathematics Teacher who asked me to expand it for publication as a SoundOff. It was not hard to do: I lengthened it and added figures, and it was published.

    This year, I thought I would adapt something from my Web site for SoundOff. I expanded it a little, and submitted it. The response was that this was *exactly* the sort of thing they were looking for, in both form and content, but they could not use it, because it was too close to the original, which was freely available on the Web.

    To me this says that in at least some cases, (the ones our Best of the Blogs editor would pick,) the transition is absolutely possible. In my first experience, the massaging was successful. In my second experience, the ONLY objection given was that most of it had appeared on the Web, which of course would not be an issue.

  43. Hey, Beth! I’m Michael Pershan, one of the leaders of the Global Math Department. Feel free to reach out if you or the other editors want to talk about some sort of collaboration.

    As long as I’m here, let me chime in to say that I agree with Tracy: blog posts don’t usually easily travel to print. I’m not even sure how I’d feel about a blog-digest column in print. I think hyperlinks are an important part of reading the sort of blog-digests that we at GMD write. I have a hard time imagining a similar blog digest in print, though maybe that’s just saying something about my imagination.

    To answer the bigger question — what do blogs provide that the NCTM journals don’t? — it’s easy to focus on the medium, rather than the content. But I think the main lessons from the world of blogs is about the type of reading and writing that teachers are (can be?) interested in. Here are some claims, for consideration and debate:

    1. Personality matters. Part of the joy of following a blog is watching a single individual’s ideas and teaching change over time. We learn to develop a taste for certain writers, a distaste for others. That’s good. I think it would be a good thing to give individuals columns in the NCTM journals.

    2. Curriculum-sharing matters. So many blog posts are little more than a narrative description of how a lesson went, along with links to the lesson resources. The NCTM journals are doing that, and should continue to do that.

    3. There is an audience for a wide variety of writing about teaching math. A list of wildly popular blog posts would include commentary, classroom anecdotes, policy opinions, lesson ideas, classroom management moves, etc. I think the NCTM journals would be a more vibrant place if they published a wider variety of content.

    4. When readers react in writing to people’s ideas it is a healthy sign for a community and engaging to read and write. For example: these comments! I would love to see NCTM journals publish pieces that are debatable, and then invite people to write and publish responses, either in paper or online.

    In sum: teachers will read a wide variety of material from writers they have a relationship with, and that relationship can be entirely a reader/writer relationship.

    As an aside, I would love if the submission process was more like pitching a piece to an editor. I’d love to get in touch with an editor, pitch an idea for a piece, offer a drafty sample, get feedback, and then resubmit the piece for editorial consideration. I shouldn’t have to write a full piece before getting in touch with editors about it, I feel.

  44. For reasons that elude me, NCTM’s blogs haven’t found a great deal of traction.

    Group blogs, as a rule, don’t work on today’s internet. The web we currently have, it seems to me, is designed for following people, not publications. Group twitter accounts have a rough time too.

  45. One more thought: we could make a lot of progress towards the goal of bridging the gap between the online world and the journals with a simple policy change:

    The journals should consider for publication articles that have previously appeared on the Web, either on blogs or Web sites.

    That would allow the journals to keep doing what they do well. It would bring worthwhile materials to a broader or at least different audience. It would encourage the authors to revise their posts towards a more permanent audience. It would require no additional volunteers.

    Is this too simple and straightforward to pass muster?