Using Twitter: A Plus for My Math Teaching

A MiddleWeb Blog

Sunday before last I was trying to make a test for my math class. I looked up, two hours had passed, and I wasn’t quite done. I thought it would take an hour at the most. As I was sitting there, I tweeted that I was frustrated that it was taking me so long.

Within minutes, I began receiving tweets with supportive comments and suggestions. One teacher was kind enough to share all her resources for that particular topic with me. Other teachers shared formatting tips to help me save time. Others suggested various technological solutions. It was amazing!

I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea. I’m not a big presence on Twitter; I don’t actually have that many followers. I follow way more people than follow me. I’m actually more of a lurker; I like following other people and reading what they post.

I will go weeks without tweeting out anything. I’m proof that you don’t have to tweet all the time or have a lot of followers to reap the benefits of Twitter networking.

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At this point most teachers probably use Twitter to some degree. But there may be some who feel like I did a few years ago: I just wasn’t interested in Twitter. I’ve never been an early adopter when it comes to technology, and I didn’t see how Twitter could help me as a teacher.

Maybe this is you, too. I just kept thinking that “it’s one more thing” to do. A time waster. And who has time to waste?

Eventually, after some encouragement from other teachers who understood Twitter’s hidden professional benefits, I gave it a try, and I was hooked almost immediately.

So if you are on the fence about joining Twitter or you’re unsure about how Twitter can help you be a better math teacher, have a look at my top 5 reasons why I recommend Twitter for all math teachers.

1. (Free) Math Centered Professional Development

Over the years I have heard many times at professional development sessions, “this doesn’t really apply to math.” So I consider a platform where I can get real math professional development a luxury.

Just this week I was able to participate in a Twitter chat (#MTchat) with an author of a great article featured in “Mathematics Teacher,” a NCTM magazine geared to secondary math teachers. For an hour I got to chat with teachers from all over the country and discuss an article about imaginary zeros and student discovery! On October 17th there will be a twitter chat especially for middle school teachers, and I plan to join in on that one as well. (#MTMSchat)

2. Collaborate with Teachers Who Teach What You Teach

I am the only teacher in my school who teaches Statistics. I am so grateful for the all statistics teachers I have been able to learn from on Twitter. Their sharing of activities and resources has made my classroom a better place.

3. A Must for New Teachers

I remember being a new teacher and not wanting to ask for help because I didn’t want to be perceived as unqualified or inept. As you get older you realize asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but still what I wouldn’t have given to have Twitter when I first started teaching.

4. Get What You Need, When You Need It

I have found that I am most receptive to new ideas when I personally see the need for them. Where else can you find exactly the professional development you need, when you need it? Twitter gives me actionable strategies and resources that I can use in my classroom immediately.

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I can pose a question and quickly have suggestions in a matter of moments. Just a word here about hashtags: hashtags make it much more likely to get a helpful response. When I first started using Twitter, I didn’t know about hashtags and a lot of tweets went unanswered, and that still happens to me sometimes. But I have found that by adding the #mtbos (Math Twitter Blogosphere) hashtag makes it much more likely to get a response from other math teachers. Also, the #iteachmath hashtag is similarly useful.

5. Support and Encouragement

I just love the camaraderie and helpfulness I find with the math teachers on Twitter. It’s a very positive place to visit for a few minutes. You find teachers who are willing to share their personal resources and expertise to support others. Those activities and resources help me stay excited about teaching and inspire me to keep trying new things.

If you get to the point where you feel comfortable sharing your own strategies and activities, it can be very rewarding to know that you’ve helped someone else.

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Before, I never thought Twitter would be a place to get emotional support. But it can be. Sometimes after a really bad day, when I feel like I have never taught anyone anything, I will get on Twitter and see other teachers posting about the tough day they had. Teachers that I know are good teachers, and it makes me feel better. If they can have bad days, then it’s okay if I do too.

Some Twitter Resources

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I have listed some of the people I follow (some have blogs or websites linked to their Twitter page). I could list many more, but part of the joy of Twitter is finding people to follow who appeal to your teaching style and sensibilities. If you see tweets that interest you, click on them and you’ll often reveal some discussion. And please feel to share other suggestions in the comments below.

Julie Reulbach @jreulbach: She teaches high school now, but used to teach middle school. In fact, she has a pinned tweet with her favorite MS math lessons.

Fawn Nguyen @fawnpnguyen: Middle school math teacher with lots of ideas

Sarah Carter @mathequalslove: Great person to follow posts lots of great activities

Sara VanDerWerf @saravdwerf: Math consultant who’s generous with her help

MiddleWeb @middleweb: Great middle grades resources, including math!

Useful hashtags:

Hashtags can seem mysterious to the uninitiated. You can explore them by clicking on hashtags you see in tweets you like. Please share some favorites in the comments! Here are a few:

#MTBos (Math Twitter Blogosphere)
#msmathchat & #mathchat
#teach180 (created by Sarah Carter) Teachers tweet out what’s happening in their classroom every day of the school year.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell (@michel1erussel1) is a math teacher at Florence (AL) High School. She began her career as a student teacher in middle school and has taught students from 7th to 12th grade. For the past 13 years, she's taught high school math, including Algebra IB, Algebraic Connections, Pre-Calculus, AP Statistics, Algebra with Finance, and Algebra 2 with Trigonometry. In her free time, she enjoys reading books about math education and following other teachers on Twitter.

2 Responses

  1. I agree 100%. I never go to twitter without getting several ideas or activities to incorporate into my trainings. Here are some of my favorite people to follow. @ddmeyer
    #iteachmath #MTBoS

  2. Heather says:

    I love this post. I am just now taking my Masters. The program I am taking is Integrating Techology in the classroom, and the first assignment I have is to create a Twitter account. I too, am thinking like you thought about it being “one more thing”, and a “waste of time”. So, it was very fitting to find this blog. I appreciate your insight on this topic, and will definitely be following you along with the other people you suggested to follow. Thank you!

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