Learning at Human Scale (An #NCTMannual Wrap-Up)

 First: Human Scale

I got home Sunday around noon from two days at the NCTM Annual conference in San Antonio (and, because I couldn’t travel from Indianapolis to San Antonio for anything less than $800, travel logistics amounted to nine hours of driving round trip to the St. Louis airport, four planes, and one train). It was worth it, though.  I have absolutely no pictures of anything that happened (except for the ones other people took) because I was absolutely completely engaged at this year’s event in a way I’ve not been at large conferences in the past.

One reason for this is that this year The Math Forum’s influence on NCTM Central provided me and other attendees a literal soft space to land in the midst of thousands of people coming and going and going and coming. Their easy going presentation area had a cozy and inviting layout including soft white cubes on which to sit and have informal conversations on a variety of topics with a wide range of math educators scheduled throughout the day.  I was honored to have two opportunities to present in this space and it was truly a lovely experience. The most lovely aspect was when folks would happen upon a session in progress and not hesitate to take part.

It seems to me that The Math Forum is scaling NCTM to a human level.

It was truly a happy place of new questions and experiences.

Second: Community-Scale

I also loved dropping by the #MTBoS booth. In all the big-ness of the event this space was a natural place to meet up, catch up, and introduce folks to the possibilities of learning with and from other math teachers on Twitter. Meeting someone in person in person for the first time whom I’ve only known on the twitters, even if briefly, immediately enriches my understanding of and connection with that person. What I also find fascinating and uplifting is that so many folks in the #MTBoS make a point of making an in-real-life kind of connection in addition to the online interactions.

[Side note, MTBoS stands for “Math Twitter Blog-o-sphere which basically equates to math teachers talking about and growing their teaching together on Twitter and if you want to take part just check in on that hashtag and  see what’s interesting to you.]

Third: Learning at Body-Scale

I presented my workshop Math in Your Feet: Moving Bodies are Learning Bodies at 8:00am on Saturday morning. So, while 2000 or so people went to see Dan Meyer speak I was thrilled that almost 50 people came to experience my take on whole-body math learning. The place was literally hopping and the opportunity for experiencing math off the page, using the whole body, created some amazing conversations around things like this:

Christopher and Megan were kind enough to share their dance work and their thinking with the group. Their question to me became a question for everyone to ponder:

If one person jumps and turns 180 to the left and their partner jumps and turns 180 to the right, is that the same? Which part are you evaluating? The direction and pathway in the air, or the position in which you land?

It also provoked some new questions for me:

Where does congruence fit in the family of sameness and similarity? Can we be talking about sameness and congruence at the same time?

What is the difference between position and location?

If, as Anna Sfard wrote, the nouns and verbs and math are in a “complementary relationship” how can we harness this idea in our teaching?  I ask this because, after an amazing hour-long chat with the AH-mazing Florence Glanfield and wonderful Glenn Waddell, and after reading Lisa Lunney Borden’s article on the “verbification”of math I realized that in Math in Your Feet the final creative product has always been less important to me than the journey we take together and noting the growth and development of the ideas and strategies of the learners in front of me. So, I don’t even know how to conceive of a dynamic moving object such as a dance pattern as a noun…there’s more to ponder here for sure.

I love having an opportunity to think and learn with other people.  My biggest personal growth and/or gain at the conference was finally creating a presentation that was a just-right balance of key ideas from my new book that also gave educators a just-enough in-person experience of #movingmath (including videos of classroom action) to understand how math looks, sounds, and feels off the page using the whole moving body.

Fourth: Workshop Resources

If you’re interested in scrolling through the slides from the presentation, be my guest, but please remember that this “map” of the workshop is not the full territory. But it will give you an idea of what kinds of things we were thinking about and doing. Also available:

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