Hello, CNN.

[BTW: I added the video below and some comments to the comments.]

[BTW: They bumped me to Thursday, same time.]

I will be on CNN tomorrow (Tuesday, May 17) at 11h05 PST to weigh in on either Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination or curriculum design in math education, I forget which. It goes without saying that I prefer venues where I can either rehearse my thoughts obsessively for weeks (presentations) or draft and re-draft them until I don’t hate them (writing). Interviews are a whole other thing.

If you’re stopping by after the interview, wondering why they let that guy on TV, you’re invited to check out my recent TEDx talk or some of my experiments in curriculum design.

Click through to view embedded content.

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. Thanks for your blog. I just found it the other day and have been enjoying reading your thoughts on teaching Math.

  2. Do you know of any live feed on the cnn website? I’m one of three or four Americans left without tivo.

  3. You are a brave man to go on national TV, but I can’t think of a better leader in Mathematics that can bring a fresh face and perspective of Math education in a national forum than you. I am sure you will do just fine. Don’t forget your shout out, ha, ha!

  4. You’ll be great! Your TED presentation was amazing…Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to ask you: Where do I go to repair the gaping hole my math teachers left?


  5. Dan,

    Hope your focus is on whether Kagan understands mathematics education. ;^)

    What’s the context of the interview (if it is an interview)? Hope they will just let you talk, not have some education deformer on to “balance” what you have to say. If that’s the case, let me growl in advance.

    But if you just get to present one or more of your thoughts on effective, innovative instruction, I’m thrilled for you and for the potential exposure your thinking will get. I’d say that the TED and NCSM talks are going viral and I’m doing what I can to contribute, particularly with the folks I work with in Detroit and the ones my colleagues work with in NYC, Atlanta, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Buffalo, etc. As Nel Noddings put it, “ideas worth trying.” The deformers wouldn’t know what those look like or even understand the concept, but that’s not my problem or yours.

    Congratulations on your continuing fine work.

  6. OK, so I didn’t see the interview. Where might I be able to view it? I checked cnn.com and nothing.

  7. I haven’t seen it myself. I think I have a line on a recording, though, in case CNN doesn’t post the clip itself. I’ll add it to this post here if/when I get it.

  8. I thought you did OK for a 5 minute interview, but the problem with 5 minute interviews is they rarely paint a good picture. Those of us who have been reading you material understand what you’re about, but unfortunately, I don’t think the interviewer did. At any rate, good to see you on TV spreading the good word.

  9. Here’s the transcript, but I’ve not yet found a link to the video:

    GRIFFIN: Time for “Chalk Talk.” It’s all about new ideas and innovations to help our kids learn more.

    There’s nothing some kids hate more than math. Well, one ninth grade teacher in California wants to change that. He’s stripping away the clutter, making math a conversation.

    His name is Dan Meyer. He joins us from California, Santa Cruz, a ninth grade teacher. Dan, thank you so much for joining us.

    I can’t stand that we kind of stereotype math as this huge problem that nobody wants to study. Isn’t one of the big things that you want to do is just make math fun, interesting and relevant to people?

    DAN MEYER, MATH TEACHER: Sure. I think math is fun. And a lot of what we do as teachers is get in the way of that sometimes.

    GRIFFIN: So how do you do that? How do you do that in the ninth grade? I can’t think of a more tough crowd to get in front of and try to say, hey, guys, time for math.

    MEYER: They love stories, they love entertainment. I go out and I find the math in the world around me that’s compelling and interesting, and try to bring that back to them without any sort of structure on top of that. No pre-built questions. Just something that’s compelling and real, and we have a conversation about it.

    GRIFFIN: So talk us through one of those examples, one of those problems that you’ve brought in from the real world that starts a conversation, not a textbook, on math.

    MEYER: Sure. I mean, I watch a TV show called “How I Met Your Mother.” And there’s an episode where they’re talking about a hot and crazy graph, which is a way of — kind of a crude way of evaluating a date. They’ve got to be as hot as they are crazy. And so I’ll bring in a list, fictional list, of my ex-girlfriends, and we’ll kind of evaluate them that way and get across the idea of graphing in a way that’s much more vivid than the way my textbook does.

    GRIFFIN: And in terms of learning, are you seeing kids who otherwise would not have learned that learn? Are you being able to measure success?

    MEYER: Sure, yes. I mean, I teach a very remedial crowd, and a lot of them go on to success in higher math, I think because we’ve taken math and made it more real for them.

    GRIFFIN: Yes. You’re part time at Google, too, right?

    MEYER: Also. Yes, correct.

    GRIFFIN: I would think a lot of ninth graders would think that’s cool and would want to work at Google. Do you show them that, hey, math is your avenue to places like Google, to good jobs, to a future?

    MEYER: You know, I find that holding a job out to ninth graders as a reward for their hard work in high school hasn’t been too effective.


    GRIFFIN: They don’t care. You also had some conversations about the textbooks that we’re using in classrooms and the fact that they are too cluttered. What do you mean by that?

    MEYER: They’re too structured in how they present real-world math, I think, in that they lay out a problem with several substeps — A, B, C, D — and they put all the given information out there in advance for students, an students don’t have to do the heavy lifting of deciding, what information do I need here, what’s important?

    GRIFFIN: If there is one piece of advice you could give to a parent who’s listening right now, because hopefully our kids are all in school, in terms of trying to get them excited about math, not teaching them math — because a lot of us, quite frankly, can’t do it — but excited about math, what would it be?

    MEYER: That’s a great question. I think that parents should be in contact with math teachers and really hold them accountable. Do the teachers really enjoy math? Ask them what they’re learning, the teachers, and then that should trickle down to the students.

    GRIFFIN: All right. Dan Meyer, we appreciate the work you’re doing for our kids. Thanks a lot. Hopefully this catches on and you can inspire not only students, but other teachers to do the same.

    Dan Meyer, thanks so much.

    MEYER: Thank you.

  10. Actually, given the limitations of the time and format, this was a pretty effective interview you managed to give. I think the questions gave you enough room to say some meaningful things, though not to SHOW enough, but that’s hardly shocking.

    The dating example may not have been the best possible to get across your point to some parents who would be offended by what you did (even in a fictional context), but then there are no doubt pockets of people who for any given example you’d give would “stand to be insulted and pay for the privilege,” to quote Elvis Costello.

    My main complaint is your use of the word “accountable.” It’s become a very dangerous buzz-word for trashing teachers and schools. The specific questions you suggest that parents ask – What are teachers learning and do the teachers themselves enjoy mathematics? – are excellent, but they can easily get lost in the knee-jerk responses that “accountability” evokes (big turn-off for progressives, big turn-on for conservatives, but I’m not sure it leads any more to careful thoughtfulness).

    Next time, when CNN gives you your own slot (like Keith Devlin is The Math Guy for NPR), you’ll be able to do little five-minute presentations of great problems, What Can You Do With This? situations, stripping down overly-scaffolded, overly-well-behaved problems and data from textbooks, etc.

    I was searching for good examples of applied quadratic situations for one of the teachers I coach in Detroit and was semi-amazed and very disappointed by how relatively few such resources turned up either on math teaching web sites in general or even on YouTube (though there are some lovely PHYSICS videos that are useful), compared with the number that were strictly geared for SOLVING or manipulating symbolically quadratic functions and equations.

  11. Hello,

    Perhaps this is not the right post to make this comment but I will go on as I believe in chaos.
    I teach the Freshman Seminar in a college named ULACIT in Costa Rica and I have been integrating different pedagogc models in to my curriculum to make this experience worthy for my students to set the ground for their future academic experience.
    Our school is implementing Teaching for Understanding and Service Learning components to every course and mine being the first of all programs has to represent their upcomming experience for all our newbies. Along with these models, several elements repeat themselves as needs that have to taken in to account. Your talk on TED references all of those. Pertinence, relation of the class contents to the students´reality, attitude, cultural standards and longterm effects of well taught or poorly taught subjects. As in your case, several of my students perceive the Freshman Seminar, as a mandatory space that they have no option for…
    Your talk has given me a few good ideas regarding the need of creativiy and perceived relevance of the topics, also about how to present these so that they become important for my students.
    Later on I will let you know about these new ideas and their outcome.

  12. Got that video posted. The commenters here seem to have me dead to rights. One, I have no idea how my brain farted out the How I Met Your Mother episode among dozens of more appropriate examples of this kind of curriculum development. Two, I don’t yet know how to explain verbally a visual curriculum.

  13. Don’t be so hard on yourself! (Though, the fictional list of ex-girlfriends was scandalous!). The format is very restrictive and it is difficult to not get thrown a bit off-center by all the hustle and lighting and make-up. Too, people will Google you and find your gem of a blog.

  14. Best line was “Ha ha ha… they don’t care.” That made me laugh.

    Good stuff all around, though. As others have said, for such a short presentation, you made it sound good.

  15. Thanks for the vid. You did great. CNN? I dunno. The canned footage of a kid going through a math folder was pretty strange. They probably could have just pulled some vid off of this site if they’re looking for something else to show.

    And the backdrop? Where do you teach? Sky High Academy?

  16. Kris Kramer

    May 24, 2010 - 5:46 am -

    Well done. Love the graphing example; you’ve got me thinking about math if a whole new way! Saw a woman with super-high wedge heels the other day. My first thought was to take a picture in order to discuss angles :-)

  17. Bringing in sex was a bit bold on your part. Astute and relevant, but bold. I don’t think they’ll be inviting you on FOX any time soon.

    Kudos friend. I’ll watch cable news if you’re on.

  18. I agree with Kris about thinking about math in a new way.
    I have an idea for a math problem, or unit, but I’m not sure how to do it, mostly because I have to review the Stats course I just took because I had to.

    The TED talk on penguins? Can that be made mathematical, like having students research or take info on the penguins and measure it, graph it, make statistical measurements on things like how many penguins die per year, etc.? Can it be made into some kind of algebraic formula, equation, or study?

    This would be interesting to do, also bringing reading into math by having the students research the career that leads to someone doing decades long studies on penguins on an island – where does the money come from? What groups are interested? What college major is it? etc.

  19. AnonProfessor

    May 25, 2010 - 11:45 am -

    Good job on the interview, Dan! I like it. Doing a live interview on national TV is incredibly challenging and stressful; you came out looking well, so you can pat yourself on the back.

    Looking for feedback, in case you have to do this again? I suspect the biggest thing you could do to improve and do even better, next time, is to say about twice as much. If you re-watch the interview, you’ll notice that the interviewer is really carrying a lot of the load in the interview, and you give mostly short replies that answer the question asked concisely. Don’t restrict yourself to just answering the question asked: take the opportunity to digress a little. Conciseness is good, but instead of just a one-sentence answer, I think you could have given a two-sentence answer. In other words, after question you got asked, I think you could have given the one- or two-sentence answer you gave, then tack on one more sentence or two with a fun anecdote. Tell a little story, or give an example of the general point you just made, or say something about why your methods are meaningful to your kids or to you. It’s OK to use the interviewer’s question as just a jumping-off point: to answer the question, then bridge/segue to some related topic that you’re enthusiastic about. You can prepare before the interview some little stories or neat examples from your class, and have a few of them ready in your head, so that you can sprinkle them into the conversation.

    By the way, if it makes you feel any better, I have exactly the same shortcoming: I’ve given live interviews on national TV, and I fell into the same pattern. I think it is for a few reasons: (a) I’m a geeky mathematician, and I’m trained to answer exactly the question asked, as precisely as possible, which means my instinct is to avoid any digression (which is not necessarily the right instinct here), (b) I’m super-aware that I have only a tiny time slot, and so I’m trying to be as concise as possible, (c) I find the experience totally stressful, and I don’t think or articulate well on my feet under time pressure. I don’t know whether any of that applies to you as well, but I mention in case it resonates.

    Anyway, I think did a good job. Please don’t take any of this as criticism: I enjoyed your interview, and thought you came off very well! It’s great to see you get some exposure and recognition for your excellent work, and I hope it exposes more folks to the thought-provoking ideas on this blog.

  20. Dan, thanks for posting the video and sorry Anon Professor but I couldn’t disagree more! I loved that your answers were short and to the point, so that it didn’t look like you were desperately trying to ‘beat the media’ in their game. You came across as honest, confident and unhurried and you delivered your message perfectly. I also loved the ex-girlfriends example! It said to me, ‘this guy is not afraid of fun and he’s willing to treat children as actual people who are not nearly as easily scandalised as we stuffy-adults.’

    Thank you so much for your work and passion. Bravo to you :)

  21. @AnonProfessor, solid critique there. It’s like you were in my head, especially w/r/t to your second bullet point about being painfully aware of the time constraints and really not wanting to be the sort of guest who rambles on and on. It’s clear to me, after watching the tape, that I ran too far in the other direction.

    @Margaret, thanks for not being scandalized. Wish I could say the same for my dear old mom and dad.