Monthly Archives: December 2010

Math Poster Contest

Inspired by a poster of the Quadratic Formula that one of my students brought in today, I’m making it official!  Next term I’m going to have a Math Poster Contest between both of my classes at IADT, and I think that in addition to being a 100 point project, that the winner will receive a gift card to an undisclosed location.  I don’t want to disclose that information yet because if this thing gets to be as big as I am envisioning it to be, I might recruit some sponsors for some even bigger prizes.  I have some tricks up my sleeves, don’t worry.  Hey, I’m the same guy who raffled off a DVD player my first semester as a TA at Oakland University because I thought it would help increase attendance (It didn’t).

Update:  The Exponent Poster was created by the same student.  I don’t think she’s aware of the typo, though.  If you can find it, you don’t win a prize!

Math Manga

I was talking with some of my students this afternoon who asked me about my interest in Anime and Manga.  Of course, I immediately was intrigued by the possibility of combining Math and Manga and did a Google search (I’m really trying to avoid using Google as a verb these days) for “Math Manga”.  Well, apparently Lerner Publishing Group has a series on Manga Math Mysteries.  And then there are the Math Games from Manga High, which include the ever so popular “Ice Ice Maybe,” a wonderful game for teaching students estimation.  It actually has taught me a few things on estimation as well, such as I have to get a little faster at it, and I can’t look away from the computer or 3 penguins will die by the next time I look back at the screen.  Maybe I can have some of my students build on these thoughts next semester and create something for College Mathematics.  We’ll see.

Math Themed Haunted House

Earlier this semester (before I got sick for an extended period of two and a half weeks), I was really entergetic about trying out new ideas in the classroom.  Although the execution by the students could have been a little better, the students were engaged, which counts as a big deal to me.  If I do this haunted house activity with students in the future, there are a few things that I know that I would do differently, such as having a precise rubric prepared to hand out to the students that checks for participation (some students particpated less than others within the same group), understanding of the mathematics (some groups did not use as much math in their project as others), and overall quality.  A few pictures from the frightful day are posted below.  Enjoy!

Teaching Equations to Pre-Algebra Students

I got in a heated discussion the other day with a couple of colleagues about how to teach equation solving to pre-algebra students.  The equation x + (1/2) = (3/4) came to mind because generally I start a discussion of equations by showing examples of one-step equations.  However, this equation (or most equations with fractions for that matter) is special because the quickest way to solve it may not always be the easiest way to solve it.  This can cause a dilemma if I am discussing one-step equations, but NEED to show the students two step equations in order to make the problem easier to understand for the students.  Does anyone else have an opinion on this?  Any input would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks.


Mathematics Origami

This morning with a stack of blank, unused paper sitting right next to me, I was thinking about some new projects that I might be able to assign my students for next semester.  Then it popped into my mind… Origami!  I think an assignment on origami would be especially interesting to my students in art and design.  I am looking forward to seeing what students will create in the semesters to come.  By the way, below is a link to a related TED talk by Robert Lang.  It could serve as a good way to introduce an entire unit on this topic (to the right group of students).

Basic Technical Mathematics Resources

This website is full of resources that I accumulated while teaching MATH 100 (Basic Technical Mathematics) at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, MI during the Winter 2010 semester.  The textbook we used was Elementary Technical Mathematics, 9th Edition by Ewen and Nelson (Thompson-Brooks/Cole; ISBN: 0-495-01274-2).  I hope you find them useful.

Happy Grading, Everyone!

For anyone in teaching, grading is probably one of the most time consuming things to be done, especially if the class sizes are large, which they inevitably are due to shrinking budget sizes, etc.  So, to celebrate all of the grading that will be done by teachers in the next few weeks with finals rolling around, I thought that I would share a few links that were sent to me recently:

Using Wolfram | Alpha Effectively

When I was helping some of my students review for their final exam tonight, I was reminded about Wolfram|Alpha, and how to effectively use it in the classroom.  One of my students was trying a factoring problem, and he all of a sudden started typing it into his computer.  I asked him what he was doing, and he told me that he was using WA.  I was also reminded that I was the one who told him about it.  I am very adamant that WA is an effective tool to aid in student learning, as long as it is used properly.  I have no problem with students checking their work to a factoring problem using WA.

That being said, how do we bridge the gap between what students can do at home and in the classroom if all of the students don’t have a computer with internet access to use during class.  And even when students do have a computer to use, even fewer schools have computer labs where the instructor can control the screen of the students during the class so that students cannot be doing things during class that take away from learning, such as checking Facebook.  By the way, this is a problem even in graduate classes, as a student in the Education class I was taking this semester was constantly using Facebook during class, even with the instructor sitting just inches away from her.  I repeat, a graduate student was doing this.

So, what is the solution to use WA effectively?  I’m not sure that there will ever be a solution.  Even if there were a solution today, WA would evolve, and our solution would have to evolve with it.  For now, the Wolfram|Alpha for Educators page is doing a decent job of getting us started, and even includes links to some sample lesson plans to use WA effectively in the classroom.

Related Link:

Thoughts on Teaching Statistics

There was a tweet in my feed this morning that simply said: "Now that's how you present statistics ".  I'm glad that I took this tweet seriously, because the next 5 minutes or so of watching Hans Rosling talk about the "Joy of Stats" was a real treat.  I can only imagine what some of these talks would have done this semester if I would have showed them at specific points throughout the semester in order to show why statistics is even useful, or how it is even used on display in the world around us.

Related Links:

Pre-Algebra and Algebra Resources

A few months ago I had students in my Basic College Math class create a game about fractions.  One student created “Fraction Bingo”.  I decided to search the web to see if there were printable bingo sheets available.  Well, there were, along with some other activities that I found on the same website from Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.  And below is a list of a few of my favorite ones, appropriate for college-level basic math classes (organized by topic):

Operations on Numbers