Saturday, February 26, 2011

Music from the Intrepid Teacher

Can you believe the explosion of creativity in today's world? Check out this link for the blog on the music and words to the poem. For sure, check out The Intrepid teacher blog, I want my kids in this guys class! His name is Jabiz Raisdana. Have a look at his work and subcribe!

Here are the words to his song. Not sure if it is his or his student's. Makes me want to get an iPad and become an artist. What are the possibilities for our students?


sometimes I wonder how many stories
there are in the world.
i found a light in your simple "Hello"
like the way grass dances in the breeze
Choosing between clashing vibrancies

(visit his blog for the rest!)

Microsoft's Math app.: Mathematics and Multimedia

Micosoft has a free math download that I found on Mathematics and Multimedia. Download and try it out. It is a graphing calculator that will graph in 2D and 3D. Maybe more of a find for me was the blog site which I am now following.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Math funnies!

I couldn't resist! Was tweeted this great site, greatmathteachingideas, no shortage of stuff to use here. Funny stuff, videos, cool stuff kids will like. No excuse for math to be boring. Just have to put is all together. That is the art of teaching!

Dan Meyer has written a post on a document called "improving learning in mathematics" by Malcolm Swan from the University of Nottingham. Meyer calls it the best writing on math he has read in a long time. I am working hard for kids to learn math differently in my classroom. Look at the characteristics of traditional math teaching according to Swan:

  • students are given low-level tasks which are mechanistic and can be completed by imitating a routine or procedure without any depth of thought
  • students are mainly receivers of information, and have little opportunity for more direct participation in the lesson and the exploration of different approaches
  • insufficient time is allowed for students to develop their understanding of the mathematical concepts being taught
  • students have too little time to explain their reasoning and consider the merits of alternative approaches
Sound like your classroom? Be honest. I am guilty of all of the above. Even this year. Change is not easy even if you know what you are aiming for.

Here's how the students in "grade" six said about their math instruction:
  • “I listen while the teacher explains.”
  • “I copy down the method from the board or textbook.”
  • “I only do questions I am told to do.”
  • “I work on my own.”
  • “I try to follow all the steps of a lesson.”
  • “I do easy problems first to increase my confidence.”
  • “I copy out questions before doing them.”
  • “I practise the same method repeatedly on many questions.”
How about these. Make you uncomfortable? They do me. They do because I know all of this stuff. And I am not there yet.

Can't give up. Need help. Colleagues, twitter, blogging, books, PD, conferences, patience, perserverence, sleepless nights. Have to keep trying!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fermi Questions

I was at a session by Bernajean Porter and she directed us to a site of Fermi questions. I have been pursuing learning/thinking/producing rather than teaching/researching/consuming for a long time now (still learning!). I love the resource for open-ended questions.

Have you ever tied to sit down with a colleague and tried to make critical questions for a particular unit? If you have you know how difficult they can be to come up with. The questions below may not help with your particular unit, but they are a beginning. The Fermi question site has a ton of great ideas. Some examples:

  1. How many water balloons will it take to fill the school gymnasium?

  2. How many flat toothpicks would fit on the surface of a sheet of poster board?

  3. How many hot dogs will be eaten at major league baseball games during a one year season?

  4. How many revolutions will a wheel on the bus make during our seventh grade trip from Baton Rouge, LA to Washington, D.C.?

  5. How many minutes will be spent on the phone by middle school students in the United States?

  6. How many pizzas will be ordered in your state this year?
I plan to use this site often. Check out the critical thinking page on our class blog.

Twitter for Teachers

Check out the short video on twitter for teachers. So many good reasons to tweet!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Provincial Math Assessment for Learning: 90% Computation Based?

Assessment for Learning Saskatchewan Learning Math Test for Grade Eights

I am going to give my grade eight class the math assessment for learning this spring. I thought it would be interesting to look at it in terms of what Conrad Wolfram has to say about traditional math teaching. He claims math is 90% about the teaching of computation. He, like Dan Meyer, Alfie Kohn and Joseph Ganem, call for more open ended math instruction where the conceptual and creative components are more emphasized. Meyer is particularly interested in posing questions based on real world, everyday math challenges.

One of my ideas is that we are going to have to assess our students differently if we are going to teach them differently. I wondered if our provincial math assessment was heavily weighted towards computation. So I decided to take a look. I went through all of the practice questions for the 2011 test and tried to sort them according to Wolfram’s categories. You may disagree with my choices. Have a look at the results and the questions themselves.

My Analysis of the Math AFL using Conrad Wolfram’s four components


Posing the question

Taking real world problem and making it into math formulation


Taking math formulation and applying in real world verification


AFL Question #


M (17, 22), SA (5a,b,c, 7, 8a,b,c, 9a,b, 10a,b,c)

C (1-16), M (2-6, 9-13, 18-20, 23, 25), E (1-2), SA (2-3, 4a, 4b, 6a,b)

M (24)

M (1, 7, 14-16, 21), SA (1, 2, 6c)

Total questions












My analysis of our provincial math assessment for learning initially looked to me like a well thought out test. After a more careful analysis, it looks like it is heavily oriented towards computation (62%). More importantly, there are no questions reflecting a student’s ability to pose questions given real world situations. I am not surprise by this as Dan Meyer and Conrad Wolfram’s ideas on this are relatively new.

I continue to look for ways to incorporate all of Wolfram’s components into the teaching/learning of math. I have a long way to go as far as devising ways to assess the learning of these divergent and creative skills.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Karen Hume: Tuned Out

I recently watched Karen Hume on elluminate and might just look for her book "Tuned Out". She gets my attention with a few things in the interview. She said her dad always told her that when people give you two choices, you should look for the third way. I love this as there seems to be a large divide between the "web 2.0 folks" and the "traditional teachers". Maybe between the two is where we aim? Or is that like saying the earth is kind of round?

She is a proponent of making the time to share classroom and teacher successes and believes in the power of web 2.0 to motivate teachers to do amazing work. She talks about the importance of creative outlets for staff and students in schools. This mirrors the writing of Richard Florida in "The Rise of the Creative Class" and others who talk about the importance of creativity in job satisfaction.

One of her main ideas is that teacher and student engagement are parallel factors. While her book is primarily on student engagement, I would love to hear more about her ideas on how to address issues of teacher engagement.

She mentions the importance of strength based learning. Guess I'll have to read the book to get her particular slant on constructivism in the classroom. If you do read it, you are given access to her web site which contains many more case studies and activities.

She gives five components for engaged learners:
  1. competence
  2. creativity
  3. community
  4. context
  5. challenge
It's interesting to compare hers to what our school division (the SPSD) has identified as the main components of engagement.
  1. relevance
  2. belonging
  3. competence
  4. potency
I am proud of what our division has done to improve student engagement (renewal). This process is surely an on-going one: the work is hard but rewarding. I'm looking forward to reading her book.

I have included a video, basically a promo for her book below.

Weekly news quiz: CBC news

Sorry for the tweetness of this post! The CBC weekly news quiz link is a great way to involve kids in current events. What a great link, I will use this every week from now on. I plan to let the students follow areas of interest and ask lots open ended questions.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Majora Carter: Greening the Ghetto and much more

If you haven't watched this video I challenge you to do so now. Please try to do it in a room by yourself, away from distractions. You will want to sit down as the speaker's passion will grab you.

I do not want to spoil the knife edge effect of her message but I will say one thing. I love being a teacher and I love working with less affluent children. My work is important, challenging and I am honored to have the opportunity to unveil the potential within each student.

Enjoy the video, share it!

IT Summit Saskatoon

Teachers and parents on the prairies should plan to attend the IT Summit in Saskatoon on May 9, 10, 2011 @ the Radisson Hotel. Keynote speakers are Mike Wesch from Kansas State University and Dean Shareski from right here in Saskatchewan. Other presenters will talk about topics including 1:1 computing, using technology to differentiate learning, moodle, data driven professional inquiry, changing the world with technology, collaboration, digital storytelling, integration of handheld devices in the classroom, podcasting, past math and writing, technical sessions and many other others.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Orbez Math and the power of blogging

Dan Meyer wrote a post that included a video of the Orbez spheres. The product manager for Orbez read his blog and replied to his post and his questions within a week. The video is posted below.

I would really suggest that you read his entire post as the math is interesting. What I find so cool is that within one week an explanation is given by the company. Now that's power as a blogger. Good for companies that have google alerts out for anyone talking about their product.

Mike Wesch on Digital Text

Michael Wesch is the keynote speaker at the IT Summit in Sasktoon in May 2012. He teaches anthropology at Kansas State University. Enjoy his video on 21st century learning.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sharing vs Collaboration

Want to know the difference between sharing and collaboration? Such a simple thing really.

Here is a math activity I have used for a while. It is something you can use to teach area and is more engaging than a textbook. It is higher order (a little) in that the students must create a floor plan for a house for less than $200 000.

If you were to look at it here, you would just view it and use it, it is an example of sharing.

Now take a look at this link. Add to the activity, improve it, make it more higher order. We all benefit. Go nuts, google docs and collaboration rule!

Math of Coral

What do you know of euclidean, spherical and hyperbolic space? What are the frames of reference you use to describe the world? Watch this whole video and be prepared to be amazed. So much to learn, so much to learn about learning.

Enjoy, be challenged!