Friday, September 2, 2011

Yesterday I found out that I won a lottery that will cost me money

Theme: Technology!
NCTM accepted my proposal to speak at the NCTM annual meeting in Philadelphia next April. That's the good news. The down side is that getting there, hotel and registration ($241 for speakers) will set me back some. But the important thing for me is that I won. I’ve been submitting proposals annually since 2004 after Johnny Lott - then president of NCTM - informed me that affiliate groups were no longer going to get automatic invites to present at annual meetings. I did put up an argument about that since I disagreed with the decision to make it a completely level playing field since I thought affiliate groups deserved a perk for all the hard work they do in promoting NCTM interests. One of the NCTM board members at the time told me that even the president of NCTM has to submit a proposal. (Of course, that was a bit disingenuous since they do invite people to give presentations.)  At first glance that may seem to be a good idea, but after many years of observing presenters especially in the days pre-2007 when there were computer workshops I’ve been disappointed with what I’ve seen. I’ve brought up this issue many times with board members, presidents, etc. and they all had roughly the same response:  “That’s just your opinion. From our experience the sessions have been well received.” I can’t argue with that. But since my bias leans heavily in the direction of meeting the needs of 21st century learners through the use of technology, I’m almost always disappointed with what NCTM provides at the annual meetings technology-wise (as you might have guessed if you’ve been reading my blogs on a regular basis.)
It’s not always been this way. Back in the mid 90s when the Internet was just warming up NCTM had technology strands and even technology "conferences within a conference” (CWaCs) organized by the Math Forum in 1998 & 1999 which included the trucking in of computers from local schools so that there would be computer labs available at the conference. In 1996 Daryl Sternom a member of the local arrangements committee at the annual meeting in San Diego brought in a trailer carrying computers with Internet access and parked it near the convention center. (Read his report and watch short video below taken in 2010 as reminisces about that event.)
Those were heady times when an individual or group had some freedom to explore areas of interest. That's much more difficult to do today since the conference is a such a tightly woven enterprise. (I tried to do something this year. See the email I sent to this year's program chair. It was ignored.) But with the advent of Web 2.0 and its potential to help teachers and students learn math in dynamic new ways, it may be a good time to think creatively and shake things up a bit. Since doing a CWaC focusing on technology is not possible any more within the context of the conference - the cost factor is considered prohibitive by every member of NCTM's inner circle that I've ever talked to - CLIME would like to organize an independent event either before of during the annual conference next year that would highlight the power of Web 2.0 to change the ways students and teachers learn and teach mathematics.

A couple of years ago Gary Stager – a long time friend of CLIME’s initiatives (see description of his 2002 talk at a CLIME session) did a marvelous pre-Educon 2009 event  “Constructing Modern Math & Science Knowledge” event in Philly which I participated in.  I’ve been trying to convince him to hold a math themed one next April that could be held the day before the annual NCTM meeting. But if that doesn’t work out, I would like CLIME to do an online event that would model the power of cloud-based technology in math education. Please let me know if you are interested in helping to plan such an event. It would be great to have it be an onsite event, but an online version would be also be useful. Let me know if you are interested in helping with and/or supporting such an event. (Send Email)

From the blogs
Karim Kai Ani of writes about his frustration with being wait listed for the conference in his latest blog NCTM 2012: We Need Your Help! He asks for your help in getting him on the program. Unfortunately, the conference planners still devote a huge block of conference time to what I call “Desert Island Math*” which still plays a large role in what’s on the conference agenda so there is little time devoted to more promising talks that speak to the issues of what teachers need to know and do in this Web based world.

Also, if you are presenting on a technology theme at the NCTM meeting please let me know. Maybe together we can send a strong message to the NCTM decision makers than technology should no longer be a conference frill but something that is part of the infrastructure of NCTM conferences. (For example, Internet access throughout the conference.)
Other related CLIME blog entries
  • At the conference we can get by with a little help from our friends - link
  • Karim Kai Ani - Math 2.0 Live! Elluminate session - link
  • Board's response (2008) to the technology resolution is in... and it ain't pretty - link
*Math that can be done on a desert island (no batteries or electricity necessary or allowed.)


  1. I just heard about Gary Stager's new workshop offerings for 2011-2012 new workshop offerings for 2011-2012. This one in particular caught my eye:
    Electrifying Children’s Mathematics
    There may be no greater gap between a discipline and the teaching done in its name than when the beauty, power and mystery of mathematics becomes math instruction. One can only begin to address the systemic challenges of math education by understanding the nature of mathematics. Nearly 100 years of efforts to increase achievement with unchanged curricular content continues to fail spectacularly; yet, we do not change course. This workshops moves beyond the goal of making math instruction engaging to providing educators with authentic mathematical thinking experiences. Such experiences acknowledge the role computers play in mathematics and society’s increasing demand for computational thinking. Project-based approaches with mathematics at the center of the activity will be explored. Traditional concepts such as numeracy, geometry, probability and graphing will be investigated in addition to exciting new branches of mathematics rarely found in the primary grades.
    This workshop is designed for teachers of grades 3-8. It may also be offered as an ongoing course with a greater emphasis on curriculum development and action research.

  2. I will presenting at NCTM in April as well (woo hoo! we both won the lottery!) on what I hope will not be construed as "Desert Island Mathematics". It's a presentation titled "The Intersection of Math, Music, and Technology". I would be very excited to meet with you and anyone else interested in trying new things out in math education! Perhaps when the program guide comes out for the national meeting, it might be helpful to identify presentations that truly will reflect new approaches or new ideas using technology.

  3. Congratulations, Ihor. Perhaps they can be encouraged to create a strand on bringing math education into the 21st century!! Unless & until the leadership is willing to expand their own vision of what's important for math educators to share and learn about, participants will not be exposed to new ideas and approaches that can be truly transformative of teaching and learning.

  4. Reply to gfrbixt: I look forward to meeting you in philly! I just discovered your blog. I read your Tufte post.It was great. I'm a fan of his.
    CLIME has been identifying the technology sessions at the annual NCTM conferences for years. I usually post all them - on average about 15% of the total presentations and I do highlight the ones that are "pushing the envelop." Here's my list for last April's Indy meeting. Will do it again for philly. Your thoughts about it would be very helpful. Thanks.