Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Friday, June 1, 2007

Small world

The second day of the conference is over. First of all I have to say that everybody was very civil so far, although there were some gentle pokes at the "other camp" and allusions to math wars, and who does what and how. Clearly, we do it right and they do it wrong, but the tone was leaning towards "we can still learn from each other". The last point actually brings me to some cultural differences I find in the two fields: mathematics and education. In my experience mathematics is very generous field. People do their work and are extremely open to sharing it, providing their written work, talking about it in private even if it's not really finished, sharing ideas and collaborating with others. Yes, there are some isolated cases that got press coverage lately that would imply otherwise, but that's what they are: isolated cases. My short experiences with education people was somewhat different. Maybe I have run into their isolated cases, you tell me. I'll mention two that happened today. We had a session in which University of Michigan people talked about their content course for elementary teachers masters program, and University of Delaware people talked about their preservice elementary mathematics courses. They seem to have been very similar to each other, and both seemed like very good ideas. So I said something to the effect that it wouldn't make sense for all of us who might be teaching these types of courses to reinvent a wheel, and would they be willing to share their materials. There was a noticeable silence before I got an answer that in short said "Yes, but only a couple of lessons". After the session I was approached by a person from, I believe, San Diego State, who said that they are about to publish some materials, and I should come to their session. That was great, but I suppose this is not a community that appreciates freebies :)

But to go back to my title. Half way through the day I ran into Yvonne (you will have to pardon the lack of linkage in this post), a graduate student from UCD whom I met at some math conferences couple of years ago. Turns out she's organizing Math Circles in Davis, and I will be helping with Teacher's Circles in Salt Lake City. She and her friend Brandy went out to dinner with us. Brandy turns out to be a grad student at UCD as well, but in math biology. So I mention that I know a professor there who is math bio, and she immediately tells me a name of another professor who used to be in Salt Lake when I was a grad student there who I remember moved to Canada. I guess it was too cold up there for him. With us at dinner were Sendhil, a math teacher, and John, a former high school math teacher who is now with Math for America, both from NYC. Sendhil was at the Math and Social Justice conference about which I first read at mrc's blog. Then we started talking about blogging teachers, so I mentioned Jonathan. Do I have to say that John knew him? Sendhil knew about Darren's class blogs. The world is small.