Thursday, November 19, 2009

Math in the U. S. of A.

In an attempt to get kids focused on problem-solving strategies without getting caught up in the details of formulas and procedures, over the last two days I've given kids tricky area and perimeter problem with no numbers. Here's an example:

S., a student whose dry humor never fails to make me smile, was getting frustrated with one of the problems. In exasperation, he literally threw his hands up and asked, "Why can't we just use numbers--like Americans?"

Oh S., at age 14 you've already identified the key difference between American and other mathematics education systems. How did you figure it out so quickly when it's taken researchers years?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2-3 of my Favourites

If I were to make a list of things that I love, included on that list would be New Zealand, Google, and--depending on the day--kids. So what happens when three of my favourite things come together?


So cute my heart almost stopped.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Finishing School

In my advisory last week we were did a lesson on the basics of college. I often forget how little ninth graders know about college beyond "It's more school after high school," so it was fun to hear things like their ideas about what a B.S. is. We got to talking about different degrees you can earn, which jobs require or indicate that you have what kind of degree, how long different degrees take, etc. For the most part I knew the answers (J.D. means Juris Doctor, right?) or was able to make up answers that sounded believable (med school is seven years, right?). But there was one question that left me stumped. Maybe you can help me out.

One student raised her hand and in complete earnest asked, "What kind of degree do you get if you go to finishing school?"

I tried to figure out exactly what she was asking. Was she asking if you get these degrees when you finish school? Was she talking about people who go on to get extra certifications after finishing their degree? Did she want to know if advanced degrees were different in Scandinavia? No, it seemed that she had heard of people going to "finishing school" for some type of legitimate education and she just wanted to know how that was different from, say, business school. Not wanting to embarrass her for trying to ask a genuine question about a quasi-educational institution designed to prepare women to play out subservient gender schema, I just pretended I didn't know what she was talking about and left it at that.

My question is what people this girl is hanging out with who talk about going to finishing school.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Awkward Triangle

In our recent area unit, we've talked a lot about how "every shape is a rectangle" and if they can just find the rectangle, they can find the area. For example, a triangle is half of a rectangle, so because we can find area of a rectangle by base x height, we can find the triangle by dividing the rectangle's area in half. On the test there was a question that showed an oblique triangle, noting that the triangle does not look like 1/2 a rectangle, so why does bh/2 work?

Here is the best description I've ever gotten as to why this kind of triangle is tricky:
"The triangle is more pointy so it's confusing. This works because no matter what kind of triangle it is it will still have another rectangle that fits its awkwardness."

I do love awkward triangles. Almost as much as I love the awkward things kids write on tests.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Appreciation Friday

Dear Mrs. L,
You are officially the best math teacher ive ever had! Everything you have taught was explained thurroly (don't know how to spell), which I am so thankful for.
Becaus I appreciate you so much I've put a sticker of a ninja on my letter! Keep up the good work.
Sincearly, N.L.


Dear Ms. L,
I am writing this letter because I appreciated when you helped me when I needed help. When I didn't get the formula (b1+b2)h/2=A you made it clear & now I got it. I didn't know where the 2 was coming from. So thank you Ms. L, I appreciate you lots lots lots.
<3, N.S.

PS. I also appreciate how you don't make us memorize formulas. We make our own formulas (that work).