OK, so my timing on this is not great. This was actually written back in December (still a little tardy) and then the holidays ran over me. Blah, blah, blah. Nevertheless, everything below is still relevant.
Having attended and presented at conferences before, I have to say some conferences are good, and some not so good. NCTM Nashville 2015 was, in my opinion, the best I have attended – hands down!
On Wednesday evening, in the opening session, Graham Fletcher, Robert Kaplinsky, Laila Nur, Andrew Stadel and Cathy Yenca set the tone for the conference. They spoke about their personal experiences of improving mathematics teaching and what they use to continuously improve their practice, they all spoke about how accessible and personalized PL for math teachers’ needs can be with a Math Blogs, Twitter, the #MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere) that links them all together, and Web 2.0 tools that are not only changing the ways we think about teaching mathematics, but also the ways students engage in mathematics in their classrooms. One word: Powerful. And as I said before, it set the tone for the rest of the conference.
The rest of the sessions, at least the sessions I attended, all connected to the opening session. In the Desmos sessions I attended with Michael Fenton and Christopher Danielson, the presenters were able to take novices through the simplicity and beauty of this free graphing calculator (which is really much more – see my post on this here) and those of us who are just above the novices had plenty to learn as well. I even had a Desmos special tutoring session from Cathy Yenca and Julie Reulbach in the back of one of these sessions.
The twitter sessions I attended were always full and the session facilitators, as well as many attendees, lent a hand to those who wanted to get on board “this Twitter math train.” In addition, LOTS of people stopped by the MTBoS booth and were given some “small group” lessons on how to use Twitter, who to follow, and were given some general tips to make the whole experience low stress! Michael Fenton and John Mahlstedt were the facilitators of the Twitter sessions I attended. In each of these sessions, attendees were eager to learn more about Twitter and how it could help them become better math teachers. Even some not so eager people were asking questions near the end of these sessions!
The rest of the sessions I attended (I even co-presented one) had to do with modeling with mathematics – SMP 4. These sessions were probably the most valuable to me for two reasons:
- We got to really dig in to some math and have some great mathematical discussions!
- I got to experience more modeling in secondary mathematics which is great since I have just rejoined the secondary math world.
Ashli Black‘s session: Selecting and Using Tasks to Develop MP.4: Model with Mathematics was all about investigating characteristics of modeling tasks and working with pitfalls. I recommend following Ashli on twitter: @Mythagon. She really knows what modeling with mathematics should look like in the secondary math world, she’s a great presenter, and I’m thankful that she took the time to fill out the speaker form last year.
Michael Fenton‘s session on modeling provided a one-two punch – Modeling WITH Desmos! This was an incredible session. Michael’s presentation combining Desmos with mathetmatical modeling was. I was making sense of mathematics through the models created. I wish I had learned math this way, initially! While I can’t go back in time to learn this way for the first time, I can make sure that the students in my district have the opportunity. And it’s one of my goals for this year.
Andrew Stadel’s session: Model with Mathematics using Problem Solving Tasks. I have to admit, I’ve been using Andrew’s resources from his blog for a few years, but it was a real treat attending his session. He engaged us in a three-act task: Swing Wraps. This problem solving task engaged us in mathematical arguments, modeling, and sense making and a few other SMP’s. Mr. Stadel also did some modeling of his own through the types of questions he asked to the whole group and small groups, through his guiding of the discussion, and through his commentary about the importance of doing these types of problems.
So, in conclusion, here’s what this all boils down to:
- Join Twitter and become a part of the #MTBoS
- Allow students to model the problems they solve with mathematics.
- Take a look at Desmos – a long hard look – one that allows you to see it for more than just a free online graphing calculator that students can use to model with mathematics (that should be enough-but there’s oh-so much more to it!)