Math on Facebook: A Love/Hate Relationship

I am forever trying to figure Facebook out. I love social media, but there is something about Facebook that seems to creep me out far more than any of the other channels. I value the ability to share with a network of “friends” and love to get life updates from people that I have known in various stages of my life, BUT sometimes it feels just too bizarre how much the social network knows about me, and the idea that I can’t really search for content seems like a waste of time. All of that being said, I am shamelessly addicted.
The combination of a profile that notes a math degree and a community of friends that don’t share my same enthusiasm for the subject means that I come across several math related posts that either drive me crazy or leave me wanting more. A scan from this week’s news feed results in 3 Loves and 3 not so much’s – a sampling of my love/hate relationship with math on Facebook:

The Loves…

Coding. If there is one STEM topic that could qualify as “sexy,” it is coding — not sure why group theory hasn’t had the same appeal, but I still love seeing coding push through mainstream media into the laptops of students (young and old) across the country. General Assembly‘s (@GA) free coding and web design courses show up frequently in my feed as do inspirational stories of kids taking the code world by storm. Both make me happy, proud, and motivated.
General Assembly ScreenShot
Satire. This week it was thanks to The Onion (@TheOnion). Thanks for the reminder to not take ourselves too seriously and more importantly to always read titles carefully before believing (or sharing) what you read. What’s wrong with the title 10th-Grade Prodigy Studying Mathematics At 10th-Grade Level? Not much. It is a valid point. We need to push beyond just grade level proficiency and allow students the opportunities to excel. If something like this makes you mad, don’t let it. It should be assumed that we are working to get our students to succeed at grade level…it isn’t easy, but providing students with opportunities for personalized instruction, where they are allowed to work at their own pace is a great place to start. We can celebrate getting students to grade level, but lets not stop there. Lets support options that allow students to reach maximum potential and provide chances to reach that “prodigy” level.
Jokes. Nerdy, teacher humor from my friend Julie. These one liners get me everytime. Definitely worth sharing with your students. Makes me wonder what comic genius they would come up with if given the chance…
Math Joke 1Math Joke 2

The Not So Much’s

Stupid T-shirts. Facebook is kind enough to assume that due to the information in my profile, I find t-shirts like this humorous? Empowering? Cheeky? I mean maybe, I guess, I just sure hope it doesn’t describe me… “I majored in Mathematics. To save time lets just assume I am always right.”Math Tshirt
On her blog, Math Mama (@suevanhattum) agree’s with the idea that the message on this T is all wrong – “Part of how we do mathematics is by showing that something must be true, or figuring out that it’s false. Even though the Collatz conjecture works for every number up into the billions and beyond that, we still don’t say we know it’s true, because we don’t have a proof.” — That’s what I am talking about Math Mama, now there is a shirt I might wear. Actually scratch that, I would just prefer a plain t-shirt, although I dig what you are saying. Save the graphic T’s for someone else.
“Funnies.” The lame comics that my self proclaimed “non math person” friends post. It takes everything in my being not to draft a comment that attempts to build a stronger growth mindset… then I remember it’s Facebook and I move on. In the end, it isn’t the eCards that bug me, they are usually pretty funny, it is the general perception that not understanding math is comical — come on people, you don’t see me making excuses to never read or write.
Math eCard
Tools of the Trade. This one is tough, because I both love and hate when these pop up. Most recently, it is the launch of the PhotoMath Calculator. This bad boy can solve equations simply by snapping a pic of the textbook. I am an EdTech junky and I LOVE the idea of innovative products, which I completely believe this is. The issue I take is the reaction that people have to it, it becomes an instant fix, an “I wish I had this in high school.” It seems there is always a need to find a way to make math easier rather than soaking in all of its glorious difficulty. Its the hunt, not the solution, that is the best part about solving a math problem. On a scale from love to hate, this falls in both camps. The technology is bomb, but its effect on math education makes me nervous.
I think what it really comes down to is not the ads or posts that I see on Facebook, but rather the attitude towards math that is showcased. Math shouldn’t be something that we dread, it can be a powerful tool that supports the creativity and critical thinking necessary to solve some of the world’s toughest problems. The key is not whether or not you are “good” or “bad” at math, but how you address the problems in front of you. It is about building grit and persistence in the name of continued improvement. It is about failing over and over again and learning from each mistake. And just like anything else, it is about investing time and energy in order to improve. As a pretty smart dude once said, “It’s not that I am smart, I just stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein
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