Sunday, August 9, 2009

Love Summer AMTNYS

The time spent at Summer AMTNYS is always great. It gives us all a chance to see old friends and make new ones. We share ideas and strategies with each other and can relax in beautiful upstate NY. I did leave the classroom, but the teacher in me is still living strong. Frank always does a great job making everyone feel right at home.

I am glad that now as the ETC for Texas Instruments, I have an opportunity to help out such a great organization like AMTNYS. This is a staple of each summer and I look forward to the next one!

Friday, August 7, 2009

My day and a half @ SMI

I know I only went to 1 1/2 days of the math institute but I found every session quite valuable. I am so impressed with the knowledgeable and passionate math educators that I met.

Thank you to all the many people who helped you put on such a great event.



Driving home 3.5 hours gave me some time to reflect on the wonderful time I had at the conference. I am thankful to all who made this "newbie" feel at home and part of the "family". We had great presenters that gave us all the opportunity to ask questions and discuss in and out of sessions. As others have said Eric's presentation at the banquet was energetic and fascinating.

I think it important to say we all go to any conference for a multitude of reasons, but I was pleased to hear from all that the breadth and scope lent itself to all. The break time and free time really gave me an opportunity to get a fuller picture of the other components of teaching that I don't see in my day to day workings. I had unique opportunities to discuss theory and math on a higher level along with strategies and innovations that have changed since I was taught in primary school.

I left with a renewed energy to get back in the trenches and energize my teaching. It is easy to fall into comfortable habits and the summer institute has shown me that I need to be vigilant and keep surrounding myself with people willing to stretch and explore new ideas and practices.

I'm encouraged by the MST conference next year and will be seeking out both math and science colleagues in my area to "talk up" the real possibilities that lie ahead.

Thanks Frank, Mickey Jo and the whole family of AMTNYS for a great week that will mark a turning point in my teaching and my life.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Banquet Time

Wednesday evening the main building dining hall was transformed into our banquet hall. At times the room erupted with laughter (at least it did so every time someone at table two refilled a drink) and throughout it was filled with lively conversation. People ditched the jeans and t-shirts for a bit more elegant attire. The night included a splendid presentation by Eric O'Brien who brought to life what he called structures of numbers showing us some patterns and relationships by multiplying numbers every now and again throwing in some funny story or witty comment thus informing us while entertaining us as well. Thanks Eric. Thanks also to Eric's wife who we learned spent her 20th wedding anniversary here with her husband at the math institute and to their kids who also attended for not keeping Eric all to themselves this weekend thus allowing us to learn all that we did. There were prizes (one of which I won -- woohooo!!!), puzzle books and pencils for all and a bit of sadness on my part as I thought about how this was in some way a marker of the summer institute coming close to an end.

Wednesday Sessions

Today featured a full day of sessions, the banquet and some star/moon gazing in the evening. I started with some breakfast. Those of us here already know that we eat fairly constantly though this is not meant as a critique given the yummy-ness of our food. Anyway, by this time I think that those of us who hadn't attended before are fairly familiar with the group so we talked all through breakfast. A good thing about a conference this size is that you get to know some people and you run into the same folks over and again. So if you go to a great session you are able to see the presenter again and pick up on things or see other attendees again and do the same. I have a good number of people's e-mail addresses now too so that I can follow up with them about things.

The sessions I attended were great. I started with a session by Kate Nowak about blogging which was great. I learned about how I could get all of the blogs I want to follow on one page...that is, when you feel like it you go to google reader (there are others) and all the new posts to the blogs you follow are there for you to read, respond to and so forth. OK, this might not sound like a huge deal to some but imagine the time saved by doing this as opposed to going to each one individually to see what was new at each. We also learned about a site that saves your bookmarks (those webpages you really want to use over and again) onto the web so you can access them from any computer (not just your own). Anyway, it was some good stuff and the recommended teacher blogs had some exciting things in them as well.

I crashed the mini-course about linking ratios, decimals and percents by Ben Lindeman walking in about midway through after my first session. They were hysterical laughing as I came down the hall to the room...something about an elastic band and some knitting needles? By the time I got there we were graphing lines with slopes 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 and so on. Only instead of the x-axis and the y-axis we had the denominator on the horizontal axis and the numerator on the vertical one. Every time point on our 1/2 line when written as a fraction instead of a point was equivalent to 1/2. Is this confusing yet? It's rather clear when one is doing it. We then could find common denominators and so forth. There were other activities all aimed at showing the relationship between ratios, percents and decimals and the neat thing is that none required very expensive or elaborate items to set them up and be able to use them :)

Last session was post is already VERY long, huh? Let me just say that Kim and John presented numerous games reminding us that learning when one is having fun is much easier than when one isn't. The games and activities were simple enough to put together and adaptable to various age groups. We played a bit, laughed a lot (thanks to Sue and Donna mostly for that), and walked away with many very useful activities (at least I did!)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wild Wednesday

What a great day! It was my first full day, and so exhilarating! Fractions, decimals, percents, and math-motivators! What a wealth of information from great presenters. I have learned so many tricks, games, and activities that my students will think I am a completely different teacher when I return. Even presenters that I did not have a chance to see, were so helpful. Frank told us that his presentation was completely on-line, which allowed some of us to go another workshop that we were interested in. And Dana, the texas instruments guy, has got to be the most knowledgable and patient person that I know. I must've bombarded him with a thousand questions, just at this conference, all of which he was able to answer! I was sad that I was not able to stay with the others, as the talk throughout the day about what happens when the conference part ends, and the social life begins, sounded great! Maybe next year. Everyone is so friendly, helpful, and kind. It's amazing how much you can learn in such a small amount of time. I've met so many great people and can't wait for more.


As Wednesday draws to a close a look back...

Eric O'Brien has shown us his passion for number and it's structure as well as his love for his family and his love of teaching His lively presentation was punctuated with humor and wonder. He is an AMTNYS keeper and an asset to all who listen to him and in turn all who listen to them. It's an ever branching tree. Thank you Eric.

The moon is almost full and Bob is taking his telescope back up the hill with a larger following this time to look at the world outside our world.

The sessions today were outstanding as they have been for the entire institute. Jen and Jen did a great job recruiting speakers. Thank you ladies.

We had four past presidents on campus today as well as the current president and president-elect.

The banquet was great thanks to the work of Mickey Jo, Beryl and Ronni. Thank you ladies.

And a special thanks to Sean for compiling the program, watching the campfire, loading software and picking up some of the slack when needed.

I will be sad to see this conference end. The best part of this conference was the laughter. It was everywhere--in sessions, in the halls, on the streets, in the dorm, around the snacks, in the morning, in the evening and in our hearts. There were no sad faces at this conference--ever. I love the sound of laughter, I hope these participants can return to their classrooms and spread the joy. I don't hear enough of it in schools any more, too much testing...not enough song.

I hope everyone has a safe trip home and a safe trip back to 2010 version of the SMI. I can't wait to hear your laughter again.