Monthly Archives: September 2013

Diversity in Mathematics

Diversity in Mathematics

Diversity is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  As a Korean kid in a primarily white neighborhood and surrounded by primarily white family and friends, I was often bullied.  Although, I’m sure it didn’t help that I was overweight as a child, but that’s a different story.  I know my parents tried their best to make sure that I felt included and whatnot, but I always felt racism and racial undertones a lot as kid, in school, in church, and pretty much everywhere I went on a daily basis.  To me, that’s not how America is supposed to be.  In my America, diversity is supposed to be a good thing.  In my America, diversity is supposed to be appreciated and welcomed.  To that end, I’m trying to do my part by integrating diversity in mathematics topics into my classroom and into my department.  Here are some of the things that I’ve done recently:

1.  Create a bulletin board celebrating the International Year of Statistics

I found out that 2013 is the International Year of Statistics and so I had my work study students create this bulletin board in my department using the posters printed from the event website.  Everyone who has walked by has been really intrigued by the word statistics written in so many languages.  I’ve heard many discussions about what languages they think are represented on the poster.  I’ve also heard many discussions about the world map with all of the uses of statistics in countries around the world.  Although this was just a small bulletin board, it ended up being such a great discussion starter!

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2.  Discuss books on teaching Mathematics as a Language with my Math for Education Students

In my Math for Education class we talk about communicating mathematics.  I always mention books that I think would be helpful for my students to read as resources for making sure that they can reach out to all of their students.  I remind them that they will be working with a diverse group and that not every child that they will be teaching will speak English as their first language and not every child they will be teaching will see the world the same way that they do.  Some of the books that I recommend to them are Teaching Math as a Language, ESL through Content-Area Instruction, and The Problem with Math is English.  This summer I actually attended the Midwest Institute for International/Intercultural Education and created an entire module to accompany topics of cultural diversity, human rights, and social justice into my Math for Education classes.  I highly encourage everyone to attend the Midwest Institute at least once!  Once the module has been published and approved, I’ll let everyone know.

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3.  Library Fair participation by my classes

Every semester for about 2 years now, I have had my students participate in my college’s library fair.  At the beginning of every semester the students are given a topic and are asked to create a tri-fold poster display that is hung up in the library for a week.  In the past our topics have been Indian, Russian, and Chinese Mathematicians and Statisticians.  This semester our topic is Polish Mathematicians and Statisticians.  Several of my students have already told me that they are very excited about participating in the project because they are of Polish decent and this is going to give them a good opportunity to learn more about their own culture!

The library fair is open to the entire community and anyone who attends the fair and answers questions about the displays that my students have created get MMII Credit, which is essentially credit toward a free cultural competency certificate that the college offers.  I always encourage all of my classes to get the certificate because I truly believe that diversity and cultural awareness is truly something that my students need to know more about.  Besides that, though, I remind my students that this certificate is something that will definitely look good on their resume when they are applying to transfer to a university in the future or applying for a job.

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4.  Other MMII Events

In addition to the Library Fair mentioned above, I have also arranged for my students to participate in other events as well, such as:

  • An “Innovation in Mathematics” Poster display at the college library
  • A talk on “Women in Mathematics” by a local female graduate student
  • A viewing of “Stand and Deliver” with a discussion session of diversity issues after the film

I know that what I’m doing isn’t necessarily for everyone.  Some people might argue that I need to just stick to teaching mathematics and not deal with anything else at all.  Honestly, I must say that most of my students have told me that they appreciate that I’m helping them to become more aware of the world around them.  For example, when my students were creating the Chinese Mathematicians posters, one student found out that there was a Chinese Mathematician at the university that was thinking about applying to and she actually went to the university and interviewed him for the poster.  She said that talking to the professor at the university was great confirmation for her that it was the university that she actually wanted to attend.  So, you never know what type of impact these projects will have on your students.  I highly encourage to incorporate diversity into your classes, whether in a big way or a small way.  I know you won’t regret it!

See you at #MichMATYC13

As part of MichMATYC’s Fall 2013 Conference coming up on Friday, October 4 – Saturday, October 5, I was asked to create gift basket to be used as a raffle prize during the conference.  I gladly agreed to help out by making a donation!  A picture of the basket and a description of what’s all inside it is below.  I hope to see you at the conference and good luck winning the raffle prize!

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Jon Oaks’ Favorite Things Basket

This raffle prize is quite unique and includes the following items:

  • Really Useful Boxes 16 Box Organizer
  • Targus Back-Up Battery for Smartphones
  • PNY 16 GB Flash Drive
  • Pentel Twist Erase 9.0 mm Pencils
  • A Gift Certificate for a 2 hour professional development consultation with Jon Oaks*

*Offer must be redeemed with Jon Oaks before October 11, 2014.  Jon Oaks is a math instructor at Macomb Community College in Warren, MI, and the Professional Development Coordinator for AMATYC (The American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges).  The topics and format (in-person or on-line) of the consultation are negotiable.  Please contact Jon Oaks directly to schedule the consultation.

What I Learned at #BloggyCon13

This weekend I attended my first blogging conference ever: Bloggy Conference 2013. My intent for attending was as follows:

  • I wanted to get tips for becoming a better blogger myself.
  • I am considering having my students write blogs themselves (similar to this idea), as I truly believe that if my students write about what they are learning, then they are more likely to retain the information long-term.
  • I have a few students this semester who are homeschooling their kids at home and have asked me for suggestions for teaching their children mathematics and I heard there were some home school bloggers coming to the conference and I thought that I might be able to network and get some ideas from them.

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The conference was at Cedar Point, a place that seems to primarily be known for its great Roller coasters. Cedar Point was a great place for the conference. The hospitality was great and I learned that there is so much more to Cedar Point. I enjoyed my time on the beach, walking on the boardwalk, the entertainment, and the really good food at all of the restaurants (they have a Perkins, which was a real treat for me since the ones in Michigan have all closed). Despite all of wonderful distractions, I did learn some things, the biggest takeaways being:

  • In terms of being a better blogger myself, I learned that I need to have a Facebook Page for my website. I feel like I could definitely reach more people with all of the great ideas that I use in the classroom if I have a Facebook Page were I can share things that don’t necessarily fit onto this website. Right now I am doing this using Twitter by sharing links that I like and so forth, but the general public isn’t on Twitter– most of them are on Facebook.
  • I was part of a home school blogging discussion in which I learned that I need to have a regular blogging schedule. I was given several tips for setting up these schedules – from very simple to very extreme. The plan I liked the best is just to set-up a schedule of topics at the beginning of each month that you want to write about in the next month. I can definitely relate to this as it is very similar to what I do in writing lesson plans for my classes.
  • Most importantly, though, was all of the networking that I was able to do during the conference. I heard a talk by Honda on #HondaLove about the Top 10 Tips for Making a Perfect Pitch. All of the tips were very helpful for me in terms of the type of checklist of information that I want to create to give my students to help them as they are creating their blogs so that they will have the information that they need if it’s ever requested of them in the future.

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Although I was one of the few males there (I felt the need to mention this), I still learned a lot and I met a lot of great people who I hope that I will be able to work with in the future. I would highly recommend that anyone interested in blogging or using blogs in the classroom attend Bloggy Conference or some similar conference in the future.

Resources for Teaching Integers

I was recently contacted about whether or not I had any resources for teaching about Integers.  Of course, my answer was a resounding, “yes!”  But I was actually a little embarrassed when I had to admit to the person that I had never taken the time to organize them all into one easy-to-find place on the Internet.  So, that’s what this post is all about.  I hope that you enjoy the resources that I’ve collected for teaching integers.

Card Games

  • Zero Sum Card Game – This is a card game in which students need to collect cards in order to reach the sum closest to zero.

Integer Bingo

  • Bingo Master Template – This is an easy to use Bingo Master Template in which all you have to do is enter the clues and the answers.  The only limitation I’ve found is that it only prints 25 cards.  So, if you have more than 25 students in your class, you’re going to have a problem.
  • EDU Bakery Bingo Cards – Here is a Bingo game that is ready to be printed out.  However, if you want to be able to edit the cards from what is on the website, you’ll have to pay the fee (except that there does appear to be a trial version available).
  • Commercialized Bingo Game – This wouldn’t be my first choice for a Bingo game, but I can understand why someone would want to just buy the Bingo game since you wouldn’t have to take the time to print out the Bingo cards and the game probably would be reusable well into the future.

Integer Relay Races

I’ve used the files below in the past as ‘relay races’ in class.  You simply cut the sheets into strips and then have the students compete against each other.  Most students really seem to enjoy this!

Other Games and Activities

  • Operation Integers – Maria Andersen has this ‘Operation Integers’ game over on her website in which seems to be a spin on a “target number” kind of game.
  • Integer 500 – This is an integer game that involves putting a spinner together and things like that and seems like it would be pretty cool if you ever decide to try it (I haven’t).
  • Integer Football – Apparently Integer Football is a popular integer game these days.  I haven’t tried this one, either.

Puzzles and Worksheets

  • Math OPS Worksheets – MathOPS has some free puzzles available that can be printed out where the answer to every puzzle is the name of a “Famous Old Guy” in history.
  • Integer Crossword Puzzle from NASA – I love taking advantage of all of the ‘Space Math’ resources over on the NASA website and this is just one of them that just happens to involve integer operations.

OK, well good luck teaching your students about integers!  :)

The Mathematics of Weight Loss

The picture below was taken in college when I was around my heaviest weight ever of 314 lbs.  I’ve always been a big person and I there is a lot that goes into why this is the case as well.  Was it the way I was raised?  Was it genetics?  Was it just me eating myself into a hole?  Well, this is not the place where I’m going to talk about that.


What I will say, though, is that this is the most recent picture of me a little over 70 lbs lighter than I was at my highest weight.  This is a blog post about math, so I’ll let you figure out my approximate current weight on your own.


With all of that out of the way, I’ll tell you what this blog post is really about.  I don’t really like talking about myself because I’m generally a very self-conscious person.  But this weekend I was thinking about what I might be able to do to share my weight loss journey with my students.  And the file below was created.  It’s a series of problems that I’ve created for my classes — one problem per class.

There’s problem for Linear Algebra, Calculus, Statistics, Beginning Algebra, and Math for Education.  The best part for me is that every problem asks a question about the same data set.  And it’s all based around the premise that I have a short-term weight loss goal that I’m trying to meet of 225 lbs by October 31, 2013.

Maybe this is a little bit over the top for what you might be willing to use with your own classroom, but it’s definitely a big step forward for me in talking about my weight loss publicly.  If I can’t talk about this with my students, what can I talk about, then?  Some of the fat jokes that I used to use in class don’t really work anymore.  Hey now!

The Mathematics of Weight Loss