Sunday, October 23, 2016

ATMNE 16 Conference Recap

I had the fortunate opportunity to attend the ATMNE (Association of Teachers of Mathematics - New England) conference again this year.  Last year was my first time attending any math-related conference, and I really had a great time and walked away with so much knowledge, tons of ideas, and a renewed passion to make math instruction better.  I was very hopeful going into this year's conference, which was hosted in Manchester, NH, my old college-days stomping grounds.

The keynote speakers lined up for this year were not as compelling as last year's, but the lineup for the workshops looked fantastic, so I was excited to be surrounded by like-minded educators talking about math for 2 days straight!

The opening keynote was by Dr. Larson, president of the NCTM.  His talk was passionate and invigorating.  He spoke about the book Principles to Actions which I've heard so much about but hadn't invested in yet.  After his talk, I purchased that book immediately and added it to my reading list.  The one big idea I took away from his keynote was that while we want student to know many different strategies, they mustn't be taught and practiced in isolation.  Students should always have the flexibility to choose to use whichever strategy they feel is most efficient for the problem at hand; whether that be a word problem in class or a real-world problem once they hit the work force.  I find that so often in the elementary classes I see, teachers are expecting students to use only the strategy they taught them that day, rather than giving them the flexibility to choose what makes the most sense to them.  This is something I am eager to read more about in the book and hopefully bring to my school in the near future.

After his keynote, the workshops began.  Here are the sessions I attended with my one sentence "take away" from each.

Family Math Night To Go!

  • There are amazing games that can be adapted to all sorts of grade levels and make family math night fun and engaging!  
Making Fact Fluency Assessments Meaningful
  • Ditch the mad-minutes, use the strategies we want the kids to know for all four operations during a one-on-one interview to really assess what kids know.
Desmos for elementary school
  • Now I get what all the hype on Twitter is about!  This is a great website that can be used in the elementary classroom quite well once I've played around and figured it out some more!  Thanks Denis Sheeran (check out his book Instant Relevance and follow him on Twitter)
Promoting Mathematical Modeling, Problem Solving and Perseverance
  • The types of problems we give our students will promote modeling and rich problem solving.  Ask WHY something makes sense!
The World is Messy: Enabling Every Student to USE math to address REAL problems
  • This was more of a high-school geared talk, but I did get a better understanding of how to use real-life situations to make math tasks (rather than crazy word problems involving apples and ribbon!)
Overcoming Math Anxiety
  • Math anxiety is a very real problem, it is preventable, and it is manageable.  This was probably one of my favorite sessions of the whole conference.  Cristina Post is an Educational Therapist out of Maine.  Check out her website and follow her on Twitter
Feedback is a Four-Way Street
  • Effective feedback is more than a grade; it is specific, timely, personal, and offers constructive criticism.  
There were a few more keynotes sprinkled in with all these sessions.  The Thursday lunch keynote was completely irrelevant to me as it was all about high school math.  The Friday lunch keynote was by Peg Smith and she also spoke deeply about Principles to Actions.

Overall, it was a very productive conference.  In all honesty, I enjoyed last year's conference in Portland, ME a lot more than this one, but I still found this year's to be quite valuable.  I felt like last year's was a little bit more organized, the space they held it was a lot nicer, and the workshops and sessions they offered were much more beneficial than this year's.   I definitely learned a lot and am eager to share with my colleagues in the coming weeks. 

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