Math Camps have been canceled. The usual casual conversations in the hallways of the Education Center aren’t taking place, nor are the impromptu pop-ins to professors’ offices. But instead of focusing on what they’re missing, students in the Heidelberg University Council of Teachers of Mathematics (HUTCM) have poured their energy into creative ways to stay connected.
This close-knit and admittedly social group of education majors have found fun and informative methods to navigate through the pandemic. And the plus side is that the current situation is preparing them to be better, more flexible teachers, skilled at truly thinking outside the box.
“I know this has been hard,” says education professor Dr. Lindsey Haubert, who also advises the HUCTM. “I just really appreciate what they’re doing to keep us all together.”
That “sticking together” has included an emphasis on professional development, virtual visits to the classrooms of ’Berg alumni teachers, participation in the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics (OCTM) annual conference virtually and even game nights – of course, also virtually.
Fall Speaker Series
Since in-person Math Camps can’t currently happen, the HUCTM members have turned their attention to professional development with a Fall Speakers Series, says senior Autumn Simpson. Already, the group has hosted a presentation by Toledo Public School teacher Joe Boyle, who spoke to them about conceptual learning in the time of a pandemic.
Two additional speakers are scheduled for November: OCTM Executive Director Kim Yoak, who will speak about making math accessible to everyone, and Charles Bowman, OCTM’s director of Diversity and Inclusion, who will speak on racism and white privilege.
Virtual Classroom Visits
This fall would have marked the third year for Math Camps. HUCTM had planned a busy schedule of outreach, taking the camps on the road to local and regional schools. Since that’s not possible, the students are using Zoom to visit the classrooms of alumni teachers to conduct 45-minute math game sessions. These virtual visits have been a quick and popular way to stay connected to the goals of Math Camp and continue to spread the message that math can be fun for everyone.
Senior Abe Patterson explains that since classes went all remote last March, students wanted to find a way to keep their camaraderie alive “and see each other’s faces and have some fun.” So the students arranged twice monthly game nights, which carried through the summer and into this semester. They’ve really enjoyed playing bingo, Apples to Apples, Yahtzee, Crazy 8s, Telestrations and other games.
“It has helped build community too,” Autumn says. “It’s been nice to be able to connect this way.”
OCTM’s 70th annual conference
As you probably guessed, OCTM’s conference is entirely virtual this year. It’s going on the entire month of October, and students have already taken advantage of a number of the sessions as their schedules permit. Several participated in a session by ’Berg alum Kryssie Pratt. Junior Samantha Blake notes that she has recorded various sessions so she can return and watch later.
HUCTM’s next generation
Currently, HUCTM upperclassmen also have reached out to newer education majors who expressed interest in joining the group, according to Lindsey. “They have visited all the freshman and sophomore classrooms (by Zoom) after we had multiple students reach out to us and want to get involved,” she says. “So we had to divide and conquer. We shared a video, answered questions and signed the younger students up to get involved.”
Challenges and benefits
According to Autumn, ‘Berg’s future teachers are “very social people,” so it’s been difficult to not have face-to-face interactions very often. Along with that came the realization that as a senior, there may not be an opportunity to conduct another in-person Math Camp before she graduates. That’s a harsh reality since the current student leaders have been invested since day one.
The students have experienced a range of emotions dealing with COVID-19 circumstances that have been “up, down and everything in between,” Lindsey says. “But they are definitely missing Math Camp.”
“It’s been a big adjustment,” Abe says. “But we just adjust as we go and keep our enthusiasm up.”
For senior Anna Cavanaugh, it’s the unknown that’s been perhaps the most challenging. “But HUCTM has really boosted everyone’s spirits with something outside of school,” she says.
But there’s an upside. As Autumn noted, the current situation “may very well be the reality for seniors heading into (their first teaching jobs) next year.” If that’s the case, they will be well prepared.
“It’s been challenging but it’s really pushed us outside our comfort zone,” she says. Abe adds, “For all of us, this challenges the way we think and approach every situation.”