New Probability Assignment

Last week I posted this on twitter after I attended the Math In Action Conference at Grand Valley State University:


However, I couldn’t post the assignment online right away as I hadn’t given it out to my students at that point.  Now I can.  Although I had lots of student questions about the assignment (more than I do a ‘normal’ assignment), I could tell that this problem had the students think outside of the box more than they would have had I not given them this assignment at all.

I tried to manage the student questions by starting a discussion thread on CANVAS and I jumped in at what I thought were appropriate times during the discussion.  For the most part, though, what I saw were students helping each other and confirming that they were all thinking along the same lines as they were working to complete the project.

I really liked this project and I would definitely assign this again.  I was even tempted to have the students find the population numbers on their own, but the problem is that Wikipedia, Wolfram|Alpha, and other sources were not all matching in there definition of a ‘village’ and of the actual population (some sources are using 2010 Census data and some even earlier).  Thus, giving the population numbers was definitely for my own sanity.

Wrap-Up of the Fall 2012 Conference Season

Note: This post got lost in e-land and is just now making its way to the Internet.

As the end of this semester approaches, I have decided that I need to take a few moments to just get some ideas and thoughts out of my mind from the conferences that I have attended this fall.  Here is a short wrap-up of some of the events that I have attended this semester.

This semester I presented at the Michigan Center for Student Success Summit.  My biggest takeaway from this conference is the fact that other colleges are way ahead of my college in terms of their student success initiatives.  I want to look into creating a student success class that is linked with my college’s pre-algebra course.  I think the advantage to having it as a separate, but linked, course instead of simply weaving study skills into the pre-algebra course lies in the fact that it is easier to monitor that the teacher is actually teaching the study skills to the students.

I also presented at the MichMATYC Fall Conference.  The theme of the conference this year also seemed to be about student success.  My college has a new Everyday Math course and after attending this conference I am now even more convinced that we need to have an alternative pre-requisite for this course that involves Algebra, but just enough Algebra that students would then have the choice to either take our Everyday Math or Intermediate Algebra courses.  I recently told someone that not everyone needs to know how to factor a binomial, but if the person is in an Algebra class, I would expect the person to know how to do so because that’s what is taught in an Algebra course.

I also attended TedXDetroit this year.  This was definitely not what I expected.  There were a lot of cool speakers there, some time for networking, and time to just see some great and unique things in the TedXLabs.  The biggest takeaway from TedXDetroit for me was that I really need to define what innovative, creative, and critical thinking is for my students.  I always expect my students to be able to use their critical thinking and analyzing skills to solve application and word problems without actually showing them some skills for doing actually doing them.  I met some representatives from The Henry Ford at TedXDetroit and they told me about their curriculum called ‘On Innovation’ that I intend to use with my Everyday Math students next semester.

I also found out about the Alliance for Excellence and Online Education’s Fall Symposium.  This conference was interesting to me because it’s the first time I was made aware of the fact that there are actually like-minded people at my college.  Up until this point I had really thought that my college was a technology wasteland where old technology came to die.  I walked away from this conference that with the realization that it really is important to step back and look at what’s around you, get a new perspective, and see what’s actually there.  Yes, this was a highly sponsored conference, but I would recommend it if you are into technology and looking to hear about the latest trends and looking to see ‘what’s possible’.

I was also pulled away from my classroom to attend the AMATYC Conference in Jacksonville, FL.  AMATYC is near and dear to my heart, especially now since I am officially the Professional Development Coordinator and a member of Project ACCCESS.  As the Professional Development Coordinator my primary duties include hosting the AMATYC Webinar Series and serving as a liaison for any professional development needs that our members might need.  I am still learning the position, but I am very excited that I was able to step into a role where my skillset will be put to good use.  As a member of Project ACCCESS, I am officially in one of the greatest mentoring programs for new two-year college math instructors in their first three years of full-time teaching.  I have met a lot of great people so far and expect to learn a lot from them over the years to come.

To summarize, obviously I have been very busy this semester, not including organizing the Russian Mathematician fair that my students put on at the library, working on grants for supplemental instruction and service learning projects for next semester, serving on the Multicultural International Initiatives Committee at my college (hint: I’m organizing a Mathematics Film Series next), dealing with issues with on-campus iPad and technology use, and working with my department’s new Work-Study student.  Until next time… :)

My Experience with Spotify Premium

I was skeptical at first.  My previous experience with Pandora wasn’t the best.  I couldn’t listen to any song that I wanted to, but I could create an artist radio, where without fail, 5 songs in I would be turning off the music because Pandora would be suggesting something absolutely awful.  And why not just skip over the song?  Well, with Pandora you only get so many skips per day.  Then Google Music came along for a while.  I could listen to any song I wanted to, but only once.  That was a weird phase that Google had.  I’m glad it’s gone (or at least I can’t easily find it anymore by simply using Google to search for a song).

When I first heard about Spotify, I couldn’t believe that there was a music service available where I could listen to any song at any time.  But it’s absolutely true.  Spotify carries most songs.  Spotify’s search engine isn’t necessarily the best, so you really need to know exactly what you’re looking for, but it’s there.  With Spotify I could easily get rid of my CD collection from the 2000s if I wanted to.  However, I have a lot of rare CDs from indie bands that Spotify doesn’t necessarily carry as well as a lot of autographed CDs that are irreplaceable.

Why would someone want to listen to any song at any time?  Or better yet, why would someone want to pay $9.99 per month to have this ability?  Well, have you ever had a friend post something about a great song that they just heard about on Facebook?  Now you can listen to these songs without paying for each individual song.  Although, I’m not recommending sharing what you’re listening to on Facebook since to tell you the truth, Spotify has given me the ability to listen to music that I normally wouldn’t want anyone else to know I was listening to.  I really believe that what I listen to in the privacy of my own home shouldn’t be broadcast all over the Internet.  Thus, I turn this feature of Spotify off.  However, I do still have my Spotify account linked to my Facebook account, I just am not sharing every individual song that I am listening to, just the ones that I want to share.  Just a tip.

If you don’t use Facebook, maybe you heard a great song on the radio on the way home from work and want to listen to it again.  Or a great song from the latest TV show or movie that you watched.  Or a song that was recommended to you by a friend, family member, or someone at work.  Or you just wanted to explore additional songs by an artist without buying their entire album.  The list goes on and on of times when you would want to listen to a song here and a song there, right?  Think about it.  If you had the ability to listen to music freely and without limits, wouldn’t you listen to music a lot more often?  By my calculations, if you buy more than 10 songs iTunes per month, it might actually be cheaper to pay for Spotify Premium.  The tip that I have here, though, is to remember that you have Spotify Premium.  For the first month or so, I had to consciously remind myself not to go to iTunes and not to go to Amazon to buy a CD.  After I got used to the fact that Spotify was going to be my sole source for music, things got a little easier.

But what about downloading music?  OK, you can’t really download music from Spotify in the sense that you have a file that you could burn to a CD and take with you wherever you want.  However, Spotify Premium has offline mode.  Offline mode allows me load any song onto any device that I have to listen to when I might not necessarily have Internet access.  This is especially convenient for me to use when I want to listen to music in my car and I don’t want to use my 4G Data Plan.  Or in any spot at work where the wireless Internet signal is not the best.  When using offline mode, though, you must make sure that the songs are loaded onto the specific device that you want to listen to them on.  It would be nice if Spotify could talk between devices (at least when the devices are both connected to the Internet), but unfortunately, it doesn’t.  So, if I’m listening to one of my playlists on my computer at home and  pause the song, I can’t automatically start playing the song on my computer at work without opening the playlist first.

Again, why are you paying for this?  I know you’re not stupid.  You’re right.  I’m not stupid.  I know there are other options available for me to listen to music.  There is a radio station in my area that heavily promotes Rdio.  And I have friends who swear by making music playlists in YouTube.  Again, once I settled on the fact that I didn’t need to buy music ever again if I was paying for Spotify Premium, the whole idea of paying a reasonable monthly fee seemed a lot better.  I highly recommend Spotify Premium.  I’ve been very happy with it so far.

Grade Distributions

I’ve been inspired by my friend Johnny Hu from Whatcom Community College to post my grade distributions and passing rates.  I see the document below as a great way for me to be transparent about what is actually happening in my classes.  I’m actually a public employee and as such I believe that the public deserves access to this information.  From here on out I intend to provide this information at the end of every semester.  I will probably add the number of W’s to this document at some point as well.

Download this file



Mind Maps for Calculus, Algebra, and Statistics

This semester I decided that I wanted to organize all of the resources that I’ve found on the Internet onto Mind Maps for my Calculus, Algebra, and Statistics classes.  There was just too much that I wanted to tell my students about every semester that it started to become too overwhelming to repost the links on my LMS every semester (my courses don’t ever seem to copy very well from semester to semester).  The results are below.  Feel free to share with everyone.

For the calculus map,

For the algebra map,

For the statistics map,



What I Learned at Screencast Camp 2012

During Screencast Camp 2012, I presented as part of three sessions:

·         Technology in the College Classroom

·         The Side Effects of Technology Overload

·         Whiteboarding with Wacom

I also learned a lot at Screencast Camp.  But to hear about it, you’ll have to watch my screencast –