As middle school and high school math teachers, we find that almost every off-book activity we plan is well received by our students and leads to greater interest and motivation. Freeing ourselves from the constraints of set-in-stone curricula allows us to better respond to the realities of our classrooms, to better tackle situations such as heterogeneous classes, and to better implement cooperative and hands-on learning models.
However pressures of coverage, lack of time, external mandates, and isolation from like-minded teachers can undermine our efforts. Early in 2010, I started a network to help launch and nurture ongoing collaborations. The group grew to over 400 members, and for a while used both online and in-person structures to stay in touch.
We helped each other escape from the textbook, whether for a lesson, a unit, or an entire course. We did this by sharing ideas and resources online, and with quarterly meetings in the Bay Area. We held a very successful Escape from the Textbook! conference at the Urban School of San Francisco on February 12, 2011. The conference was archived here.)
The group was great while it lasted! It is no longer active, whether online or in person. Some of its members, including me, have joined a lively alternative: the Math Twitter Blogosphere (#MTBoS).