Archive for the 'Math' Category

Probability Illustrated

Currently, I’m working on a rapid e-Learning solution for teaching probability. I was able to quickly use PowerPoint and some clipart to put both the storyboard and the template for the interactivity. I use the animation features in both PowerPoint and Captivate to create the effects and interactive features for the piece. I’d like to spend more time explaining my process for this, but I will save that for a future post.

I created two presentations:

  • Probability and Dependent Events
  • Probability and Independent Events

Actually, the text of both of the presentations comes almost directly from text written by the Subject Matter Expert who intended to have it read online as one would read a print document. Somehow, it didn’t seem engaging enough to me so I went about creating these visual multimedia presentations. Unfortunately I can’t share the finished product up here, but I can share the images of the storyboards.  Both presentations are included in the gallery below.

Slide 3

Slide 3



Using Podcasts to Teach Math

I was just trying to think of at least 10 ways to use podcasts to teach math. Can you think of any others. Please post your ideas to this post in the comments. Please note, timeliness is not an issue. I’ll be checking this post in the future.

10 ways to use podcasts (vodcasts) to teach Math?

  1. Post a monthly puzzler or a brain teaser as an audio recording. Students have to listen carefully to the words and vocabulary used to figure it out.
  2. Students share their own math stories and problems.
  3. Broadcast monthly updates to both parents and teachers on the types of math lessons and activities students will be focusing on.
  4. Create a podcast with your students on math related subjects. Your students act as researchers and reporters who broadcast the stories.
  5. Share any news or media stories related to math.
  6. Broadcast homework and major assignment reminders.
  7. For those who do not have video or multimedia capability. Create math puzzles, problems, and diagrams in PowerPoint then provide audio narration to go with it in the podcast.
  8. Find, listen to and share math podcasts that you find.
  9. Students create their own math riddles and share them.
  10. On a professional level, share your experiences teaching math with other teachers.

Additional notes:

I found two interesting sites with math related podcasts/vodcasts:

The Math Factor (brief math converation and puzzle):

Math Train TV (math vodcasts created by middle school students):

I love Probability with Ben & Jerry!

These students did a fairly good job demonstrating Probability. Click the image below to view the video:


It still irks me… when women belittle their math skills

Warning: I’m on the soapbox kick. Sorry lately I’ve been in a mood of sorts.

Cute soapbox with kittens

Cute soapbox with kittens

It still bothers me that there are people out there who really thought that being a girl makes you less adept at math. I think I ran into (or had the oppportunity to listen to) at least three women, all above the age of 50, last month who expressed their own shortcomings in math. They all seemed resigned to the fact that they were terrible at math and that they could never be good at it.


I have two words for those women who still think that women of past generations weren’t  or couldn’t be stacked in the Mathematics department: Hedy Lamarr. Lamarr was not just a pretty face. She was a gifted inventor and engineer developed the idea for technology which has influenced the development of cell-phone and wireless tech.  “Any girl can be glamorous,” Hedy Lamarr once said. “All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.” She must have had brains and guts to cope with living in her times. I wasn’t able to find much about her formal education in mathematics or engineering, other than hints that she learned a great deal from work with one of her husbands, who developed guidance technology for weapons.

Hedy Lamarr - co-inventor of the Frequency-hopped spread spectrum invention

Hedy Lamarr - co-inventor of the Frequency-hopped spread spectrum invention

And about womens’ so called deficiencies in Math…. sure the circuits in your brain may not be as fresh as daisies*, but anyone can learn how to master functional mathematics. Most adults unless they have a severely debilitating brain disorder can figure out how to balance their checkbook. I’m sure most of those ladies who made these comments about their lack of Math skills understood how to do this and quite well. At least two of them are fairly good knitters so they unwittingly or not have mastered some math as knitters. Even as learned adults, if we’ve traveled through life and work experiences we have developed some basic “Math Sense.”  Many of us have “Math Muscles” that we just haven’t used for a while or on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean that we’re “Math Stupid.”

One person I spoke to defended her comments saying that she was ‘taught this by her teachers’ (whom by the way I hope are roasting over some slow hot fire somewhere for making these statements in front of students).   I have to say it once and a million times.  One’s ability at math has nothing to do with their gender!  And even if you were taught this, don’t share it to younger people. PLEASE DON’T. It still can affect others self-perceptions of their abilities. Or if you do, preface or follow your self-deprecating comment with: “I’m not as strong at math, but this may be because my teachers were insensitive and ignorant, and they screwed up big time when they were teaching me.”

If I go back to that one teacher who told me that I didn’t need to learn math… because I was a girl. Even though I knew what she was saying was wrong, it still had an effect on me to some extent. Later, I remember opting not to take higher math courses or even statistics in College, because I really didn’t think it was that useful. I also knew that math wasn’t my strongest subject and I decided to skip it. I’m not that good at it, so I’ll let it pass. Later in graduate school, I really regretted not taking that statistics class.

I’m quite a fan of the following book: Math Doesn’t Suck, by Danica McKellar.  I wrote a brief book review here. The book was written for Middle School girls, and it’s purpose was to walk girls through some basic pre-algebra concepts and provide examples that demonstrate that girls can master and do quite well in math.  I also liked the stories included in the book that featured young women who discovered entered fields where they used their mathematical know-how in their careers. Plus, Ms. McKellar is a great role model for young women pursuing careers in Mathematics, besides having an active career in Hollywood,  she continues to be an advocate for Mathematics education and achievement for girls and women. It looks like she’s authored another book called Kiss My Math.  I love it when women have an ‘attitude’ about their smarts.

More about Hedy Lamarr:

More about Danical McKellar:

*My own daisies need re-watering every now and then.



So, I sort of lied. I have been blogging in another life. As part of a Math course I recently developed, I set up my own blog to explore many of the concepts in the Algebra course. It’s called Maththinker. Initially I set up the blog as an example for students of my course. Many of the course activities are designed around the blog as the goal is to teach teachers the importance of getting students to express their mathematical thinking in writing. Writing out the thought process of math helps reinforce the learning and also helps students develop a solid understanding of what they are learning. Blogs naturally present a great tool for achieving this.

In addition to the blogs, the course will help students practice developing their own electronic visuals for teaching using simple graphics in PowerPoint. I truly believe that developing visuals or even drawing out concepts helps reinforce learning just as writing does. Even though the students of this course are producing something that they can use in their classrooms, they are also using that visual-spatial muscle to think out problems and concepts. The illustrations also allow the students to enhance their reflections and descriptions of concepts in their blogs.

In addition, to encouraging math writing, the course also focusing on helping teachers develop their own ‘real life’ applications and examples of math concepts and stories. Students share their examples including their own illustrations or diagrams in their blogs. They are encouraged to respond and provide feedback on each other’s work in the blog comments.


Here’s a screenshot from a quick slide show I developed that demonstrated the effect of changing variables in a quadratic equation. I used an applet available in the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives to create the graphs quickly and painlessly.

Working on this course also gave me the opportunity to re-learn some of my ‘rusty’ math. Imagine, I now remember what to do with a quadratic equation. In general, I feel like I’ve developed a greater appreciation of math and it’s applications.

Playstation Eye – Seeing Educational Possibilities?

View the details here:

So the technology is here to be able to scan drawing and input them in to a visual application… if this was improved and adapted could it be used to teach a geometry class to visualize what teachers or students were drawing? Could you theoretically teach such a class via long distances?

Just a thought.

Never mind that… the game they’re demonstrating seem pretty darn cool. Now you can draw your own spaceships or video game landscapes..or at least rough outlines of them.


Girls are just as good at math as boys

Even though I worked in a tech-field company, I can’t tell you how many times I encountered women in meetings who would shy away from any tasks that dealt with spreadsheet calculations. Granted I worked heavily in training and human resources which seemed to be female-dominated. I often heard comments like: I’m not any good at math or I was always really bad at math, let’s have so and so do that. It made my skin itch. I wasn’t particularly skilled at it either, but I was willing to try to learn how. I actually learned that I had a love for using spreadsheets to calculate and and report out data visually. Used ratio and proportion calculations on a near daily basis to recreate objects to scale. When I was working as an elementary school teacher in the Ninties, I heard similar self-disparaging comments from women. It made me cringe because these were the same people who were teaching math to the girls (and boys) in their classroom. Some of those self-doubts, fears and inhibitions were probably rubbing of on those girls.

How many of those women had math skills that they applied in some of the other everyday tasks and efforts that they did in tasks and crafts that were/are traditionally thought of as belonging to female roles: Sewing, knitting, cooking? These arts used geometry, calculations, proportions, etc. What builds my ire up even more is that America is probably the only developed nation where the stereotype that women are less capable or adept at mastering math is so prevalent. Many researchers and math education experts are now saying that WE MUST STOP MAKING THESE SELF-DISPARAGING COMMENTS about our inability to master math. Saying these things in front of young individuals both male and female perpetuates the stereotype that women are naturally not as talented and capable of being skilled in Math than men.

I did have the opportunity to work with a few female middle school math teachers and they were absolutely inspiring. I had the good fortune to work side-by-side with a teacher who put a huge investment in the curriculum she chose to teach to her students. She chose one that not only helped her students see and interpret math in both their own lives and the real world, she worked in conjunction with the Science, English and Social Studies teachers to develop an integrated curriculum which had themed foci that the kids could relate to. Also, just plain and simple – she conveyed a passion for math and she served as a role model for the girls in her course.

Math Resources for Teachers and Parent of Girls:

I found some terrific resources for parents and teachers on ERIC. I also found an excellent podcast on NPR Science Friday on the importance of getting more girls interested and building their confidence in Math. The podcast features an interview with Danica McKellar actress and math spokesperson who authored a book designed to encourage middle-school girls to be more confident and resolved to learning math and succeeding in math. Danica sounds so passionate about the subject but what I really respect and admire about her is that she openly says… it’s okay to be a girl and show that you’re smart! (Funny, how in this day and age that this is still and issue).
Gender-Fair Math: A short overview of the crisis and issues surrounding the lack of female interest in mathematics. There are some really good suggestions for helping build girl’s self-confidence.

Add-Ventures for Girls: Building Math Confidence: a huge (348 page) guide for Junior High Teachers. I’ve only skimmed through the first chapters.
Encouraging American Girls to Embrace Math – NPR Podcast with interviews with Danica McKellar and Members of the Womens’ Math Olympiad Team

Danica McKellar’s Website – Check out the Section for the book Math Doesn’t Suck.

Biographies of Women Mathematicians

I’m just a little bummed out…but it will pass

I know it’s Friday and I should be really happy, but I’ve just been a little bummed out about blogging in general. I’ve suddenly become incredibly self-conscious about anything I write. I know this can be the death-knoll for a blogger and a creativity killer, but I’ll get over it eventually. Nun with a ruler

I know I’ve said my piece once or twice about the focus on standardized testing in our schools. My gut simply tells me that focusing on teaching to these tests just saps or draws away any interest that people may have even had in learning. I also suspect that it really negatively affects the joys many teachers find in their jobs. Moreover, it can’t help that students perceive the anxiety from the principal, parents and teachers. Still, while I was reviewing research on why some people are better problem solvers than others, I had this thought this morning that perhaps there might be a way to make prepping for tests perhaps a little more engaging. For example, in taking a particular math problem on a test… perhaps teachers could throw it out there to the students so they can solve it together and share their logic and process. They could also work together to verbalize and explain how they solved the problem. I had teachers who did this but for some reason when they called us to the front of the room it aways felt like we were in the limelight performing in front of a dead audience who didn’t really get what we were talking about. It was more of a chore than anything else. Though considering where education and pedagogy were when the paddle and ruler had their active role in classroom management, I think we had it pretty easy.

I found this really neat nation-wide project called The National Math Trail. The Project is described on the website:

The National Math Trail is an opportunity for K-12 teachers and students to discover and share the math that exists in their own environments. Students explore their communities and create one or more math problems that relate to what they find. Teachers submit the problems to the National Math Trail site, along with photos, drawings, sound recordings, videos–whatever can be adapted to the Internet. All submissions will be posted to the site as they are submitted. They are also be indexed according to grade level and math topic and will remain on the site for access by educators, students and parents.

What I love about this effort it it allows teachers and students to learn from the real-life examples of real kids; it bring the mathematical interpretation of our surroundings alive from the view points of real people outside of a text book. I found what Kay Toliver, one of the founders of the project, said inspiring: “Mathematics is a subject in which we have to create thinkers not memorizers.” Okay… so how can we get them to think and still get them to pass these tests? It seems like a stupid question, but it’s not. Here’s another chicken-egg conundrum… but maybe we have to teach them to think before they can pass the tests… and just practicing taking tests or teaching to the tests isn’t enough. Sorry… I’m just venting, but that too will pass.


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