2012 Was The Year Of Single-Serving Math Education Websites

In 2012, several math teachers turned passion and pedagogy into code, creating seven single-serving websites for their community:

I’m stretching the definition of “single serving” somewhat, but the difference between these sites and other education-related sites like Edmodo or Teachers Pay Teachers or BetterLesson is a) these have a narrow focus, b) they reflect a very particular vision for how students learn or how teachers become better teachers (eg. Math Mistakes believes it’s important that teachers examine student errors; Estimation 180 prioritizes number sense; Activeprompt makes it easy to ask one very particular question.), c) they pursue that vision relentlessly, d) they were created and maintained by teachers, not corporations.

One takeaway and two questions:

  1. It’s a treat getting to work in a place as creative and industrious as the math edublogosphere. For real.
  2. The majority of these sites were set up with cheap web hosting and free software like WordPress or Weebly. The barriers to taking an idea and turning it into a digital tool have never been lower. So what’s your idea and how will you turn it into a tool in 2013?
  3. What are other disciplines doing along these lines that I’ve missed?
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. A few things I’m collaborating on / working on / hope to work on in 2013:

    (1) a pro/con discussion series concerning the hotbed issues of education
    (2) a site that guides and promotes at-home math discussions with parents or guardians and their students
    (3) a formalization of my perplexing task of the week that I often throw out on Twitter (this will follow a quasi-3-Act format)
    (4) something undetermined that focuses on developing and building number sense in students of all ages

    Seems like quite the full plate, but tasks like these are such a passion that it’ll be a fun and interesting ride.

  2. I’d really like to use the idea of creating our own interactive textbooks via iAuthor or other easy textbook-creating programs. Right now, our school is working with a book that is 6 years old and we’re one of the luckier schools. My old high school’s books are >10 years old. Having the ability to create our own text based on content that is directly relevant to the students that we serve, including flipped videos, interactive questions, and 3-act responses is the way that I see education moving. Plus, it doesn’t take that long to create!

  3. I would love to see a 3-act repository. Something that allows teachers to upload their 3-acts, has a searchable/filterable index by topic and standard, and displays them in the format of your threeacts.mrmeyer.com pages.

    I’d be happy to help code up something like this, but was figuring you’d get around to it eventually yourself :)

  4. How about a site devoted to students’ creative strategies? Correct, though. Kind of an anti-mathmistakes. Or parallel with?

    In almost every classroom in which I teach, a student will share a solution that is either new to me or unexpected. For example, last month I was using ten frames to teach two-digit subtraction in a grade 3 classroom. After a few questions in which students could simply remove the tens and the ones, I gave them something like 36 – 19. I didn’t tell students to borrow, but the lesson warm-up had them building two-digit numbers in as many ways as they could (3 tens 6 ones, 2 tens 16 ones, etc.). As expected, most came up with borrowing. However, one student solved this problem of not enough ones by removing 2 tens and then adding 1. This strategy made sense to his classmates, many of whom quickly adopted it over borrowing. Need to subtract 27 from 45? Easy-peasy. Subtract 30, then add 3.

    Helping teachers become better teachers by examining what students come up with when we let them do the math would be the vision here. Like Michael’s site, in which teachers are asked to determine the misconception, teachers could be asked to make sense of the student’s (correct) work.

  5. Is it weird that I get a moment of pure pleasure when I see my name on your blog? Love it!

    Anyway I two more niche sites for you!

    The first is one that Tina Cardone created this November that you might have missed. It’s a tumblr called “A Day In The Life.”

    It’s a continuation of a small initiative she and I had where we asked math teachers to recap one day from one week in November– to try to show others what our lives are like outside of those short 5 to 50 minute bits we tend to blog about. [Call for submissions and Tina archived all of them.]

    The second is the GlobalMathDepartment started by Megan Hayes-Golding. Every Tuesday, whoever is free goes on the site, and there is a presenter (or presenters) which change, from week to week. It’s pretty amazing. She writes: “Thank you to the #globalmath community for an awesome 2012! We’ve held 18 meetings, have 194 members, and attract attendees from as far away as Regina, Sydney, and Kobe.”

    Cool yo! Thanks for the list… I’ve been so preoccupied with non-blogosphere things that I’ve missed a few of these!


  6. I really like your idea, Chris. Do you want to collaborate on it? I think it would be easy to set up a WordPress blog and then just solicit these kinds of situations from people as they come up.

  7. Re: 3, I looked into that some when I wrote a post called “The Math Blogotwittosphere is the Best Blogotwittosphere.” I think the short answer is: not much. I can say that pretty confidently for history, less confidently for ELA.

    Part of the problem is the structure of other disciplines. There is much greater conformity in what math teachers teach, and you all are, more or less, trying to get people to come up with the same answer. In history, there are a zillion people teaching the Revolution, but some do it in a day, some a week, some a month… some emphasize the political, some the economic, some the social… some use competing secondary sources, some build from primary sources, some just run through the textbook. And at the end of the day, when my students look at the Revolution, I want them to come up with different answers to the same problem.

    Of course a range exists in math, but I think it’s a much narrower range.

    But along the lines of single purpose sites in the humanities, my current favorite is the Daily Create, a daily inspiration for and archive of digital creativity.

    Another possibility would be from your neck of the woods: Beyond the Bubble. It stretches the definition of “by teachers not corporations.” It’s by well-funded researchers, rather than a hack, but some of the spirit is the same. And it does one thing well: create short assessments of students historical thinking skills.

    Still, I follow a lot of history folks and a lot of math folks, and I think the other disciplines have a lot to learn from what you all are doing together. We’ll have to bring a bunch of you to the National Council of the Social Studies sometime…

  8. When I have time, I’ve been creating wikis to support the 6th grade common core. Here’s ratios and proportions
    and geometry. They include GeoGeba applets, a few of your three acts (plus one of my own!), as well as other online resources. I wish I was more original like Fawn, Andrew, et al, but it’s the best I can offer right now. However if others want to contribute, please send me a message through the wiki.

    My blog is not techy; I find myself sharing tasks I’ve created or tweaked. The “uniqueness” is the use of resource cards or hints when students are stuck. I’ll ask a question, hand them a resource card, then walk away for them to struggle a bit.

    Like Chris, I want to delve into the issues facing education today, the reform movement in particular. Perhaps one post a month will help me remove these blinders I’m wearing.

  9. You’ve been a great inspiration and catalyst for a lot of this work, Dan. Thanks for being so thoughtful and so open!

    PS: I have one more app to show everyone before getting back to work for 2013… ;)

  10. These are some amazing resources and all of this has jump started me to starting my own blog. I have been following a lot of this stuff in the recent months and since the new year is about to start, I figured I would jump on the bandwagon. Keep up the good work everyone and hopefully I have something good to share as well.

  11. I like the idea of starting a digital textbook that is collaborative. We can start with a simple framework of topics, maybe based on the Common Core, and then get volunteers to work on each section. We all already have materials (ie. worksheets or lesson material) which we can contribute, but the idea is to create something that is cohesive and flows and draws from all the interactive and creative resources on the web. The people who work on a later topic will necessarily have to first read through the previous topics, give feedback and/or update the content, in order to make it flow meaningfully into the next topic and to back-reference where appropriate. Sometimes I feel that the rich resources are so scattered that when we do sit down to lesson plan, it’s unrealistic to at that moment go through all of the things that are already available out there. Special interest websites are nice, but to me something that is already organized by topics is more accessible to teachers as a whole, and something that is collaborative, “open source” makes it possible to customize to our collective needs.

  12. (John) I’m very interested in the idea of a collaborative etext based on the common core. If someone plans on going for it, shoot me an email or something, I’d love to be on board.

    Also, I wonder whether it might also be just as beneficial to create a database of examples/contexts/situations/projects linked to common core standards. Just thinking.

    Thanks for all you regular commenters on the site, you and Dan keep me encouraged.

  13. I’m going for it. Check out fishing4tech.com/pre-made-math-lessons to see some of the stuff I’ve started. It’s very bare bones and directed to the lesson plan side of things that we are currently teaching in our Algebra curriculum. To accompany this, I’m forming a team of people to create an online textbook (probably through a Weebly site) that pools together flip videos, resources, research, projects, problem-based learning, homework when necessary, and anything else we can think of. Essentially, it’s the anti-textbook that kids can actually use. Email me stevens009@gmail.com to get on board.

  14. David Lippman:

    I would love to see a 3-act repository. Something that allows teachers to upload their 3-acts, has a searchable/filterable index by topic and standard, and displays them in the format of your threeacts.mrmeyer.com pages.

    I’d be happy to help code up something like this, but was figuring you’d get around to it eventually yourself :)

    Yep. Top of the to-do list.

    @Sam, thanks for reminding me of Megan’s Global Math Department. Such great work this year.

    @Justin, thanks for your analysis of the content-level differences between history and math. While math’s (relatively more) uniform structure permits more resource sharing, I’d still love to see something like the Global Math Department (or Physics Department) for social studies or ELA. The looser structure of those disciplines might make weekly community speakers even more interesting than in math and science.

    Wineburg’s Beyond the Bubble team is doing some great work, too. Their pedagogical focus is narrow compared to something like the lesson templates at BetterLesson but that narrowness has made a little effort go a long way.

  15. I have put together a reference site for Algebra 1 teachers to help them overcome their fear of the Common Core. I have not included/referenced a text book with this site. The site is organized by units and includes so many of the great lessons that already exist on the internet.

    (John and Andrew) I would love to be included with this as well. I have thought about using CK12 to create unit texts for reference, but it is on my very long list of things to do. I would love to be able to collaborate with others. A great discussion is often the ticket to get the best possible outcome.

  16. First, I share Sam’s sentiments: “a moment of pure pleasure to see my name on your blog.” Thanks Dan! I truly appreciate the nod and inspiration.
    Second, it’s an honor to be part of such a fine group. I have great respect and admiration for you all.
    Third, there are so many teachers doing great things and offering their passions, crafts, and talents to other teachers for the benefit of student success. I wish there were more hours in the day to consume these gifts and effectively practice them with my students. Thanks to all of you contribute to the pool of resources. May our 2013 pool grow even deeper!