So Hold Onto Something

This Is Bad

I have eight of my favorite people at my place for the new year, twenty-two more on the way, two game consoles hooked into digital projectors, a bathtub with beer on ice, great weather, but I can’t get my mind out of the classroom.

The Preoccupation

Among the ages I teach, math has changed very little in the last quarter century and certainly at nowhere near the pace of technology or (more importantly) my kids’ creativity.

So for the last year I’ve been building a course from scratch, connecting a lot of loose, fun material, grafting it on the back of your standard Algebra 1 curriculum, infusing the whole thing with visuals from start to finish, and then personalizing it, setting expectations such that, by the end of the course, every student will have the same skill set but entirely different work portfolios depending on personality and preference.

Furthermore, the course lives in the intersection of English and Math. It depends as much on articulate self-reflection as it does on mathematical computation.

My White Whale

I haven’t met another math teacher as consumed by information design as I am, as convinced that it can invigorate a subject that most students find irrelevant, and maybe that’s because I’m the crazy one here, playing a lanky Captain Ahab to a white mathematical whale.

Who Is Nicholas Felton?

But I don’t think so and here, at the year’s end, a guy named Nicholas Felton has offered me the single piece of tape which fastens together hundreds of techniques and web links and my mind won’t. shut. down.

So it’s about to get Very Busy around here. I’ll soon post a loose-limbed course syllabus which will precede an explanation of Nicholas Felton’s enormous (and most likely oblivious) contribution to math education which will precede our winter design contest, which will be at least as fun as the last one and certainly more challenging.

In all of these, your participation is requested.

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


  1. Nice. Can’t wait– although with your math stuff I only understand about a quarter of what I see (which will limit my direct participation, hope you don’t mind if continue to hide out in the back of the class).

    While I am not consumed with information design, I too am after the same whale: energizing my subject so it becomes fiercely relevant to my students. It is one of the things I love most about the job and what I thoroughly enjoy about your work here.

    You are indeed inspiring, young man.

    Happy New Year. Have fun with your “dad gum” video games.

  2. I should have added that the hunting of the elusive and the magnificent is the stuff — meaningful, thrilling and, yes, dangerous too. It is bound to disappoint at times–sometimes achingly so. But I don’t know how to teach any other way and I would guess neither do you. I am so very glad you seem re-energized to keep on with the voyage. Here’s to the friends, the beer, the games, and whatever else that help keep us sane.

  3. Oh man. What a great time: Umbrella banging outta the speakers, a bunch of long-unseen friends, not a t.v. or a second hand among us, so we just raised glasses arbitrarily sometime around 11:59 Pacific Time and counted down.

    I hope the two of you had as much fun as I did, enough to forget about classroom obsessions for a bit, but now we’re back and I’m pumped to have Neil back with us this go-around.

  4. You said “you haven’t met another math teacher as consumed by information design as I am”… but that’s just because you haven’t met us! We’re out there!

    I’m commenting in a couple of links to brand new materials for algebra.

    PDF of Teasers

    Animation of Domain and Range

    Also, David Hill (of demos with positive impact – a calculus resource) has started working on some algebra demos. Coming soon is a demo showing the infamous concentration problems (mix 20 mL of a 10% solution with 80 mL of a 50% solution…).

    The long-needed revision of algebra materials is coming… I promise… and it’s going to be so cool and visually appealing that it’s going to knock your socks off. But it’s going to take a couple years to get through all the programming. (that’s foreshadowing, BTW)