Wednesday, December 17, 2008

name graphs

I'm a junkie for any kind of graph/chart, and recently found that gives you all kinds of great data and graphs surrounding names. It gets its data from social security reconds and can tell you the popularity of any given name back to 1880. I charted my name--not very interesting. So I did my brother's, who has a more common name, Andrew. Curiously, his name peaked in frequency in 1987. If you were a boy in that year, you had about a 2% chance of being called Andrew. It was the 6th most popular name.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

when will I use math in the real world?

Memorize all these equations. There'll be a quiz next class.

*Check out grrlscout224's photostream

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Hero, Zero

Here is some retro fun. Stations used to air a series called School House Rocks between cartoons when I was a kid. The cartoons were supposed to educate you on a variety subjects. This one obviously targets arithmetic, but they have language and civics, too. Strangely, I don't remember the number ones at all. I have to thank Sue for this vid.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Project Euler

Great problems are really hard to come by. Great problem sets are even harder. I just ran into Project Euler online. I'm really blown away. I would love to use this in one of my courses.

Project Euler is a sequence of 220 problems. The problems are designed to be an "inductive chain learning" experience for the solver. This is from the PE website:

The problems range in difficulty and for many the experience is inductive chain learning. That is, by solving one problem it will expose you to a new concept that allows you to undertake a previously inaccessible problem. So the determined participant will slowly but surely work his/her way through every problem.

Let me know if any of you are working your way through the problem set at the moment.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Throwing Darts at a Spinning Sphere?

Michael George who passed on the homicidal necrophobe problem sent me another good one.

There's a game in which darts are thrown from various angles into a spinning sphere (in other words, they land randomly). Three darts are thrown. If you get them all in the same hemisphere, you win. What's the probability of winning?

pic by wili hybrid

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Breaking News

This gave me a good giggle. (Then I quickly got serious)

The Onion broke some big news on Mrs. Trella's math class. It will shock you. (Warning: strong language.)

Even funnier is this video, aimed at the heart of America's education problems. Every teacher must view.

In The Know: Are Our Children Learning Enough About Whales?

Thanks, Elizabeth for tipping me off on these.

“Why study algebra?”

Rachel in the library sent tipped me off on this gem from the In the Library with the Lead Pipe blog. The below is excerpted from a post reviewing the book Made to Stick. Apparently in one of the chapters of the book the author considers answers to the question: “Why study algebra?” The discussion is there to futher some larger point, but he's come up with a well-phrased answer. Here's the post excerpt:

This chapter also has an excellent idea clinic on the need for algebra. It begins with the question “Why study algebra?” and a typical conference answer suffering from the Curse of Knowledge which includes gems like “Algebra provides procedures for manipulating symbols to allow for understanding the world around us.” The following slightly better example has things like, you need it to get your diploma, it will help you with reasoning skills, etc. But then the winner:
“This is a response from a high school algebra teacher, Dean Sherman, to an Internet discussion of this topic among high school teachers:
My grade 9 students have difficulty appreciating the usefulness of the Standard Form of the equation of a line, prompting them to ask, “When are we ever going to need this?”

This question used to really bother me, and I would look, as a result, for justification for everything I taught. Now I say, “Never. You will never use this.”

I then go on to remind them that people don’t lift weights so that they will be prepared should, one day, [someone] knock them over on the street and lay a barbell across their chests. You lift weights so that you can knock over a defensive lineman, or carry your groceries or lift your grandchildren without being sore the next day. You do math exercises so that you can improve your ability to think logically, so that you can be a better lawyer, doctor, architect, prison warden or parent.

MATH IS MENTAL WEIGHT TRAINING. It is a means to an end (for most people), and not an end in itself.”

Thanks, Rachel!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Warren the Welder

The math fairy left a new problem in a comment on the last post. I didn't want anyone to miss it so I'm reposting it. Here it goes:

Warren has 3 sheets of tin 36x36. He wishes to make some boxes by cutting equal corners from all sheets. He folds up the sides to form "open top" boxes. Being frugal, he decides to weld the 12 squares into two cubes. How should he do this to maximize the total volume?

Thanks for the problem....whoever you are?

pic credit

Monday, December 8, 2008

Have you ever wanted to vaporize your math teacher?

I stumbled upon a popular childrens book The Lightening Thief, by Rick Riordan. The first chapter caught my attention. It is titled 'I accidently vaporized my Prealgebra teacher'. I know what you're thinking--not cool. But we've all been there. Care to see how it's done, buy the book, or even better listen to Riordan read it on his site.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Top Ten Reasons to Attend AMATYC

Here's another top ten list that Sue, Sandy, and Bonnie helped me with.

Top Ten Reasons to attend AMATYC
10-you get a ton of new ideas
9-rejuvenate your original teaching energies
8-the Woo-Woo’s at Banana Leaves
7-identify best teaching practices in a variety of different courses and environments
6-see the latest gadgets and apps in the Exhibit Hall
5-request features and products from publishers
4-win lots of free stuff
3-a big hug from Steve Krevitsky
2-cool math t-shirts to embarrass you family and friends with
And the number 1 reason to attend AMATYC…
You’re no longer the biggest geek in the room.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Geek of the Week: Anna and Will

This post is going to warm your heart. One, because we haven't had a geek of the week in a while, and two, it's a post about families sharing their geekiness...about the passing of primal geek energies from one generation to another. It's a post about continuity, tradition, and history. All of this in time for the holidays.

I ask you first to consider Sandy's son Will, decked out in full on geek regalia for Haloween.

This one is going straight to the head of the class. He has all the style he needs. (He also schooled me in Guitar Hero.)

Now check out this other Geek prodigy. You're about to listen to a voicemail Anna left her mother, Sue, at work. Anna gets so excited doing her math homework that she has to call her mother to sing the digits of pi. Have you ever heard such irrepressible joy at the discovery of irrational numbers?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Homicidal Necrophobe on a Rampage

I went to AMATYC focused on two things: getting ideas for teaching online this spring and finding good problems. I found plenty of help with both. I’ve posted a lot on online education this week. I have yet to get started with the problems people gave me. Prepare yourself.

Here is the setup for the first: You have a homicidal necrophobe locked up in a jail. The jail is four cells by four cells and all the other cells are filled. There is a key that opens every door, and one night when the jailor goes away for an hour, he comes back and finds all the doors open and everyone dead. Pretty gruesome. Here’s a picture where the X’s represent dead bodies.
The homicidal necrophobe was originally in the first cell that is now empty and is now in the last cell that has two bodies. In the hour the jailor was gone, the HN has killed everybody and then being unable to escape the dead bodies, got so scared he killed himself. The question is what path did the HN take through the jail? Note that he can’t move diagonally only horizontally and vertically, and each time he kills a prisoner he cannot reenter the room after he’s left.

I was given this problem by a sharp young teacher from NYC. Unfortnately, I've lost the notebook with his name and email. If you happen to be that sharp young teacher, I'd love to give you credit. Email me. Thanks for the great problem!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Guest Post--The three math-cateers

I made the mistake of asking Bonnie, Sue, and Sandy to write a post for YofX on the train ride home. This is the silliness the ensued. Sue and Sandy are irredeemable. Bonnie is just young and impressionable. Check out her cool calculator earrings. Makes me want to pierce my ears.

While Hendree was focused on online instruction, Sandy was focused on the irrational. Her favorite workshops were about e and π. Then she figured out what was really on her mind was eating pie. Now, what goes well with pie? Apparently a drink called a WooWoo. But be careful if you share one of these drinks with Sue or Bonnie – lots of giggling is sure to follow. Hendree wanted to participate in the giggle-causing behavior, but first he had to show his ID. He forgot to tell us he was really only 16 – we thought he only skipped a year or two in school, but the boy genius does in fact teach at Tunxis.
Sue was focused on developmental math, stats, and March Madness. She figured any workshop with Madness in the title was good for her since she got November Madness upon arriving in DC. (She did miss her family, though, (LOL)!) One of the major things we co-travelers had to be sure not to do was get into a revolving door with Sue. If we wanted our feet to survive the acceleration! The trip ended with our favorite activity – shopping!! In fact, Sue had so much fun shopping; she almost caused us all to miss the train. And what item did she need to procure, you ask? A cigar (she is a closet cigar-smoker!)
Where do you find the most outrageous desserts in DC? At a bookstore, naturally! The Dining Divas managed to eat tapas, pastas, diner food, Asian fusion, but not Ethiopian food. (We owe Hendree that one.) In addition to all the extracurricular activities, we all managed to attend some really good workshops and you will probably be blessed with our enthusiasm and new ideas. Please be kind to us because we are all sleep-deprived.

Post by Sandy, Bonnie, and Sue.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Top Ten Things I learned about Online Education at AMATYC

10-You need a policy/syllabus contract or quiz (or both)
9-Set due dates on weekdays (or every Sunday of your semester is ruined)
8-Build a good course slowly. Incrementally improve your course or you will quickly become overwhelmed.
7-There Is much more prep work at the beginning of the semester—preparation is everything
6-Have students teach themselves. This provides the content of your discussion, and reinforces concepts. Any teacher will tell you, you really come to know a subject when you can teach it.
5-Establish rules and expectations for communication
4-Don’t use a drop box. If you have a lot of assignments you’ll never find anything.
3-Let IT be IT. Don’t get caught up trouble-shooting every student’s tech setup
2-The Rule of 3: Have all the key info in the course in at least three places and everything in the course should be within three clicks of the homepage.
And the number 1 thing I learned about Online Education at AMATYC…
Don’t email angry.

photo: Mr. Stein on flickr