Monthly Archives: February 2011

Teaching Signed Numbers with Zombies, Ghostbusters, and Night Vision Goggles

Here are three new application problems that I came up with while teaching signed numbers this morning.  Remember, I came up with these on the spot, during class.  So, just imagine that the entire class is paying attention to each of these problems as I am writing them, trying to figure out what is going to happen next to Clyde in each of the problems.  I hope you enjoy these!

1.  Clyde was walking down the street and he lost 1/3 of his vodka.  A little later down the street Clyde encountered a zombie who wanted to steal another 2/5 of his vodka.  The zombie agreed not to kill him if he told him the total loss that he incurred, as a signed number.

2.  Clyde was running another scam where he collected $6.20 from people to buy an invisible potion of life.  The local ghostbuster caught wind of this scam and blackmailed Clyde with a $3.30 charge.  How much money does Clyde still have from this scam?

3.  Clyde was in debt $12 to the local spy shop for some new night vision goggles that he needed to monitor paranormal activity coming out of the bottom of his shoes.  When Clyde informed the spy shop that they forgot to include the complimentary antenna that comes with his goggles, they subtracted $4 off of his debt.  How much does Clyde still owe, as a signed number?

Regression on the Calculator

Here are a few notes on regression and other stuff I’ve noticed over the past week:

1.  Remember my calculator post from last week?  Well, some of my Finite Math students were still having a little bit of trouble using the calculator to do Regression on the calculator.  This website on Cubic Regression seems to have done the trick for my students, and I don’t seem to be getting nearly as many questions about how to do regression on the calculator now have I have started to circulate this link around.  So, I figured I would throw it out there as a resource for everyone else!

2.   If you have a student who needs extra help and you aren’t fortunate enough to be teaching from a Pearson book that uses MyMathLab, you can always send your students over to InteractMath.  The student just needs to choose a book with similar topics to that of which you are studying, and exercises will be generated from there.  Actually, I’m using it in the on-line class I’m designing this semester because part of the challenge of creating this class is that we are supposed to use strictly free, on-line resources.  And this definitely qualifies!

3.  Eh, if you’re reading this, check out this great Math Magic Trick and list of Five Things to Do with Your Old Laptop.  I know, both are very random links, so I’ll tag them as #miscellaneous, how about that?

Thousands of FREE Learning Resources

I have heard about these websites from various places throughout the past week.  I hijacked a few of the descriptions, but I would rather give a hijacked description rather than an inaccurate description.

1.  CoSketch is a multi-user online whiteboard designed to give you the ability to quickly visualize and share your ideas as images. No registration or plugins required.  However, I can see this being a big problem for students with a low-maturity level who would love to draw right over what the instructor is drawing.  So, be careful!
2.  Thinkfinity is a free digital learning platform from the Verizon Foundation that offers comprehensive teaching and learning resources created by content partners such as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the International Reading Association, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the National Geographic Society, and more. Its content includes interactive student games, lesson plans focused on various themes, education blogs and online discussions, and much more.

3.  FREE – or Federal Resources for Educational Excellence, is a U.S. Department of Education website that compiles free teacher resources available from dozens of federal agencies. Educators can sign up for the FREE RSS feed, which notifies users when new resources are added. Otherwise, they can browse by topic, from music history to life sciences.

4.  Websites for Educations from Harvard School of Education50 Ways to Integrate Technology Into Your Classroom Tomorrow157 of the Most Useful Websites on the Internet, and 100+ Free Resources for Real Teachers in Real Classrooms are all 4 more places that have hundreds of more free learning resources for you to use in your classroom.  Personally, I don't have time to even look at all of them today.  But here's the upside:  If one of our current resources goes down (which is likely to happen since technology is always changing), compilation websites such as these give us hope that there is something out there that will replace the void that needs to be filled.

Interactive Demonstration Tools

Here are a few highlights of some of the Interactive Demonstration Tools that I have come across in the past few weeks:

1.  All Interactive Whiteboard Resources – Although the applets on this website are designed to be friendly for those classrooms with Smartboards and the like, I see no reason why these applets can't be used in any classroom.  In fact, I plan on use this Angle Measure resource when teaching my classes about angles in the upcoming weeks.  Other great resources on this website include this Translation Plotter, which helps students to visualize translating a shape in the Rectangular Coordinate System.

2.  Interactive Slope Applet – Although I ran out of time to actually use this with my own class, this is a wonderful resource that lets students click and drag points such that when the line between the point changes, the calculation of the slope of the line also changes on the screen as well.  Very useful!

3.  Slope-Intercept Equation Applet – This appears to be the exact same applet I introduced to you a few weeks ago in the Geogebra Tutorial video.  It's a very simple resource that allows students to visualize the slope-intercept equation of a line by using sliders to change the slope and y-intercept.

Joliprint, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Teaching Measurement

There have been so many times when I have wanted to print something from the web, but have had a very hard time getting it to print out correctly.  Joliprint is a resource that will definitely solve (most) of your problems.  For example, the other day, I printed this Convert, then Compete blog post from the Chronicle of Higher Education with the intent of having my students read the article and then write a paragraph response.  By the way, this turned out the be a very good activity that went along with the discussion of measurement in my Developmental Math class.  However, the print ended up being small and quite awkward.  Joliprint solved all of my problems, and I wish I had known about it BEFORE I printed this article for my students.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the before and after, and I think you’ll be a Joliprint fan.  I know I am.

Before Joliprint:

Convert, Then Compete – Brainstorm – The Chronicle of Higher Education.pdf
Download this file

After Joliprint:
Download this file

Tech Resources for Teachers: Backchanneling and more!

Over the past few months I have been trying to totally emerge myself into the world of Instructional Technology.  I have seen so many resources and as we all know, they eventually become repetitive.  I hate reading a list of "The Top Best New 100 Resources for Teachers" and half of them I already know about, and the other half end up being useless because they are either ill-designed or expensive.

Well, with Richard Byrne's Favorite Tech Resources for Teachers comes a breath of fresh air.  There were so many new resources on this website that I hadn't heard of before, and they were in areas that I either really needed or wanted additional resources in.  These areas include Backchanneling and websites to create your own games!  I was really impressed with the unique categories on this list of resources, and I really think that it is really worth a moment of your time to check out.
However, if you want to stay stale and in the past, feel free to do so.

Graphing Calculator Issues

In my Finite Math class I have been heavily stressing the use of the graphing calculator, especially since the college requires the calculator for the course.  I would definitely show the students how to use the graphing calculator anyway, it’s just that since it’s required, I feel as if I have an extra obligation to make sure that the students are using the calculator that they spent their big bucks on.  Anyway, here are a few issues that I have run into so far this semester (and unfortunately, I ran into all of the issues on the same night so it totally looked like I didn’t know what I was doing):

Issue #1:  When using ‘Math Print’, the Radical Sign has a limit.

My calculator is the TI-84+, which has the operating system upgrade.  Of course my calculator was in the new ‘Math Print’ mode since that is the default.  If you know anything about this mode, you will know that the square root symbol shows up on the screen, instead of having to put parentheses around the radicand.  Well, guess what?  There’s a limit to how many characters can go under the radicand.  And the calculator doesn’t really indicate this until you’ve typed in all of the characters and then realize that the radical symbol isn’t covering the entire radicand.
I tried to calculate the radical anyway, despite realizing that the radical symbol wasn’t covering the entire radical.  And my answer was wrong, and I looked somewhat like a fool for giving an answer that was clearly incorrect.  So, please be wary of the lure of the new ‘Math Print’ mode.

Issue #2:  When graphing piecewise functions, compound inequalities can be tricky.

When I first got my textbook for this semester, I was quite excited because the book came with many resources, including a graphing calculator guide.  I printed the guide out immediately, and figured that I could refer to it as needed throughout the semester in case I forgot one of the commands.  I also figured that the guide would provide some tips and tricks to using the graphing calculator specifically for the textbook that I might not know about.  One of these things is graphing piecewise functions, as I have never done this in the calculator before this semester.
Before class, I thought I was prepared.  I practiced entering piecewise functions and I reviewed my guide.  However, once in class, I totally froze up when entering piecewise functions.  So, I referred to my guide, and the one thing I needed it for, it didn’t cover – entering the pesky compound inequalities.  I knew I had done it before and that there was something I just wasn’t remembering.  Well, good thing for me one of my students figured it out in a rare ‘aha’ moment.  Really, I don’t get those too much in my classes.  But this student is a really great student, so I gave her big props for figuring the fix out before I did.
Anyway, you may want to review this document if you ever intend on doing a live demo of piecewise functions in the classroom:

Issue #3:  Some graphing calculators display asymptotes (by default) and some don’t.

Someone told me about this issue last semester, but I really didn’t take it too seriously, since I figured that it was a technicality that I probably wouldn’t need to keep at the forefront of my mind.  Well, I was totally wrong about this, and totally taken off guard when during class, some students started getting different graphs.  Half an hour later or so after the students compared their screens and all made sure that they had entered the piecewise function correctly, I realized that the TI-83 and TI-84 calculators were displaying different answers.  Then about two minutes after that I was into another half an hour unplanned discussion about asymptotes.
It dawned on me on the spot, right then and there, that the TI-83 calculators display the asymptotes by default.  Of course!  That’s why the graphs look different.  Although, if I would have known how to at the time, I would have probably told the students with the TI-84 calculators to turn the asymptotes on so that everyone could see the same graph.  And here’s a post from the TI people on how to do that:

Mid-Week Ideas, Anyone?

A couple of things I came across this week.  Of course, there were more, but here are the highlights:

1.  TI-Nspire Videos over at Atomic Learning – These are wonderful walk-through videos which cover the basics, graphs and geometry, lists and spreadsheets, data and statistics, calculator and data collection.

2.  TopicMarks – I heard about this wonderful tool this week in my Twitter feed that summarizes text documents for you.  This has wide implications, such as allowing more free time to read other materials, or to just simply give an abstract for one of your own works.

3.  Inequality Match Game – I actually found the direct link for this game from the North Carolina Public Schools first, and then hunted down the original source once I realized that the wonderful state of North Carolina has come up with what seems to be hundreds of activities for teaching math.

A Paper Idea for Learning to Plot Points

First of all, congratulations to Maria Andersen for winning the Mindomo MindMap of the Week.  Now, let’s document my journey over the next 30 minutes or so after I started hunting around the Play and Learn Mind Map.  And this is truly interesting, as it might show you exactly how I think sometimes.

I started with the Play and Learn Mind Map, which led me to the Playing to Learn Math Mind Map (Also by Maria Andersen).
I noticed that the Playing to Learn Math Mind Map (a work in progress) did not have any links to games about logarithms (although there is a spot for it).

I started searching Google for Logarithm Games and I came across this post called This Game Really is Worth 1000 Worksheets, which is simply a printable war-style card game about logarithms.

This site then led me to Let’s Play Math, where I found a wonderful post about a Graph-It Game.  However, the Graph-It Game only came with one -9985″>Christmas Example.  

So, I started searching Google again for “Plotting Points to Make a Picture Worksheet”.  Kaboom!  A lot of examples came up, all of which I think could be useful in their own way:  Mystery Graph (Owl) or click here for even more mystery graphs.

I also found these not so free options, although I am mildly inclined to sign-up for the ‘free trials’ and see what I can pull out of there in my 10 days with them.

1.  Math Crush has even more mystery graphs, and even a Battleship activity.
2.  Lesson Planet has some more as well.
3.  Math Worksheet Center has a ton of data and graphing worksheets.

Along the way, I also stumbled upon this post of the 20 Best Math Games and Puzzles.

Overall, I think it was a productive 30 minutes or so, and I hope that you found this post useful.  I am starting graphing with my Beginning Algebra students at the end of this week, so I will let you know how incorporating this whole Graph-It/Mystery Picture Idea works out.  Although, this is not something totally different than the What’s Brewing Worksheet that I have been borrowing from Pete Falzone’s website for a couple of years now.  But having more than one ‘picture’ is a good thing, since I am personally getting bored of seeing students draw the same coffee cup semester after semester after semester!