Presenting Clint from 21st Century Math Projects. His teaching experience has been primarily working in high-need schools where student engagement is paramount. To do this, he says, it’s essential to have three key ingredients: Real-world authenticity, mathematical rigor, and 21st century “swagg.” And by “swagg” he means, use the tools that students use today, be it computers, smart phones, or even popular TV shows to bring a lesson to life.
In fact, some of his most popular projects are his CSI projects; modeled after a popular TV show. And his Zombie Apocalypse products are “eating” their way up the charts as well. Let’s see what else Clint has been up to!
1. How did you first become involved on TpT, and what’s the most rewarding aspect of being a TpT Teacher-Author?
A few years ago I was bored in a graduate school class and was piddling around the Internet. In between checking my fantasy baseball team, I was looking for ideas for my class and I came across TpT. I posted a few of my things just for the heck of it and began making around $12 a month.
To make extra money for my family, I had been writing screenplays and wasn’t paying much attention to my TpT store. Then, a couple years later, I was getting my oil changed and saw a Deanna Jump interview. I was shocked that you could make that much money creating products for TpT.
I decided to revamp everything… yeah, I’m glad I did.
The most rewarding aspect of TpT is the feedback. It motivates me to excite teachers because I know that excited teachers create excited students. I always wanted to impact more lives than just in my classroom, and TpT gave me a venue where I could do that. I also think secondary math education is in the middle of a paradigm shift toward more application and rigor so I like to contribute to that the best I can.
2. You have two young children. What’s on your education wish list for them?
Creativity, empowerment, and empathy. It’s clear to me that these are the skills our outgoing graduates struggle with. At home we try our best to have outlets for creativity and purposefully encourage and reinforce it.
We also want our children to feel like that they can make a difference and contribute. Our kiddos are still a little young (4 and 2) for full-blown empowerment, but emphasizing service is something that’s important to our family. Empathy is the backbone of all of it. We hope our children genuinely care and consider other people and important issues of our time. Unfortunately, public schools are so skills-based [right now] that these are things that get pushed to the side.
Right now we are working on cultures and countries with our big guy, which sprung from his interest in animals. He’s a little zoologist. If you need to know the difference between a leopard and a jaguar, what a tawny frogmouth eats, or what animals live on the island of Sulawesi, he can help you out.
3. You mention having taught at a STEM school. What are some important lessons you learned from that experience?
I had a unique opportunity to be a founding teacher at two urban schools in back-to-back years. One was a STEM school and the other an international school. While the list of lessons learned is way too long, I’d boil the biggest observation down to resource challenges.
Both schools emphasized project-based learning, but that’s hard to do without projects. Most of the math projects I found were either not rigorous, too vague (design a car!), or impossible (construct a trebuchet!). Most of these things were in lesson plan form without any assignments. I know my colleagues were in the same boat. It’s hard to be innovative without a spark to get started. That was really the start for my niche and I’ve been rolling with project-based mathematics ever since.
Last year I was the interim principal at a Spanish language immersion elementary school and again, the resource challenge reared its head. Teaching the Common Core in a second language meant teachers were either burning the midnight oil just to translate assignments, or resorting to using 20-year old assignments. Fortunately, we were able to identify a great book to align our Spanish Language Arts curriculum to.
4. You recently began a Ph.D. program. You certainly wear a lot of hats: teacher, student, husband, dad, creator of TpT resources! How do you manage to balance it all?
To be honest, it’s a lot easier now given my TpT success. I was able to stop being a school administrator, which frees up about 150 hours a week. Dad and husband are the most important, and I’ve been able have the best summer of my life. Creation of TpT resources happens during naps and at night (even when I’m sleeping!). I don’t watch TV, so that helps. Summers, breaks, and weekends are usually very productive for me. Being a student is generally the hardest to pull off. I’m a bad student. I mean, like really bad.
5. What are your three favorite resources you’ve created, and why?
As an urban school teacher, student engagement is paramount — and the resources I create help me do that. I try to write things that I think students would be interested in (like superheroes), or that I feel are important (conflict minerals). Since I’m just a big kid, I think I have a decent grasp on what kids enjoy (or pretend like they don’t enjoy, but secretly do). Generally if students find something interesting, important, or amusing, they’re more likely to engage. Of my resources, my favorites are dun dun dun…
My CSI Puzzles allow me to include rigorous word problems and applications in an engaging format for any topic. The screenwriter in me knows that an audience enjoys a mystery so I set my CSI puzzles against a fictional crime spree. The international teacher in me likes to go to a different world region every time. The nerd in me likes doing math problems that string together to make one super final answer!
My Personal Puzzles allow me to ask students to do some mathematical practice, but also infuse reading and share an under-appreciated world figure. I’ve found that some teachers who aren’t big PBL (project-based learning) fans enjoy infusing these worksheets as a different way for students to practice skills. Students like learning about figures from around the world, and this is an easy way to do some interdisciplinary work.
My favorite standalone project is Calorie Cruncher because it’s a nice blend of what I call 21st Century Swagg, Mathematical Rigor, and Real World Relevancy. The mathematical connection is authentic and the tasks move up Bloom’s as they advance.
Nutrition and exercise are issues that young people (and old people) may not know a ton about. I sure didn’t know that much before I wrote this. 3,500 calories equals a pound…who knew? Sounds like a math problem. (That’s secretly my favorite thing about TpT, that I get to learn about all these different things!)
Thanks for stopping by — we’ll leave you with this puzzler. Clint tells us his son thinks the piece of broccoli pictured below looks like the island of Sulawesi! Is this a case of art mimicking life or did someone just not want to eat his veggies?