My Favorite Teacher

Walt Hunter was a quiet man, slight and balding with a Great Plains accent. You might mark him as a teacher, but likely not the… Read more

Math is Hard

In a magazine published for college trustees, a recent short article captured the latest statistics from the ACT and SAT tests. The downward trend was… Read more

Black Elk Speaks: Visual Storytelling

Black Elk Speaks is one of my favorite books. I am particularly fond of its opening paragraphs. When the Web was new in the 1990’s… Read more

Calculus for 5th Graders

“Calculus is the study of change” is a common description and all too common misunderstanding. For if calculus is the study of change then algebra… Read more

A Very Good Year

I feel most fortunate when I have a year I get to work on a new great idea in it. This past year has thus… Read more

Spreadsheets and the Rule of Four

A little over 20 years ago the Harvard Calculus Consortium sought to remake the calculus curriculum. “We believe that the calculus curriculum needs to be… Read more

Small Changes

Small changes, seemingly inconsequential acts, can have momentous repercussions. Dead birds set off the environmental movement. An assassin’s bullet protesting an exhausted empire started a… Read more

The Magic Wand

What if I could give you a magic wand to wave over our educational system and make it fulfill our dreams for our children? What… Read more

Opportunity for Creativity

I just looked at a wonderful short video by Sir Ken Robinson on creativity at in which he describes creativity as a process that… Read more

Another Sunday Ritual Soon Gone

When I was a kid, Sundays in the summer were car washing days. The stores were closed. The roads were generally quiet. And we took… Read more

The Hawthorne Effect

To make its workers more productive, the Western Electric Company, makers of phones and other parts for the Bell Telephone System, conducted one of the… Read more

Lynn Arthur Steen

My fortune cookie today read, “If you’re happy, you’re successful.” Usually for me that is true, but not today. For during that same lunch my… Read more

The Great American Probability Machine

This program started my career in digital learning. I bought my first computer, an Apple II in February 1978 on their first anniversary. I talked… Read more


As I watched a young woman the other day learning to ride her bike, zigzagging down the street, desperately trying to keep her balance, I… Read more

The End

Despite the many attempts to codify the creative process, it is as surprisingly individualistic as it is human. John Irving, author of iconic works like… Read more


The word seems so benign. Yet it has become the goto word in education. School superintendents, even the best and most advanced of them, use… Read more


“Today, it seems as if nearly everyone agrees that high school mathematics needs to change. For far too long high school mathematics has not worked… Read more

Tradition, Tradition

As part of the process of designing and developing new Labs, I visit math content sites all the time to help me think about the… Read more

The First Graph

This picture was first published in 1638! It is from Galileo’s great work Two New Sciences, that he smuggled out of his home imprisonment in… Read more


Empathy is an odd idea to discuss in math or even in STEM/STEAM education. It is usually thought of as an issue in psychology or… Read more

“Algebra before Acne”

As I was again reading the Common Core Standards, I was struck by their introduction of variables in grade 6. Jim, I could not help… Read more


I like to hang out in the Harvard Graduate School of Education library. It has a good vibe, is usually full of students focused on… Read more

Minkowski’s Connections

I still feel it months later, the thrill and awe I knew from finding an answer to a question I have long been troubled by.… Read more

Collaboration is Cheating?

One of the four C’s, perhaps for many the most important 21st century skill, is considered in our schools, cheating. Students caught talking to each… Read more

“Just try it on!”

Spanglish is one of those movies that grows on you. A coming to America story filled with themes that move us: a dedicated and resourceful… Read more

The Democratization of Knowledge

On this 10th anniversary of the iPhone it is worth remembering that this invention, as world-changing as it was, will not be deemed the most… Read more

The Challenge of New

One hundred years ago my father at age 9 entered America. He had traveled from his birthplace in a town in what is now Ukraine… Read more

Real Feedback vs Artificial Feedback

Math Blaster was the biggest hit educational product in the 1980’s, the first decade of the personal computer age. Flying saucer like objects would vaporize… Read more

Learning to Swim

The University of Chicago is not known for its athletics, so when I entered it as a first-year student I was very surprised that I… Read more


Teaching done right has always been a hard job, but it is now substantially harder. Talk to any teacher and they will tell you that… Read more

The Bit

The key to the digital age is also the key to learning algebra. Despite what many of us may believe, our digital age did not… Read more

Revolutionary Math

Cape Cod in the winter is one of those marvelous places filled with interesting shops and people waiting in the quiet winter time for the… Read more

This is Why I Love Graphs!

This graph appeared on one of my favorite websites – Statista. Given the “breaking news” of the day, that the President wants to impose new… Read more

Math as a Laboratory Science

Math is not only the last letter in STEM or STEAM, it is the only one that we do not picture as experimental. We don’t… Read more

Rows and Columns

This picture from a recent blog post sends shivers down my spine. It is our picture of a “modern” classroom with the desks lined up… Read more

The Los Alamos Primer

Or how to build an atomic bomb. One of the best curriculum ideas I ever had was to use this book as the text for… Read more


The words curious and curiosity do not appear in the Mathematics Common Core Standards document, yet they are arguably the most important words in mathematics… Read more

Personalizing Learning

The Bill & Melinda Gates (Gates) Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) have recently initiated a joint effort to envision breakthroughs in education. While… Read more

The Hardest Question

What is the hardest question a teacher has to answer? As teachers, especially math teachers, we face this most painful question all too often, rarely… Read more

The Problem with MOOCs

When MOOCs were the rage in higher education, I asked my friend David Kaiser, a physicist and professor of the history of science at MIT,… Read more

Is the Textbook Dead?

It caught my eye, this headline/story posted on EdWeek recently. Seems there was a panel at a conference that was supposed to debate what they… Read more

Touching the Sun

The Parker Solar Probe was launched yesterday to study the sun. Sixty years ago, Eugene Parker launched my scientific career. A young physics research scientist… Read more

A Book or a Course

I have long loved Maxwell’s Equations as the epitome of beauty in physics and as the source of inspiration for my teaching. But though the… Read more

The Future of Math Education

Change in the practice of mathematics forces re-examination of mathematics education. Not just computers, but also new applications and new theories have significantly expanded the… Read more


Even knowledgeable math educators have a hard time defining the most important topics in the Common Core Math Standards and its offspring. The “Standards” is… Read more