It’s our first time at the TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) conference here in Austin, TX. Elizabeth DeCarli, Andres Marti, and I have been really impressed with the teachers who have stopped by the booth to play with Sketchpad, TinkerPlots, and Fathom.
Andres pointed out that we have had a lot of conversations with middle school teachers these past three days from all different content areas: science, social studies, technology, and yes… math. What impresses us is how excited they are when they see the opportunities to make cross-curricular connections—their enthusiasm is infectious.
We spent the morning talking with two middle school science teachers who compete in the state Science fair and are looking to win it this year. They needed software that would make it easy to create lab reports, graphs, and presentations. We spent some time exploring a World Carbon data set using Fathom and they were wowed—after Elizabeth dragged an attribute to an axis to make a graph, one of the teachers said, “you had me at click.” It is a thrill for us to hear the great things teachers are doing with their students and to get some new ideas about how our software can be used in other content areas.
Middle school teachers seem very well-positioned to understand the need to make content areas tie together. Those who have stopped by are excited by the potential for cross-curricular applications, like using TinkerPlots to explore historical events, using Sketchpad to help students with vocabulary development while learning mathematics, and using Fathom to collect data in science with probes and then analyze the data with lines of best fit.
One of the most apparent things to us is that, unlike at a math conference, the teachers here are not familiar with our software because they are from so many other disciplines. It has energized us to explore social science data sets with social studies teachers, science data with science teachers, cross-curricular writing with English teachers, and see our own software from these very different perspectives. But it always comes back to math, which just brings home to us that math is everywhere. Math teachers who struggle with finding real-world applications should look no further than your colleague down the hall.