On Being Where You Don’t Belong

“¿Qué quiere (What do you want)?”

“¿Lo que ellos están comiendo (what everyone else is eating)?” I said, as I nodded my head in the direction of several beautifully colored plates of yellow rice and black bean sofrito with slow-cooked pork shoulder and fried plantains.

The waitress let out a sigh, rolled her eyes, and walked away. I had had to aggressively flag her down in order to get her to come to my table and I was now thinking that she wouldn’t come back with any food. She whispered to someone behind the counter while looking at me, the person she was talking to also rolled her eyes and gave a disapproving look in my direction before disappearing into the kitchen. Others also looked at me strangely, wondering why I just wouldn’t get the message, “You don’t belong here.” Continue reading


Bare Bones Lessons: Take them Outside!

I like to take “real-world” math questions and unpack them for content, then look at other solutions, and then finally think of bigger and better questions that could be asked instead. For example, here is the classic tree problem:


The students here are forced to use the information given, not to go out and get their own, and they are usually asked to use one particular method for doing it. They look at the problem and just accept that the 40 degrees and 75 feet appeared out of nowhere with no measurement. That is what textbooks always do, magical formulas and measurements appear, kids accept their authority and look for the one correct answer using the one right method. Never mind that this is supposed to be an estimation technique. Continue reading

Belly of the Beast

I woke up to an early alarm on a Saturday a few weeks ago, fumbled around in the dark for jeans, a t-shirt, and my Giants hat to cover my raging bed-head. I drove over to Starbucks and treated myself to a coffee and chocolate croissant, which I gobbled down on my way to the city of Alameda. I passed by the spot talked about in that excellent independent education documentary Defies Measurement, then drove to the water and stopped and finished my coffee before heading to where I was really supposed to be going.

Where was that? I was supposed to be at a high school with hundreds of other teachers or soon-to-be teachers who were to line up to sit in classrooms to take various standardized tests written by Pearson. Continue reading