Say Hi at NCTM 2017!

I’m on a shortened schedule at NCTM this year but I’m making the most of it. Here’s where you’ll find me.


How to Present at NCTM

Robert Kaplinsky and I would like to help you propose a session and and present it at NCTM. Robert has served on the NCTM program committee and will help you understand how proposals are evaluated. I’ve presented professionally for nearly a decade and will offer my own playbook for designing and delivering presentations. Our motives are selfish. So many of you have stories to tell and insights to offer. Our profession needs them out of your head and into all of ours.

The Desmos Booth

Stop by the exhibit hall and say hi sometime between 3PM – 4PM. Tell me what you’re working on.

ShadowCon v3.0

For the last two years, ShadowCon has functioned as a sort of research and development arm of NCTM’s program committee. Zak Champagne, Mike Flynn, and I study an idea on a small scale (filming every presentation, for example, or giving every presenter a webpage for follow-up discussion) and NCTM uses our data to decide if they should expand the idea to more presenters. This year, we have four exceptional presenters — Cathy Yenca, Anurupa Ganguly, Kassia Omohundro Wedekind, Geoff Krall — offering provocative ideas and we’ll study a new template for conference follow-up.


Desmos Happy Hour

Even before I worked at Desmos, this was my favorite happy hour. Great energy. Great people from all across NCTM’s membership. Come for a free drink. Stay for the math trivia. Doors open at 7PM. Trivia starts at 8PM.


Math is Power, not Punishment

This is the last time I’ll give this talk, the accumulation of a lot of thinking and designing around Guershon Harel’s concept of “intellectual need.” I’ll start by pointing out that the software engineers at Desmos and the summer school Algebra II students I worked with in Berkeley had very different answers to the question, “What would your life be like without variables?” Then we’ll figure out how to bridge those answers.

There is a 95% chance that each of my sessions will be filmed. I mention that in case you can’t make the trip to San Antonio and also because, even if you can make the trip, there are lots of amazing sessions in each time slot.

In the comments, let us know what you’re excited to do and see at NCTM.

BTW. If you’re feeling even a little bit intimidated by the deluge of people and ideas at conferences like NCTM, I recommend you read Nic Petty’s 10 hints to make the most of teaching and academic conferences.

Bonus. In an example of the creative forces that can flow through tweeting and blogging communities of practice like this one, Meredith Thompson commented on my last post that:

… looking at climate change over a short period of time gives one picture, but enlarging the frame to geological scale shows great fluctuations in temperature. This argument becomes “fuel” for people who claim that global warming is not a problem — yet the current dramatic increase (sometimes called the hockey stick) convinces many people (myself included) that action is needed.

This seemed like a job for a Desmos activity. Here is one where students crop climate data in two different ways, using those selections to make two opposite claims about the data, experiencing firsthand how easy it is to distort data.

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 the shout out, Dan. It made my evening. :) I just came from the NSTA (science teachers) conference and I’m really excited to be able to experience some of NCTM.

    OK, back to the climate graphing activity. Your activity is a nice “pivot” on the normal process of having students interpret graphs to giving students the interpretation and having them select a piece of the graph that provides supporting evidence. In the science ed world claim/ evidence/ reasoning (CER) approach is the current strategy for getting kids to think systematically about a topic. The reasoning piece is always tricky for kids. This idea of giving students the claim and the reasoning and then having them find the evidence in the graph could be a nice way to strengthen those skills.

    I think of other ways that students could critically examine and question graphs. I wonder about “dangerous ideas in graphs” like ideas about intelligence as a bell curve, or models of population growth or resource use (over fishing). The critical analysis and questioning of information is especially important in our current environment of questioning “what are the real facts”?

    • I think of other ways that students could critically examine and question graphs. I wonder about “dangerous ideas in graphs” like ideas about intelligence as a bell curve, or models of population growth or resource use (over fishing).

      Yeah, interesting. This particular activity takes the instrument for data collection at face value. There are loads of instances where students should question the collection instrument itself, before even looking at the graph.

  2. Hope to see you around Dan! I noticed your Friday morning is clear, come check out my Watertank Math presentation in room 213AB Friday morning at 8am! Great new approach to teaching adding and subtracting integers, especially those darn negative integers. Hope to have you in attendance Dan! Maybe we can get a Desmos activity made up for it!

  3. Thanks for sharing your NCTM plans, Dan! I’m looking forward to both of your talks (although, as you mentioned, there really is a lot of super interesting stuff going on at the same time)!

    I’ll try to pick your brain for a bit at the Desmos booth about dynamic algebras. I really think they can open the door for amazing learning activities just like Desmos does, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on it :)

  4. Do you know when and where your presentations from NCTM will be available on video? Thank you!

    • Thanks for the question, Jera. I’ll be sure to post them here when they’re ready. Unfortunately, a technical issue got in the way of filming my main talk (Power, not Punishment). I’ll give it another try in May.