A blog about teaching and learning in a maths classroom.

An idea for Maths Teachers

Friday, 09 April 2010 | 19 Comments

I suspect most readers of this blog would agree that online networking with other teachers is now the key form of professional development. Yet, we would all know many teachers who are not engaging online in discussions with colleagues.

Twitter, blogs and even online forums are all, I suspect, at one end of a spectrum of ways to use the internet; and many folks are still reluctant to use them – for various reasons:

  • Twitter – can be overwhelming, there’s so much chaos and finding/following a thread of discussion can be hard.
  • Blogs – the discussion is started by the author, whilst anyone is free to comment, the choice of discussion topic is not in the readers control.
  • Forums – whilst being more autonomous than a blog, forums can be intimidating.

I want to propose an idea which I think is more in the middle of the spectrum. Hopefully, it would allow more lurkers on the web to get involved, and be compelling enough to encourage those using the web for Facebook and cute cat videos to see the web as more.


This new site would be an Q&A site for maths teachers. Two existing sites which are examples are’s WikiAnswers, from that site What is a positive integer? and the other is Mahalo Answers. Both these sites allow people to ask a question and others to answer it.

The site I’m proposing would be for maths teachers to discuss the practicalities of the classroom. For example, “How do you teach multiplying and dividing directed numbers?”, “What are the best online interactives for trigonometry?”.

To post a question, you would register on the site, becoming a member (for free). But, to answer a question would be just like commenting on a blog.

Questions would be categorised, searched and sorted. So that, unlike a blog, you look at what interests you rather than what is currently on the mind of the blogger. Unlike Twitter, the questions and answers would have greater permanency.

What do you think? Would you use it? Would your colleagues use it?
Any thoughts for what’s wrong with this idea?

Not to guilt anyone into commenting, but to my mind, at least 10 comments would start to tell me this is something I should move forward with.

Posted in • MathsClass | Short URL:


Kylie on  09 April 10  at  07:34 AM #
I think that the site you are proposing would be a great idea. Math can be a dry subject and a lot of time can be wasted searching for tools and applications that are 'just right'. Having teachers pool their favourite applications, along with details on the year level it is appropriate for, has the ability of saving a lot of time searching the web. Variety is the spice of life and collaboration the name of the game.
Jan on  09 April 10  at  07:43 AM #
Simon, I think this is a great idea. I am forever passing on links and sites to my maths faculty. Unfortunately maths teachers tend to be extremely reluctant to embrace exciting technology. I would like to see a trial and then expand out to a broader team. Perhaps set it up within a network of schools across districts and regions (to capture variety)as through action you'll discover any pitfalls and so on. I am extremely concerned at the narrow perspective of too many teachers and this sounds like a great way to expand that within comfort zones. Congratulations on a great idea Simon.
Dan on  09 April 10  at  09:51 AM #
I think this is a good idea. Your challenge is building a community. I would keep it as broad as possible, as you suggested, any teaching method is good, doesn't have to be technology based. Good luck!


Simon Job on  09 April 10  at  11:29 AM #
bq. "a lot of time can be wasted searching for tools and applications that are ‘just right’" @Kylie absolutely, that was my thinking, so many teachers must be tackling the same problems day after day. @Jan I think there are so many links and sites that maths teachers are often overwhelmed and struggling to incorporate effectively. I think I'll just go with a public site, trying to limit it to certain people would be difficult. @Dan Building the community is the problem, but it's also a problem with blogs. It's an interesting problem online: bq. In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action. ["Jakob Nielsen":] _Thanks for 3 encouraging responses already!_
Ian Ross on  09 April 10  at  12:41 PM #
Yes, I think it will work. It is difficult to find ways to assist Maths teachers and encourage them to help themselves through organisations, conferences or online communities. Your blog is one of many great resources Simon but I disagree that the professional development is predominantly online. I have just returned from ACEC 2010 in Melbourne and I am involved in PD at my school and through professional organisations - all valuable methods and used by many teachers. However you are right that online is important. People don't join organisations as readily these days but thumbing keys seems to be achievable for many and a repository of good ideas has a lot of potential.
Jacqueline on  10 April 10  at  06:05 AM #
Sounds like a good idea for those less likely to involve themselves in twitter etc. Needs to be easy to add to though! Anything that helps bring us up to speed on delivering engaging lessons can't be a bad idea


Simon Job on  10 April 10  at  06:52 AM #
bq. "I disagree that the professional development is predominantly online." @Ian Ross You're right, I probably over stated that. Although, if I had have known ACEC was on, I would have found it difficult to get there. Annual conferences from professional organisations are much like going to paid PD, it can often be a lucky draw. @Jacqueline I think it should be relatively simple to use, the software I'm using to run this site and others, "ExpressionEngine": is incredibly flexible.
Pauline on  10 April 10  at  08:11 AM #
This is a wonderful idea Simon. I would certainly use it. It would save reinventing the wheel and a place to share resources ( as you do with this site) can only be beneficial to our lessons. Would my colleagues use it? Perhaps not but surely there must be at least one Maths teacher in each school who has an interest in sharing and learning different ways of doing things. And maybe this one Maths teacher can push it to their colleagues. An email sent to each school to notify them of what you have set up would get some interest.
Dan on  10 April 10  at  08:51 AM #
Simon, make sure whatever you build it with supports good tagging. Metadata is key to this idea being able to scale. Users need to be able to click on a tag cloud, picking say, 'fractions' and see every discussion relating to them. Dan
Jayanthi Viswanathan on  10 April 10  at  12:00 PM #
I wholeheartedly endorse this initiative. We're lucky (or not, depending on your POV) to be teaching in a time of great flux in our education system (national curriculum, DER, MySchool) and being able to support each other and exchange ideas and advice can only be a good thing. And woohoo I think I'm the 10th person to post a comment... 😊 Jayanthi.
Mark Crossley on  10 April 10  at  07:09 PM #
It sounds a fantastic idea! Go for it!
Gill Rowling on  12 April 10  at  02:27 AM #
I think this is a great idea! I would definitely use it - it sounds like it would be valuable and easy enough to use that it might lure out some of the "lurkers" you speak of (of which I am generally one :( )


Simon Job on  13 April 10  at  01:18 AM #
@Pauline I've tried to run "show and tell" with the maths faculty at my school. A nice way to share. @Dan definitely. I would probably let the question author categorise the initial question, and anyone could tag it. @Jayanthi, well if you exclude my comments then 8th 😊 @Mark certainly will, lots of interest. @Gill I like the term "lurker" it's kind of endearing.
liz hemmings on  13 April 10  at  01:31 AM #
I love the idea, sometimes you get stuck in a rut teaching concepts the same way as you did the year before even though it didn't work that well. It would be great to have somewhere to get fresh ideas from other teachers plus a place to share those things that just worked well without it having to been a formal lesson plan etc. just an idea is all you need sometimes to get you thinking. I know at least 2 of my collegues at school would use it as well.
Casey on  03 May 10  at  02:00 PM #
A fantastic idea!! As a grad teacher I would find something like that an invaluable tool.
Jo Amos on  14 May 10  at  04:05 PM #
A brilliant idea. We all benefit from sharing ideas whether it be in the faculty or across the net.
Tim on  13 July 10  at  02:17 AM #
Sounds like something you could propose on "Area 51":


Simon Job on  13 July 10  at  09:11 AM #
Thanks Tim, interesting site. It doesn't seem that their engine is something you could download and run yourself, unless I'm looking in the wrong spot.
Tim on  15 July 10  at  09:21 AM #
It might be less troublesome if you don't have to host it yourself. But, this might be an option [url=][/url] Never used it but stumbled across it here [url=][/url]

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Simon Job — eleventh year of teaching maths in a public high school in Western Sydney, Australia.
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