Thursday, May 30, 2013

The power of teaching

Normally I don't re-post anything that I see on Facebook.  But when I stumbled upon this today on a friend's page, I thought it was good enough to be re-posted, especially on this blog, as it is significant for all of us.  It's a little long, but well worth it, I promise!  It just goes to show how much of an effect one teacher can have on a student, and how much of an effect one student can have on a teacher.  Enjoy!

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not
play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.  It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be around.."

His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."

His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."

Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class."

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper That he got from a grocery bag Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.. But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to." After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets.."

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling* her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer.... The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."

(For you that don't know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I came across this video which tries to explain how order of operations is wrong. While there were some things he said in the video that I really disagreed with (i.e., addition always comes before subtraction), I think that his main point is quite valid. Too often, we focus too much on teaching students the "rules" they need to follow in order to get the correct answer, rather than teaching them the reasoning behind those rules, or explaining why the rule works. But that doesn't mean we should be teaching them the wrong rules!!

IXL: Great Math website

I came across a great math site the other day and it is and I thought I would share it on this blog. IXL is a comprehensive math website geared towards the primary level all the way up to grade 10 students. What's great about it is that you are able to test drive the site for a free 30-day trial just to get the feel of it. With the free trial I was able to use it in a classroom during a lesson and the students caught on right away and were able to get back to their computers and start the lessons on their own.

What's great about this site is that the lessons are tied to the Ontario Curriculum. The site also has an options to create dynamic reports based on such options as the class, grade, or drill down to an individual student to see their progress. These reports are very helpful as they help to identify the gaps in the students learning's and another great thing is that these reports can be shared with students and parents.

Being a website, this type of resource can be easily accessed outside of school hours and students are able to work on them outside of the classroom.

Overall I think this has to be one of the best math websites that I have come across that is comprehensive and geared around the Ontario Curriculum. I would definitely use this in a classroom again as I have already seen initially successes with it during my first run with it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Using Rubrics

As students of the not so distant past, we all have likely had experience with rubrics our teachers provided. The assessment tool was first introduced in the 1970s and has become more widely used recently. Some teachers have embraced the shift, while others although they create rubrics when required, barely meet the requirements. I am a firm believer that rubrics help teachers and students alike to give and get more equitable education. 
Rubrics allow teachers to outline with specific detail exactly what they are looking for in each category of assessment. This gives all parties involved much more clarity than any other spoken or written instruction. Students receive the rubric and are free to study exactly how they are to execute the test or assignment to earn full marks. Beyond this clarity, rubrics also offer protection for both parties. Teachers have a concrete description of exactly what they graded and are more likely to grade consistently and fairly when having this tool. Students are protected by the rubric because it makes there teachers accountable to the given guidelines and thus grading becomes more transparent. There are so many more benefits to giving assessment more structure and clarity. Rubrics should be embraced by all teachers and students and continue to be used on a more frequent basis for a better education. 

Some helpful links for creating rubrics can be found here.

Tips for new teachers

As we are all taking this Math ABQ course (and some of us are not fortunate to have our own classrooms yet), I found this link that I think could be very beneficial.  It's called "Tips for Beginning Math Teachers" but it can also be very helpful in other subject areas as well.  There is information regarding make-up tests for students, general teaching practices, how to effectively prepare your students for tests, etc.  While I don't necessarily agree with every single point on there, (for example, giving out awards for good behaviour and results- I think there is something to be said for a bit of self-motivation), my general feelings are that most things on this list are a great help to new teachers in general, not just math teachers.


Tips for Beginning Math Teachers

Friday, May 24, 2013

Using the FOUR categories

Teachers have been using these four categories (Knowledge and Understanding, Thinking, Application, and Communication) to grade students for the past 10 years. I believe that the four categories are necessary to assess students in their learning development in any subject area.  The categories help teachers to really diagnose where the students strengths and weakness lie.  Teachers can then take those assessments and make the appropriate modifications and/or accommodations for the students, as well as communicate to parents more specifically areas their son or daughter need to improve on.  The problem is using the four categories effectively, and I feel teachers have trouble figuring out what question belongs to which of the four categories (Knowledge and Understanding, Application, Thinking, and Communication). That being said, teachers need to be given more resources and workshops to understand how to use the four categories properly in order for them to be an effective tool in the classroom.

I am still trying to learn and understand how the four categories are used properly in assessing students.  I feel that the four categories are necessary to assess cognitive skills needed to be successful.  They are also a great tool to help teachers focus not only on students’ understanding of knowledge, but also on the development of skills such as thinking, communication and application.  

DragonBox, does it really do what it says it will do...

I was doing some work on my Math AQ course and I came across a post that someone has made about an app called, "DragonBox." It is available on iTunes for the iPad or computer and they advertise/market it as a tool to teach children as young as the age of 4 about the basics of Algebra.

I am a firm believer of technology and its many benefits as a teaching tool in today's environment. What I am upset about is the fact that when I went to go download the app that there was a $5.99 - $9.99 price tag on this depending on which version you got. Not to mention, will there be other in-app purchase options that come along with this that I don't know about yet? How about a free trial version?

I am not going to purchase this until I do a little more research. I would have like the chance to at least try it to actually see if my kids/students would like and benefit from it. I am being very careful about buying apps these days, it is not like our regular everyday shopping where if we are not satisfied with it we can easily return the product. This DragonBox app boast so much on their site about how great it is and that it could solve all your difficulties about learning Algebra with a fun game, but is this marketing and advertising at it's finest...or does this app really does what it says it will do...?

All in all, my gut feeling says that this apps will work...but I'm not all about the fancy marketing/advertising that they are doing.

We will see how this goes and I will keep you posted...

Thursday, May 23, 2013


    Today, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine regarding the Math ABQ. He was previously a teacher in the primary grades, but he is now teaching grade 8. He asked what I was doing in the course and, before long, we got on the topic of Gaps in Math. Without hesitation, he said gaps are huge, and they are getting bigger. I asked him where he thought the gaps existed and he stated, without hesitation, that gaps are present in simple computation, addition, subtraction, etc. This got me thinking, again, about our education system (if you can't tell, I was a Political Science major in university).
    A few years back, we got rid of OAC, the extra year or 5th year of high school, and implemented all day daycare....oops, I mean kindergarten. I have supplied in my fair share of JK/SK classrooms and I understand these kids are 4 and 5 years old, but having 'play based learning' for a majority of the day sort of seems like a waste of time. If these students are in school, why not teach them the basics of math, such as organizing questions and simple addition/subtraction. Now, I'm not talking about sitting there and making them do drill after drill, but we should be spending more time working with the pencil and paper math skills these students will eventually need to acquire. After all, early intervention is the best medicine for most problems that will arise, in my opinion. We should attempt to stop the problem before it starts. But as we continue to keep these students on a socially acceptable timeline, we, as teachers, have to come up with the out of this world lesson plans in an attempt to close the Gap for a lot of students who would rather be doing something/anything else. I am not saying I don't come up with engaging lesson plans, but there is an expectation to cover your year of Math, plus close the ever growing Gap, which does cause some stress....AND people say teachers get paid too much!
I thought this picture was appropriate:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Math is so simple when we use concrete examples!!!!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Just had to post this that make me think of how to make math fun for kids.  I remember back in the early 90's I think it was on PBS the show was called Square one TV where they had a pacman version but called mathman. I loved watching it, it was funny but guess what you learned about math.  Also at the end of the show they had a spoof of the tv show Dragnet but it was called mathnet and it involved solving cases but using math.  I think kids in the class would find them somewhat interesting and who knows maybe get hooked on math.
Hey there everyone!

New to blogger so bear with me! I just wanted to share some cool websites and such that I found and used while I was at the University of Windsor this past year and while I was in placement.  For math I found this cool band out of the states.  They are called Rocking the Standards and they have songs about math that are similar to modern rock songs from the 90s. I used some in my placements and the kids absolutely loved it.  The kids  I feel learn the concept better because they can sing the song and it helps them remember rules or aspects of the certain  math problem.

Another cool website I found was teachertube,

Monday, May 20, 2013

Now and Then

I am not that old, but I am old enough to know that people who grew up before me, long before me, turned out to be just fine. They were told that if they didn't earn a passing grade, they would fail. Not only would they fail, but they would suffer the consequences from the teacher first, and then even worse consequences at home. Nowadays, parents are on the side of the student, however, I believe that failure is crucial to success. When me and my elders were growing up,  if we failed at something,  we had to try harder next time, or fail again. If a student fails at something today, it's never their fault. It's never their fault they didn't study, it's the teacher's fault for some reason or another which, to a certain extent, is true, but where do we, as teachers, draw the line? - A teacher who did what he believed was right for the student suffered consequences

I understand that we want to keep these students on a social timeline, but what is the point if we just push them through to stay on that timeline when, academically, they are extremely far behind? What are we really setting these kids up for ? I spoke earlier of the non-existent deadlines in elementary school to emphasize that  when students get to secondary school and encounter deadlines, they don't know how to handle them. I believe this system adds to mental illness issues (ex. depression, anxiety) because a student has never failed, so, therefore, they haven't been able to develop proper coping strategies which lead to these illnesses. A student fails, then they get depressed that they failed (even though they've done the same type of work that we have programmed into them for their 9 years in elementary school). Eventually, if and when they recover from that, they are very anxious to do the work because they are scared to feel depressed again if they fail. Then, you get behaviour issues because the student knows that if they act out, they'll be relieved of the Math duties that are required. I had a student in my grade 5 placement last year that did not hand in 1 assignment for my entire time there teaching their unit on measurement. I was shocked when I was informed by the teacher that the student has until the end of the year to hand things in.  Really, what is stopping a kid from just saying no - has anyone ever have a student just tell you flat out NO!? and then back it up with, I know you can't fail me... I know this is an extreme view, but I believe we have to do something about it because at the end of the day, we are in the education sector in order to help people get the most out of themselves, are we really doing that with the procedures that are in place now? We have to get all students to be productive members in society.

Real-life math or fundamentals?

Here is an interesting link to something that ties in to the other link that I posted last week.  This article discusses how math classes these days are focusing so much on real-life math, but at the expense of getting students to really understand what it is that they are learning.

There are pros and cons to each side.  On the one hand, real-life situations help most students to get a better understanding of what they're learning.  As soon as they're able to relate it back to something that they are familiar with, they are more likely to understand and remember it better.  But on the other hand, how MUCH time are we spending working on this real-life math?  Should we go back to the basics and make sure that they know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide?

It's definitely a hot debate, especially in connection to the article I posted last week (which can be found here).  What do you all think?  What should we focus our time on?  Fundamentals, or application?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Standardized Testing: The Pros and Cons

This is a topic that has always interested me as a teacher.  I used to be totally against standardized testing for many of the reasons mentioned in the video (see link below).  Then I spent some time teaching in Alberta where all grade 12 students have to write diploma exams for every credit they earn, and my opinion totally changed.  Although I still see drawbacks, I now began to see some benefits.  For example, it really made teachers accountable and prevented marks from being "pulled from the sky" or "inflated" for certain students.  I also feel that teachers could use the results to improve their teaching practice if they chose to do so.  When the results came in, I remember sitting down with my department head to go over the results.  The final mark for each of my students from my class was next to the mark that each of my students scored on their diploma exam.  Another column showed their final mark overall (which was 50% my mark and 50% diploma).  The results also showed areas that students either struggled or did well in.  So, a teacher could look at it and think, "I need to improve my organic chemistry unit.  Students didn't seem to get it." My students didn't think it was fair that they were competing to get into university against students in other provinces who didn't have to write the tests, but in some ways, I feel that my students in Alberta were better for it.
The video below is from 2011, but the information is still relevant and I think as teachers we should be talking more about EQAO testing.  My concern is: are we using these assessments to improve our best practices and ultimately student learning?  If we are spending 30 million for this test, why are we trying to use the results for more than ranking schools?  I'd love to hear what people think!  The video is a little dry, but informative. 

Check out the link:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bad Teacher Challenge

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Bad Teacher Challenge

I recently read a blog from Michael Schultz and he makes a very good point that 99% of blogs talk about great things happening in school and/or the idealistic views somebody has. I thought it was very interesting how he challenges us to blog about something not good.

So I'm up for the challenge.

Think about it for a minute. If more teachers write about those terrible lessons or how they neglect to modify or accommodate students learning.  Don't you think we can learn from other peoples mistakes?

This blog really had me thinking about teaching moments that went bad.  As educators we are taught and expected to reflect constantly on how we teach.  Look back at teachers college. How many reflections did we have to write after every lesson we taught? As teachers, we need to re-evaluate our teaching to meet the needs of those individual students.  What could we have done differently in the lesson so that the students clearly understood the concept being taught.  No one is perfect and what might work in one classroom with a group of students might not work in the other. So, a good teacher after reflecting, will make those adjustments and changes.  Would you agree?

Looking back at a time when I was a "bad teacher".  I had just finished teaching a math lesson on fractions. I assigned students seat work so if they had a troubles with a question I was there for help. I often catch myself offering the help but then turning the students away because either I get busy with something else or just lose my patience.

I challenge you to share a "bad teacher" moment too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kahn Academy

Many of us have been introduced to Kahn Academy before and I think this is a great tool for teachers to use.  One thing that I have just found was that Kahn Academy has its own YouTube channel.  This is something that I would definately make my students aware of because it gives them a lesson similar to the one the teacher offers, yet they can watch it at any time.  Sometimes students miss a class or have bad days or other things on their mind and they may not be completely focused on the lesson.  By being able to access Kahn Academy, they can get similar benefits of sitting through a lesson by watching these videos at home.  Thus, I really think that teachers should be promoting Kahn Academy's YouTube channel.  I have placed the link below for everyone to check it out.  Hope you find this useful.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stress Relief

I know a lot of posts tend to be student centered and, why not, we are the teachers.  Our students hang on our every word and follow directions properly the first time without any question.

Now that you've come back from that brief visit to fantasy land, lets take a moment to enjoy a view of what it's like to be a teacher sometimes....

Teachers, while this is a parody, It would be hard to argue that this is what teaching a lesson feels like.  Comment, share and de-stress some of your most frustrating moments.  It's like therapy, without the punching bag.

Math Anxiety

Some interesting points of view that not only affect our students but we as teachers too.

What have you done to cope with math anxiety, either as a student or for your students?

What is the best ways to assess students in math class?

I find that different teachers have different methods of assessing students in math. Some of them use the old fashion way and others use new strategies. One of my associates used the tests marks to assess students while the other used the application, thinking and communication methods to assess her students. I find it too difficult to assess students in math and wondering what is the best way to assess my students? I used both in my placements but need to know more of what is the best for my students. Some methods sounds good but when it come to marking, it is not that fun anymore. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why Do We Need This?!

The title is the question most often heard by math teachers (or any teacher).  I've sat through my fair share of courses and asked myself the same question.  Now looking back and having to learn more practical subject areas.  I pose the question, where are the courses that teach us how to be the tech savvy, money smart, politically involved, handymen (or handywomen) that we are expected to be when we graduate?

Does high school seem to be more of a formality than a staple where real meaningful learning takes place and students actually are prepared for the tough road ahead?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Are kids still learning the basics?

What happened to the basics?  Parents are upset that their children are no longer learning the basics of school: phonics, spelling, cursive writing, and their basic math facts (addition, subtraction and their times tables).  This article looks at the opinions of several different people who attempt to explain why these things are no longer focused on.

I think as math teachers we need to go back and focus on the basics.  I understand that there is a lot more to be taught in the same period of time than there used to be, but we need to find a way to drive home the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, so that our students can be less dependent on calculators (or their fingers) later on in life.

Ontario students struggling in math

While Ontario students across the grades have seen improved scores in reading and writing, math skills in the elementary grades either stayed the same or decreased, according to EQAO results released Wednesday.
The Education Quality and Accountability Office released the results of last year’s provincial assessments of reading, writing and mathematics for primary and junior divisions and Grade 9 mathematics Tuesday.
The results show comparisons to 2007-2008 scores of the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the provincial standard. Both reading and writing scores for Grade 3 students increased: from 61 per cent to 66 per cent of students meeting or exceeding the requirements for reading and from 66 per cent to 76 per cent in writing.
Grade 6 students also showed improvements in reading and writing, with both scores sitting at around 75 per cent of students meeting provincial standards.
Mathematics, however, appeared to be the weak spot for both elementary school students and Grade 9 students in the applied stream.
The percentage of students at or above the provincial level remained the same at 68 per cent in Grade 3 mathematics and decreased from 61 per cent to 58 per cent in Grade 6 mathematics.
While the per cent of Grade 9 students making the grade in mathematics did increase, the EQAO pointed out that less than half of students in the applied stream (44 per cent) are meeting provincial standards in math.
“In this day and age, solid mathematics skills are crucial to success in all facets of life. The lack of progress in mathematics achievement, particularly at the elementary level, where strong foundations should be established, is concerning,” said Dr. Brian Desbiens, chair of EQAO’s board of directors.
“On both provincial and international tests, our elementary students are showing average achievement in mathematics. They risk falling behind their international peers if, as a province, we don’t address this issue with a focused sense of urgency.”
Marguerite Jackson, EQAO’s chief executive officer pointed to an increased focus on literacy achievement as a factor in the results, saying the same kind of attention needs to be placed on math skills as well.
On Sept. 12, EQAO will be releasing the results for individual schools and school boards across the province, as well as reports for each elementary school on the progress their students made from Grade 3 to Grade 6.

Welcome to Homework Help!

Welcome to Homework Help!

EQAO time is quickly approaching! Use Homework Help to help you prepare!

Homework Help is a free online math help resource for students in Grades 7-10. Homework Help provides free, live one-on-one tutoring from Ontario teachers.

Homework Help is funded by the Ontario government and administered by TVO's Independent Learning Centre.

For all these great math resources go to:


I am a grade 10-11 math teacher at Blyth Academy. My name is Genc Tirana B.Sc., B.A., B.Ed., OCT. I also tutor students requiring additional support at Tutor Doctor in Toronto and Mississauga.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Math Notes dont have to be Boring!

Math journals

I remember taking notes all throughout elementary and secondary school and each teacher had a special order they wanted them but they were all the same just note taking from the board. I found this site where a teacher had given a final assignment the opportunity to the students to create or re write their notes in a creative fashion that relates more to their personality. I thought this was an amazing idea making notes that I will want to look back at and study from and what will make it easier for me to learn and remember.

As a Math teacher I opened this opportunity up to my students they loved it come students made treasure maps using all the formulas and different units done throughout the year. Some students made stories out of the information and some even made programs with the information the used it all to what meant the most to them and they would be able to remember the best. Students all learn differently and math may not be their strength but that does not mean they can not be successful in it, as teachers it is our duty to link math as much as possible to each student as we can. This fun to make and to read the results, its a great tool for review as well for the final of the year.

Hope this help with future teachings!

Mathematics Gaming

Technology has revolutionized the world. It was only a matter of time before it revolutionized the classroom. Today it is common to find a computer in most classrooms , however it is important to ask the question: “are educators making the most of this technology to enhance the learning experience and engage students further?”

If one thing is known to be true, it is that most students at one time or another enjoy playing video games. Students have a competitive nature and welcome the opportunity to “play” in class. This is why it is imperative that teachers become familiar with all the resources that are widely available. Mathematics in particular is an area where students need effective engagement most and the tech-gaming resources available are overwhelming. The lessons that can be taught and reinforced through online math games go above and beyond the traditional classroom experience and reach students on a deeper level. Students of the 21st century are eager for the opportunity to use technology in the classroom, so why not let them do it in an educationally meaningful and responsible way. Websites such as and are just two examples that can help students excel in mathematics while they enjoy a game of “ Bridge Builders” or “Math at the Mall”.

What an ODD Moment!!

          Has anyone ever experienced one of those embarrassing in-class moments?  You know...the ones that you look back on and say “Did I actually say that in front of the entire class?”...the ones that friends still joke about to this day.  THE DAY YOU MADE A FOOL OF YOURSELF IN MATH CLASS?!? 

I don’t know about you, but I had an EXTREMEMLY embarrassing moment like this during my first year of university.  It was about five years ago, as I began my journey to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry.  During my first year, Differential Calculus was one of my required courses during the opening Fall semester.  Unfortunately I was unable to get into the section that my friends were able to get into because it was full.  The only section that was left open was the engineering section!!  The year had just begun.  How could all of these engineers already know each other and become such a tight knit group of friends this fast?  At that time, I did not know anyone in the class so I felt quite intimidated. 

But then a confidence took over me.  A confidence within me saying “Jenna, all of these professors’ opening speeches have been about encouraging students to ask questions when they arise in class, so as to avoid getting lost or falling behind during a lecture.  So if I have a question, I can’t be scared to raise my hand!”  All of the engineers participated in class so I figured it would do no harm to ask a question or two and engage in classroom discussions as well.

So the time came...there I was sitting by myself in a Differential Calculus University class of 200 people when I noticed something confusing being written on the chalkboard.  Our professor had shown us two equations and was explaining that if we obtain an even answer from the previous calculation we must use the first equation, and if we obtain an odd answer from the previous calculation we must use the second equation.

In my defence, I misinterpreted his reasoning and had a mental block.  Since I was so used to rules being made about positive and negative numbers, I was on a one-track state of mind.  So for some odd reason (pun intended), when he said the word odd I associated it with negative, and when he said the word even I associated it with positive. 

And so the embarrassing moment came.  The previous calculation had given us a value of 5.  Due to my weird and unexplainable association of odd and negative that I was having at the moment, I immediately raised my hand not understanding why he was going to use the equation for the negative number if our number was not negative!  So I said it...loud and clear for the entire class to hear!  “But professor, how did you get odd out of that?”  (in my mind, thinking of the word negative while saying the word odd).  The class fell silent as they stared at the chalkboard that had the number 5 clearly written down, while I was asking how we got “odd” out of it. 

The professor looked bewildered and tried explaining to me, “You know!  1,3,5....odd!”  Multiple students sitting ahead of me turned and stared as I turned red and had nothing else to say!  And there it was!  My first impression to others in a class that had already intimidated me would from then on be “the girl who didn’t know why 5 was odd!”

Math and Music, Music and Math

              When I began high school, I had no idea what to expect when entering separate classrooms based on subject.  When I first entered my Grade 9 Math class, I distinctly recall being told that music and math work on opposite sides of the brain and that if we strategically use math and music together, we will be more successful in remembering key mathematical concepts.  It was an interesting way to start off the year, but to this day I will never forget that math class and the concepts that I did in fact remember due to the magic of music. 
            Throughout that semester we would learn topics in an interactive and engaging manner, and every now and then would be taught a song that explicitly represented a math concept.  How can a Grade 9 student deny the humour in singing a math song together with a class of 60 students and two co-teachers, about how “I’m a negative exponent and I’ll tell you more, move the whole power to a different floor” to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot?  Who could ever forget a rhyming country themed song about how to solve for the unknown in an algebraic problem?
            Firstly, I think that it is funny how I still remember these two songs to this day.  Secondly, I think it is funny that to this day, whenever I do mathematical work whether it is for a University Math or Chemistry course, I thrive off of getting through the work while listening to music.  I thoroughly enjoy “rocking out” to my favourite songs while completing numerical problems.  I have fun while doing this and sometimes find that I get the work done more efficiently with the music.
            All in all, I think that music makes a big difference in math and I truly believe that the incorporation of music into the math class can engage and benefit a wide range of students.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Livescribe Smartpen

As technology is becoming more common in the daily lives of high school students, many companies are coming out with products that bring that technology into the classroom in ways that enhance the learning. One such tool is the Livescribe Smartpen. The Smartpen simultaneously records audio and written work and transmits them to other technological devices (computers or tablets, for example) via WiFi or USB, depending on the type of pen. 

This pen, though useful in a variety of different settings, can be especially helpful for recording math lessons. In many other subjects a student can review or get caught up on missed lessons by simply looking at the overall note produced, but in math it can be difficult to understand exactly what is being done without seeing it broken down. By watching a video that a teacher produces, students can both see each step being written as well as listen to the teacher’s explanation of what is being done, in a way, re-experiencing the lesson. The best part is that teachers can integrate this tool seamlessly into every day teaching because what is being written on a paper can be streamed live through a projector as the video is being automatically uploaded to a computer. At the end of the day a teacher can make the video accessible by posting it to a class website where students can re-watch the lesson or catch up on what was missed; the video even has the advantage of including questions from the class as the teacher answers them. As with every piece of technology, it is an investment, but one which can be shared amongst staff and is worth making.

Math Memes

Memes have become the new craze on Social Media Networks like Facebook. I have found Memes scattered all over my newsfeed and I find myself constantly stopping my scrolling and reading them in hopes of a good laugh. For those that do not know what a Meme is, it is defined as "an image, video, etc. that is passed electronically from one Internet user to another." Thus, I have decided to post some Math related Memes that I think you will enjoy. It is great to add some fun and humour to a subject that is often times thought of as dry and boring (I dont understand how people can think this way, Math rocks!)

Non-Non-Fiction Math Writing

A big push in Ontario education right now is bringing non-fiction writing into the math classroom by encouraging students to do things like keep Math Journals, write letters to other classmates explaining concepts, or do presentations on math problems. The idea behind this is that when students use words to talk about math they are activating a different area of the brain and exploring the new concepts in greater depth, thus promoting a greater understanding of the math at hand. I would like to suggest another way of activating different brain areas with math though - fiction writing. 

This year, as a summative assessment for our properties of triangles unit, I asked my class to write children’s stories incorporating the different principles they had learned. Not only did their creativity blossom in both their writing and illustrating, but they were forced to examine the math concepts in much different ways than they previously had. In order to seamlessly integrate the principles into their plot lines they had to explore different applications of theorems, as well as different ways of representing the triangles in their illustrations. They had a lot of fun naming their characters, too - Captain Con and his sidekick Gruent, for example. And I thought I was the only one who enjoyed nerdy math jokes!

The Flipped Classroom: SAMR Model

As I continue to look at the different ways that we can incorporate technology into the classroom I came across the SAMR model, which shows the 'flipped classroom'. As I continue to see the need for finding new ways to bring technology into the classroom, I find that the SAMR model shows ways to ensure that education will be redefined through technology as opposed to just merely substituting a computer for a overhead projector. Being fresh out of teacher's college, I feel that the SAMR model is a Bloom's taxonomy approach to technology in the classroom. 

I feel that finding new ways to incorporate technology in the classroom should be a priority of educators if we want to prepare our students for the 21st century. Furthermore, students are becoming so increasingly stimualted by technology, it's unfair to expect students to sit to a lecture that focuses on copying down notes by hand from a chalkboard or overhead projector. While it may not be a reality for teachers and school's to fit in more technology into the classroom, we must be able to find ways that we can encourage new and engaging ways that technology can be used. I was surprised and encouraged to see schools employ a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) rule, that allows students to bring in their own tablets or smart phones that can be used for educational purposes. Internet use can be restricted by only allowing school wifi acess and controlled through a firewall. Students would ask the teacher for permission to use their device for different reasons, and if they used it out of turn or inappriately (ie: texting or on facebook during classtime), the device would be taken away. Some schools take the opposite approach and take away technology with no questions asked. It is my hope that schools and educators can find ways that can use technology for more teachable moments instead of punishment. 

Making Math Fun(ny)

Hello All,
I always try to start my math class with a quick joke or a comic, I find it helps to lighten the mood and it is even better if I am able to find some comics that relate to what I am teaching (i.e.a trig joke while I am teaching a lesson on trigonometry).  I know that math is not everyone’s cup of tea so finding some humour can help ease the math anxiety and at least put a smile on a student's face.  Below are a few of the jokes and comics that I have found from simple google searches.  I try to start with “math comics” but will sometimes resort to “math triangle comic” or something more focussed.  I have compiled a few over the last while, so here are some of my favourites.  I should note that I did not create any of these, they were all found on the internet  at


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sudoku's and Math??

I happen to love Sudokus.... could be because I lived in Japan for a year (okay, that's probably why I love sushi, not really sudokus!) or perhaps just because they exercise your brain. I have been in math classes in both elementary and secondary schools where students have said, "Miss, can we just do sudokus instead?! It's math!" question to you - is it really 'math?' Or is it just a strategic puzzle that happens to involve numbers? When I complete sudokus, I realize there is a logic involved, but I don't necessarily feel like I am performing any type of 'mathematical operation.'  So how do we answer these students when they say, "But Miss, it's math!"   What do you think?!
In the mean time, enjoy!

Mathematics Journal # 1

Hi Everyone,

I am going to write in my mathematics journal as if I were a student in Grade 9 academic mathematics. 

Today in mathematics we learned about probability and how it effects us on a daily basis.  I have often thought about casinos and how they make so much money.  Today Mr. L. taught us about roulette and the probability of winning if you bet on 'black' or 'red' or if you bet on a number.  He explained that most games at the casino are games of chance and that you can make money however the odds are stacked against you.  He told us that according to statistics he has read on the Internet - that people who play blackjack have the best chances of winning.  He also told us about the movie '21' in which some M.I.T. students won millions of dollars by counting money at various casinos.

Personally I do not like casinos as it promotes addictive behaviour.  I try to not get involved in anything that can be addictive.  I did find Mr. L's class to be quite interesting.  I learned a lot and hope that my fellow students learned a lot too. 

Below is a picture of Caesars Windsor.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What Time is It?

What Time is It?

During my second practicum, the grade eight class  had a fund raising for their graduation. Their fundraising were by saying a riddle everyday and everyone who wants to solve the riddle had to pay 50 cents.  At the end of the day, the grade eight announce the winner and give him/her a small gift. I found that students run to solve the riddle. they loved and enjoyed it. So my riddle to you is the following:
There’s a time on the clock, when both the hour and minute hands are EXACTLY between one and two. At the same time, both hands are right over each other. The time I am thinking about could either be at night, or during the day. 

What time is it?
Now dealing with Adults, how much would you pay to solve the riddle?