I have always taken my teaching very seriously. Mainly because I believe that I am not just teaching my students mathematics, but general skills that will make them successful in life, regardless of whether that future life involves mathematics. This is why I think it’s important to teach them, among other things, the value of “productive struggle” (my new favorite buzz words), effective communication, and collaborative work. I strongly believe that these skills help students learn mathematics better, but they are still useful even without the mathematics. In fact, the mathematics provides a very good context for learning these skills. I also feel very strongly about creating an inclusive atmosphere in the classroom, and hopefully as a result increasing representation of minorities and women (who are still largely underrepresented in mathematics classrooms), and I believe the teaching goals I just outlined are also helpful in creating this atmosphere. But there is something I thought very little about until recently, because I bought into the myth that it doesn’t exist: mathematics in its socio-political context. This is something I just started thinking about with a very talented group of faculty during the Park City Math Institute a few weeks ago.
So, it’s been a week since I got back from PCMI, and it’s taken that much time to recover from it. I wrote about the first week, and in particular the general first impressions and experience in this blog post. A lot happened in the subsequent two weeks, and I just wanted to write about some of the highlights.
The front entrance to the Hotel der Baer, featuring the titular accordion-playing bear and Corey Manack (Franklin & Marshall).
I have just finished (survived?) the first of my three weeks at the Park City Math Institute. The research topic this year is “Geometry of Moduli Spaces and Representation Theory.” For those of you not in the know, PCMI is an annual summer program sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Study, which brings together undergraduates, graduate students, secondary and post-secondary teachers, and researchers. It is a huge crowd and for me it has been very exciting to be around so many people who are interested in different facets of mathematics and mathematics education. I have mostly interacted with my group, the Undergraduate Faculty Program, but I have slowly been meeting people from all of the other groups. Our schedule has been jam-packed with exciting things, and in this post I will summarize some of them.
Posted in conferences, Fields medal, IAS, math and art, math in the media, minorities in mathematics, networking, PCMI, public awareness of mathematics, research, summer school