Today, after 4 whole days, things are beginning to feel comfortable and familiar. Even though we switched groups during our morning problem-solving session, our routine of working in pairs and trios, and then solo resumed quickly. Geometry was always my first love in math (hence my quilting), so the growing connections among the problem sets this week are deeply satisfying. When Bowen intoned “Take a break!” at the midpoint [ouch!], I wasn’t ready to stop working, nor again when it was time to transition to our next activity. I need to think about the takeaway from this feeling – is it possible to recreate this drive to explore in my classroom, and for more students than just my uber math geeks?
During lunch today, I had a conversation with several teachers who were either National Board Certified, or working towards that through their Math for America fellowships. Obtaining this certification is a large undertaking with many facets, not the least of which is a whole class video, something of which many teachers are leery. Today’s Reflecting on Practice session was a perfect example of why this is so. Although neither of the other classroom videos we watched depicted a perfect lesson, today we witnessed a host of missed opportunities in a TIMSS video of an eighth grade math class from 1999. It’s so easy to spot problems from the safe position of being an observer. But even as I ticked off the moments in the video when I saw areas in need of improvement, I knew that I make just as many grievous errors in my own classroom, sometimes in the name of expediency or pacing or classroom management. We worked on plans to remedy the shortcomings in the lesson we saw, and Cal Armstrong thoughtfully reminded us that in spite of any criticisms we might have, the teacher in the video opened her classroom for the entire world to see and learn from. A word to the wise: the video is 16 years old; what goes on the internet stays on the internet.
Our afternoon working group has begun to assume a productive structure after exploring some big ideas about transformations; my partner and I are outlining the first day of the proposed online course, in which the definition of rigid motions is clarified and teachers are provided with some exploratory activities for themselves and their classrooms. Every step in our planning requires conversation, debate, pushing back and forth to refine and clarify the experience we envision our lesson to take. Two hours of work flies by pretty quickly, and each pair in our team seems to be going through the same process. I know we won’t have a completely finished product at the end of PCMI, but I feel like we will have a solid framework of high quality.
In the later afternoon, I attended the Cross Program activity (open to the undergrads, graduate students, Research program participants and the teachers), a talk by Evelyn Lamb, a professor at the University of Utah, on the value of the online math community. Evelyn is an unassuming and entertaining speaker, and she spoke with insight and humor. Her presentation was organized into the purposes of Online Math Communication – talking to ourselves [reflective blogging, for example] and talking to others [chatting on twitter, reading and commenting on blogs]. She broke this second category down into further subdivisions: talking to other math researchers and educators, and then talking with people who either wondered about the life of a ‘math person’, or wanted to relate their own personal tale of math horror. She told some stories about unlikely connections she made through her blogging and tweeting, and shared some personal truisms and myths of the online math experience, two of which I am paraphrasing here (as well as I remember them):
- Myth all bloggers need to remember: If you write a blog post, people will read the whole thing. Remember – readers are not your students, and have no obligation to do so!
- Myth of writing posts: “Any sacrifice of accuracy, rigor or generality is unacceptable.” This is a good thing to remember [Wendy…] for those of us who agonize over every sentence as if it were our graduate Statement of Purpose.
Here’s my personal favorite of Evelyn’s Big Ideas about Blogging: Why should the math internet be different from any other internet? Use cats liberally to please and entice readers.One final note related to Evelyn Lamb’s talk – the Ballroom had some prime examples of Zermatt decor, such as a trompe l’oeil tapestry, and this Merry Band of stained glass windows, pointed out to me by the observant Ashli Black.
The day finished with the final touches of 4th of July parade preparation, complete with tangrams, pun posters and all manner of Zome creations. Who is this masked man in the patriotic Zome tutu? You’ll have to attend the parade on Saturday to find out!