Monday, July 29, 2013

Plagiarism/Copying in Math and Science

I realize that this may be more of a vent than a complete blog, but I have in my last teaching position, suspected that a student had come across the solution/answer key. Although some questions were mathematical and if calculated correctly, you would have the same steps, but the layout, and wording of therefore statements, and questions that were comprehension were word for word from the answer key. I emailed the student and said that this looks very familiar, and asked if they had found this online. They admitted to googling and finding the answer key. I gave a zero on this assignment, but I feel that a zero, although is a warning, isn't enough in regards to this. I really have a hard time with Math and Science with this, as students work in partners and hand in the exact same work, which is fine, but it's difficult to allot any marks for students who spend their time googling hoping to find an answer key instead of trying to do the work. Have any of you had situations like this? How did you go about confronting the situation?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Inclusivity in the Classroom

Ravinandan did such a great job discussing differentiated instruction, it inspired me to review some research related to inclusive education.
A major barrier to inclusive education for all is the willingness, professional knowledge and external support for the classroom teacher in accommodating students with exceptionalities into the regular classroom. As noted by the research Angela Valeo and Gary Bunch (1998) of York University, six seasoned elementary teachers were quoted as saying that “the modification of the curriculum was not their role.” (Hutchinson, 2009, 22). Nearly 15 years later, we can only hope that this lack of willingness for the inclusion of exceptional students no longer persists. In addition, a lack of professional knowledge and external support for regular classroom teachers in the full inclusion of all students may be impeded by the lack of special education qualifications. As we all know, it is not a requirement for regular classroom education teachers to have experience in special education requirements. As a result, the proper provisions such as universal design and differentiated instruction are not always performed by the teacher and the educational needs of exceptional students are not always met.
With so many of our students struggling in the area of a core course such as math, should special education certification be a requirement of this particular department?
Hutchinson, N. (2009). Inclusion of Exceptional Learners in Canadian Schools: A Practical Handbook for Teachers. Pearson: Toronto.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Math IRL -- Need your help!

I feel as a math teacher, we're constantly on the defence of our subject, always wanting to make it relevant.  And sometimes, this can be a stretch.  There isn't always a perfect answer to the question: "When am I ever going to use this in real life?" (The answer "on next week's test" is apparently not satisfactory for most high schoolers I know).  We're also not the subject known for the highest levels of excitement; I would say we may only be beating Physics in this category, but after all the Higgs-Boson hoopla... Anyway, I was thinking about how to be fun and relevant. I thought that everyone loves getting outside the classroom.  So I thought about making up a fun scavenger-hunt type activity and I would call it #MathIRL. (If you are unfamiliar with IRL, it means "in real life").  It could be a one-day event, but could carry on to be something that gets re-visited throughout the semester via Twitter or other hash-tagable social media.
         I haven't gone far with the planning, but you could tailor it to what works around your school.  I would have several items on the scavenger list that relate to the grocery store. What is the best value for a bottle of ketchup? So they have to calculate the per unit price for different brands. Or going to a different store that has brand names on sale and seeing if a brand name on sale is cheaper than a generic brand.  Or something related to the price of gas where they have to compare what is better, to drive a certain number of km with regular gas, or being about to drive more km on premium, and they'd have to find the price of each.  There could also be one related to sending a parcel, so they have to go to the post office and do some surface-area/volume calculations, or the cost per weight of the parcel.
       The follow-up is getting them to continue looking for math in their real lives as the semester goes on.  They could tweet it, or take a picture on their phones, bring it in, and let the class know where they are using #mathIRL.
(I checked and there are already lots of tweets with the hashtag #mathIRL.  Fun to see that people are now getting on board with the fact that math matters!!!)

Any ideas for the scavenger hunt? Would love to hear your suggestions and feedback!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Differentiated Instructions:

Differentiated Instructions:

Differentiated Instructions are required to teach and support students in a range of different academic backgrounds. You need to consider each students learning habits, interests and readiness. Instructions can be differentiated instructions in 3 ways: what you want the student to be able to do, how you teach to them and how you assess them. This needs to be assessed throughout all grades, each varying on the needs of the individual students.  During one of my placements, students who had a learning disability, were presented with instructions in a different way. They were accompanied by a teacher in a small group at the back of the classroom. Manipulatives and visuals were used to present and explain concepts to them. As well, they were given one-on-one instructions. The material they were taught was simpler and the expectations were modified. As well, students were given accommodations ( in which they were provided with assistance using methods such as manipulatives, Physical aids and visual aids) and modifications in material taught. During class work and tests, students were allowed to sit at the back table and the questions were read by the teachers, they were given manipulatives and a modified version of a test. Another alternative, that was used in other classrooms, with students with different needs was that the same test was given but it was assessed differently. Differentiated instructions can also be provided using tiered lessons, in which different levels of task can be adapted to the unique needs of the students. These different levels of a lesson are determined by the teacher. It involves the extent to which students are provided with assistance, whether it be one-on-one assistance, peer tutoring or group work. It is also based on how structured the lesson is.  A more structured lesson is more helpful for students with special needs. Tiered lessons also look at the complexity of lesson and process of complexity required to complete a task. It is important for us as teachers to ensure needs of each of our students are met to the best of our ability. Each child is unique and we have to ensure each child is given an opportunity to work to the best of their ability.

Some assistive technology that can be used in the classroom:

·         Kurzweil/ Premier Scan and Read. The Kurzweil reads scanned and converted texts.

·         Apps on the ipad. Such as wordly. (in which students can type something and the computer reads it out loud.)

·         Smart Ideas

·         Clicker 5

·         Co-writer

·         Board maker

·         Dragon Naturally speaking.
There are many advocacy groups available that teachers in Ontario that teachers can use to assisst them. They provide information on the problem and various resources for parents and teachers to use. Some are listed below:

Association for Bright Children of Ontario

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario (LDAO)

Canadian Association of Community Living

VOICE for Hearing Impaired Children

Integration Action for Inclusion in Education and Community

Ontario Association for Families of Children with Communication Disorders (OAFCCD)

Parents for Children's Mental Health

The Canadian Hearing Society (CHS)

Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Ontario

Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada

Silent Voice Canada

Bob Rumball Foundation for the Deaf

Ontario Cultural Society of the Deaf

Ontario Association for the Deaf

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Confession Time...

I feel like this a safe place to be 100% completely honest, where I will be received with tolerance and not judged by what I am about to say.

I know that as teachers, who will always be getting older, despite the fact our students remain in the same age bracket, we are supposed to be keeping up on their interests, so we can relate (and also not seem too lame). I get it. I know who Edward Cullen and Harry Styles are, I know that Kanye and Kim named their baby North West, and I am familiar with a certain amount of Top 40 music.

But I just have to admit, I hate Angry Birds. I think it is stupid.

There, I said it.

A Penny for Your Thoughts

I have something I need to get off my chest.  As math teachers, it is so important to us to have our students (and the general population) see that math is useful. Anytime math is in the media or in anything mainstream, we want to jump up and down, and shout, “See! See! This is important!” (And I mean other than March 14th, when people everywhere bake delicious pies and post in their statuses “Happy Pi Day!” even though any other of their math-related posts involve the phrase FML. Don’t ask me what that means, I’ve checked, and it’s not the formula for anything).  But we’re math teachers, we don’t jump up and down, we just push our glasses up our noses and try not to sigh audibly as the attendant counts out the wrong change.
            Beginning with the announcement of plans to scrap the Canadian penny last year, and the fruition of these plans in February of this year, an age-old mathematical process has been brought into the limelight. That’s right, I’m talking about rounding.
            This concept, introduced in Ontario in Grade 3, is supposed to be used obtain a value that is easier to write and to handle than the original.  But the removal of the penny, and the subsequent need for monetary amounts to exist in five cent increments, have created an uproar from sea-to-sea in our beautiful True North, strong and free.  And I think it basically boils down to the fact that people just don’t understand the concept of rounding.
            Listening to a cross-Canada call in radio show (CBC’s Cross-Country check-up), or reading the comment sections of related news articles, and you see the comment so often, “Why do I get feeling there's going to be a lot more rounding up than rounding down?”.
            Mr. Anonymous Internet Commenter does not realize that rounding is not an arbitrary thing where the merchants (or worse, the Government!) get to decide whether the total gets rounded up or rounded down. It is a mathematical process with a set of rules. And I feel as though I need to explain.  If the final value we need to obtain has two numbers after the decimal (i.e. hundredths), and the hundredths need to be in increments of 5, then there is a specific way to get there.  Zero and five stay zero and five, respectively.  One and two round down to zero, three and four round up to five, six and seven round down to five, and eight and nine round up to ten (zero in hundredths column).  That means there are two numbers that don’t change, four that round up, and four that round down.  There is an equal mathematical probability of getting to any of these numbers.  The rounding is only applied to after-tax amounts, and there is no way for a store strategically plan their prices in order to dictate that you will always end up with a 3, 4, 8, 9 (and thus, have to round up).  Prices all vary in amounts in the tenths and hundredths (for a while it was always .99, but it seems as though .97 is the new .99, and go to Wal-Mart and you will find prices ending in everything from .49 to .74 to .82, but shop at MEC and everything ends in .00 or .50).  A store has no control over the number of items you purchase at a time, and therefore has no way to predict what the combination of prices will add up to be.  Tax also varies – there is no tax on food, some things have only the 5% GST, and some have the full harmonized 13% (“harmonized” – talk about a euphemism!), and that is only in Ontario – other provinces have different PST amounts.  This all to say, there is absolutely no way to use prices in stores to guarantee that tallies will fall more frequently into the ranges that get rounded up.  One day you win, one day you lose, but on a whole, the probabilities will be equal.

            If you think the penny’s exodus and this rounding “dilemma” is part of some bigger, more sinister conspiracy, or can poke holes in my mathematical reasoning, please, by all means, weigh-in.  After all, this is only my two cents worth, and we all know that rounds down to nothing anyway.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Game Based Learning In Mathematics

Do any of you remember playing this game as a child?

Throughout my short time as a teacher, I have witnessed improved skills, knowledge, and attitudes towards math by means of Game-Based Learning. The right environment, correct choice of game and the teacher’s role as moderator, are vital if the desired learning outcomes are to be achieved. Interactive games can supplement traditional learning but not replace it. I believe the majority of today’s teachers are willing to incorporate GBL into their lesson plans, however the knowledge and skill level required to implement this technology successfully is lacking.  Within the past 10 years teacher’s attitudes towards the use of games for learning have changed, historically games were not seen to be of value however, many of today’s students embrace the idea of learning through games.  Within elementary schools, games are often used to solidify different skills like within “Math Rescue” the knowledge of basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division is repeated and drilled into the students. 

I’m now on the search for games at a high level of difficulty, I’ve found a couple that I will share, but I am interested to see what any of you have found in your travels.

The first one I will share is called Co-ordinate Battleships- you can click on the link below to play. Students will try to sink all the ships by using the proper (x,y) format for co-ordinates. 

Another website I have found is Hot Math
A game called Number Cop can be switched so students have to identify multiples of specific number, or numbers that are perfect squares, etc. This one I find to be good for younger grades. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A simple proposal

Story time:

When I was in grade seven, I was in an enriched program in the Durham District School Board. We had just received a math test back, and my friend had failed.  I asked him why he did so poorly, and he told me it was because he had forgotten his calculator at home.  His downfall was division - he could not remember how to divide using a calculator.  I didn't have a calculator, and so I taught him at recess how to do long division.

Fast forward, and now I am a supply teacher.  I have tutored grade nine and ten students in math, have substituted for math teachers, and worked in Additional Resource settings with students and the one common thread between the students struggling in math is the inability to do simple calculations without a calculator.  When a student is asked to convert 1/2 into a decimal, and reaches for a calculator, that is cause for some alarm.

I know what you're thinking.  A calculator is a tool, and an incredibly useful one at that, and I understand that there are certain scenarios in which they are necessary.  What Is detrimental to student learning is when a calculator, or any piece of technology, becomes a crutch.  

So here is my modest proposal: we ban calculators from elementary school (with a caveat).  Once students hit grade nine, and begin to work with trigonometry, a calculator becomes impossible to ignore.  With basic algebra, however, students should be learning how to solve simple equations, rather than how to input the question into a calculator.  There are some sticking points in the curriculum, however.  Pythagorean theorem in grade eight, for example, poses a problem with root functions.  So the caveat is that calculators should not be allowed in the classroom other than a class set, to be used at the teacher's discretion.

Loving Math!!

Loving  Math!!

Students often start to hate math when they become bored or find it difficult. As a child I always found math to be my favorite subject until I went to grade 6. I was always confused or bored. So here are some ways to help your students regain interest in math:

1.) Create an interactive math lesson. Have your students involved. (This can be done by using various technology, hands on demonstration and active learning.) Manipulatives are also a great way to make math more hands on. It is great for differentiated instruction.

2.) Allow students to be involved in the lesson creation process. I found that the best way to motivate students was to allow them to complete sample questions and then asking them to create a challenging question and having their peers evaluating them. This is especially useful when teaching about area, perimeter and volume. I had my students make irregular shapes (be creative) and had peer solve them. They enjoyed this.

3.) Have centres and more interactive classroom as opposed to the normal classroom in which students just sit and listen. Have 4 centres deal with one topic in various ways is a great way to promote interest in math.

4.) Allow students to talk. Communication is a very important aspect of learning and it has been found that allowing students to communicate their understanding with their peers allows question things and also confirm their believes.

5.) The most important of them all, ensure that your lesson relates to student interests and apply to situation in real life context. Students are more likely to be interested in something they find they can relate to. One of my favorite math teachers, allowed us to create two baseball teams during the series final and compete answer questions to determine which team would win in the championship. :) (Yankees won).


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Manipulatives! Help please!

How do you keep manipulative's from being a distraction or art project?

This may be more of a problem in grade 7 and 8, but depending on the class you can see it everywhere. I always have those students who really need the manipulative objects and we all agree they can be great tools and research says they will be effective, but the thing I have always struggled with is how to keep them only being used for math.

Things I have tried...

  • Only handing them out enough of the objects for what we are doing
  • Collecting them as soon as they are no longer needed
These things helped, but I just thought that some of you might have some fantastic problem solving ideas because I am really stuck...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Linking Video Games to Math

“When I grow up, I want to create video games!” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard elementary boys state their desire to make video games a lifelong profession. I know I’m not alone in this and PBS took on the initiative to show how math is in fact related to the real world…even video games!
PBS Learning Media has developed a tool for teachers to incorporate algebra into grade 7 math through online interactive exercises. The website below is a link to a short video, in which Julia Detar talks about the links between math and her job as video game designer. 

Students are then encouraged to play a video game that prompts students to use their algebra skills in  linear relationships, rate of change, slope, graphing transformations etc… in order to achieve success in a variety of spaceship and submarine challenges.

This portal is also great for a variety of other topics, including topics such as ratios and proportions, volume, area… Sign up is free, but I’m not entirely sure if it is limited to US residents only. 

Some Cute MathJokes

I saw these and thought they were hilarious and needed to be shared! 
Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!  Definitely some cute jokes that could be added to some slide shows!