I am assuming you are here because someone knows you teach mathematics and has got you onto Twitter as part of your professional development. Or maybe you are a student or parent who is interested in issues related to mathematics and someone told you about #mathchat.
I have still to reach my one-year anniversary on Twitter, but probably a large proportion of those following me know me through #mathchat. So what is #mathchat? Basically, #mathchat is one of the many hashtags used by educators to hold discussions on topics of immediate relevance to them. There is a whole raft of educational chats and hashtags on Twitter, but #mathchat concerns itself mostly with issues surrounding the teaching and learning of mathematics from beginning to end, K-death (for the North Americans!).
I am usually credited with founding #mathchat, but it’s probably fairer to say that I revived it in it’s current form. The revival started because of a comment made by a middle school teacher who said he wished there was something for mathematics teachers which was like #edchat. I got the ball rolling, we had a TwtPoll to decide on day and time, and I decided that the same topic should be discussed on a different day at a different time to allow more input or opportunity for those on both sides of the Atlantic to take part. I’d like to see a third discussion in the Pacific region too – any takers in Aus/NZ?
What is the purpose of #mathchat? This excerpt from the #mathchat wiki will give you an idea:
The aim is to provide a forum for anyone involved with Mathematics – whether as an educator, a student or an interested party – to discuss and share ideas about issues affecting them at this particular time.
Some questions you may have:
- When is #mathchat? The new topic is introduced on a Thursday/Friday (we used to start at 11:30pm GMT on Thursday, but this was shifted to 00:00 GMT Friday, by popular demand). This is now a fixed time, so when daylight-saving hours change, the time of the chat will shift backwards or forwards accordingly. The same topic is revisited on the following Monday (starting at 20:30 London time, 19:30 GMT in Summer, 20:30 GMT in Winter). The Thursday chat is one hour and the Monday chat is 90 minutes. You can find your local time from the link on the #mathchat wiki.
- How are topics chosen? Topics are decided by a weekly vote. The topics for discussion come from a list of suggestions in a Google Doc, and anyone is free to add further ideas to that list whenever they like. Each of the scheduled discussions is archived, in case you missed it or want to go back and review it.
- What is a hashtag? Check out this video to discover what a hashtag is and how to use a hashtag. At the designated time, you only need to add “#mathchat” to the end of your tweet to participate in the discussion. Some applications will add the hashtag for you, you can find suggestions on the home page of the #mathchat wiki. The TweetChat one is probably best for first-timers!
- What if I want help? The pages on the #mathchat wiki or the archive which start with “!” will give you extra guidance, or just send out a tweet with #mathchat and you should get a response fairly quickly.
- Who should I follow? You should definitely follow @mathchat to keep updated on new topics, voting and so on. There is also Pooky Hesmondhalgh’s 20 Top Tweeters for Maths Teachers or you can follow any of the people on my #mathchat list.
- Can I only use #mathchat at the pre-set times? No, absolutely not! The pre-set times are just to discuss a single topic. Lively discussions will often appear at all sorts of times during the day, particularly at weekends. People use the hashtag to share links, their latest blog post and even the occasional joke!
What makes #mathchat special?
Like most of the other educational hashtags on Twitter, the people who contribute to #mathchat are passionate about teaching mathematics and helping others come to terms with what is involved in learning mathematics. What is really special for me, though, is that not long after its revival, #mathchat expanded beyond the ‘topic of the week’ to become a place where teachers and students can ask questions at almost any time of the day or night and get helpful responses, usually within 5 or 10 minutes… If you want to know what #mathchat means, just send out a tweet “What does #mathchat mean to you?” and wait for the answers! And if you have any further questions or need help, feel free to tweet me. I’ll look forward to tweeting you some time!