Wednesday, August 7, 2013

MAA MathFest 2013: Community Building

By Angie Hodge

As I tried to think of how to frame a blog post highlighting MAA MathFest 2013, I kept returning to one word: community. 

For the second year in a row, Dana and I organized a session at MathFest called “Best Practices of Inquiry-Based Learning,” and, for the second year in a row, we had a full house!

“Why?” I asked myself. Why are people coming back? Why is the meeting room still packed on the final afternoon of the conference?

You are all welcome to share your thoughts (and please do), but I attribute the sustained popularity of the session to more than just the presentation topics. I believe it has to do with the fact that we, as fans and practitioners of IBL, have created a community, a community welcoming enough to attract newcomers and friendly and enriching enough to keep them coming back.

We come to IBL sessions to see our friends. We come to see colleagues whose work we value and respect. We come to meet new friends and to make new colleagues. We come to an environment where we can, as T. J. Hitchman stated, “learn from not only our students’ failures, but from our own failures.” We stay afterwards to learn more. We go to lunch with session attendees (both old MathFest friends and new ones). 

I leave you with questions: Does your classroom create a learning environment that's collegial and nonthreatening? Enjoyable, even? Do you cultivate a we're-all-in-this-together atmosphere in your classroom? Is your classroom a place your students are excited to visit? How can we, as a mathematics/mathematics education community, become even more welcoming so that we can continue to learn from/with one another?

Cheers to everyone who made MAA MathFest 2013 great!

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