Wednesday, July 30, 2014

TMC folks like to play

I'm was a first-timer at TMC (Twitter Math Camp, which is a real thing) this past week down in Jenks, OK.  If I had to describe it in a sentence, it is a gathering of passionate math teachers who actively blog, comment on each other's blogs, and tweet at each other year-round to improve their practice and be a community.  The TMC crew is incredibly open and responsive to newcomers.  As a group, I also noticed a surprisingly high level of emotional intelligence when interacting in person.  It was easy to listen in and be listened to.

Only after a couple days did I pick up on my biggest insight: TMC teachers love to tinker and play.  Justin L was sitting one night playing with ways to generalize a parabola without completing the square.  Edmond spent a few days playing with paper cutouts so he could let others build an awesome 3D soccer-ball-like shape.  I've been enjoying recent posts from Jonathan and Glenn as they talk about playing with different structures of the curriculum in Algebra 2.  Malke was busy every night in the lounge inventing new math dances.  Even when I look at the thing people found most interesting that I worked on - a simulation of Ultimate Frisbee that is used to replicate the Moneyball process - it was not the most time consuming thing I worked on to make my stats curriculum.  It was the most playful thing - something I made on a whim the weekend after I saw the movie Moneyball for the first time - because I thought it would be awesome to do.  Once I started to notice the playful attitudes most of the other TMC campers took, I noticed it everywhere in the group.  And I couldn't help but notice that teaching kids to play with math is something we, or at least I, almost never teach or even encourage in class.


  1. Nice post. You know, while at tmc, I didn't really think about how much "play" was going on, but you're totally right about it happening every where we turned. It's weird, because in the moment it felt so natural for us to experience the mathematics this way.

    You mentioned that you almost never encourage play in your neither. This is the ironic part. Naturally, we used our investigative skills during tmc, but we tend to discourage this natural inclination with our students during our classes. Its so easy to get caught up in standards and the daily grind and forget that, by nature, mathematics involves investigation and play. You provided me a gentle reminder.


  2. I noticed that there was a lot of curiosity at TMC. Campers were willing to explore and try to find answers to anything that intrigued them. Play is the perfect description.

    I don't do enough playing in the classroom either. I need to work on changing that.

  3. Good one, Andy! And it has to be GOOD play. Not just a game that reviews factoring or solving for x. It needs to be good, investigative, curious, what-happens-if play, or a fun way to collect data (Go Ultimate!). I need to find more ways to do this.

    1. Chris and Tina -- you both nailed the curiosity aspect -- that's what makes it unique. Jeopardy with rational expressions, though it may occasionally have a place, just doesn't count. I think that's one reason the whole week was so much fun.