Math Department Retreat


Madeline Cohen Last Thursday and Friday, math classes across the upper school were cancelled as teachers left for their retreat. Although most everyone knew of their absences, not many knew exactly why they were gone or what took place on these retreats. Unlike the ones that we students are familiar with, there were no rock walls or trust falls or service events for this retreat; instead, there was math.

The retreat had two main purposes, the first of which was to bond socially as a department. The second was to create the questions for Latin’s annual middle school math contest, an event that takes place in January and attracts nearly 300 fifth through eighth grade students from Chicago and suburban schools. In a time of hectic schedules and stressful grading and overwhelming college recommendation writing, these two days almost completely dedicated to math ensure that the teachers can thoroughly discuss their subject and develop the best questions possible. And with such concentrated math talent, this year they were able to achieve just that.

The group included fifteen different math teachers, one from the lower school, four from the middle school, and ten from the upper school. Unlike previous years, the retreat remained in Chicago. It was held at the “Squirrel House,” a building connected to the lower school. Although it was located just across the street from school, it still served as a secluded location to focus completely on math for the two days. Thursday night, the teachers took a break from their work and went out to dinner, bringing their families along.

So what exactly takes place at one of these retreats? According to upper school math teacher Mr. McArthur, they “created and tweaked 36 problems for the middle school math contest, argued at length about what the words ‘difference’ and ‘constant’ mean, all while eating lots of chocolate chip cookies and brownies.”

Teachers typically enjoy the retreat, appreciating the value in having a break from the stresses of daily work and time dedicated to discuss just math. The math department plans to continue this retreat in the future. Mr. McArthur commented, “Next year we hope to go back to the beautiful and creepy Lakeside Inn in Michigan where we usually stay for two nights and do our work around a warm fireplace.”