Month: January 2009

Total 14 Posts

Visual Math Instruction: Premium Grade

The more I dig into the question, “How do we turn digital media into learning objects for math students?” the more I’m convinced we need a frameworkor maybe a stylesheet or perhaps a standards & practices document — I’m not sure of the best analogy here. for capturing and mounting that mediaie. “this is how we take a photo when we want to use it as a learning object.”. This is most obvious to me in our classroom conversations, some of which are enduring and propel serious mathematics, others of which are diverting but ephemeral. At whatever point I pin down the difference, I think I’ll have written myself a recipe for a coherent, engaging math curriculum, something that could occupy me for years.

Though neither of the following two curricula have any kind of public outline, they seem extremely self-consistent and they track (unintentionally, of course) extremely closely to the vision I’m chasing.

Problem Pictures

These CD-ROMs (which you can preview here and which Mr. K reviews here) are stocked with images that are each, on some level, “interesting,” and each of which beg a different mathematical question. Mercifully, that question is rarely, “what shapes do you see in this photo?” which is the lowest level of some pyramid which has yet to be named.

Principle Failing: No video, which makes the next entry particularly essential to my investigation.

The Hypertextbook

“Edited by Glenn Elert, written by his students.”

Their investigation of Mario’s acceleration due to gravity may have cropped up on one of your Internets, recently, and was certainly worth your attention. The recipe is consistent throughout Elert’s curriculum:

  1. Extract some video from pop cultureTalkin’ about Batman Begins, Madden 2006, Jackass — this Elert guy is out of control in my opinion..
  2. Use physics, math, Wikipedia, photogrammetry, and estimation to answer an interesting question.

Principle Failing: This document is designed more as a record of student learning than as a curriculum for teachers. The media which would propel this thing into classrooms around the world is either absent (as with the Mario investigation) or was uploaded to YouTube which dutifully scrubbed it (as with the Hulk investigation).

To proliferate as fully as they deserve to, these investigations need a complete multimedia supplement, starting with high-resolution captures. In Mario’s case, you would need:

  1. a clip showing Mario falling from the same height from every Mario game published, edited into a multi-panel split screen. The students would then ask the obvious question, “Why does Mario hit the ground sooner in some games than in others?”
  2. an individual clip for each jump, no decoration.
  3. The same clips with a grid superimposed over the footage for measurements.
  4. A lesson plan with analysis.

Again, we’re working on different projects here, but Elert only includes #4, which means his work will find its way only into the classrooms of the most digitally savvy physics teachers. How many more teachers would benefit had he included the first three? My guess is: a lot.

Contest: My Annual Report II

I hate to repeat myself like this but let’s run this one again.

Throughout 2008 I tracked dozens of variables, most collected from categories of geographic location, recreation, food & beverage, and communication. I collected these data in an Excel file comprising 14 worksheets in excess of 100,000 cells. The process took minutes per day and that minimal investment is paying out huge returns here at the end of the year as I learn new techniques for data analysis, extrapolate conclusions from 2008 — some of which I knew intuitively while others surprised me — and represent them visually.

The work has been nothing short of exhilarating and I want to encourage you to undertake it also.


  1. Design information in four ways to represent 2008 as you experienced it. This can mean:
    • four separate PowerPoint slides with one design apiece,
    • one JPEG with four designs gridded onto it,
    • an Excel spreadsheet inset with four charts,
    • etc.

    Feel free to use pies, bars, dots, bubbles, Sparklines, stacks, or designs of your own construction.

  2. Submit your designs. Either:
  3. Post your reflections either:
    • in the comments here, or
    • at your own blog.

Illustrative Examples

  1. Last year’s entries.
  2. Nicholas Felton’s 2008 Report, to which this content owes a debtTo all the armchair graphic designers hating in the comments, time to give it a shot yerselves..


  • Monday, February 2, 23h59, Pacific Standard Time


  • TBD


Prizes for First Place, First Runner Up, and People’s Choice Award. Don’t forget to declare your winnings next April, etc.


  • You own your images, though we’ll post them here (attributed) and, in all likelihood, pick several apart.
  • Let’s limit this to those with some demonstrable connection to education — students, teachers, professionals, edubloggers. Basically, no professional designers slumming it.

What Can You Do With This: ELA Edition

I couldn’t sneak this clip past YouTube or Vimeo’s copyright Cylons. Consequently, y’all will have to click a hyperlink to play along.

Download high quality here. See the pilot for instructions.

BTW: Cool stuff in the comments, but I like Mr. H’s suggestions the best, spanning passive voice and inference. (Not that I teach this stuff, of course, so help yourself to that salt lick in the corner.)

How Can We Break This?

I like this. The iPhone application RulerPhone will measure anything, in any photo, so long as the photo includes a credit card. It’s a great use of proportional reasoning, which, if pressed to name one, would be The Mathematical Skill I’d Most Like My Students To Retain After High School.

I added it to the What Can You Do With This? segment featuring The Bone Collector, which seemed like an obvious pair to me. In trying to find the best classroom entry point for this program, I can only think of the question, “How can we break this thing — trick it into giving an incorrect measurement?” I imagine someone can do better.