The Power of a Network

I joined twitter in 2008 and started tweeting more actively in 2009.  Thanks to my attempt at Justin Aion’s Twordle experiment, I was reminded that my first tweets were annoyed snark toward the women of the View.  They never responded.  Shocking.

Five years later, my twitter usage has evolved into something that has helped transform my teaching.  Attending Twitter Math Camp last week provided some proverbial icing on the cake.   Glenn Waddell reiterated that Twitter Math Camp is 150 teachers who all believe they can change the world.  It’s hard to capture the magnitude of this incredible event and hard to explain in words how much positive impact these “friends in our phones” can have on the actual students in our classes.   I thought perhaps a picture could capture it. Over the last few days, I attempted to capture the essence of this twitter network.  I wanted to visually represent the inter-connectedness and strength of a group of math educators who feel that by interacting in person for four days in the summer, they’ll have the power to make their students’ world better.



#TMC14 Twitter interactions from May to July. (in a sine wave)


Twitter mentions in a spiral

Random Interconnections

Random Interconnections




This last graphic is the most powerful to me.  These are the twitter interactions among the TMC14 participants SINCE the event.  Have you ever gone to professional development where you kept interacting with so many people from the conference?  Me neither.  There’s a ton more that I want to do with this network software, but I’ve poured over it for days, and I wanted to share what I had so far.

There were 36 teachers at TMC12, 110 at TMC13 and 150 at TMC14.  I know that these networks spread far beyond the attendees in Jenks, Oklahoma last weekend.  But a strong foundation has been built. It’s an unspoken commitment to one another that says, “when standards-based grading (or interactive notebooks, or problem-based instruction, or group communication) isn’t going as well as you’d hoped, I’ll be there to get you back on track.”  It’s a network of teacher’s across the country that come together over mathematics, but truly bond over their inherent desire to help all students succeed.  And it’s open to anyone who has the desire to be one of the connecting threads.

Thanks, Jenks

When you build up a future experience in your mind, it is not often BETTER than how you envisioned it.  Twitter Math Camp was that experience for me.  It was so much better than it looked on a hashtag.

In 2008, I began my twitter journey.  I mostly followed celebrities and friends.  My brother swore that twitter’s true gold was in following real people that have similar interests and ideas.  As it turns out, he was right.  Since jumping head first into the Mathtwitterblogosphere, I’ve experienced nothing but a genuine willingness to help one another become better educators.  TMC solidified my understanding of this network of delightful people that make up the math-educator-online community.

Recently, twitter was abuzz over the thought that TMC should be more theory, less play.  Part of the beauty of this experience was the organic nature in which everyone gathered and collaborated.  At professional conferences, you never see groups of teachers still talking pedagogy at 6pm, still at 8pm, and at midnight, and still at 2am. This went on for FOUR solid days.  Can you imagine this happening at school:  students staying after school into the night to work on the math investigation that they can’t stop talking about?  It doesn’t happen.  But anyone who’s been a summer camp counselor knows that there’s always that group of kids that can’t get enough interaction with their peers and choose to forgo sleep to soak it all in.  That’s why the C in TMC stands for CAMP and not Conference.

Some highlights for me: 

  • Justin Aion is the same ball-of-fun in person that he seems online.  I’m grateful for getting to spend time with him.
  • Max Ray is an artist at facilitating problem-solving.  His session was masterfully orchestrated.
  • Steve Leinwand is a humble communicator but an electrifying presenter.  I was moved by his keynote very much.
  • Malke and Christopher’s willingness to teach Math in Your Feet afterhours was generously spectacular. I was skeptical at first about my ability to engage, but I’m so thankful that I was pushed to do so.
  • Bob Lochel knows more stats activities than pages in a textbook.  I enjoyed working with him in the morning sessions very much.
  • Glenn Waddell is an amazing human being.  I’m humbled to have gotten to steal some of his attention this weekend.
  • Eli Luberoff is a humble genius and a class act.
  • I have the two greatest coworker friends, Teresa and Dianna, who came with me to Jenks and dove head first into the awesomeness of this community.


I had hundreds of interactions with some fantastic people.  This isn’t something that can be re-created online, despite the fact that the community began there.  Thank you, Jenks, for hosting such an incredible event.


Confession: I’ve never really been good at math

Here’s a confession of mine:  I’ve never really thought of myself as ‘good at math.’  Yep, I’m a high school math teacher proclaiming my discontent with my mathematical abilities.  Ironic?  Sad?  Make you want to hide your children?  Read on, it’s not as bad as you think.

Being a math teacher was a second career for me, as my undergraduate degree is in accounting.  I dabbled in a minor in mathematics while at the University of Iowa but let a ‘C’ in Linear Algebra from a cold professor change my trajectory for the next 4 years.   When I went to graduate school to earn my masters in Mathematics Education, I was always intimidated by the math undergrads who were much more polished and current on mathematical theory.  Recently I came across this article which shed some light onto what often happens with girls in areas like mathematics. In short, women tend to give up on themselves more quickly because of their strong inner voice.   I know that I was never discouraged from pursuing difficult challenges by my parents, especially academically.  I came from a family that was very supportive of my education.  It was my own inner-voice telling me that I wasn’t as good at pure mathematics, which was the lingering after effect of that C grade.

Recently, Rafranz Davis wrote a blog post about the transformation of twitter admiration into palatable inspiration.   This post was timely for me since as summer conference season reaches its peak, I’ll be attending Twitter Math Camp starting on Thursday with dozens of other math tweeps with whom I’ve admired and been inspired by.  These positive interactions have projected me to a place where I’m comfortable with my mathematical abilities and completely humbled by my ability to participate with such a wonderful group of educators across social media.