The Beef Taco Dilemma

This is a problem that I wrote for my statistics class.  The objectives for this problem are as follows: 1.  Compute percentages. 2.  Compute the arithmetic mean. 3.  Critically think about whether or not Joe had enough tacos to meet the 'average' demand.   What I found was some students had a hard time computing the percentages and some also had a hard time keeping straight how many beef and how many chicken tacos Joe ordered on each day. ...
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FOIL is for BAKED CHICKEN

Here is why I believe that the FOIL method for multiplying two binomial expressions should NOT be used: The underlying premise of the FOIL method is that students must first be able to identify a binomial.  However, most instructors do not seem to stress enough that the FOIL method can only be used to multiply two binomials.   We can only speculate on the reason for why they might not do this – Maybe they only teach multiplying binomials so they do not need to make any distinction or maybe whey wrongly assume that students will be able to identify a binomial.  However, in my opinion, if a student cannot identify a binomial, then they should not even be using the FOIL method. Either way, what worries me the most is that fact that a student will get to a problem that involves multiplying expressions that are not binomials and will not know what to do.  If I...
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PEMDAS is NOT a Word

Here is why I believe that the PEMDAS method for remembering the order of operations should NOT be used: 1.  PEMDAS is not a word.  In general, I believe that for mnemonic devices to have the greatest impact, they should be easy to remember words.  PEMDAS is not easy to remember and PEMDAS is not even a word. 2.  PEMDAS implies to students that there are six steps in the order of operations:  Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction, when in fact, there are only four steps in the order of operations.   How can we expect students to properly remember the order of operations if we are providing them with such a misleading mnemonic device? 3.  PEMDAS should not be used simply because it is the way that students want to be taught.  One student told me the other day that he was confused by the way that I was doing the order of operations simply because I...
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Upcoming Conferences in Michigan

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear instructors complaining about the lack of professional development activities.  There are plenty of conferences to attend, wherever you live (I happen to live in Michigan).  I honestly believe that one of the keys to a successful teaching career is attending conferences, networking, and building a personal learning network.  To that end, I have compiled the following list of upcoming conferences in Michigan.  I hope to see you there (At this point, I plan to attend all of these). January Macomb Community College Math and Technology Workshop February Math in Action 2012 March 2012 Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) Conference Michigan Developmental Education Consortium (MDEC) Conference April Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Great Lakes Section Meeting May 2012 Michigan Mathematical Association (MAA) and MichMATYC Meeting June 2012 Michigan Joint Education Conference August Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM) Conference 2012 Muskegon Community College Math and Technology Workshop October Meaningful Play 2012 MichMATYC Fall Conference November Detroit Area Council of Teachers of Mathematics...
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New Games, Activities, and Projects

In this post, I want to talk about a few of the projects that I have been working on over the break to use with my students in the upcoming Winter 2012 Semester. 1.  Electrifying Truth Table – This is an activity that a friend of mine got from Pete Wildman during the 2011 AMATYC Conference in Austin, TX.  The idea is for students to build multiple different circuits to model truth tables in different situations.  The one in the picture above is the AND Circuit since both switches (sets of paperclips) must be closed for the light to turn on.  The biggest pain in getting this activity up and running was getting the proper supplies.  It seems that in Michigan where I am from, there is no ‘one stop shopping’ for these supplies.  However, the activity is a good activity.  And I do have permission from Pete to share the activity with anyone who contacts me. ...
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Taking the Fun Out of Enjoyment

Last weekend I cleaned out my apartment over a period of three days.  I was even called a hoarder on Twitter.  Anyway, three days and multiple bags of trash certainly give a person a lot of time to think and reflect.  The majority of what I was throwing away was papers from when I used to teach at other schools as a part-time instructor.  I had to keep the papers at home because I never had an office. What struck me as odd though is looking through all of the student work I had kept from over the years and realizing that I used to have fun in my classes.  I used to have students do in-class presentations on famous mathematicians, create games and puzzles related to the unit we were studying, and do a lot of other fun paper-based activities when I first started teaching. But now that I am trying to create more games, activities, and...
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First Day Policies and Activities

Below is a list of rules that I plan to give to my students on the first day of class to try to prevent some of the behaviors that bothered me last semester from occurring again during the upcoming semester.  If the tactics in the handout seem a little extreme, good, I mean them to be.  I want students to realize that certain behaviors have consequences, both for the low achieving students and the high achieving students, both at school and at home.  I know that I will not get through to every student, but if you like my handout, feel free to tell some of the stories in your own classroom. The_Rules.pdf Download this file As for how I am going to present the rules on the first day of class, I am going to use the grid below.  The students will be given a blank version to fill out while I am giving an overview of the...
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Review of ‘GridPaper’ iPad App

GridPaper is an iPad App that recognizes handwritten mathematical symbols.  You can use this App to perform operations and to solve equations. During the Fall 2011 semester, I evaluated GridPaper to see if I would like to use it with my students.  All of my students who saw me using this App really thought that it had the potential to be a great learning tool.  They liked that the App uses handwriting recognition software, but I honestly do not believe that the like of this App went any deeper than just the ‘wow factor.’ For me, the most frustrating thing about using GridPaper is that it did not come with instructions.  When you open the App, there are a few instructional diagrams, but no words explaining what everything does.  So, everything I know about the App now came from trial and error.  I still have trouble writing certain numbers using the App, pi being one of them.  My...
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Reflections of Former Part-time Instructor

Last semester (Fall 2011) was my first semester teaching full-time.  As such, I have learned a lot of lessons about what bothers me and what does not bother me.  However, the biggest thing I noticed is that when certain behaviors bother me now, I actually want to do something to prevent them from happening again in the future.  But during my eight years of teaching part-time, I never did anything about it. That got me thinking about why if those behaviors bother me so much, why I never did anything about them in the past, as a part-time instructor.  Here are a couple of my thoughts on why part-time instructors might be less likely to take action: 1.  They are scared.  First of all, they are scared about losing their job.  Many part-time instructors have multiple positions at multiple schools because they actually need the money.  So, if they tell students not to do something, it is quite...
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