Monthly Archives: February 2011

Tips for Success in Math

I was reminded recently of the importance of stressing to students what it takes to be successful in Mathematics.  I used to be really good at making sure that I pass out a 2-page document at the beginning of every semester with some helpful tips, followed by some class time going over them.  However, after so many times of seeing your tip sheets in the garbage at the end of the first day of class, you tend to get frustrated.  At least I did.  However, coming across the following documents made me realize that maybe I should start doing this again, even if every student doesn’t find it helpful.

Adult Brain Processes Fractions Effortlessly

Whenever I start a unit on fractions, I like to pass this article out to my students as I hope to encourage them into seeing that it is possible for their brains to process fractions despite maybe not fully understanding them earlier in life.  Enjoy this article, and please pass it on.

GeoGebra and Applets for Calculus

Somethings I have learned just by being a little more observant.  One day last week I was sitting at a different table than usual at school, and it happened to be next to the bulletin board.  At the very top of the bulletin board was a flier that I had never seen before that had a list of two websites, one of them being Math Applets for Calculus at St. Louis University.  Personally, I have never been too big of a fan of applets, but most of these are really great.  There are four types of applets there: JCM Applets, Banchoff Applets, Geometer's Sketchpad Applets, GeoGebra Applets.

However, I was actually more interested in GeoGebra than the actual applets, since I had never heard of it before.  It turns out that GeoGebra is a free tool to create learning and teaching materials.  I played a little bit with the web-based version since I didn't really want to download anything that I wasn't so sure about.  And now I can see that it is a terrific resource that I will be using well into the future.  Of course, although I also like the Wolfram Demonstrations Project, I can't get over the fact that you need the Mathematica Player in order to be able to show the demonstrations in class.  And since I don't have the rights to download it in many of the buildings that I teach in, sometimes it is a fail for me.  GeoGebra is different since I can put the Applets directly onto my own webspace.

As a great introduction to using GeoGebra, I highly recommend checking out the video below, which will give you just a small taste of its power and might.  By the way, the guy in the video says GeoGebra incorrectly every time.  It's GEE-AHH-GEBRA, not GEE-O-GEBRA.  I found this out only because I watched another video from the creator of GeoGebra.  Sorry, just a pet peeve, just like when students pronounce EULER incorrectly.

Twitter Link Round-Up

Here’s a recap of the links that I’ve posted on Twitter over the past week or so:

1.  A friend told me that she used this Divisibility Rocks game from over at The Utah Education Network with her Developmental Math students and that it worked really well.  It turns out that they have plenty of other great lesson plans as well.

2.  Z-Type is a very intense typing game.  It turns out that as a Math Instructor, I do have to teach typing, computer, and writing skills as well.  For example:  One student told me just today that he couldn’t write a paper for my class about an African American Mathematician because he hadn’t had an English class yet.

3.  NightMare is an example of a 25-word story.  I’m considering having my students write their own 25 word stories about a concept in mathematics.  This would be good introductory video to show to students, though, because it is absolutely hilarious!  It’s one of the best laughs that I have had in a really, really long time.

4.  100 Ideas for Data Projector and Document Camera – Well, yeah, these ideas really are for my friends who still want to teach like they’re still in the 19th century.  And even if you’re already using the document camera, I’m sure that you can’t think of 100 ideas.  Well, maybe you can.

5.  Times Attack is an awesome multiplication game that takes over the top spot for me as my favorite multiplication game ever!  And let me tell you, I learned so much from the hour I played this game just about the world of video games.  I was just as frustrated with figuring out how to navigate as I am sure a student would be with doing the multiplication.

6.  Math Illustrations is a new program that I just found out about for drawing mathematical figures that I really think that you will like once you watch the tutorial video on this page.  It is so great that I am really considering the $59 fee to buy this program because I think it would make my life a lot easier in the long run.  And the Word Drawing tools suck, especially for number lines.

7.  NCTM Black History Month Resources – It’s Black History Month and I am trying to incorporate some lessons into my curriculum.  I found these resources to be extremely helpful.  I am even going to check the recommended book out from my library to read over the next month or so.  I checked already and it is indeed one of the books that they have!

8.  E-Learning Tools for Schools and Education is a Mindomo Mind Map with hundreds of wonderful resources for E-learning.  There are a lot of tools that I thought were regrettably left off the list as well.  However, I know that there are plenty of resources on the list that I have yet to explore.  I hope that you have time to explore some of them as well and to find what will work best for you.

9.  Math Wordles – I have talked about Wordles on this site plenty of times in the past and this activity just reminded me of the fact that there are so many things that can be done with a Wordle.  My plan is to develop a modified version of this activity in the near future to use with one of my classes.  As described, I think this could be a great activity for Math Anxiety toward the beginning of a semester.

10.  On-line LaTeX Equation Editor – I think LaTeX is so easy for entering equations, and I especially love how in the newer versions of Word I can type LaTeX code directly into Equation Editor.  However, even that bridge until the next time I can use LaTeX is not enough.  I can see this on-line tool being a great use to some people.

11.  TED Talks I’ve ‘liked’ over the past week:

Converting Your Files to PDF

Over the years I have learned not to post Microsoft Word, or other similar files on the Internet for students as there is usually at least one student who claims that they couldn’t do the assignment because they couldn’t open the file.  Then there is also the occasional student who will edit the file so that the assignment says that they had to do less work than what was originally assigned.  I even had a student one time who had the nerve to edit my syllabus and then tried to tell me that I had my own grading scale wrong!  Enough with the rant and on to a few free resources that have helped me in my quest to create wonderful PDFs.

1.  CutePDF ( – This is a great program that lets you print virtually any file to a PDF.  Sometimes I have even used it to print specific pages of one PDF to another PDF.  It does that, too.  Well, as long as the file isn’t locked down or something like that.  I have had that happen to me on occasion.  Of course there are other programs that do this as well, such as PrimoPDF (  However, CutePDF was the first one that I learned about, so I have stuck with it all these years.

2.  PDFsam ( – PDFsam, which stands for PDF Split and Merge, is a wonderful program that allows you to do just that – split and merge PDFs.  I use it mostly for merging.  What I have found interesting is that when I have a Word document, a PDF, and another Word document that I want to combine into one file, I use CutePDF to convert the Word documents to PDFs and then I use PDFsam to merge the files together into one flowing document.  PDFsam has also been especially useful when I have needed to merge PDFs to submit job applications on-line that require a cover letter, resume, transcripts, and reference letters to all be in one file.

3.  doc2PDF ( – This is a wonderful website that I use to convert Word documents to PDFs when I am on a computer, such as at work or the library, that does not have CutePDF installed.  This has saved me so many times when I have wanted to post a quick document on-line for my students, but I did not want to post the Word document.  Yes, I know, I need to be using GoogleDocs.  However, some students complain about that as well.  So, to keep complaints to the minimum, I have used this website many times to create a PDF on the fly.

I hope you find these resources as helpful as I have found them!