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Archive for December, 2011

I was browsing BuzzFeed’s 40 Best Memes of 2011 and came across Unhelpful High School Teacher, which has something cathartic for everybody. My favorite:

One of my favorite aspects of math is how, in many cases, we developed new tools to account for the limitations and inefficiencies of the old ones. One of my favorite parts of math education is how we can highlight those inefficiencies with a well-posed problem and justify the use of new tools.

For instance, let’s say some students are awesome at calculating the slope between (-2, 5) and (1, 11) by counting unit squares by hand and then dividing. (ie. “Three over, six up. The slope is two.”) Unhelpful High School Teacher teaches them the slope formula, assigns them the same kind of problems, and punishes the students who don’t use the newer tool even though the older tool is easier. Helpful High School Teacher asks the students to find the slope between (-2, 5) and (999998, 2000005).

Ten Steps To Better Blogging

Dan Frommer is a technology writer but his blogging tips are easily applied to edubloggers also. This is my favorite:

Write the site that you want to read. That covers story selection, length, frequency, style, vocabulary, attitude, humor, level of sensationalism, and more. Don’t publish anything you’re not proud of. Be yourself.

A participant in my session at CMC-North asked me how to develop a community through blogging. I told him I saw a lot of bloggers come online, post a few times, get depressed they weren’t getting the traction they wanted, and then wander off. I said you had to do it because you were satisfied by the act of writing itself, because you were looking forward to one day reading about the teacher you used to be.

I also said that I follow nearly every link and comment back to the blog that sent it. Often times I’ll subscribe and, because I’m totally lazy, I rarely unsubscribe. So draw in comments and reciprocal links by linking and commenting generously. But only after you’re writing and sharing because you find it inherently satisfying.

BTW. Given the choice, Daniel Schneider chooses blogs and Twitter over the formal professional development of math conferences. Conference organizers take note, get nervous.

Stephen Downes wrote up a useful and comprehensive guide for getting the most value from your experience at conferences. Halfway through, he offers a lovely note on nervousness:

One more tip: love your audience. I know that this may sound weird, but it really does work. When you love your audience, when your focus is on how well you can give your gift to them, everything else melts away. Just remember: they are there to hear you (if your a keynote, they actually invited you and paid your way – how could you not love them? How could you have any doubt that they really want to hear what you have to say?

Agreed. Before I go in front of a group, if I remind myself how much I love the work we do and the people we work with, I have a blast. If I focus on performance and the mechanics of public speaking, I’m a wreck.

Also. 1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.

Go Low Or Go Home

Nico Rowinsky:

  1. Choose a whole number.
  2. If your number is chosen by someone else that number is out.
  3. Lowest number wins.

Love that. Have all your students in all your classes submit a piece of paper at the end of class one day. Tally the results, award class winners, award overall winners, show distributions, and talk strategy the next day.

BTW: This MathOverflow thread offers some extended reading.

Can You Recognize Random?

Brit Cruise has a mind for math and a talent for filmmaking. This is a net win for math educators and math students alike. We should all be grateful for videos like this one, in particular, through which he’ll either tell you something you don’t know about random numbers or visualize beautifully what you already knew. In under two minutes. I’m impressed by the concision most of all.

He’s been trickling out these videos out every few months. Encourage him to keep up (and speed up) the good work.

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