From Interviews to Mini-Courses (JMM II)

This is Part 2 of four of my Joint Mathematics Meetings journal. You can find Part 1 here.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A new day began at 06:15 for me. I would have woken up later, but both Matt and Andrei had gotten up earlier. This allowed me to do some journaling after getting up, though. But first, I had some more snacks (chocolates and cookies, as well as the apple from yesterday). I equipped my suit again, this time with a white button-down shirt, and my “mathematics” tie. I don’t know how much my appearance really matters in this sense, but I might as well look the part!

At 07:30, I walked to the convention center, with my JMM bag in tow (no messenger bag today). I directly ascended to the fourth storey, and took a left to approach the Employment Center. However, it would not open until 08:00. However, I did run into both Heidi and Murphy, who would be interviewing me! I remember Heidi from my Husker days, especially after the summer of RUTE. We had some random conversation (catching up and whatnot).

Once the Employment Center opened, I went directly for the interview. [Remainder of paragraph redacted, just like last time.]

Leaving the Employment Center, I ran into Scott, and it was good to see him. We chatted a bit about the job market and our respective job searches, and then he invited me to a Nebraska party tonight. It will be at Six Arms (which I passed by the last two nights, so I know where it is!) tonight at 20:00. We chatted until about 08:45, when Scott headed for an interview, and I exited, crossing to The Conference Center and ascending to the Chelan level.

In Chelan 1, there was an undergraduate talk about knot theory, and different moves that can be used to untangle knots (self-intersecting curves). It sounded interesting, though I did not fully comprehend it (partially because I missed the first few minutes). Then, I listened to Matt’s talk about topology and homologies, and this time I was lost from the start. No matter one’s mathematical maturity, some of the talks are so technical and pure that I drop out at the start. At least my attention… not my physical body.

Then, I returned to the Employment Center for my last scheduled interview of the conference, with METRON. [Remainder of paragraph redacted.]

It was 10:30 at this point. I went back to the exhibit hall, and went to the MAA booth. There was an AMC-10 problem involving the area of a triangle that “circumscribes” hexagons, and I used the law of cosines to solve it (whereas “basic” geometry would also do the trick). There’s always more than one way to do a problem, and I seem to prefer heavy artillery. Of course, sometimes I bring a jackhammer when all I need is a fly swatter! I also looked at some books, some literature about actuaries, and chatted with people from the Sage and WeBWorK booths.

I then headed off to lunch after some random conversation and light activity. Lunch was at Daawat, an Indian-American restaurant on the north side of The Conference Center’s block. The line to get in was relatively short, and I got to have the buffet. This included salad, oranges, falafel (!?), chicken, naan, and a few other items. It was a good variety, and I would have liked to go back for seconds, but (a) there wasn’t enough time, and (b) the line was quite long. I paid, and then walked past the convention center to the Sheraton. I found the Metropolitan ballroom on the third floor, after walking up a stalled escalator. Go figure! However, I entered the wrong part of the ballroom at first. Good thing I had a few extra minutes!

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The mini-course was an introduction to POGIL (Process-Oriented, Guided-Inquiry Learning). In POGIL classrooms, the class engages in worksheets in-class, which start from a model/problem, and guide the students through the “Learning Cycle” of Exploration, Creating Concepts, and Applying Concepts. Students take defined roles within the group, so that it also builds teamwork and accountability. Meta-analysis is also possible through these roles. There are a lot of different skills that can be built through POGIL, but it seems that the whole course should be based around POGIL, rather than having a few class sessions each semester using it. I should read up a little more about the idea of inquiry-based learning before I try to implement it in my classes.

Returning to the convention center, I headed to the sixth floor for the first time, and entered Room 608 for a “Find A Collaborator” MAA social hour. There were few applied mathematicians in this group, and it was pretty small anyway. However, I got some advice which will be helpful. Reading papers from areas of interest or possible interest may serve me well. I should look at arXiv, mathscinet, and other sources to get papers to read. I could also read textbooks, but even those may be difficult. I can talk with undergraduates about their research interests, because I am able to learn new material quickly. Use that to your advantage!

At 16:15, the social hour ended, and I also got a call from eBits that my computer was ready for pickup. Therefore, I left the convention center, went to the hotel, and then took a mostly-empty messenger bag with me. I retraced the dinner route from last night, but at Serious pie., I headed uphill (northbound) to get to eBits. It was an easy walk, and the weather was pretty nice, all things considered (a bit cloudy, but temperature around 5 Celsius and dry air). I had to cross the street, so I did so at the “CROSS\WALK” and crossly stomped my feet across! You knew I would do that. (However, I didn’t take a picture of that sign, because an earlier picture of the RAGBRAI style hill was an utter failure–see below!)

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I retrieved my computer, and it is working again, but somehow the Windows installation was not activated. The computer is still usable, fortunately. I will need to contact Microsoft for the way to get the activation working. I wonder what happens if I don’t activate, though? With computer in tow and safely (?) in my messenger bag, I returned to the hotel, this time getting to walk downhill. WHEE! This extra walking is good for me, and I am now over ten thousand steps!

I spent a few hours downloading LyX and Microsoft Office back onto the computer, as well as security utilities like Avira and Malwarebytes. The re-set up is annoying, but at least I know that I will be able to almost fully recover once I return to Menomonie on Sunday. The Internet access in the room was free–I don’t know if that was a conference special or if this Grand Hyatt is a rare case of a fancy hotel that offers free Internet as a granted amenity!

It was 20:00 after a bit of setup, so I then quit and headed to the Six Arms, again with the same route that I took earlier. There are only so many routes to walk there, after all. I headed upstairs to the Nebraska party, and they had bought appetizers and I got a root beer again. I sat with Amanda, whom I had incorrectly identified the first time as Julianne. Whoops–that was a mistake. We chatted about our current positions and what has happened since grad school.

In fact, that was true with a lot of other people, or how their thesis is coming (in the case of Jay). Some of the other familiar faces that I was really happy to see: Scottovy, Nathan, Courtney, Katie, and more. It was pretty noisy and I got into a lot of different conversations, but you never know when these will return! The details of the conversations are largely unimportant for this story, but I will give the Noah-Jay photo.

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I stayed all the way until 22:40, and then walked back to the hotel. Matt and Andrei were still out on the town, but I wanted to hit the hay. Well, first I took a shower, and then I slept. Good night!

>> TO BE CONTINUED…

===============================================

Second Semester: 4 days.

NU at Madison: 36 days.

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