The Math Forum: 1996 NSN Summer

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Daily Summary - Monday

Despite a tight schedule and an uncooperative fuse box, the latest collection of Math Forum workshop participants are off and running here in Watertown, Massachusetts. Through a collaboration with the National Schools Network testbed at BBN, we are fortunate enough to be here with a wonderful group of 22 Boston area mathematics teachers. Participants come from a number of different school districts, and represent all levels from elementary through high school. To learn more about each person, their backgrounds and what they hope to get out of this institute, see

The day started in a classroom next-door to the computer lab. We'll spend some time at the beginning of each morning away from the computers, talking about the previous day, sharing ideas and expectations, and dealing with administrative tidbits. Today we got to know each other, in part through an activity called Traffic Jam. There's already quite a bit of great information about Traffic Jam on the Forum Web site, since we began our advanced institute with the same activity just a week ago. The NSN group might be adding their input to what's there.

Before going into the lab, Annie and Steve gave a brief overview of the Internet. It was very helpful to many of us to see the big picture, even if all the individual terminology didn't yet make sense. In a nutshell, Annie talked about the origins of the Internet, and its basic structure & hardware components. Steve then ran down the three main purposes of the Net: messaging (email, mailing lists, newsgroups), file transfer (ftp, gopher, http) and interactivity (telnet talk, ytalk and IRC).

Once in the computer lab, we began with an introduction to email, via the mail application called Eudora. Once people set their personal preferences and became familiar with the basic functions of sending and receiving mail, our first piece of business was completing a questionnaire for the purposes of Math Forum research. Then participants set to work writing brief biographical statements which we're hoping to turn into Web pages tomorrow. Lastly, in case there were still any doubters about the usefulness of email ... we e-ordered lunch!

After lunch, we did a bit more Eudora, including subscribing to mailing lists. As an example, we all subscribed to NCTM-L, a Math Forum list (ostensibly) devoted to the discussion of math education in terms of the NCTM Standards. Between those messages and all the mail we'd generated in the morning, we quickly started to see how email boxes can really fill up!

Not too long before the day winded (wound? my editor is in Swarthmore!) down, we got an introduction to the World Wide Web. Amazingly, before even doing much browsing, this group already had their hands in HTML, which is the mark-up language used to write Web pages. Everybody got a good jump on building their first home page using the biographies they wrote earlier and a template HTML file prepared by Forum staff. As familiarity with HTML and the Web increases over the course of the week, we expect lots of great materials to come out of the this workshop.

Looking forward to tomorrow,

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21 July 1996