California Mathematics Council Convention in Palm Springs (Part (√2)^2)

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Last night, myself and my fellow faculty returned to LA from Palm Springs, after spending 2 whirlwind days in Math-Magic Land. The CMC-South brings together math teachers from all over to do what we do best: Mathematics.

I hardly know where to begin. The lecture sessions? The exhibitors hall? Ooh! maybe tips for the tech-savvy traveler in Palm Springs?

In a word, the conference was awesome. In a word, wifi in Palm Springs was awful.

My hotel did not have an ethernet connection, and their wireless was not strong enough to reach our suite (at the far end of the property). I didn’t cry about it, figuring that the Convention center would have wireless. Lamentably, business travelers needed to pay $500 for wireless access. The other hotels (the Hyatt, the Wyndham, and the Hilton) hosting seminars had wifi ranging from non-existent, expensive, or really expensive (T-Mobile? in this day and age?!) Blecch.

On the plus side, this allowed me to better focus on my seminars. Guest speakers ranged from professors at major universities, mathematics researchers, authors, and veteran educators. We had a smorgasbord of choices. For the math teacher/nerd, the decisions were difficult. Eventually, I settled on “Tricks Kids can Do Using the Multiplication Table,” “Euler and Long Division,” “What is Mathematics?: Comparing the Mathematicians Concept of the Subject with that of a Student”, “Lewis Carroll’s Work with Matrices,” and “Engaging the English Language Learner in Algebra: Methodology and Pedagogy.” But by far, the most exciting seminar was “One Laptop per Child and Wikipedia: Using Modern Technologies in the Classroom.”

Lisa Gehman Thorne, a math and computing teacher at West Hollywood Community Day School, was inspired by the One Laptop Per Child project and began to develop an Algebra 1 textbook on WikiMedia’s WikiBooks using Simple English. Ms. Thorne was trying to recruit math teachers (and any lovers of math) to help by logging on to the Project Page and start writing! So if you, dear reader, are so inclined, help us out. It is her hope (and now mine!) that this book may help not just students in developing countries, but students at our own schools.

The exhibit hall? A math teacher’s wet dream.

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You know that stamp store I mentioned in the first post? I acquired an Albert Einstein stamp, an “I <3 Arithmetic” stamp, and an “I <3 Science” stamp for a fellow educator. They have everything for the teacher: last year I got a Medusa stamp (which I put on failed exams), as well as the “I <3 Math” stamp (gotta round out that collection, after all).

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Next up was Math-n-Stuff, the store with the best dice selection in the world. Besides all the standard D&D paraphernalia, there were educator specific dice: with dollars and cents, fractions, decimals, operations signs, variables; blank polyhedral dice, alphabet dice; dice with funny shapes!

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Just take a gander at the dice sets on the right: the top set is a pair of regular dice, the kind you’d shoot in any Vegas Casino. On the bottom, may I present “Crooked Dice” (not to be confused with Loaded Dice). These dice are weird trapezoidal prism shape, which provide an odd perspective in the photo.

All of the exhibitors were full of activity. Especially busy was the Texas Instruments booth, which was showcasing their new toy, the TI-nspire. A friend was prototyping them last year, and they beat the pants off the humble TI-82 I had in high school. It is quite impressive. While traditionalists might complain about the UI, and admittedly, it does take some getting used to, but it is incredibly drool-worthy.

In the midst of all these exciting developments in technology, pedagogy and research, I leave you with the coda which best sums up the State’s take on education:

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California Mathematics Council Convention in Palm Springs (Pt -(i^2))