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e's ponderings

about teaching math and learning math. What is a recipe for perfect learning?

Updated: 2018-03-05T10:46:20.070-05:00


Summer camps


We didn't really have summer camps when I was growing up. At least not thematic ones. We'd go to the seaside with teachers, but I don't recall doing any work. Today is my last day in math camp and in Portland, OR. I'm teaching a class on Banach Tarski paradox (take an orange, cut it up into finitely many pieces, rearrange them and make two oranges of sizes equal to the original one; or if you'd like do the same to pea and rearrange the pieces to make a ball size of the sun). Anyhow, with years I kinda grew to appreciate and like nerds. But as I was telling Mark, some of these kids take the nerdyness to a whole new level. The phrase I used was "of cosmic proportions". I thought it hilarious that to the question "Where in California are you from" this kid answered "Stanford". The class has been fun. It's pretty small, and some of these kids are super bright. Not only have they been totally following what's going on, but they have been coming up with some great ideas and picking up things they've never seen before with an amazing speed (I only gave 3 lectures so far, and we have one left). Others are undoubtedly also bright, but I can't tell because they don't talk. Even here there were 2 who refused to get up to the board.

There are several classes running simultaneously, and most teachers teach only one class a day and hold two hours of office hours. Whenever I went to anything mathy we'd do math during the day, and then hang out in the evenings. Not the practice here. The only people I hung out with were the kids during my class and my office hours! Nobody proposed any gathering (some talk of it last night, but then nothing happened), nor even asked me what I was doing and if I wanted to do anything. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't sitting in my terrible room being sad and lonely, but to be honest, I don't think I'll repeat this experience. Not because of the kids, but time has passes when all I wanted to do was do math, especially in a place I've never been before.



Mark sent me an email:

This is a school in the same county as the one we grew up in. Go to the one about "Mount Vernon Teacher could be Fired". I tried looking for a written story, and couldn't find it. Apparently, people watch newspapers these days. So I googled it:

Columbus Dispatch

Life Site News?!?

There are loads of others. Now, what sort of a teacher must this guy be if a LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD votes unanimously to fire him?

Left to write right :)


I'm afraid I may have hyped up this post too much, but here it is. I've heard many times people talk how students interpret equal sign as a signal to do something. While I certainly noticed that, I still think it would be unfair to say that the students do not understand the actual meaning of equal sign: the two quantities/objects separated by an equal sign are the same quantity/object. However, this understanding is somewhat fragile, and to me very surprising. This is where my left to right comment came from. It appears to me that the equal sign tells the students that what is on the left hand side of the equal sign is the same as what is on its right, but not the other way around. This was most pronounced in the distributive property of multiplication over addition. They can easily tell me that a(b+c) is the same as ab+ac, but when we start talking about factoring and we have to go from ab+ac=a(b+c) this becomes a great mystery. Even if I write it the usual way a(b+c)=ab+ac, and point out that we have an equal sign therefore going "the other way", that is from right to left, amounts to what we call factoring, it still remains illusive. There are many examples of left to right exclusiveness: (a+b)^2 is easily a^2+2ab+b^2, but not so much the other way; a^2-b^2 can immediately be said to be (a-b)(a+b), but they need to multiply out (a-b)(a+b) -- and often incorrectly. On the other hand if as an answer to some equation you get 5 = x, they will easily tell you that x is 5. Is there something to this or is it just a random peculiarity?

Something I think I forgot to mention that got me upset at the last conference. People will quote things that students say, wrong things, and laugh. Laugh? What exactly is funny?

Also, does anyone have 2 dogs? Mine almost always lie perfectly symmetrically. Do they coordinate? Does one peak at the other to see what a comfy position is for that particular moment?

Catch up


The semester is over, and I enjoyed my last week immensely. I wish I could take more time off (although there was some work involved I mostly played), but no such luck. My 1010 class is over. I take it the people in charge believe I did a good job because I get another one in the fall: 180 enrollment cap. I myself doubt this is even possible. ... There was a week long intermission here. I went to Berkeley for a conference on teaching algebra. I had fairly interesting couple of days, although in many respects utterly unenlightening, especially from a point of view of someone who just taught a whole bunch of kids who failed to learn "enough" of it in high school. The reason I put enough under quotations is that I am not sure what this enough means. I am also not convinced that the departments that decide on qa requirements have the right idea of what their students need, bu more about this below. The reason I say unenlightening is that from what I can tell there are many good curricula and people (at least the ones I heard talk) all seem to, more or less, agree that algebra can be taught in a way that students learn and they have a pretty good idea of what that might be. It is then rather mysterious as to why the students have not learned more, and we haven't heard much on that topic. It was little unclear what the conversation was really about, as throughout the conference I couldn't shake off this feeling that people were talking about different things although they were using the same words, and several people in fact noted the same. Even that said, there weren't many disagreements and everyone was rather friendly and respectful. Except for Wu, I believe I might have mentioned him once before someplace in this blog, who started his talk by saying that the way we teach algebra is all wrong, and that it is basically "garbage in, garbage out", and proceeded to inform us that all the problems start with the way fractions are taught and that is the root of all of our problems. While I don't necessarily disagree with his proposed definition of fractions, I do have a problem with giving such judgmental statements without offering any proof that what he is proposing is better (or even different) from what is currently being done. I actually asked him for the proof, or in the absence of one, he could just give me some evidence that would support his claim. His answer was "Well, there is no alternative. What else would you do?" I would have expected something better from a mathematician. People tried to point out that his definition (a point on a number line) has been in the textbooks for at least last 10 years and what he is saying isn't all that revolutionary, but all those comments fell on deaf ears. I was rather upset by the lack of conversation and abundance of monologues on his part. The highlight of this conference for me were couple of hours my friend Brynja and I spent talking to Bob Moses. This was the second time I heard him speak, but only first that I had an opportunity to talk to him. I had a chapter of his book still unread, and I finished it on my way home, and I could hear him read it to me in his soothing, calm, respectful, and powerful voice. I was so impressed with his demeanor especially because my reactions to the world and its injustices are so different. I suppose I still have some growing up to do. The premise of Algebra Project is that algebra course in middle or high school is a gatekeeper course. A student who has not been successful in algebra courses in their secondary schooling will have to take remedial courses in college (and the ones I have seen are NOT organized in a way that supports those students) and thus their cahnces of succeeding in studies that would lead to higher paying professions and economic mainstream would be severely diminished. While I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment, I have come to believe that the role algebra plays in lives of many college students is very different from the role a[...]

More about me


Got tagged by Jonathan (who is a math teacher)

The rules:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

Here we go.

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?
May 1998. Completing my first few months of teaching in a high school in Sarajevo. I had just returned from Croatia where I finished my undergrad. I loved the job, but hated being in Sarajevo. Had no friends left, knew no one, stayed with my parents, decided I needed to leave. I asked my undergrad advisor if it was too late to apply for grad school in the US. People he knows said to go ahead, and accepted me without a GRE or TOEFL. Borrowed money for a plane ticket and three months later landed in SLC.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

(I’m giving tomorrow morning’s list)

1. Finish writing up observation notes for a student teacher I saw teach few months ago!? Eek.
2. Give a tour and entertain 35 high school students who are interested in teaching math.
3. Clean up my office, it is super messy.
4. Start seriously putting together the geometry workshop I'm organizing this summer.
5. Run (this should be number 1)

3) Snacks I enjoy:

Candied ginger and almonds. Pretzels.

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. Billionaire?
2. Give it away?
3. Save lots to travel :)

5) Three of my bad habits:

1. Putting things off
2. Giving up on things
3. Biting my nails now and then

6) 5 places I have lived:

1. Sarajevo
2. Zagreb
3. Salt Lake City
4. Ann Arbor
5. Barcelona (very briefly, almost doesn't count)

7) 5 jobs I have had:

Yeah, right. Afraid this one will be a short list, unless I can put the jobs I could imagine myself having.

1. sort of an accountant
2. mathematician, although I list this reluctantly. I have still to decide what that really means.
3. teacher

8) 6 people I wanna know more about:

1. H
2. lsquared hasn't started writing yet, but comments often.
3. Vlorbik
4. IB a math teacher

A needy friend needs me, so 4 will have to suffice.

I need help


Ok, it's about 1010 again. This class has a departmental final. One of the people who are teaching it has decided to organize math karaoke night for her students and the idea is that if they do it they can get 4-6% extra credit on their final. She has asked the other two instructors to participate. I dislike the idea. On the other hand, I do not want my students to be disadvantaged because I don't like the concept. So, although I don't like extra credit at all, I would like to come up with something that would put my students on equal footing with the others. Any ideas? Thanks.

So long


If I don't write things when they happen I forget. There has been so much going on this semester, but I'm having hard time putting it all together. This week was a spring break that I intended to spend catching up on all the things that I have neglected, but I spent it on two things: writing a grant for master of science program for secondary teachers and filing my taxes. The former is, I hope, out of my hands (but then again I thought the same on Wednesday night and spent all day yesterday working on it), and the latter is still waiting for me as both online programs I tried got hung up on MI state taxes. And I didn't even want to live there :)

Anyway, I want to say a few things about my classes. Mark says that the only one I ever talk about is my 1010 class. That's the intermediate algebra, started with 195 students, stabilized at about 150. It's actually really hard to tell because, despite all my efforts they don't show up. I use the clickers to take attendance that is worth 5% of their grade. I get about 100-115 students, and never more than that (except on the exam day). I give quizzes that are worth 15% of their grade. I get 115 students show up on the quiz days as well. I started alternating between in class quizzes and online quizzes. My favorite day was when I reminded them in class that the quiz is online, twice. 115 were present, 95 took the quiz. And! They have between 3pm on day and 9am the following day to take it. I really am not sure how else I could encourage them to be there. Maybe it's not important that they're there. Except my last exam average was 62%! It is entirely possible that I can't write an exam, but that'll be another post. Although ....

Random thought: It is extremely hard to find whiskey barrels in Utah.

... I wouldn't want to imply that most of the students don't care. There are many who work really hard, and do really well. But many are all too happy to keep a grudge, text during class, sleep or just chat, and to be one of 150 hoping I'll never know them. Many I don't. But many I do. It was really funny to watch them freak out when I started calling people by their names especially the ones who sit in the back and don't talk. Anyhow, the theory for low passing rate in these classes is that they don't come to class. I don't believe so. The reason is that they are so huge. If these kids could learn in this kind of an environment then probably wouldn't need to be here. The department's problems are clear though: we don't have enough money to teach smaller sections. We have about 400-500 students a semester. If you want a decent sized classrooms you'd need what, about 20 sections? We have 3! Apparently we can't afford any more than that. What can we do to make these students more successful? Trying to get them more involved in the actual class, having them work on the problems on their own and getting an instant feedback and awareness of how everyone else is doing (the clickers) makes it a more engaging atmosphere, and I am convinced it helps them (and many said as much, even if only that they are not afraid of being wrong) but it also means I am behind. Now I am worried that I will not cover all the material that they would need before they can be successful in college algebra class. I'm all about them knowing something well, but we do have a departmental final and I'm worried they'll do badly. Argh.

Anyway, some teacher ladies are meeting for drinks. Yeah, I know, kinda early, it must be the Utah thing.

Rubber room?!


Ever heard of it? Listen to This American Life Human resources episode. It's act 1. Is this NYC thing, or does it happen everywhere? I am flabbergasted.

Couldn't resist


I have so much to write about, that by the time I get to finally write I will have forgotten half of it. There is a lesson waiting to be done, for tomorrow, of course, so my post won't be written today. The only reason I'm here right now is that I received a midterm course evaluation (I have one on my website, and students can fill it in whenever they like, anonymously). I had to share this one: ---------------------------------------------------------------------------Midterm Course Evaluation---------------------------------------------------------------------------math 1010---------------------------------------------------------------------------(How effectively is class time used? Is there an appropriate mixture of concepts vs. examples? How could the instructor make better use of class time?)---------------------------------------------------------------------------ya there is that mixture---------------------------------------------------------------------------(Is the pace of the class appropriate? If appropriate, was the transition between your last math course and your current course smooth?)---------------------------------------------------------------------------its ok. i liked my other math class better. my teacher was very to the point. here is the problem this is how you solve it. but in this class i dont know she likes to be creative with story problems and i'm not really in to story problems.---------------------------------------------------------------------------(Is the classroom a comfortable learning environment and do you feel comfortable asking questions during or after class or during the instructors office hours? Offer suggestions for improvement if appropriate.)---------------------------------------------------------------------------kind of. its a big class so its hard. i have emailed her a few times about a problem on my math and she never really seems to answer my question. her answers are very broad.---------------------------------------------------------------------------(Are the lectures interesting and inspirational? Are topics and examples presented appropriate to course? Is the instructor enthusiastic and prepared for class? Offer suggestions for improvement if appropriate.)---------------------------------------------------------------------------Not at all inspirational. She is overly happy about math. She does math very oddly. probably because she is from a different country but ya i dont think she knows that FOIL is a better method then the big long process she does. she doesnt do math the same way most students are taught so her ways throw me off alot. she should explain it step by step what she is trying to show us and be like..o ya its like when you guys do this for math, i'm doing it the same way but written differently. just a suggestion.---------------------------------------------------------------------------(Have a consistent set goals, procedures, and expectations of the instructor been established for the course? Has the instructor followed through with these goals?)---------------------------------------------------------------------------yes. ??---------------------------------------------------------------------------(Is the classwork (homework, projects, tests,...) appropriate and enlightening? Is grading fair and consistent? How much time per week do you typically spend on classwork? Do you study alone, in the tutoring center, or in a group?)---------------------------------------------------------------------------some assignments are an intro to the next thing we are learning which i think is an absolutely terrible idea. if your teaching one thing you stick to it. and when we move on then will we have to do that assignment. making that transition just confuses people. stick with one thing at a time! cant stress that enough. grading is fair. notb[...]

Full room


I taught my first 200 person class today. I am not easily intimidated by people, but it is hard to stand in front of that many. Especially when they don't look like they want to be there :) Other thing that is really hard is not to look at the same people all the time. I realized it as I was talking. I kept glancing all over, but I remember looking at three or four people more than at others. I had a computer today, and I'm sure that having to be in a certain part of the room had something to do with it. I hope this will change. This will be a challenge.

On an unrelated note, I just got last semester's evaluations. They were as expected, both good and bad :) However, this is the first time ever that somebody commented on the way I dressed!?! Now, why would you even think of putting that into a course evaluation?



My beautiful (image) decided to make problems for us this morning. Well, it started yesterday, but we only opened it up this morning to find water all over its insides. I had to make french press coffee this morning. Sad e.

Math 1010


I am scheduled to teach an intermediate algebra course next semester with 200 students enrolled. I am not even going to talk about the fact that I don't think these classes should be taught at the university level. All students should be ready to take college classes when they get to college (yeah, I know). But since we do offer them, I would imagine our goal is that students learn the material so they can take college algebra (no idea where the name came from since that course shouldn't be taught in college either). All that aside, I vehemently oppose large sections of anything really, but especially of low level classes. The students who are in those classes are not there because mathematics comes easily to them. If they can learn it by listening to lectures given by an instructor, they would have already done so. I know why these courses are taught like that: money. And I can't stand that we continue to do it although we know that a failure rate in those classes is much larger than in any other. In fact, some people go as far to claim that the failure rate is large because students do not show up for classes (as if the learning happens by osmosis, so all we have to make sure is that they are there). I actually do think that the students should attend classes, but I don't know how I feel about policing students who should by now have some sense of responsibility for their own actions and choices. Also, one must admit that taking roll in a room with 200 students would not be time efficient. That is, it wouldn't if clickers (also known as audience response system) didn't exist. Each student has their little clicking device that emits signal (when a button on it is pressed) that is received by a little antenna hooked up to a laptop with an appropriate software installed. You can ask a multiple choice, T/F, Y/N questions that are projected on the wall, and I believe actually received on students' pads, they answer it and the program records each answer (each student is identified by their student id #) and can immediately project what answers are given. In any event, taking roll becomes extremely easy, asking questions that can help direct the class are easily implemented and quizzes are quickly graded. Which brought me to my next problem. I never give multiple choice quizzes. I was trying to think of a way to actually look over students work, and I came up with the idea of giving a clicker quizzes, but after each quiz I would list 20 or 30 students (chosen randomly, but so that over the course of the semester I see each student's quiz at least once) whose work I will actually grade. Haven't quite figured out what to do with that grade. Maybe have an extra quiz grade which would really be only 0/1: 0 if the work doesn't correspond to the answers given, and 1 if it does. Anyway, needs more thought. But then I just ran into this multiple choice tests post, and I like the idea. I feel a little better about these quizzes. Anyway, better go work on that syllabus. And if you have great ideas about how to teach 200 students in a chunk of hour and a half, please send them my way.

Never been tagged before...


I was catching up with JD's blog and was very surprised to find my name at the bottom of this post. I was curious if I could even come up with seven things. They might be fairly random. Not too weird, I don't think. Here we go:

1. Quit smoking about three years ago, cold turkey. Speaking of which I believe I only ate turkey once shortly before becoming vegetarian (don't think two were related). Quitting smoking and eating meat are both surprising if you know anything about country I come from: Bosnia and Herzegovina. Still drink coffee, though.

2. I've started many a thing in which I lost interest shortly thereafter. It worries me still. I wonder what I else I will give up.

3. I've twirled my hair since I had it, is what my parents say. It is so me, that I haven't even noticed that my husband, then boyfriend, was doing it as well until our parents cracked up about it. My hair is now less than an inch short which makes twirling really hard. I steal his now and then for twirling purposes.

4. I don't understand people's obsession with procreating.

5. I used to be tolerant of people's religious beliefs. I still think to each their own, but I am not very concerned with not being perceived as offensive. I realize that I do not respect nor tolerate ignorance, nor unfounded statements in any other realm of life, so I don't see why I should when it comes to religion. And I don't mind saying it.

6. I have never been afraid of flying. Well, never until two years ago. Particularly turbulent flight from Zagreb to Sarajevo has made me really nervous about flying. I've been trying to ask as many questions as I can about planes and flying. I am particularly sad that I hadn't been paying attention in my physics classes. I just realized that I forgot to ask if a wing can fall off and what would happen then.

7. I can talk pretty much with anybody about pretty much anything. Except for my dad. He has a particular gift of upsetting me almost as soon as he opens his mouth. All right, a slight exaggeration, but only slight. My sister says that I am much more critical of my parents than of other people. I think I ought to be. They are my parents.

Here are the rules:
- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Tagging 7 other people would be hard. I'm afraid the meme dies here.

Safe on internet, at home?


My students are worried that they can't let their students on line. Because it's not safe. I'm currently more worried about being safe in my house. What follows is a text message conversation between me and Mark:

e: Sweetie, I just got a bit worried. I did hand a key to our house to a person we don't know!
m: Don't worry about it. It will be fine. Besides, what are they going to do? Steal all my photo shit in the basement?
e: She told me she used to dog sit for people in park city and how nuts they all are :)
m: Going to bed now. What are you up to?
e: Grading! Is there anything else? You don't think she'll come back and kill me?
m: Sweetie! The homework will get you first!
e: Are you sure? I feel like I may be on fox news tomorrow "a gullible math geek hands the keys of her house to a known criminal. Stay tuned, more after the weather"
m: Sweetie, don't be ridiculous. They always show the weather last :)

Mondays are hard


I teach my elementary teachers on Mondays, 4:30 to 6:30. Last night I spent another hour after that with a crying student. I found out I was supposed to apologize for having high standards! Joy. Came home, walked the dogs, ate, passed out.

Kucinich rocks!


That's all.



I have a hard time with this one. I think it's children's natural state to have attention deficit and to be hyperactive and I do not think we should drug them because they are. That is not to say that I doubt disorder's existence, I just doubt that it is as common as it is diagnosed. I am listening to Talk of the nation and they are talking about the latest study that shows that an individual may grow out of the ADHD, that is that the part of brain responsible may just take little longer to develop in ADHD individuals, but once it does these people no longer have ADHD. A woman calls in says she was told she had ADHD, so if she doesn't have it anymore, how would she know!?!

Vouchers, again


From Salt Lake Tribune: With 85 percent of the state's precincts reporting, 62.1 percent of Utahns voted against school vouchers and 37.8 percent voted for them.

More to follow.



Has anyone seen Chalk? What did you make of it?

On a different note, I asked my students "If you had to think of something that is as different from mathematics as possible what would it be?" I got a fair number of "I can't think of anything different".... What would be your answer?

And something well, maybe not as unrelated as it may appear. The other day (10/18 show) I listened to The Bryant Park Project and they had two people who were going to some sort of right conference. They were asked for three most important issues that would decide who they would vote for. The answers were, in this order: the abortion issue, the marriage issue, and the judges that the candidate would appoint. When asked "Why these?" the woman answered "I'm a mother of two children, and I'm concerned about their future." So am I.

Nothing to do with math


I couldn't resist:




I am really not too huge on advertising. I've ever only worn one shirt ever (well, two, but one is really warm and fuzzy and free and unfortunately has word MICHIGAN on it, I guess you could think state, not the university, although highly unlikely) that had any sort of writing or picture on it that is larger that half a centimeter by 2 centimeters. Anyhow, I have put up two Stop vouchers signs on Friday, and taken one For vouchers sign down, not personally of course, so I was pretty proud of my accomplishments. I also explained the whole thing to a person who claimed not to have known much about it and he said he was going to vote against them, but it could be that was said only because he thought his tip depended on it (he was cutting my hair). Anyway, for those of you who do not know, the voters will be deciding on vouchers for private schools: will the parents who decide to send their children to private schools be allowed to receive up to $3000 towards tuition from state education funds? Anyway, you can see the whole bill here, but some my favorite parts are (italics was added by me):

Eligible private schools:
(g) employ or contract with teachers who:
(i) hold baccalaureate or higher degrees; or
(ii) have special skills, knowledge, or expertise that qualifies them to provide instruction in the subjects taught;
(h) provide to parents the teaching credentials of the school's teachers; and
(i) provide, upon request to any person, a statement indicating which, if any,
organizations have accredited the private school.

The scholarship application form shall contain the following statement:
"I acknowledge that:

(1) A private school may not provide the same level of services that are provided in a public school.
(2) The private school in which I have chosen to enroll my child has disclosed to me
the teaching credentials of the school's teachers and the school's accreditation status.
(3) I will assume full financial responsibility for the education of my scholarship
student if I accept this scholarship.
(4) Acceptance of this scholarship has the same effect as a parental refusal to consent to services pursuant to Section 614(a)(1) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1400 et seq."

The polls seem to be saying that the vouchers will be voted down. I hope they are right.

Further development with unsatisfied students


I had just written a whole paragraph that got lost. I do not like when that happens.

I was going to tell you more about these two students. We have a 2 hour class, so I usually try to give them a break half way through, so we can all take a breather. Well, on Monday these two students left during the break, without telling me that they would, what is what most students do if they need to leave. So I sent them a message that said something like "I noticed you left, I hope everything is ok, and that you'll be able to catch up. Let me know if I can do anything." Only one of them bothered to respond, and said something to the effect that she doesn't feel comfortable in the classroom, that assigned groups make her feel irresponsible and she already has issues with group work. "The main reason I left was simply becuase of this discomfort. I know you are trying to get us to work with other people, but there are more effective ways to achieve this goal." Of course I emailed back and said that I feel saddened by this and that we should meet in person and talk. I also asked about these more effective ways. She responded only to tell me that she can't make it before class because she had another class right before and not a word about the more effective ways. I responded that she should name any time and I'll meet with her. Hadn't heard back.

Anyway, it appears that they since emailed the chair of the department to say that nothing has been done about this and to complain some more. The chair politely directed them back to the associate chair whom they had spoken to already. The thing is that it is not clear what it is that they would like to happen. Would they like me fired? Would they like to get a new instructor? Would they like me to let them do whatever they want? What is it that I am supposed to do? There are 2 students who are fuming, out of 43. Do I ignore them? What would you do?

Funny thing: Another student came by to talk to me and told me that a while back some sort of petition had been written, and that he had signed, but under pressure, and that if anybody ever mentions it he would gladly go talk to them on my behalf. I have no idea what they asked for in the petition. The funny thing is that the student who started the petition apparently decided to take the sequel of this course next semester. From me.

First time for everything


We were on fall break for a week. After spending a week with the in-laws (just to clarify: that is not a great thing), I have come to school to the first official complaint about me ever. The associate chair came to speak to me because 2(!) of my (elementary) students came to talk to him about me. Granted, one of them said things were getting better, but that is hardly making me happy. I don't feel terrible though. Well, I won't cry this time :)

Opposite of recruiting?


Jonathan over at JD2718 is asking how we retain teachers. Although a very good question (I think he probably means how we retain good teachers) to which I would love to get an answer, I have a slightly different question: how do we prevent some people from going into the teaching profession? Some of the students I see who are studying to be teachers are mysteriously passing their courses and will get a degree, but from what I can tell though they are not ready mathematically to teach, and I am not convinced that they enjoy mathematics. I have had conversations about this and the argument I most often hear is that we need to let them pass if they are not totally bad. Because if we don't then we will have such a shortage of teachers that the people who will end up in the classroom will have even less training (read: they'll be much worse) than the ones I'm worried about. However, this problem feeds into the one Jonathan is talking about (well one version of it anyway, the one that encompasses all teachers). If people who come out of our teachers' programs are not ready to be teachers or should not be teachers at all, then they are likely to quit pretty quickly. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, once again, I do not have a solution.

Hurt feelings


Today is the third (fourth? who's counting) time in two weeks I cried because of things my students said. I guess I am starting to doubt that I can even teach. But what I wanted to leave a note about is this: we always talk about how we have to be careful when we talk to our students, but nobody ever tells students they should be careful about the way they talk to their teachers. Teachers have feelings, too. I suppose it's fine of the time, but it's the students who want to be teachers that I am sad about. It just seems that there is a serious case of split personality. When you're a student you're a student only, and when you're a teacher you forget you were a student. I'm just gonna go mop around some more.