Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Mathematical Search Engine?

There has been a fair bit of buzz about Wolfram Alpha and even comparisons to Google, but I don't think I really started to get it until I saw Maria H. Andersen's Picasa Web Album via Teaching College Mathematics.

Now the wheels are turning. How is Math education going to change with tools like these available to students? CAS tells students answers, this tells students questions.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Representations of Linear Growing Patterns Cluster Launched

It is with a lot of pleasure that I am able to announce the launch of a new cluster of CLIPS.

Representations of Linear Growing Patterns is based on research conducted by Ruth Beatty at the Institute for Child Studies in Toronto. Although it does not flesh out the experiences that students would have in Grades 4-6 with concrete materials, it certainly alludes to them. Students take pictorial representations, based on coloured tiles, of a pattern and develop graphical representations and algebraic rules. They then explore the role of the constant and multiplier in the pattern rules. One Near North teacher blogged about the change it made in her understanding and about her experience trying it in her classroom.

Among the material created for the cluster are a graphing tool and an open-ended tool to explore the relationships between the representations, including stories and the algebraic equation. The graphing tool is described carefully in Clip 2, Activity 4: Practice Graphing. The Rainbow DSB is conducting a "book study" of this cluster. I hope that soon we can feature some innovative ways to use the Exploring Representations tool resulting from their work. I am hoping to engage the Web 2.0 math teacher community to address the question "What can we do with this?".

The cluster movie is quite different from the "Who Cares?" movies developed for Fractions and Periodic Functions. The overview movie, which should be viewed after working through the development, summarizes the cluster nicely.

There are several improvements to the CLIPS "wrapper", including the ability to set a volume level or mute that is respected throughout navigation and a new scene selector. The major videos can be viewed fullscreen without downloading a huge source file. Trish Steele narrates a new 12-minute introduction to the wrapper that is well worth the time.

Since the activities are primarily flash animations (SWF) with embedded narration, the files are relatively big. The design of CLIPS does not depend on any server technology. Teachers or students who wish to use the activities, but don't want to depend on an internet connection, can download the entire thing and point to the index.html file at the root, for local use.

We thought it would be done earlier and there are still some rough edges (please use the Feedback link at the top right to record anything that you notice) but we are very happy to now have the work officially in circulation.

Monday, May 18, 2009

OAME Banquet

I am just back from the OAME Conference in Ottawa, the city of my up-bringing. As usual the conference was a great experience and I even stayed a day and enjoyed scaling the Gatineau Park on a bicycle.

I helped to nominate Joel Yan for a well-deserved OAME award. At the banquet, he told a hilarious story about being fired from a volunteer job for his love of Math. It turns out that he was volunteering at the bingo hall selling tickets and the like when his big break came. The caller was leaving and they needed someone who could talk loudly, read numbers in English and French and be enthusiastic. Joel fit the bill. He correctly called B8, but when B9 showed up next he called "Add one". There was a lot of confusion and an official warning to "just call the numbers". Joel behaved for a night or two, but when 32 rolled out of the machine, he couldn't help but call "two to the fifth", thus ending his stint as a Bingo caller.

The OAME banquet featured some comedians from Absolute Comedy. The first comic had trouble following Joel, since he had a paucity of exponential humour. Rick Currie came up next cracking jokes about assessment, government workers and the like. My favourite was his ending song about Billy Bob Thornton. You can find some of his other bits on Youtube, but I have his permission to post this bit here.

If you haven't seen the interview - it is worth seeing just for the cringe value.

Once you have watched that, the song below will make more sense.


Here is a photo of Joel and I.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mathematical Music

There have been a surprising number of posts here about poetry.

Here is some Mathematical Music, via Heather. Better to watch at Youtube with the lyrics visible.

The Klein 4 Group.