Henri Picciotto's

Math Education Newsletter

August 2019

Hire me!

Hello all,

In the period immediately following my retirement, I was really disoriented when Labor Day approached. During my 42 years as a classroom teacher, this was a crucial transition time when I had to gear up, finalize my plans, and make sure everything was in place for the start of school. Not having to do any of those things was strange.

Six years into my new life, I am now used to the fact everything is turned around: September is when things slow down for me, and I can get back to growing my website, engaging in various curriculum development projects, and writing this newsletter!


PS: You might enjoy reading this blog post about my approach to the first day of school, back in the day.

Blog Posts

Here are links to posts on my Math Education Blog that you might find interesting.
If you are so moved, please comment on the posts, and/or subscribe to the blog.

Taking Notes vs. Doing Math

In my view, the best use of time in the math classroom is to have students do math: solve problems, think about new techniques, explain things to each other, and so on. In other words, they need to engage intellectually. Many math teachers have a different priority: they think students should listen carefully and take good notes, which they will use later to study. But, you ask, isn't it possible to do both? I don't think so. I explain why in this post which holds the record for the most visitors to my blog in 2019.

Learning from Teaching!

I offered two versions of my Visual Algebra workshop this summer, with a focus on grades 6-9. This is material I'm intimately familiar with, having taught it to both students and teachers for decades. And yet, as is often the case, I learned new things from teaching it: interesting new ideas about function diagrams, about the Lab Gear, about the geoboard, and even about my own teaching philosophy. I wrote about what I learned here and here.

Geometry: A Guided Inquiry

Of all the books I’ve seen in my almost 50 years in math education, this one (by Chakerian, Crabill, and Stein) is the one that taught me the most, by far. About teaching: the power of group work, the importance of review, balancing inquiry and direct instruction, and more. About curriculum: how to sequence topics, how to sequence problems within a topic, the importance of anchor activities, and more. I spell it all out here.

What's new on my Web site

Puzzles in Math Curriculum

My involvement with puzzles began early in my teaching career, and continues to this day! I combined a couple of blog posts into an article where I break down what makes a good puzzle, and more specifically, what makes a good puzzle in math class.


This is a Desmos-powered applet that can be used to explore “rise and run” and linear functions. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in Chrome on Windows. No problem in other browsers / platforms.) It's been on my site for a long time, but I finally added a downloadable worksheet to help structure an activity around it. Check it out!


I updated many pages with new links, tweaks, and corrections. Here's the list, with arrows pointing to some favorites:

These are mostly minor changes, but if you want to know more about them, go to my running record of website updates.

I'm Available!

As a consultant, I offer the following services:
- Professional development workshops
- Math program review
- Teacher and department chair coaching
For more information:
- My Math Education Consulting page
- My Résumé
- Or just reply to this e-mail

Of course, I can only help based on my own experience and beliefs.
You can find out about my views by visiting my Teaching page.

To subscribe to this newsletter, or to read past issues, click here.

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