Fawn Nguyen

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Fawn Nguyen

Fawn Nguyen is a math teacher, presenter, and curriculum writer from California. She is the author of several online curricular resources, including visualpatterns.org and mathtalks.net.

Visual Patterns

Nguyen conceived of a site to house visual representations of patterns and created Visual Patterns (http://visualpatterns.org) in December 2012. This work is one portion of her efforts to share resources which help students to develop algebraic thinking through visual representations. Nguyen credits a summer course she took with former NCTM president Michael Shaughnessy as part of her inspiration for this work.

As of May 30, 2015, there are 162 images of patterns on the site, divided into sets of 20 that can be accessed through tabs at the top of the page. Additional tabs link to teacher resources, to a gallery page, and to a contact page. The “teachers” tab includes Nguyen's explanation of how she has assigned these patterns to students, and several versions of student handouts, including one filled out as an exemplar. The “gallery” page includes student pattern pictures and links to reflections from teachers who have used visualpatterns.org in their classrooms.

The patterns include some of Fawn’s original work, as well as many submitted by other math educators and several student contributions. Images include classic math patterns like toothpicks or cubes, but also some more novel patterns of penguins, snowflakes, coins or cups. Each image depicts the first few steps in a “growing” pattern, along with the predicted number of objects in “step 43.” Students are asked to visualize what the next step might be, to predict what step 43 might look like, and to generalize the pattern by writing an algebraic equation to match the pattern.

Part of the richness of the visual representations is that students can write many different equations, which all correctly match up with a pattern. The way in which a student writes his or her equation can lend insight into how they are seeing or thinking about a pattern. This can help other students to find alternative ways to approach equation writing and can help teachers to understand a student’s thinking. The visual presentation of information is also a way to remove linguistic barriers to math problems and to give all students an access point to algebraic thinking.

Problem Solving Tasks

Through her blog, Nguyen has authored several widely-used problem solving tasks.

The Desmos activity Desman (https://teacher.desmos.com/desman) was "inspired by @fawnpnguyen."

Things Teacher School Never Warned Me About

In 2013, Nguyen delivered an Ignite Talk at CMC-North titled "Things Teacher School Never Warned Me About" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1P6AA_IEd4). The talk that was praised for its humor and honesty. In the talk she describes her early schooling in Vietnam, which included memorization, corporal punishment and explicit ranking of students. Despite feeling that her teacher preparation program provided her with training in classroom management, she identifies elements of teaching that she was unprepared for, such as "crazy parents" or the strong feelings she developed for her students.

More than any particular insights about teaching, the talk conveys a personality and narrative that is often not associated with teachers and teaching.


Unnamed Project with Max Ray-Riek, Rafranz Davis and Elizabeth Statmore (http://fawnnguyen.com/not-that-you-care-about-my-schedule/)