Sarah Strong talks to Cate Challen about the book she co-authored with High Tech High graduate Gigi Butterfield (class of ’21), “Dear Math: Why Kids Hate Math and What Teachers Can Do About It”

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- S4:E4 — Sarah Strong on the first step to helping kids love math: listening to them

- Cate Challen, Sarah Strong

Read the first chapter of *Dear Math: Why Kids Hate Math and What Teachers Can Do About It*, “Dear Math, You are Dreadful”

Buy a copy of *Dear Math: Why Kids Hate Math and What Teachers Can Do About It*

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Sarah Strong:

Every time I’m about to start reading student’s letters I get a little twinge of nerves because I’m like “I know some of them hate it but like we’re about to do it together every day for a year.” That’s actually important that you gave them space to say that they hate the thing that you love so that you can meet them there and start working on that together.

Alec Patton:

This is High Tech High Unboxed. I’m Alec Patton and that’s the voice of Sarah Strong, math teacher, instructional coach, and the co-author with Gigi Butterfield of the brand-new book, Dear Math: Why Kids Hate Math and What Teachers Can Do About It. In this episode, Sarah has a conversation with Cate Challen. Cate’s been an improvement coach for the High Tech High Graduate School of Education, a high school science and math teacher at multiple High Tech high schools, and before that she had a whole other career as a scientist. And I should mention that I was in the room for this conversation which is relevant because I make a guest appearance in the interview about halfway through. I’ll let Cate and Sarah take it from here.

Cate Challen:

Sarah Strong, I am so excited to talk with you today. Just to give folks an introduction, you are currently math program coordinator and course instructor with the San Diego Teacher Residency Program at High Tech Highs Graduate School of Education. You are also an instructional coach at High Tech High School. And you have recently written a book with one of your former students Gigi Butterfield called Dear Math: Why Kids Hate Math and What Teachers Can Do About It. You’re also a former math teacher, you taught grade six through 12th for 16 years, and you have a passion for designing math projects that helps students better understand the world around them by identifying and critiquing inequities. You also love to work with students and adults who have a fractured relationship with mathematics to restore their confidence and even their interest in math. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today.

Sarah Strong:

Thank you for having me, I’m really excited to be here. That was quite the introduction, Cate. I do like doing a lot of things. I guess there they all were in a row.

Cate Challen:

Just to get grounded in who you are, can you share with us your identity markers and how they inform how you show up in the world and in your work?

Sarah Strong:

What an important question to start on, thank you. I am a cis white woman. I guess how that impacts the way I show up in my work is that we know that most, a large majority of teachers are white women as well, and we are serving a population of students that aren’t mostly white female students. That connects to the book in a lot of ways because I have learned throughout my journey with these intersecting identity markers that many of my students don’t experience the world how I do at all and so I need to start by listening to them in all kinds of ways including what the book is about. There’s mathematical stories, and how they became the mathematician that they are today, and how that is continuing to evolve over time.

Cate Challen:

I really appreciate that. Before we get into the book, I’d love to hear how you came upon the idea of having students write letters to mathematics. Tell us about the moment when you first explored dear math letters in your classroom, or maybe the point at which you thought this could be a real game changer.

Sarah Strong:

Great question. I was sitting in a Project Tuning at High Tech High and I was trying to design a project that brought together ideas from the math units I wanted to focus on in my integrated math two class which were similarity, right triangle trig, and three-dimensional geometry. I was seeing all of these ideas with this metaphoric lens sort of to describe who we are. We were thinking about shadows and cross-sections and I thought “Oh, these are really interesting words to describe our life and who we are. I wonder if learning about that math can give us a new connection to understand our own identity.” And then I thought “Oh, our mathematical identity, this is really important.” And so I wondered if those topics could connect to the student’s mathematical identity.

So I was in the tuning and one of my colleagues said, “Oh my goodness, you should have students write a letter to unpack their identity.” She had done one to books, she had her students write a letter to books. And I thought “Oh, that’s a great idea.” Then I came to find out that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant had written dear basketball letters. I sort of formed the structure of the letter around some of those models. Some that she shared with me and then some I learned from watching their videos. And it turned out that they wrote the letter initially, and then throughout the project as we learned more deeply about the mathematical ideas and then kept using that metaphorically as a lens to understand ourselves they kept coming back to their letter and revising it to better deepen their understanding of who they were as a mathematician.

Cate Challen:

It’s so clear how in tune you are with the importance of listening to our students in class. You took that to a whole new level because you wrote this book with one of your former students Gigi.

Sarah Strong:

I did.

Cate Challen:

Tell us about that.

Sarah Strong:

It was unusual that this happened, but it just so happened that I was Gigi’s teacher for four years in a row. I had started out teaching ninth grade, I had done that for four or five years and loved it, and then through a couple … A teacher resigned and left here, and then the pandemic hit, and I sort of just kept looping with this group of students. So Gigi and I had a lot of opportunities to talk about math because she was my student. But then she’s super thoughtful and meta about things and so she would often be talking to me after class about some of the things that we were doing. Not the content, but why we were doing math and the way we were.

And it was actually her dear math letter where she used the term fraudulent fondness which is a chapter of the book. That phrase became my favorite phrase to describe some of my relationship with math and what I was hearing from a lot of people. And it was almost that phrase that catalyzed this idea like “Oh my gosh, we should write about this, how funny.” And we joked about it for a while before someone was like “No, for real, why don’t you two write about that.” Then we just did.

Gigi’s a brilliant student in a lot of ways. And also didn’t come to math class as that type who’s doing math in all their spare time and taking all the college classes in their spare time, she just was a genuinely interested part of the mathematical community. She’s not majoring in anything in the STEM fields she actually wants to be a comedy writer. Her sense of humor, and level of reflection, and curiosity come out in all of her parts of the book really brilliantly. And I think she presents not only her experience but also the experience of her peers as they took part in this mathematical community.

Cate Challen:

I agree with you, Gigi’s writing is quite beautiful. So you mentioned this term fraudulent fondness. Can you say a little bit more about what that is?

Sarah Strong:

I don’t have Gigi’s exact quote here right now, but she essentially described this realization that she had that she liked being told she was good at math but she didn’t actually like math, so there was this addiction to being told she was good at something. And this might happen in other disciplines as well, but I think because of the power that math holds in society you feel like if you’re good at that you truly are smart. And so she liked that feeling. But I thought it was so brilliantly nuanced that she was able to tease out her feelings from appreciating the discipline and being mathematical to just getting A’s on things. As we talked more about that concept that’s sort of where the book stemmed out. Interestingly, that’s the middle chapter of the book and so all the chapters sort of expanded forward and backward from there as we were outlining it.

Cate Challen:

I am sure that idea of fraudulent fondness is resonating with a lot of people right now. Thank you for explaining that.

Sarah Strong:

It’s a part of my math story. Is it a part of yours at all?

Cate Challen:

It sure is. I like to think it’s transformed to genuine fondness now but it was certainly fraudulent for a while. So in the introduction to this book you write “The reading and writing of Dear Math Letters is World Building. It is a process of centering student voices in the work to continually improve math classes to meet their needs.” I wonder if you could expand on this idea of world building. Why did that resonate for you?

Sarah Strong:

I had never heard this term before. It was maybe a common term to some people who are particularly interested in sci-fi and things like that but I had never heard the term world-building. But once I did, it was like a light bulb went on for me for what we were trying to do in our math class. It speaks to me of this continual evolution and emergence of what math classrooms could be like as we try to better design them to meet the needs of students and the world. And I think thus far, a lot of places aren’t yet doing a good job of that, but as we keep trying to broaden our understanding about what mathematics is, and what mathematics learning looks like, and why the world needs brilliant mathematicians, we can better design our math class for those things. And then hopefully coupled with that, design math classes that aren’t traumatizing to kids and make classes that make students feel like they’re stupid or that they don’t have anything to offer to that community, that there’s one way of being mathematical.

Cate Challen:

Do you have any thoughts about why our idea of what it means to be mathematical in schools is so narrow and what it would take to broaden it?

Sarah Strong:

I mean, I guess there did used to be a reason for people to do a lot of computing by hand because computers didn’t yet exist. And so I suppose as school was sort of coming to be whatever school was over 100 years ago, it was noted that students should have some numeracy skills that involved your math facts and doing some rote work over and over that computers now do. I don’t think those things aren’t important anymore but they certainly should not be centered or for sure not be the end game of math class.

And I think there are a lot of places where it sort of still is that you will compute over and over again and then someone will say if you got it right and if you did hooray, and if you got it wrong, well I’m sorry, better luck next time. Or, even more frequently no, you did it wrong I want you to do it how I did it. That sort of connects to the oppressive chapter is mathematics is something that students must do the way the teacher told them how to do it in order to be right and there is no liberatory sense in there that you have unique ideas and ways of thinking about this that are important. That actually is what we need more of in math class.

Cate Challen:

You’ve mentioned this a couple of times now, the way you titled your chapters throughout this book. So you picked up on different themes from these student letters, and those themes probably associate with adult’s feelings about mathematics in lots of ways. There’s one on dread, and intimidation, and fraudulent fondness which is my favorite. I love that we get to hear the student’s voices in the letters in the book. Gigi’s perspective is incorporated in every chapter and it’s lovely to hear because she’s a student but also because she’s a brilliant writer. I’m wondering, what are some of the most interesting or perhaps surprising things you heard from students when they were writing these letters?

Sarah Strong:

As a math teacher, we often miss out on some of students voice in their writing. And probably all the English and writing teachers out there are like “That’s the best thing that students do.” And in math class we often don’t get to hear that voice, though I would make a claim we should hear their mathematical voice frequently, but that’s a conversation for another time. The ways in which they described their experiences in math class were so much richer, and more nuanced, and hilarious, and sparking of my curiosity than I had ever imagined. Fraudulent fondness is just one example. They were so reflective, and so funny, and sometimes there were swear words in there.

They had all these feelings and I thought “Oh my gosh, I have been teaching all of these students with all of these feelings all of this time without actually creating space for them to share their feelings and bring those with them to class.” And I got to thinking, “Wait, how can I support students in a topic without letting them share their feelings about it first?” I’m almost being delusional that I might have what these students need. That is what surprised me the most is the ways in which they talked about it.

And then I guess in terms of the chapter that I didn’t see coming, I guess the frequency … Chapter two is about hierarchical thinking. And there actually is research that I came upon as I was writing this book about the frequency of hierarchical language. Or, Amy Parks uses the term narrow path analogy. Is that you are on this narrow path of learning and you are somewhere on the path. You’re either ahead or behind or maybe no one feels like they’re just right on the path, but that sort of dictates the way you show up to every learning space. Students so frequently talk about everyone knows you more than me. Or, I’m so far behind. And they have this sense of where they are on this path and that totally permeates how they show up to class all the time. I was struck by the frequency of those mentions.

Cate Challen:

Like a self ranking or comparison system.

Sarah Strong:

And it’s totally based on their perception. They’re not necessarily grounding it in reality. Sometimes it could be grounded in oh, we got some tests back and I got the lowest score. But more frequently it’s just their feeling of what other students can do and what they can’t. And so that’s why that chapter talks more about ways that we can give students broader ways of thinking about who they are as a mathematician to anchor them into a more positive identity instead of one sort of narrow ranking system.

Cate Challen:

In chapter five which is called Dear Math, You Are Oppressive, you talk about racial injustices that are caused by and ironically analyzed with math. And I found this student letter particularly heartbreaking. “Dear math, the reason why I say all this is because when I apply for college my GPA is going to be really low because of you. What can I do? How can I just move on? What’s next? I’m on my own in this world with nobody to count on due to me and only myself dropping the ball during these last two years of school. My main goal for high school was to head to college with a full ride because my parents will be unable to carry me on for college. I will be unable to succeed because of you. I cannot fulfill my dreams because of you. And most importantly, I cannot set my standards to continue this journey because of you.”

You write in this chapter about the ways that math, and particularly math assessments, have created inequities. And in fact, you include three powerful stories in this chapter from adult women in your own life, including your mom, about the ways in which math was oppressive for them. Can you say a little bit more about the ways in which our assessment and grading practices in schools can be oppressive and what we might do about it?

Sarah Strong:

Those letters were some of the most heartbreaking really is the ones that harken to math as something that has kept a person away from what they actually wanted to do. And that letter you read is an example of that. The three stories I tell of women in my life are examples of that. And that feels like the worst possible outcome for students coming out of our math class. It ought to be that because we are providing students with experiences to develop lots of mathematical tools doors are opened to them in all kinds of ways. It seems like traditional assessment and grading practices do value a way of doing things, and rightness, and correctness, and sometimes speed.

They’re used in oppressive ways in lots of disciplines, but maybe most frequently in math. I hear math educators coming to the classroom with some of these narrow views of what mathematics learning is. And even educators who are very equity-focused sort of use equity as a reason to continue pushing some of these practices. These students need to learn this math in this way so that they have access to whatever they want to do in the world.

I like how Rochelle Gutierrez talks about the dominant and critical access. And we certainly must attend to dominant ways of understanding mathematics so that students can do well on standardized tests and succeed in college math classes. And we do need to keep refining our critical lens. We as educators and bringing our students into the critique of that dominant mathematics, and the ways that it is Eurocentric and being used as a gatekeeper for students, and is actually leaving out a whole swath of students that the mathematical community could benefit from their ideas and thinking. I think particularly of math modeling and the ways that math modeling takes a very complex problem, and through a process of brainstorming variables and making assumptions sort of comes to a proposed solution that then undergoes revision. And I think we need really creative, diverse minds working on these problems. But if our math system is funneling out a lot of those creative minds and lots of diverse perspectives, we’re going to not have the best shot at thinking through all of these complex problems.

I’d say that is a really important piece of rethinking the ways that our classrooms avoid some of these oppressive practices. I picked assessment and grading practices to talk about in this chapter because it feels like low-hanging fruit in some way. Students frequently cite a grade they got on a thing as the reason they’re bad at math. I’d say that’s probably the baseline of what we need to be doing to liberate mathematics classrooms, and then there’s a whole host of other things. At the very least, start transitioning to some more asset-based assessments that value creative thinking and diverse ways of thinking about things. And start modifying grading practices to bring student voice and reflection into it. I’d say start there. And even that’s hard but it’s very important.

Cate Challen:

And thank you for pointing out that as a society we need a range of different types of thinkers in mathematics, and at the moment we are doing ourselves a disservice by not allowing those students to have access. It makes me think a little bit of chapter three, Dear Math, You Are Unnecessary. Many of our students feel like what they’re learning in math class is not going to be useful in their lives. And in chapter three a student wrote, “Dear math, your basics are more useful than any of your advanced stuff. To be honest, I don’t feel like I would find any of your advanced things useful unless I become a scientist or something like that.” So when we think about our educational environment and this constant pressure for students to advance through mathematics and do well on standardized tests, I wonder how this idea of relevance plays in from our students. And how might we as teachers think about the difference between this is what we have to cover and this is what I really think is important for you to know and be able to do?

Sarah Strong:

I think that connects back a little to what I was mentioning about the dominant and critical axis of learning. It would be a poor choice to not address the standards that are laid out by the state with the students in your classroom because it could have negative outcomes on their future. I would say do begin with those things and be curious about how the students can be brought into curiosity about those things. And then don’t end there. Don’t say, “Well, that’s all the standards kids.” A lot of them are connected and go together and we don’t need to go standard by standard day by day, but what are the big ideas that need to be talked about? And there’s some really high-quality curricular resources that do some of that now. But how actually might this unit help students understand more deeply a bigger question?

The project-based learning chapter toward the end of the book brings some of that to light. We can have coherent math instruction that’s grounded in grade level appropriate standards and actually use that math to understand a bigger question and give students a bigger sense of why and less of that feeling of unnecessary. That doesn’t always have to be, this is important because you’re going to use log rhythms in your job when you get older. You probably won’t. And yet, log rhythms are a part of our curriculum so how can I invoke a spirit of curiosity about them be a little silly about how we don’t like them? Notation but that we’re going to try it on anyway and possibly open up for a new kind of notation, but still get some of those dominant skills into the student’s toolbox.

Cate Challen:

And maybe create memes about log rhythms.

Sarah Strong:

Oh yes, we did create memes to make fun of log rhythms. That was a fun time.

Cate Challen:

So as part of this work, you’ve written your own letter to math. And I wonder if you could tell us what you learned about yourself, or what came out of that process for you?

Sarah Strong:

I did write a letter to math. We always say, “Do the project first,” and so I was like Okay, I guess I’m going to sit down and write this letter.” And I actually read the letter to the students before I had them write the letter which was interesting because they referenced it back to me a lot of times and some of that had some similar pieces to their story. But what I came to learn through writing it myself and engaging other educators in writing dear math letters is that the way we view ourselves as a mathematician, our own mathematical identity, is extremely influential over the ways that we arrive to our classrooms to teach students. I have some fraudulent fondness, I also have some math anxiety from when I was younger. So the ways I was showing up to my classroom were particularly grounded in those kinds of things.

One was to not induce anxiety, and the other was to help upend some of this fraudulent fondness so that students actually think they like the discipline of mathematics and not getting good grades. I sort of responded to the negative parts of my letter and tried to do something different. Frequently though we’ll see that math teachers that excelled in some more traditional math classes redesign classes in that way. Well, this worked for me, I’m going to help make it work for as many other people as I can because it’s important to do math in this way. It’s important at that point to read other people’s dear math letters and see oh, they didn’t experience math in that way, perhaps I should allow myself to be pushed in my thinking about what math class should look like because not every student is arriving there like me.

Cate Challen:

And you mentioned that right up front with our identity markers, right? Most often our teacher’s identities don’t reflect that of their students so it feels like an important thing that we need to shift on.

Alec Patton:

Can I ask a follow-up question? If teenage Sarah Strong had been given this assignment, what would that dear math letter have looked like?

Sarah Strong:

I think teenage Sarah Strong was very caught up in being the best at math by whatever measure was out there. I hope that I would’ve been able to dig deeply and identify the power that it was holding over me and maybe start to question some of that a little. As it was, I wasn’t given opportunities to question that hold it had on me and so I just kind of let it keep having that hold on me. But I would definitely have spoken to how it felt so important to get everything done just right, just so. The best possible work, the best possible grades.

Ironically, if it was Sarah Strong of my senior year of high school, my calculus teacher from the year before had actually invited me to be a TA in one of her freshman-level math classes. That I think was a start of me understanding that students … Because I’d been in a very tracked system and there was students that were just being like me. And so I got to go spend time in that class supporting students, and she let me stamp their warmups. And I thought “Oh my goodness, there’s so much beautiful math happening here and these students are not like me.” I think that was my first opportunity to listen and understand. And so if you caught me my senior year I would’ve been excited about that opportunity. It probably would’ve also had just a lot of stress in it.

Alec Patton:

Okay. What about you?

Cate Challen:

I went on a similar journey I think with mathematics. The fraudulent fondness is really resonating with me. I think I enjoyed being quote-unquote good at mathematics and being seen as the person who was good at it. But if someone asked me if I really understood why I was doing the things I was doing or what was really going on, I’m not sure I could’ve explained it in school, I just knew how to apply processes and procedures really well and diligently. I think since then my appreciation for it has changed and I’ve had time to explore it more deeply, and I have a genuine love of mathematics. And the more I know about it the more I realize I don’t know. And it’s funny to me how comfortable I am with that because I wouldn’t have been comfortable at school thinking I didn’t know a lot. Sarah, let’s imagine I’m a high school or middle school teacher and I want my students to write letters to mathematics, how do I do it?

Sarah Strong:

Well, one common pushback I’ve heard is “Are we supposed to be doing math in here not writing about math.” I think it’s actually integral to start by writing a math letter yourself to model for students what it sounds like, and then also being clear about your why. I am asking you to do this exercise because I’m really curious about who you are as a mathematician and I want to understand it more deeply through your writing to it. And I’m going to read all of them, I’m going to respond, and I also am eager to share mine with you here. So after you sort of get some clarity on why you’re doing it and do it yourself, I think it’s … There’s a couple of different ways that I’ve gone about this. And I’ve seen educators do other versions like a math autobiography or who I am as a mathematician activity.

But the dear math letter, in particular, it has in the book a bunch of prompts to get students thinking about who they are as a mathematician, thinking about their history, different experiences they had that were positive, that were less positive. I do try to ask students to not name specific teachers in the school that we’re in or even past ones because I feel like it’s easy to just throw a teacher under the bus and I’d rather just hear about their relationship with the discipline, I think that can be more productive. And so I do share that with them. Though sometimes they reference, “I had a teacher one time that did this.” And I think that can be fine but we don’t need to go into all the specifics. There’s a bunch of questions about their experiences specifically.

Another addition to that I like to have students do is a graphing story of how their feelings change over time and so we’ll make the X-axis time in years and the Y-axis feelings. And there’s positive and negative and they can plot that, and annotate it, and whatnot. So sometimes I’ll couple that with the writing of a dear math letter or just do the annotated graph because I think that’s a really nice visual and storytelling piece.

Cate Challen:

And do you trick students into doing maths? Maybe a math-

Sarah Strong:

When they are doing math they’re thinking about increasing and decreasing, and minimums, and maximums, all of these things. I’d say that’s sort of the process. And then most importantly is actually read them. I think I say in the book, “Every time I’m about to start reading students letters I get a little twinge of nerves because I’m like I know some of them hate it but we’re about to do it together every day for a year.” That’s actually important that you gave them space to say that they hate the thing that you love so that you can meet them there and start working on that together.

And if it’s a handwritten letter just put little smiley faces, little comments through the whole thing. I set aside an hour per class. Or if it’s digital, write little comments to them. But that’s super important is actually reading them. And then it gives you an anchor story to build on your year. I’ll often say back to a student, “Oh yeah, I remember in your dear math letter you shared this. How are you feeling now? Or, are those feelings still coming up?” Or, things like that.

Cate Challen:

And in this book, one thing I really love is that for each chapter you pose suggestions in terms of resources and practice shifts that teachers can make when they see trends coming up in their student’s dear math letters. So is that a process you would recommend? Looking at your math letters and thinking what area of my practice deserves interrogation or to be pushed upon right now?

Sarah Strong:

Definitely. If someone has time to do this knock yourself out. But tallying different feelings that you’re noticing could be helpful but I sort of just read them and then get a general feel for how the class is generally … Is there tons of dread? I had a group of seniors one year where there was pervasive dread amongst 10 of them and I was like “Oh my, we need to really think about this and work on this together” because they sort of banded together in their dread. We were explicit. I was like “Hey, you all feel pretty negative about this. It is my goal that you leave this class this semester feeling more positive. And we’re going to check in on it every single week and see how you’re feeling and what kinds of things are making you feel less dread.” I think looking for themes could hone in on a chapter of the book.

The practices in there are things that I learned through reading research, taking part in improvement communities in our graduate school, and on Twitter, all kinds of places. And then I sort of brought these practices in, and then would try them out, and then see how students were feeling and how they were responding to them. And I think all of the practices are continually evolving. None of them are like here is what you should do and exactly how you should do it. And I tried to convey that in the chapters is like here is how I first tried it on, and then this is what it looked like the next year, and then this is what it looked like. And then this teacher started doing it and they tweaked it in this way. And I think that’s part of the world-building process too is you view … A teacher might view their practice as in continual evolution to be better for the students that they have that year.

Alec Patton:

I wonder if you can explain the format of the book a little bit. It’s co-authored, but when you talk about how you put it together you tend to say I rather than we so there’s probably readers who are going “Hang on, is this book co-authored or not?”

Sarah Strong:

That’s a good question. Because also Gigi went away to college while we were in the midst of writing this which complicated things but it is very we process. We read through hundreds of letters that we had amassed and collectively identified some of these trends that we noticed across all of the letters. All 11 chapters, we came up with the language for what those chapters would be called together and then started talking about the elements of our classroom that seemed connected to those chapters. It was my classroom but she was in it. And she helped me understand from the student perspective which things she felt and she experienced from her peers were connected to some of those feelings. And so after we had the chapter outline, we honed in on writing chapter six, Fraudulent Fondness because that was the one we were most excited about and what inspired the book and that became our sample chapter that we started pitching around. Hey, anyone want to publish this book? And that chapter’s flow became a model for all of the other chapters.

And then the other chapters, because she had moved away to college, we ended up using a process that was like … I knew the skeleton of the chapter from our brainstorming, and then I would write the bulk of the chapter out, and then she would write her reflection at the end after I would send it to her. It worked for us. I don’t know how co-authorship is supposed to be, I’m a math teacher, but that worked for us.

Cate Challen:

Sarah, I love that you end your book with a message of hope and a call to action that we listen to our students. You write, “As I continue to ponder the notion of world-building in our current education setting, I see some reason for hope. I work with teachers every day who are centering student thinking, excavating student brilliance, and designing math classrooms that are communal. I also hear pushback from some who advocate for the maintenance of the status quo in math class even though it didn’t work for them and much of society. I am saddened by the lack of world-building with these folks and I implore them to listen to student’s math stories and design with them centered.” Thank you for writing this book, for making this work accessible, and for inviting us all to challenge the status quo.

Sarah Strong:

It’s been a pleasure getting to talk about this with you.

Alec Patton:

High Tech High Unboxed is hosted and edited by me, Alec Patton. Our theme music is by Brother Herschel. Thank you so much to Cate Challen and Sarah Strong for sharing their conversation. You can find a link to the first chapter of Dear Math in our show notes. Cate’s also going to be talking to Sarah’s co-author at Gigi Butterfield so look out for that conversation, it’ll be coming soon. Thanks for listening.

In spring 2008, the High Tech High GSE published the first issue of *Unboxed, its *journal of adult learning in schools. From the beginning, our goal was to spread good ideas that can improve schools. The project cards were the first step—to make it easy to hand an idea from one teacher to another, we designed a journal with some of the content already freed from the book’s binding.