It’s quite unsettling flying back to NYC, less than 24 hours after another major world city faced an unimaginably horrific terrorist attack. I’ve found that in the darkness behind the worst acts of humanity is always outmatched by the brilliance of humanity’s acts of compassion. My thoughts, and surely the thoughts of everyone leaving the Minneapolis conference center, are with the people in Paris.
My faith in humanity happens to be at a local maximum after the #NCTMregional in Minneapolis, which hit me with a fire hose of hugs, math, and possibility for 3 days. I feel like I’m still dripping with excitement after spending the time volunteering with the program committee, giving my first ever NCTM talk, and helping out at the MTBoS booth. It seems unlikely that I’ll be able to squeeze all of the cool stuff that happened into a blog post, but it seems like it’d be fun to try. So here goes!
My work on the program committee began a year or so go, and so was one of the longest projects that I ever took part in. Robert Kaplinsky wrote an article that summed up the initial meeting. Following that planning, meeting we did our best to recruit a really solid group of speakers that could provide an interesting array of talks. Surprisingly, I only see talks in snippets, as my role as program committee kept me running from room to room during the sessions. It was slightly frustrating to miss talks that are mere feet away, but it was great to help the event run smoothly.
During the event my role was to monitor every talk happening along one hallway of the center. For each talk I would greet the presenter, thank them for coming, help get them set up, and watch to see if the room would hit capacity. When rooms hit capacity, that meant telling people they couldn’t view it, even if “it’s the only other K-12,” and “the other one I wanted is closed,” and “I can just stand in the back, no one will notice!” Later on I would stop by each session to count their participants. This is where I could sit down to enjoy a little of the session, but then I’d have to come back to each room to ensure they don’t go long, when the next presenter should be setting up (assuming the next presenter actually shows up).
Volunteering as a program committee member let me peer behind the curtain and learn how these conferences function. Planning for these took place many years ago, and by the time the conference started, the NCTM event planners already had the difficult work finished. Signs for all of the talks were organized by room before they left NCTM’s Virginia headquarters. Being so throughly planning meant they were free to quickly respond to MTBoS emergencies, and made it so the program committee could focus solely on the presentation content. It made me think about how many logistical things I should try to relive from the shoulders of my staff and students.
Were I to do it again, I would have tried to see all of the people who I invited to talk. It might have been nice to provide a little personal hello, but with all the running around I didn’t have time. I especially want to thank everybody on my Strand who may not have been able to show up for whatever reason, but was still there in spirit:David Wees, Megan Schmidt, Justin Aion, Bowen Kerins, Rafranz Davis, Christopher Danielson, Justin Lanier, Chris Hunter, and anyone else who I may be temporarily forgetting, thank you all!
Delivering a session
Funny story. So Megan and I are getting ready for our talk. There are already about 6 or so people there while we do some last minute powerpoint-ing. All of a sudden Matt Larson president elect walks in through the back door. He doesn’t sit down, instead he walks right up to us and says “Hi Carl, Hi Megan!” I was thinking “oh my gosh, he knows our names! He thinks we’re special delicate flowers!” (Yes, I know our names were in the program book, the sign outside, and lanyards around our neck, but don’t rain on my pararde). He said he was going to watch but wanted us to know he would be leaving early. Hopefully I didn’t appear visibly shaken when we got started.
The talk went great, but was largely a blur. I know that the participants totally got into our statistics activities, and we had good conversation about the data as well. Here are the slides and the handout that we prepared.
Helping at the MTBoS Booth
I was helping set up the booth when it hit me. The NCTM was changing fast. It was less than a year ago that this booth was just an blog post, but the conference staff was speaking about it as a if it was going to be a fixture. Only a few months ago it was running off of Tina’s phone, and now they provided complimentary Wi-Fi and electricity which costs other vendors hundreds of dollars. It’s a small but clear sign that the NCTM is listening, and that more ideas may be brought to life in the near future. Don’t worry about things getting high-brow too soon. While the booth has corporate sponsorship, it still had the shower curtain from my hotel room serving as a projector screen.
The booth still provided was a super interactive time with activities from @mathonastick in addition to others. Visitors could play with the pattern machine, tiling turtles, and some of Andrew Stadel’s Estimation 180 activities. I wasn’t able to get down there for a whole shift, but I did get to sneak them leftover snacks from the NCTM break room. I could hang out for a little while and chat with whoever, including a teacher whose school has a “Trap Team.” It also got to hangout at the Math Forum booth/NCTM booth and chat with them, and contribute to the giant business card menger sponge.
This trip was exactly what I needed to help me get this fall started and I was lucky to have the chance to help NCTM (Thanks Fred!). Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below…