Asilomar #1: YouTube Math

Session Title

YouTube Math: Politics, Advocacy, And The Internet

Better Title

Math: Politics And Advocacy


Marianne Smith, consultant.


I enjoyed this session a great deal considering I only realized I had little interest in it after it was too late. Smith wrote the only description in the program featuring the word “blog,” so I thought I’d get my token 21-century session out of the way as soon as possible.

She started with two YouTube videos, both out of Washington State, each taking an opposing side in their math war:

  1. Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth, featuring a Washington TV meteorologist, polished to a shine, representing procedural fluency.
  2. A Parents’ Guide to Math Education in Today’s Classroom [sic], representing conceptual fluency.

We spent fully one third of the presentation on a) those two videos and b) a think-pair-share discussion with our neighbors. Marianne Smith did a fabulous job facilitating discussion between attendees but now, only a day later, I recall little of what Marianne Smith thought about any of this.

She did report that a grassroots site in Washington succeeded in dethroning the Superintendent of Public Instruction (a proponent of conceptual fluency) and installing one of their own (big procedural fluency fan). Most of the attendees in our session advocated not one or the other but – get this – a blend of procedural and conceptual fluency. (I love these people.) Smith urged us to become more active on committees at the state level, to write our legislators, and to make YouTube videos advocating our point of viewSmith falls under the same category of tech user as my mom: really eager, really curious novices who use “a YouTube video” and “a YouTube” interchangeably. I can’t help finding these people really, really endearing..

The crowd was satisfied. I’m curious if anyone has written the how-to guide for educational activism using YouTube videos and blogs I thought this presentation would be. Does anyone who matters (on a policy-making level) even read these things?


PowerPoint. Traditional. All-white background.


A comprehensive bibliography of Internet links, which is weird, right? I’m pretty sure this was the first time I ever transcribed a YouTube link from paper to web browser. Facing the same dilemma in my own session I tagged all my online resources in Delicious, but there is probably a better solution.


  • One particularly earnest and agitated audience member: “Maybe we should start a blog … get the word out.” This is how it all begins, isn’t it?
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. Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got… an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday. I got it yesterday. Why? Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.

  2. I was wondering why you were tagging so many of your own pages. Guess I wasn’t paying enough attention to read what the tags were….

  3. Most of the attendees in our session advocated not one or the other but – get this – a blend of procedural and conceptual fluency. (I love these people.)

    Two extremes drowning out the middle is the norm for pretty much any political (or politicized) discussion.

    I imagine that’s because it’s harder to make a passionate, heart-tugging plea to be balanced.

  4. there is probably a better solution

    For the few presentations I have done, I’ve created a resources page on my site. That allows me to present one single url instead of many. I also put up copies of the handouts, or the important parts of them.

    It’s not a perfect solution either, but it moves everything to its own dedicated space.