Math Class Drops the Mic

A blog about teaching, with an emphasis on math.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Predicting The Great Pumpkin

Thanks to Doc Running who has organized a Halloween blog hop, you are in for a treat from several great math teachers! I've got a big story for you that I hope you'll share with students, and links to more great resources. Read on!

I always smile when I think about the scene in Big where giant Tom Hanks is coincidentally eating a tiny ear of corn. Partly I smile because it’s great comedy—he approaches the task with a seriousness reminiscent of Chaplin eating his shoe.

But I also like this scene because science! Corn (more precisely, maize) was domesticated

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tricks for Counting Treats

There are lots of treats (including freebies) in this post! Read on...

The leaves are changing color in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. The surf is picking up at Pacific Beach in San Diego. The elk are tangling in the forests near Jackson Hole but soon the first snow will urge them to warmer plains. Great flocks of warblers are touching down and stirring the glassy waters of the salt marshes of Louisiana. A welcome reef of cloud dulls the Mediterranean sun in Alicante. Autumn.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Shepherd's Calculation

From the balcony of my new apartment I can see the Mediterranean Sea. This is what it looks like:

I live in Spain, where I’ve taught math at international schools for the past four years. I taught and surfed in southern California for many sunny seasons, and last week I discovered that you can surf in the Mediterranean too! Can you tell which photo below depicts surfing in California and which surfing on the Mediterranean?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Good Dinosaur Likes the Grand Tetons...

...and so do I! A photo of the Tetons is part of my logo above, and I've climbed there many times. A beautiful place, and Pixar knows it. They built a world for The Good Dinosaur using USGS topographical data for the Teton area and then rendered it digitally. The result is rather magical, not unlike the famous turn of the century paintings of Thomas Moran. Click the images below to learn more about both artists!

Thomas Moran. The Three Tetons. 1895
Pixar. The Good Dinosaur.

Make your own Halloween Mask. So cool.

Click the image below to learn how to do this:
Steve Wintercroft

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Alt-J's School of Athens

This is the first in a series of posts delighting in the variety of intersections between math and music. Often, those intersections will be lyrical, that is, the lyrics of a track will literally include math terminology. And that is the case for this song.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

7 Ways to Drop the Mic in Math Class

I like to think I’m an entertaining story-teller. Even the driest of mathematical procedures (quadratic formula derivation, anyone?) can come to life when I’m in performance mode. But over the years I’ve lectured less and less, giving students more autonomy to follow their own paths of inquiry. Students work in small groups on real world scenarios, experimenting, drawing conclusions and solving complex problems while I facilitate, motivate and occasionally lecture. Here a few tips on how to drop the mic and let students pick it up in math class.

1) Ask Curious Questions

How much taller is a human compared to a carpenter ant? How much faster can a sailboat go if you double its length? How many trees per person are there in the world?  If you flip two coins, are you more likely to get two heads or one head and one tail? If you double the radius of a pizza, how much more food do you get? What function is the best model for a car accelerating from a stop light, and why? Can you figure out the percentage of green m and m’s in the world from one bag?