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Public Relations

I'm quoted this week in a piece by Vox's Libby Nelson on the Common Core State Standards. This reminded me to empty out my collection of podcasts, vodcasts, and press clippings, for the benefit of my doting mother if nobody else.

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The Desmos/Mathalicious happy hour in New Orleans on Friday was a great end to a long week of conferencing with math teachers, math ed professors, and the occasional vendor. My unofficial crowd estimate puts it at something like 50x the size of their 2014 event in Denver, CO.

The Desmos team and I wrote up some happy hour questions which were fun enough that several people requested the complete list. You should feel free to use them also. Please address complaints, quibbles, or corrections to Bill McCallum c/o Illustrative Math.

1. Math Homophones

All of the answers in this round are well-known mathematical words or phrases. (Example: "It lies under the mantle and belongs to use all" is also known as the "Common Core.")

  1. Bad news at the dentist for Salman. (A: concavity.)
  2. A ski run you feel really good about. (A: positive slope.)
  3. A lady’s partner who’s gotten some sun. (A: tangent.)
  4. Messages you send in the same direction. (A: parallelograms.)
  5. Treads on the Red October. (A: subtraction.)
  6. Mickey’s British mother-in-law. (A: minimum.)
  7. It said, “please come aboard two by two”. (A: arcsine.)
  8. A change to a military banner. (A: standard deviation.)
  9. Louisiana Governor Huey drawn and quartered. (A: long division.)
  10. An airplane bathroom that is not vacant. (A: hypotenuse.)

Bonus:

  • Answer to the question, “Have you seen a letter jacket belonging to one of the protagonists from Monsters University?” (A: isosceles.)
  • A condition in which you become a better dancer after having a organic beer. (A: natural logarithm.)
  • A matching outfit you’d wear in freezing cold weather. (A: polar coordinates.)

2. Kids Say The Darnedest Things

We asked four hundred 3-5th graders some questions about math. You're going to tell us what they said. We asked them …

  1. … who invented the Cartesian plane, a) Albert Einstein, b) Carter Von Ludvig, c) Rene Descartes, d) Eric Cartman, e) none of the above? What percent said the correct answer? (A: 9%.)
  2. … to name any mathematician. Name the top four answers for one point each. (A: In order of descending popularity, Albert Einstein, my teacher, Eric Cartman, Carter Von Ludvig.)
  3. … which is there more of, a) feet in a mile or b) pounds in a ton? What percent said the correct answer? (A: 57%.)
  4. … what their favorite number was. Name the top four favorite numbers of elementary students? (A: In order of descending popularity, 7, 10, 8, 11.)
  5. … which would you rather have: $100 or a stack of quarters from the floor to the top of your head? Which was the winner? (A: $100. That got 67% of the vote. Did they choose well?)
  6. … which was heavier, a) a ton of bricks, b) a ton of feathers, or c) a ton of kittens. What percent said “kittens?” (A: 5% The winner was a ton of bricks at 93%. Good job, kids.)
  7. … what was faster, a) the speed of light, b) the speed of sound, c) the speed of wind, or d) the speed of kittens. What percent said “sound”? (A: 25%.)
  8. … if zero was a) even, b) odd, or c) neither. What was the most popular answer? (A: In order of descending popularity, Even [46%], Odd [10%], neither [44%].)
  9. … what the biggest number is. Name the top four most popular answers for one point each. (A: In order of descending popularity, infinity, one hundred million, one billion, googleplex.)
  10. … to name the shape of a stop sign. Name any of the top four most popular answers for one point each. (A: In order of descending popularity, octagon, hexagon, pentagon, hectogon.)

3. Common Critters

Even though your students may struggle to meet the Common Core State Standards, some members of the animal kingdom are doing just fine. We're going to match a standard to an animal. You tell us if the statement is backed up by a scientific study or if we just made it up.

  1. Salamanders can "identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategies." (A: True.)
  2. Ants can measure lengths indirectly and by iterating length units. (A: True.)
  3. Goats can prove the addition and subtraction formulas for sine, cosine, and tangent and use them to solve problems. (A: False.)
  4. Chickens can fluently add and subtract within 5. (A: True.)
  5. Octopuses can tell and write time from analog and digital clocks to the nearest five minutes, using a.m. and p.m. (A: False.)
  6. Dolphins can construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. (A: False.)
  7. Crows can use appropriate tools strategically.(A: True.)
  8. Owls can count out a number of objects from 1-20. (A: False.)
  9. Parrots can correctly name shapes regardless of their orientations or overall size. (A: True.)
  10. Spiders can apply the Pythagorean Theorem to determine unknown side lengths in right triangles in real-world and mathematical problems in two and three dimensions. (A: False.)

4. Music Round

We're going to play 10-second clips of famous songs. You need to name the number that features prominently in the song.

  1. "99 Problems," Jay Z. (A: 99.)
  2. "22," Taylor Swift. (A: 22.)
  3. "Jenny," Tommy Tutone. (A: 8,675,309.)
  4. "Take Five," Dave Brubeck. (A: 5.)
  5. "Summer of '69," Bryan Adams. (A: 69.)
  6. "Seasons of Love," Cast of Rent. (A: 525,600.)
  7. "A Thousand Miles," Vanessa Carlton. (A: 1,000.)
  8. "Sixteen Candles," The Crests. (A: 16.)
  9. "100 Years," Five for Fighting. (A: 100.)
  10. "American Pie," Don McLean. (A: π.)

I spent some time recently with the Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction department of Oakland Unified School District and I think they're doing some of the most thoughtful work around. They nurture their talent, celebrate successes, promote good ideas from within, and sustain what seems (to this outsider) to be a very health professional community.

Their Instructional Toolkit for Mathematics [pdf] deserves your attention. It describes their defining "strategies and experiences," including:

  • Number talks
  • 3-reads
  • Participation quizzes

I particularly like their "Evidence-Gathering Card," which grounds a lot of abstract ideas (like "A growth mindset matters") into "student vital actions."

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From our friends at the Shell Centre:

The aim of Shell Centre Publications has always been to ensure that a number of seminal works in the field of mathematical education remained available. We have now reached the point where our most popular items are out of stock, and have come to the decision that it is time to stop storing and selling physical books. Digital distribution is the best way to keep these works available, so in the coming months, we will be making many of the publications on our list available, for free, as PDF downloads.

These books are just great. The Language of Functions and Graphs, in particular, has a couple of career's worth of great activities, lesson plans, and essays on teaching functions. Highly recommended.

[via Michael Pershan]

Why Joe Schwartz Blogs

Joe Schwartz:

I’ve been teaching for over 25 years and this is the best way to document what it is that happens in classrooms. A friend looked at my blog and then said to me, “Now I get what it is you really do.” Of course we can never actually capture all the moments, both large, small and in between, but I think all of our blogs together can do that. And in the climate we find ourselves in today I think that is very important.

Joe's blog is one of my favorite recent subscriptions. You should subscribe.

It's really hard to find dedicated elementary math teacher bloggers for a lot of really good reasons. In particular, they generally teach everything so why would they specialize their blogging. All of this makes Joe's blog invaluable.

Two good starters:

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