What I wrote in 2021

What exactly did I spend time on this year? Hard to say, or maybe it’s just hard to admit that my output this year was all over the place. Let’s sort by topic and see what it amounts to.

Book Stuff

I finished writing this book in summer 2020, and it came out in April 2021.

Was purple the right choice for the cover?

I wrote the sort of book about teaching that I wanted to read — short, personal, aimed more at the working teacher than the teacher-in-training. I thought there were some original perspectives in there, though I think it’s fair to say it’s mostly a synthesis of research ideas.

I wrote a few posts this year that expanded on the techniques from the book:

What is “fading out a worked example” and why would it work and also when?

Good explanations connect particulars to principles

Start class with the good stuff

Making Long Problems Shorter

Pedagogy

I was hoping to get started with a second book at some point in 2021, but it never happened. Pedagogically, this was a year of grappling with a million little things, rather than one big one.

Is there a book to be written about whole-class discussion, growth mindset, the equals sign, and math fact memorization? That is the book that (apparently) I am ready to write about teaching, but it just feels like a potpourri to me at this stage.

A Good Eye for Arithmetic

What actually even is a growth mindset?

The Change-Resistance Explanation for Why Kids Struggle So Much with Algebra

A growth mindset is a tendency to explain things in a certain way

These included some of my most popular posts this year, for what that’s worth.

Some questions and answers about whole-class discussions

What People Get Wrong About Memorizing Math Facts

Math

On to the math! Honestly, I didn’t learn very much math this year, though the last few months of the year have been a bit better in that department.

People Actually Really Like Mathematics

Teaching Yourself and Others

Policy

Honestly, I know so little about policy. You don’t come to michaelpershan dot com to learn about politics. The best you can say about me is that I’m a dabbler and that I try to react thoughtfully to whatever happens to be causing a fuss at the moment.

Was it a mistake to call KIPP the top recommended charity in the United States?

Teachers are afraid of hybrid learning (picked up here)

What if we ban private schools?

Some basic questions about college admissions

I Don’t Know How To Categorize These

If you trust hitcounts, these pieces were among my most popular. One of them is a would-be takedown of an incredibly popular education figure, another a joke, the last a very brief statement of purpose. I enjoyed writing each of these things but they don’t make it easier to figure out exactly what I’m doing here.

YouCubed is More Than Just Sloppy About Research

All the numbers from 1 to 500, ranked from worst to best by a middleschooler

Where My Cynicism About Education Ends

Fiction/Humor

If you’re reading this, it’s likely because at some point or another I wrote a worksheet that you liked. Or I shared someone else’s worksheet, and you liked it. Or you liked something I wrote about algebra, or whatever. But I spent a lot of time this year writing sorta-funny fiction (or straight up humor) and some of it got published in places.

Is any of this good? I couldn’t tell you. But for completeness, I include it below:

The American Bystander

“I Am Baby, Persecuted in City of New York”

“Deprogrammed”

“About the Murderer”

Two Fifty One

“A Mathematical Magic Trick”

Slackjaw

“I Am A Mad Scientist, And I Am Begging You To Just Trust Scientists”

Non-Fiction/Essay

For the first summer in years, I didn’t teach. During some of that quiet time I sat down to really try to do service to this essay, something that I’ve been thinking about writing for nearly a decade in one form or another. My teen years were dotted with weird Jewish things that I’m spending my adult life trying to make sense of. Adult religion is so normal. Mostly for better.

“A Time To Die” in Tablet

What am I going for here

I honestly don’t know! Looking back, it’s a lot. But do I regret any of it? Not really. I do wish that I was working on another book. Having a big project is good for me. Having a book is also quite honestly a nice thing for the ol’ ego. Blogging has never really been a “respectable” activity, in the sense that you could talk to family members about it without suffering a paroxysm of shame.

Then again, come to think about it, one of the few times this year that I told someone that I wrote a book, their reaction was to ask how anyone would ever hear about the book, let alone buy it? And then I had to once again shamefully admit that I’m a social media user. So there’s really no way out of the shame of writing. It’s an inherently shameful exercise, and maybe I’ll just try to own that embarrassment in the coming year.

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