Late #TMC18 Recap

I got back from Cleveland nine days ago. After my wife’s quick business trip to Chicago, my older daughter’s 7th birthday party, and my mother-in-law arriving for a visit, I am finally getting an opportunity to reflect on my second time at Twitter Math Camp. There is something amazing to me about getting together with passionate math education professionals, many of whom pay their own way to this informal, grassroots conference. The NCTM Annual Meeting has its benefits, with enormous vendor areas, nationally known keynote speakers, and exciting new locations. My local state conference, CMC-North at Asilomar, is much more intimate, in a beautiful oceanside resort setting, with outstanding presenters and attendees. TMC is a mix of both worlds, with a new location each year, an international crowd, and small groups working on interesting things.

This year, my speaking proposal (on matrices and matrix applications for beginners) wasn’t accepted, but I was able to get in through the lottery. In some ways, I started to feel a bit of impostor syndrome sinking in, since the whole point of TMC is really to encourage everyone to share and collaborate. That feeling didn’t really leave until partway through the conference, when Julie Ruelbach gave a great lunchtime keynote on how prevalent impostor syndrome actually is, and reminded us all that we do belong. At that point, I thought about submitting a #MyFavorites short presentation, but wasn’t convinced I’d be able to put something together in time.  Next time I go, though, I’ll be sure to stand up and speak. On what? A debate format perhaps? Rethinking homework? How I do honors classes? Maybe something about 3D printing? Maybe a bit of linear algebra after all? How about the role of white teachers as allies for students of color, and how we can press forward with the hard questions surrounding equity? There are plenty of things I can speak about, many topics in math and education that interest me, and surely I have something to offer after 17 years in the classroom!

On to the sessions, with a brief description. I’ll be writing some follow-up posts about a couple of the big ones.

Morning session: Reimagining High School Math with Carl Oliver and Sadie Estrella. This session took place over three consecutive mornings for two hours each morning, and was an opportunity for teachers and teacher leaders to think about a way to change their own classroom, school, or district math program. I am fortunate to teach in a school with amazing support, and have received encouragement to work on my plan to revise the math program at our school. We have an interesting and diverse population: many students with diagnosed learning disabilities; many students with high anxiety around school in general and especially with math; several students who come from schools in lower-income areas with fewer resources, where their transcript that shows high grades and Algebra 1 in 8th grade may not match with a mathematical background that has not exposed them to deep and rich mathematical thinking. The question I have had for a long time is how to ensure that all students are given an opportunity to thrive in mathematics to the absolute best of their ability, regardless of their previous experiences. Other teachers in the session had a variety of goals and plans, but all related to improving the experience of math learners in their mathematical appreciation and ability. (Even Chris Nho‘s plan to improve the community feel of math educators in his district has potential long term benefits of building camaraderie and then collaboration among teachers in his district.) Check the #rehsmath hashtag on twitter to see more!

Afternoon sessions:

Promoting Equity through Math Talks, with Anne Agostinelli. Thinking about how math talks can be designed to progress throughout the week, with intentional structure, in order to address the SMP‘s consistently.

Interactive Notebooks for All, with Farica Erwin. (I’ve submitted to speak with Farica at the NCTM Annual Meeting in San Diego on rethinking homework, and this was the first time we met in person!) I’m not big into doing lots of crafty things, but I know that lots of people, teachers and learners alike, love interactive notebooks. What did I take away? The importance of being intentional about the interactivity, of not overdoing it, and most importantly, of page numbers and a table of contents. In fact, that’s the biggest takeaway, as I think about how I may try out digital notebooks this year in my classes – organizing by a table of contents and shared/common vocabulary so that all students can have a structure in place.

Living Proof: Enjoying Teaching 2-Column Proofs, with Elissa Miller. I may not be crafty, and Elissa is incredibly crafty, but I took away some great ideas and resources in this session. Lots of the proofs presented reminded me of the fun and creative ones found in Harold Jacobs’ Geometry (now out of print, unfortunately).

Sausages Without The Skin, with Nik Doran and Max Ray-Riek. I’ve been following the work of Illustrative Mathematics for a little while now, and have watched as they have snatched up so many great teachers to work with them on their new curriculum. Now they are getting ready to release new high school resources, and this was a chance to take a sneak peek at what they are creating. Although I’m hoping to move towards an integrated curriculum, which isn’t what they are currently working on, I do expect to be able to incorporate a lot of their lessons into our curriculum as we move forward over the next several years.

Anxiety, Mindset and Motivation: Bridging from research to practical classroom
structures, with Lisa Bejarano and Dylan Kane. I was really excited to see what Lisa and Dylan are doing to bring the research based ideas of Jo Boaler, Carol Dweck, and Ilani Horn directly to the classroom. We came away with some great ideas, including a new routine for my next year, Sara Van der Werf’s Stand and Talks.

Flex Session: Equity at TMC, with Tina Cardone and Sam Shah. This was a continuation of a session from last year, and one that has been on my mind for a while now – not just at TMC. Math education is a place where so many teachers are white, and so many visible leaders are white, and conferences tend to skew even whiter than the population of math teachers. If we want students of color to thrive, we need to ensure that they have teachers of color. Furthermore, if we want white students to buy into the capabilities of their black and brown classmates, they need to have teachers of color as examples and role models. (That’s not all we need, clearly – we have many math teachers who are women, but there are still fewer girls than boys going into math as college majors. Still, increasing the number of women who are teachers is an important step.)

Besides those great sessions, there were so many impromptu conversations, great socializing with new and old friends (including a vegan contingent), and a chance to see Cleveland, a place I’d never have intentionally sought out but which turned out to be a wonderful and welcoming city.

Next year it’ll be in Berkeley, and I hope to be there again, seeing friends and sharing in this great profession that we have chosen.

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