Thursday, 25 July 2013

MAT: TMC 2013 Day 1 - Reflections

If you missed my Day 0 intro yesterday - you didn't miss much, but you can click to read it if you like. This is Day 1 of Twitter Math Camp 2013.

Woke up before 7am for no reason, thus less than 6 hrs sleep. Fine. Down for breakfast after 7:30am, linked up with a table that already featured Chris Shore (@MathProjects), Nathan Kraft (@nathankraft1), Fawn Nguyen (@fawnpnguyen), and Sadie Estrella (@wahedahbug). More gravitated in as time went on, including Mary Williams (@merryfwilliams) celebrating a birthday. Maintaining my two day streak of being around someone with a birthday.

For the record, we definitely have all types here - Chris Shore said he was from a school of 4,000 while Jasmine Walker (@jaz_math) was from a school of 80. What was lacking was understanding from the in-house restaurant, the 'Sang Kee Noodle House'. Just because we're all at the same table doesn't mean we're from the same city and can easily "pitch money in".

(Sorry, quick tangent: I wanted my food to be billed separately, to my room, because I do NOT have a lot of American bills to just throw around. I indicated that initially, then when I seemed determined not to change my mind like others, it seemed to really annoy him. He spent a lot of time messing about, not asking me what I ordered and getting it wrong, and when he finally gave me the receipt - which included an 18% gratuity for party of 6 or more - and I didn't put in an additional tip, he seemed even more ticked off. Dude. So I'm not eating there again. Sorry for ranting, but it takes a lot to piss off a Canadian like me, and he managed it.)

Off to registration, walked there with Jamie (Ryske?). MET ASHLI BLACK. (@Mythagon) Can I rave enough about her podcast, Infinite Tangents? She's got a call for submissions there, so even if you aren't/weren't at TMC13, you could/should go there and send something to her. Then Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) gave introductory remarks, and subject area facilitators talked sessions.


From 9:30 to 11:30. I went to Statistics, facilitated by Hedge (@approx_normal). There were ten of us in all, including: Ashli Black, Nik Doran (@nik_d_maths), Glenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs), Sean Sweeney (@SweenWSweens), Elaine Watson (@ekw32), Ginny Stuckey (@gstuck), Mark Sanford (@hfxmark), and Anthony Russell (@aanthonya). No particular order, sorry. Notice the statistics group has Canadian and UK representation, because that's just how we cluster sample.

What we talked about can be found at the Statistics Morning Session link. In brief though, first a run down of the four main topics in AP Stats. Generally, ALL of the stuff before 'inference' is needed in a non-AP style course... part of the problem is that those crucial WHYS of Statistics often aren't taught until the END of high school; it's needed earlier, so people know (for instance) why a box plot.

Topics: Jelly blubbers, which was new to (at least) me and Nik. Remarking on how stratified sampling doesn't need percentages, if you'll be using weights later. A news clip about the Gallup Poll, trolling Fox News. Noting Eleanor Terry (@HSTATistics) and Nicola (@RogoNic) as people to follow on Twitter. The running of experiments and UK 'Haribo' ads. "Stats is a lot of writing."

Takeaways: I teach starting with Probability; apparently in US most start with Collecting Valid Data. Hm. A good student project idea is find examples of bad sampling that exist. If I (re)introduce mean/median/mode before sampling, I can probably structure the sampling part of my course to be more effective.

Lunch - there were food trucks. Spent some of my precious cash. Getting crossed up by the lack of a $1 coin and the presence of a 1c coin. Exchanged a few words with Tina Cardone (@crstn85) and Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf), also met the other Greg (@sarcasymptote).


12:30pm were the first 'My Favourite' sessions. Missed the very start of Pam's (@pamjwilson), about using grids, and two minute assessment tasks. Placing items into a grid, sort of like a Frayer model, but more an Engagement wheel, including a slot for 'aha' moments. Then Anne (@sophgermain) had us pair off and talk for five minutes each.

Recalling one of my earlier reflections, Shut Up Sir, this resonated a bit. Main takeaway was that five minutes is a long time, and "You can do a lot more by not fixing it". Just listen. Also, at times you have things you need to say too, so find therapy. Incidentally, for the exercise I spoke with Peter O'Byrne (@pwobyrne), all the best to him in his implementations.

1pm was Max Ray (@maxmathforum) talking to the whole group about 'I Notice, I Wonder'. Basically presenting an open ended situation, and asking what people notice (facts) and wonder (extensions). For instance, what have you noticed about my accounting of this day? What do you still wonder about? Feel free to comment below. "Everyone can notice something."

Takeaways: I particularly liked the idea that with no fixed end point, you can't finish this FAST, it just means you'll be noticing more. It was also mentioned that you can also use it as a form of formative assessment or feedback - BOTH ways. Since as a teacher, you can 'notice' and 'wonder' about student work submitted to you. Finally, the idea of a '+1' on someone else's notice... they didn't take your idea, you're supporting them.

There is a Problems of the Week Blog, if you want more examples of these kinds of problems. Max also has a book coming out in September; we forced this information out of him. "Powerful Problem Solving".


FOREGROUND: Tina C and group
BACKGROUND: Sam Shah and group
From 2:15-3:15. I went to 'Breaking Out of Ourselves', looking at expanding the scope of what we do in the "Math Twitter Blog-O-Sphere". We separated into three groups, each with a facilitator. Julie Reulbach (@jreulbach) looked at ways to make Twitter more immediately useful, and encourage growth. Sam Shah (@samjshah) looked at ways to get the resources we create out to others (students, heads, etc). Tina Cardone looked at ways to expand beyond the education community, and raise public awareness.

I joined Tina's group, along with Jami Packer (@JamiDanielle) and James Cleveland (@jacehan). Discussions included a website/newsletter that includes features like a Q&A, and a SNOPES-style site to bust Teacher Myths. The difficulty is how, if any editorials run "pro teaching", we can make sure we remain impartial, so that we don't lose credibility. There was quick sharing at the end, and posters will be up to remark on tomorrow. Sam's group mentioned a paper book, which is probably good to bridge the electronic gap.

Then I went off to the half hour session I was doing, "Musical Mathematics". Eli Luberoff (@eluberoff) had just finished in the room and showed me all the projector stuff, so that was helpful. My main worry was that no one would come, given all the other stuff going on; the preliminary numbers had said five.

One person showed.

Flashback: At OAME 2012, I attended a session run by Troy Vasiga on linking Computer Science to Mathematics. I was his only audience member. He gave a great talk. I still remember it. I still have his business card in my wallet. I keep it partly as a reminder of his enthusiasm, but I think more as a reminder that, so long as there's someone out there who's listening, the effort you put in is worthwhile.

Erin Scott (@edmsosu97), thank you for being my one person this time.

Added props to the person who asked me how the session went later while at karaoke; I'm so sorry I forget who it was. The session itself was different than imagined but with good discussion; Erin already has some of her Grade 8 students creating poems or songs. (Watch out for the Haikus that begin 'Math Math Math Math Math'.) I also learned that in Ohio, they get five 'snow days' (an ideal time for a math song, by the way) and any on top of that have to be made up. So we talked some pedagogy too.

Ended up wrapping up a bit late at 4:15pm; then I put the AV stuff away and came back to the hotel. Went to my room. Put some music on, then lay back to think for a bit. Then went on Twitter. Debated doing paper folding in the lobby. But I get too meticulous with that, plus I am an introvert, and a writer... so I spent a little over an hour writing up the majority of the early stuff for this post instead.


Went out to karaoke, got there right around 8pm. When no one immediately went up after the DJ made the call, I figured what the hell. Did a reprise of "Mean" for the crowd of > 1, about 8:15. I also sung Avril Lavigne about an hour later (did those lyrics straight, despite the temptation), and then about 11pm, Pink's "So What". Which I segued into my parody version "Now What", partly because rewriting a song makes new lyrics stick more than old ones.

While I mostly spent time quietly in the corner, it's because crowds are a problem for me. I did get up and flail about later when "Shout" came on, once the group had thinned a bit. David Wees' (@davidwees) singing stood out for me, probably due to one of them being Barenaked Ladies. Oh, and just in case it comes up later, I'm not the Greg who sang "Short People" to Hedge.

I had another brief chat with Edmund Harriss (@Gelada) before I left just after 11:15pm. Back to the hotel 20 minutes later or so. Then this blog. Now, wow, 1am, tired. Don't expect me to nail everyone's name tomorrow by the way, the presence of the nametags and scribbled reminders is what got me through.

New business cards reciprocated:
Glenn Waddell Jr; Tina Cardone; Eli Luberoff


  1. Great reflection, Greg. I'm sorry your session wasn't well attended. It was one of the ones I was interested in, but it was scheduled back to back with three other sessions I wanted to attend as well, which is normally a problem with small conferences like this. The session I was in at the same time-slot had 3 people in it, but it was valuable to me, so I'm sure that Erin got a lot out of it.

    I wanted to know how you were using music. Have you published anything describing your presentation itself?

    1. Thanks! Not a big deal about the session, since it wasn't empty; it was more difficult blogging about it, given my personal (flashback) history and me not wanting to sound like I'm whining or anything.

      The gist of the presentation is still up on the wiki. I suppose I could upload the powerpoint itself, though it's mostly bullet points. The intro vid I will eventually take down too, it's quite large.

  2. Thanks for the write-up. I couldn't afford to get there, and am creeping the conference on Twitter and through blogs like yours. Glad to have discovered a fellow Canadian who did make it, and is publishing great updates about it.

    1. You are very welcome - I was noticing people out there wondering, thought I'd offer something up "during" to be inclusive, since I could. And thanks for saying it's great... I'm fearing the quality will go down as I continue to do this instead of sleeping!

  3. Hi--it's been a while since I'd checked back into your blog. The categorizing works well! Sorry you didn't get a big audience.

    Suggestion--you could put the twitter handle as a link to the name. I kept on reading the parenthesis and getting confused. That's because a) I'm an idiot and b) I use parenthesis for actual parenthetical comments!).

    So like this <a href="</a>Greg Taylor</a>

    " I am an introvert, and a writer... "

    Totally don't relate to that at all. Nope.

    1. Hi again, thanks for the thought! As to audience, I've accepted that I'm a niche market.

      I get what you're saying about the handle, I thought of it, and might have done it -- if it didn't involve doing it something like 40 times. At 1am. Will keep it in mind for next time.

      Trouble with us introverts is when we hide in our rooms, we're hard to count!

  4. Wow - what an amazing archive of today! You are amazing for typing this out. I wished I had the energy to do it yesterday!

    I also would love to read anything you have on your sesh! I too have attended a session with not many people but those were some of the best because we got to have time to just chat/talk more informally.

    1. Thanks. I mostly figured the closer to the event, the more I could remember, and the less likely I'd put it off forever. I draw my energy from quiet reflection, like most introverts I guess?

      The page works regarding my session for now; I'll be making an official post about my 'My Favourite' later next week and will probably make a Musical addendum at that point.

  5. I use music and math songs in the classroom frequently and would also love to hear your talk. I would love it you would present for Global Math one Tuesday night!

    1. ...

      Insert stunned silence, mainly for two reasons: 1) I feel like Global Math is for much cooler stuff, and 2) Even accepting this is cool, I've learned there are much more amazing people out there who could present it. Such as perhaps yourself, if you're using songs in the classroom frequently too? Or Sweeney? I mean, I will if enough people are game, but it might be the lowest attended Global Math ever.