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There's something for every preK-12 math educator at an NCTM Annual Meeting. Here's one teacher's view on what to expect, why it's worth attending, why it's a great idea to bring along a few colleagues, and how to get the most out of the experience.

Theres something for every preK-12 math educator at the Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: The chance to be exposed to lots of new ideas and resources, whether rubbing shoulders with experts or sharing experiences with fellow participants. the fun of exploring math topics interactively for a few days. The gratification of coming away with great handouts, ready-to-use classroom activities, and information about special math sites, resources, and manipulatives. The NCTM is a rich, customizable learning experience.

The NCTM 2009 Annual Meeting will be held April 22-25, 2009, in Washington, D.C. The pre-registration deadline for reduced rates is March 13. Below is a taste of what you'll find if you go.


Participants in a 2008 workshop connect music with math.
Photos courtesy of Wendy Petti.

The NCTM 2009 Annual Meeting offers more than 800 60-minute sessions and 90-minute workshops. The experienced presenters come from across the country and a handful of other countries. They are classroom teachers, university professors, researchers, consultants, authors, program developers, and career mathematicians and scientists, presenting high-interest topics in dynamic ways.

The events are held in 66 meeting rooms simultaneously -- in the convention center and two nearby hotels. Sometimes, you'll wish you could be in a dozen places at the same time. In the 28 gallery workshop meeting rooms, participants gather at round tables to discuss and explore hands-on activities, while observers watch and sometimes interact from seats ringing the room. The 38 session meeting rooms range in size from intimate to ballrooms. Sessions and workshops include visuals and handouts; some also feature math software or Web sites.

Participants in a 2008 workshop connect music with math.

More than 140 sessions and workshops are aimed at preK-2 educators, more than 250 for 3-5 educators, and more than 300 for 6-8 educators. Topics in all grade bands include algebraic reasoning, data analysis and probability, geometry and measurement, number and operation, problem-solving and reasoning, assessment, equity and diversity issues, technology, and putting research into practice. Many sessions integrate math with other subjects -- art, music, science, literature, writing, technology, other cultures, and more. Other connections are explored through sessions on family math nights and real world applications. Of course, there's a big emphasis on cultivating strong mathematical thinkers at all ages. Here are a few offerings from distinctive presenters:

Authors of Math Literature
Several authors are back by popular demand:

  • Marilyn Burns (founder of Math Solutions Professional Development and author of The I Hate Mathematics! Book, Spaghetti and Meatballs for All, and many more) will speak on assessment.
  • Greg Tang, (author of The Grapes of Math) will speak on "Algebraic Teaching: An End to the Math Wars?"
  • David M. Schwartz (author of How Much is a Million?) will speak on using nature books for mathematical learning.
  • Stuart J. Murphy (author of the MathStart series) will speak on visualization as an aid to mathematical understanding.

Real-World Math Pros

  • A VP for education at Population Connection is speaking on "Math for Global Citizenship."
  • NASA education specialists are presenting workshops on "Mathematical Moon Madness" and "NASA Smart Skies: Navigate Students through D = R * T."
  • Five math specialists from the Math Forum are leading sessions highlighting meaningful uses of technology in the math program and approaches to problem-solving.

International Math Education

  • A teacher trainer in Singapore and other specialists offer sessions highlighting the bar diagram approach to problem-solving utilized by Singapore math.
  • Three sessions feature aspects of Japan's textbooks and teaching methods, and five more sessions feature lesson study, an essential element of Japanese teachers' lesson planning and ongoing professional development.
  • Presentations by educators from Taiwan and Australia encompass the use of magic boards for dynamic math instruction; mental math; algebra activities in early childhood; and making fractions come alive in the middle years.
Online Searchable Program
Check out the options now and start drooling. The online events calendar displays a massive grid of each day's activities, with four workshops or six sessions offered daily in each of the 66 meeting rooms, along with opening and closing sessions and two keynote speeches. With the searchable online program, you can pull up events according to grade band, topic, type of session, or keyword, and save them into a printable personalized schedule.


These NCTM exhibitors were happy to demonstrate TouchMath to a skeptic.

The exhibit hall features a spacious NCTM bookstore and close to 200 exhibitor booths and display areas. One could easily spend a half-day or more in the exhibit hall and not come close to seeing everything. Many larger exhibitors run regular sit-down presentations to demonstrate cutting-edge technology. Others have large displays of every conceivable math resource, manipulative, tool, or game. Booths for small companies or math organizations might feature supplemental activity books or items. Some exhibitors offer prize drawings or free samples. Most exhibitors are eager to demonstrate their products and answer questions. Many companies run special sales during the NCTM Annual Meeting and for several weeks afterward so attendees can bring the buzz back and make school-funded purchases.

These NCTM exhibitors were happy to demonstrate TouchMath to a skeptic.


A large number of hotel rooms have been reserved at reduced rates for the conference. Shuttle buses provide transportation between those hotels and the convention center.


Be sure your administrators understand that the NCTM Annual Meeting is designed to support math education at all levels from Pre-K on up. Sound out your colleagues about attending; you're likely to get more out of the experience if you can share it and support one another in implementing new ideas afterwards. You might give your school administrator a tentative schedule with session descriptions and express the intention of sharing with other faculty members and putting new ideas into action in your classroom.


It helps to plan your schedule and some back-up choices before each day begins. Don't let off-site locations deter you; the half-hour between sessions is enough time to get where you need to go. Choose workshops carefully and arrive early to get a seat; some have quite a narrow focus and might only prepare you to teach one good lesson, while others might have a broad and lasting impact on your approach to teaching.

The crowds thin on Saturday. You're likely to find great workshops with plenty of empty seats. Stay if you can!

After the conference, you might contact presenters of sessions you wish you could have attended and ask for handouts after the conference; youll find e-mail addresses in the printed program. Most presenters are happy to oblige.

Share as much as you can with colleagues after the conference: handouts, Web addresses, catalogues, and other resources. Share ideas and questions. Enlist others to join you or support you in putting new ideas into action.

If you can't make it to the national conference this year, consider attending one of the NCTM Regional Conferences next fall. They're smaller and less crowded (and the exhibit hall will be downsized similarly), but the presentations will be every bit as stimulating. If you're the first person from your school to attend or think of attending, spread the word and keep the momentum going. NCTM conferences are wonderful opportunities for professional growth.

About the Author

Wendy Petti is the creator of the award-winning Math Cats Web site, author of Exploring Math with MicroWorlds EX (LCSI, 2005), and a frequent presenter at regional and national math and technology conferences. She teaches grades 4 at Washington International School.

Article by Wendy Petti
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