Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Math

These past few weeks as I wander the malls aimlessly trying to find the perfect gifts, I am amazed at how much "unconscious" math I've done. I say "unconscious" because I am doing these calculations without even thinking math. All I am thinking about is "How much money will I save on this?" Is it true that when money is involved people somehow pay more attention?

It's interesting how much I've used my understanding of percentages during the holiday season. "Take an extra 30% already reduced price". The best one I have seen that I've seen many people have difficulty with, though is "40% lowest ticketed price PLUS an additional 30% today only". I wonder if the stores are betting on the fact that most people think they are saving a total of 70% off the price? In reality, if you knew how to do the math correctly, you would take 40% off the lowest ticketed price, THEN you take 30% off the new price. You would actually save a little more than 50% not 70% as most would think.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

On the Family Table: Family Reading Time: No Age Limit

A friend of mine from high school recently created a blog about encouraging more family time to build healthy relationships. He just posted a blog about the importance of reading out loud and how engaging it can be. I know this is a math blog, but I think that all educators encourage reading and expanding knowledge.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Counting down to the end of the quarter!

I will be finishing up my first quarter in grad school at the end of this week. The two courses I've taken this quarter, Adolescent Development and Education & Technology, have helped me grow as a person, as a student, and as a future math teacher. If you asked me the first week of school if I thought I would learn anything interesting this quarter, I would've said probably not.

I was once a teenager, so understanding adolescents shouldn't too hard, right? As for technology, well, I know how to check my email and surf the web, what more do I need? As I sit here writing this blog, I can't help but reflect on all that I've learned this quarter and feel kind of sad that it is about to come to an end. I have learned so much about adolescent development and how not everyone is the same. Just because I was once a teenager doesn't mean I know everything about what teenagers go through. And the more I learned about adolescent identity development, the more I felt my identity changing, strengthening. What more can I say about my tech class? I'm sitting here blogging and loving it! You can check out all that I've done this quarter by visiting my webpage, Hai's Tech Portfolio. I've learned a lot of cool new tools on the web and surprising (at least to me), I find a lot of them useful to teaching. I have to say, though, that I couldn't have done all this without passionate professors who treated all of us in the program not as students, but as professionals.

Math Games

I was just curious, if you present some math problems as a "game" are students more willing to learn the concepts? For example, when I was learning to type, my keyboarding teacher had this Mario typing game where the faster and more accurate you typed, the faster your character went. The game was great fun and the computer in which the game was one always had a long waiting line. Sure practice had a lot to with it, but learning to type was much more entertaining with the game.

So, can the same be said for math? Do games like Sudoku help kids strengthen problem solving and logic skills while being entertaining? How about other games that may utilize a system of equations? I think that when I am a teacher, I would like to have a "game day" once a quarter to help kids have fun with math.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why Is Math Relevant

I get this question a lot from students and from people who ask me whether I ever use any of the math that I have learned as an undergraduate. I think it is a really hard question because a lot of times we don't use calculus or solve for polynomials in our everyday life. When people ask me these questions, I often tell them that I use the problem solving skills I gained as an undergraduate student in mathematics in every aspect of my life. But I'm not sure if that's just me trying to justify why a degree in mathematics is important or if I truly believe that higher mathematics gives me practice in better problem solving skills.

So, how do I answer a student who asks me "Why am I learning this?" The math I use daily usually consists of adding, subtracting, multiply, dividing, and taking know, the stuff you learned in elementary school. Ava Erickson mentioned an interesting book on her blog by Eric Gutstein which touches on this issue. So, as a future math teacher, how can I encourage kids to value math and show that it has some relevance?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Partnered Test...Good or Bad?

So I'm taking this physics class right now and we are preparing for our final in a week. My teacher likes to give her students a partner for the test. You each have your own test, but you can work together to solve the problems. My teacher also chooses the pairs for the test based on your overall grade in the class. So, if you do well in class, you will be paired with someone who is about your same level. This way, not one person (the smarter one) is carrying the whole weight of the test. So far, through the 2 physics classes I have taken, I have done fairly well and thus have always had good partners. However, I was just thinking do partnered test-taking really give all students an advantage over individual test-taking? Sure, you have another person's brain to work with, but what if the two of you have no idea how to approach a problem on the test? Or worse, what if the more outspoken of the 2 goes down a wrong path? Does the other partner feel pressure to go along? What if the learning styles of the 2 students differ? Would one hinder the other? Another point that my teacher brought up was the fact that some people don't study as hard because they are expecting a partner. They assume that the other student will have studied, so why waste your time? I find the idea of partnered tests very interesting and I do wonder if the benefits outweigh the negative?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What Makes a Good Math Teacher

So I am currently taking a physics class with some students who either recently graduated from high school or are in their senior year. I picked their brains a bit yesterday about what they thought made a good math teacher and what makes learning more interesting. One of them was all about the independent study route for those who understood the mathematics. He says he feels hindered by the class by having to wait for his classmates to catch up. In the meantime he is bored and frustrated. Another student commented that relating the mathematics to real life made it a lot more interesting. Hands-on activities also made learning more fun. I also learned, to my surprise that group work was not desired. The students said that group projects always ended up with one or two people carrying the work for the entire group. That hardly seems fair. I feel that group work is essential in students' learning. Does anyone have any ideas how group projects could be a fair learning experience?