TITASPEED: Acronym for

“Texting is too awkward; speaking produces easy effective decisions.”When used in a text conversation it can mean

- I recommend speaking over the telephone to discuss this matter.
- I feel that answering the original question as a text message oversimplifies the matter considerably and may provide misleading information.
- I am way too busy to provide a detailed answer now. A telephone call is more convenient for me.

Here is the context when it is needed.

I have noticed the tendency of some people to try to ask questions via text which requires complex answers. Sometimes a person will text this complex question because they know that answering it fully is impossible; perhaps they honestly fail to appreciate the effort involved to give an adequate answer. The asking of this complex or open-ended question thus places a burden on the recipient to either oversimplify or to spend a lot of time writing an answer.

But this is an unfair burden on the recipient. In rare cases, it may be necessary, bu more often complex thoughts, directions and nuances can be more effectively communicated over the phone. (Yes, I realize that face-2-face is even better, but that is rarely practical).

I faced this question often in email communication as a technical writer. When you ask a question via email, you are placing a burden on the recipient. Sometimes this burden is necessary and useful, but sometimes it asks the recipient to do more work. Recipients sometimes assume that emailed questions are better because the recipient can answer them asynchronously, but actually the opposite is the case because when writing, you have to give a complete answer to take into account every possible nuance.

Responding to emails is cumbersome; that is why it is good for the asker always to give the recipient the choice to answer by text or by phone. 9 Times out of 10, it is easier to communicate by phone; the reason people avoid doing so is that they usually fear getting sucked up in a longer social conversation. The problem is, texting or emailing a series of questions can be extremely awkward and confusing; when you talk, you can check for understanding or clarify something right then rather than having to write something in reply. Often the responder has no idea what the asker doesn’t understand. But when you are actually talking, it is easier to pinpoint the source of the misunderstanding.

I have written before that texting messages is an inefficient method of communicating — and should be limited to a small number of contexts. Alas, people are relying more on their phone and voice-activated dictation to communicate. This has a cost; it can sometimes take forever to arrive at a thought, and it can be tedious for the recipient to engage in such a strung-out conversation. Asynchronous and abbreviated conversation can be useful when you seeking a specific bit of information (the room number, the cost, the flight number) and the matter is not terribly urgent. Also, it can be useful when you are sure that the person is actively checking messages. But often that isn’t the case.

The TITASPEED acronym is a short way to communicate your belief that having a text chat is an inferior way to have a conversation. More generally it can make people ask themselves what is the best way to seek information and advice.

]]>First, I have been reading a ton of books recently — the majority of them are related to pedagogical methods. I plan to post one or two batches of brief book reviews on education books eventually. I just posted a lengthy book review about a math book.

Speaking of book reviews, I published a long book review of a recently published Jack Matthews. ** Note**: this is* not* one of the books my Personville Press has been publishing.

I think this year I will be reading Chinese literary classics mostly. Also, fiction for pre-teens and teens.

In 2015 I never got around to posting a list of things read and movies watched. In 2016 though I plan to maintain a 2016 list (and include some of the major finds from 2015).

I have been listening to a ton of music and posting a list of my recent emusic purchases here. I’ve also been contributing a lot of posts to the emusic forum and finding some great stuff. The list is presented in chronological order, and it’s worth skipping down to the SXSW section (between March and April 2015) to see the latest albums which have struck me. In addition, I’ve started to post on Google Docs a list of capsule music reviews of new and old albums (which are either used purchases or library CDs). So far I’ve posted 154 album reviews and have given my highest rating to about 30-40 of them. (I tend to be picky about what I review). When I get around to it, I’ll create a link to these reviews which is easier to read.

I’m in the middle of publishing a Jack Matthews fiction title (probably his best). I was going to produce a drupal 8 site for my Personville Press, but plans for that were derailed somewhat. I’ll get back to that when I get the chance.

I’ve mentioned before that despite the dearth of blog posts, I post lots of meaty posts on Facebook and Google Plus. I post identical content on both social networks. About a year ago I explained the technical difficulties of syndicating my blog posts to different social networks. I’ll take another stab at it when I get the chance. I really hate ignoring my blog so much.

Last year I maintained a blog for my creative writing class. It had a lot of fun stuff, but at the end of the semester I wrote a letter to my middle school students about writing.

Oh, yes, it occurs to me that I should repost my “Best of 2015” list I emailed my friends. I’ll do that very soon. Speaking of end of the year, I recently celebrated my 50th birthday and decided that at the end of each year I will compose a list of lessons learned from the past year. As exhibitionist as I am, I won’t be sharing this list online (not soon anyway). But I’m sure over the years it will be interesting to see how my perspectives and lessons changed.

A few days ago I was amazed to learn that my 15 year old nephew and 16 year old nephew take about 30 photos of themselves **each week**. I doubt that when I was that age I took that many photos (and certainly not selfies!). Recently even I haven’t had any reason to pose for pictures. But here’s a pic from my 50th birthday dinner with my sister and mother.

What I’ve posted here hardly scratches the surface of what I’ve been into or writing. I think in 2016 my blog will return to normal again.

]]>Author: **E. Paul Goldenberg, EDC, Inc., June Mark, EDC, Inc., Jane M. Kang, EDC, Inc., Mary Fries, EDC, Inc., Cynthia J. Carter, The Rashi School, Tracy Cordner, EDC, Inc**.

Publisher: **Heinemann, (Download Sample Chapter)
**

ISBN: **978-0325053011**

Publishing Date: **April 2015**

Where to Buy: Publisher’s Web Site. Amazon.com, BN

Price: **$22.50 for print book (no ebook is available)
**

Summary: **Excellent CC-oriented guide for getting students to adopt the “algebraic” habit of mind with a particularly strong chapter on using puzzles in the classroom.**

I’m a first year middle school math teacher trying to broaden my pedagogical understanding of the subject. I have come across many impressive math education books by Jo Boaler, Cathy Seeley, Marilyn Burns and John A. Van de Walle. I’ve also picked a few recent titles which are “Common Core” aware (such as Cathy Humphreys’ *Making Number Talks Matter*, *Building Powerful Numeracy for Middle and High School Students* by Pamela Weber Harris and finally *Making Sense of Algebra* by E. Paul Goldenberg and others). All are excellent in their own way. “Making Sense of Algebra” selects a small number of topics and covers them in depth; the problems and puzzles it presents would fit perfectly well in high school algebra as well as a class for advanced middle school students. At the same time, the book covers some fundamental topics which properly should be taught at the middle school level (or earlier).

*Making Sense of Algebra* does not contain lesson plans or activity worksheets. While the book alludes frequently to CC math standards, it doesn’t try to review these standards or at least provide a reference to them (that might have helped). Although the book has multiple names in the byline, it has a good logical flow and certainly doesn’t read like an education textbook (it’s much better!) With an important exception noted below, the book doesn’t really cover geometry, nor does it refer to trigonometry or calculus in any in-depth way. Still, the general principles of solving math problems elucidated here do apply to all kinds of higher math.

Rather than trying to plan a class or curriculum, the book covers the development of mathematical habits of mind.

The first chapter introduces the concept of “algebraic habits of mind” and how it relates to the Common Core’s Standards for mathematical practice. Chapter 2 discusses problems in contemporary math education and the special challenges facing certain kinds of struggling learners. Chapter 3 covers how puzzles can be used in class to promote algebraic habits of mind. Chapter 4 talks about how teachers can help students to investigate problems and formulate solutions. Chapter 5 talks about the importance of revising certain mental models commonly used in lower grades to illustrate multiplication and negative numbers. It shows why using number lines to illustrate addition and subtraction obviate the need to teach certain rote rules (like “multiplying two negatives cancels each other out”) and that using the metaphor of area to illustrate multiplication lays the groundwork for explaining how to multiply polynomials.The last chapter covers how a teacher can monitor and tighten language used in the classroom to best facilitate learning. It also provides insights into how a teacher can overcome a student’s reluctance to talk in math class.

I found the chapter on puzzles to be the most remarkable and helpful to me as a teacher. It can be a challenge though to use them in class. Some puzzles that are too hard (or too dependent on non-mathematical skills) can end up segregating the class into those willing to try hard puzzles and those who don’t even bother. For example, I — like many other math teachers — introduced the infamous Cheryl’s birthday math problem to my middle school students. My top students found it challenging but perplexing while a good chunk of my students didn’t even try (despite some pre-teaching about how to systematically record guesses, etc). The puzzle chapter makes a case about the pedagogical value of having students experience frustration and try a variety of approaches to solve something. It covers lots of different puzzle types which are more specifically about math (unlike the Cheryl’s birthday problem), more inviting to students and apt to lead students down algebraic paths. The book discusses the learning opportunities of various puzzle types and the advantage of using puzzle types which are easy for a teacher (or student) to create on their own. The idea of students creating math puzzles was intriguing to me, but it makes perfect sense; it helps students with “posing interesting problems” which is another habit of mind which the book believes to be important.

The book suggests that puzzles be used as “stand-alone investigations” rather than introducing them during units when a specific topic is studied. The book defends this practice by saying: “Life’s real problems arrive at any time, not just when you are conveniently studying how to solve them. We investigate when we don’t know how to solve a problem. We must not start out by thinking, ‘Oh, I’m supposed to factor because that’s what we’re studying now.'” The book argues that cultivation of “stamina” is important when when trying to solve math problems and that “problems which are too short or too scaffolded don’t increase students’ investigation skills or stamina.” For this reason, it’s helpful to give students problems with a “low threshold, high ceiling” (translation: problems which are easy to play with, but might involve concepts beyond their zone of proximal development).

The book offers several strategies for helping to cultivate student’s investigative skills. First, it emphasizes the importance of gaining experience about the problem itself before trying to formalize a solution. This can involve plugging in a few haphazard numbers or using experimental aids. Second, the teacher can give “tail-less” or “headless” problems whereby students are given a set of facts without an actual question being asked and must write a list of assumptions implied by this set of facts (or conversely, the student is given a problem and asked to speculate about what data is needed to solve it). What a good idea! Often failing to recognize the implications of a mathematical statement can prevent the student from reaching a solution. Third, presenting students with redundant quantitative information in a problem can make it easier for struggling students to make connections. Fourth, providing additional questions (i.e., “have you found ALL the solutions?”) can be a challenging and interesting way to extend the assignment for advanced students.

While the first half of the book did a great job of explaining how students think mathematically and how to make them think more productively, I was beginning to think that the book offered little real insight about how to run a math class and organize students effectively. Some questions spring to mind: 1)how do you do assessments of puzzle solving or habits of mind? 2)what kinds of topics lend themselves better to small group activities and what kinds require more teacher-prodding? 3)How do you integrate the need to teach habits of mind with the need to teach mandated objectives?

The second half of the book tackles these kinds of questions. The investigations chapter ends with a fairly good discussion of how to structure whole class discussions of investigations after students have collaborated on clarifying examples. The subject of the last chapter “Thinking Out Loud” is about the best ways how to teach students to discuss mathematical ideas in the classroom. The book stresses the importance of encouraging students to “think first, then talk,” but argues that discussions are a way to “vary the texture of the class.” I recently finished Cathy Humphreys *Making Number Talks Matter* and feel that this book provides a exhaustive treatment of the value of a more communicative approach to math and how to implement it. The chapter in *Thinking Algebraically* covers some of the same ground (without as many examples), but it makes several important new points. First, the teacher should encourage and model precision in speech. For example, when discussing a cube, using the word “side” invites misunderstanding; if you use “vertices,” “edges”, “faces”, that reduces the possibility of confusion. (Of course, it is impossible for students to avoid using “sloppy” language, but it is possible to make students aware of the need for precision). It’s important to choose topics which are actually discussable and to give the student enough time to formulate an answer (the book says “counting to 20 in your head….is not unreasonable”).

The book analyzes in great detail the various reasons why students prefer not to talk in a math class. Perhaps the question seems too trivial, or the student may lack confidence in their own math skills to express their ideas. It offers ways that teachers can encourage productive discussions. For example, instead of saying “close” or “you are getting warmer,” the teacher can respond to a wrong answer with supportive statements like “the answer needs to be even” or “were you thinking that 7×7= 49?” The book offers ways for the teacher to make the student feel empowered in the classroom and links the ability to solve puzzles appropriate to their level as a confidence-builder. One recommended technique is to present written fictional “math dialogues” about a math situation, and have students read along and critique the approaches of the fictional students. Although these dialogues may sound corny, “the student reading it can imagine — even without knowing this is fiction — how characters who are never told what to do or how to do it can believe and demonstrate that they can figure out mathematical ideas for themselves using what they already know. This invests mathematical authority in these characters, repeatedly giving the message that mathematical knowledge can be built logically rather than from some external source.”

This is a brilliant insight and a great way to model student conversations and habits of mind. The book provides one extended example of a fictional dialogue and references to other books which contain additional dialogues. (I would have liked the book to have a second example, but this is fine).

My only complaint is that I wish the book had covered how technology and videogames can be incorporated in class. In Texas, all middle schoolers are expected to follow self-guided online lessons and videogames called Think Through Math. I have recently been wowwed by the Dragonbox Algebra 12+ mobile app/game (described in detail in Greg Toppo’s book The Game Believes in You). For various organizational and budgetary reasons, math departments are having to use these kinds of courses and modules, and teachers could benefit from guidance about whether these methods can be academically rigorous and easily integrated into the classroom. I suspect that the book’s authors would be skeptical of algebra via videogames. At the same time, students have lots of access to math resources via the web; are these “cheats” pedagogically useful? Or should the teacher make some attempt to discourage students from finding the answer online so they may arrive at their own insights?

**OVERALL** this compact book is a pretty dense read, but full of insights and really fun to read. (I enjoyed trying out many of the puzzles myself). This book showed an awareness of existing scholarship and provided an ample bibliography, making it invaluable for the novice teacher (though the experienced math teacher will find useful insights here as well). I fear that the book will be known mainly for exploring the use of puzzles in the classroom. But the book covers a lot more ground than that.

Dear PBS Newshour:

I have been watching your news show for more than 25 years. It is a fantastic source of news and commentary.

Recently you changed the look of your show. Nothing wrong with that.

However, on today’s program (July 29) I noticed that you have a chyron on the bottom left of the screen which rotates nonstop during the entire program. It shows two things: **#pbsnews** (the twitter hashtag) and** pbsnews.org/newshour** (the URL).

In theory I don’t have a problem with the display of either thing. But it is extremely distracting — so much that I cannot concentrate on anything else.

Actually you already have the newshour logo above these things, so either thing is actually unnecessary.

Also, do you you really worry that people don’t know the URL? You don’t even need to show that!

From your viewpoint, you may wish to publicize these things, but a lot can be said for keeping the screen clear of unnecessary information. Generally I have always appreciated the visuals for your stories and how un-glitzy your presentation is. Now with those rotating chyrons, though I am afraid I cannot look at the TV screen for any more than a minute before I want to throw a sneaker at it.

Let me stress that I don’t have a problem with captions or even the logo itself. But the URL and hashtag add nothing to the presentation.

Perhaps my reaction is atypical. I don’t know.

Here are some solutions:

- Show these things during the first minute of the story and then hide them after that.
- Lengthen the rotation time. Currently you seem to rotating every 10 seconds between the hashtag, the URL and nothing. It would help to put everything on a
**30 second rotation**instead of a 10 second rotation.

Please consider my feedback when you plan the visuals for the Newshour. Thanks.

Robert

P.S. Thanks for beefing up your climate change coverage. About 2 years ago it was fairly skimpy and you really didn’t choose good guests. Now it’s much better.

P.S.S. I greatly enjoy the regular features (Art Beat, Paul Solman, Mark Shields, Education coverage, Ask the Headhunter). The Website rocks!

]]>UPDATE: The wp client for android doesn’t seem to sync with desktop updates. THAT IS GOING TO BE A PROBLEM.

OTHER USABILITY ISSUES: the tablet guide will save your update only after you have backed out of the new screen. NOT SMOOTH EITHER. I constantly am searching for a nonexistent save button when I just need to click the Go Back button on the tablet.

**Update 2**: I guess I can live with a tablet wp client which publishes only one way….

Also, I am absolutely hating having to type from the onscreen keyboard. The android is particularly bad about guessing what I want to say.

**Update 3**. Well, it seems that the android client does refresh/update the post’s content, but it does it quietly so you never know for sure whether it has done it or not.

Update 1: Ok, I’ve going to be doing a lot of bug fixing and design tweaks. (What the heck is up with those navigation menus?) At least now the comments display properly.

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