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.