It was an enormous honor and privilege to be welcomed to Twitter Math Camp the way that I was. As an enthusiastic but inconsistent Tweeter, and a math educator who’s been out of the classroom longer than I was in it, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be welcomed.

In fact, as everyone else covering this monumental event has mentioned, the spirit was one of openness, welcoming, and generosity. Even though I was a surprise to many other folks there (whether we’d never met in the twitterblogosphere or they thought from my tweets I’d be older and wiser IRL), as soon as I got there I was welcomed warmly by Lisa and Shelli (our fearless leaders who got STAFF t-shirts!), and fell into easy conversation with my car team, Glen (whose wife grew up in the same teensy-tinsy town my mom did) and the always outgoing Marsha.

There were lots of things that made this one of the best PD experiences ever:

  1. We spent so much of the day just doing math together and whatever came up, came up. In the Math 1 group, our fearless leader, Sara, whose experience with rich tasks, is, well, rich, led us to do some math, talk about it, and when we strayed too far from actual math, led us back into doing the math again.
  2. We moved back and forth super easily, as Elizabeth said, between talking about what worked and why it worked. There were people there who were fountains of knowledge of how to make specific things happen with kids in class, and people there who were fountains of the deep, thoughtful reasoning behind specific classroom occurrences. For example, in Math 1 we talked a lot about units and slope (all that back and forth over slope between our very own Karim Ani and Sal Kahn is like old news to us Math 1 folks). The conversation moved effortlessly between sharing classroom approaches to getting kids focused on units and interpreting problems, comparing and critiquing what worked, and unpeeling the math to understand why it worked — why are units useful for introducing slope? What do mathematicians do to understand the given information in a problem? How does focusing on units relate to algebraic reasoning? And what specific graphic organizers, questions, and activities get kids doing those things?
  3. Everyone took the time to get to know each other as individuals. There was no one-size-fits-all. It was a lot of, “you would like this because,” and “I would do it this way but I see how that works for you…” And as part of getting to know each other as individuals, we cut loose together. A LOT. That was fun.
  4. Everyone treated each other with respect, and you could just tell that down to their core, each person respected themselves and their students too. We were all passionate about kids learning, more than anything. That made it easy to put ego aside and listen to each other and share our own ideas. I know when we go home, we’ll all be treating our students and colleagues that way too.

Oh, and the other thing that made this best ever was that we were in St. Louis. Do you know what else is in St. Louis? The City Museum. The City Museum is about the least museum-like place you have ever been in your life. When you think about a museum you think about walking around, looking at things, reading, not really touching anything. Even at a science museum, maybe you will touch a few things, turn some gears, crawl through one giant-sized version of something. The City Museum is the opposite of that. For example:

  • At the City Museum, there are holes in the floor. On purpose. For you to drop into and crawl around the basement on your belly. Why not?
  • At the City Museum, when you are done crawling around the basement on your belly, you might squirm your way up through a tube to discover you are emerging out of the mouth of a giant stuffed elephant.
  • At the City Museum, there are several two-story tall slides.
  • At the City Museum, there is an old fighter jet on top of a tower of industrial scrap metal that you can climb up to, walk around in and climb over.
  • At the City Museum, there is a ball pit and a ferris wheel on the roof and slides that I swear are steeper than a 45º angle of elevation… 60º maybe even…
  • At the City Museum, there are rope swings, and scaffolding to climb, and dark narrow passages to squeeze through, and holes to climb into and out of, and slides to go down, and an orderly chaos of people of all ages (yes, grandmas included) doing all of these things.
  • If you feel you must learn something, you can always admire the collection of doorknobs arranged by the type of symmetry they display.

If you have never been to the City Museum and you can get there, you must. If you have never been to Twitter Math Camp and you are a tweeting math teacher, you must. I think that about covers it.