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Friday, October 19, 2012

The Math Hombre, John Golden

Math-frolic Interview #4

John Golden is a Michigan math professor and proprietor of the MathHombre blog. He especially enjoys using games and interactive activities in the math classroom, and his enthusiasm for math shines through in most all his posts!
You can get a sense of the range of John's interests from his Pinterest page here: http://pinterest.com/mathhombre/pins/

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1) For starters, can you say a little about your background or anything else pertinent to your becoming a math blogger…


I got a PhD from Penn State in Mathematics, index theory, but along the way got more and more interested in the teaching and learning of math. I was on my way to get certified in secondary teaching, when a visiting position came up at Grand Valley State University and I got to both be in K-12 schools and be a teacher educator. Dream job!
2) When do you remember first loving mathematics, and when did you know you wanted to pursue it professionally?
I always hated how repetitive math class was. The homework and even the year to year re-covering. And then …algebra. Now, I think it was how that unified and generalized everything we did, but then I just loved it. Then I had the good fortune to have an amazing mentor in undergrad, John Hocking (http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2011/08/hocking.html), and it was all she wrote.
3) What are the aspects of mathematics that you most like studying/reading about?
Connections among seemingly unrelated ideas (hence, index theory) and the beautiful intersection of math and art. And games.
4) There are MANY 'math education' blogs out there... is there anything in particular that you feel sets yours apart from the crowd, or if not, what do you think is the strongest 'draw' for your blog?
I have no idea. It started for me to share the fun stuff out there from people like Dan Meyer and Kate Nowak and Sue Van Hattum with my students and then it became good for my work by reflecting and synthesizing. If there's any appeal it might be that I try to honestly share my math and teacher thinking. I got a lot of linkage on math games and tech for math, GeoGebra in particular.
5)  Are there certain types of posts that are your favorites to work on? Do you have any specific posts that were favorites to write, or alternatively, seemed to be favorites with your readers?
Playing games that result in learning is always exciting to share, and I guess original activities in general. I have an odd affection for my weirdest posts like Jonah (http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2010/07/jonah-math-teacher.html) or Screwtape (http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2011/03/screwtape-for-teachers.html) - but those don't get much traction. Mr. Slope Guy (http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2012/03/mr-slope-guy.html) was a fun project with my middle school son that has been popular.
6) You're a huge fan of "GeoGebra"… want to explain a little about what that is and how you utilize it?
GeoGebra is this amazing free dynamic algebra and geometry software begun by Markus Hohenwater. Completely free, elegantly and compactly written and stupefyingly powerful. I use it for making activities for students, as a super-graphing calculator-plus tool for students to use, for generating mathematical images for documents, for solving math problems for myself, and - occasionally - for fun. I want to do everything I can to help make it accessible and usable to students and teachers.
7) What other online math resources do you like to use? And to what extent do you use your own blog or 'social media' as a classroom tool?
I have really enjoyed Twitter as self-professional development and networking. Amazing resource - can be almost overwhelming. I am a heavy reader of other people's blogs, and wish more university faculty used it, too. 

I use social media quite a bit as a teacher educator. Our student teachers use Twitter and blogging, I host class pages on Facebook now instead of Blackboard, there's a major wiki project (http://hs-mathematics.wikispaces.com/) in one of my classes, I encourage students/teachers to create for YouTube (http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2010/12/change-channel.html) or GeoGebraTube, etc. I know our graduates will need support and I want to enable them to find it if it's not at their school. The math twitter/blogosphere is fantastic.
8) Can you name a few of your favorite math-related books, and any you'd recommend to people in general?
Post! http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2010/01/recommended-reading.html

For teachers: Jo Boaler's What's Math Got to Do With It? (http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2010/05/book-club-whats-math-got-to-do-with-it.html) , The Teaching Gap (http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2012/04/teaching-gap.html) and Mosaic of Thought ( aliteracy book that I'm constantly referencing on my blog, e.g. http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2012/10/why-questioning.html).
For fun: Math Curse, The Man Who Counted and The Phantom Tollbooth. I'd better stop there.
9) Any parting words, not covered above, you'd want to pass along to a math-oriented audience?
If you're enjoying what you find a on the web, try sharing for yourself! Tweet it, write about it, pin it, etc. Be a part of improving the profession. (Wise words from my awesome colleague Dave Coffey,  http://deltascape.blogspot.com/, distilled from The Teaching Gap)

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Thanks John for taking time to answer my questions, and any readers (especially teachers) not already familiar with MathHombre blog should stop by for a visit! John is also on Twitter at: @mathhombre

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