Tuesday, July 29, 2014

(In) Person Power [TMC14 Recap #1]

Last week I drove 22 hours round trip to be at my first Twitter Math Camp (TMC) for three days. During that time I co-led a morning session with Christopher Danielson (two hours a day over three days) focused on embodied mathematics both at body- and hand-scale. You can read the Storify recap I created to get a sense of some of the things we did. I think it captures the spirit of TMC as a whole -- focused, intense and active with moments of pure hilarity.

I also instigated the after hours event known as The Blue Tape Lounge, had some very fruitful investigations into body-scale number lines with Max Ray in some in-between times, and spent countless hours in conversations with a number of fascinating folks over meals, all of whom have been instrumental in my growth over the past year or two on Twitter.

Each one of these experiences was interesting, engaging and often profound for me. I will be telling a few more stories over the next week but, to start, it's actually part of someone else's reflection that creates the best overview of what the experience meant to me.

One of the new folks I met was James Cleveland who hung out in the Blue Tape Lounge and contributed to the number line investigations. Here's what he had to say at the end of his post on TMC14:
"The last thing I did on Saturday was to take place in a body-scale number line exploration led by Max Ray and Malke Rosenfeld. I got to share my insights and experiences with number lines that others may not have had, I got to see it in other people’s eyes, and I experienced new revelations and am excited to dive into them deeply.

"This last thing leads me to my final thought. During our work with the number line, Malke constantly pushed back – what are we actually gaining by working with the number line using our bodies, instead of just paper and pen? It pushed us to keep developing new insights and sharing them until one moment I heard Malke make an involuntary gasp – there was a moment of breakthrough, one we never would have had without using our bodies.

"So you could ask the same question – what do we gain from using our bodies to meet in person at TMC, instead of just writing to each other as we do in the MTBoS? There’s this energy that infuses all of it that you can’t feel remotely, these deep experiences and quiet moments that can’t be done publicly, this sense of connection that makes all the other work we do more powerful." 
One of those experiences that can only happen in person was the interaction of moving bodies in familiar mathematical spaces, like the coordinate plane, pictured here:

This picture illustrates one of my favorite things of the whole event: getting to watch the reactions of the math people interacting with familiar math ideas in a completely new and novel situation. And that is the subject of my next post: Tales from the Blue Tape Lounge.  Talk to you again soon!

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