Feb 11

Assessing the Good Stuff

A student sent this vid over. I’ve actually seen this before, but I watched it again because it’s so good. Dan Meyer is saying all the right things, and it’s exactly how I’d like my classes to work. Where I always get stuck is how to assess this kind of assignment. I checked out Dan’s blog Dy/Dan and searched his assessment tag. There was plenty of good info, and he has done a lot of thinking about how to assess skills, the boring stuff. But, how do you assess deep/critical thinking, collaborative, and creative processes? I’ll email Dan and ask, but let me know if you all have any ideas, or have tried anything.

Thanks, Jay, for sending this along!

Update: Dan was nice enough to get back to me, and permit me to post his reply:
Hi Hendree, I think you have my game pretty well figured out. I do a lot of work with project- and inquiry-based learning in class but my assessments (which are used to determine whether or not a student will repeat my class) focus more on the basic, must-have skills. In other words, I don’t assess the soft skills in any meaningful way, certainly in the largest part because I never found an easy way to do it but also because I don’t think I should force a student to repeat a year who isn’t good at creative problem solving.

Jan 11

MLK + Math

mlkingmug I ran across this image of MLK at The Wild Hunt. It’s a mugshot from the Birmingham Jail. What got me going about it? The number, of course. 7089….. There is a nice rising of the digits by one 7, 8, 9, ignoring the zero. I also wondered if it is prime. No, it’s factors are 1, 3, 17, 51, 139, 417, 2363, and 7089, making it a deficient number. Anyway, here is a list of somewhat random associations–some mathematical, some not so.

7089 is a value of n for which is smaller than any previous integer. (Thanks, What’s Special About This Number?)

7089 is the number of bill proposed to the House of Representatives by Danny Davis, called the Federal Prison Work Incentive Act of 2008. It never passed. (Thanks, Govtrack.us)

7089 is the number given to id the gene TLE2 transducin-like enhancer of split 2 (Say, what?) (Thanks, Entrez Gene)

Check out the Princess Tours 7089 Ultradome train car. Weird!

7089 is in a lot of integer sequences including the Tricapped prism numbers. (Thanks, OEIS)

Dec 10

Math Epiphany

I’ve seen this happen a couple of times in class.

Thanks, norvic-boy!

Nov 10

Happy Face + Math


This is definitely good for a few chuckles. Hope you get math-happy today!

via heypanda!

Aug 10

The Science of Apology

sorry gameI was going to offer each one of my RSS subscribers $5 for enduring my posting sloth over the summer (and last spring), but I found this article in Science Daily about research that indicates all you really want to hear is “I’m sorry.” So there you go, I’m sorry!!!! I’m going to try to stick to a weekly posting regimen this fall. Part of the problem last spring is that my life has become too crazy for the daily post. Wish me luck!

pic by Mike Hulsebus

Apr 10

Teaching Problem

I use MyMathLab to run my classes and I have all this great info on each assignment called an “Item Analysis”. Below is an item analysis for a sample exam in one of my algebra classes. Here’s my question, which are the most urgent problems to cover when I go to give my class the review? I’m not looking for an intuitive listing of the top problems, but a spreadsheet function that I can use to sort the problems. Note, something that makes this problem harder is that the questions aren’t given with the same frequency. (Hint: the most obvious is calculating the percent of time a question is gotten correct, but there are certain problems with that.)

Jan 10

1st day of class!

egg students

Happy first day of the semester to Tunxis students. I’m definitely feeling the energy in my online courses. One student has already done all the homework through the first test. My only worry is can I keep up with these kids?

pic by Enno de Kroon

Jan 10


Sue got a flier in the mail and passed on to me about a math performance group set to play CCSU this May. Here’s the premise…
Sara is your typical teenager – good student, stellar athlete- but lately, she’s been struggling with her math classes. On the eve of her big test, she’s visited by some of the luminaries of the mathematical world, including Albert Einstein, Blaise Pascal, Lady Ada Lovelace and Pythagoras. Together, these mathematical luminaries show her how math is part of the world. They explore number theory, order of operations, probability, prime numbers, the Fibonacci sequence, Pascal’s triangle, the origins of the calculator and the computer, lowest common multiples, greatest common factors, and more. They demonstrate the relationships between pineapples, pinecones, and the golden ratio, and help spark an interest in mathematics as the code that defines the universe.
Sounds like something that might be interesting to take a class to. If you are reading this further a field than CT, they seem to have performances in most states sometime this spring. Here’s there schedule. Anyone seen this production?

Jan 10

The largest number word

I got curious what the highest possible number word is. A quick Wikipedia check and I got googolplex which is a one with a googol number of zeros after it. What’s a googol–a one with a hundred zeros after it. Pretty big. Of course, we could make up a larger number word by attaching an arbitrary number name to a one followed by a googolplex number of zeros. This isn’t hard, but how do you keep it going. How do you create a system that can keep going indefinitely? That’s the trick. I guess the only such system that would be guaranteed to keep reaching every number is the word equivalent of the decimal system. i.e. one-two-three- one-two-seven. The decimal system never needs new symbols to build new numbers only new spaces. I guess this means that the only way there would be a highest expressible number in the decimal system is if Space is discrete and bounded. If Space is infinitely divisible but bounded, then the choice of a smaller “font” would always allow us to increase the number of numbers we could express.

…I feel like I’m out there now. I’ve got to stop. I don’t know where this post came from. I promise I’m not using any performance enhancing substances.

pic by jasfitz

Dec 09

Word problem fatalism

final exam doodle001
My favorite test doodle from the final exam round was this note that prefaced the word problem section of one of the tests. It’s the old ‘I can’t do word problems’, but I think the emotionally charged environment of the final made the student dig deeper: There is no helping me.