Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ben Peled Saves the Day

My math teacher friend Ben Peled sent me this yesterday and it made me gape, smile and feel a bit better.

"Often at this time of year, surveying all the kids (may not) have learned, I feel overwhelmed by the gap between the teacher I am and the teacher I'd like to be. That's why it's always good to be reminded that, however often I screw up in the classroom, there's someone out there effing it up much, much worse."

For all of you who have been having a challenging week, doubting the value of your practice, feeling discouraged, or frankly just need a little eye-popping.

May you be reassured and rejuvenated for these final days.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jascha on Sims

My brilliant friend Jascha Hoffman sent me an awesome interview he recently did with John Sims, who creates and curates mathematical art, and who has a year long series of exhibits at the Bowery Poetry Club.

Sims is articulate about the intersection, even union, of math and art. At last. I'm interested to learn and see more!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

2 Additions to my Conceptual Understanding

I just graphed these inequalities for the first time. I was filling out the end of year survey for Math for America and the last section asked us to identify the common misunderstandings that might arise and how we would address these misunderstandings.
I've been thinking a lot this week about how to teach for conceptual understanding, how to get kids to use skills as their inherent pattern seeking mechanism activates. How to create curricula that gets them generalizing useful and true patterns (rather than, for example, that every function is linear), and how to offer accessible depth in mathematical thinking.
So I was excited to play with these inequalities, partly because they were new to me, partly because they demand conceptual understanding and resist procedural memory. Rather than go on, I leave you to play with them yourself if you're not already familiar. I'm going to use them with my 10th graders next week!

Then I discovered that jd2718 came up with this activity back in March, and there's a nice discussion of them in the comments on that post. Check it out! Thank you jd2718 for being so creative, brilliant, infectious!

Also, I did some catch up last night on Ben's blog and was really inspired by his discussion of revising how we teach and present negative numbers. He writes beautifully and at length about this, and I seriously encourage you to take 10 minutes and read his post. He's been reading some awesome primary texts and the history they tell has convinced him that we should teach negatives a bit differently. First, we can we ask the question (perhaps often) do negative numbers even exist? Then let's introduce negative numbers first as solutions to things, like 5-7. Let arithmetic necessitate these new creatures. Once we're comfy, we can start using those things as objects with which to do arithmetic, as solutions to equations, etc. Last we can use them as coefficients (and exponents?!). I love this!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kuta Software

Yeah, Kuta Software!
I realized this week that I hadn't mentioned the online worksheet resource I use most for arithmetic and algebra. My colleague and old co-teacher Cristina found it. The site has tons of free worksheets, great for practice and exercise, the kind of thing that I like to use so that I can put my creativity to activity planning rather than writing problems or formatting worksheets for simple practice.
They have also recently added a Geometry section, and if you have a PC, I bet it would be AWESOME to buy their program that helps you design and create your own worksheets.
Check them out!
Happy Friday.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Learning Network, Teaching with the NYTimes

I was honored to be a part of a meeting with the lovely and tremendous women (both former teachers) who are writing the The Learning Network, the education blog for the New York Times. They "curate" the Times for educational purposes, encouraging readership, literacy and global awareness for anyone who can go online.
We (I, 5 other math teachers, two awesome folks from MfA and the writers of the blog) were there to talk about how they can develop the math education portion of what they do. Apparently the most searched phrase on the entire blog is test prep, and so the remarkable Patrick Honner wrote some. Check out his "quiz" on financial literacy. Give comments if you have feedback.
I also recommend just generally checking out the website. They put up all kinds of cool stuff for teachers and kids, daily lesson plans, comments from kids, cool questions and interactive surveys and stuff. It's a great resource.
I'll keep you posted as we (hopefully) contribute some more mathy stuff too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Math Worksheet Site

My coach showed me this website which has good basic resources. For free, you can get blank graphs, number lines, and worksheets on integer arithmetic or telling clock time. You can also subscribe and get access to a whole bunch more stuff that I can't tell you about.
The site is designed for early ed, but I use everything I listed above in my 9th and 10th grade classes as well when kids are struggling with their basics. You can choose (to some extent) what kinds of features you want included in your worksheet. So it's a little DYO but still very simple and straightforward.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

By request, Superstar Pictures

Unfortunately, I have found none with the three together in one shot (alas, sitting at different sides of a round table) but here's a little something.
Aren't they beautiful?!