Let’s Retire #MTBoS [as an INTRODUCTION to Math Teacher Twitter]

2017 Jul 31. I have apologized directly to a number of people for aspects of this post. Among others, I apologized to the organizers of Twitter Math Camp (including Lisa Henry, Mary Bourassa, Tina Cardone, James Cleveland, Daniel Forrester, Megan Hayes-Golding, Cortni Muir, Jami Packer, Sam Shah, Glenn Waddell) for posting it during their camp weekend and distracting even a bit from their efforts. Loads of other people stepped up in unofficial, totally voluntary ways to make TMC an awesome, inviting time, and I regret however much I spoiled their efforts.

This community has also been built and nurtured by hundreds of people in thousands of big and small ways – from huge initiatives like Twitter Math Camp, ExploreMTBoS, and Global Math Department, down to folks who watch out for new Twitter users and say “howdy.” This post wasn’t and isn’t meant to critique any of those efforts, but I realize that it came across that way, and that was wrong of me. Precisely because there are thousands of those efforts, I can’t reach out and apologize to each of you individually for dismissing them, so please accept my apology here. Keep on making this place awesome.

Whatever else you think of this post, the people who have commented on it and whose tweets I’ve excerpted below are real people who have found our name alienating. (Not the community. The name itself.) That’s a problem that countless people in the last few days have told me isn’t worth tackling, or one that pales in comparison to other problems. I respect that opinion. I’d like to work on it anyway, and also work on the other problems. But rather than use my platform here to set a unilateral course, I should have found out who is already doing that work and found out how I could help. I’m generally skeptical of leaders and I’ve never been particularly eager to be one, but that isn’t any excuse for setting a bad example. If you’re doing that work, and if I can help or collaborate, please let me know in the comments or at dan@mrmeyer.com.

2017 Jul 28. Thanks to everyone who helped me think this through, especially the ones who did so in spite of being annoyed and hurt. Much love to you all, and to this place. My current plan is to introduce teachers to Math Teacher Twitter by inviting them to attach “#iteachmath” to a tweet, a tag that is intuitive, pronounceable, and importantly, a declarative statement. Meanwhile, “#MTBoS” has less certain pronunciation and, for newcomers, it has been unintuitive and felt a bit like you’re inviting yourself into a secret club. (Seriously, don’t trust me on this. Read the dozens of tweets and comments I’ve excerpted below.) I hope that the thousands of people who find community around “#MTBoS” will continue to enjoy it! But I’m hopeful that “#iteachmath” will be a better invitation for the hundreds of thousands of math teachers who don’t yet know how great we have it.

The original post follows.

——

I’m not asking us to retire the #MTBoS (unabbreviated: the Math Twitterblogosphere) the collection of people, ideas, and relationships that has provided the most satisfying professional development and community of my life.

I’m asking us to stop referring to it as “the MTBoS” and to stop using the hashtag “#MTBoS” in online conversations.

That’s because this community is only as good as the people we invite into it. We currently represent only the tiniest fraction of the math teachers in the world, which means we (and I’d like to believe they also) are missing out.

That fraction will stay tiny so long as our name alienates people. And it alienates people.

People don’t know how to pronounce our name. Whenever I use it, I get tweets back asking me what I’m talking about. Whenever I invite new teachers to get on Twitter and search for “#MTBoS,” their confusion is plain at that seemingly random assortment of vowels and consonants, capitalized in seemingly random ways.

This morning I read a tweet from a science teacher named Andrew Morrison. I learned from Andrew that the physics teaching community hashtags their work “#iteachphysics.” I felt such a sense of invitation when I read that hashtag – “This is who we are and what we do. You should join us.” And then I felt envy.

We should be so inviting.

This community of ours has no leader. It has no high council. Each one of us has to be the change we want to see in it. I want to see a more inviting community, a community that doesn’t shroud its entrance behind a hedge or protect its door with a password.

So I’m going to stop referring to my participation in “the MTBoS” and instead talk about how much I love “Math Teacher Twitter.” I’m going to stop tweeting using “#MTBoS” and instead tweet using “#iteachmath.”

No one has to join me, and I absolutely won’t be offended if you don’t, but I hope you will, and I hope you at least understand why I’m doing this. I think this change is necessary for our growth and this is how I’ll try to be that change.

Reservations That I Had About This Proposal That I Don’t Anymore

“#iteachmath” is five more characters than “#MTBoS. That’s five fewer characters for my tweets!”

I accept that those five characters are the cost of a more inviting community.

Twitter users outside the United States will want to use “#iteachmaths.”

The MTBoS has a very, very tiny handful of community members outside the United States as it is. I think we can only improve from here. Me, I’m going to add both “#iteachmaths” and “#iteachmath” to the same column in Tweetdeck.

“MTBoS” includes blogs (the “B”) but “Math Teacher Twitter” just refers to Twitter.

“MTBoS” also fails to refer to Slack, Voxer, or any of the other ways teachers collaborate online. “Math Teacher Twitter” hints at all those ways. It doesn’t try to catalog them.

But I’m a coach / consultant / curriculum author / administrator. I don’t teach math so I’ll feel weird using “#iteachmath”.

Let’s not treat this hashtag like it’s a sworn statement in a court of law. It’s an invitation. It’s how we’ll gather community around a conversation. It doesn’t need to serve any higher purpose than that, and I think it’ll serve that purpose better than anything we have right now.

Featured Tweets

Justin’s tweet seems really, really important to me. Consider the perceived requirements for membership in the #MTBoS vs. #iteachmath.

#MTBoS: who knows, but a blood sample and credit verification is probably part of it.

#iteachmath: it’s right there in the hashtag. That’s it. No guessing. You’re invited.

Via direct message:

I always felt a little worried or unsure about joining the community and when it was ok to tweet #mtbos.

Also via direct message:

I actually had to look up the #MTBoS. I am not a member and not sure I am a blogger. I do have a question for the group. May I ask a question with the hashtag without the membership? Thank you!

And on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

Featured Comments

Angel Martinez:

I joined the community of online teachers this last year and attended the national conference. MTBoS felt like a secret society that I wished to be a part of but didn’t know how to get in.

Cathy Yenca:

… my honest-to-goodness first thought about being invited was, “Am I ‘in’ the #MTBoS ‘enough’ to speak about it with these other mathies who seem to be ‘in’ it ‘more’?

kimberley:

This makes me happy. For months when I first discovered #MTBoS, I had no idea what it stood for and felt so left out! And then I had no idea how to talk about it to others. (And usually resorted to “it’s basically math teacher twitter.”)

Diane:

100% agree…I (found) find #MTBoS “clickish…and therefore offputting…even if/though that isn’t (wasn’t) the intent, it has (had) a mysterious and exclusive feel which made me, a 30 year teacher, feel “out of the loop”

Beth Baker:

Thank you, I’m on board! #MTBoS confuses me and I even know what it stands for.

2017 Jul 28.

This proposal made the rounds among the veterans of, let me try this out, Math Teacher Twitter, and they largely aren’t buying it. No hard feelings on my end. This project has become sharper with feedback from the community.

Here are the four most common responses.

We are inviting, in particular at Twitter Math Camp.

I have no doubt that everyone at Twitter Math Camp who comes within forty feet of Julie or the other organizers will feel warm and welcomed. But TMC hosts only a few hundred math teachers out of millions. What is the best way to invite people into this community who have never sent a tweet? Or who have only watched other people tweet? Too many people find our current approach alienating. Check the featured tweets and featured comments above for a sample. If they bother you, what solutions are you thinking about?

This is their problem, not ours.

If the alienated people in the featured tweets and comments above don’t burden you, or if you think their lack of comprehension at our hashtag and how to use it is their own problem, don’t let this proposal weigh on you for a second more. And don’t feel any guilt from me about it. This is my project, which doesn’t mean it has to be yours.

This won’t fix everything.

Using a different hashtag won’t make everything great. Totally true. I think it’s a necessary step, and an important one since it’s our figurative front door, but it’s insufficient. How can we sufficiently welcome teachers to professional community online? I don’t know, but I’m enjoying that conversation also.

I won’t use #iteachmath because I don’t teach math.

I’ve already addressed this above, but it’s possible that #iteachmath isn’t ever going to feel right for folks who aren’t practicing classroom teachers. That makes a lot of sense to me. I have may have chosen the wrong hashtag for these efforts, but that doesn’t change the reality of all the alienated teachers in the featured tweets and featured comments above. If they weigh on you as they do on me, let me know the solutions you’re thinking about.

I’m not sure if it’ll surprise you to find out that the people most enthusiastic about this proposal have been a) classroom teachers, and b) total strangers to me online. Very few people whose names I recognized. These are people whose ideas may nourish us, people who may need our nourishment also.

So here’s a new proposal: let’s treat “#iteachmath” as the welcoming lobby for new Twitter teachers. When I meet new teachers at conferences or in professional development, I want to recommend they post an idea or a question to a hashtag they’ll find intuitive and inviting. From there, perhaps a bit more emboldened, I hope they’ll venture out towards any number of our other hashtags and communities.

2017 Jul 29. Harry O’Malley has written up a really interesting proposal extending these ideas.

2017 Aug 7. Interesting to see medium-sized groups of educators with fewer than 30 combined tweets and followers popping up on the #iteachmath hashtag. See: Algebra for All; #NCLargeMath

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.

63 Comments

  1. Angel Martinez

    July 27, 2017 - 3:10 pm -
    Reply

    Featured Comment

    I must say Dan, I would agree I joined the community of online teachers this last year and attended the national conference, MTBoS felt like a secret society that I wished to be a part of but didn’t know how to get in.
  2. Reply

    I did a qualitative study of the participants at TMC16. The only commonality that stood out to me was that members tended to have self-identified niches or talents. People with same and complementary niches and talents tend to bond. Once people have bonded,they may sense it’s a little risky to include others. I applaud all those associated with MTBoS who choose to take those risks. To feel included, I suspect it is simply a matter of discovering and bonding with others who have similar pursuits.

  3. Reply

    Spot. On.

    While I have a certain allegiance to “#MTBoS” now, that wasn’t always the case.

    Take the day I was invited to share at an NCTM Regionals mini-keynote-a-thon opening session about the #MTBoS… when I saw the names of the other folks who would be sharing brief talks about this math community, my honest-to-goodness first thought about being invited was… am I “in” the #MTBoS “enough” to speak about it amongst these other mathies who seem to be “in” it… “more”…?

    Featured Comment

    An invisible measuring stick was my first reaction, rather than, how awesome! I get to bring more folks along on this journey! This is no one’s “fault… it was my brain’s interpretation… which is why I think a new hashtag might help others who have an invisible measuring stick to put that thing away.

    Through this community, I have gotten to know so many folks whose work I respect and whose brains I love. I think a more inclusive hashtag will help those who are curious to know that this community is for you and is about you! Period!

  4. Reply

    Featured Comment

    this makes me happy. for MONTHS when i first discovered mtbos, i had NO idea what it stood for and felt so left out! and then i had no idea how to talk about it to others (and usually resorted to “it’s basically math teacher twitter”)
    good call!
  5. Reply

    I revised this comment three times in my head but where I’m stuck at is “Meh”?

    The MTBoS means a lot to a lot of people if you just start using #iteachmath no one is going to unfollow you cause you are Dan. But I think the call to retire is unnecessary and maybe even a little thoughtless to the people who put a crapload of work in to it.

    From,
    A person who literally hasn’t tweeted about math is years but still belongs to the community

    • I am shy, and don’t believe in giants. I belong to #MTBoS because I choose to belong. One doesn’t negate the other. We are a community that doesn’t discriminate nor do we have an exclusive offer or barrier to entry. Put on your big boy panties. Explaining is an invitation to a conversation.

    • Anne Schwartz:

      I revised this comment three times in my head but where I’m stuck at is “Meh”?

      I quoted a handful of people in the featured tweets and comments above who have said they found the #MTBoS [the hashtag, not the community –dm] to be alienating, incomprehensible, and exclusive. That bothers me so I’ve made this my project. If it doesn’t bother someone else, I’m not asking for them to make it their project.

      Good to see you again, though!

    • Amy Zimmer:

      We are a community that doesn’t discriminate nor do we have an exclusive offer or barrier to entry. Put on your big boy panties. Explaining is an invitation to a conversation.

      I’m sorry, but I really can’t imagine saying any of this to the people feeling alienated and excluded above.

  6. Reply

    Perhaps a little irony in the leap is a move to a new hashtag alienates those who were following the old one. News will spread eventually but those who spend more time/attention are literally moving away from everyone else.

    The goal is to be more inclusive, and you raise good points on how the actual label of MTBoS works against that and is bad in the long run. However, this hashtag-change literally moves the most involved in-crowd to a new space, (temporarily) abandoning those who won’t get the news as fast. Then, by the nature of twitter, if they’re not following the right people/hashtag, they’re left out.

    Perhaps a necessary short-term cost for long-term gain?

  7. Reply

    Featured Comment

    100% agree…I (found) find #MTBoS “clickish…and therefore offputting…even if/though that isn’t (wasn’t) the intent, it has (had) a mysterious and exclusive feel which made me, a 30 year teacher, feel “out of the loop”.
  8. Reply

    My knee-jerk reaction to this idea is filled with trepidation. How long until the #iteachmath feels clique-ish, exclusive, and all the things that the #mtbos has come to be in the eyes of many twitter users? There are over 270 math teacher blogs on the search engine (fishing4tech.com/mtbos) and currently 605 people who have self-identified with the #mtbos in the informal directory (bit.ly/mtbosdirectory).

    To me, the hashtag will not have long-term effect on inclusivity; it’s up to the people who are coming to the tag and participating, lurking, or randomly stumbling onto it and pondering its usefulness. The #mtbos had an added scapegoat in that it was (and is) a clumsy abbreviation, but I have seen that the real hesitation surrounding the tag is how to join in, at what level one feels that they belong, and how to contribute.

    Rather than re-working a hashtag and starting anew, I would propose that we spend more time around making the space feel inclusive, all while continuing to foster the relationships that have been established /because of/ that silly little abbreviation.

    • To me, the hashtag will not have long-term effect on inclusivity; it’s up to the people who are coming to the tag and participating, lurking, or randomly stumbling onto it and pondering its usefulness.

      We don’t obscure fire extinguishers and hope people randomly stumble onto them. We put them as plainly in sight as we can. I want to do the same here.

      Rather than re-working a hashtag and starting anew, I would propose that we spend more time around making the space feel inclusive …

      I like it, but I want to do both. Both efforts matter and we can work on both in parallel.

    • “Rather than re-working a hashtag and starting anew, I would propose that we spend more time around making the space feel inclusive…”

      I came to say this.

  9. Reply

    Whaaaaat? ?? Change #MTBoS? ??? I have been on twitter for just over a year and I have only just recently (ie. In the last few weeks) started thinking I’ve got to start using this hash tag and make more if an effort to join in on and participate in this “community’ I am just beginning to know and understand. .. heck, truly,the more I hear about #MTBoS the I want to be a part if it… heck! Surely I would have participated a year ago had I known what it meant! (Seiously) Don’t go changin. .. oh wait… yeah, I see your point now. True story.

  10. Reply

    There’s a lot of good in this post. Despite your efforts, it doesn’t seem to me you’re going to change what this community calls itself, but I think you are succeeding in getting many, many people to reaffirm a basic commitment to inclusivity. That’s a norm worth reaffirming. Kudos, for real.

    I have two contributions to this discussion.

    You often call out people for “telling others how to use the internet,” or “telling others how to mtbos.” On your blog, you’ve critiqued people for musing about the best or most appropriate direction for the iteachmath community to head towards. I’ve heard this from you when I’ve talked about the writing I most like to read, or if I’ve talked about things I wish were present in the community.

    I’m not big on rules. From my point of view, there’s nothing procedurally wrong with this post. But I think that if you’re in the business of telling a community what to call itself, you should probably also be OK with people talking about what they like/don’t like about what’s going on in said community. Because, along with everything else in this post, you absolutely are telling people how to use their internet.

    The second point is about scale. A common assumption in edtech, edu research, publishing, etc. is that if it’s good, you’ve got to scale it. An author I like, writing about ethics, once called this a “maximizing rationality.” I like that phrase. If something is good, it’s best to have as much of it as you can. If it’s great, everyone should have it.

    I sometimes think that a rejection of scale is an important part of a classroom teacher’s perspective. It’s hard to justify a concern for scale while remaining in the classroom. If I have a good idea, shouldn’t I try to spread that idea as widely as possible? That’s a line of thinking that leads straight out of the k-12 school door.

    This is a long way of saying that inclusivity isn’t the same as scale. On twitter I saw you distinguishing between getting people in the door vs. greeting them once they’re inside. I like that.

    Some good things are better when they’re scaled, and others aren’t. I don’t know what would happen if we tried to self-consciously optimize the iteachmath community for further scale. (And it seems to me that this is precisely what you’re calling for, implicitly and maybe explicitly.) Maybe it would mean more math teachers being happy and included. Maybe it would lead to splintering and confusion. Honestly, I don’t know, and I don’t know how to think about this.

    Me, I’m suspicious of jumps to scale. I think that, especially with an organic community, it’s best not to push size too fast. Norms get lost, character is swallowed up, people get frustrated. It would be an interesting conversation to have, but it’s one that would be very similar to chats that you’ve called out and critiqued in the past, on the grounds that it’s telling people what to do.

    Ultimately, though, there’s a lot that I admire here. And not just what’s here, but what you’ve posted in the past to reaffirm the importance of inclusivity in these spaces.

    • Michael:

      You often call out people for “telling others how to use the internet,” or “telling others how to mtbos.” On your blog, you’ve critiqued people for musing about the best or most appropriate direction for the iteachmath community to head towards. I’ve heard this from you when I’ve talked about the writing I most like to read, or if I’ve talked about things I wish were present in the community.

      My goal has been to speak prescriptively towards myself and speak descriptively about the nature of online communication. I understand that a) I’m not always great at splitting that difference and b) even when I split it, the distinction is lost on most people – notably you here.

      I’m not saying people shouldn’t talk about their wishes for this community. I’m saying I don’t think talking about wishes, and especially trying to guilt and coerce people into satisfying them, works half as well as doing that thing and making it look fun, being the change, etc.

      (Cue a zillion people telling me I’m guilting and coercing people on this #iteachmath idea. That’s the soft power of having the most followers on math teacher twitter, power I obviously don’t understand, not anything explicit in this post. See: “I absolutely won’t be offended … ” etc.)

      You like teacher writing. You aren’t griping about how teachers don’t write longform anymore. You’re doing it yourself, and making a positive case for it. Awesome. Prescriptively, I have nothing to say, because you aren’t me. Descriptively, that approach sounds like the only way that anything gets done around here.

    • I’m not saying people shouldn’t talk about their wishes for this community. I’m saying I don’t think talking about wishes, and especially trying to guilt and coerce people into satisfying them, works half as well as doing that thing and making it look fun, being the change, etc.

      I don’t know if my shtick is welcome here, but I think your theory of communal change was sort of tested here and was found wanting. But there’s something very true about your idea, and I think I have an idea about how to make sense of it all.

      You are absolutely right, I think, that very often the best way forward is individual trailblazing. There are serious emotional risks involved in doing something new in public. It can be awfully embarrassing to put yourself out there and feel as if you’ve failed. But an individual who takes that risk, makes the thing work, and shows that it’s fun and that other people like it too, can make it safe for other people to try this idea. In this way, you can influence a community. This is what you’ve done time and again in this community; it’s what Christopher Danielson did with Talking Math With Your Kids; it’s sort of what you helped me do with MathMistakes.org.

      But this only works for exploring new space. When you’re trying to change what people are already doing then your “trailblazer” model runs into trouble. Here it’s not enough to make it safe for people to do something new; you also have to reckon with what people are currently doing. In a community, that involves the hard work of conversations, listening and working collectively.

      That’s what happened here, I think. You tried to apply a trailblazer approach to existing communal space. It was bound to raise emotions, even if you had made this an entirely personal effort, without calling for others to change their actions.

      (Not just the post title and your influence; to me “I’m asking us to stop referring to it as “the MTBoS”” is exactly what you call “talking about wishes.” You’re clearly asking other people to change what they’re doing. If you’re splitting a hair between asking other people to change and “talking about wishes”…I don’t get it. Is the idea you’re allowed to ask other people to change as long as you’ve personally put your money where your mouth is?)

      And, by the way, I take issue with the dismissive way you describe discussing the community — “talking about wishes” or “griping” or “guilting or coercing.” There is no room in this taxonomy for productive conversation about the community that isn’t simply explaining why you’ve done what you’ve already done.

      Well, I think conversation can be productive. First, because when you’re trying to figure out whether to blaze a trail, it can be helpful to figure out if anybody is going to support you in it, because trailblazing is scary for a lot of people. I’m a guy that, for all his many flaws, regularly tries new things. It’s terrifying. Sometimes I want to test ideas in public before putting myself out there — yeah, like my longform stuff.

      Conversation is also useful (and not griping/guilting/telling) when we’re trying to change existing communal actions that are resistant to trailblazing. I imagine a conversation about whether to introduce an intro-level hashtag might have made it a whole lot easier for the community to accept this whole business.

      Again, apologies if my shtick is misplaced here. I clearly have issues with communication myself, so take all of the above as (per the usual) tentative, and with a grain of salt.

    • But this only works for exploring new space. When you’re trying to change what people are already doing then your “trailblazer” model runs into trouble.

      This is interesting and I need to think about it some more. First reaction is that “here’s what I’m going to do, you can too if you want” implicitly comes off like you’re trying to change other people, and if the person has higher status than you in the community, it is implicit coercion. I need to protect against that in the present and future.

      And, by the way, I take issue with the dismissive way you describe discussing the community — “talking about wishes” or “griping” or “guilting or coercing.” There is no room in this taxonomy for productive conversation about the community that isn’t simply explaining why you’ve done what you’ve already done.

      Yeah, this makes sense now.

  11. Steve Gnagni

    July 28, 2017 - 1:43 am -
    Reply

    Honestly, a lot of us in the international scene don’t use #mtbos and instead prefer hashtags like #mathschat or #pedagoofriday. I always forget to add these to my tweets, and I believe in the end you follow who you want to follow, learn about others through their retweets, and make your own community here. Just my two Euro cents. :)

  12. Reply

    What are your thoughts on the following norms of the #MTBoS community? As an elementary teacher I follow across many different disciplines and, hands down, the big names in #MTBoS are the most selective about who they will follow. I think this has been good for the hashtag– shared vision and norms are easier to develop and follow through on in a small, tight-knit community. The resulting discussions and instructional shifts have had a significant impact on the way a lot of people teach math. But, it also contributes to people feeling left out. In particular I think about this when someone in #MTBoS laments the lack of elementary teacher representation. High profile people on #MTBoS are unlikely to follow elementary teachers because our feeds are not math focused enough. If you want to learn about math in our classrooms you have to be willing to read the tweets about literacy, science, and social studies too.

    I need to think a lot more about this.

    Elementary math coaches get followed, but classroom teachers are underrepresented. If you want #MTBoS to be more inclusive, do the following norms need to change too?
    • I’ve been thinking about your comment for a couple of days, and can’t figure out what to say. It’s very interesting and more than a little troubling.

  13. Rosa Serratore

    July 28, 2017 - 6:30 am -
    Reply

    Love this sunny outlook on our community.

    With 52.5k followers Dan, your words and thoughts definitely have an audience! You can’t possibly recognize all contributors when they do participate in a thread. I know a number of math folks who simply prefer to lurk on twitter and others who simply don’t understand the medium and its potential as a learning community and don’t care to have one more thing to keep track of in their life. My issue with MTBoS is Blogger. I think for some it may seem that your true ticket in is also being a blogger with lots to say. So, I’m not sure if it’s the hashtag name or understanding twitter that’s the true problem. I follow people and threads of discussion; it’s not the hashtag that brings me into the community to learn what’s going on and being thought. I do, however, love, use, and value conference and chat hashtags! So to me the solution is more work on explaining twitter anytime educators come together and to do so in a variety of ways. #CheersToTwitterMathCommunity
  14. Reply

    Great discussion/issue. I have been a “member” for some time but as a non-blogger have wondered whether it was legit. Love the community and have grown from the input of many. I find it hard to convince colleagues of the incredible value found in the “MTBoS” group as the acronym does coma across as exclusive…

    • I hadn’t predicted that people would feel this way about the “B” in #MTBoS. Really interesting and somewhat troubling. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Reply

    Featured Comment

    I’m relatively new to #mtbos, despite teaching math around the world dor 15 years. When I am with other math teachers who haven’t heard of it (happened a lot this week @summitps conference) , I have a hard time remembering it, and I’m sure new folks do, too. If the goal is to broaden the community, #iheartmath, #iteachmath seem to make a lot of sense.
  16. Jamalee Stone

    July 28, 2017 - 10:26 am -
    Reply

    #iheartmath above “iteachmath…or perhaps #helpingpeoplediscovermath (or learn). Just because a person teaches something does not mean someone else learned it. Ah semantics. :)

  17. Reply

    Wow, interesting stuff going on during my summer twitter break! My first reaction reading this was “dayum…way to ruffle some feathers, Dan.” My second reaction was that what you’re saying definitely makes some sense…but my thoughts took me beyond just the name of the online community to the fact that there’s a “community” at all. I guess I feel that the *community* should be all people online who care about math education and the *hash tag* should just be the way we categorize our comments on twitter, facebook, instagram, etc… By saying “this is an online community” it automatically makes it something you have to become a part of…and it doesn’t matter how inclusive a group thinks they are…there will always be those that feel they never belong.

    I know I’ve said I’m a member of #mtbos before and I probably believe it to some extent, but ultimately I’ve just treated the hashtag as what it is…an categorizing tool. I think if the hash tag were something that didn’t indicate a group of people but something anyone can use, then more people would use it. I don’t know if #iteachmath is the best…but I do feel it would be more conducive to the way I tweet about math than #mtbos.

    That being said, I’ll still continue using #mtbos but I’ll definitely see where the new hashtag goes.

  18. Reply

    I always thought #MTBoS was just a way to connect with other math bloggers. I think it still can be. I think #iteachmath is also cool and applies to a bigger group of teachers and isn’t about having to blog. I’ll probably use both. What about #iUseDesmos ?!?

  19. Reply

    I fall into the category of being uncomfortable using #iteachmath since I’m not a professional classroom teacher and it feels presumptuous. I also don’t love having the hashtags split into 3 or more different ones to scan to just find the interesting things to read.

    Which brings me to my first thought, “Why not #mathchat”? Its already there, being used and even more “twitterish”. Its actually the tag I first found when I joined. Right now its also has a bunch of spam, but if you want to be inclusive and inviting why not post there and create connections?

    I think there are also some fundamental issues with any kind of real expansion that make it very hard. As a thought experiment, imagine a hashtag with 10,000’s of users where new posts were being generated every minute instead of every 10-30 minutes. I think keeping up
    and forging connections would be much harder. My feeling is that #mtbos has already reached this point. The phenomena multiple people have described of not belonging and not getting responses to me is explained as follows. The “core” people have all followed each other and formed a network. When they interact with twitter they’re looking at the people they follow rather than generic tag much more often. The tag has spawned a smaller network that has become semi-separate. And this isn’t anyone’s fault. You can’t really maintain a friendship/relation with more than a smallish number of folks. For most people this becomes unsustainable in the 100’s. I’d expect this process to occur anywhere the group size reaches a certain tipping point.

    The flip side of scaling is something alluded to earlier when discussing mathchat. Any larger tag will eventually attract more commercialized attention. If #iteachmath really took off, I’d expect all the spam in #mathchat to eventually migrate there as well.

    All of which is to say, I’m hoping any push doesn’t make it even harder to connect.

  20. Reply

    So many good points in each of these responses, and I’ve posted my own on Twitter. But here goes my take on the chatter the last few weeks.

    1. Concerns about MTBOS used as means of promoting products: I’d rather buy something from someone I’ve heard speak and/or read their thoughts than some unknown. We buy stuff. We buy stuff from large corporations, we buy at conferences, we buy. If it’s not quality, HOPEFULLY that word will get out too. If someone ONLY uses MTBOS to promote their products, that’s pretty obvious. Buy or don’t buy. Follow or don’t follow.

    2. NCTM unofficially “supporting” MTBOS community. They’d be stupid not to. Most MTBOS members, I’ll lay odds, ARE members of NCTM. These are the voices that aren’t shared at board meetings, etc. If MTBOS peeps are active members, and I know what their pedagogy is because I’ve been keeping up with them, I’m happy to have their voice represent mine. NCTM is changing and has to change…just like every other organization. The ability to communicate now is not what it was 30 years ago.

    3. Feeling excluded. It’s a thing. But, honestly, I’d love for some social scientist to do textual analysis of all the tweets/comments. What it feels like, to me, is that people feel alienated. Whether or not it’s explicitly because of the hashtag will take some unpacking. When I first saw this I had no idea what it meant. I thought it was some formal company. So I searched. Then I thought, “That is the most awesome weird name and I’m going to be a part.”

    How did I become a part? Not easy because I am seriously socially inept. Or, rather, I HATE TO TALK TO PEOPLE I DON’T KNOW. But once I “know” you…I don’t shut up. So…I just started reading tweets by using Tweetdeck column for MTBOS (Benjamin’s same thoughts). The hashtag for me was an organized way to find tweets I knew I’d be interested in. Initially, I didn’t tweet anything original. I didn’t really know what my voice would be. But that was same when I came to twitter for all hashtags. So I retweeted lots and I “liked” lots. That’s the feedback some are saying they didn’t get. Still…when I went to conferences (e.g. CMC-North and NCTM) I didn’t attend the game nights and I didn’t introduce myself to speakers. It felt weird: Hi, I’m Rene. I follow you. And…it didn’t matter. I still got to hear great talks and conversation! I used that in my classroom and shared with my colleagues!

    Did MTBOS exclude me. No. I could have gone to game night. Well, let’s say I did and no one noticed me or reached out to me. Is it reasonable to assume someone should. I mean, of all the people in the room, how does any one person know who knows the others. Ok…maybe if you see someone sort of standing around all alone…that would be a big clue. Go talk to them!

    4. Some math people know, or can look up, the Pareto distribution. It’s practically a natural law. There will be people who “rise to the top” whatever that means. That’s the point…what is “the top” – blogging, guest speaker, product creating, publishing…how about getting people to follow MTBOS, that’s a pretty important role because with out all the followers, where would the influence be…NCTM certainly would to take notice. There wouldn’t be ad hoc conferences where people who are passionate about math and teaching can collaborate. I’m not pushing a doctrine here, but the New Testament has some good psychology on this point:

    The body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?”

    I think in today’s society many of us suffer from “imposter syndrome” – I do…and I’m working hard to change that cognitive distortion…and it isn’t easy. I mean, every single day, multiple times a day! So…I’m trying to ask myself, “How do I know so and so ignored me on purpose…out of malice?” Maybe they are so stinking busy they didn’t have time to read 10K tweets. I’m trying to look through the lens of benefit of the doubt. Plus…have I been mindful to reply to others. Maybe people are like me and scroll through the tweets and blogs and just get caught up in the thoughts and don’t think about writing.

    Having said all that…can we make it a norm not to use the word “lurker” – it’s creepy. It makes it seem like the person who is “just” reading doesn’t really have any other role than to stand by in some dark corner like a pervert. If you are reading, and you keep reading, you are growing…that takes energy and action…so therefore you are part of the body! My inner ear is part of my body…and when it’s infected, I lose my balance. So listening is important to the body…it helps maintain balance…because when somethings not balance, it’s the inner ear’s job to let the body know. When I read something that is just not exactly right…I’m now feel more comfortable commenting. I SHOULD comment. If it’s not right…we can’t leave it out there in the air. Likewise, if something is right, the inner ear sends out signals that all is well. So, I’ll be better about “liking” and commenting.

    5. I do doubt that changing the hashtag will solve the above problems, especially that of feeling excluded. I think if we can really do the hard work, it won’t so much be about the weirdness of the letters MTBOS. My gut tells me the people who do think it’s weird and can’t remember it ALSO feel excluded…but not because of the weird letters. The harder work is self reflection…from everyone. So what if the “big names” have never tweeted back to me. It’s not like they are gods; they don’t write my paycheck and they aren’t going to come to my sons’ weddings. They are just humans like the rest of us. We are WAY to caught up in the idea of “stardom.” Yeah, I’m talking about me here.

    6. Can we give Dan a bit of a break for calling this out. Ok, maybe his use of “retire” was not wise; but, last I remember, I sometimes write things that I haven’t thought through. Pretty much writing AND talking is what gives us clarity…and we have to put it out there to the universe to see how it sounds outside of our own heads. It’s through feedback that we refine our thinking. So…maybe we don’t go with #iteachmath and stick with #MTBOS – whatever, the underlying problem is figuring out how to grow the math community so that we grow and our students grow. We’ve lived in dark cages without being feed for too long…that much is clear.

    7. Last, whatever the name change, or not, I do love math and people who love math! Because we all want kids all over the world to love (or at least not hate) math too. I can see where someone who doesn’t “actually” teach math might feel weird. But…I made a conscious decision when I quit teaching and went back to school to keep my handle which infers I teach 2nd grade…for two reasons. I will always see myself as a teacher because that is who I am. I WAS in the classroom and still am intimately connected to the classroom. My doctorate is just another avenue to do the work. But…I also love that it says 2nd. I want to remember that no matter what I chose to “do” with math as a career…my first priority is helping students. No one should feel a hashtag sums them up as a human. I had the same issue before I joined NCTM. I thought, well, I’m an elementary teacher, not a math teacher. Well, duh…elementary teachers TEACH MATH…and we better do a darn good job of it because everything else depends on the foundation we lay!

    8. This is why I don’t blog…I can’t shut up. It’s also why I don’t reply…much. But here’s my last thought…and it’s what helped me feel a part of the community…and it’s important for the people who say that MTBOS is mostly about sharing personal stuff. George Couros said this at a workshop right when I joined the twitter community:

    1. I follow all teachers. If you are a teacher, I will follow you.
    2. Sometimes tweet about your life (not TOO personal), but people want to know you are real. Also reason to put a picture rather than leave the egg.

    I am HORRIBLE about following people. Why? I think, why would they want ME to follow them? –That’s stupid!

    I know the people I’ve met at MTBOS because at some point I saw something they tweeted that was personal, and I connected with that. That’s how we get connected and can grow relationships. It’s assumed, sort of, that we all like math…but beyond that…what else. Do you have a really fat bad cat like me…or a poor doggie like Dan…ok…I now know a little bit more about you…I can carry on a conversation at a different level.

    That’s it…for my $5 worth. I love this community. I mean I really do. I have grown so much professionally; I’ve had to really think hard about some things; sometimes I have been super frustrated and had to rethink my positions, or stand my ground; but this community HAS changed the atmosphere around teaching and learning math. That’s beautiful. That’s sort of the point of the “osphere”

  21. Reply

    Featured Comment

    Hi everyone. I’ve thought a lot about Dan’s proposal and have written a blog post describing a way to formalize #iteachmath into a larger system of hashtags that I think could really benefit the members of our community.

    I would love to hear your thoughts.

  22. Reply

    Got my gears turning

    I don’t have strong feelings about the hashtag, but it always struck me as weird that MTBoS put such an emphasis on blogging. Most teachers, even if they enjoy reading blogs, don’t feel they have time to write their own blog. I certainly felt that way for a long time. So I have no problem with dumping “blogosphere”.

    Too late for this idea, probably, but some version of #mathed would have the advantage of including coaches and ex-teachers such as Dan.

    @mpershan Hey, Michael: You’ve put your finger on a huge undiscussed issue. Good teachers, and really, many teachers who think about their craft, often get kicked upstairs or go into academia, so that they end up leaving the classroom after just a few years. This is a huge phenomenon, with an unspoken but unmistakable message: this profession sucks, and the better you are at it, the quicker you should get out and gain the prestige of being something other than a mere teacher. Admittedly, I’m oversimplifying, but this really deserves more discussion.

  23. Reply

    I had facetiously posted about googling what MTBoS is the first night this was up, but having thought about it more, it’s actually an important thing. MTBoS is google-able in a way #iteachmath will never be. If you search for “iteachmath” it’s so broad as to return so many things. Searching for MTBoS returns the huge wealth of things created by people who want to affiliate it with that tag. That’s not something simple to ignore.

    • Searching for MTBoS returns the huge wealth of things created by people who want to affiliate it with that tag. That’s not something simple to ignore.

      I realize this has become lost for reasons that are entirely on me, but I don’t want to eliminate #MTBoS, its rich history, relationships, OR resources. I’m proposing a new hashtag for introducing teachers to Math Teacher Twitter, after which perhaps they’ll venture on to all of the above.

  24. Reply

    I’m really intrigued by this discussion for a bunch of reasons, in no particular order:
    1. I have never used #MTBoS in my tweets. (or I don’t remember…or I didn’t mean to….) I’m not sure why not. I’ll think more on that.
    2. I used to think MTBoS stood for Math Teachers of Boston. (So ego-centric of me, but it was during NCTM Boston that I thought it.)
    3. I very much worry about the level of diversity that exists in MTBoS – whether it is a perception or reality – MTBoS seems male dominated.
    4. MTBoS is an incredible resource – we need to find ways to harness and share productively and inclusively.
    5. Are we the first group of learners on Twitter to encounter these challenges? From whom could we learn?

    • Great questions, all the way around. I hope you’ll keep us posted as you encounter answers, even the early and partial kind.

      I used to think MTBoS stood for Math Teachers of Boston.

      This is fantastic, IMO.

      Are we the first group of learners on Twitter to encounter these challenges? From whom could we learn?

      I’m pretty confident other teaching disciplines haven’t found a way to cross this boundary that we’re missing. I’m also confident (though a little less) that we’re asking Twitter to serve us in ways that other communities don’t.

  25. Loren Kaplan

    July 31, 2017 - 4:41 pm -
    Reply

    Dan, I really appreciated that your inspiration to write the first post was inclusivity. I’ve been thinking about the whole thing for a few days now. I’m relatively new to Twitter, and I am an elementary school teacher. I did lurk around #MTBoS for awhile, and it took me some time to figure out even what it was. Some of that was probably magnified by the fact that I was so new to Twitter in general. I did wonder about how to join. I did assume at first that there was some kind of body that bestowed the title, and I also assumed that I wouldn’t be able to join because I am not a blogger. At some point, there was a Twitter request made (I’m not even sure by whom, @ExploreMTBoS maybe?) to add ourselves (as math teachers) to a #MTBoS google doc. That prompted me to ask how one joins, and I received a very friendly reply that anyone is welcome to consider themselves a member. I remember both the feeling of being on the outside (and envious) and then feeling on the inside-at least in a beginner sort of way (and included). I imagine that many of us who were not a part of the original birth of #MTBoS felt like outsiders at first. So I guess the central question is how do experienced Twitter math people help new Twitter math people to feel welcome in the Twitter sphere. Since your post came out, I have come across a number of people who were already working on that question, which is great.

    I know you are getting a lot of blowback, and I am not a part of the community enough to understand all of the politics, who is in charge of what, or even to know about the many things that I hear have been done to be more inclusive. But as one of your Twitter followers, I am glad you brought it up. It was the first time I had heard anyone acknowledge this kind of experience with MTBos. (Not that I’m suggesting this hasn’t been done before. Perhaps it has been done many times, this is just the first time it’s gotten to me.) It certainly got me thinking, and it also helped me to learn more about the MTBoS backstory. So thanks.

    • Thanks for sharing your route into the #MTBoS, Loren. I admit yours is the kind of story I’m most worried about. It seems like with just a little less persistence from you, we would have lost your ideas and your presence for a long while.

  26. Reply

    The distinction between MTBoS and #iteachmath shouldn’t be newcomers vs heavily-invested folks. It should be the scale of the topics: MTBoS for big paradigm-shifting ideas, strategies, teaching routines, and other things that have a long time-scale on teacher implementation. Examples: implementing SBG, best practices for test corrections, the big idea of smudge-math, deleting your textbook, the general structure of a 3Act.

    In contrast, #iteachmath should be useful and rewarding for quick drop-in interactions: e.g., what’s the best intro to quadratics for my needs? With #iteachmath, it should be convenient to drill down to your exact needs. Got an idea for an intro factoring worksheet? That’s #iteachmath. I don’t mean #iteachmath should be like a wiki or file-drawer. It needs to be a live community, like MTBoS. But the personalities attracted to #iteachmath would be different than those attracted to MTBoS. It would be folks who are want to get into the nitty-gritty of the ordering topics and designing lessons for specific courses for specific student populations.

    In its current form, the MTBoS mostly gives me great lesson ideas for classes I don’t teach. In addition, much of MTBoS seems to be people saying “screw the state curriculum…math should be like THIS.” I learn from the discussion, but where is the community of teachers living within the mandated constraints and still trying to spark perplexity? Those are the MTBoS posts I want to read. Maybe I just haven’t found them. But if I can’t find them, many other folks can’t either. I’m waaaayyy more involved than your average newcomer.

    The Harry O’Malley approach is really what I want: having #iteachmath have a subchannel for algebra 1 called #itmalg1. That just doesn’t exist in the MTBoS now. Looking at twitter, it looks like the last time anyone used the hashtag #AlgebraChat was on 5/1/17. Same for #Algebra1Chat: last used on 5/3/17 by…me.

    So, in sum, I don’t want #iteachmath to be just for newcomers. I want it to be the most practical stuff – which happens to be what newcomers would probably be looking for. MTBoS would be for those big paradigm-shifting discussions that are vital, and are slowly shifting our entire profession, but that scare away newcomers or frazzled implementers.

    • I forgot to mention this, but to have all these subchannels like #itmAlge1, we’d need to have many more people involved. So accessibility is important.

  27. Reply

    Provocative thought exercise.

    I’m rereading this proposal and putting “difficult math” everywhere I see Empty Boss (which is actually what I hear in my head every time I see MTBoS). Here’s what it sounds like:

    Q: “Hey folks, lots of people have told me that they didn’t try ‘difficult math’ because they didn’t know what it was or weren’t sure they were welcome. Can we come up with a name that’s more descriptive and has less chance of being off-putting, to use in addition to ‘difficult math’? ”

    A: “I’m not intimidated by ‘difficult math’ and neither are these other people.” (without a proposal for welcoming those who *are* intimidated)

    A: “I’m not intimidated and neither are these other people. Therefore the intimidated people should stop being intimidated.”

    A: “When a choice has to be made either to inconvenience established participants who already feel welcome and like they belong, or newcomers, I vote to inconvenience newcomers.”

    A: “Your new proposal doesn’t include me.” (without an alternate proposal that addresses both their own needs and the intimidation factor)

    Some ideas:
    – What do we each do to welcome math students into math itself? Are we using the same techniques to welcome math teachers into online collaboration? Why or why not?

    – When we expect our students to be resilient in thinking about things from unfamiliar perspectives or in uncomfortable ways, how do we support them? Do we expect the same from ourselves? Do students and teachers have equal responsibilities in this? Do new teachers and experienced teachers have equal responsibilities in this? Do people who are included and people who are excluded have equal responsibilities in this?

    BONUS QUESTION
    – what can this conversation help us understand about the inclusion of women, queer and trans people, people of colour, people with disabilities… as math students, as math teachers, as mathematicians?

    • I’m rereading this proposal and putting “difficult math” everywhere I see Empty Boss.

      I hate this exercise because it makes me really disappointed in a bunch of educators I’ve long admired, but it’s the same exercise that provoked this tweet.

      So many people glibly suggested that confused and alienated newcomers simply google “MTBoS,” as though the meaning of the acronym were the only problem, and as if telling people to “just Google it” would do anything to reduce their confusion or alienation. I find it hard to believe that if one of their students asked them “what PEMDAS meant,” they’d so glibly suggest they Google it, but who knows.

      Thanks for the bonus question, also. I won’t pretend to have any great answers there but I’d love to listen to anybody who does.

  28. Reply

    I’ve held off on weighing in on this whole thread so that I could refrain from reacting..

    Dan, I appreciate your apology because I’ve been hurting too. In my own way, I too have been a part of the MTBoS outreach and it hurt to get smacked like that in pubic — even though I believe it was not your intention to hurt the people who continue to work so hard to create a meaningful and valuable community.

    One of the things I have **not** heard in all these discussions — which I believe is central to the whole philosophy of the MTBoS — is any acknowledgment of the whole ‘stone soup’ philosophy at its core.

    When we started TMC, we said, Enough. Enough with waiting for permission to participate. We stepped forward with our own individual and collective truths and said, We will speak.

    We decided we would not sit compliantly and wait to be called on. We decided to use what we already have and know to empower ourselves to learn and create what we don’t have or know.

    Everybody here has valuable perspectives and ideas and experiences from which others can benefit. So rather than sit around and wait for some Grand Wizard From On High to call and grant us **permission** to speak, we decided we would go ahead and speak to each other listen to what others have to say and honor each other’s truths and experiences and journeys.

    In the intervening years, Twitter has gotten louder and more crowded, and so this philosophy has become more and more needed. It’s become impossible to read every single tweet that crosses a person’s timeline. But out of everything I **do** read, I usually find some nugget of gold that helps me get through the harder times or that makes the good times more joyful.

    So here’s a constructive suggestion for those who’d like to get involved in the MTBoS:

    Powerful advice from someone who knows.

    Don’t limit yourself to posing questions and waiting for somebody to respond. Start offering your own support and ideas and positive contributions. You already have what is needed or you wouldn’t be interested in being a part of the conversation.

    So I say, offer to help out somebody else who feels like they are drowning or who has a question. Share what you have when somebody feels desperate for a resource or an idea or positive support.

    Positive energy generates more positive energy and I guarantee you, it will get you noticed.

    Empower yourself first. Then everything else will naturally fall into place.

    – Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

  29. Reply

    Hi, Dan Meyer’s comment section. I made a post. It was prompted by observations of the week-long fallout from what happened here, and on Twitter… and within the world in general. It includes reference posts from others who have spoken out on the issue (current to Aug 4th, a number of them are already pingbacks to this post). My post is called “You Cannot Include Everybody”.

    I debated giving some context for who I am, but you’ll get that if you read, and I’m pretty sure you’ve already decided whether you’ll do that or not, so I’ll simply drop the link.

    https://mathiex.blogspot.ca/2017/08/you-cannot-include-everybody.html

    Everyone, support others as best as you can. Don’t stop questioning. Peace out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *