TMC16 Reflections, Part One

I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts from the past week in Minneapolis and I have found that one of the best ways for me to do this is to sit and type them out. I am thinking that I may partition these reflections into three or four parts over the next day or two so that the ideas I am wrestling with will feel more bite-sized to me. Lil’ Dardy just had a terrible dental appt this morning so I am home with her all day. This will give me some writing time as she just naps away her pain and discomfort.


First, I want to concentrate on a small roundtable discussion section that I had proposed. I called it Building our own MTBoS at Home. A little background helps. I work in a small independent, day and boarding, PK – PG, co-ed school. I have five full-time colleagues in my department in our high school. Our other campus is three miles away and that is where my two children attend school. There are few other independent schools in my area and I have not found a way to connect logically with the public schools in my region. When I proposed this session I was hoping to crowd source some wisdom. I LOVe the online community I have tapped into and I suspect that if you are reading this that you do too. I also know that as valuable as you all are as an online resource, it is even better when I can sit down face-to-face to share ideas and energy. That is one of the beauties of the Twittermathcamp (TMC) experience. So, I was hoping to gather some ideas about how to build outreach so that we can find some of the same sustenance that comes from TMC more regularly in our home areas.


One of the GREAT problems posed by attending TMC is that every session slot has multiple promising events occurring. I was happy to have five energetic folks come to my session. I know that Sam Shah (@samjshah) and Tina Cardone (@crstn85) had a session with a  similar theme happening the next day. I look forward to picking their brains to see what came out of their session. A couple of the folks in my room where newbies to the TMC experience and it was great to hear what was on their mind. Our speaker at the Desmos pre-conference challenged us to think of evangelist as part of our job title, so that was on my mind all weekend. As we chatted in my session this idea kept coming up. Glenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs) spoke eloquently about his journey building community in Nevada. The phrase that came to my mind listening to him was ‘death by a thousand paper cuts.’ He spoke of sending out emails with links to administrators and other teachers every Monday. Simple, short links with a friendly message along the lines of ‘I saw this in my feed and thought it might be helpful.’ Every Monday – this is the part that really resonated with me. Be persistent, be consistent, be short and to the point. There is a local group that runs a math competition in the spring here – usually during our spring break, unfortunately – and I want to reach out to them. I want to find the email address of math teachers at my local schools. My goal this year is to build a couple of email group with addresses of these folks and reach out and share on a regular basis. Currently, I have been in the habit of emailing (or tweeting) links to colleagues – both those in my building and my online community – whenever I see something interesting. I think that I am going to adopt Glenn’s idea and make it sort of a weekly roundup. Perhaps I will use this space as the forum for my online team to share out ideas I have gathered or developed in addition to sharing out my classroom experiences. The other big idea I took away from Glenn was that he arranged a sort of happy hour meeting with some teachers in his area and, through the help of some grant money was able to provide some appetizers. He said that he also shared out some ideas regarding improving personal efficiency through some nice applications in addition to discussing class ideas. So he summarized by saying that he was able to provide a space that age each teacher three things to takeaway – (1) Some free food; (2) Something to improve their own personal life; and (3) Something to improve their own classroom.


I am pretty confident that I have a model to emulate and I hope to be able to start small with a meeting of local math teachers so that we can start building a support group for each other here in NE PA.


I want to thank all of those who came and I am pretty sure that I got all the names correct. I apologize if I missed someone in my scattered notes or if I got your name wrong. In the room was Kathryn Ramberg (@KathrynRamberg), Chris Robinson (@Isomorphic2CRob), Stephen Weimar (@sweimar), and Mary Langmyer(@mlangmyer)

Please reach out to any of these folks to improve your own community or to continue this conversation of how to enrich our local spaces the way we have enriched the online community that continues to grow. As always, also feel free to poke at me through the twitters where you can find me @mrdardy


A Note of Thanks

So, yesterday I had the privilege of spending about 8 hours working. I know, working on a Saturday does not necessarily sound like a privilege. But it was. I had the pleasure of working side by side with three of my colleagues who work in the same building as I do day to day. Mary and Mary and Kathy all agreed to take a Saturday away from their families and friends and join us in learning to use GeoGebra. I cannot feel them (or you) how much I appreciate their willingness to do so. I also had the pleasure of meeting three people from the Philadelphia area who all agreed to give up a Saturday AND to travel two hours to do so. Ed, and Whitney and Andy all took a chance. They heard about our workshop through a flyer that was distributed on a Philadelphia area teachers email list (thanks Ruth!) and, knowing little to nothing about me, my school, or our presenter, they chose to commit a Saturday in May to come and learn with us. I sure hope to continue hearing from them and to build some real community with them even if they are two hours away. I finally had the pleasure of meeting Justin in person! I’ve been reading his blog (and commenting there) and communicating with him on twitter. It’s been a pleasure feeling like we are building a relationship and it was a total treat to finally meet him in person. He drove from the Pittsburgh area to his mom’s house on Friday. Drove to my school and back to his mom’s house on Saturday and today he is driving back to Pittsburgh. He was full of energy, joy, and ideas yesterday and he helped make the day for me. What a treat! Lastly, I finally got to meet Jen in person. Jen has been completely generous of her time and her knowledge. I”ve been picking her brain via emails and google chats. I’ve been stealing ideas from her and she is the main reason I’m brave enough to tackle a curriculum project this summer. I’ll be writing an iBook for our Geometry course next year and I could not have conceived of doing this without her inspiration. She and her husband Charlie drove down from Connecticut and Jen was our leader in this exploration. We made some fantastic discoveries with each other (and through the help of remote twitter colleagues), we wondered and played. All of us were tired at the end and our brains hurt. That’s a great feeling, isn’t it? Community can mean many things and yesterday I felt that my community exploded beyond the walls of my school.

Observation of Student Behavior

As part of my ongoing commitment to taking one day per week away from the Calculus curriculum, I spent yesterday playing the game of set and 2048 with my students in Calc BC yesterday. My afternoon class was fully engaged in set offering different answers and we found another site which gives you more than one game of set per day. The I opened up 2048. I became aware of this game int he past week due to constant twitter references. I played it some Wednesday night and shared it yesterday. Well, for about ten minutes or so the entire class was engaged tossing out advice and arguing moves. Then the class started to get more and more quiet. What happened was that my students started pulling out their phones and playing the game for themselves. I like the fact that they were interested enough to make sure that they had the game for themselves. I was disappointed that what felt like a great community conversation devolved into individual focus and lack of communication.

I mentioned this and two students told interesting stories. One girl told me that she and her friends recently received free dessert at a restaurant because the server (or maybe the manager) commented on the fact that none of her friends spent dinner on their phone, they were engaged with each other. A boy told me that his friends have a standing challenge sometimes when they dine. Everyone puts their phone in the middle of the table and if someone breaks down and picks up their phone they get to pick up the tab.

It’s interesting that each of these stories was told in a way that made me feel that the student was aware that their technology sometimes gets in the way of interactions. I wonder how much saying that out loud affects their behavior?