Trying to find math inside everything else

Archive for June, 2011

A History of Math

One of my favorite math courses when I was in undergrad was “History of Math.” I thought it was fascinating to see where it all came from and how math was done before we had more modern advancements or with different number systems.

I wanted to bring some of that history into my Algebra class and have often lamented that it doesn’t match up nicely with Global Studies. The students do Geometry in 10th grade, but the Greeks in 9th. They do Algebra in 9th grade, but the Arabs in 10th. So the obvious connections are not really there.

But there are more, I think, such as perhaps having a lesson about Egyptian fractions to improve students fraction skills while they learn about ancient Egypt in global, as well as to introduce the idea of a negative exponent. I couldn’t find my History of Math textbook from when I was in college, as I may have sold it back to the store, so I just bought a new one.  I’ll start looking through it over the summer and see what connections and lessons I can make.

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Facts in Five

On my last visit to my parents, I brought home a game we used to play when we were younger that I loved. It was called Facts in Five. I sat down today to take a look at it and the rules, reminded myself of how to play. (All I recalled was that it was like Scattergories, but better.)

For those who don’t know, a quick overview: in Facts in Five, players draw cards with to pick 5 categories and 5 letter tiles. The categories and letters are set up in a grid so that, once the time starts (5 minutes), you have to fill in answers that match the letter (rows) and the category (columns). So that’s five answers per category, five answers per letter, 25 answers total.

What really struck me was the scoring system. Instead of just tallying the number of answers, the grid itself contributes. If you have one answer in a column, you only get a point, but if you have two, you get four, 3 gets you 9, etc. Same works for rows. That way it is much more valuable to fill out one column completely (30 points) than to have one right in each column and row (10 points), even though it’s the same number of answers. Having a deep and complete knowledge of a category is more worthwhile than a weak knowledge of several topics.

This is the same thing I tell my students when I give them tests. My tests are usually split into sections based on the learning goals/standards they need to show mastery of. It is better to ace one standard and be done with it then to muddle through, especially in the limited time of a period, so I tell them to focus on the topic they know.

What I wonder is how I can perhaps implement Facts in Five into my assessment system, since it’s scoring system is an inherent way of supporting my system and is less holistic than what I currently have.

The End of the Year

The Regents exams are over, and tomorrow is Rating Day, but for me I somehow have a whole lot to do. I’ve managed to become in charge of programming a schedule for next year, just by dint of being good at it, and willing. I have a bunch of student work to grade and get those grades in, because I kept pushing back the deadline for them to hand in essays (math essays! They loved them, I need to use them more next year) as much as I could, as it’s never too late. Which I tell them often, and they like to hear.

But maybe I pushed them too far? It’ll be a busy day tomorrow. I’ll have to follow my own catchphrase advise. I have 7 hours in the work day, I need to “use my time wisely.”

(By the way, isn’t it great when students can finish sentences like that without you? It really makes me want to have more routines like in next year. Besides, you know, for the classroom management benefits. Those…would also be nice.)