“Hashtag” has not been in my vocabulary for very long. About a year ago I submitted a sabbatical proposal with the intent to “modernize my understanding and practice of twenty-first century math education.”
One of the first things I discovered was #MTBoS, an acronym for Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere, a community of math teachers who blog and/or tweet and/or read blogs or tweets. It’s a “hashtag that any math teacher who blogs and/or tweets is encouraged to use!” I read that last year and had no idea what it was talking about. Now I tweet regularly (@marylgent) and follow many fellow educators who have provided as much, if not more, professional development than many conferences I have attended.
A secondary focus has been to delve deeply into the current work being done with activity-based learning using an online graphing platform called Desmos. I’m learning how to create technically challenging graphs that are also beautiful, providing me with plenty opportunity to more fully explore the math/art connection, a relationship that has interested me for many years.
In addition, this open source software also allows teachers to access and create classroom activities, such as Penny Circle (below), helping students use, as Desmos says, “a powerful tool to experience all the curiosity, beauty, and sense that math has to offer.”
My sabbatical application ended with a sparse paragraph on “Personal Growth,” in which I recall jotting down some things that sounded good. In the end, I knew the personal growth would come from having the time to do the things outlined in the rest of the proposal. Boy, was I wrong. I’m about half-way through my YOSO year, and I’ve been amazed by all I’ve unexpectedly learned: I’m not that great with open-ended projects, and I don’t relax very well. I’ve been challenged in unfamiliar ways and in unfamiliar situations. I’ve had to re-think long held beliefs about learning in general, and learning math in particular. I’ve been frustrated, elated, and gratified. These are all experiences I want for my students. And finally, while I knew I would be able to take advantage of off-peak travel opportunities, I didn’t know so much would be between the Twin Cities and Middle River, MN, where I’ve had the opportunity to spend extended time with my mom. There’s a hashtag for that, too. #grateful @BreckSchool #YOSO #perpetuallylearning
- Mary Gentry, Upper School Math Instructor (Sabbatical: 2017-18)
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