Saturday, September 18, 2004

Country Roads, Take Me Home

I'm back from the West Pennsyltucky conference on rural mathematics education. You can start humming Dualing Banjos or singing something from the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack whenever you want. Never before have I driven through so many towns named after natural resources.

I think that this may have been my first Education conference. It differed from math conferences in several noteworthy ways: free food, free totebags, better badge-holders, PowerPoint presentations (instead of chalk or overhead transparencies), lines for the women's rest room, and all the talks made complete sense.

Overall it was a good conference. Most interesting and helpful on the performance standards. Less so on the rural aspects. I think that more work needs to be done by researchers in the field before people like me can start to incorporate place-based and culturally-based material in the classroom. I can't imagine that what they mean by rural contexts for mathematics is to rewrite my distance equals rate times time problems to include Jeff Gordon.*

And scary, scary, scary: if the in-service teachers who came to the conference are among the best in their districts, it's pretty clear why many students are mathematically underserved by the public schools.

*One of his cousins is a mathematician.