Monday, July 25, 2016

Mathematics & Technology - Perfect together in La Crosse, WI

I was in La Crosse, WI earlier this month to give a keynote talk at the University of Wisconsin Teaching Mathematics with Technology conference. The night before a group of the conference attendees were treated to a cruise on the the La Crosse Queen which is a replica of the old riverboats which used to ply the Mississippi River in the 1800s. Our host was Josh Hertel (the tall guy in the photo) who organized the conference.

A unique feature of the conference was that all the attendees including the speakers were in the same room and got to see all the presentations. It made for a more intimate experience.  Unlike most conferences my keynote was the last scheduled talk so I had the full flavor of the conference before I spoke.

I focused on the 3 big technological ideas that are driving math education today.
  1. Dynamic Math Software
  2. Web 2.0/Social Media
  3. Technology-based learning Communities
When these 3 dynamic forces come together a synergy of innovative curriculum development follows (think Dan Meyer) which engages students in activities that are highly motivational as well as mathematically rich.

I shared several activities that did just that.
  • The Famous Jinx Puzzle
  • Fermat's Last Theorem... Debunked? (By Homer Simpson no less.)
  • Average Traveler Activity
  • The Weird Number Video and the Irrational Invasion
  • The Librarian who Measured the Earth 220 BC
  • The Green Globs Challenge
For more details see

Handouts of other presenters are available at:

Here are some additional ideas shared by David Wees that I should have referenced in my talk.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Response to Questions about Tech Use at NCTM Conferences - A Collective Answer

Response to David Barnes' (Associate Executive Director for Research, Learning, and Development at NCTM) question about technology use at NCTM conferences.

David's question: "So the question for you and your crew is what makes a quality technology session? What does it need to do, include, address, etc?"
  • Tech sessions should focus on larger themes that transcend tech brands or even technology itself. A quality technology session will integrate the tools with the content, demonstrating how the power of visualization enables students to generalize properties and consequently understand concepts more quickly and effectively. Technology is a means, not an end.  It needs to be pedagogically sound.
  • As a participant, I want to know what the big pedagogical ideas before the presenter shows me how a particular tool can realize them.

  • Sessions should generate ideas that make math more interesting to my students and will help me become a better teacher. I will use any tool at my disposal to make the subject more palatable (and fun) for my students, pique their interest, and make the math come alive. 
  • Examples of how to interpret the output of technology to demonstrate understanding and computational fluency should be included. After all, the goal of teaching with technology is to help students learn what tool is appropriate to make mathematics meaningful no matter whether it is a calculator, computer, or pencil.

  • Learning the tools is also very important. The vendors can contribute during their exhibitor sessions and do demonstrations at their booth in the exhibit area. Participants should have the opportunity to USE the technology during the session.
  • An area in the exhibit hall should be devoted to helping teachers get hands-on experience with various effective software programs and apps. That’s something the Math Forum could do in their booth.
  • Encourage the use of social media that helps promote the communication standard both with students and teachers through the use of Twitter and blogging. Members of the MathTwitterBlogosphere could help with recruiting & supporting new members at their booth.
Thanks to Ray Klein, David Wees, Henri Picciotto, Tom Beatini and Dan Meyer for their comments.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Encouraging Effective Use of Technology at the NCTM Conferences

I’ve been counting technology sessions at NCTM annual meetings now for as long as I can remember. (Actually the first listing I made was in 1989 when CLIME was still the Council for Logo in Math Education.) It was done in the spirit of CLIME being a lobbying group for the effective use of technology in math education. Our group felt that NCTM was not doing enough to promote effective tech use at their annual meetings. In the last couple of years I’ve been getting feedback that maybe counting tech sessions is no longer necessary since technology use is now “seamless” at the conferences. Although it's true that Powerpoint is the dominate technology use (as a delivery system) at most sessions, it doesn’t say much about the quality of the tech use in classrooms which is what I tried to count.

So a question arose in an informal conversation that I had with David Barnes, Associate Executive Director for Research, Learning, and Development at NCTM, where we were seeking common ground. David describes the question in an email:

I’ve been thinking about our conversation and how we can work together to move this forward.  First I think that while some sessions need to put technology out there in front, what we should be working towards is sessions where it is seamlessly integrated as well. 

From the program side the challenge with the tech in front sessions, at times, is when does this become a commercial for a product and then be relegated to the exhibitor sessions? 

So the question for you and your crew is what makes a quality technology session? What does it need to do, include, address, etc?  And what are some things that it should not do?  What types of tech session would you be okay with saying that doesn’t really fit within the program?

I’ve not talked to Sarah (Bush) about this, but trying to see if we can do some thinking and collective development work to support the community and our collective efforts.

My reply:

Yes, I agree. We should be working towards sessions where the technology is seamlessly integrated. Last night I watched on video Dan Meyer’s presentation that he gave at the conference. He made a very interesting comment that speaks to this issue.

“This (my session) is not a technology session. I don’t consider myself a technologist, though I do work for a technology company. But I love technology to the extent it energizes pedagogies that I love. Here’s the pedagogy I love and the technology (Powerpoint) I need to do it.” 

Dan used Powerpoint very creatively to demonstrate how you can take a typical textbook problem and turn it into one that is pedagogical sound and engaging to students. Maybe this kind of session needs a special category in the program description. I also remember a session that Robert Kaplinsky did in Boston last year where he posed a problem and spent the hour developing it using technology very effectively. Maybe NCTM can archive and encourage such sessions where the focus is on lessons, activities, etc. that demonstrate this seamless integration and quality of presentation.

I think there were very few sessions outside of the exhibitor sessions where the focus was on a particular piece of software. Neil Cooperman had a session titled “Challenging Precalculus Alternative Assessments Using the Free Online Desmos Calculator” which was misleading to attendees who thought the session would be more about Desmos than it was. So there is a need for software sharing by teachers, but in the context of an interesting lesson.

Here is David's question again:

So the question for you and your crew is what makes a quality technology session?  What does it need to do, include, address, etc?  And what are some things that it should not do?  What types of tech session would you be okay with saying that doesn’t really fit within the program?

One takeaway from my conversation with David was that what CLIME ought/might do is to help NCTM choose those sessions that use technology seamlessly in ways that illuminate one or more of the NCTM principles.

I’m interested in your take. Please let me know by posting below.

Monday, April 25, 2016

San Antonio NCTM 2017 Conference - Speakers Wanted

I sent an email to Sarah Bush, the program chair of next year's NCTM conference in San Antonio, and here was her reply.

Thank you so much for your email! I've read through the blog post and really appreciate you sharing it with us. The 2017 committee is in alignment with many of your ideas! I also thought it would be good to share with you a little about what the 2017 committee is doing related to technology at the 2017 conference.
  • Five of my program committee members are very active in the MTBoS, and others are very avid users and promoters of mathematics educational technology. They are strongly encouraging more younger/newer NCTM members to submit proposals for review, many of which relate to technology. Technology is at the forefront of our discussions and I am so grateful for all of the 2017 committee members! 
  • Our focus strands have been very thoughtfully crafted and most align directly to the ideas in Principles to Actions. One of our strands focuses specifically on technology. Here is a description:
Sessions will focus on the effective use of technology in teaching mathematics. Within these sessions, presenters will address the purposeful implementation of technology, using technology to help students communicate their mathematical thinking, or using technology to visualize and understand mathematical ideas. When possible, sessions should address potential obstacles in order to prepare teachers to successfully resolve situations when technology implementation doesn’t go as planned.
  • We have organized into subcommittees which are working hard to create a more community feel to the conference (Conference Theme: Creating Communities and Cultivating Change). Much of this involves technology innovations and integration. I applaud the innovations tested by the 2016 committee, and I think in 2017 we will be able to push these efforts further, and have it more visible in the program book.
Please keep encouraging your members to submit speaker proposals! As I'm sure you know, they are due May 1. The more technology-related proposals we receive, the more we will likely accept. All proposals are triple blind-reviewed.

Thank you again and feel free to reach out anytime! I look forward to meeting you in 2017.

Sarah Bush

Sarah B. Bush, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Mathematics Education
Assistant Dean for Assessment and Accreditation
Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education
Bellarmine University
2001 Newburg Rd.
Louisville, KY 40205
Twitter: @sarahbbush

Sunday, April 17, 2016

CLIME Meeting in San Francisco - A Summary


by David Wees
CLIME (The Council for Technology in Math Education) is an affiliate of NCTM with the mission to Empower math communities to improve the teaching and learning of math through the use of dynamic tools in a Web 2.0 world.
Last night members of CLIME and other interested people attended a meeting of CLIME to discuss the its future.
In order to understand the role of CLIME in promoting the use of technology in math education, one has to understand a bit of the history, so Ihor Charischak (the long-time President of CLIME) started us off with a brief recap.
We then discussed some ideas for how we could better support the meaningful and productive use of technology through the NCTM annual meeting. Note that for this meeting our focus was on improving the NCTM conferences rather than all of the other ways we can support technology use. We brainstormed the following list of ideas.
1. We could find people doing interesting work with technology and invite them to submit proposals on that use.
2. We could set up an area in the exhibit hall and run mini-technology based sessions where educators could come to learn about how to use dynamic geometry software, learn how to get started with blogging, how to set up a Twitter account, etc… One benefit of this arrangement is that we could offer to help people install software (or find and bookmark websites) so that people who wanted to run workshops on the same technology later would be more likely to have a group of attendees with the software already ready to go.
3. We could suggest the labeling of sessions on technology as beginner versus advanced so that people who need help installing software, finding the menus in that software, and getting started with their initial exploration of the technology can have support and that people who are already experts in the use of technology can share ideas back and forth.
4. We offered that the program NCTM has started where presenters add additional information about their sessions and invite participants to comment on and ask questions about sessions could be extended. This way the 50 words or so presenters have to describe their work could be increased without dramatically changing the experience of conference organizers (who have to read all of those descriptions and make decisions about who gets to present at the conference).
5. We could continue to review the existing program after it is published and offer feedback to the NCTM program organizers to use with the next conference.
6. We could run our own technology in math education conference. We noted the importance of a face to face conference for encouraging networking between math educators but we still considered a hybrid or entirely online conference as well.
7. We wondered about ways we could encourage the younger generation of math teachers to participate in NCTM’s conference.
8. We could form a technology study group with the aim of cataloging and reviewing different technologies in use in math education and then potentially presenting our findings at an NCTM conference.
If you were tasked with promoting the meaningful use of technology in math education through a conference experience, what else would you do?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

CLIME Meeting in San Francisco: The Future of CLIME

Description: CLIME, an affiliate of NCTM, has been a catalyst for the effective use of technology in math education for almost 30 years. In that time NCTM has come a long way in its support of technology. However there are some discouraging signs that might mean that CLIME needs to take the next step to see a truly seamless, integral use of technology that will enable blogging tools and twitter to play a larger role in our evolving classrooms. At the upcoming conference there is only one session (out of 689) that directly raises this issue. At our meeting we will discuss this and other issues that forward a new vision for CLIME.
Moderator: Ihor Charischak
Location: Nob Hill D (Marriott) 
Thursday, April 14, 2016 

Please come. Important decisions will be made about the future of CLIME’s role as an affiliate lobbying group of NCTM.

Let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing you there. 


Best wishes,

Ihor Charischak
Council for Technology in Math Education
Hyde Park, NY

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

CLIME Conference Preview: NCTM in San Francisco (April, 2016)

Technology sessions - San Francisco NCTM Conference
Ever since I read Dan Meyer’s blog titled “NCTM Gets it” my optimism about the future of NCTM annual conferences returned. In his blog Dan highlights NCTM’s interest in recruiting young teachers into their fold by supporting the MTBoS (mathblogosphere) initiative. For the first time an NCTM president, Diane Briars, engaged in what the Twitter-types refer to as a “tweetup.” Also at the regional conference in Nashville the keynote presentation was “Game Changers: Rethinking the Way We Teach Math from the Math Twitter Blogosphere”  This is a heady, Bernie Sanders-like stuff. (Read about my optimism re NCTM here.) So I was looking forward to the San Francisco program committee coming up with more sessions introducing young teachers to the blogging/tweeting phenomenon. But alas, such is not the case. Other than the ShadowCon after-hours “conference within a conference” organized by Dan Meyer, Mike Flynn and Zachary Champagne there’s no mention of the mathtwitterblogosphere and only one reference to blogging and twitter! Fortunately, there will be a presence in the Exhibit Hall where the leaders of the MTBoS movement will have a booth encouraging new teachers to join. So a grassroots, disruptive movement will continue despite the lack of sessions about it. Annie Fetter of the Math Forum connected me to a useful listing of sessions given by MTBoS members. (Tyler Auer is the author.)

Here’s some data and analysis for the upcoming annual meeting:
  • There are 689 numbered sessions down from last year’s 819. (This  total includes 94 exhibitor sessions.)
  • Of the 94 exhibitor sessions 32 focused on technological applications. 
  • There are 118 technology sessions which is 17%. A low total in our opinion. (The highpoint was the Philadelphia conference in 2012 where there were 38% tech sessions.)
  • If you go to the NCTM listing of topics and click on technology you will find only 60 sessions
  • There were also 13 STEM sessions which we did not include in our tech count.
List of technology keywords noted in session descriptions along with frequencies.

There are collectively 36 sessions that focus on software applications. You will find the specifics for these keywords on this list. Just search for the keyword(s) you are interested in.
CLIME's annual Meeting in San Francisco

The Future of CLIME
Moderator: Ihor Charischak
Location: Marriott Hotel - Nob Hill C
Date/Time: Thursday, April 14th, 6:00pm-7:00pm
Please come if you can. Important decisions will be made about the future of CLIME's role as an affiliate group of NCTM.
On a personal note, I want to congratulate Ed Dickey on receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Mathematics Education Trust. Ed, a true champion of supporting the effective use of technology in math education, was my program chair on the NCTM program committee in San Francisco in 1999.

More to come in the next CLIME SF preview.


CLIME NCTM Boston 2015 Preview
CLIME NCTM New Orleans 2014 Preview
CLIME NCTM Denver 2013 Preview
CLIME NCTM Philadelphia 2012 Preview