What are visual patterns, and how can they open new possibilities for building math routines?

Today we are passing things over to Kent Haines. Kent is a Heinemann Fellow Alum and middle school math educator based in Alabama. He is joined Fawn Nguyen. Fawn is a well-known math educator and is currently a Teacher on Special Assignment where she supports K-8 math teachers and their students.

Kent and Fawn discuss the importance of building trust and respect in the classroom, and how to incorporate visual patterns into your instruction.

*Below is a transcript of this episode. *

Kent: In 2013 and 2014, I had a very challenging school year. I was in a very difficult school with a brand new administration. And for many reasons, I just felt like I couldn't be the teacher that I wanted to be. And sometimes during my prep period, at the end of the day, instead of planning the next day's lesson, I would sit there and imagine what my class could be like when I got a chance to start over again in a new school year. And during those prep periods, I very often read the blog of my guest, Fawn Nguyen. Fawn was writing about middle school math as well, but her room sounded so vibrant to me, so exciting, so full of interesting math conversations. It sounds funny to say this, but I read Fawn's blog from cover to cover that school year and then went back and reread all of my favorite entries.

I set out the next school year to make a class that felt more like hers. And although my classroom still doesn't feel like hers, at least it feels like mine, which I think is the real point. I was not surprised then that Fawn was featured in the book Motivated by Ilana Horn, whom I spoke with a couple of months ago. You can find that interview in our archive. Fawn, over the past couple of decades, has created a unique math classroom culture around problem solving and mutual cooperative struggle, and I'm thrilled to get to talk to her about it. We'll also delve into her work with visual patterns, as well as some of the interesting wrinkles that come along with her latest position with the Rio School District in California as a teacher on special assignment, a job title that sounds extremely cool and fancy. Fawn, welcome to the show.

Fawn: Thank you. Thank you so much, Kent, for having me. I can't help… but in your introduction, I just heard the word "vibrant." And it reminds me of when people come over and see the house or the yard, they say, "Gosh, everything is just so beautiful. You have a green thumb and all this." And I think, "Wow, that's because the dead ones, I get rid of those fast." So all non-vibrant lessons, I didn't blog about those.

Kent: Oh, well, that's a good point, but it sure looked great from over where I was sitting across the country.

Fawn: Thank you. Thank you.

Kent: Yeah. So let's just start with a big one. What is most important to you in establishing a classroom culture? Just from a 30,000 foot view, what do you see as the most important aspects of Ms. Nguyen's math class?

Fawn: I hope that it is one of respect, and I know that can be vague and general. But in order for us to do anything, I think in any environment, that needs to be established. And so specifically, respect in a class means the kids know that I value what they have to say. They value what each other, their peers, have to say. So that gets established and it's from bell to bell, right, so that whatever we're doing today, it's because I thought a lot about it. I respect their time. They respect my time. How we behave, just tuning in listening, recording, and acknowledging each other. I can think of a great lesson, have a great lesson, but if we don't have that already kind of blanket respect for what will happen in this room, then it very well could just fall flat.

Kent: And so how do you go about creating that sense in your classroom? Starting day one, the beginning of the school year, what are you doing to make that clear that you respect their time and you have a respect for their input and all of these sorts of things?

Fawn: Well, in terms of specifics, I guess it boils down to the two rules that I have on day one I tell the kids, and it's just only two rules. One is never tell an answer and never give up. So the never give up is to respect yourself, right, to give yourself time to work on the problem, that I'm giving you time. I wish that you do the same to yourself, give yourself time to work on it. And then never tell an answer, which means more of never blurt out an answer, means to respect others so that others can think. You don't take that away from them.

Kent: And a lot of what you've done seems to be around the idea of problem solving, because, of course, if you say never give up, but then they're just doing a bunch of sort of low level, low engagement problems, well, they might not even need to have that persistence. Because if you're just giving them here's the radius of a circle, find the area, here's the radius of a circle, find the area, here's the radius of a circle, find the area, they're not going to do that. So can you talk about the sort of activity structures and routines that get the kids to find that perseverance and get them cooperating where they're not just blurting out answers and that sort of thing?

Fawn: Right. So there are two parts or I see as two sides of the problem solving coin, the one is literally I take problems from outside of the curriculum, right? They are non-routine and they're just something that they would never find in a textbook. So it's literally outside of the curriculum. And then the other side is it's a curriculum, but I try to make it so it's non-routine by just stop telling them what to do, right? Just kind of invert the normal routine of I teach them, I tell them what to do, and then they later just follow my steps. And the three act task, I think that's widely used. It's more common now is that's the idea is we just kind of spark their interest with an image or a short video clip and we start from there. So it's starting with a question, I guess, a really good question, to see where the kids take it and how we can scaffold, how we can come in with the right questions at the right time.

Because the goal of that, I guess, is if I'm trying to get kids to think, I have to begin with something they care to think about. So it's a lot of behind the scenes, I suppose, lesson planning that I pick the task and then I just walk it through in my mind, which is actually very simply asking the kids, "What do you know already? What comes to mind? What do you notice and wonder?" Right? Those good routines that we are resorting to. And so I go from there and then, of course, my behind the scene is what if they say this? What if they say that?

And then what is my next move? So it's the planning of a bunch of next moves and how do I add a constraint one at a time to make it so that I'm giving them something, but then at the same time, in a form of a question to kind of activate more questions, I suppose. I hope that makes sense. With a video clip or an image of any problem I pose, let's exhaust what we can do with this information in front of us. Right? Look at it sideways, upside down, talk to your neighbor so that we have exhausted everything we can talk about with this picture, with this video clip. And then we go from there. We can always add.

Kent: And so it sounds as though the way that you're focusing your time in the classroom is on fewer, more interesting or deeper problems or tasks rather than getting to many different things in the same class period. And I imagine there are some teachers listening who might be really interested in trying some of these more non-routine questions, but are concerned about, well, are we still going to be able to get the students comfortable and fluent with the basic skills of... Maybe I want to do this really interesting task about proportional relationships, but I also just want to make sure that they can just, at a very basic level, find the missing value in a proportional situation. How do you feel about that tension that a lot of teachers may feel?

Fawn: Right, because we're always concerned, and rightfully so, about the amount of time. Right? And it goes back to I'm going to respect your time. I'm not going to waste your time. So all of that thinking, I certainly hope it's not a waste of time. Teachers, we might get anxious about our wait time. And it's been documented that, with a task, I'm thinking Peter Lishall’s book, it's 4.22 seconds that we wait before we just tell them, "This is how you do the problem." So the investment, I guess, to look at it, what you're asking, I think the investment initially seems like it takes a long time, but then... Well, long time compared to what? If you compare it to how we traditionally teach things, sure. But then that initial investment of time pays back dividends because when stuff comes from the children themselves, right, they've made the connections and you help them string those connections along the way, it retains better.

Right? There's this better understanding. There's deeper dive so that they will pick up all the other steps, right, all the other things more naturally and apply it more broadly. So it's just a matter of more bang for your buck at the beginning. And you save time overall, actually, just because otherwise, kids are just think all these problems are different, discreet. So every time they see something and they think it's new, I mean, I've heard teachers whom I support would say, "I just showed it to them." And we just did...

just did this exact problem. One number changed, and they would literally look back at you and say, "How do I do this?" Where is that coming from? That your teacher did her duty by telling the kids what to do step-by-step, and we think we couldn't be any clearer, and a kid will, after all of that, and they would do it along with us, but when they're set on their own, they will tell you, "I don't get it."

So where does that come from? Well, that's because we've been making all the connections in our head and sure. It's clear to us, because we gave the problem, we're doing the problem. We're doing all the work, all the heavy lifting. So just because we taught it doesn't mean they learned it.

Kent: Yeah, I often think about like you were saying, the investment in time in a routine is really valuable if you're going to use a routine several times, many times throughout the year. And I like to think about it like the first few weeks of the school year, the thing that I'm teaching the students is the routine. When I give you a problem, I want you to think about it and write something down silently for two minutes. And then I want you to share with your table for three minutes, and then we'll come together.

And here's how we share a student's thoughts, and here's how we respond to a student. I think about teaching all of those norms as being precise things that I'm also trying to communicate at the beginning of the school year. So to me, it feels like, "Okay, that's worth it because if I'm teaching them something they're going to be using all year long, then it's going to be worth it, because the 20th or 30th time that they get a problem that they don't know how to solve yet, they know, "Okay, well, I'm going to try to figure this out for a couple minutes, and then I'm going to get a chance to talk to somebody. And then maybe somebody from another table will have an idea." And I've built in that time into the beginning of my school year to do that.

But something that I think is particularly interesting is what you mentioned, the outside of the curriculum questions, ones that aren't necessarily tied to the unit or the topics, the standards that you're teaching. What do you see as being your primary goal with finding non-routine problems that are just... you might find in a book of mathematical puzzles or something like that?

Fawn: I think most importantly, it hits at the eight math practices so well, or I should say the textbook problems do not allow children to master or have those proficiencies of the eight math practices if we just do exercises. How do you persevere? How do you critique each other's reasoning? So it just lends itself better to allow children to develop those proficiencies with a non-routine task in the structure that is built, in that they will have quiet time like you mentioned, in the small group and then larger group.

So we're having all these opportunities for the kids to build their problem solving strategies, the toolbox, because of the variety and the different types.

Eventually, we could do those regularly, that the children would say, "Oh, I've seen something similar." So they start applying or they start extending the problem. The eight math practices is the main goal of that. And they are just a whole lot of fun. Some have historic... Actually many have historic backgrounds, that I get a chance after we debrief and we connect the problems, I can get to say, "This problem took hundreds of years for mathematicians to solve, and here we are, we get to work on it."

Kent: So I want to take maybe a different perspective on problem solving, just for this last question and push on it a little bit, because there's an idea that I've heard, I guess a challenge to the idea of teaching problem solving, and I'll try to summarize the idea here, which is when we're trying to teach problem solving as an idea, that is maybe too big and broad of a framework or a way of thinking about it. In the same way that number sense is something that we as teachers want our students to have, but when you really drill down and think about number sense, what we want is for students to have a specific set of tools or heuristics or ways of thinking about numbers. So, one thing that I might want to teach my students is how to quickly and effectively find half of a number.

And that's one specific facet of number sense that might be really helpful to them. Anyway, so when we're teaching problem solving, we're actually trying to teach a series of techniques or tactics that might help. So for example, to give a classic problem, the handshake problem, you ask the whole class, "Hey, if everybody in this room shook hands with each other, how many total handshakes is that?" And it's a great question because the students immediately understand what the question is asking, but they don't understand how to find the answer. So there's going to be a lot of different techniques and students are going to try different things.

But one specific technique that students could use could be to solve a simpler version of the same problem. So instead of a class of 25 kids, it's a table of four kids, and they all shake hands with each other and see how many handshakes that was. And then they imagine adding one more and seeing how many handshakes and so on and so on. And that's a great example of a particular technique for solving particular types of problems. So I guess when you're finding these non-routine problems like the handshake problem or what have you, do you think about particular techniques of problem solving that you want the students to have exposure to?

Do you name them in class, or is it more like you were saying, the just overall goal of instilling the habits of perseverance, working together, that sort of thing?

Fawn: Oh, absolutely the habits, but no, very focused on the strategies because there are efficient strategies and there are non-efficient strategies. Do a simpler problem. That's one of my students, and I love it when they go there. They say it out as, "I'm going to do a simpler problem, and I'm going to start with one person. I'm going to start with two people." They will start at zero if they need to, that kind of thing.

Yeah, no, absolutely. These specific strategies, and we keep a running record of it on the board, so if this is the first time we do the handshake and first time that we do a simpler problem, that gets written on the board and it stays there. And the next time we do working backwards as another favorite strategy, working backwards or create a table so that we're more systematic. Yeah, just all these different strategies using a spreadsheet, which is different than just recording X and Y, just recording systematically. With the spreadsheet, I meant the intention of the formulas behind it.

All those different strategies in terms of problem solving, it definitely gets recorded and we can refer to it and the kids can say, that's what I meant by have you seen something similar, so that we can go back and use that strategy that was fruitful or that was efficient.

Kent: And the more I think about it, the more interested I am trying to come up with that master list of all possible problem solving strategies. Of course, there is probably no such thing as a master list, but some of the most common factors-

Fawn: I have a master list, Kent.

Kent: I'm sure you do.

Fawn: My students have a master list. Yeah. It was more than 10, I'm sure, and I have a slide of it, and yeah.

Kent: That's great.

Fawn: So it's cool, which you actually see it building up on it, and one of the strategies on it, and I normally don't see, and I actually use it a lot and I advise my students to do it is take a break, walk away.

Yeah, because I've solved lots of things when I'm like, "Okay, that sweet, sweet struggle spot has come and gone." Now, I don't want to be frustrated. I think that's really important with students too, and just in life. You walk away, come back with fresh eyes, and some sleep will serve you well. Yeah, acting it out by the way, the handshake, when you were talking about the hand shaking, another strategy is acting it out.

Kent: One other problem solving structure that I... Well, a lot of people have probably seen and may have seen on your very fabulous website is something called a visual pattern. Now this is not a visual medium, so I'm going to do my best to describe this as simply as anybody can imagine it.

So what you would see if we were doing a visual pattern problem in my classroom, or in your classroom would be three images of let's say the first three figures in a pattern. So maybe the first figure is an L shape, where you've got three squares stacked on top of each other, and then two coming off to the right. It's making an L. And then the next figure in the pattern is still an L shape, but it's bigger. There's four squares stacked on top of each other and three going off to the side.

And then the next ones, figure three is even bigger. There's five stacked on top and four going off to the side, and there will be a question that comes from this. The most natural question is what comes next? What's the next figure in the pattern? But you might ask students, "How many squares will there be in the 10th figure? How many squares will there be in the 43rd figure?" And it's a fabulous structure. I use it a great deal to teach a lot of different topics in middle school math, although I think it's also really helpful in elementary.

It's also helpful in high school, talking about functions and all sorts of things. I'd love to hear how you first came across it and how it became the case that you created, this wonderful website, VisualPatterns.org, where you can find hundreds of these visual patterns for your classroom.

Fawn: Yeah, visual patterns. I first... It was a class during the summer that I took. It was in Portland, Oregon. I just gave birth to my youngest, my daughter, so that was 26 years ago. So yeah, just in the class, and I loved doing it. That's what we were doing. We were given a visual pattern to extend, and ultimately to write the equation for it. And yeah, so I just start building, just making my own and had a collection just at back... Those days you didn't use... It was just on paper. I had a journal. So I started building them. And then eventually when I'm started being online, I guess after my blog, I start looking for resources. I've seen them in books, certain collections of them, but there was not just a bunch of patterns, and so that's how a Visual Pattern started.

When I started the site, maybe I put in 50 patterns that I've had, and yeah. But can you believe there are over 400 patterns now from teachers and students from across the globe, I want to say? So super, super cool. It is what it is because of people contributing to it, so I am just very proud and thrilled because, really, it is honestly the one routine, a warmup routine where I'm seeing the most growth in kids. And with my role as a TOSA, I get to be in the elementary classrooms and I have done them with first graders, and all through the grades, so first graders is so wonderful. Its amazing. It's amazing what you can do. Yeah, the first thing is, what comes next? But I was able to get them to connect the general rule. Not so much with the variables in it, but they can certainly describe with words. Given any step, right, they can articulate, this is how the pattern will grow, so yeah.

Kent: I have my own answers to this because I am also a huge practitioner of visual patterns, but why do you think they are such a powerful structure? Why do you think it is that kids can show so much growth in coming back to this same structure of, here's three images, what comes next? What comes in the 10th? What comes in the unknown figure, figure N? Why do you think it works so well?

Fawn: Well, I hope it's because... there are lots of patterns in life, in nature, right? There are lots of patterns in nature or our mind, and then the classical, typical definition of mathematics is a study of patterns. And then our mind wants to extend when we start seeing something, a progression like that. It just naturally add on to it, and yeah. And it's okay if you make a mistake, right? I think it also feels safe because... And that's why I need to stay true with the visual because teachers, I think, if they've not done visual patterns before, they tend to just count up the objects and set up an X, Y table right away, and that's one of the things I ask them not to do just because we want to honor the visual, right?

So stay with the visual. And that's why I do all the coloring. We break up that pattern, those steps into parts, right? What parts do you see? I ask two questions. What part is changing? What part stays the same? That's it. Just keep it really simple. And so the track, the change. Is the change consistent. We have that language, is it increasing by a regular number? Is it staying the same? And so they can play around with it and it's okay to be wrong, and it's not so numerical, right? You don't have to jump into the numbers right away because kids might have anxious when numbers are there already here. We're just describing, and it's safe to fall back. Well, I'm giving three patterns to look at and I can test it and they can test each other's patterns and reason, and immediately you can have critiquing. Even with eighth graders, when they draw a different... Step four, I can ask them, "Look at each other's and have a question. Does it matter that your sketches are different, and why does it matter?"

Kent: That's great. I have found... I think the focus on the visual to me is such a powerful part of it in particular. And I actually taught for a couple years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a class for elementary education majors. So these were college students who were eventually going to be elementary math teachers. They saw themselves as just, "Oh, I want to be a third grade teacher," but they're all going to be math teachers. And most of them had had pretty negative mathematical experiences themselves, felt very uncertain about math, and so the goal of the class was to get them to see a different way that math could be taught that might have worked better for them and to engage with some material that maybe they were uncomfortable with. And so, we would progress it from draw the next figure in the pattern, all the way up through finding the simplified formula for a quadratic visual pattern, or what have you, and doing all those sorts of things.

But from the start of it, the thing that I think really connected with my students, who were going to be teachers themselves, was I did not see it that way at all, the way you're telling me, but we still get the same answer. And that idea of visual equivalence between two different [inaudible 00:29:52] seeing the pattern that then was reflected in numerical equivalence. As they started writing variable expressions for the problem, they could get equivalent expressions, but it all came down to that idea of there's more than one correct way. There are many correct ways to see this pattern. As long as you see it accurately, you're doing the problem right, and I think that's really... Giving them permission to have a different answer that's still the same in some way.

Fawn: Right. And you're right. I still... Doesn't get old when people say, "Oh my gosh, I never saw it that way." And so my kids, over the years, by the time they're eighth grade, it's hard to find a visual pattern to challenge them so their own challenge is to find another way to see it. So on their paper you just see they're going at it. Just, oh my gosh, I want to find another way so that they can share it with the class.

Kent: Yeah. And particularly, right, with those upper middle school students, going to figure N and getting the expression for figure N. For example, because it's visual, N and N squared are such very obviously different objects on a visual medium, because N squared is literally a square. For figure 10, it would be a 10 by 10 square. It's way bigger than 10. And so my students, I think, have had so much less trouble combining like terms because they don't have an impulse to combine N with N squared because they see N squared as a square.

Fawn: Exactly. When we ask these expressions to match the visual that they see, they really respect the parentheses, right, because later on with my sixth graders, they are careful with it, they understand. And then order of operations becomes key. They understand why they would want to add these two first before... Operate what's inside the parentheses first. All of that comes into play when they get to eighth grade and need to simplify the equations, combine like terms. It all makes sense now. Oh yeah, and just distributing what you... Yeah, they're just being careful of the groupings.

Kent: So moving into your latest position, you are now a teacher on special assignment. So, you no longer have your own just particular classroom, although you're still in lots of classrooms throughout your district. Can you talk a little bit about the work that you're doing as a teacher on special assignment?

Fawn: So my role is to support teachers and their students, and my favorite is still getting to do a model lesson, coming in and do a lesson, and then debriefing with the teachers. And hopefully, whether it's a number talk or a visual pattern or a three act task, it's just something that they normally, right, don't see in the curriculum. But at the same time, I have to be honest, I started this job three years ago in March when COVID hit. Teachers were my heroes prior to COVID and even so much more during this difficult time, and yeah. So every times people ask me, "How's the job going ?" it's not nearly as hard as how teachers have it in the classroom for sure, and after an hour I get to leave.

So, it really depends still on the classroom, the norms in the classroom, I see that. And I can tell if the kids have worked in groups before or not, or that's a regular thing, because I almost always have kids work in groups when I come in and some groups are readily and that just shows that they've done this before. The teachers say some keywords and they know what to do, whereas classrooms where they've not done that and it's just more obvious, or kids getting kids to talk. So I'm hoping that some of the stuff I can bring in because I truly don't believe we learn if we don't talk. But it has to be safe, so we're back to that respect thing, right? Back to the respect, feeling safe and respected in order for us to share.

Kent: This job, it reminds me a lot of what I hear from teachers in my district like the elementary math coaches who work with elementary teachers and that sort of thing, and I think it's such an interesting job because you are not anybody's direct superior, you're not giving them their marching orders, and they probably wouldn't listen to you anyway if you did because as much as we want teachers to be creating these classrooms with rich conversation and that sort of thing, we also know that that's something that cannot be imposed from above and that teachers value autonomy a great deal. I value autonomy a great deal as a teacher. I want to be able to have the discretion to make a decision that, "Oh no, this task will be a better way of my students understanding this standard, and that my fundamental goal is to get my kids to understand the standards." So how do you balance that? The desire to want to share these ideas with teachers who might not have seen them while, at the same time, not wanting to seem as though you're imposing any sort of specific structure.

Fawn: Well, back to the respect, right? The teacher knows their children best and they are doing the best that they can. The fact that they ask me, to bring me in, to invite me in, is huge. I guess the word is being vulnerable. To invite somebody in and to do a lesson, or just ask for me to co-plan. So immediately it's a huge thank you to allow me, to give me permission, to share. Hopefully, when they ask me to model a lesson, that they see their children talk. Yeah, I've had teachers say, "Oh my gosh, I didn't know so and so had those ideas," or "I've never heard that student talk. They're very, very quiet."

Just structures to invite children to talk. I mean, I was not a talker when I was in school, but if you build these structures in, the quiet think time, and then you just partner up with one other person and you have, even small groups, you say things like, "Nobody talks twice until everybody talks once," and then you also allow a chance to pass. All those build in, those are actually routines, so that make it more conducive for children to speak. Especially we have English learners, and I feel like I'm still an English learner. Be respectful of that.

But I'm hoping that whatever they see, it's not so much me, but their children. How I can bring their children to talk and those ideas. Because my work was behind the scenes so that when I come in, I just need to say some key things with the problem, with the questions that I pose for their kids to explore.

I've read somewhere that the difference between a master teacher and a beginning teacher is furthering the conversation. Asking questions so that the discussion can elicit more questions, that kind of thing. Because the newer teachers will have this lesson and it's wrapped up. It's really packaged and it's done, it's over with. It's tougher or it's more challenging, we have to think about how do we get kids to further this conversation so that it continues. Because mathematically, nothing really ends. Everything connects.

Kent: I thought I would conclude by asking about this, and this is maybe just another chance for me to brag about your blog, which I have to say the writing that you've done in the past, sometimes about topics that are maybe obliquely mathematical, sometimes not at all, just about your life or people whose stories you're sharing. It's some of the most beautiful writing that I've read and funny writing that I've read in the teaching sphere. But I've noticed about your writing online is that you're so willing to share so much about yourself as a teacher, as a parent, your personal background. I'm wondering, is that also a part of your classroom culture? Is that openness something that translates into your role as a teacher?

Fawn: First of all, that's just super, super kind, Kent. I really appreciate it. Because sometimes I write and I'm thinking, "Oh my God, maybe I should delete this." So I appreciate that. Thank you very much. That means a lot to me. I think, in general, it's about relationships, right? Especially with younger people, that you develop a rapport. That you have that relationship because kids will work harder for you when they like you. I end every class with saying I love you, and I think I do that at every speaking engagement. I do, because I genuinely love and appreciate everyone because I'm able to learn from them, the fact that somebody invites me in or that I'm here in front of these children to. These parents trusted me for an hour a day with their children.

And so, that says a lot of just being grateful. I'm grateful for a lot of things. And I think that's being an immigrant. I know that's being an immigrant. It has done that for me or has taught me that. I'm grateful for lots of things. My life, if I stayed back in Vietnam, wouldn't look anything like what it is.

My respect for the kids, my respect and love for the kids. I can't expect them to share and be open and feel safe if we didn't know each other. How do we know each other? Well, each one of us have a story to tell, and it's worthy of finding out. Learning a little bit about each other helps so we can connect.

Kent: Well, thank you so much for giving us an opportunity to learn a little bit about yourself as a teacher and as a person. Fawn is a teacher on special assignment at the Rio School District in California. You can find and must find her blog at her personal website fawnnguyen.com. Thank you so much, Fawn.

Fawn: Thank you so much. Thank you very much. I'm honored.

Kent Haines is a National Board Certified middle school math teacher in Birmingham, Alabama. He has spent 10 years in the classroom, as well as two years as a visiting instructor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Kent is a 2016 Heinemann Fellow and has helped develop curriculum for The College Board's Advanced Placement program, A+ College Ready and Citizen Math. He writes about math games for parents and kids at Games for Young Minds.

Fawn Nguyen is a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) with Rio School District in Oxnard, California. She was a middle school teacher for 30 years prior. Fawn was the 2014 Ventura County Teacher of the Year. In 2009, she was awarded the Math Teacher Hero from Raytheon. In 2005, she was awarded the Sarah D. Barder Fellowship from the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.

Fawn blogs about her lessons and classroom teaching at fawnnguyen.com. Fawn authors three websites for teachers: visualpatterns.org, between2numbers.com, and mathtalks.net. She is also one of the editors for mathblogging.org.