Month: September 2011

Total 11 Posts

That Was Bananas

Many thanks to all of you who stopped by and contributed to a provocative session this Saturday. It was a real treat. If you’d like to see an outline of what we did, check out the digital handout. Next up is a nap. Next next up is some plan for all this footage.

Puzzling, Ctd.

A response to my last post from the MathTalk forum:

Compared to an exploratory curriculum for kids who are not distracted by hunger and not shut down by years of failure, the Khan academy videos pale. But compared to the status quo, it seems to me to be a contribution. And used as supplementary material, they seem wholly a win.

This is almost exactly right. You want to put a million videos on YouTube explaining math? The world is all the better for your contribution. But don’t mistake your contribution for a solution to a larger problem. Don’t mistake your contribution for a solution to a larger problem and then embed it in a student’s compulsory public education.

My own work has received a fraction of Khan’s accolades and funding and I still feel the need to disclaim every few days that applied math isn’t the only math worth studying and video doth not a complete curriculum make. Once Gates puts a few million dollars behind your collection of YouTube videos, I imagine the pressure becomes unbearable to claim it’s the solution to a problem way outside of its jurisdiction.

Comments closed.


Los Altos Patch on LAUSD’s expansion of Khan Academy to more classrooms:

The fact that we may not have seen a statistically different result between the pilot classes and the non-pilot classes might be a little bit puzzling, but it is by no means a reason to discount the program altogether,” said Seither. Seither has a child who was in the pilot program. He added that a child’s newfound enthusiasm for math and focus cannot be directly measured.

Seriously, I am puzzled. I would have guessed Khan’s approach to lecture and practice would juice achievement scores on standardized tests while tanking students’ enthusiasm for math. Clearly, I need to keep a loose grip on my assumptions.

BTW: I was interviewed by World Magazine for a piece on Khan Academy (paywalled, but accessible through the first link on this page) where I’m billed as a critic of Khan Academy. A “critic” is defined, in these matters, as someone who doesn’t reflexively throw money or praise at Salman Khan.

World Magazine:

Khan Academy has some critics. Dan Meyer, a former math teacher at San Lorenzo Valley High School, thinks Khan Academy is ideally suited for teaching standardized tests, but doesn’t show the bigger picture of how math applies to the real world. He says Khan’s lectures and multiple choice questions teach students how to get the right answers, but do not spark a deeper interest in math.

“Math should be developed in an environment where you can dig in, mess around, and play with the numbers,” Meyer said. When he taught 9th-grade remedial algebra, each class would focus on solving a problem: One day he put up a picture of a giant pyramid of pennies a man had created over many years, and students were curious as to how many pennies were in the pile. He then taught arithmetic sequences and other topics necessary so that students could figure out how to solve the problem themselves.

Other teachers share Meyer’s concern about Khan Academy’s lack of context. Both Patel and Donahue plan to add a project component to their classes, where students can watch Khan’s videos to learn certain skills and then use them to answer practical questions.

Meyer doesn’t think Khan should be used in class to replace a teacher. Unlike having a teacher in the room, Khan’s videos cannot make eye contact with students, pause and answer questions, or have a relationship with students. Still, he sees the benefit of Khan Academy as a supplementary tool in math classes if a student misses a day of school or needs extra help with a certain topic. He also believes that it would be helpful in situations where high-quality teachers are not available.

Comments closed in advance. I don’t need another food fight.

[anyqs] Speed Of Light

Here’s another. Again, these are push-ups to me. If I don’t make an exercise out of turning interesting things into challenging things, the result is that I become less interested in things altogether. Here’s the original thing that interested me.

  • h/t Max Goldstein who brought the original animation to my attention. I’m fascinated with his fascination with the dimensions of the Earth’s atmosphere in pixels. If I were to rank the things about that animation that fascinate me, I’m not sure that datum would crack the top fifty. There’s a lesson for me in there somewhere.
  • Here’s something that kinda sorta looks like I’m trying to make a lesson plan out of this video.
  • While we’re on the subject of #anyqs, I love this effort from Mylène at Shifting Phases. She dips her toes in the #anyqs waters and makes a huge splash.

2011 Sep 06: I posted this #anyqs for response to Twitter and got a long, resounding “Huh?”

@thescamdog: @ddmeyer I've got nothing. Mostly I wonder what the shady looking guy with the flashlight is up to.

@park_star: @ddmeyer had to watch it twice and i'm still sort of wondering what the heck is going on.

It should go without saying that this kind of feedback is just as valuable as the kind where everyone aligns around the same question. Far better to get this feedback now, on Twitter, from a group of math educators, than when it’s too late, in the classroom, from thirty bored math students.

[anyqs] Hurricane Irene Edition

So I made this short video:

… because a week earlier I read this awesome hurricane preparation tip:

If an evacuation is required, one should freeze a nice, clear, full, pint-sized glass of water into solid ice and put a penny on the top of the ice in the freezer. Given that power outages can vary from block to block for varying lengths of time, and that power can be restored before one can return home, it is very possible to arrive after an evacuation to a fridge and freezer working normally. However, if you find the penny at the bottom of an almost-full glass of solid ice, you can toss your bags of food in the trash without even opening them. The penny at the bottom of the glass of ice means that power was out long enough for the ice to melt all the way through. Long enough so that the stuff in the bags is surely re-frozen and re-chilled spoiled food.

That’s the #anyqs game, everybody. Take what you find interesting and turn it into something challenging, something provocative for someone else. We’re great at assigning questions, at writing them down in textbooks or on the whiteboard and using the power of the state to force students to answer them. (“Do you want a bad grade?!”) We have much less practice at provoking questions, at putting students in situations that make them wonder, “Whoa. What just happened back there?”

This has been an attempt at that.

BTW: The big behind-the-scenes dilemma, for whatever it’s worth, was whether or not to include a final shot showing me dump a bunch of food from the freezer into the trash.

Featured Comment:


There is a better way, however. Take a used water-bottle, put a little water in it, and freeze it *upside down*. Then store it in the freezer *right side up*. If you ever find the ice at the bottom of the bottle, there has been a thaw. This eliminates the uncertainty introduced by the “ice skate effect”.