Tag: mathbootcamps

Best thing I ever did for my site – full page by page review

Did you know that mathbootcamps.com has been online since 2010? Wow! Some of the articles are now over 5 years old. No big deal right? Math hasn’t exactly changed in those 5 years…

The spirit of just do something has always been important to me. When I started the website, I didn’t really have any experience writing about math in that way. But, so what? – you gotta start somewhere and I could have waited and waited for some magical inspiration or simply started trying to write.  I chose the latter.

In those 5 years, I went from just writing a bit on the website to working on all kinds of math writing projects for tons of different clients. I’ve had experience writing test prep material, textbooks, guides, and online lessons. I’ve even worked as an editor on a wide variety of projects. All of this has totally changed how I write and over time the articles on mathbootcamps reflect it. The newest ones have a more cohesive visual style and much clearer writing style. There is plenty of room for improvement but the changes are noticeable.

If you have been writing on a blog or website for a while now, I bet your writing has improved quite a bit too! If you have a lot of content that you think people will come back to over time, then I definitely recommend going through this review process like I did.

Bring on the review!

The first step to my review was to decide the post that I wanted to use as an “exemplar” standard in style and writing. I ended up choosing two:



These show exactly what I would like to see in most posts. They’re organized, they have an example that’s easy to follow, and the style with headings etc is nice.

After this, I set up a spreadsheet with the following headings:

  • Category (my site is divided into several math categories by a menu up top)
  • Post title
  • Video (I wanted a yes or no as my plan is for each post to have a corresponding video)
  • Contains at least one example (yes or no)
  • Meets exemplar style (yes or no)
  • Meets exemplar standard (yes or no)
  • Comments (especially if there was some issue – I ended up having some typos I didn’t know about)

I ended up hiring someone else to go through and fill out the spreadsheet figuring that a different set of eyes would be really helpful. You could probably do this yourself but remember to be brutal in your evaluation!

The results

So…much…work to do.


As I guessed, the older posts are just not meeting standards. Little did I realize that a while back I also had made posts which were just a video or short text – this is not the direction I want to take mathbootcamps now and so these need adjustment as well.


This was really worth it. Working alone, I’ve been so focused on getting new content up (whenever I have time) that it was easy to not even think about how the old content might look. But, if I want to have a useful math website, ALL the content needs to be good.

Anybody with a website that has been around a while would do well to go through this same process. Maybe the changes over time were subtle but I’m sure another set of eyes will catch where some content just isn’t up to standard anymore. Visitors running across these pages or articles will be happy for the change!


Figuring out where to put videos on mathbootcamps pages

One thing I am personally working on is sharing more of the “behind the scenes” stuff that happens when you are running a small website like mathbootcamps – along with the challenges/interesting things you have to deal with. With that said, the biggest thing I am working on right now is what I like to call “The Video Situation.”

Mathbootcamps.com and the mathbootcamps youtube account have always been kind of separate entities. I might write an article on mathbootcamps and add a video or just leave the article as-is. I might make a quick video of a math topic for youtube but not have a corresponding article for it. This is all because they are both just fun things to do, so I have just been writing or recording as I feel like it and going with whatever topic seemed interesting at the moment. While this has been fun, it isn’t how you get a website really going and I have realized what I want is mathbootcamps.com to really get going!!

So considering how silly the disconnect between the two pieces is, I started at least matching up videos and posts on the site. For example, below you can see a post I did about making histograms using graphing calculators. The video is over on the right with the idea being that anyone who didn’t want to read a long post could just watch the video instead.


This has been working fine until recently, when google started knocking sites down in search results if they didn’t have a website that adjusts to mobile devices (this is called responsive web design). To avoid the penalty, I set up a mobile theme for the site, and while it still needs some work (it isn’t that pretty and isn’t really branded like the rest of the site), it does the job and keeps my site from being penalized.

2015-09-15 21.28.43


Maybe you notice the big problem?

No video! Even worse, the example in the post refers to the video.

My mobile theme just doesn’t show the videos on the right hand side of the posts. Even if it did, they would probably be really tiny and useless.

This means that it is time to truly get organized with the videos and the pages. As I am filling out the topics with new articles (you will notice the stats page is coming along nicely!), I can start incorporating the videos INTO the posts. This way, those visiting me on mobile will have the same content as everyone else and hopefully find what they need to help them with whatever math they are working on.

This also means going through a lot of old posts to figure out which posts already have a video and where exactly to place it. A big project, but Im thinking it will also help me find any posts that no longer cut-it style wise. A big project for sure, but one that will make the site better overall.



Math screencasting – tools I use

It’s been several years now that I have been adding articles and videos to Mathbootcamps and there has been quite a learning curve as far as best practices and tools of the trade. After starting to teach online courses, it became even more important to have a “system” and I can finally say that I am happy with my full setup! In this post, I will talk about the tools that I am currently using the produce my screencasts.


Camstudio – this is my screencasting software of choice. This is 100% free and works as well as the $600 solutions I have seen elsewhere. The only real trouble can come from making very long videos. If your video is over 2 gigs (hard to do, but possible), this will simply not save the file. But, a good practice is to keep your videos short (not something I am always good at!) so this is a nonissue to me.

Zoomit64 – this is a free tool from microsoft that allows you to write on the screen of any windows computer. Prince George’s Community College has a really nice cheat sheet for working with it including shortcut keys (you want to know these!).

Powerpoint (or other presentation software) – Of course, there are plenty of other tools out there for making presentations. This is more of a familiarity thing for me as I can work with it quickly. In this case you could really use any tool. You just need a way to show some of the math that you are talking about onto the screen for recording etc.

TI-Smartview – this lets me show the calculator and buttons full screen (example). Another option would be to simply film the calculator but this looks much nicer in the end product. You just have to be careful – the 2 gig limit with camstudio will come up quickly here (I would say more than ~5 mins with the calculator at full screen is too long).


Headset – while there are many fancier ones out there, I am currently using this 10 year old+ cyber acoustics headset. Personally, I find that I like having one ear open so I can hear myself better when recording.



In other words, you don’t have to go really crazy with the quality here. For our applications, you simply need something that will pick your voice up clearly. The adjustable mic is very important though because you want to maneuver this to avoid air bursts (pops when you say something that starts with “p” for instance) and so that we don’t hear your breathing in between every word!

Writing Pad – this is probably the biggest investment you will have to make. I have used the “cheap” $80 version for years and had no trouble. I did purchase the more expensive bamboo tablet and found that it was somewhat less responsive (perhaps it is better for art?). These are also nice to have laying around if you do a lot of math writing in word since mathtype now works decently with the math input panel.

That’s really it! Not a huge setup and it has allowed me to make a TON of videos at this point. You can see examples of what Ive made with this setup here: https://www.youtube.com/user/MathBootcamps/videos.