MN Math Tweeter of the Month

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 in High School, Middle School | No Comments

Megan Schmidt

Mathematics Specialist, St. Francis School District

MCTM Communications Committee

As the school year comes to a close and MathBits takes a break for the summer, there is one more Minnesota Tweep I must introduce you to. Andy Pethan ( @rockychat3 ) hails from Byron, MN where he has taught mathematics for 5 years and has begun to dabble in robotics and design. I found all of his answers to my questions very thoughtful and interesting, and I wanted to share them all. So rather than giving you a summary of his responses, enjoy Andy Pethan…uncut.

What do you REALLY like about your job?

More than anything, I love the people I get to work with. A large fraction of the staff is very passionate and open to new ideas. Administrators and coaches are looking to push the boundaries of traditional education, but doing so with many teacher led initiatives. I am given tremendous freedom to try new ideas and feel supported by my PLC and administrators.

Why do you use Twitter? What keeps you coming back? Favorite Twitter moments? Ideas?

I like to listen and I like to talk. In the physical world, I try to spend as much of my free time as possible in 1-on-1 or small group conversations. I really enjoy learning about and understanding other people. I also really like sharing ideas and getting other people’s feedback on how to make the ideas better. Twitter, once you make a few friends and find a few chats, becomes a natural extension of this beyond the physical walls of your school or local area. On Twitter, you also get to be super choosy, tuning into a small group of people who you think have the best ideas in the world (literally) about a given subject, something that is impossible to do offline. I also like how Twitter makes conversations amongst local people that used to happen in closed rooms become public so anyone who has a helpful perspective or is passionate about the topic can feel welcome and jump in.

What are you looking forward to this summer, professionally and/or personally?

This summer is going to be busy but awesome. My wife and I are bringing our not-quite-2-year-old with us to Europe for a couple weeks in June. We will fly into Dublin, visit friends in Brussels, and probably do some train rides and hikes in the Alps. Later in the summer, we will also go to a cabin just north of International Falls for some fishing and family time with my wife’s family. I have 3 stretches where I am flying out to Boston or Atlanta to teach a workshop at a summer camp as part of a business a college friend created using the Arduino to fly remote control helicopters. Twitter Math Camp, instead of being in Oklahoma or California or something crazy like that, will be an hour north in Minneapolis in July, the place where I get to do my best thinking on how to redesign my math classes, and the place where I get to form a lot of awesome relationships. At the end of summer, the family is taking a road trip to go to a wedding on the East Coast, visit a friend on the way back, and go to one more wedding in Chicago. When I’m not on the road or hanging out with my daughter Josie, I will be building my new course Grand Challenge Design that starts in fall.

Anything else you want to share?

(This is amazing, don’t miss it.)

The thing I am most academically excited about is my new Grand Challenge Design course, so you could talk about that. The course is a 90 minute block / day for the full school year where students will combine messy, interdisciplinary global problems (access to clean water, personalizing learning, making solar energy economical, improving health informatics, etc.) with the technologies that enable everyday devices to become “smart” devices and connect to the internet of things. By studying a variety of grand challenges and connecting with local adults who work in relevant fields, I hope students will be able to develop a passion for at least one important issue. From there, the skill-building we do with web servers, Raspberry Pi computers, electronic sensors, CAD software, and CNC machines should give students the ability to create unique and business viable solution ideas to some specific part of the big hairy problem. By the end of the school year, my hope is that students will have enough experience with a challenge area, the tech, and the entrepreneurial design process that they will feel comfortable designing their own products and businesses. Everything I design for the course will be shared and open, so I am hoping there are other teachers who want to create a similar course at their school and collaborate to make this course better every year. Longer term, my vision for the course is that students earn required credits, not just elective credit, while working on their projects and research, making it possible to spend a half day or longer focused on a big, meaningful project.

Andy Pethan


Andy Pethan in an out-of-context selfie with his algebra class.

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