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TMC Day 3—So much awesomeness, and a spirit to make it even better

July 30, 2017
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More details that make Twitter Math Camp so great:

    • Thank you notes: Have you ever had a conference where you were literally provided with thank you notes and encouraged to write a note thanking anyone who made the conference useful for you? Have you ever seen a beach bag full of handwritten thank you notes? Go to TMC18, and you’ll see both of these.
    • Simply amazing volunteers, and not wasting their time: Lots of conferences have volunteers to help make things run smoothly, but I’ve often noticed that those volunteers end up overtaxed and really struggle to participate fully in the conference itself. Somehow, TMC has voluneteers—someone stopped by the first few minutes of every session I was at to make sure the AV was working properly, but at the same time, I noticed that the volunteers were able to participate every bit as much as the anyone else.
    • Flex sessions: Have you ever had a great idea at a conference and then just wanted to be able to talk about it with 10 other people? Or have you just wanted to do some yoga in the middle of the conference? All of this is possible at TMC. Flex sessions are 1 hour long open sessions that any can offer on the 3rd day of TMC, and you can propose one as late as a few hours before these sessions start. So great.

I also truly love the idea of having 2.5-hour morning sessions that extend for 3 days. This really lets you get to know a group of people in a way that seldom happens at a 3-day conference. Our closing circle at Elizabeth’s session was truly special. Elizabeth shared a really open look into how she organizes her classroom and truly delivered on her description to provide an immersive experience and a real window into her teaching.

TMC is dedicated to welcoming others and constantly re-examining itself to make sure it is being as inclusive as possible. Really, I’ve never been part of a more self-reflective community that is so committed to sharing, connecting and welcoming new people to the joy of math and math teaching.

Perhaps the best example of this was the flex session I sat in on with Tina Cardone discussing the TMC application process. Tina is one of the leaders of the registration process, and she shared a ton of statistics with the group about the TMC attendees. The thought that Tina and the rest of the TMC board put into planning this process—they’ve thought of so much and made so many efforts to diversify TMC. A few things I learned from attending this session is that nearly 110 of the TMC slots are filled by presenters. The remaining 90 slots were filled by a lottery and wait list, and only about 94 people completed the lottery application—and ultimately everyone who completed the lottery was able to gain attendance to TMC. This surprised me—I had submitted two session proposals, both of which were rejected (rightly so, when I compare my ideas to the sessions I saw), and after my sessions were rejected, I was really worried about my odds in the lottery.

The challenges of creating a 200 person conference that continues to allow all the people who know and love this community to attend while still remaining open to newcomers is one that I think might be right up there with P vs NP. There were a number of ideas for how we might be able to increase access and awareness of TMC, but I think this is something that our community will be struggling with for some time to come. I did have one big idea about how we might reach pre-service teachers and others who just love math, and I’m going to blog about that in another post.

With this post, my time at TMC must come to an end, as I’ve got to drive back to Delaware and start getting ready for school. I’m sad to miss the last day and the big reveal for TMC18, but I’m leaving knowing that this is a vibrant organization with an amazing future ahead of it.

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