Susan Addington wrote: >No, Michelle, you are not weird. I am a recent convert to math >education (from research mathematics), and one of the things that >struck me as peculiar was the very long lead time required for >meetings. For meetings of the American Mathematical Society and >the Mathematical Association of America, the deadline for >speaker proposals is a few months. For example, for this summer's >meeting in Vermont, Aur. 6-8, the deadline is April 27. For the >annual meeting in January, the deadline for *organizers* of >topic sessions is April; the deadline for speakers hasn't even >been announced. > >The reason that deadlines are fairly late is so that new developments >can be discussed. The fact that NCTM speakers must decide their topic >2 years in advance suggests that there is nothing new or urgent >in math education. > >This is NOT what we have been telling everybody--we tell our >state boards of education and others that change needs to start >happening NOW! > >Is anybody from the NCTM listening on this list? >
While I'm not part of the NCTM Conference and Conventions Committee, I'll try to respond to some of the reasons for the 1 year lead time for conference proposals. I have served on state and regional program committees seeing first hand the amount of work that goes into putting just the program together.
As has been pointed out elsewhere, NCTM is different from both MAA and AMS. More people attended the Boston meeting than subscribe to the MAA's College Mathematics Journal. A 4 day conference serving 20,000 attendees with over 1,063 sessions described in a 224 page book is an enormous undertaking -- especially when the program committee consists of a volunteer chair (kudos to Jerry Reed of Mississippi) and 12 volunteer committee members. The NCTM HQ's convention staff consists of three people (and secretaries) who are also responsible for putting together 8 regional meetings a year.
NCTM is also committed to involving more classroom teachers in leadership roles such as program committees. School districts are committed to keeping their teachers in classrooms with students. This conflict limits the length and the frequency of program committee meetings.
While a shorter lead time for program finalization is possible, it would require a significant increase in staff and committee budget. My guess is that the NCTM Board does not see this type of expenditure as cost effective and, personally, I'd rather see my membership dues spent in other ways.
I don't find the lead time to be a problem and agree with those who have pointed out strategies to inject current issues into preplanned sessions. Program committees are very concerned about having up-to-date sessions and make efforts to enlist speakers capable of adapting their presentations.
The issue of sessions carrying one title and delivering something different, to me, is not a problem of lead time but of quality presenters. I believe it's irresponsible to propose a session on one topic and deliver something different. Proposer need to think very carefully about the title of their session.
Jerry Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org) chairs the program committee for the 1996 San Diego meeting. Jerry listens and thinks very well. You might want to voice concerns to him directly. One initiative that Jerry's program committee will implement involves posting the conference program on the Internet. Though the printed program will include the limited 81 character session title, a 10 line description of the session will be available on the Internet. This should help those with net access make better choices.
The Speaker Proposal Form for San Diego appeared in the Oct 94 NCTM Bulletin with a 1 Dec 94 deadline. Invitations to speakers went out in Mar 95 with a 6 April 95 deadline.