Susan Waterhouse, Omar Otero and Tom Gilbert all attended the recent National Council of Teachers of Math regional conference in Atlantic City. Spending two days at the conference and traveling as a small team afforded each of them opportunities for learning new things, reflecting on that learning and sharing with colleagues over meals. A small group has the added benefit of providing a core group to bring back what they had learned to their colleagues who did not attend. Besides the many sessions described below, each of them took to time to meet with vendors and ask questions about integrated math programs, a focus of the Upper School Math Department’s work this fall.
Susan Waterhouse shared that 2 days in Atlantic City at the NCTM regional meetings gave me the space to spend lots of time examining curriculum materials, to be in discourse with teachers and presenters about mathematical modeling and open ended problem solving. The breadth and depth of opportunities also allowed me to attend a neuroscience presentation on working memory which aligned nicely with my professional development cohort at Westtown and to see a favorite math author speak. Check out Simon Singh’s book on Math and the Simpson’s from the Westtown Library. He does a wonderful job of bringing fun math topics to the general reader. I was inspired by his desire to share math and science topics with people who might not search them out. I am grateful for the opportunity we have at Westtown to design curriculum that meets the needs of our students without being tied to specific guidelines such as the common core.
Among the many seminars he attended Tom Gilbert reported that one connected the study of functions with musical theory. Using Parsons Code, which is a simplified method of representing music in writing, we developed strings of characters that depict songs as functions. Using this code, the facilitator demonstrated various transformations and dilations of the functions. What made this work exciting was that the transformations could be played as music. The various transformations were clearly and readily associated with mathematical changes made to the code. Students who might not absorb function transformations as abstract math work could certainly understand what was happening through the audible changes. This work lends itself also to programming the functions and transformations and using laptops as synthesizers in computer science.