AMATYC Travel Award Winner

Let me start by saying that I am not a country music fan. This is not to say that I don’t think there are many talented country musicians. I respect and appreciate country music. It is just my first choice for music. With that in mind, the most exciting thing for me about the location for AMATYC this year (Nashville, TN) was that it was within driving distance of home. I have tried unsuccessfully to get funding from Mayland to attend AMATYC several times over the course of the last 20 years, but have never been approved. This year was going to my year by whatever it took. When Suzanne Williams asked for members of the CIP Steering Committee to join her in preparing a presentation for AMATYC, I did not hesitate to volunteer. When our proposal was accepted, I was even more enthusiastic. I am really proud of what we accomplished with the CIP and feel that we have something important to share beyond the borders of North Carolina. I put together a proposal for funding, but my dean was not very encouraging, given the state of the budget. After NCMATYC last year, I decided to apply for the NCMATYC scholarship to attend. I was truly honored to be given the opportunity to attend the conference with enough money to actually stay at the conference hotel!

I started seriously studying the program that came out before the conference, planning which sessions to attend. One of my long-time heroes in mathematics education Zal Usiskin from University of Chicago was the opening keynote speaker. There were lots of sessions on Developmental Math Redesign, teaching online, flipping the classroom, precalculus, calculus, and statistics. All relevant to what I do every day. So many sessions, so little time!

So… what did I decide on? And what did I learn from my experience? I went to hear Dr. Usiskin’s talk entitled “Cleaning Up After the Common Core.” I have been a strong defender of the Common Core; so I was surprised to find out that my hero was not as enamored of it as I am. Dr. Usiskin’s main point was that the Common Core standards, at least at the secondary level, are unrealistic, and do not reflect the mathematics that every high school graduate needs. They do not meet the needs of students who are going into careers that do not require college. They are geared toward preparing everyone for calculus. We know that very few of today’s high school students are going into STEM fields where calculus is necessary. Indeed, one of the key accomplishments of the CIP was to create a core mathematics course for students who are planning on majoring in non-math-intensive fields – MAT 143 Quantitative Literacy. The question I am left with is how do we encourage greater participation in STEM fields – a national priority – without making high school graduation 

out of reach for many students by imposing unrealistic standards?

The other theme for my choices on which sessions to attend was Statistics. I attended “Identifying Trends in Statistics Education”. The presenters were Roxy Peck from Cal Poly, Michael Sullivan from Joliet Junior College in Illinois, and Marty Triola from Duchess Community College in New York. My takeaways from this presentation:

  • Technology has changed the way we teach statistics
  • We should emphasize conceptual understanding and interpreting results, rather than memorizing formulas
  • We should de-emphasize probability
  • A capstone project can really enhance what students get out of an introductory statistics course.
  • Intermediate Algebra should not be required as a prerequisite for introductory statistics.

I attended sessions by each of the presenters at the panel and got many valuable insights. The “National Summit on Developmental Mathematics: Continuing the Dialogue” was also thought-provoking. Quote from one of the panelists: “If you allow students to set the course pace, the pace they will select is 0.” Another quote: “We have all heard about Writing Across the Curriculum. Why not Mathematical Thinking Across the Curriculum?” Another emphasis for this panel was the importance of support services and study skills being integrated into developmental mathematics. Paul Nolting, who was on the panel, said that research shows that study skills need to be specific to mathematics, that generalized study skills are not effective in improving outcomes for developmental mathematics students.

The conference also included a Country Music Review as part of the 40th birthday party for AMATYC. The show was entertaining and included the music from many country music greats from the past: Johnny Cash, Minnie Pearl, Elvis Pressley, and others.
The sessions, the entertainment, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel were all great, but the best thing about attending a conference like this is to get to meet colleagues from all across the country and find out just how much we have in common and how much we have to learn from each other. I thank NCMATYC for making it possible for me to attend and I would encourage anyone who has never attended to apply for the scholarship to attend next year’s conference in New Orleans!

Paula Savitch
Mayland CC
AMATYC Travel Award Winner

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