Teaching in the Age of the MTBoS

My Biggest Take Away from Twitter Math Camp 2014

Here’s what you should know: there is a subset of math teachers who operate just a bit differently than the rest of us. Some of us share a sliver of an intersection with this group, perhaps by way of simply lurking their conversations on Twitter or Blogs. This weird group of educators are mostly just like us, but somehow find the time to write and converse about their experiences in the ill-defined space of the MathTwitterBlogoSphere (MTBoS). Here’s a possible definition of MTBoS by the folks at ExploreMTBoS.wordpress.com:

math•twit•ter•blog•o•sphere – cohesive gaggle of obsessed math teachers who take pride in freely sharing the best math teaching ideas.

What’s worth knowing about this group is that it is disorganized, pointless, and altogether comprised of non-experts. [No offense.] I know this sounds like a sales-pitch gone awry, but I promise I’m going somewhere with this.

TScreen Shot 2014-07-25 at 9.50.26 PMhis is a group of educators who are essentially “shooting from the hip” on whatever ideas, topics, and discussions happen to pass through their brain to their fingers, to our screens. Somehow these musings, led by no central mission or agenda, are an emerging and surprisingly cohesive discourse on some of the very most meaningful issues in math education. Indeed, perhaps only the chaotic nature of the structure could have ever produced such a beautiful outcome.

In the same vein, but more shocking to me, there is no point to what they do. As Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) recently argued at Twitter Math Camp 2014 (held in Jenks!), really the beauty of MTBoS is that we can all be selfish and all still benefit. Each individual is pursuing a fierce passion of theirs. In some ways, this selfishness of pursuing one’s own interest in spite of the betterment of the whole is the key ingredient that allows the “gaggle” of passionate pursuits to more effectively approach the type of community, ideas, and resources that are actually required to help one become a great teacher. This also contributes nontrivially to the speed in which ideas are happening within this group. No one is waiting on calls for papers or proposals, but just a few extra minutes with their free WordPress blog.

The last shocking characteristic is quite possibly my favorite and the one that should be most inspirational: there are no experts. Every single person I’ve met with, from Dan Meyer to Steve Leinwand (@steve_leinwand) to Audrey McLaren (@a_mcsquared), none of them claim to be THE or AN expert. I will admit that Steve is probably more likely to be an actual expert than most, but he still is abundantly willing to learn. And that’s really my point. Every single person is a part of the MTBoS as a learner, not an expert. They might share their experiences, but it is almost exclusively for reflection or the benefit of sharing and being a part of a discussion that helps them improve. That’s an amazing quality that is shared by each and every person I’ve met.

If you’re convinced and wondering where to start, you should feel great that you somehow are reading this, which really means you are connected to the MTBoS. The bad news is that this is a metaphorical crumb of the banquet that is MTBoS. Perhaps a fancy analogy will help to really make you want to be a part of the MTBoS:

OKMathTeachers.com : MTBoS  ::  Star : Galaxy

What I’m saying is that this is nothing compared to what is out there. Sure, you can connect to ~1,700 OKMath Teachers on Facebook. Sure, #OKMath has a little traffic on Twitter. And yes, OKMathTeachers.com is a greScreen Shot 2014-07-25 at 9.50.34 PMat place to get your feet wet. But the universe is much larger friends.

I’m also saying that MTBoS is huge and amazing, but not in an overwhelming kind of way. It is incredibly accessible because everyone who is tweeting and blogging is also learning and lurking. And that’s okay!

So, make your way to http://mathtwitterblogosphere. weebly.com and take a look around. Consider starting a Twitter account if for no other reason than to lurk on #mathchat and #OKMath. Consider starting a blog if it even slightly interests you. Check out http://exploremtbos.wordpress.com for more help with getting started with MTBoS.

Lastly, what you should know is that there is a subset of math teachers who operate just a bit differently than the rest of us… and they have taught me an awful lot about what it means to be a great teacher and what it means to be professionally engaged. And best of all, they want to learn from you. At a minimum, I believe that teaching in the age of MTBoS means we have more opportunities for relationships, growth, learning, reflection, and development (all regardless of the location or size of our school) than ever before.

Hope to catch you later in the MTBoS.


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About the Author: Levi Patrick

I serve as the Director of Secondary Mathematics for the Oklahoma State Department of Education. This is my twelfth year in education and I am so happy to be surrounded by OKMath teachers who are so passionate, creative, and determined to do great things for mathematics education in Oklahoma.

4 Comments+ Add Comment

  • Thanks for writing this, Levi. It was actually largely due to the MTBoS that I decided to switch from college teaching to public high school teaching. I was so inspired (and sometimes exhausted) by the amazing work these people were creating. I had to jump in and try it for myself. I often relate the experience to a little sister watching her older siblings and longing desperately to be like them. Sometimes, I still feel like I’m just mimicking my older, cooler brothers and sisters. But, at least I’m mimicking people who are passionate and devoted to quality mathematics education. They have become my heros–my mentors, friends, and colleagues. They have helped me grow more professionally than any other single person or organization. I owe so much to these amazing teachers.

    That said, I hope others give blogging and Twitter a chance. You could be pleasantly surprised by the results….

    • What a great metaphor for MTBoS. I can definitely say I was feeling awe-inspired during TMC14 and felt so badly to want to grow and improve. It’s funny too how some of the members are a little like parents: so supportive and all.

      So glad to meet you, Rebecka! Hope you’ll guest blog for OKMathTeachers.com soon! 😉

  • TMC14 was an awe inspiring experience. I feel like I did an end around and came at it backwards, but boy oh boy was it ever rewarding sneaking in the back door! I will admit I was an almost non-existent tweeter before this experience and the whole Twitter world was a little overwhelming, but the amazing people I have met have quickly brought me into this century, and to say I am excited is an enormous understatement! Tweet Deck is going to be my friend and I will do all I can to stop lurking and start growing! Thank you Levi for promoting this event and opening the back door for me!

  • Wow Levi, great blog! Blogging is something I have wanted to get involved in for awhile now. I actively read several blogs daily, and use it to help me if I feel lost or even crazy sometimes. I can find someone that feels the same as me or get an idea that is a starting point to move forward. I know in the very near future I need to go from reader to Blogger. Thanks again Levi for always being willing to put yourself out there for Oklahoma Math Teachers.

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