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Topic: Day 1 Math Forum Advanced Summer Institute
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r!chard tchen

Posts: 6,107
Registered: 12/3/04
Day 1 Math Forum Advanced Summer Institute
Posted: Jul 7, 1998 9:44 AM
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The Math Forum Advanced Summer Institute (sum98)
( began this noon with a
graph theory game on the lawn outside of Ashton House. Each
participant wrote her or his name on a piece of paper. Ken, Steve, and
Dave then linked these pieces of paper, as well as two blank "nodes,"
with masking tape to form a graph with several cycles and dead ends.
Folks randomly re-settled on a node that did not necessarily bear
their own name. Our shared objective: move people along the paths of
the graph, advancing one person at a time and only to connected
unoccupied nodes, so that we achieved a state where each person stood
at the node bearing her or his name. To lend some order to the
movement, we introduced a tennis ball; whoever held it could advance
to an unoccupied node, or could toss it to anyone else on the graph.
After upwards of half an hour, scores of moves, and many more
hypotheses and suggestions, we achieved our objective and retired
indoors to a hard-earned lunch.

Following lunch, Steve provided an overview of the sum98 agenda
( As a
way of demonstrating the Forum's continuing exploration into math
education on the Internet, and to encourage participants to realize
their own ideas employing Forum resources, he highlighted two projects
that the Forum is currently developing, Pages of Math
( and ESCOT
( Steve then
distributed "uniquity" game photocopies to further our mastery of one
another's names, and to get us to discover something unlikely about
one another, or something that is not likely to be true of anyone else
in the group -- for example, that Annie is a descendant of William the

From here, we moved to the second-floor computer lab in Trotter Hall.
After some inauspicious network connection woes, we began tailoring
the Trotter PowerMacs to individuals' needs so they could read their
e-mail and the like. Steve re-introduced the Online Communication page
detailing the what, when, where, and how of sum98. We then walked
through BBEdit (v4.5), an HTML and text editor with which participants
will construct and edit the project pages in their folders

One BBEdit feature highlighted was the file pop-up menu, the third of
five lavender boxes in the status bar of a BBEdit window: set this
from the default "Macintosh" to "Unix," as this will save Forum staff
subsequent work in manipulating these files on our Unix server. One
helpful HTML tag raised during the BBEdit introduction was the use of
server side include (SSI) statements, which allow a web page author to
include the same HTML snippet across many pages. For example, the SSI
to call the Forum's top menubar into any Forum web page consists of
the HTML comment tag

<!--#include virtual="/snippets/" -->

As the participant pages reveal, SSIs greatly facilitate a coherent
"feel" -- both aesthetic and navigational -- to a set of related

After participants finished preliminary passes at their project pages,
Dave discussed how to use the Math Forum search engines. In addition
to the main search engine (,
which now offers some spell-checking functionality and returns
starting points for many of the most common queries, Dave pointed out
two helpful pages for assembling web resources: the Power Search
engine (, which
offers checkboxes for many common categories (e.g., elementary level,
lesson plan resources) and subtopics (e.g., trigonometry) as an
interface for searching the Forum's extensive Internet Resource
Collection; and the Search Specific Forum Archives page
(, which lists many
of the Forum's search engines for specific projects, such as the Ask
Dr. Math service and the Middle School Problem of the Week.

Suzanne Alejandre then offered her ideas, tips, and tricks for finding
resources on the Web
( Her page's
layout and concluding discussion questions elicited some immediate
feedback. Steve called attention to Suzanne's use of categorizing the
links she offered on her page, as some research suggests that flowing
links directly in the text of a web page disrupts the readability of
the page, both aesthetically (people begin to get lost in linked text)
and navigationally (they follow links out of text, and consequently
don't know what to pay attention to). Bob Panoff spoke of an ongoing
dilemma that the Shodor Foundation refers to as granularity -- within
a hierarchical directory structure of nested pages, how (and even
where) on any given page to offer enough explanation so as to
satisfactorily preface or acknowledge vertically adjacent pages, yet
not so much explanation as to overwhelm the reader. Sarah responded to
the layout of Suzanne's page, stating that choice visual elements can
be of great organizational help to web readers. Richard thanked
Suzanne for offering attribution of the third-party pages her page
linked to as a way of honoring the work that they have done. Suzanne
responded that authors, themselves, could help visitors recognize the
authors' work -- by including mailto links that can provide e-mail
feedback from web pages via the HTML tag

<A HREF="">emailaddress

Suzanne confirmed that mailto links proved particularly fruitful for
rewarding children who author web pages. Returning to the theme of
attribution, Bob Panoff shared that the Shodor Foundation, despite
politely requesting permission from the creators of third-party
images, had received "nastygrams" either placing severe constraints on
reproducing third-party images on the Shodor site (e.g., "images must
be 2"x3" ...") or outright refusing such requests. Several people then
clarified that this might tend to be the reaction of commercial sites
with an economic stake in site hits and clickthroughs. Steve concluded
the feedback by returning to the larger theme of how sharing materials
can build online community. In particular, he recommended contacting
the creators of interesting material to invite collaboration, as this
can prove far more beneficial for all parties involved than does just
linking to their web pages.

After a pot-luck dinner back at Ashton House, we returned to the
Trotter lab for a TappedIn session led by Judy, Dave, and Annie.
Despite several slow or failed connections, we explored the basics of
the TappedIn virtual environment, enjoyed some conversation, and
toured the Pascal's Triangle web unit
(, designed to
support workshops given by the Math Forum for Urban Systemic
Initiatives. In addition to offering a model for web lesson plans that
address the unique needs of students as well as teachers, Judy shared
many fun and practical classroom experiences, e.g., about encouraging
students to rely on their arithmetic abilities instead of punching at
a calculator, and about integrating art into math activities.

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