Jing and Geogebra

During the Summer 2012 semester, I decided to have my Math for Education students use Jing to send me a diagram of something that they were supposed to do using Geogebra.  If you aren’t familiar with Jing, it is a free screen-capturing and screen-casting tool from the people at Techsmith, located in Okemos, MI.  And if you aren’t familiar with Geogebra, simply put, it is a free alternative to Geometer’s Sketchpad, but it can do lots more. First off all, I have to say that I had always wanted to use Jing and screen-capturing with my students, but I wasn’t sure from what angle I wanted to approach it.  Many instructors have students create their own screencasts (a fairly well-known example is Mathtrain.tv).  Of course, I already use screen-casting on the instructor end by creating screencasts for my students on topics they are struggling with or by providing video feedback on student assignments.  I just hadn’t ever...
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Learning from Ignite

If you don’t know what Ignite is, simply put, it is a format in which speakers are limited to using 20 slides and each of those slides automatically advances every 15 seconds.  Thus, a speaker must get their point across within a maximum of 5 minutes. I learned about the Ignite format from past conferences that I have attended.  And I have attended several Ignite Events in the Detroit, MI area (they have them all around the country). This semester, I decided to have my Math for Education students give an Ignite-style talk on the last day of class.  They had two major content goals – they were supposed to summarize what they learned during the semester and they were required to have at least 5 slides on a topic that I pre-assigned to them (e.g., hexagons, pentagons, etc.).  The other catch is that they only had 30 minutes to prepare their slides and presentation. I learned quite a...
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My First Commencement

This May I attended my first ever commencement as a faculty member.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  People I know who teach at other colleges told me to expect two things – that it would be a very enjoyable experience to see so many students walk across the stage and that it would be very hot sitting on stage.  Both of those expectations definitely held true.  Five of my former students walked across the stage and I clapped and cheered for all five of them.  And it was very hot sitting on the stage.  The room that we were in was the only room in the entire building that was not climate controlled.  The rest of the building had air conditioning, just not the room that we sat in for a dreadful 105 minutes in hot caps and gowns. But there is a point to this story.  As a part-time instructor, I always wanted to...
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Career Day at the Ballpark

On Thursday, May 17, I had the displeasure of being at Comerica Park for Career Day at the Ballpark.  I can honestly say that if I would have known it was Career Day (shame on me for not checking), I would have exchanged my ticket for another game. When I got to the game, there were squatters sitting in my seats.  When I asked them to move, I could barely get to my seats because the kids had left half-eaten hot dogs and other half-chewed food items all over in front of the seats.  The parents told me it was okay to step on the stuff, but who really wants to get mustard all over the bottom of their shoes? When I sat down, to the left of me was a guy who had no shame in spreading his legs apart, waving his arms in front of me, smelling like crap, and throwing food scraps at me.  And...
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Summer Plans 2012

So, this is my annual post where I organize my thoughts on what I need to get done before the end of this summer.  If I recall, last summer my plans fell into 5 categories.  I will try to sort my thoughts for this summer in a similar manner. 1.   Conferences:  This summer the conferences I am attending fall into multiple categories:  the ones that I was supposed to present at, the ones that I am presenting at, and the ones that I am not presenting at. eCOTS (Electronic Conference on Teaching Statistics) – I was supposed to record a presentation for this on-line conference, but the conference organizers did not return my e-mails reminding them that they had not yet set-up a time to record.  Oh well.  Here you can a version of what I was going to record. MIJEC (Michigan Joint Education Conference), June 18, Ypsilanti, MI.  The title of my presentation is “Using Games and Activities...
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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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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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