For most, late November and early December marks the beginning of the holiday season and excitement sets in in anticipation of all the festivities and events. But for me, it marks anticipation and excitement about an important event that I’ve been a part of for over twenty years – the Missouri Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Fall Conference.
This past week I had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting once again and found myself looking forward to it as much this year as I did the very first year I attended. So, what is it that keeps me going back each year?
First of all, for me as well as many others, it’s like a “homecoming” or “reunion”. It brings together many mathematics educators that I’ve met and worked with on various projects throughout the state since the early 90s that I may only now see once a year at this conference. A small group of them have become close personal friends, so whenever we reunite, it’s about spending time together, sharing knowledge and expertise, learning together, and most definitely laughing together- yes, math teachers can laugh and most often at themselves.
But another exciting thing was happening at this particular meeting. LearnBop would have its first ever exhibitor’s booth at a conference in Missouri and some of our very own authors would be manning the booth and sharing about the great program they helped develop!
I arrived at the conference on Thursday afternoon to find that Mother Nature had played havoc with the weather across the southern half of the state so several presenters were not going to be able to make the annual trek to the conference. I had my scheduled presentation ready and told the frantic Program Chair I’d be happy to fill in for one or more cancelled sessions if needed – after all, I had to do was pull them up on my computer and refer the attendees to our website to download the PDF for the presentations so I didn’t have to worry about handouts for any filler sessions. So before the day ended I was set to do one of the fill-ins.
I got to the LearnBop booth early on Friday morning when the conference kicked off to make sure the authors manning the booth were set to go. The last thing they needed was me checking on them as they had it all under control and continued to have it under control throughout the remainder of the conference talking with many attendees and signing several up for the free trial we were offering.
Knowing that, I headed out to attend a session when I was met once again by the Program Chair, who, you guessed it, had another cancellation and needed someone to fill the spot. As you might expect, I willingly offered to fill that slot too.
After I’d quickly prepared for my second fill-in presentation (third presentation for the conference and day), I knew I had time to attend only one session before my presentations began. My choice was an excellent session presented by Marilyn Cannon entitled, “Leading the Learning: Creating a Culture of Collaboration”. She referenced some great resources, including “Mathematics Coaching: Resources and Tools for Coaches and Leaders, K – 12” authored by Bay-Williams., Kobett, and Wray. In addition, she posed some problems and questions that were both thought-provoking and insightful.
As is always the case, in the three sessions I presented on Friday (on RTI, Cultivating a Growth Mindset, and Quality Questioning to Elicit Mathematical Thinking) I had opportunities to renew acquaintances, but more importantly, I had opportunities to make new connections and learn from our discussions about equalizing learning opportunities for all students, embracing a growth mindset, and asking questions and providing responses that elicit mathematical thinking. The day concluded on Friday with a reception to recognize award winning mathematics teachers and celebrate their accomplishments.
Saturday morning dawned bright and early with our breakfast session and we were in for a treat!!! Former NCTM President and friend of mine, Cathy Seeley, delivered the keynote talk, "Mathematical Habits of Mind:Creating Doers of Mathematics."* She noted how the mathematical practices are not discrete, but how they overlap each other. She addressed each practice standard, but in a different order than you’d find them in the standards documents, beginning with 1, 7, 5, 2, and 8 because of their interconnectedness then 4, 3, and 6 last because of their relevance in applying and solving problems on standardized assessments. But in order for students to succeed she said we need to operate from this premise:
“What students need for their future is as much about how they think as it is about what they know, and helping students succeed is as much about how we teach as what we teach.”
In order to do this, it’s inherent that we create doers of mathematics, but this can only be achieved through the mathematical practices.
In wrapping up my thoughts about the conference, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one last thing that really stood out to me this year. There were two young men at the conference, both of whom I had met when they were living in different cities but now both living and working in the same city and school district. But the inspiring thing about them being at a math conference is that they weren’t the usual math educators – teachers, coordinators, coaches, teacher educators, or pre-service teachers that ordinarily attend, they were principals. And they weren’t there to just be seen, they were attending sessions, taking notes, talking to others…learning as much as they could about the teaching and learning of mathematics. So kudos to Kevin and Brad for modeling true instructional leadership!!!
I left the conference both inspired and motivated and already looking forward to next year’s conference!
* Please note: We have obtained Cathy Seeley's permission to post her talk, "Mathematical Habits of Mind: Creating Doers of Mathematics"