The Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP) celebrated Black History month at their annual Spring Networking Conference by honoring recognized African American mathematician and scientist Benjamin Banneker. The conference was held at the new Milby High School campus. Milby principal Ruth Ruiz welcomed attendees at the start of the conference. The thought-provoking keynote presentation by Brea Ratliff, President of Benjamin Banneker Association, Inc. was entitled “Building Like Banneker: Using History and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy to Shape Positive Mathematics Identities.” The Benjamin Banneker Association, Inc. and Luchin Educational Consulting generously underwrote the conference breakfast.
Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) was known for his work in many scientific disciplines, all of them self-taught. His accomplishments included creating a working clock made completely of wood, assisting in the surveying of the District of Columbia, and creating a series of mathematical puzzles that have intrigued students for years. The Benjamin Banneker Association, Inc. is a national non-profit organization and partner affiliate with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), dedicated to mathematics education advocacy, establishing a presence for leadership, and professional development to support teachers in leveling the playing field for mathematics learning of the highest quality for African-American students.
In honor of Benjamin Banneker, Milby art students, as part of interdisciplinary units, studied his life and created artwork based on his scientific accomplishments that were displayed at the conference. Attendees then voted for their favorite piece of art. In addition, Milby Math Chair and Noyce Fellow Patricia McMorris selected junior and senior Milby student ambassadors from the National Honor Society to assist with the conference setup, direct attendees to various locations on campus, assist the keynote speaker, and make everyone at the conference feel welcome.
After the keynote presentation, attendees selected from twelve breakout sessions led by Fellows from the Rice University’s National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship Program. The sessions were on a wide variety of content and pedagogical topics including how to develop a classroom website, how to use screencasting in instruction, how to integrate Geogebra to develop rich visually interesting lessons, and how to make historical connections in geometry. Material in the presentations was based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1556006.
The conference was a tremendous success. One attendee stressed the importance of conferences such as this one: “I enjoy the opportunity to engage with other educators in meaningful ways. Both the keynote presentation and the breakout sessions provided me with ideas that I can immediately use in my classroom.” Another attendee commented: “The presentation about Benjamin Banneker deepened my thinking and changed my outlook as a mathematics teacher.” Attendees left the conference energized and looking forward to the next RUSMP event.