Friday, March 21, 2014

Illuminations Online Math Resources for Teachers


This website is a great resource for teachers. Their goal is to " [increase] access to quality standards-based resources for teaching and learning mathematics", and they very effective in working toward this goal. They offer over 600 lesson plans and 100 activities all directly related to math. 
The lesson plans offer some interesting and engaging ideas, and are sorted by grade level and strand. They offer some novel ideas to get kids engaged, such as the Skin Weight lesson plan, which helps students work with multiplication, division, charts and patterning at the grades 6-8 level. The Orbiting Satellites lesson plan teaches students to use algebra to look at the way real-world devices rely on math to function. 
There is a lot of potential in the activities section of the website as well. The Plotter the Penguin activity helps students learn how to plot points on a graph and work with slope, both are things that I have noticed a lot of students struggle with initially. Pick-a-Path encourages students to work with their various math skills - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, powers of ten, negative numbers, fractions, and decimals- to help Otka the octopus reach his goal and escape the 'mathematical net'. These types of activities work as great hooks for lessons or an end of the class reward for getting work done ahead of schedule. 
The website also has brain teasers, something I know a lot of teachers use to provide an extra daily or weekly challenge to help get students thinking, and in that spirit I leave you with two of Illuminations' brain teasers: 

The Wolf, Goat, and Cabbage

This problem can be found in eighth-century writings.
A man has to take a wolf, a goat, and some cabbage across a river. His rowboat has enough room for the man plus either the wolf or the goat or the cabbage. If he takes the cabbage with him, the wolf will eat the goat. If he takes the wolf, the goat will eat the cabbage. Only when the man is present are the goat and the cabbage safe from their enemies. All the same, the man carries wolf, goat, and cabbage across the river. How?

Golden Ratio

The Fibonacci sequence is shown below, with each term equal to the sum of the previous two terms. If you take the ratios of successive terms, you get 1, 2, 3/2, 5/3, 8/5, 13/8, and so on. But as you proceed through the sequence, these ratios get closer and closer to a fixed number, known as the Golden Ratio.
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, … 
Using the rule that defines the Fibonacci sequence, can you determine the value of the Golden Ratio?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Women and Science

Check this out!

After having brought up the topic in our math course of where women stand in relation with mathematics, I started looking for young females showing excellence in math and science.  On TEDxTeen, it is so inspirational to see Angela Zhang quite humbly unfold how “breaking down the unknown” helped her grow her interest in math and science.  Her approach reminded me of teaching with three-act tasks of Dan Meyer.  This video proves that there are women out there truly passionate about science!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Math Activities

Even at the high school level students enjoy hands-on activities and the inclusion of variety within lessons. This is what keeps them engaged, interested in being in class, and willing to participate in class.

I stumbled upon a Pinterest Board called "Math Ideas - High School" which I sat and looked through for quite some time. Within this board, I came across a website full of activities and ideas to include in a math class, that would work for any level of difficulty or any grade level if manipulated appropriately. Some activities come across as primary, but they can almost all be altered to be fitting of any grade level (including Grade 12).

One activity in particular that I liked was the Story Sticks. I have seen story sticks before, in contexts similar to that shown on the Story Sticks website, but never in a math context. Story sticks are most commonly used in primary level course to give the student four words/ideas/problems/etc. to give them a starting point for a story. An extension of this was given on the website of activities to include these sticks in a math class by having the student come up with a word problem rather than a story. I think this is a great idea to have students think about creating word problems and creating a scenario to fit a specific concept rather than always be solving them. This is a great way to prepare students for exam preparation, as they can each choose different sticks and present their word problems to the class and a review package could be made of all the different word problems in order to study for the exam.
One idea that I liked was the generation of a QR code to provide students/parents with your contact information. As well as teacher information, you can create QR codes that take students to websites with extra practice, extra information, homework details, course details, contact information, etc. The possibilities are endless, but the technology is what is new and exciting - so this is what interests students in comparison to writing their homework on the board, or providing them with a course outline that they are likely to misplace. There are many sites available for generating QR codes, and majority of them are absolutely FREE.
If you have any other activities or ideas that can be altered to fit a high school math class - please share in the comments below! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Classroom Management

One thing that I have not been truly great at, being completely honest, is classroom management. It probably stems from the fact that I teach Grade 11 and 12 and am only 23 years old, not much older than the students themselves. Fortunately, the longer that I teach the more I become more comfortable taking control of my classroom and laying down expectations and having consequences for when these expectations are not met.

The more I teach and the more students that are placed in front of me, the more challenges I have faced with having not so great (I wouldn't say poor) classroom management strategies. Each new student brings forth a new challenge and a need for a new classroom management technique, or strategy. Each student is different, thus needing a different strategy. This is what I found the hardest, classroom management techniques were constantly changing from class to class and from student to student. Not every technique worked with every student.

I know the material, I know how to teach in a variety of ways and differentiate instruction, and I know how to engage the students. This is what I learned in teacher's college. What I didn't learn in teachers college is discipline, like how to deal with the kid who argues with everything that you say, or how to eliminate calling out in the middle of a discussion or lesson, or how to regain a students focus once off track. These things are expected to be common knowledge, and experiences that you learn from when you make a mistake. To me, this was not common knowledge. I am not sure if I am alone or not, but the discipline side of classroom management was never my strong suit. I never wanted to embarrass a student or get upset with a student, I wanted them to feel comfortable within my class and not feel threatened by my authority. I have since learned that there are better ways to do this, rather than disregarding discipline all together.

Luckily for me, there are a number of resources available to give me information on a variety of situations, and how to manage my classroom as an authority figure. Edutopia has put together a resource booklet containing Ten Tips for Classroom Management. This resource is great because it provides tips and explains how to incorporate these strategies within your classroom and gives you a variety of ways to ensure each tip is met in a way that is manageable to you.

The tips include:
1. Build Community
2. Design a Safe, Well-Managed and Friendly Classroom Environment
3. Include students in creating rules, norms, routines, and consequences
4. Create a variety of communication channels
5. Always be calm, fair, and consistent
6. Know the students you teach
7. Address Conflict quickly and wisely
8. Integrate positive classroom rituals
9. Keep it real
10. Partner with parents and guardians

I think I was too busy with #2 and #9 and less concerned with #7, that made me almost regret the field that I had chosen. Each day seemed like a struggle because conflict was not dealt with soon enough that each day got harder and harder and harder. Students began to realize that I was not going to discipline them right away so they began to goof around, misbehave, and lack respect for me as their teacher and in turn led to chaos. Since reading his resource I know that my classroom management has improved and I am glad that I am in the field that I am in, I enjoy it more and more everyday - I am now a respected teacher, rather than a disrespected friend.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Math Jokes

Math jokes are the best, and really work on inferencing skills. When I teach math, I am going to build a huge collection of math jokes and try to use one everyday (or as much as humanly possible). A colleague sent me this and it's great!  

Friday, March 14, 2014

NRICH Project for Professional Development

I came across this interesting resource and I want to share it with you.
NRICH Project is a web site developed by the University of Cambridge. Its purpose is to enrich mathematical experience for all learners. Originally it was an online maths club for interested students. However it changed and is now a project which provides resources for all ages, and provides support to teachers.
The web site offers interesting, challenging, and engaging activities that help children to develop thinking and problem-solving skills.
For math teachers it offers free material (Problems, Articles and Games) that may help to engage learners and embed rich tasks into everyday practice. It also delivers professional development courses and workshops.
For students NRICH web site provides free and interesting mathematical games, problems and articles. It offers an online space where students can meet others with similar interests.
Among various site resources there are many interesting articles that teachers can use for professional development.  

Click here to navigate to the NRICH Project website.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Boy With the Incredible Brain - Daniel

I just saw this video about a young boy, Daniel, who has an incredibly powerful brain who can calculate huge numbers without a calculator or learn a new language in a week.  He can find the pie to the twenty-two and a half thousand decimal places.

I question myself: Which one is it: nature or nurture?