Sep 062015

In my Feedly this morning popped up the article by Larry Ferlazzo called, “Disappointing NY Times Article On Teachers & ‘A Sharing Economy’.” Okay, let me be more blunt. I am not disappointed in the NYT, I am frustrated and a little ticked off. It stems from this article in the NYT: A Sharing Economy where Teachers Win by Natasha Singer.

Read the article. I call foul AND shenanigans. How much did TeachersPayTeachers pay for this fluff piece that was nothing more than an advertisement for teachers selling out other teachers.


Maybe it is because I am active and love the #MTBoS (that is the MathTwitterBlogo’Sphere, if you are not familiar with it.) I embrace the sharing, the collaboration and the freely giving of resources that the math teachers do on Twitter, their blogs and the internet in general.

The article should have been titled, “A sharing economy where teachers win, but collaboration dies.” Sure, some teacher just made $1000 by selling her lesson plans to a 1000 different teachers for a buck. She won, but collaboration died. Is she seeking feedback from people who have used her lessons? Is she improving them by discussing and talking about how others have used them? Probably not. It is in a store, and people are buying it. There is no reason or need to improve it.

Meanwhile, in the #MTBoS, teachers are making, sharing, improving and resharing lessons all the time. They are coming together to make better lessons. And then, they talk about these lessons, which spawn more, better lessons. This is a collaborative community where ALL teachers win, and more importantly, our learners win. And our learners continue to win. Over and over again.

Seriously, look at the amount of resources freely created and given away.

First up, websites created by teachers collaborating:

  • Let’s start with the MTBoS Directory. No one claims this is an exhaustive list. It requires teachers to add their names to it, but there are currently 344 teachers in the list, all with an online presence, and all sharing things.
  • – created by Tina Cardone and teachers all over the #MTBoS who contributed tricks. You can download the most excellent book for free.
  • Fawn Nguyen’s Visual Patterns and Math Talks. Both are excellent sites. I have used the Visual Patterns site frequently in my high school classroom, and am working on learning more about Math Talks and implementing them in the college classroom where I am now.
  • Would you Rather Math is a site I used regularly in my teaching as well. Great questions, created by and curated by John Stevens.
  • Michael Pershan’s Math Mistakes. See an interesting math mistake? Submit it to this site and have a discussion on the thinking the learner made while making the mistake. We can learn more from mistakes than we can from correct work.
  • Dan Meyer’s Google spreadsheet of 3 Acts lessons. More on this to come. I am working on an idea taking shape out of my current position as a Master Teacher with a UTeach model school.
  • Mary Bourassa’s Which One Doesn’t Belong. So Mary saw Christopher Danielson’s great shapes idea, and realized that there was some amazing math thinking that could be done. BOOM, another collaborative website created.
  • Open Middle Dan Meyer introduced the idea, Nanette Johnson, Robert Kaplinsky and Bryan Anderson ran with and created the platform.
  • Desmos Activity Bank A site created by Jed Butler out of the need to share Desmos files, first showed at TMC15 at Harvey Mudd College.
  • MTBoS Activity Bank created by John Stevens (second time his name is on the list) to collect and curate some of the awesome materials created. Anyone can submit their own, and searching is easy.
  • The MTBoS Blog Search also created by John Stevens (I don’t think he sleeps). This site allows you search the blogs of a long list of math teachers for lessons, content, whatever you are looking for.
  • Robert Kaplinsky has a Problem Based Search Engine, to find those specialized lessons that are, you guessed it, problem based!
  • The Welcome to the MathTwitterBlogoSphere website has a further collection of collaborative efforts that includes some of the above but is even larger.

But that isn’t even all of it. There are teachers who are collecting curriculum, links or materials and sharing it all back out; lock, stock and barrel. These teachers have “Virtual Filing Cabinets” full of lessons that have been tried and tested, re-written and shared back out. Some call their pages VFC’s, some are just curated sites of materials.

And then there are great organizations giving away curriculum:

  • Illustrative Mathematics, free ever-more-complete curriculum that is CCSS aligned and incredibly high quality.
  • Shells Center/Mathematics Assessment Project, good as lessons, problems or assessments. I forget about this site until I am desperate, and then kick myself because it is just so good and thorough.
  • Mathalicious has free lessons and paid lessons. I have used them in class. They are worth paying for!
  • Igor Kokcharov has an international effort in APlusClick. Lots of great problems and lessons.

And this list is FAR from complete. It is what I pulled together in 15 minutes of thought. And this list does not even begin to talk about the 180 blogs

So, NY Times and Natasha Singer. You blew it. You didn’t show teachers winning, you showed teachers selling out. If you want to see winning teachers, click on any link above and read their sites.

The above are all winning teachers. TeachersPayTeachers is an example of teachers losing out on this kind of collaboration.

  15 Responses to “NYT – You blew it”

  1. Awesome post, Glenn. I am in the middle of writing a post about my planned first week of school, which is FILLED TO THE BRIM with ideas gleaned from the #MTBoS. (I’m actually wondering whether I ever have any original ideas….) I actually dipped into teacherspayteachers in search of a resource, but found a free one attached to a shared lesson plan. Thanks for calling this out.

  2. You tell ’em, Glenn! I can’t imagine finding better stuff at tpt (which I have never used). I think the beauty of the internet is the real sharing (sharing does not = buying and selling, that goes for you too, airbnb and uber). If I ever make my dream calc book, it will borrow from many others, and it will be free.

  3. Excellent!!! You are right. We are collaborating and helping each other so in end, our students learn! Thank you.

  4. Thanks Glenn for articulating an important point of view so well and for modeling this sharing, collaborative world that WE know exists.

  5. This article touched a nerve that I didn’t realize was there. A couple of articles came up that I wanted to add to this discussion.

    1. This is not the first frustration with tpt that has been written. Megan Hayes Golding has a much longer discussion of tpt annoys her. It is worth reading as well.

    2. Teachers may not even own the rights to give away the lessons they create: This article should create a sliver of fear in any teacher. It means probably most of what tpt is selling is technically illegal, and what I do in giving it away is borderline. Very scary.

    3. And the NEA agrees with Edsurge . There is a problem here of the copyright rules working against teachers selling, and maybe even sharing the materials they create for their classroom. This article gives me the shivers.

  6. […] Waddell‘s response to the New York Times article about the TeachersPayTeachers website echoed exactly the sentiments I […]

  7. I *LOVE* and am so thankful for the many contributions the #MTBoS has compiled and shared. This community shapes my teaching on a regular basis!

    However, one must be careful with posts like this. We wouldn’t want to represent the #MTBoS as being an “us-versus-them” community. What profit is there in bashing one online marketplace, and subsequently those (“sell-outs”) who partake in it? How does this grow the #MTBoS community by including those who may participate in other endeavors such as TpT? (It doesn’t.)

  8. You are absolutely right Cathy. That is one thing I DON’T want to do is create the us-v-them idea. The language in the post was strong, and maybe I should rethink some of those choices of words.

  9. Imagine if doctors sold their “lesson plans” to other practitioners — as opposed to working together. In our work at CTQ we promote our concept of teacherpreneurs – classroom experts who have time and space (and yes recognition and reward) for incubating and executing THEIR ideas. The concept of teacherpreneurism is not primarily about making more money but spreading their expertise and LEADING reforms, not being the target of them.

  10. I like, no, love that way to frame the question. Because clearly, there are doctors that sell their expertise, but there is also a collaboration factor. It is a great model to work from. Thank you.

  11. […] about the website Teachers Pay Teachers set math Twitter abuzz this weekend. Larry Ferlazzo, Glenn Waddell, and others took issue with the positive portrayal of a site that they claim is not representative […]

  12. […] The New York Times profiled – “A Sharing Economy Where Teachers Win.” “You blew it,” math teacher Glenn Waddell responds. […]

  13. Hi! My name is Gina and I run the store All Things Algebra on TpT. I firmly believe that everyone has the right to their own opinion. However, I do want to clarify a couple things. I can speak on the behalf of most all TpT sellers that yes, we do collaborate and continually seek to improve. I am constantly asking my colleagues for feedback and tweeking my resources to make them better. I am much of a perfectionist and never settle for just okay. Second, many of us take our original ideas and translate them into other grade levels/subject areas per request from those that have used our materials. For example, I spent 5 years+ writing an algebra curriculum. Many of those who purchased it asked (okay pretty much begged!) for a geometry version because they had seen the success of the algebra materials. They could have absolutely taken my ideas and written a curriculum for their personal classroom, but wanted ME to do it.I agreed to do this, and gave up about 60+ hours a week of my life over the course of a year to do this. I am now doing the same for Algebra 2. I take custom requests all the time, some are huge projects like those I just mentioned, and some are smaller. This does not make me a “sell-out”. Teachers should be compensated for this type of extra work. And also, I’ve noticed an increase in district purchase orders, which is great! Schools are seeing the benefits of teacher created materials over textbook companies.

    Please consider these things and do not create an “us vs. them” environment as someone mentioned above. We are ALL working for the benefit of all learners. There is so much going on at TpT than I think you understand, and I’d be happy to chat with you about it. Feel free to email me at .


  14. Good point, but I see things a different way. The time teachers put into their Teachers pay Teachers resources is time that is outside of their teaching job. It’s a second job, if you think about it. When I buy an activity from TpT, I am not only buying the activity, I’m buying time with my family.

    If you are a teacher you’ll know that we have at least 2 jobs: the one where we are delivering instruction, which takes very little time but is the part of teaching all nonteachers imagine we do all day, and then there is the part where we plan lessons. Wait, then grading papers. Oh, and planning meetings and writing reports if we are Special Ed teachers. At the end of all that I am happy (overjoyed, elated, giddy) to be able to spend $3 to spend more time with my family.

    As for the comment about doctors selling lesson plans. I don’t understand this argument. Doctors get paid well for their jobs and sell every part of it. And how about tutoring? A lot of teachers do this to make ends meet. Should they give their time away? Should doctors gove their time away? It’s weird to me that teachers are faulted for asking for their time to be compensated when no one else is asked to do this.

    I love Teachers pay Teachers. By having cheap access to master teachers’ resources I bring a better school experience to my students and more time to my family. Faulting teachers for getting $2 for hours of their time is ridiculous and small-minded.

  15. How do you feel about censorship?

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