CMC South 2014 Recap: The Sessions

Last weekend turned out to be one of my favorite weekends of my teaching career. I haven’t exactly been at this for decades, but 11 years is no short span either. The weekend was that enjoyable, at least for me. If I’m going to do any justice to the recap, I’ll need to split it into two parts. So much of what was wonderful about last weekend was the sessions, and so much of what was wonderful about last weekend had nothing to do with the sessions. I suppose that means I have the breakdown for my recap:

Part 1: The Sessions

Part 2: Everything Else

Onward to the sessions-focused recap!

Session 1

La Cucina Matematica: Free Tools for your Math Kitchen
(Matt Vaudrey, John Stevens • Friday, 8:30 am)

After cramming down some continental breakfast (thanks, Comfort Inn!) and making the trek from our hotel to the Hard Rock Hotel’s basement, I sat down for a mathematical treat: John Stevens and Matt Vaudrey’s 90-minute version of La Cucina Matematica. They battled through some technical difficulties at the start and soon found their rhythm, taking turns running the show, moving the participants through a series of mathematical appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts. If you don’t follow their blogs (here and here) you’re missing out.

My highlight from John’s segments was seeing how he facilitated a couple of Would You Rather Math discussions. I’ve been a fan of these since last winter (even contributing a prompt or two myself), but it was a delight to see John in action, leading teachers through a couple of mini-discussions, regularly zooming out to discuss the moves he was making and the opportunities inherent in the format so we might take these tools back into our own classrooms.

My highlight from Matt’s segments? Easy: Mullets. But maybe not in the sense that you’re thinking. I was already familiar with his mullet ratio work (as well as its popularity with teachers and students), so the highlight for me didn’t occur until about 20 minutes into the mullet conversation. It was then, near the end of this segment, that I realized how much work Matt has put into weaving this ridiculously-engaging context into a rich sequence of mathematical topics. I used to think of the mullet ratio lesson as a great one or two day task. Now it looks more like a swiss army knife scenario, useful in developing maybe a dozen key ideas in middle school mathematics. Well done.

Session 2

Reasoning, Discovering, and Critiquing with Networked Tasks
(Eli Luberoff • Friday, 10:00 am)

Eli Luberoff is a legend. (He’s like the Madison Bumgarner of ed tech startups. Minus the snot rockets. I think.) And Desmos is simply a math teacher’s dream. 90 minutes sitting in a room listening to Eli talk about Desmos turns out to be pretty fantastic as well. Highlights from the session? Three come to mind:

  • Regressions. Yep, it’s live. In fact, Eli and Team Desmos launched it around 4 pm the day before the conference began. Someone give that man a raise!
  • Desmos Activities. I’ve tinkered with all of these in the past, including briefly highlighting them in various workshops and conference sessions, but I’ve only tried one with my own students. Seeing a whole “class” in action at once was magical, and inspired me to bring more of these into my classroom in the near future.
  • Because I had been tinkering with the regressions preview throughout the week as I prepped for my own CMC South sessions (one of which featured Desmos), Eli dropped my name during his session. Something along the lines of, “He’s on there practically 24 hours a day!” All I could think was, “He said my name! He said my name! Okay, breathe… Calm down… But he said my name!”

Sessions 3-5

Desmos: Infinite Graphing Power on Every Device
(Me • Friday, 1:30 pm)

Turning Students Into Posers + Solvers
(Me • Friday, 3:30 pm)

Desmos: Infinite Graphing Power on Every Device
(Me • Saturday, 8:30 am)

I was pretty excited for these sessions, my first conference presentations since joining the MTBoS. I plan on writing more detailed recaps in the near future. For now I’ll just say that I had a blast, and feedback was super positive.

Session 6

Offering a Thought-Provoking Experience Through Math
(Edward Burger • Saturday, 10:30 am)

I packed up from my last session, still riding high after showing off Desmos to a small-but-packed-room of teachers. I wasn’t quite sure what to attend next (I confess to not doing much homework in regards to which sessions to attend, as most of my time was spent in last-minute slide deck prep). After narrowing it down to two options, I saw Fawn Nguyen on her way to one of my two choices: Edward Burger’s session on “Offering a Thought-Provoking Experience Through Math.” I may have been one of only a few people in the room who hadn’t heard of Dr. Burger before, but after about 15 minutes I realized I was in for a treat. I gave the whole live-tweeting a session thing a try, so rather than recount the highlights anew, I’ll just drop a few of my favorite quotations:

One from Matt Vaudrey:

And the clear fan favorite, based on the fact that this received more retweets and favorites than anything I’ve ever posted before:

Session 7

Transformulas: Simplifying Relationships with Hi & Lo Tech
(Jedediah Butler • Saturday, 1:15 pm)

I met Jedediah Butler for the first time in Vaudrey and Stevens’ La Cucina session the day before. He was tinkering with something in Desmos, and I was blown away. (And a little nervous, since I was supposed to be wowing people with my Desmos chops later that day.) When I heard that Jed was giving a session on Geogebra—one of my confessed math/tech weak spots, despite my interest and affection—I knew I couldn’t skip it.

Jed didn’t disappoint. In fact, I was even more impressed with the sheer quantity (and the consistently excellent quality) of the Geogebra applets he’s created. It’s really a remarkable collection. Go check it out. Plus, it was loads of fun to sit in on a session of a MTBoS colleague who made the jump from “semi-make-believe Internet friend” to “hey, we’ve actually met in the flesh friend” just 24 hours earlier.

Session 8

Teaching Math Using Real-World Topics
(Karim Ani • Saturday, 3:15 pm)

What’s the best way to wrap up an amazing conference? With an amazing last session. And Karim Ani (founder of Mathalicious) certainly didn’t disappoint (even with all the hype being pumped out by the Mathalicious Twitter account). I was blown away by the presentation as a whole, and in particular:

The thought I couldn’t shake toward the end of the session, and one that captures what I believe to be the strongest feature of not only Karim’s session but also the lessons Mathalicious keeps churning out, is that a day (or better yet, a week) as a fly on the wall in the Mathalicious offices could literally change a math teacher’s life. If there’s ever a summer internship program, I’ll be the first one to camp out on the office doorstep in the hopes that they’ll let one more aspiring mathematical conversation-starter in the room. After listening to Karim for 90 minutes, I was hungry for more. And not only for well-designed lessons with slick visuals and applets and thoughtfully-crafted teacher and student resources… It’s the whole Mathalicious way of thinking through lesson design and student engagement that has me most excited. I hope to stoke that excitement spark into a full-fledged flame in the near future.

Comments 2

  1. Thanks, Matt. I sent Dan a note on Twitter informing him of my Math Recap novice status (never submitted anything before) and wondering aloud (er, in writing?) whether something I wrote here might be useful there.

    Cross posts aside, I can’t wait for CMC South 2015! (And I’m hopeful we’ll cross paths sometime before then.)

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