The Blogotwittersphere is My Ideal Math Conference
I’ve never been to any gigantic, nationally sponsored, big-deal with big-names Math conferences. I’ve only been to one: the MEAD conference in Tucson.
One of my favorite things about teaching in Tucson is the annual Math Educator Appreciation Day (MEAD) conference. It’s put on primarily by the University of Arizona and features a half-day of break-out sessions run by teachers and culminates with a keynote speaker. Relatively speaking, it’s very tiny. This year, the keynote is by Phil Daro who apparently is heavily involved in the Common Core – which isn’t a big surprise to me, since Bill McCallum is the Head of the Math Department at the U of A and he’s heavily involved with the Common Core too (and speaking at MEAD!). Anyway – if you’re in the Tucson area around January 12th, I highly recommend attending the MEAD conference. Jason Dyer and I will be there.
I’ve attended this the last 3 years and have looked forward to it every year. The biggest reason for this is that most sessions are held by bonafide high school math teachers (or middle or elementary school), are geared towards math teachers, and are intended to give you something useful and tangible and immediately applicable in your classroom. Last year, I stole a worksheet/presentation about using patterns in fractals to introduce limits and a CSI-based introduction to geometric constructions activity that is amazing. One year I stole a series of worksheets themed around ‘real-life application’ learning, which I’ve used in a few classes. I get to meet and network with teachers who love teaching and are motivated to keep learning and share their craft with their peers. I go to this conference looking forward to hearing about real lessons and activities that have been implemented by real teachers in their real classrooms and how their real students reacted to it, then having my own opinions and perceptions about teaching questioned and challenged or reinforced and validated as I talk teaching with these people.
And then I discovered the blogotwittersphere. I discovered Kate Nowak‘s blog. Dan Meyer’s curriculum (the whole thing’s online!) Sam Shah’s Virtual Filing Cabinet. And from there, sooo many wonderful blogs (Like this one, or this one, or this one, or this one). I haven’t even fully explored all that the blogotwittersphere has to offer – in fact, I’m incredibly jealous of fellow first-year teacher Mathemagical Molly for her seemingly uncanny ability to find worthwhile classroom strategies and engaging activities across the wide web of the blogotwittersphere. There are so many amazing, reflective, encouraging math teachers who share their real lessons and their real experiences with their real students and give them to the world for us (or me) to steal and adapt and improve. And I don’t even have to leave my seat.
I had several friends who went to the southwest regional NCTM conference and didn’t have much to say. They’re not established teachers with a stake in state exit exams or lofty, well-formed opinions about the state of education or curriculum design (not yet, anyway). They’re new teachers, like me, who are just looking for wisdom and ideas for their classroom. I get the impression they didn’t find much of this at the conference. But then again, I would say to them that if they wanted wisdom and strategies and tangible classroom ideas, they didn’t need to go to a conference in the first place.
I’ll be at the MEAD conference again this year to see some of my favorite Tucson teachers and glean some activities, but I’m not attending with the same urgency and excitement as previous years. Suddenly it doesn’t seem like a once-a-year event where I get to pick the brains of experienced teachers. I can do it every day in the blogotwittersphere. And I wish more teachers would do it too.