Friday, August 31, 2012

Open Ended Questions Yield "Teachable Moments"

I always start class with some sort of question to get students' brains thinking about math again. In Algebra 1, we were talking about equations the previous day. Some are true, like 3 + 2 = 5. Some are false, like 3 + 2 = 6. Some are open, like x + 2 = 6. This means they might be true or they might be false, depending on the value of x.

So, today's opening question was 1) Write an open equation. 2) Find the value(s) that make your open equation true. Most students wrote fairly straightforward equations involving one variable. However, one girl was excited to share hers with the class, because it was so different. It was x = 2y. This led to talking about the fact that there an infinite number of solutions and we quickly went around the room naming solutions. It was even pointed out by the students that it was best to pick out y and use that to find x.

I wasn't expecting to talk about equations with 2 unknowns or an infinite number of solutions, but it happened. The reason it happened was because I used an open ended question.

On an unrelated note, I have published my second TI-NSpire Quick tip. It can be found at mathteacher24 on YouTube. Also, my video lesson is now live at TED-Ed. It can be viewed at Ted-Ed and is labeled Leigh Nataro:What Happens If You Guess?

Friday, August 24, 2012

TI-NSpire Quick Tips

I decided that our school will not be moving to TI-NSpire's this year. (Too many other technology initiatives happening.) However, I am going to work really hard to do math exclusively with the N-Spire. My daughter is going into Algebra 1 and she was excited to get my old 84. So, now that I don't have my 84 readily available, I can't be tempted to grab it when I can't figure out something with the NSpire. (I am slightly embarrassed to say I have owned an N-Spire for over 3 years and have probably spent only 20 hours using it over those 3 years prior to making this commitment to change.)

Reading a new book by Lucas Allen of Tech Powered Math helped me to get started. It was a quick read and gave me what I needed to try things out on my own. (The book is called the TI-NSpire for Beginners oh, and Tech Powered Math also is on Twitter and Facebook.) As a result, I have decided to create NSpire video quick tips. The direct link to the video is HERE.

I plan to upload a new quick tip each Friday to my youtube channel at mathteacher24. They will be short, just 60 seconds or less. I have ideas for 20 quick tips so far and hopefully will have ideas for more quick tips as I become more adept at using the NSpire. If you have an idea for a TI-NSpire Quick Tip, you can leave a comment here or at my youtube channel.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Google+ Hangouts in Teaching

This post won't be about math. At least not directly. So, if you were expected a math related post, you can stop reading or post a comment about your disappointment. This is a technology/teaching related post. This week I held a workshop at my school on google+ hangouts. If you aren't familiar with google+ hangouts, here are two videos about it. Google+ Hangouts and Hangouts on Air

I have used google+ hangouts to virtually visit another math teacher's class. Actually, there were 3 or 4 teachers visiting this particular class at the same time - in a google+ hangout. The teacher had sent us copies of his students' work on some old AP Statistics free response questions. He then would put work that was done by one of the students on the screen for everyone to see, including the teachers in the hangout. The teachers in the hangout would take turns questioning the student about his work and making comments that were beneficial to the entire class. It was pretty cool to visit a teacher's classroom that was over 200 miles from my own without having to drive anywhere.

What about Hangouts on Air? I have thought of one way this could be used in AP Stats. Before the AP exam, it would be nice to have a short "talk" with my students. With a hangout on air, I could do this not only with my students, but any other students who are interested in getting some last minute advice. I could even have my twitter feed active for students to submit questions. What might be even better is to get my AP Stat teacher friends to be in the hangout and we could all answer the questions in a tag-team sort of way.

So, no math here. But a few thoughts on how to use google+ hangouts.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Does Algebra for All Make Sense?

When I first started teaching back in 1993 and students asked me this question, I told them that Algebra gave them more options for careers. I also said that since we were a democratic society we didn't force them into certain careers based on intelligence or test scores. It sounded good at the time and satisfied the students enough that we could get on with the day's lesson. But does Algebra for all make sense and what or how much algebra are we talking about?

Here are three main talking points:

1) Number sense is more crucial than algebra. This includes working with percents, proportions, estimation and reasonableness of answers. For example, today I bought something at my favorite store (Kohl's). I had two coupons - one was $10 off a purchase of $25 or more coupon & the other was 30% off. My purchase was $40. Which coupon would save me more? Another example, my daughter swims and we were watching the 10,000 m (aka Marathon) swim. She wanted to know how many laps this would be. Simple proportion based on knowing that 500 m is 20 laps.

2) Statistics, data and graphical representations drive so much of what we do. My husband took my cell phone away to synch it. I felt lost when I couldn't view the weather radar or find a movie time on Fandango. I keep stats on my jogs using MapMyRun on my phone. Couldn't do that either when he had my phone. Two of my favorite TED talks related to this are Hans Rosling for and Arthur Benjamin .

3) Whose Algebra are we talking about? I used to work in NJ and all students were required to take Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 to graduate. They had a Core Algebra track for students who struggled with math and often took Pre-Alg in 9th grade. At some point, colleges of Division 1 schools said they could not take athletes who had "Core" courses. They needed to take College Prep courses. So, essentially what happened was the Core classes and College Prep classes were merged. What happened? Slower students were still struggling (now more so) and college intending students weren't being challenged.

Well - that's it for my first official blog. My goal is to post once a week or so. Feel free to comment.