Newsletter #33     Newsnote on NSF

This is more like a newsnote than a newsletter, and it's not about an earthshaking event or even a fait accompli. It was a small and pleasant planting of something I hope will grow and flourish, and I think it deserves at least a small and pleasant fanfare.

As I have periodically mentioned, the NSF Project which we launched this year is entitled Creating a Community of Mathematics Learners. Most of our efforts to date have focused on phase one, which involves middle school teachers. But we are looking ahead to phase two with high school teachers, and in preparation for that had a planning retreat in late March. It was there that I found myself in the far too familiar position of trying to answer questions about UW that I knew other faculty members could handle much better than I. Earlier in the week I had found myself answering questions about high schools that only a high school teacher could possibly do justice to. Out of this combination there hatched a plan. The plan was shaped and improved considerably at meetings of the gang of six of us who run the project, and resulted, on Wednesday, in a Visitors Day. We had as our guests seven high school teachers, one from each of the six districts that are taking part in the project and an extra from Seattle, which is huge. They visited one or two classes en masse, and one or two others a few at a time. They also had a chance to visit with several faculty members over a continental breakfast at the faculty club and several others (with non-zero intersection of the sets) over lunch. Both conversations were lively and full of content, with a lot of cogent questions, some of which even had answers. We finished by pairing each of the teachers with a faculty member, so that if a question or comment arises, either member of the tandem will have not only a bunch of known people, but one particular known face with a known e-mail address and a known interest in pursuing the conversation.

Not, as I said, earthshaking. But if it succeeds in connecting some people, then it has indeed done its bit towards creating a community. Besides which, it was lots of fun!