So right now I am sitting in Hynes Convention Center – room 109. In case you aren’t in the know (for shame!), I am at the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) conference in Boston. I just finished Day 1. I spoke to a total of three strangers, one of them who I recognized (and who recognized me) from the Phillip Exeter conference from this past summer. I don’t do well with meeting new people, which is such a shame in such a math-teacher-rich environment. But hey, three isn’t bad.
The sessions I went to today were:
#14: Identifying and Remediating Misconceptions [about CAS/TI-Nspire and developing numerical intuition]
#46: Show me the Sign! [about using sign analysis effectively in 9th, 11th, and 12th grades]
#79: Helping Students Read Math [about how to teach students to read their textbooks]
#142: Discovering Trigonometry [on how Exeter uses problem solving to teach their courses, using trigonometry as the vehicle to talk about that]
This was my first NCTM conference. Let me put this one piece of information about me: I don’t like my time wasted, so I tend to be critical of speakers . I expected to really appreciate one or two of the sessions, and politely sit through the others. I thought I’d be inspired maybe once or twice.
You can see where this is going. I really, really enjoyed all four sessions. The speakers were prepared, and focused – for the most part – on concrete things in the classroom. It wasn’t about giving us the most difficult but interesting mathematical problems to work on. In other words, it wasn’t about mathematics. It was about teaching mathematics. We talked about topics and skills we work with everyday, and the speakers spoke about their approaches. None of them were zealots, saying “you should do it my way because it is the best.” It was “this is what I do, this is why I do it, and maybe you can use bits and pieces of what you hear here in your own classrooms.” I appreciated that.
I don’t know if I will have time to post about each individual session, but I will hopefully post some interesting bits later. (I said that about things I learned at the Exeter conference this past summer, and never did, though. So I can’t promise.) But maybe if (when) I actually apply some of what I’m getting to the classroom, I’ll feel more inspired to write.
(FYI, if you feel like you just absolutely need to know more about one of the sessions I went to, throw that down in the comments. You know I can’t deny you.)
 Yes, yes, I know our kids feel the same way, and we should always keep this in mind when we enter a classroom.