Planning for Conference Season: Making Time to Connect and Learn

By Dr. LaToya Byrd, IM Senior Director, Professional Learning Implementation and Talent

The excitement is building. Can you feel it? Conference season is almost here! Math conferences create opportunities for educators to meet and discuss emerging trends in education, bringing together educators from various school districts for innovative teaching and learning. According to the Mathematics Conference Index (2023), there are over 100 weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual math summits scheduled for 2023 across the United States. These math conferences include local, state, and national summits as well as international conferences, connecting hundreds of mathematics professionals and creating a global platform for math education teachers and leaders to engage in professional and personal development.

Dr. LaToya Byrd attends NCTM’s 2022 annual math conference in Los Angeles, where she led a workshop on culturally responsive pedagogy. 

Math conferences offer a great opportunity for educators to connect with each other socially and professionally. Education conferences attract participants from different schools, states, and even countries. These participants bring unique academic, professional, and cultural experiences, which form a basis for new bonds and enriching relationships. Attendees enjoy the benefit of meeting new people, interacting with current and former colleagues, and networking with other mathematically minded professionals who share common interests. Studies show that networking is a fundamental element of professional development and career success (Nigar, 2021). When educators attend conferences, they get an opportunity to improve their math content and pedagogical knowledge while building healthy relationships. There is power in establishing long-lasting connections with like-minded peers and experts in the mathematics community.

UnboundEd Standards Institute

Since education conferences are held in part to support, educate, and equip teachers with emerging trends in education, attending a math conference is tremendously valuable. My first 2022 stop was UnboundEd’s Standards Institute in Orlando, FL, which was designed with collaboration and active engagement in mind. The energy was high and the sense of community made me feel welcomed in every space. Teachers were excited about learning and working through math tasks using resources from IM K–12 Math. I made sure to match that same positive energy during the IM Lunch and Learn. There was standing room only for my presentation on Supporting UnboundEd’s GLEAM Instruction with IM K–12 Math. Teachers and leaders were present, making connections that they could take back for immediate classroom implementation.

NCTM Annual Meeting

My next stop was NCTM’s annual Meeting in Los Angeles. To say I left that conference with a wealth of knowledge would be an understatement. There were so many talented math minds in one place. The active engagement was similar to what educators want to see in classrooms with students. Participants could choose from 60-minute sessions, 75-minute workshops, or 30-minute bursts. These multifaceted session types enable educators to acquire as much knowledge as possible in a short period of time. I led a workshop titled Culturally Responsive Pedagogy with IM K–5 Math, which included intentional time for teachers and leaders to interact, share, and exchange their teaching and leadership experiences with IM K–5 Math. That’s when I realized there were some 6–12 participants who gladly shared and the dialogue transitioned to K–12.

Georgia Mathematics Conference

My final stop was in my home state of Georgia for the 63rd Georgia Mathematics Conference, where I presented Culturally Responsive Pedagogy with IM K–5 Math to Georgia educators. The conference theme, Reunite to Refocus and Reimagine, captured the desire to re-engage in the mathematics work needed for implementation of the revised state standards. The keynote session that kicked off the conference was Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics by author Dr. Peter Liljedahl. I observed teams of teachers attending sessions together and discussing team-building activities throughout the conference. It was inspiring to hear participants who attended my session share their excitement about engaging with educators outside of their districts and reconnecting with their purpose.    

Annual GCTM 2022 Conference     

As a conference presenter, I always want to leave a space with more joy and excitement than when I entered. Since conference presentations are time-bound, I take pride in tailoring presentations and workshops for maximum impact. I know that all of the answers are in the room, but they do not have to be at the front of the room. I learned so much from engaging with educators in Georgia, Florida, and California. I am grateful to be able to share my math experiences, knowledge, and ideas with others.

Conference season will be here before you know it! 

Get excited and explore opportunities! Leaders, advocate for conference funding to support other leaders and teachers in your building/district. Teachers, advocate for yourself and fellow educators for funding to experience conferences. Whether you are attending a conference as a speaker or a participant, be fully present and ensure your time is impactful by aligning the sessions you lead or attend with your goals and values. Conferences add intrinsic value to educators that can be felt throughout classrooms across the globe. Educators deserve opportunities to network, become familiar with new technology, break classroom monotony, and learn from and with others.

So, what conference will you attend or send your staff to this year?

Looking Ahead: IM Experience Events

This conference season, experience IM at national and regional math education events as we connect with educators and school leaders and deliver meaningful interactions to the K–12 mathematics community. Visit our website to learn where we will be this year!