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. Funny, Ben, that is– because that’s exactly the point I (and dare I say “we”) were trying to make about the NAEP graphic. Perhaps Dan is subconsciously agreeing.

  2. @Dina, this relates to something you said back when we were discussing learner autonomy.

    I also maintain that a) if you average a conversion of a mere, sustainable 1/10 of your curriculum per year to autonomy-supportive projects, it’s going to take you only that decade to publish your groundbreaking math curriculum and own your island.

    I felt that then and now. And I know that I’m swapping out lame elements of my Algebra curriculum year-by-year, one-by-one. And as I excavate the deeply entrenched curriculum the difficulty remains constant because my experience increases.

    Innovation on this order of magnitude is hard work (obviously) work which was no big deal when I first began teaching ’cause the thrill of thrashing the status quo and pushing something new and good in front of my students was heady enough to justify the time and effort spent.

    Year by year, though, my body develops a tolerance for that high and as long as there are only 24 hours in a day, I can’t keep upping my dosage.

    So arbitrarily, I’m guessing satisfaction and difficulty even out around year five, a year which already has a certain foreboding significance for new teachers.

  3. @Ben, man, hate on Indexed whydoncha for abstract infographics. The y-axis has two measures, each indicated in the legend. They’re both unmeasureable, intangible, and certainly different. All I know is that one decreases while the other remains constant. And that’s significant.

  4. It seems like you’re hitting the intersection point in the black circle right now. Probably important to acknowledge that these are your lines and slopes, and other people might have had different, nonlinear, even non-continuous graphs. In fact… why don’t we all draw these up for ourselves? Mine will only extend to 3 on the x-axis, so I’m not sure how valid they are yet.

  5. I think you need another line in there, one for “Ability to recognize good teaching”.

    In my experience, it would cross the X axis into positive somewhere between the 1 and the 2.

  6. For me, I hit that point in the black circle and then started to find that I did my best planning with other people. If you find the right planning partner (big if—I’ve only really had a *perfect* planning partner once), the work is less laborious. Essentially, you drop the blue line down and the red line shoots back over it.

    It’s been hard to replicate, though, since I’ve left that school. Coincidentally, that person and I did a lot with Wiggins & Understanding by Design.

  7. [blockquote]I’m not sure the blue line is really constant. My own ideas of what is good curriculum keep changing.[/blockquote]

    No way it’s constant, although I’d guess that’s not really what Dan was getting at.

    One thing all of this discourse is beginning to teach me is that I’m much more about the love of my field than the love of ultimate curriculum optimization. Funnily enough, I’m pretty sure most of my favorite teachers in school loved their subject more than they loved refining the perfect lesson plans for it (i.e. they worried less about creating perfect lessons than about making sure we enjoyed them while learning something in the process). Just my experience.

  8. Hello, Dan,

    As I see it, the blue line would resemble more of a sine wave, and the red line would start low and end high.

    I would also differentiate between developing good curriculum, and delivering good curriculum effectively — these are related, but very different things.



  9. For me, the statisfaction “curve” continues to grow, it’s just harder to be satisfied. I think that the difficulty “curve” increases as well as it gets more difficult for me to create materials that meet my standards. I’ve taught for 10 years and while I love what I do, I never thought that after 10 years I would still spend 80 hour weeks designing activities…

  10. “I never thought that after 10 years I would still spend 80 hour weeks designing activities…” Noooo… I was hoping it would take less time by then.

  11. It strikes me that the variable “satisfaction” which you are mapping is not actually satisfaction at all, but to use your own words, a “high on novelty.” And novelty, as we’ve discussed before, is useful in doses as a pedagogical tool for our kids, but not to buy wholesale engagement “on the cheap,” as someone here put it so elegantly. I can only speculate that such a premise doubles in intensity when you apply it to teachers engaging in their own profession.

    So what *does* buy authentic engagement for our kids, independent of the high of novelty? It’s the same stuff that buys engagement (read: satisfaction) for you. No mystery here: my guys Deci and Ryan have quantified it. What buys engagement is a sense of mastery, or competence; relevance; and authentic human connection.

    Will you find it, or continue to get these things, through teaching in your current circumstances? Through teaching at all? It sounds trite, but it is true: those are questions only you will be able to answer.

  12. I don’t want to suggest those lines are at all scientific or even remotely objective. Your graphs will differ from mine.

    But whether I wrote about it in prose or messed with it in Photoshop, this post speaks to a real affliction for a lot of new teachers, mostly those who take initial heart in devising alternative learning experiences for their kids. [Note to DS: trying to avoid novelties, though.]

    That difficulty has remained, more or less, constant, harder material met by my greater facility. Satisfaction wanes, though, which, I think, means I’m gonna have to find some new air currents to prop me up. Like, coaching. Or having a kid. Or something.

  13. I was more worried about your exclamation asking what happens at the intersection. I do understand what you’re trying to say, as the first comment makes clear.

    Either way, don’t be hatin’ on poor li’l Indexed, either. She’s more of the realm of wordplay than actual math, and she certainly doesn’t pretend otherwise.

  14. Or having a kid. Or something.

    Dan, you’d be amazed at the perspective you’ll get from having your own children and bringing them up in the public education system. Suddenly, what you’re doing really matters.