Category: Life in the Math Classroom

Math ELITEs (Classrooms for Active Mathematics)

Thanks to Diane, Gary, and Tom … who also contributed ideas to this classroom redesign project idea. Objective: Create classroom spaces specifically for a) actively learning mathematics and b) using technology to demonstrate, teach, and learn mathematics. A Mathematics ELITE is an Engaged Learning Interactive Technology Environment and consists of: 1. Multiple Whiteboards There should be enough whiteboards in the room so that 24-30 students can work in pairs at the boards. One set of boards should be lowered so that shorter students or a student in a wheelchair could participate more easily (another modification could be to use a portable whiteboard for disabled students). Students rarely learn mathematics from copying the instructor’s work. When students work on the whiteboards in class, it is relatively easy for the instructor to monitor the work of all student pairs at once, stepping in to answer questions, give hints, and correct notation. Students take turns being the writer and the helper, talking over the mathematics as they learn to solve new types of problems. With an interactive board in the room, one pair of students can record their work on the interactive board, creating a record (PDF file) of all the problems worked in class that day. 2. Document camera Can be used for displaying documents (i.e. worksheets, going over a test key, etc.). In a classroom with math manipulatives (i.e. fraction...

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Record with a Document Camera and a Flip

In my Math for Elementary Teachers (MathET) course, we do a lot of work with math manipulatives, puzzles, and games of various sorts.  Some of this work can be done with virtual manipulatives, but only if all the students have a computer too.  As a result, we do a lot of classroom work with old-fashioned hands-on math manipulatives, and I demonstrate using a document camera. Since the beginning of Fall semester, I’ve been trying to figure out how to record these hands-on demonstrations to put in the online course shell, but the best I could figure out was to hold my little Flip video camcorder with my left hand while I write and rearrange the board with my right hand. (Note that there is not room on the document camera station for a tripod.)  Unfortunately, this results in a shaky video, it is tiring, and it’s hard to do everything with one hand. After doing this for about six months, on Monday I had this flash of insight (one of those ideas where you wonder why it took that long to have the idea).  I was considering the idea of using masking tape to affix the Flip to the Doc Camera during class (which wouldn’t work because of the need to press the on/off button) … and I realized that I had a very simple solution in my pocket....

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Mathematica 7 is for EVERYONE

Finally, Mathematica 7 is released and I can blog about it! This blog post has been sitting in my queue for several weeks now. Last month I was at the Mathematica User Conference in Champaign, IL and got a sneak peak at Mathematica 7. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s worth upgrading for, but this is NOT one of those times. Eric Shultz (a fellow Community College professor) did a great job of helping to design, and then presenting the new Classroom Assistant palette that is in Mathematica 7 – an interactive feature designed for ease-of-use on interactive whiteboard technology and Tablet PCs. I’ve been frustrated trying to learn how to use Mathematica in the past because I’ve already become accustomed to choosing math options from menus (from years of using Scientific Workplace). Having to remember (or look up) code that I might only use a few times a year is just not my idea of a fun time. I’m pleased to report that the “Classroom Assistant” is actually a bit like that imaginary conscience that sits on your right shoulder. Only, Classroom Assistant is like a personal coding assistant that sits on the right side of the desktop. You choose from the menus what you want to do and it inserts the appropriate skeleton of code. So, for all you purist coders out there, take note – it’s...

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How Tablets Enhance the Math

Let me just say how much I love having a tablet PC to teach with. It is certainly useful for my online classes, but it has also become essential in my face-to-face classes as well. Consider this image, one of the examples we covered in class today: The problem was to find the derivative of  f(x)=x^3 – x.  We began by graphing  f and then sketching the graph of the derivative.  Using the tablet, we could highlight the parts of f that had positive slopes in yellow, and highlight the parts of f with negative slopes in green.  Yes, you can do this with colored chalk or colored pens, but the impact is just different visually. Then we began to work through the derivative using the limit definition of the derivative. Calculus students seem to struggle with their algebra a lot, so I wanted to work through the cubic expansion of the binomial (x+h). Some of the students have trouble following the distribution, and I think the color-coding of terms helps here. Finally, towards the end of the problem, there is that final step where we finally take the limit as h approaches zero. Again, using the highlighting feature to emphasize the terms where h=0 is substituted seems to enhance the understanding of the problem. Now if you’re going to use a tablet and highlighting in class, you might...

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Weapons of Math Instruction

Yes, I do have one of these T-Shirts. I had a hard time understanding some of the lyrics, but it seemed blogworthy – here’s the video: Mathematicians: Weapons of Math Instruction Possibly Related Posts: Contemporary Algebra Collection (new resources 2/4/2019) Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast about ESIL Lens Add Graphs In The World to Courses Taking the Algebra Out of College Algebra Group Exploration in...

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