Monday, July 30, 2012

Fun Problem...

In my insomnia, I was cruising the Internet and came across this problem:

2+3 = 10
6+5 = 66
8+4 = 96
7+2 = 63

9 + 5 = ?????

I thought that could be a fun "filler" problem or such. And maybe the follow up is to have the students write about the pattern and then make up their own.

I also bought this pattern on Etsy for a future trip I have that involves little girls to make things for.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Flipped Class Letter To Class

Here is the letter I'll hand to my calculus students the first day of class. It outlines that we're going to flip our class and talks about the benefits. The more I think about flipping, the more I like it.

I still haven't worked out how I want to do "explore learning" lessons. There are times I want them to try things and test them out and learn that way. It seems useful if they're with other students while they're doing that. But I guess my thoughts are that I'll simulate class and tell them what to attempt on the video lesson and keep prompting them to pause the video while they try things. Then I may or may not continue the video with possible things they did. Good: time saver for class time when they'll be practicing concepts. Bad: they may find the loop hole and not try things and fake it and just copy down what I do.

Another thing I could do is just give them the exploring instructions and then extra instructions on talking with another student about their results and instructions on jotting down their findings. Then we take class time to discuss results and such.

Maybe I'll try both or do both and see what's what as time goes on.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bookmarks on the Cloud

I finally found a "cloud" bookmark application that I like. I have my Google reader for all the blogs I read, and I thought I could use that, but you can't have folders (or I haven't found them anyway). I guess it's a reader and not a bookmarker (thus the name Google READER, silly).

I found "marklet", and maybe you know about it, but if you don't, I'd recommend it. Benefits so far:

* I can have visual folders for my different things (computer science, teaching resources, fitness ideas, etc).
* I can put a "button" (is it called an extension?) at the top of my browser (like the "Pin It" button from Pinterest. That way, when I come across a site I want to bookmark on any computer I frequently use (and have "extended"), I can just click on the button and it's put into my "clouded bookmarks".
* It's free.
* You can import your already existing bookmarks.
* I can have easy access to all my bookmarks all in one place no matter what computer I'm using.
* Now I don't have to suffer the agony of not having my home bookmarks available when I'm at work and visa versa.
* I get to say marklet, which just rolls off the tongue.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stereotype Threat

I'm on day 3 of the three day workshop on how to recruit and keep more women and underrepresented students into computer science classes. And yet again I learned some cool/useful things. Now you may be thinking, "I don't teach CS, I teach math, not that interested". Well, it could be that you would be an advocate for students to actually try CS. It's not just for people you stereotypically think may be interested. You solve interesting problems and interact with interesting people.

One point is that studies show that by about 2020, roughly 30% of jobs will involve fluency with computer science. This doesn't mean that people will just need to know how to use technology, but to understand it in order to do their job. This may be programming or altering programs or algorithmic thinking, etc. The trouble is, currently, only about 5% of freshmen are saying that they will major in CS.

You may be like me and think, okay, what could, say, Journalism have to do with CS. Don't they just type in their stories and send it through? What could be farther from CS? An example one of the professors gave us was a particular journalist that wrote code to automatically search various types of news stories from particular types of places (either countries or companies or governments) about particular topics. Then overnight (say) the program would gather all these sources, and in the morning, the journalist had all his facts and data available to him to write his story. He saved countless hours of researching and surfing the web and potentially missing a source. I thought that was enlightening.

Anyway, this post is about "stereotype threat" which I'd never heard of before. The professor discussed stereotypes and the good and bad of them.

GOOD: people need a way to categorize the world so that every new input into their brains is not NEW and unrelated to other things they know. It allows for shortcuts to process information.

BAD: because maybe one person makes a mistake, some people could stereotype a whole segment of the population as "bad" .... girls suck at math .... purple people are lazy .... citizens of green country are evil ....

Stereotype Threat is a person's fear of confirming a negative belief about that person's group. Say a common stereotype is that girls don't do computer science. Then if a girl actually wants to do CS, and if stereotype threat is in her mind (even though she may not call it that), then she hinders herself and her brain power by worrying that she won't "be good", she'll "validate others' opinion of girls in CS". She'll have harsher personal standards for herself and her performance will be diminished because she's spending so much brain power on worrying.

Apparently, this is a hot research topic currently. Okay, off to the last few sessions.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bits/Bytes of Computer Science Information*

*(See what I did there?)

I'm currently at a Tapestry Workshop in Lincoln, NE, and on this first day have already learned about a ton of computer science resources I can use next year. One of the interesting facts I learned was about AP classes and AP tests given and the representation of women in the Computer Science tests/classes. Apparently, in statistics and biology and calculus, it's a roughly 50/50 male/female ratio. Guess what it is in CS? 81m/19f. There are probably also similar statistics for underrepresented segments of the population. Their point was that there is power in diversity, and everyone wins when an endeavor is diverse. Also, there's money in CS type jobs. Also, even the most basic jobs of the future will require understanding computational thinking; their example was a job ad for a dog catcher that required the applicant to not just be able to use technology, but to understand it.

Here are some resources I've learned of so far. I don't know how I'll incorporate them yet, but there is great potential.
Dot Diva (for girls in computing)
Bits & Bytes newsletter (scroll to the bottom for issues) (interesting articles about cs in the world)
CS Unplugged (cs activities you can do to introduce lessons or to take to non cs classes that don't need a computer)
Google in Education (who knew?)
Java Bat (good practice for the AP exam)
NCWIT (for getting more women in computing)

We've had 4 different speakers so far, and each has brought something to the table. Can't wait for tomorrow.

*Line stolen from this hysterically funny potty-mouthed lady.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Calculus and TI-nspire

To add to the craziness of my next year (4 preps, first time flipping, possible teacher mentor, math club sponsor, InvenTeam cosponsor, NHS cosponsor, drinker....), I think I want to use "my" class set of TI-nspire calculators for my one calculus class as opposed to the TI-83/84's that I'm comfortable with.

I just got out of a Web Meeting of Calculus TI-nspire users, and there were some cool links and information (I didn't know slope fields were so easy on the nspire).

What I really want is a basic primer document of:
If you do this for calculus on the TI-83, do THIS on the TI-nspire. I know there are documents of walking you through stuff (I saw a 12 page document on Sean Bird's site), which are great for their purpose. But I want a more, two column, easy to sift through, "there there, it's totally possible and you don't have to read through a ton of stuff to find the specific function you want" document. You know, for the many times when I'll be a last minute user of remembering that I need to know how to do "this" right before I teach the class. I don't even mind if the 2 column document has some links to specific instructions on other documents. Does anyone know of such a document? Unfortunately, I don't remember all the stuff I have to do for calculus, but I guess i will this year. Maybe I'll create such a file.

I did learn one cool feature of the TI-nspire for calculus that's totally easy: slope fields! With the 83/84, you had to download a program. With the nspire (not even the CAS, it's just there): under graph > menu > graph type > DiffEqn ... and then just type in your eqn .... remembering to use y1 or y2, etc instead of "y" if you need it. Super cool!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

AP Computer Science Prep...

I just got back from my AP Calculus AB workshop, so I feel good about that course. Now it's time to focus more on the Computer Science prep. I still wanted to get a good sense of the order of topics. I know I could just look on someone else's syllabus, but I wanted to make sense of it myself and then check against how others did it. I guess that's "constructivist" thinking. Anyway, I feel better about it now. I first used "pretty girly" stock paper (used for scrapbooking) and cut each page up into smaller index card sized pieces. Then I just went over the AP Curriculum and textbook and such and listed topics and things I think the kids should know.

Then I first separated them into big ideas that went together.

Then I put the piles in order of how I think they could be taught. Then I checked against how my online course textbook presented things last year, and I checked it against other syllabi. I like it. Some of the things I think I'll sprinkle throughout the course instead of teaching first (as is done in my old text). For example, I don't think the kids IMMEDIATELY need to know about ethics and safety and binary/hexadecimal, etc. I can introduce that after I "hook them".

The awesome teacher I went to last week for calculus mentioned that at her school, the AP teachers have about 3 weeks to get the kids to buy into their course. The kids can't drop the 1st 3 weeks. Then they can (with a ton of paperwork to discourage the practice). I have to win over my students and show them the fun and value of computer programming. So I think I'll start with some sort of graphics (super scaffolded) or some sort of game (again super scaffolded) that introduces some of the other concepts I want them to know (variables, primatives, loops...) with the warning to them that they won't understand the WHOLE picture at first, but they get to see the power of programming and the capabilities.

I'm also going to a summer workshop for computer science late July. I don't want to feel so behind and slow, so I'm going over this book chapter by chapter to refresh my memory. I think I also want the kids to have a copy of it this year. It was recommended on the AP Central Electronic Discussion Group for Computer Science, which I also highly recommend.

Other than that ...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Math Libs...

Remember Mad Libs from childhood? I thought I could piggy back off that idea for a math activity. I'm thinking either a part of the first day of school, or a day before a holiday, or some other such time. It wouldn't take all period. My guess is 15-20 minutes (longer if they do the "homework" in class). Here's a sample of one of two I want to make. I envision a "BAT" version and a "___" version with a different storyline on the back. Students should keep their version hidden from people with the other version.

Edited to note:
This idea is not affiliated with MathLibs(R), a brand used in commerce for over a decade (link to:  ).

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Splish Splash Musings...

As I was swishing my feet in the warm waters at these past few days (SO RELAXING and FUN), I was obviously thinking about school. I'd just been looking at a book that contained one of those ink drawings that fascinates me. Something like this.

I'm awed that you can create something with just different lines that are closer or farther or hatched or such. Then my next thought was that I could never do that. Then my next next thought was, ah HAH I'm being just like the kids and don't want to even attempt something because I immediately don't know how to do it right off the bat. I didn't want to tinker.

Then I came up with "Tinker Time". I haven't fleshed it all out yet, but I'm thinking of creating about 12 little 5 minute activities for the kids to do at the start of math class. The activities don't necessarily have to be about math, and the object is not to perfect some skill, but the point is to dive in and get your hands dirty and try something and then reflect on what happened. Ultimately, getting the students to not be afraid to tinker, basically, and hopefully that will translate into applying those brave skills to tinkering with math problems. I thought we could do them once a week, and then cycle around to the same activity 2 more times during the school year.

Some of my ideas were:
* show them a pen/ink drawing and have them just explore doing it and seeing what's what
* some challenging maze puzzle that is recreated about 5 times and they can just practice
* maybe some legos tossed around and they have to explore creating something
* given a prompt of an object, they have to draw it using only triangles or only circles or something

And for all of these, again, I'll keep stressing the goal of just tinkering to take the pressure off (in their minds), but to nefariously get them to get comfortable with just diving in and doing and trying. Mwa ha ha ha.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

classroom ideas....

As I'm idling away the summer, I'm wondering what I can do to make my classroom more "homey" next year. I did a little better this year with being harsh with myself and tossing stuff I hadn't unpacked or use for a year. But then all the dreaded engineering boxes took up a bunch of room, and they never quite made it out of the cardboard boxes. My excuse was that I didn't want to buy an organization system on the fly without trying the year out and seeing what would make sense. That or I'm a lazy procrastinator. I'm picking the former.

Some of my ideas so far (don't know if they'll pan out) are:

* the teeny white Christmasy type lights strung around somehow.
* painting the ceiling tiles somehow.
* bringing in a metal porch swing (LOVE them and have 2 at home, one on the porch and one in my office)
* extra "calm" decorative lighting as opposed to the overhead stuff.
* painting the cinder block walls (I'm thinking I'm not motivated to make that happen, though)
* less tables (we don't have desks) and more students around the tables. This year I had 10 large tables in class, and there was hardly room to move around. I've also heard that I'll be most likely having a class of 30 or so, so I'd need at least 8 tables anyway if I had 4 2 a table. Ugh.
* I'd like a wall or board dedicated to articles I've found in my magazines or on the web. Stuff about cool jobs kids may not have heard about or things about inventors or students making a difference or inspiring stories.
* I loved having the mobiles from the last summer project hanging up all year, but those are coming down. Maybe I can have the students in class make other types of mobiles that are topic related.
* This craft gave me some ideas. Maybe I can make a BIG jigsaw puzzle template with 30 pieces (or more, one for each class .... eeeek), and then the students decorate the piece to reflect their personality, and then we hang the finished product all together. But if I have 120 students .... have to think about this one.
* I have a big wall of windows in my room, and we're on the 1st floor. I'm thinking of the students making things that would face out and the passers-by would have art work or math work to gaze at.

Okay, must think some more about this ...