I’m sure that many of you who follow me on Twitter already know about the devastation that reached our county yesterday. We were warned, but I don’t think anyone really knew the destruction that was coming. My family and home were spared. We are truly blessed. Other than a night spent in the basement and some minor roof damage, we are fine. My school system and county were not so fortunate. The photos and stories are beginning to come in via Facebook and texts. I know of several of our students who have lost homes. We lost two elementary schools that will not reopen this year. We won’t have school the rest of this week. They are meeting today to plan when to reopen.
As I sit and try to plan the last few weeks of school, I wonder: How do you continue? When I face my students who have experienced tragedy, how and why do I teach them Parametric Equations? I only have a week left with my Seniors before graduation and two weeks with my Juniors and Sophomores. I don’t think I can cram in the last few weeks of topics in any way that will make them care. I know other schools have suffered tragedies. How do those teachers return to classes and some standard of normal?
I had the pleasure of attending the NCTM conference in Indianapolis this year. This was my first time attending any NCTM sponsored event. Overall, I had a good time. I wanted to dedicate this blog post to some of the highlights of the event.
- NCTM Android App: NCTM released an application for cell phones that had the complete schedule and allowed the user to build their own schedule. This was amazing. It is nice to see conference utilizing the technology that is available. I enjoyed not having to carry the large book around. The application also notified the user when a session was canceled. There was a twitter feed on the app as well as a map of the conference center.
- Loring Coes did an excellent job presenting on how to make movies in the mathematics classroom. He addressed the benefits of LoggerPro and Fathom as software packages that make building graphs and gathering data from videos very accessible. I was sad to hear the Flip Camera is no longer going to be manufactured. I am going to have to try to get my hands on some before they are no longer made. Some ideas that I walked away with were tossing a hacky sack to create a parabolic curve and spinning a hacky sack on a string to create a sinusoidal curve. Fathom was nice in that it allowed the user to build an equation to match the video and create sliders for the coefficients to discover the equation. I think this is beneficial to the students over just running a regression in LoggerPro and having no idea how the software created the curve of best fit.
- Angie Morgan and Gordon Wells from Ohio Valley University had a good session on Quantitative Reasoning or Quantitative Literacy. For years the push has been reading and writing across the curriculum. It is nice to see a push towards Numeracy across the curriculum. They talked about getting other disciplines in our school to utilize their disciplines and bring mathematics into their classroom. This can be as simple as analyzing data in science class and comparing local and regional global warming and looking for instances of ‘cherry picked’ data. I know personally, I have been looking for opportunities to team up with our history department. The study of government lends itself to incorporating numeracy. They cited the Mathematical Association of America and their work on Mathematical Literacy.
- Sherrie Wisdom conducted a session on Applied Physics in the Mathematics Classroom. I did walk away with a good activity for my Geometry Students that could be modified for different levels of students. She suggested that we have students trace their shoes on graph paper and find the surface area of the bottom of the shoe. They could do this by counting squares or grouping the drawing into Geometric shapes that they know. Students then use the equation Pressure = Weight / Area to find the amount of pressure. The students need to take their weight and divide it by the area of two shoes. If you have students do this with multiple pairs of shoes, they can then determine which pair of shoes should be the most comfortable. Hopefully, students will discover that as the shoes surface are increases (slippers) the pressure decreases (as compared to heels).
- My final session was conducted by Leigh Nataro from Moravian Academy and addressed the use of Facebook with your students. She created a closed group in Facebook and had her students join. Facebook now allows you to upload documents and photos. This took the place of her class blog. She used it in her geometry class by posting a picture of a geometric figure and requiring each student to post a comment about the shape. Students could not duplicate comments. This means that if a student logged on later, they had to read all of the other posts to make sure they did not duplicate a previous comment. She did allow students without a Facebook account to submit their comments on paper directly to her and she posted the comment for them. She encouraged teachers to ‘like’ their students comments and posts. She also recommend that teachers refer to posts in class discussions. He entire session was based upon the idea that “You need to go where your students are. You’ll get more traffic when you are in their neighborhood.”
Overall, my first experience with NCTM was beneficial. A few modifications that need to be made, in my opinion, involved the use of technology. Each presenter is required to provide handouts. At most of the sessions I attended, the speaker ran out of handouts. The presenter posted their email address and told people to email them if they wanted a copy of the handout of presentation. My colleague who presented was bombarded with emails the night after her talk and had to respond and upload her documents to each individual. I think that NCTM should provide a website with a link for each speaker. The speaker can then upload their documents directly to the site and people can go on their own to download what they want. It still amazes me, the number of teachers and speakers who do not have websites or places to post their work. I guess I’m spoiled being in the blog world and having access to excellent resources and the opinions of my fellow teachers. I would love to see someone from the blog world present next year about blogging in education. (Hint to my fellow bloggers…)
My son is in the 4th grade in Tennessee. With all of the discussion in the news regarding math testing and Race to the Top, Tennessee raised their math standards last year. I am all in favor of this, but I think the pendulum has gone too far in the difficult direction. TCAP (the elementary state test) is next week. My son’s class is doing two math lessons a day to make up for a snow week and the requirements of the new standards. His teacher is doing a great job handling this and not making it feel like a punishment or a chore. I have to say that there are a lot of new and tough standards and I feel for the fourth grade teachers. Ethan has already explained point, lines and planes as well as parallel and perpendicular lines. Being a high school math teacher, I’m in favor of raising the bar at all levels of math (although I’m not sure what I’m going to teach in Geometry).
So, tonight, as with most nights, I’m helping my son with his math TCAP practice book. (It must be awful to be the math teacher’s kid and even worse when that teacher is the head of the math department…No pressure!) I was checking his work and came to a problem like this problem:
Which sum are you most likely to spin if you spin this pointer 2 times? (The slices are all the same size.)
Maybe it is too many years teaching higher level mathematics, but the only way I could come up with to solve this problem was to set up a sample space. I explained it to my 9 year old this way:
You could spin:
9 + 9 = 18
9 + 10 = 19
9 + 11 = 20
10 + 9 = 19
10 + 10 = 20
10 + 11 = 21
11 + 9 = 20
11 + 10 = 21
11 + 11 = 22
Since 20 shows up the most in the sample space, that is the answer. Am I missing a simpler method? Am I overthinking the problem? If not, then is this level of probability and sample space really reasonable for a 4th grader or 9 year old? Really?! Maybe I’m just out of touch with the elementary school grades. I’m going to give this as a starter to all my classes tomorrow and see how many high schoolers get stumped. A better question would be how many adults get stumped…Are you smarter than a 4th grader?