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Adventures with NPR

So, life has been a bit busier than normal for me of late.  And, it’s totally the fault of the MTBoS.  And NPR.     

It all started back in November.  I received a notification that I had been mentioned in a tweet.  

Nancy Swank Tweet to Cory Turner at NPR.

If you haven’t heard, the NPR Ed team is doing a year-long focus on what effective education looks like IN the classroom.  They’re calling the initiative “50 Great Teachers.”  You should also check out their education blog for inspiring and relevant stories.    

Cory Turner, a reporter and editor for the NPR Ed Team, sent out a tweet to say he was looking for a rural teacher to do a story about.  Without hesitation, Nancy Swank, a long-time blog reader, recommended that he check out me.  I’ve never met Nancy, but I feel like I know her well.  A search for “Nancy in Indiana” in my e-mail account brings up 37 results from blog comments she has left.  Nancy is a former math teacher who is currently teaching German.  She’s even started her own blog about creative teaching techniques which you should definitely check out!  (I know absolutely nothing about German, but I know that I would love to study any foreign language in Nancy’s class.  She is incredibly inspiring to me!)    

NPR Recording in Classroom

I was flattered to think that someone who has never actually met me would recommend me to an NPR reporter!  It turns out the reporter didn’t know Nancy, either.  But, for some reason, he felt compelled to follow the link to my twitter profile which led him to my blog.  This led him to send me an e-mail.  That e-mail led to a phone call to me.  And, a phone call to my principal.  After that, another phone call to me led to flights being booked and travel plans being made.  Finally, Cory Turner and his producer, Elissa Nadworny, showed up at my house one December morning at 7 in the morning to follow me around for an entire day.  Isn’t that crazy?!?  

Sarah (Hagan) Carter in math classroom.

Later, I did learn, that one of the things that made me stand out over the hundreds of other people who were nominated as a result of this tweet was my twitter username: @mathequalslove.  It turns out that not everybody thinks that math and love are equivalent.  Who knew? 😉  This just goes to show that picking out a clever name for your math teaching blog is super important.  I kinda wish I had done one of those posts when I started blogging about why I named my blog “Math = Love.”  Because, years later, I don’t really remember how I came about choosing that name.  I do remember spending days trying to think of a perfect, clever name.  I guess that hard work paid off…  And, I really do believe that math equals love.  

When I saw that I had been mentioned on twitter, I thought it was a cool honor, but I knew nothing would ever come of it.  But, lo and behold, something did come of it.  Something really awesome!  When I agreed to let NPR into my classroom, I realized that it was a big deal.  I don’t think I realized just how big of a deal it was, though.  

I’ll put it this way: lots of people listen to NPR’s All Things Considered.  Lots of people heard my story.  Lots of people saw my story on facebook.  Lots of people shared my story on facebook.  Lots of people commented on my story on facebook.  Lots of people left me comments and sent me e-mails after hearing/reading my story.  Honestly, the response has been more than a bit overwhelming. 

The posting of my story on NPR’s facebook page, alone, received over 900 comments, over 12,000 shares, and over 29,000 likes.  Oh. My. Goodness.  People I know in real life just happened to hear the story on the radio without knowing anything about it in advance.  That was pretty cool.  My coworkers started getting calls from friends and family across the country saying that Drumright HS had made the news.  I don’t think I’ve actually wrapped my mind around just how many people have been impacted by my story.  I didn’t go into teaching to make money.  I didn’t go into teaching to become famous.  I became a teacher because I wanted to change the lives of my students.  I wanted to show them that math was something that they could do, even if they had never been successful at it before.  I wanted to show them that math didn’t have to be boring.  It didn’t have to be scary.  Math could be fun.  Math class could be enjoyable.  Yes, math could even be something they learned to love.  I quickly realized, though, that I don’t want my impact on the world to stop with my students.  I have been inspired by so many teachers in the MTBoS, and I want to inspire other teachers.  My blog has allowed me to do that.  And, this NPR piece is letting me take that to the next level.   

It also had more than a little impact on my blog traffic.  I bet you can figure out exactly what day the NPR story aired.  

Blog Traffic Graph after NPR Story Aired.

I definitely wonder how I ended up here.  There are so many other teachers who are way more deserving of an NPR story than me.  Because I can’t claim credit for any of this.  I learned about speed dating from Kate Nowak.  I learned the quadratic formula song from my high school Algebra 2 teacher.  My A/B/Not Yet grading scale is just SBG in disguise.  I learned about SBG from the MTBoS.  I learned about INBs from Megan Hayes-Golding and Jonathan Claydon.  I steal ideas from others.  I modify them to work for my kids.  I blog about the results.  I’m not an especially creative person.  I’m just dedicated to giving my students the best education I can.    

I also have to admit that I was a tad bit scared to read/listen to the NPR story.  You see, my kids had told me that they were going to tell the reporters a ton of crazy things.  And, they carried through with that threat to a certain extent.  They definitely told the reporter about my being a crazy cat lady.  Naturally, he had to ask them just how many cats their math teacher owned.  The look of confusion on his face when they replied that I owned zero cats was kinda priceless.  Then, there was the conversation where the students said I should get a pet rabbit so I could share all of my vegetarian food with it…  I also knew that they had interviewed students when I was out of the room, so there’s no telling what they said when I wasn’t around to defend myself.  It all turned out well, though.  🙂   

In the end, I feel like the story really did capture a day in my classroom.  It was a mixture of trying new lessons and refining old lessons.  We speed dated to practice naming polynomials.  We sang the quadratic formula to the tune of Pop! Goes The Weasel.  My trig students used circles and spaghetti to begin constructing a sine curve.  

It was a ton of fun.  

Headline of NPR Story: The Teacher Who Believes Math Equals Love.

If you haven’t heard or read the story, you can check it out here.  The audio version is slightly different than the blog version.  And, I’d definitely recommend checking out the audio version of the story.  If you were wondering, the sound of the creaking floorboards was actually recorded in my classroom.  This made my kids laugh.  A lot.  We listened to the audio version of the story in class, and they had a ton of fun trying to figure out who each voice belonged to in the recordings.  They were also eager to see who ended up in the pictures posted with the web version of the story.  Of course, all my students had to complain about what bad hair days they were having in the pictures.    

The pictures definitely led to some interesting conversations in class.  My students claim that the last picture in the story where I’m sitting on my bed could double as an ad for anti-depressants.  Oh, the things teenagers say…  It was pretty cool to realize that my students approved of my choice of bed spread, though.  And, for the record, I bought it at Wal-Mart of all places a few months ago.  Though, the fact that there is now a picture of my bed on the internet for the rest of the world to see is a tad bit creepy when you think about it…  

I ended up mailing my interactive notebooks off to the NPR people.  Elissa Nadworny made this awesome GIF as a result.  I could sit and stare at this thing for hours!  

Interactive Notebook GIF from NPR
GIF by Elissa Nadworny (NPR)

The NPR story, of course, is only the beginning of some new adventures.  But, those will have to wait for another blog post!  

Michelle B

Friday 27th of March 2015

I was like a starstruck fan when I heard the story in the car on the way home from teaching math intervention at a middle school. I used your class decor and first day of school post-it note activities this year. You're an inspiration!

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Friday 3rd of April 2015

Thanks Michelle!


Friday 27th of March 2015

I was thrilled when I saw the story on Facebook! Having read the blog nearly since you started, it's awesome to see you getting some well-deserved recognition!

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Friday 3rd of April 2015

Thank you Lisa! And, thanks for sticking with my blog for so long! :D


Friday 27th of March 2015

That's awesome, congrats! I'm just beginning to dip my toes into the world of flippables and interactive notebooks - what I'd give to get my hands on one of those notebooks and to get an up close look at how you do it!

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Friday 3rd of April 2015

Thanks! I wish I had extra notebooks to share, but I just don't. I do have all of my notebook pages posted to pinterest, though. Hope this helps some!

Marie Sofa'i

Wednesday 25th of March 2015

Hi Sarah:) I'm a big fan/follower all the way out here in the big Pacific Ocean on a small, tiny island called American Samoa. I'm very happy they selected you to be featured on their blog. You're an inspiration and have helped me A LOT this school year with making math more fun. Great work and way to go Sarah. *High Five*

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Friday 3rd of April 2015

Thanks for the kind words! And, thanks for reading my blog!

The Blogger Next Dior

Wednesday 25th of March 2015

Hello Sarah! You and your blog are a God-send. I've taught for five years, took a few months to try out Corporate America (I hated it) and am now back in the classroom. I haven't really enjoyed teaching to the fullest and I've prayed for guidance from God on what to do. My prayers led me your blog. Thank you for being my inspiration and hero.

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Friday 3rd of April 2015

Hi! Thanks so much for reading my blog! If there's ever anything I can help you with, just let me know! God bless!

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