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.

The Floor

If you have not done so take a moment before your next session to check out the floor! The building where our sessions are being held is tiled in a particular fashion that I figure most will recognize. The floor I am referring too is the one with the 200-level rooms. If you climb up the steps and look over the railing onto the floor you get a good view of it. Happy pattern finding!

reflections on the conference so far...

Well I have been getting a lot of grief about not posting a blog, so here it is in a stream of consciousness outburst... Ready?

The drive to Wells became most beautiful as I drove along the east side of the lake down Route 90. I felt the excitement bubbling up within my psyche. I was once again going to meet and greet and work with people I hadn't seen for many months. My ear-to-ear smile probably made the people who saw me wonder, "What's he got to be so happy about?"
The picnic on the upper field (near a golf course, I hear ;o) had that typical good feeling we all get when we we're enjoying good food with good people and laughing just because we are together. It's a feeling that occurs in so many communities every summer and it can't be beat.Several of the other posts have mentioned our Keynote on Monday morning, so I won't bore you by repeating everything they wrote. Nor will I bore the reader here with details of the meeting I attended discussing our plans for next Summer's STEM Conference in Oswego... but PLEASE keep your ears and eyes open for information as it comes out because I guarantee, you won't want to miss next Summer's gathering of Science, Tech Ed, Engineering, and Math educators.

The food here is pretty good and we're getting plenty of it, when we want it. The college folk have been great and THANKS go to Frank and his team for the great job! Huzzah!

I've been taking sporadic photos of events happening in and around the conference and you'll see some of them soon on the AMTNYS web site. If I get the chance, maybe even here on the blog. If anyone does not like how they look in the photos I post, well thems the breaks I guess. ;o)

The presenters have gone to a lot of trouble to bring high quality professional development to us and it shows. NOT ONE person I have spoken with has been disappointed. I personally have sat in on and enjoyed presentations by Eric O'Brien, Jim Matthews, Frank Sobierajski, and Maria DiCarlo. I hope those who sat in on my workshop were not disappointed in the content and quality, but it's hard for me to know, being oblivious and all. ;o)

The weather here has turned out to be rain-free which is a nice surprise considering the forcast we were expecting. The banquet is tonight and afterwards the telescope will go back out for anyone interested in being blinded by the full moon, enjoying the moons of Jupiter, or looking at unusual star groupings. (The brightness of the moon washes out many of the dimmer objects in the rich night sky available from this dark Central NY site.)

And hey... don't forget to pick something up at the Scholarship Sales Table. We need your support. And hey again... the ice cream social gathering last night was delicious. And oh, by the way... the Monday game night was a memorable one (if you didn't have too much champaigne) with high the exitement levels exhibited.

I really think the best part of our Summer Conference is the comradery and the laid-back pace that allows us to relax, reflect, and renew our committment to quality math education.


Mathivators is waiting for YOU!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blogs, Wikis and other technical stuff

A small group of us were sitting in Weld Hall (our residence for the conference) on the second floor in what I suppose is called either the common area or the living room. Bob Hazen had his computer out and was talking technology with us. We started, I think, with blogs such as this one. He was explaining how to invite authors - actually I think his becoming an author on this AMTNYS blog is how it all started - how to keep things private, moderate posts and all sort of cool stuff. He showed us many blog sites that are specific to educators and meant to be used with one's students. We learned the difference between a blog and a wiki and a few good sites for each. I have a ridiculous amount of bookmarked pages set as such in barely 20 minutes. In any case, if you do a search you can easily find his website and his blog about blogging...or you can pull him aside and ask. Those that are interested can join me tomorrow at Kate's session on blogging. I am sure we'll get even more information there.

The point of this post though was not merely to tell a story, but to pick up on what someone said while we sat in the living room talking about all of this. Basically, ours was not a session in the program, it was not planned on or expected, yet those of us there got a lot out of our conversation with Bob today. Interactions like these they happen often at events like these. They can be incredibly helpful and meaningful. They can teach us a great deal. Spontaneous teachable moments...and the more one is at such events the more likely they are to pick up some great information, engage is some meaningful conversation, spark some sort of interest.

Wait for Me!

Cross-posted at f(t)!

I can't believe it took me until Tuesday night to post!

I delivered my workshop on Monday morning about blogging for PD. All details here. I was surprised and charmed that the people who decided to attend, with a few exceptions, had very little experience with even reading blogs! We spent the majority of the workshop allowing them to explore what's out there, and setting up Google Reader. I was also surprised that the highest barrier to participating in professional blogs is fear of privacy violation. A fear I totally respect, and want to spend more time discussing at the next session tomorrow morning.

I got to attend a number of fantastic sessions - I got some new ideas for math games (for little kids, but good ones can be extended to older kids), learned about some exciting resources to bring astronomy into a math classroom, and I might have picked up both a knitting and a quilting habit.

Today I took a stimulating trip to Watkins Glen for a leisurely walk down the Gorge Trail (it was gorge-ous), an unexpected dinner at Moosewood, and a failed attempt to hit the Cornell Dairy Barn. As a bonus, we only *almost* ran out of gas on the way home. And there was excellent ice cream when we got back anyway.

Phew! I'm tired.

First time attendee

Today was my first day at the summer AMTNYS, ever! I have only attended the one in the fall once, so it was very interesting to see the difference. The fall AMTNYS is quite overwhelming, while the summer version is exactly as the say, relaxing, refreshing, and renewing. I attended the sequel to the Nspire - Integration in the Classroom, even though I missed the first session on Monday. What a great experience! Chris Monahan did an excellent job keeping his patience with Kate and I, the only two there. Talk about a lot of one-on-one time with the instructor! He showed us what lessons plans look like on the Nspire, how to use them, and then how to creat our own. It was very casual, yet very informative. I went home with a wealth of new ideas, and after practicing some on my own Nspire, a wealth of questions. Chris Monahan so kindly gave us his email information and welcomed any and all questions that we might have.

The registration was very friendly, even though I was a day late, and the vendors were there, but not the overwhelming amount like in the fall. There seems to be a constant supply of food and everyone is so relaxed and able to talk. Not that people weren't willing to help in the fall, but they have much more time to spend with you. It was an all around great experience, and worthe the hour and a half trip each way that I drove. I will make the three hour round trip again tomorrow and can't wait!

Puzzle Night

Puzzle night was fun. I got on the phone with my family sometime in the night and was going on and on about it. I could see the head shaking, she must be crazy stares right through the phone. I ended (after a few hints to do so which I had ignored) with an "I know what I want for Christmas" ... the night was fun, there were a lot of intriguing puzzles, some good chatting and so forth. There was a puzzle I worked at a very long time - wooden pieces fitting into a parallelogram whose sides are metal rods; wooden pieces have holes so after putting them in place there are metal rods that fit into the holes but cannot overlap - felt good to get it.

Now, if you are up for some frustration and the opportunity to be a hero to all ask Frank for the little wooden box. It consists of two pieces which somehow can be taken apart. There are instructions which help not at all and a string of people who have tried and not succeeded yet.

Until later.


Monday began with breakfast at 7am in the main building's dining hall. Frank had said it looked like where the students eat in the Harry Potter movies. I've only seen one & haven't read any (you can throw the books at my head later on) but I agree anyway. There is a rather old clock hanging on the wall. Some believe it is moving but not on the right time; others that it is not moving at all (I think these folks might be right) but it is interesting to look either way.

We then had a keynote address by Tom Chapin. He mixed songs into his lecture...though I felt less like it was a lecture and more like it was a story. His songs were excellent and he took the time to answer questions, play things people requested and interact with the crowd.

I went to three sessions yesterday. Session 1 was about puzzling mathematics. What I most enjoyed about the math in that one was a problem where there is a square piece of wood (we did 10 inches on each side) and you have to cut right triangles our of the corners in order to create a regular octagon. This would be better with a picture...I might try to upload one later. If you don't get to see John Titterton's session do yourself a favor and ask him to sing you one of his math-themed songs.

Session 2 was all about games young thinkers play (also the title of the session). These games were so simple in some cases (meaning there was not a whole lot of set up or pieces one has to go hunting places for and so forth), yet they really hit at some important concepts in elementary school mathematics (I might even say middle school) and the great thing about it was with some adjusting you could use them with older students. I am definitely using some as warm-ups with my pre-service elementary school teachers. Oh and though they were for "young thinkers" us adults got some fun out of them as well. That session was by Mary Altieri and there is another similar one by Mickey Jo later in the week.

The last session given by Alan Alterman (the man who was walking around with the t-shirt that had pi on it and the words "irrational but well rounded" ... we did this problem called the painted cube problem which is a really rich problem. We did other things and got a cd full of problems and such but the painted cube problem was fascinating.

The night ended with puzzles...but I will save that for the next post. If you went to some good sessions why not let the rest of us know? Thanks and until soon.

Monday, Day 2

Morning began with Tom Chapin as the keynote. He had a good message and of course his music is great! He is also very friendly, loved Aurora, and made a point of meeting as many of us as he could.

Sessions were great today! Puzzle night was awesome. Most of us worked on puzzles and some played cards. Scrabble was a competitive game. Texas Instruments sponsored the dessert and beverages. Thank you TI! Later in the evening Bob Hazen went up to the field hockey field to set up his telescope and some of us enjoyed the moon and stars! It was amazing!

Looking forward to tomorrow, half a day of sessions and the afternoon to explore the area!

Monday the First Full Day

Well the first full day of the summer institute has come and gone. From what I can tell everyone has had a great time. Tom Chapin's keynote address in story and song was excellent. He had to study algebra during the summer, with his grandmother while his brothers and friends played. He even learned to like it.

The sessions went well as we avoided a major obstacle as some rooms became off limits to us just before the start of the first session. But with some quick thinking things went off without a hitch.

The guys from STANYS and NYSTEA met with AMTNYS people go try to pull off a STEM conference next summer. That is an up hill climb and a lot of work to pull it off in a year.

The Monday puzzle party was a great success. Mary made squares for each of us, but she neglected to put them together. Five pieces one square--this was the toughest puzzle from 2007--it wasn't much easier this year either. But the most frustrating puzzle of the this year's puzzle night was a wood block which consisted of two pieces but no one was able to take them apart--see picture above.

Many new friendships were made today. And I heard whispers of math talk late into the night. Whoever said math conferences weren't fun and productive, didn't know about the summer institute.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Sunday - Day 1

It has been an exhausting and stimulating day! Great to meet new people and welcome back the regulars. Frank called a dorm meeting at 5:45, we all went! It was very informative. Then off we went to the picnic! Food plentiful and very good. Time flies and we were off to the beach for a bonfire. What a beautiful sunset!

There are 3 people from NYSTEA and 2 people from STANYS here today and tomorrow. It is great to have them here!

It has been a long day. Looking forward to tomorrow, the program looks great!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


The ride up on the train was long but as I slept through half of it and read through the other half it went quite quickly. Krysta, Frank's daughter, kindly picked me up from the station and drove me to the college. MANY, MANY THANKS KRYSTA! At the college I met a number of folks and chatted a bit before our 5:45pm meeting. The meeting was followed by a picnic where we sat opposite a large field of grass and watched the sun starting to set as we ate. The sky turned a remarkable colors as we finished our meal. At dinner I learned what state has the lowest highest point, the highest capital (in terms of elevation) and where the next Summer Institute will (or maybe it is still might) be can bug me or ask around if you're interested in determining the accuracy of your guesses. After that we went down by the lake where there was a nice fire burning. There was chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows for those who were interested and some decent conversation. Tomorrow we're up at 7am for breakfast and the keynote after that. I'll keep you posted. Until soon.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Preparing for the conference

It is the day before I leave for my first ever AMTNYS Summer Math Institute. I am quite looking forward to it. Despite being a member of AMTNYS for a good many years, I have never attended the event. I presently teach a math course for pre-service elementary school teachers. Having taught high school math, I feel a real need to find activities and ideas that are geared toward younger students as I have considerably less experience with that. I downloaded the program and there are many sessions devoted to mathematics at all levels that sound worthwhile. There's also time for some fun planned in like the picnic and puzzle night. Finally, I just downloaded the song "Not on the Test" by Tom Chapin who will be giving a keynote address. It's fantastic. I urge you to check it out as it definitely speaks to what is going on in education and has a nice rhythm to it.

A few bloggers have given thanks to Frank. Let me join in and say the same. The e-mails about our lodging, puzzle night, activities and so forth are getting me quite excited about the event and it is clear from them that Frank is working hard to make sure all is in order. It'll be nice to actually meet you :)

My bags are packed for tomorrow and I am hopeful it will be a great week. I'll keep you all posted on how it goes. Oh and if anyone's interested I packed my tennis racket and am looking forward to a few matches. Any takers?

Until soon.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tom Chapin to Speak at Summer Math Institute

Grammy winning Singer/Songwriter Tom Chapin will kick off the Summer Mathematics Institute on Monday morning August 3, 2009 at 8:30 AM. If you are not familiar with Tom and his work here is a sample:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thank You!

Thank you to Frank, his committee chairs, and speakers who have put a lot of time into creating a wonderful program. I am looking forward to visiting with all of you at the picnic up on the hill and/or during the week. Have a safe trip to Aurora!

Perfect Picnic Place

The pavilion where Sunday's picnic will be held has a spectacular view--Cayuga Lake in the distance.

Four Days to Go

There are just four days until the start of the Summer Math Institute 2009. Program is now set. Speakers are all registered. Picnic is Sunday August 2 at 6:30. Let the fun begin.