Innovation Lacking on Math Show Floor

I spent yesterday on the show floor at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), a K-12 organization aimed at helping advance the teaching of mathematics. What was particularly stunning was the lack of innovation technologically happening there.

The show floor was much smaller than in years past. The floor used to be huge, taking at least three hours to walk the entire thing. This year I walked slowly and did it all in just over an hour. I heard attendance was way down, too. Back when I had a booth at the show, six or seven years ago, the attendance usually hovered around 15,000.

The other trend was that there were fewer 10×10 booths than I remember, the smallest size available. This might be because of consolidation in the industry or companies like Casio trying to make a bigger splash. TI’s booth and Key Curriculum Press, two of the bigger players in math education, was tiny in comparison to years’ past.

Back to technology. Most of it was “old world” stuff. Calculators were dominant as always. (And here I have to give TI credit as their new nSpire calculator is quite nice to look at and their desktop software, albeit complex, is a step forward.) There was the usual assortment of desktop software: Geometer’s Sketchpad, Calculus in Motion. And a couple of new companies on the scene, who offers a free online grapher product and got some press a year ago because of Techcrunch demo days, and another company, FluidMath, that integrated graphing and equations with a hand-writing recognition engine.

What I didn’t see was something that could upset the status quo. The more I think about it, though, the more I wonder if that thing would even show up to an NCTM. My guess is the thing that upsets the status quo is going to come from the outside of education, not happen from the establishment.