Sunday, August 29, 2010

Math Circle Online (Part of the Math 2.0 Webinar Series)

Maria Droujkova has been doing a series of webinars once or twice a week for over a year now, on Math 2.0 (mainly math education online - the 2.0 refers to sites which allow and encourage participation). I've missed many exciting ones because it's hard for me to attend events while caring for my son, but lately he's become more independent, and has been better about playing quietly while I'm "in a meeting". You can see the whole list of past and future topics and speakers at the Math Future wiki.

I managed to make it to Dan Meyer's session on WCYDWT this past Wednesday evening, and loved it. (You can still watch the recording of it.) But I wanted to speak up for those of us who either don't feel we'll ever be able to shine like he does with multi-media problems, or don't have the proper equipment in our classrooms. So I asked to do a session myself.

Please join me for  Math Circles: Low Tech, High Engagement - Good for Classroom Use?  at 2pm Eastern time / 11am Pacific time, on Saturday, September 4. I'll conduct a math circle for the first part of the session. (If you haven't seen the problem before, you get to participate. If you have seen it before, you get to watch a math circle in action.) Then I'll host a discussion about how it went, how it might go if done in a class, and what topics in the curriculum might lend themselves to math circle format. We may also want to discuss what other low-tech ideas folks have, and how we can deeply engage students through both low and high tech methods.

I am not yet as good at leading math circles as I'd like to be, but maybe doing one online will bring out the best in me. If you'd like to see video recordings of my mentors, watch Bob or Ellen Kaplan in their math circle demonstrations at the Great Circles conference held at MSRI (Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, in Berkeley) in 2009.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Another Good Site for Children's Math Books?

I like the way The Reading Nook is organized. I love young people's books, and if I ever set up a site with all my favorites, I'd want it to look something like this.

I haven't looked at all the books reviewed there, but I do see that it's missing three of my favorite math story books: The Number Devil, The Man Who Counted, and The Cat In Numberland. It does have a number of the Anno books, Quack and Count, and Demi's One Grain of Rice. I reviewed most of these books in my post on my favorite math books. You can also find reviews of great children's math books at the Living Math site and at the Love 2 Learn 2day blog.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day One: Changing the Paradigm With Good Activities

If you teach and your school year hasn't started yet, check out Jason's post at Always Formative describing his first few days. I want to find out more about the stereotype threat assignment, and I love the idea of getting brave volunteers to show something that didn't work. The handcuff idea sounds great, too.

My year has already started, but I'm bookmarking this for the beginning of next semester. He's teaching middle school and I'm teaching college, so I'll have to modify anything I use, but I'm looking forward to trying out some of his ideas in January.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Math Without Words, by James Tanton

Way back in the spring James Tanton kindly sent me seven of his books to review.  Ever since then I've been trying to look them over thoroughly enough to do a good job reviewing them. I think I'd better do the reviews one at a time, or I'll never get to it. The books are so full of goodies it might take me years to feel like I've looked them over properly.

You may have noticed a few interesting sheets of puzzles in the video of my math salon. Here's one:

These came from Math Without Words, a compendium of 75 delightful puzzles. Each puzzle has one or a few sections that are filled in to show show the puzzle works. Then there are more sections ready to be thought about and puzzled over. The puzzles get you thinking mathematically in new ways, and range from easy enough to engage five year olds, to hard enough to stump the grownups.

Folks at the math salon really loved these puzzles, and I think you will too. You can buy a print copy of the book for $27.50 or download an electronic version for $19.50. Both are available at Lulu. I just now bought the electronic version, so I can more easily make copies for the groups I work with.

That first puzzle may look too easy. But for young kids it really is a great puzzle. Here's another puzzle we enjoyed at the math salon:

And I'll leave you with a more challenging puzzle that we haven't tried at the salon yet:

If you'd rather have a dozen of the puzzles in wall calendar form, that's available too. Next up for review is Thinking Mathematics, Volume 1: Arithmetic = Gateway to All.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Math Teachers at Play #29

Jason Dyer at Number Warrior has posted the latest Math Teachers at Play. I like the classic puzzle he included for 29, and the question he asked:
...can you generalize the errors made in the puzzle? Can you give a textbook, not-designed-as-a-puzzle example where this happens?
 I'm not sure how to start answering that, but I hope folks will give it a shot - it sounds like a great conversation could develop around this question.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Class Has Begun

Today was the first day of the second week of class. Last night I lay awake, worrying that this 'no textbook' thing was scary. (I'm not using a textbook during class. I've required them to get a textbook, but it doesn't have to be a new one. I've helped a few of them buy $4 copies of the older edition of our department's required text.) Are they doing their homework (that I'm not collecting)? Do they have any idea how to find good problems to practice on? What was I thinking?!

I asked today in class. Probably less than half of them have been doing their homework. I think I'll ask to look over some of the homework binders, so I can get a sense of how well they're choosing problems.

I'm teaching 3 sections of Beginning Algebra; they need review on fractions, integers, distributive property, and order of operations, which I'm now calling FIDO (instead of 'chapter one'). Last week on day two I gave them a problem I've given for years now. You've bought 3 lots at a campground with your partner. You've broken up. You now own 1 1/2 lots. Each lot is 2 1/3 acres. How much acreage do you own? I require them to start out by drawing a picture, and they work in groups of 4. We get to think carefully about fractions.

We did some more fraction stuff last week, and today's warmup was a nested fraction challenge problem:
[Yeay, I did that by using print in word, then saving as pdf, then saving that as jpeg, then cropping. Way easier than using online equation thingies.]

Can you all guess the most popular error? I hadn't seen it coming, but I should have... Lots of students wanted to cancel the 1's. When that was the first suggestion of how to start, I started to say something, and caught myself. I think not many noticed.

We talked about what belonged on top if the 1 was canceled. A zero? No... And it looked pretty strange with nothing on top... The first class had someone tell me that the problem was with the addition. I have in the past explained about not canceling when there's addition and subtraction in the fraction, but students all the way up through calculus keep doing it. Way too tempting... Perhaps the fact that they were trying to figure this out together will help them resist temptation? In the second class, when no one could tell me what was going on, I left it on the board for us to ponder. I did not give them the 'answer' (that the addtion is why you can't cancel). We finally got it.

I was excited about how it went today. We spent so much time on this weird problem that we didn't get much time for integers. There will be time tomorrow.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Waldorf Multiplication Star

A year or more ago, I read a post by a man whose daughter is going to a Waldorf school. He showed photos of the multiplication star the kids draw to help them learn their multiplication facts. It was a great post, and now I can't find it. Can anyone help me?

Friday, August 13, 2010

No Grades in Sweden (K-8)

Mark Olson teaches in Sweden. In April he wrote on his blog, Eight Falls, about how schools in Sweden do not grade students. Sounds good; I'll be looking for more background information on this.

He''ll be speaking at a webinar hosted by Maria Droujkova tomorrow:
Saturday, August 14th 2010 we will meet in the LearnCentral public Elluminate room at 11am Pacific - 2pm Eastern time. WorldClock for your time zone.
More information here.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Richmond Math Salon: A Sweet Sampling

Jeremy Stuart and Roy Robles, of 3StoryFilms, have produced a short video of the Richmond Math Salon. They recorded our April session, and interviewed me about it in June. It turned out great. Of course I'm embarrassed about how I look, but other than that, I love it! I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of Class Dismissed, the documentary this will be part of.

Our next session is September 18. Come join us if you're nearby.

[Edited on August 10 to improve video quality.]

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Creativity in Teaching

From Eugene Peterson:
Creativity is difficult. When you are being creative, you’re living by faith. You don’t know what’s next because the created, by definition, is what’s never been before. So you’re living at the edge of something in which you’re not very confident. You might fail: in fact, you almost certainly will fail a good part of the time. All the creative [people] I know throw away most of the stuff they do.
Can creative teachers use this thought?

[Hat tip to John Cook, at The Endeavor.]

[I'm at camp with my son this week, and thought I'd experiment with scheduling a post or two. I've set this one to come out on Monday.]
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