Since it's all free, they had to come up with a way of making sure people are serious, so each class has a sign-up assignment. (Good call. I led an online study group a few years back and participation fizzled out pretty quickly. I had over 100 sign-up and then very little participation. This way, you can only sign-up if you start out by participating.)
For the first class I had to join AskNaturalMath. If you've read my blog for long, you know how highly I regard Maria's work. You'd think I'd have seen this before, but somehow I missed it. It's a lovely question and answer site. (Check out the question on making paraboloids with little kids.) From the FAQ:
The goal [of AskNaturalMath] is to help you do family math: at home, with friends, on trips, in math clubs, and in online communities. In turn, you can help other people here. This community ... values similar things in math: playfulness, beauty, personal meaning.I was also supposed to post a question there about making young children's environments more mathematical, but I didn't have a real question to ask, so I asked Maria to give me an alternate assignment. If anyone here has a question in that realm, please ask it, here or there.
My assignment for the Mathematics Curriculum Development course is to write a blog post on my "dreams and plans for mathematics education, in the context of curriculum development". So here it is...
My math education dreams start with my education-in-general dreams. I wrote a poem about that a while back. My Ideal School does not look much like a school. So my dreams of math curricula don't include much that looks like conventional curriculum.
My dreams include a Math Museum in every city. (Last night I attended an excellent webinar hosted by the founders of the soon-to-open Museum of Mathematics, who have organized the traveling Math Midway exhibit. Check out the bike with square wheels!)
What else? Fabulous mini-lectures, like those by James Tanton and Khan Academy, on any topic my students and I might want, provide a helpful background for spending our classroom time exploring concepts more deeply (check out Robert Talbot's post on inverted classrooms).
And then we need the curricula itself - lots of project descriptions that individual teachers can use without too much hassle. I think math circles and the blog world have offered me as much of that as I can handle so far. I need to make changes in the way I teach just a bit at a time. (I'll write another post later, pointing to projects I've used or developed.)
Quick summary: For the students I want freedom, and access to math-rich environments and good explanations. For the teachers I want access to lots of alternative experiences so we can retrain ourselves, and access to lots of great project ideas.
That's my dreams. What are my plans? In my paid job, I want to keep trying to do something sane in an insane system - to help my students enjoy math and learn to really think in math class. In my community work, I want to keep learning about how people interact with math in non-coercive environments, and eventually I want to found a Richmond Community Math Center. (My role model is Amanda Serenevy who founded the Riverbend Community Math Center in South Bend, Indiana.)
I'll look forward to comments from my new classmates, and of course from anyone else reading my blog. [There are 426 people now subscribed through Google Reader, and over 40,000 page views. I am honored.]