Saturday, December 4, 2010

Listen Up: Calculus

The language of mathematics is a universal one which finds commonality between students with differing cultures, socio-economical status, and interests. Much of the mathematics taught in classrooms involves procedures that lead to solutions. While students are often able to generate these answers, relating them to content and giving them purpose are more difficult tasks. Educators should offer students an explanation or an opportunity to discover the reasoning for learning. This will give learners insight into the purpose of knowledge and long term benefits awaiting them. The study of calculus is often a course where new students express mixed emotions ranging from fear to enthusiasm. As most math students will tell you, writing is a must even on the first day in any classroom. The next time you teach Calculus treat your students to, Professor Sautoy's, Podcast 1-A Brief History in Mathematics Newton and Leibniz. This BBC recording encourages students to interpret mathematics as the "queen" behind all fields of science. Sautoy's attempt to build intrinsic value in mathematics is cleverly achieved in this first episode of ten. In under 20 minutes students can gain an understanding of the history behind Calculus, its' creators and how its commonly used. Imagine the reduction in the anxiety level for many students after a listening and completing an assignment asking them to post a comment to the classroom blog. The podcast balances the relationships of historical figures Leibniz and Newton while offering insight into calculus' vast uses in modern times. A Calculus book can be intimidating, therefore by using this audio recording, students can make a connection to the characters in the story behind calculus, thus taking the edge off the concept. Technology is available to help our students make connections to the concepts they are learning. As educators, podcasts offer students learning experiences in their element, and lead to lifelong knowledge.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Moving in the right direction with epals

Many websites exist that offer teachers and students an electronic way to communicate. So what makes epals stand out from the rest? First, its recent collaboration with the IB (International Baccelurate ) program to create and manage a virtual community for IB students and educators, that will foster global experiences and interactions as a part of their learning model. Epals considers itself to be the largest K-12 learning
network with contributions from over 200 countries and territories. This is another reason that places this
learning network in a catergory of its own and recently attracted the New York City Public Schools, which is the largest school district in the US, to select it for its epals Learning Space. This partnership which includes schoolmail service, also features teacher and students collaborations, streaming video, images, projects, forums, and live conferences. All of these functionalities will be available to the students, parents, and faculty within the district. The site offers different forums for students, teachers, and parents. In addition there is a convenient translator that can assist with understanding.By using state standards and content specific curriculum the epals provides possible assignments as well as postings of possible collaborations being requested by teachers. Waiting for messages from your epals can be timely, but not to long ago our mail was delivered on horseback. As an educator , I would like to find a teacher working on similar content( not curriculum) and design lessons that would allow our students to work together and see the universal aspects of mathematics. This point is often discussed but epals is a excellent way to allow kids to experience it for themselves. The folks at epals have the right idea and communicating globally is moving in the right direction

Monday, November 8, 2010

Real Connections Lead to Learning

DSCN0005by lovemathmore
Images are all over the internet. Google offers a method of searching by "image". Cool is a great way to describe the link humans have between ideas and photos. Taping into this connection can help teachers engage students in powerful ways. Pictures can be used across curriculum. English, History , and even Math courses use imagery to help students draw upon prior knowledge and extend it to new concepts. Geometry is a course often thought to be full of contentless definitions and "proofs" , however using a interactive image book as a participatory set can alert students to the usefulness of mathematical ideas in the real world. Thanks to, I have created just that. Real Geometry in Action will allow my students to find, compare and investigate geometrical concepts using the web and modern day photos. Who said math is not fun? Students will complete this assignment after completing an assessment on perpendicular and parallel lines. The assignment will tie ideas from the previous unit and while previewing the next unit as well.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Copy and Paste Alert: Giving Credit Where Its Due"

Images help link articles and events to our memory. Every month when I receive my NCTM math journals I am eager to see the photo they've selected for the cover and how it relates to the month's major research study. If asked whom drew the inspiring art or captured the remarkable photo, my answer would fall short. Giving credit for images is always done in printed media, although on blogs and websites not so much. While this act may not be a crime, it is unfair to take a photo, claim it as your own and not give reference to the artist behind the work. Collaboration is what makes information reliable and interesting. To add ease to our continuous copying and pasting has joined with to offers their members four ways to license other members use of their images.

The four licences types are as follows:

Attribution- Attribution allows you to use their work anyway you want, only if you give them credit.
Noncommercial= Noncommercial allows you to use their work anyway you want, but you can not for commerical use.
No Derivative Works- No Derivative Works allows you to use their work , only if it's an exact duplicate.
Share Alike- Share Alike allows you to use their work anyway to want, if you agree to the same licensing conditions that are set for the original image.

These conditions seem simple alone, but when combined they can become pretty powerful. Its pretty cool and fair if you ask me and I will not drag an image to my desktop and use it anymore without finding out if the owner has a license for their work.

AttributionNoncommercial by kzakza, Flicker Photostream ------------------->

Take this photo which has an Attribution license can be turned into this image , as long as credit is given to the user and their are no commercial uses of the work. Respecting the art of others should not be optional and its nice to know that now we can use art responsibly.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Time to Connect

Teaching geometry is one of my favorite courses and students find it challenging because of the heavy emphasis on writing in a math class. To help students understand concepts it is a great idea to have students find counterexamples for statements to prove they are false. Over the weekend a math teacher I follow on the micro blogging site , Twitter, @k8nowak, posted the following tweet.

k8nowak:I need some false Geometry statements where drawing a counterexample is easy. Help. For example: all right triangles are isosceles.

Less than 24 hours later she had received over 20 examples from other teachers and created a link to a post, Counterexamples in Geometry on her blog, f(t). I have known about twitter for quite some time, but I never thought I needed it... not for personal use anyway. However it would be great to share information and ideas with my students , collegues, and other educators from around the world.

For all of those out there who are cynical about the benefits of using a micro blogging network like Twitter and its effectiveness should consider the list of pro’s and cons offered by Grosseck and Holotescu, in “Can we use Twitter for Educational Activities” at The list of benefits ranging from student collaborations to and real world connections. Micro blogging can offer students a place to reflect carefully. Due to the character limitation students most user fewer words to express clear ideas. Its often harder to answer a problem with fewer words, which encourages students to proofread and summarize.

The other types of technology like email, facebook, and blogger, serve a purpose, yet micro blogging is growing more popular across the educational spectrum. In the Chronicle of Higher Education , Young's article, Forget E-Mail: New Messaging Service Has Students and Professors Atwitter” ,mentions David Parry, an assistant Professor professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas, who after being reluctant to use micro blogging, refers to it as "the single thing that changed the classroom dynamics more than anything he'd ever done teaching."

Heading into the classroom twitter does have it's benefits but be careful to separate the professional from the personal. Joining facebook took me years because I felt I didn’t need it, but when my students asked me to create a site for them where they could ask questions I couldn’t turn them down. The site was just for students and while my personal relationship existed in another profile , this one only contained professional info.

Yet students still shared their personal sites with me, which helped me make connections with them. Showing students that you care can go along way toward helping them be successful. They KNOW when you sincerely care about them and it can make all the difference in motivation and class participation. So I would totally not be embarrassed now to say I tweet. Do you?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Homework....Where's the Beef?

Does she give tons of homework? It's a question asked by students from middle school all the way up through college. The thought of answering questions for students is often enough to achieve a sufficient grade and keep their parents content. Are teachers assigning meaningless questions?Plock's post Homework: From Chills to Thrills on TeachPaperless offers a history's teacher take on this timeless debate. Thrilling is the adjective used to describe how homework should be to students. Everyday teachers face students who complete assignments and while the reward in homework is partly the act of completing it , the lack of enthusiasm to discuss their ideas lingers. Plock suggests homework be thought of as a cliffhanger for students, sending them out of the classroom, unable to wait until they have a moment at lunch, in study hall , or on the bus to try out those problems that were left to "open"at the end of class. As a student I have been there....... so excited to return to class because the learning environment encouraged conceptual understanding and effort.

I'll admit my thoughts of cliffhanger prior to reading this post have always been related to the PBS show "Between the Lions", where a man, Cliffhanger spends every episode trying to get off the cliff, only to end up there every time at the end. Even though I know that he will be stuck there in the end, I enjoy the process of him exploring the infinite amount of solutions to achieve his ultimate goal. In this day and age students need to value what they do at school and relate it to there lives as often as possible. So excited to get back into the classroom and using these great suggestions from teachers working hard everyday to help kids set and reach their goals.If you are interested in finding ideas for meaningful homework assignments, be sure to check out the post, in addition to history suggestions, there are also ideas for english and photography courses.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ning me!

Wow.... after blogger , and voicethread I was totally surprised to look through NING. This site offers a place to upload information and monitor visitors, while allowing them to participate in forums and respond to possible questions. This is a great resource for teachers. A ning site I found that had some great help is Ning In Education. Loaded with lesson plan ideas from classroom teachers from grades K- Community College, is also a great forum discussing how to get the best out of your ning site. I would like to use this site as a place for students to respond to reflection questions in mathematics as a assessment, which would require them to respond to at least two other student responses.