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Archive for the 'show and tell' Category

Nature By Numbers

I'm usually pretty immune to this sort of thing. I don't want to dazzle my students with math. I want them to engage with math and sometimes the spectacle just intimidates them or makes math seem all the more foreign and unknowable.

Other times the spectacle is simply too spectacular not to share.

[Apologies for the repost. The original (reportedly) defected to Canada leaving me to reconstruct it from pieces. I would have let the post expire gracefully but the comments were — and I'm not kidding about this — eye-blisteringly incredible. Check them out.]

I teach Algebra 1 and Remedial Algebra 1, a schedule which offers me interesting contrasts and case studies daily. The remedial population, as you might expect, features more behavior problems, lower rates of attendance, higher mobility, higher incidence of poverty, weaker student skills, more individualized education plans on file with the district, and those students are more likely to have disliked math (or their math teacher) in the past. After three years of trial and error, I have found intermittently successful ways to remediate most of these issues.

The feature of this group that confounds me and defies my remediation is this: they are far less likely find our daily show and tell interesting than are their contemporaries in non-remedial Algebra.

What I'm saying is that, when I play, for example, this fantastic loop of time lapse photography, my Algebra 1 students sit a few millimeters closer to the edges of their seats and lean a few degrees closer to the screen than do my Remedial Algebra students. They call out observations and deconstruct the movie in ways the remedial classes do not anticipate. In general, they seem eager to engage the unknown whereas my Remedial Algebra students seem to prefer that the unknown stay unknown, that life's unturned rocks stay unturned.

Pixel's Revenge timelapse showreel from David Coiffier on Vimeo.

This bears out even between sections of the same course. The length of a class' discussion of show and tell media correlates positively to the class' average grade.

No pithy conclusion. I have no idea what I can do with this.

Killer concept and execution on this Cold War Kids video. You can activate/deactivate any instrument at any point in the song and change any musician to any one of four tracks.

I have no objection to loading this thing up after the opener exercises and simply playing with it. If the moment offered itself, though, I wouldn't mind asking:

  1. If we set all the tracks before the video starts, how many different videos could we watch?1
  2. How many times did each musician have to record the song?

The difference between those two numbers is staggering, worth classroom discussion, a sign of the times, etc.

[BTW: Thanks to Karl Fisch for spotchecking my hyperlink.]


  1. Further: the song is 3:10 long. If we started watching all of those videos right now, on what day and at what time would our marathon end?

Sorry if you already caught this off my tweet but these photos, like I told my students, are some of the most eerie, gorgeous media the Internet has passed my way all year.

That was my preface, but I didn't explain myself. I asked them to tell me what was so significant about the photo.

"Because they're hiding."
"Because they're on a train."

I asked them what the relationship was between those two girls.

"Mother and daughter."
"Sisters."

I told them that the photo had rattled me so much because there is only one girl in that photo. Those two girls are the same person, separated by decades. The child grew into the adult who digitally inserted herself back into childhood portraits.

Whether the results constitute "musings on the contemporary relevance of the self-portrait" or, for me, a concise visual metaphor for everything that is so wonderful and horrifying about growing up, or something else entirely, I don't know. But they're wonderful.

[via]

Watch this YouTube video, which is sweet and wistful all the way up until you realize it's selling flavored sugar water:

The question I asked my students was, "when did you realize it was selling you Coke?" and "how many times did you see Coke throughout?"

The kids who are unfortunate sponges for product placement didn't notice it was a Coke ad until the end. Savvier shoppers spotted the Coke billboard halfway through.

These classroom conversations are fun and useful and I'm glad we make room for them in math. I have given up posting my show and tell media here but if you'd like a feed of photos and video I show in my classes every day, I have tagged them here.

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