Monday, July 31, 2017


(Have to read that post title Sixth Sense style.)

First do I write about: #iteachmath or Twitter Math Camp 17? ...  have to get the hashtag stuff off my chest.

I love that Dan is thinking about inclusivity, and it befits his problem solving orientation that he's willing to rethink any aspect of the situation.

I started blogging April 2009 with a 50 word post, just sharing a resource I liked. I thought I would use the blog to share the stuff I found around the web that I like or was thinking about how to use in my class. Ten posts later I finally shared an first activity that I did back then. A math game, of course.

This was a long time ago in internet years, and I understand that the world is different. I was inspired by what I was finding, and just wanted to join in.

First tweet, 2010.  (Find yours.)

I was at Maria Anderson's tech camp (@busynessgirl) and she suggested Twitter as a way to connect with student teachers. That's been great, but I wound up liking the math twitter/community plenty for myself.

When it was time, 2013, the community wondered how to refer to itself. They came up with Math-Twitter-Blog-o-Sphere, and I liked the silliness of it right off.

Is #MTBoS a barrier now? People are hurt by this suggestion, because they work like hell to make the community inviting and inclusive. And are always looking for more ways to do that better.

From where do the hard feelings come, then? I have theories. Basically this list is the consequence of people new to twitter don't know how it works yet.

  • some of the most followed people are friends. They take math with anyone, but also talk real life to each other. There's shared experiences, so they refer to things that not everyone was a part of. But because of the way Twitter is, we see some of those relationships. That could make you feel like (Justin Aion analogy) being at a party by yourself. As Justin says, at a party, they'd see you standing alone and approach you, but on Twitter, you can be invisible if you want.
    Remedy: new users can let people know they are there. 
  • People say 'Include #MTBoS and get your questions answered.' Sometimes? More people watch that tag and respond to new people than I think would ever happen in most communities, but not everyone gets responded to.
    Remedy: tweet @someone. If I see someone asking for a resource, I may not have a response, or know others who have better. But if you tweet @mathhombre, I reply. (I think?) I challenge you to find a community with a higher response rate.
  • #MTBoS is a community. We have relationships, shared values, and even meet when we can. If there's an in, there's an out.
    Remedy: come on in!
What I notice about these problems is that the remedies are all putting the burden on the people who feel outside, which is usually the hallmark of an exclusion problem. But that's where we need to see and popularize the efforts of Tina Cardone, Sam Shah, Lisa Henry et al. There wasn't an intention to brand anything, but having a name is part of making you a group, a tribe or a family. I would rather reassure people that this family wants you and is inviting you in, than worry about what the name connotes. 

It did feel autocratic, and like a dictate, but that's probably mostly because of his position in the community. He is the introduction to the MTBoS for most math teachers. He is going to hear the complaints the most, maybe? 

The timing was really unfortunate, as it distracted from the amazing keynote by Grace Chen. (Pts 1 and 2) (Which I will talk more about in the next post.) 

Dan is trying to connect people with #iteachmath. Great! I don't see how that solves any of the three bullet points above. Hopefully, the new tag will be successful. If it is, within a couple years people will feel like it's cliquish or there are rockstars and arguing for #mathlearnersunite. Great! 

I don't think of this as particularly important - or coherent - post, but this is a blog. I can work out my thinking here, and live long enough to be embarrassed of it. I can give a first take. No one else may read it or maybe it becomes the rare post that gets a comment. One of my Twitter Math Camp take aways, from Carl Oliver's sweet keynote (Pts 1, 2 and 3), is that it's important to push send. 

If you hear about the #MTBoS, my guess is that you will be curious enough to investigate. If you do investigate, you'll find things that will help your learners. If you value that, I encourage you to join in. The more you participate, the more you'll feel a part. If you can get to a Twitter Math Camp, you'll be stunned at the welcome. But nobody's going to make you.


  1. Hey bro,
    I read Dan's post and immediately thought, yes!! I even tweeted it. I love the mtbos people, but I've never loved the name. Then I started reading the responses, some directed at me, and thought, oh dear, this was done badly. I hope it all settles out, and in the end we're a better community for it. They call them growing pains for a reason, eh?
    Love ya'

    1. Whatever people are thinking about this, we have to be able to talk about it! In general we're good at assuming good intention in the community. Sorry you've gotten flak.

  2. I'm a math teacher new to Twitter (in a more professional capacity) and was following #MTBoS but didn't feel comfortable jumping in. It seemed like an established group and sort of invitation only. The change was very welcoming to me and I'm working on setting up (and naming) my math teacher blog partly Inspired by the community. I understand why long-term participants would have some strong feelings, as these changes are often met with some degree of conflicting feelings. I for one am glad to have felt welcomed into a community designed to help me be better for my students, no matter the name.

    1. Thanks for sharing that. Stories like that are needed, and invitation is the goal. Tag me when you're blogging! (@mathhombre)

  3. Thanks John for your blog post. I think you articulated the issues very nicely. I initially felt excluded often in conversations on Twitter, but as "lurked" and read more, I became more familiar with individuals. And I realized that some of the conversations were between friends. Not ever having attended a TMC, I don't have faces to names nor do those on Twitter have a face to my name. I still get befuddled when conversations start going so quickly with lots and lots of spin offs and refer to things that I haven't experienced (i.e #push send and TMC sessions to name current ones). But I still learn so much. People have been very generous in sharing ideas, resources and advice. And the connections to those who do blog have been beyond helpful. I have almost become addicted to #mtbos. I think #tmbos is what YOU make of it. Don't be dependent on others to make the community work for you.

    1. Great attitude! It can be a very mystifying medium. Do you know what kept you coming back when you felt excluded?

    2. I have a stubborn streak in me. And everything I read in the blogs I followed sung the Praises of mtbos, so I knew I needed to keep at it until it started to make sense. It is a hard medium to figure out. Thanks again for a great post

  4. I love the statement, "the remedies are all putting the burden on the people who feel outside."

    1. I probably wasn't clear enough: that's me! I'm not trying to blame anyone else.

  5. This is such an awesome group that can come together to problem solve to (hopefully) promote change and strengthen connections among educators. Thank you for your post!

    1. Exactly my hope. This matters to us all across the board I think.

  6. I have to confess to times when I feel excluded and by now I certainly have a significant reputation in the community. I want to make it clear that I do not think that I AM excluded, just that I get the feeling. Part of that is just my personality and background, but I think twitter can be an inconsistent place. At different times the same post can get different levels of response. In addition time on twitter can be variable and it is a very foolish thing to try to drink the whole of ones own fire hose let alone a popular hashtag, so the engagement depends both on person and time. What I have always loved about this community is that it takes on the challenge of inclusivity, and I suspect that is something that it will always need to do.

  7. Hmmm...your post makes me wonder how much of this issue of the in-/ex-clusive "feel" of the MTBoS has to do with just Twitter being Twitter. It's kind of an overwhelming medium--the reason that I haven't been on Twitter in over a year now--and as a result it can feel a bit alienating at first. It makes me wonder: is this a MTBoS issue or is it a #MTBoS issue?