Here is another blog post in my series of only-a-year-late posts about Twitter Math Camp 2017 (TMC17). In this one I want to talk about the Crochet Coral workshops Megan and I did, but I don’t want to actually talk about the crochet coral. Instead I want to talk about the quietness.
TMC was a wild wild time. At the sessions there were hundreds of amazing maths and teaching ideas to process. At break times during the conference there were things to play with and discuss, with overheard conversations going on all around me about interesting stuff. At the social time outside the conference there were things to play with and discuss, with overheard conversations (and singing) going all around me about interesting stuff. It was exciting and wonderful, and mentally noisy.
Our three morning sessions were an island of calm and quiet in this tumultuous sea.
At our first session, Megan and I got everyone started on how the iterative crochet works, and from that point forward we explored where these simple ideas could take us. Somehow it produced six hours of wonderful calm.
We sat and focused on our own fluffy explorations, or quietly played with the existing corals, or clamly discussed the events of the conference so far or other thoughts that were flitting through our heads. Most of us had the conference Twitter feed on to look at, but it was almost as if it was outside us and we were observing from afar. In that room we were somehow created a protected space where we could recharge our energy to engage in the wild ride that was the rest of TMC.
I think there were two features of the activity we were doing that helped to create this magical space. The first is the slowness of crochet exploration. In other mathematical domains, exploration can be a chaotic whirl of sound and colour, with frenzied scribbling and conversation. But the exploration in crochet is slow and can take hours to get to the stage where the structure is visible in the thing you are making. The second is the smallness of the actions you perform to do the exploration. The mechanism you use to produce these corals uses small stitches that hold your attention in a tiny bubble between the tips of your fingers, almost causing the rest of the world to fade into the background. Joey described the strange feeling of looking up and finding how big the world is, after you’ve spent the last half an hour looking at the tip of a crochet hook.
I didn’t mean for our workshop to have this haven-like property but I am so glad it did. It really made an amazing positive difference my experience of TMC, and I don’t think I would have had nearly as wonderful a time without it. By the third day I was aching to get there to be part of our little crochet cuddle. If I ever go to TMC again I would want to find or make a similar space to have those quiet times. In the year since, I think I have forgotten how important that quiet time of focus is, and I think in the next several months I will try to recapture it again.
Thank you to the wonderful crochet crew for the quietness.
— David Butler (@DavidKButlerUoA) February 1, 2018