I’m currently sitting on my couch trying desperately to stay cool. I’m also trying desperately to think and recap the last two days of TMC15 without being overwhelmed by the whole experience that is Twitter Math Camp. If I start talking about the experience as a whole I will never get to my recap, so let me do that first.
In an effort to prove just how ridiculous we all are, we got to Harvey Mudd early so that Andrew could give us a short talk on Pear Deck. It’s an interactive classroom software that you can use to set-up interactive activities using technology, kind of similar to teacher.desmos.com but you have a lot more freedom with it. Only downside is that some of the cooler features require a subscription. Julie also mentioned nearpod which is a similar platform that’s free, but doesn’t have all of the features. How awesome (and ridiculous) is it that the 23 hours of normally scheduled PD isn’t enough time for us, so we schedule additional sessions later on.
Saturday officially started out with a short My Favorites session. Dan started us off with the idea of having kids do a “My Favorite” just like we were doing. He told his kids to pick their favorite math topic and do a short presentation on it. Just the breadth of topics his students were presenting on is crazy awesome (especially everyone’s favorite, the Hairy Ball Theorem). Then Denis came up to talk about his “Unanswerable Questions” Warm-up. Unfortunately I was typing furiously trying to finish my Day 2 recap blog post so I didn’t quite hear how he implements it, but my take-away is that he googles certain things and finds mathematical-adjacent questions that students have to answer. Basically the idea is to get students thinking mathematically without actually doing some specific math skill. I’m really interested in mathematical mindsets so I might try this when I need a quick math warm-up. Brian Miller talked a bit about real-world math, which he defines as “Math someone needed to do their job.” He inspired me to have more conversations with my non-teacher friends about math they use on a daily basis and find ways to bring that into my classroom. Especially since he suggested having these conversations over beer. Finaly Levi asked just to take a group picture of us, which you can find below. I sprinted across the room just so I could sit next to Fawn.
Then it was back for our final Morning Session with Alex and Mary! Again, I was typing furiously to get my Day 2 reflection done (teachers really do make the worst students) so I was off-task, but I did get Mary’s excellent point that you don’t have to throw out EVERYTHING and just start over with a new idea. She has slowly been introducing more and more activities each year, but still does some more traditional material in her classes. While I have a tremendous amount of respect for everyone that’s just thrown it all out and started over, I’m not sure I have the guts for that yet, at least not in my third year. But then our session did what the MTBoS always manages to do, which is being completely amazing and helpful and proactive. We created an activity bank!! Mary started it, but then the incomparable John Stevens made it all fancy! The bank can be found here: bit.ly/MTBoSbank. If you have an idea for an activity, you can submit them at bit.ly/MTBoSactivity. This will save me SO MUCH TIME as I try to put more activities into my classroom. (Full disclosure, doing one activity a term was going to be my #1TMCthing, but I chickened out and chose something else, which I’ll talk about in a second). I don’t know of any good activities since we don’t really use them, but I’m so excited to throw some in, especially in my Studies class.
For lunch I had asked Lisa Henry for some moments of her time because I hadn’t really gotten a chance to interact with her. If there are those of you who don’t know, Lisa is basically in charge of Twitter Math Camp and does the lion’s share of the work with planning everything and making it go off without a hitch. I will always remember her taking a spare moment during Twitter Math Camp 2014 to check in with me, see how I was doing, and keep things in perspective. It was great to eat with her and Chris and Elizabeth and Dave, just to catch up.
Back from lunch we had a short My Favorites. Bob had an awesome statistics simulation similar to Jimmy Fallon’s Egg Roulette (except with plastic Easter eggs and pom-poms instead of real eggs). It was funny to watch Matt Vaudrey and Hedge pull out the eggs, but it also has a ton of room for statistics and probability questions. Then I gave a favorite! Well, two in fact. First was for First Like Third, the project I’m trying to start to help teachers new to a subject anticipate certain misconceptions. I’m still doing a terrible job of selling it though, so I need to reevaluate. The second thing was DeltaMath I feel like anyone in New York knows about it because of MfA and Zach, but if you don’t it’s a pretty awesome problem and assignment generator. It’s definitely more for rote skills than creative activities, but it helps. save you having to dig through 15 textbooks just to find enough problems. I was so freaking nervous but I thought it went well. Julie gave a short presentation on Kahoot as an assessment tool. I think this is one of those things my kids would absolutely LOVE to play, I just have to figure out how to manage devices so that they don’t become a distraction. Finally Karim gave his “two minute” presentation on Mathalicious.
The keynote for Saturday was Fawn Nguyen talking about her teaching career and why she is still in the classroom 25
years later. I’m going to vote right now that Fawn gives a keynote every TMC. It was equal parts hilarious and moving, reminding us that #nobodycares and relationships matter. If my kids ever think I care about them 1 tenth as much as Fawn cares about her students then I have done my job as a teacher. She struck the right tone and inspired me to be the kind of teacher that cares so much about her kids. My favorite line was when she was looking at a note that a student had given her, and she said something like the following: “My sister is in the private sector, and a few years ago she got a Christmas bonus check that was as much as my whole salary. But she’ll never get a letter like that.” This year I did Friday Letters, and the letters that the kids wrote to me on the last day are something I will always keep with me to remind me of why I do this. I could keep babbling meaninglessly about how wonderful the talk was but I’d rather just find a video of it. As soon as I have that I’ll post it somewhere.
Then we had two short afternoon sessions with the misfortune of following Fawn. The first was Bob’s talk on tricky concepts in Statistics. I thought he did a fantastic job talking about the ideas, and it’s very obvious that he knows a lot about Stats. The problem is A) I was completely braindead after two days, and B) I don’t know a damn thing about Stats. Somehow I was just never forced to take Statistics so I never did, and I don’t actually know anything about it. So basically I put a big honking star in my notes that I will need to talk to him when I get closer to the material because I really think he’ll be a fantastic resource.
The last afternoon session is always a flex session that allows gives everyone time to fit in a session that didn’t occur to them until we got to the conference or an official time to continue talking about something we started earlier. I went to the one Rachel held about starting over at a new school since I just did that last year. One of the things that came up was having a document for new teachers that could lay out a lot of the logistical questions, and I really want to help create that for my school. I remember when I had my new teacher orientation we had four days on school culture, which was awesome, but I was distracted the whole time because I just wanted to know where the damn copier was. If you’re a teacher that has changed schools.
At this point I was so wiped that I just wanted to have a quiet dinner where I got a chance to talk with people I had missed previously. Apparently I wasn’t the only one that had the idea, as the patio was packed with other math teachers all
clamoring to talk with new people and continue talking about some of the ideas we had heard throughout the weekend. I finally got to sit down with Anna and see this years versions of her Interactive Notebooks, which as always are freaking insane (in literally the best way). I also got to speak with Anna about Google Classroom, and she answered some of the questions I had. And obviously I had a ton of other conversations as I was there for like 5 hours, but I can’t for the life of me remember them. The one downside to having a piano bar across the parking lot from your hotel is that there are a number of late nights, and I am of an age where those late nights catch up with me very quickly so my tiredness throws off my ability to remember things. I know I spoke briefly with Lisa B and with Dylan and Glenn and with Deb and with a bunch of other people. Next year I need to carry a freaking GoPro with me. The night ended with one last trip to the Piano Bar, where the guy at the door said “Welcome Back folks!” So that was a thing that happened.
I was going to include a bit about Day 4, but this is already almost 1800 words so I’ll do Day 4 and an overall recap in one post later.