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Q & A with Max Ray

How long have you been working at the Math Forum?

They’ve paid me to work here since 2007 (I think), but I’ve been involved over a decade! In high school I wrote to Dr. Math about a question that puzzled me (why is it that no matter how big or small of a circle you have, you can always fit exactly six copies of that circle around it? You can try it with dimes, matching jar lids, hula hoops…), and in college I was a volunteer mentor for the Problems of the Week. After graduating I taught (using Math Forum PoWs and lessons!) for two years before I talked them into paying me to do what I love.

What’s your favorite PoW and why?

I like the ones that came from real wonderings about the world, like Lillian’s Lines, Measuring Cylinders, and Cadence. There are also some that I’m still trying to solve, like Around the Corner and The Bracelet Craze.

We hear that you recently attended Twitter Math Camp. How valuable do you think using Twitter in the classroom is for teachers?

Some of the things I learned at Twitter Math Camp are:

  • Twitter is really valuable for math teachers (and elementary teachers who are interested in math) because there are so many passionate, helpful, kind educators on Twitter who will talk to you any time of day whether it’s for moral support, sharing great ideas, answering questions, doing math together or whatever.
  • Having a blog and reading other peoples’ blogs (like mine and fellow Forum staff member Suzanne’s or PoW user Fawn Nguyen’s) is a great way to reflect on your lessons and get great ideas from other people. It’s like a global faculty lounge!
  • Hot topics among math teachers on Twitter and blogging are: sharing ideas for foldables and interactive notebooks, sharing classroom organization tips and first day routines, blogging about how they’re going to make problem-solving and writing vital parts of their classroom this year, and more!

You developed PoW Planet to connect teachers from all the globe to problem-solve together and look at student thinking together. How do we get involved with that?

You can visit to learn more. Basically, there’s a group of teachers from the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and the Caribbean who are doing PoWs with their students and are willing to share their own mathematical thinking about the featured PoWs, as well as their students work, and even their feedback to their students on that work and how the students revised based on it. It’s a neat glimpse into their use of PoWs in the classroom.

There are two ways to get involved. If you’d like to be one of the teachers who posts student work, feedback, and problem-solving to the blog, you can email me. I’ll be in touch with you to help you get started.

The other option is to follow the PoW Planet blog and support the contributing teachers by commenting on their posts, sharing what you notice about their students’ thinking, etc. Anyone can view the content and comment!

Tell us about something fun you’ve done recently.

This summer I took my dog, Orent, on a road trip to visit both of my grandmas. He’s a great dog for road trips because he’s in training to be a service dog (do you see his vest in the photo?). That meant that he was welcomed into restaurants and he was practically signing autographs at each of my grandmas’ nursing homes. In this photo we’re at the Washington, IA farmer’s market and I’m feeding him a plain (no-syrup) Sno-Cone. Ice is one of his favorite treats!