The year has started well, but getting good discussions going is still hard. I find it so difficult to shut up and stay in the background. But yesterday one of my classes had a great discussion, and it was a real pleasure to see it happen. We had a rich problem to work with—a simple word problem that previewed most of the concepts of differential calculus—and students with differing answers, who cared about hashing out the differences and figuring out what was going on. I’m sure I still intruded too much, but they really did it mostly on their own. Now I just have to replicate that over and over.
I’ve also been enjoying decorating my classroom. I had not made a serious effort to enrich my teaching space(s) for a while, since I had been switching from room to room a lot. But this year I am always in the same room, and the only other teacher in that room is quite amenable, so we’ve got some cool math posters up (some from cafepress.com, some from the American Mathematical Society, plus a huge New Mexico map from Raven Maps & Images). I hung some Zome constructions up from the ceiling (so far: segment, square, cube, projected 4-cube, projected 5-cube; to be hung: icosahedron, dodecahedron, truncated icosahedron [soccer/Buckyball]), and put up a lot of printouts of Petrie projections of higher-dimensional polytopes. So the room has a pretty mathematical flavor to it, with a strong emphasis (right now) on polytopes. If I’m really ambitious I’ll redecorate every semester with a new theme—maybe next time it will be families of algebraic curves and surfaces, or topology, or something else.
I don’t have many fractal posters on the walls, but I’ve got one, and I’ll probably get another. But, while fractals are amazingly cool and beautiful, I have to say they’ve stolen a lot of press from many other equally cool and beautiful parts of mathematics. So I don’t mind not giving them pride of place.
I know that there are many teachers out there who have got me way beat on how cool and mathematical their classroom is. But I’m still proud of my new look, compared to what I had before (such as teaching in a history classroom, which has its own interest, I must say). One of my fellow teachers has got me beat hands down on number of posters, especially Escher posters—which I would get a few of, except that it would just be copying her 😦