How to Get Students to Play with Desmos

This week, my students were excited about math. They were excited about what they came up with. They were creative. They were asking each other questions and trying to figure out why things worked. That’s DESMOS’s fault. Here’s what happened:

My Advanced Algebra classes are starting a unit on “Families of Functions”, and I discovered earlier this week that they had NO idea what the graph of x^3 looked like. Wanting them to make sense of it, I leaned hard on Desmos and I was not disappointed.

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The Dream – Help me out here, #MTBoS

I’ve had my first day back. I’ve met with new colleagues at a new school. We’ve started making plans. I’m full of hope and belief in the new year, but I can already see the mountain of work ready to bury me in its immediacy and distract me from my goals.

Thus, I’m stating my goals here so you can all hold me to them. If you have ideas or thoughts about them, I would love to hear what you have to say. Continue reading

The Mathematicians Project: Mathematicians Are Not Just White Dudes

UPDATE: The Mathematician List is now an awesome table. Check it out and thank John Stevens and Jedidiah Butler. I’ll continue to update and improve it. 

Here is the presentation from NCTM Regionals in Chicago

What is the Mathematicians Project?

The Short Version:

  • We as math teachers tend to only talk about white male mathematicians.
  • Most of my students don’t look like that, and thus, they have few mathematical role models they can identify with.
  • Take 10-15 minutes a week to research (read Wikipedia, that’s all you need) a not-old-dead-white-dude mathematician, and then take 5 minutes in class to tell your students about them.  Include a picture. It’s worth it, I swear.

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Math GIFs

I’m teaching geometry this year and want to have a deeper understanding of how some things are constructed. This has led to a borderline unhealthy binge on Geometer’s Sketchpad. Thus, here are a lot of gifs. I hope someone can make use of them. If you are looking for one and can’t find it, request it in the comments. No promises, but I’ll do my best to make them if it’s in my skill set. OR if you have suggestions on how I could do any of these more effectively, let me know. I’ll update this as I make more gifs.

copy segmentcopying a segment

Constructing a circle through 3 points:

circle through 3 pts construction Continue reading

Multiplying is Not a Pre-requisite for Fractals

This is obscenely long. Read the short version if you don’t have much time. Read the rest if you like.

The Short Version: There is a lot of complicated math in the world. We tend to venerate that math for its complexity, and not tell our students about it because they’re not ready to understand it yet. This is terrible. One of the worst things we can ever tell our students is, “You haven’t learned ____ yet, so you can’t learn ____.” We throw up our hands in frustration when our middle schoolers don’t know multiplication facts. “How will we ever teach linear functions?”, we cry.

I am totally guilty of this. It takes a leap of faith to trust that a student struggling with division can work with rational numbers. Assuming they can’t means math is sequential. I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. Sure, prime factorization helps me factor polynomials, but what if you happened to start with factoring polynomials. Is that impossible?

Sending the message that the second step is unattainable until you’ve reached the first is a problem for two reasons:

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