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Educate & Inspire is a series of interviews which will feature the best educators around the world. These people are not just teachers. They are educators who have made commendable contributions to the world of knowledge and learning and are bringing prolific changes to the education scene with their efforts. The 3nd edition of Educate & Inspire features Matt Miller, who blogs about his experiences on Ditch That Textbook.

matt miller logic roots ditch that textbookMatt Miller is a teacher, blogger, and presenter from West Central Indiana. He has infused technology and innovative teaching methods in his classes for more than 10 years. He is the author of the book Ditch That Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom and writes at the Ditch That Textbook blog about using technology and creative ideas in teaching. He is a Google Certified Innovator, Bammy! Top to Watch in 2016, and winner of the WTHI-TV Golden Apple Award. Onalytica named him one of the top 10 influencers in educational technology and e-learning worldwide.

You can get his FREE ebook, “101 Practical Ways to Ditch That Textbook”, plus another ebook and notes from his keynote presentations. To get all that stuff, just visit GetMattsStuff.com.

More about Matt Miller

1. How long have you been teaching now?

I taught for 11 years as a high school Spanish teacher. I’m currently out of the classroom, working with teachers all over the United States to help them with using technology and rethinking instruction in their classrooms.

matt-miller2. What is the most rewarding part of teaching?

I think it’s always been the light bulb moment, whether it’s working with students or encouraging teachers. When they start to finally get that new idea that previously eluded them, I love that moment. I also love equipping students and teachers. It’s great when they tell me that they feel like they understand and can use something that will be really useful to them in their own lives.

3. According to you, what is the one major challenge that a teacher faces in current times?

There are many challenges, but one pressing challenge is the struggle to stay relevant. Education still looks and operates much like it did for our parents and grandparents. As the world is evolving quickly in many ways, the kind of education that served people for years and years and years just isn’t that useful anymore. We must be vigilant as teachers to reevaluate ourselves and our classes constantly, making sure that they’re serving our students and their futures as well as possible. In the words of John Dewey, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”

4. In your opinion, how important is math education for children?

It’s vital. Math is a skill that confronts us every day. We better understand the world around us and can make better decisions when we have a firm command of math.

5. Why do you think children fear math?

I think children fear math, in part, because there are so many moving parts. It’s so concrete, so black and white. There’s a right answer for practically everything, and often when you get one step in a multi-step problem wrong, the whole thing is incorrect.

6. 3 Ways you think elementary math can be best taught to children. Or 3 changes that you will bring about in math education to make it better.

I’ve always been a world language educator, but having learned math myself and helping my children learn it now, here are suggestions I’d make:

  1. Continue to push students to explain their thinking. This is a change in math education that encourages me. Understanding a child’s thought process on how he/she solves a problem is far more telling than looking at a final answer.
  2. Relate it to their lives whenever possible. As a yearbook advisor, our training sessions constantly asked us the following: When students pick up a new yearbook, what’s the first thing they look for? Answer: Themselves. Students want to see themselves in what they’re learning. The more we can bring it into their worlds — or into the real world — the better.
  3. Make it fun. My favorite math lessons are those that use food and candy, sidewalk chalk, fun props and other engaging items and ideas. Math doesn’t have to be drudgery!
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7. What kind of impact learning through games makes upon a child?

Children learn so much through play. It’s how they’re wired, and it’s what they want to do most. I believe the work of children is play. Practically anything that can be made a game should be!

8. Are there any effective games that you have played and would recommend every math educator?

I’ve never taught math, but simple games like bingo and digital games like Kahoot! do wonders. My students have loved a review game called trashketball, where students get to shoot a ball in an empty trash can to earn points for their team when their team answers questions correctly.

matt miller logic roots educate inspire9. Education Technology, or EdTech as it is commonly referred, is one of the most talked subjects in education field today. Do you think EdTech is advantageous for kids?

EdTech can certainly be advantageous in the classroom for learning. When used improperly, though, its gains can be negligible and it can mean wasted money. Technology in the classroom unlocks huge potential, but it can’t be used to do the same learning we’ve always done with paper and pencil. Technology, when used most effectively, allows us to change the task and improve learning. Otherwise, if we continue to do what we’ve always done with paper and pencil, we reduce technology to just an expensive pencil.

10. In your opinion, how is EdTech changing the math education scene and how is it benefiting students?

It’s personalizing learning at a scale that we’ve never seen before. It’s never been easier to let students practice math concepts on their level, to track their progress and make changes like now.

11. One advice for all teachers out there?

Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself, to stop and ask yourself, “What do students really need from me and this class? What conversations and experiences do they need to prepare them for their future?” We have amazing potential to be the change that we want to see in education at the point where we meet students.