Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Using a CLIPS Activity in SMART Notebook

CLIPS are a collection of Math Learning Objects that are organized along research-based instructional trajectories. Greg Clarke gave a complete session at the ECOO Conference in November on ways that having an interactive whiteboard enhances the use of CLIPS.

Giancarlo Brotto
, Education Consultant for SMART Technologies in Ontario, presented at one of Advanced Presentation Products Discovery Days in North Bay this fall. He impressed the crowd with his demonstration of the new SMART Notebook Math product and the use of SMART's student response system. I reminded him about CLIPs and the efforts that were made to make them useful offline to teachers. He then created this short demonstration and posted in to the Ontario SMART Forum.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I rank 28th!

in North Bay...

From http://feedjit.com/myRank/

Check your Geoblogosphere ranking

NOTE: You must have Feedjit's Live Traffic Feed installed on your blog or website to be listed in the Geoblogosphere. You must not be an adult website and your site can not be web spam or contain any malware.

We also check if your site has been listed as spam, adult, containing malware or if you have been listed as a dangerous site with Google or any other companies.

You Rank #28 in: North Bay, Canada
You Rank #191 in: Erie, United States
You Rank #399 in: Waterville, United States
You Rank #548 in: Rochester, United States
You Rank #605 in: Saint-Priest, France
You Rank #625 in: Auckland, New Zealand
You Rank #749 in: San Giovanni Lupatoto, Italy

Note: We analyze the cities that have sent you the most traffic recently. You may rank in many other cities in the Geoblogosphere.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Does ukulele music appeal disproportionately to geeks?

One early morning this week, when I definitely had better things to do, a blog post at Inside the CBC, led me to this video by Tim Tamashiro:

So then I decided to see what else was on youtube using infinitube.net. The leading video there now is the one that Greg liked so much. My pre-dawn surfing, however, led me to the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

If, as I hypothesize, these performances appeal more to geeks than the general population, maybe you will like these videos. There are lots more there.

Comment Moderation

I have reluctantly turned on comment moderation since the spam comments outnumber by far the real comments. I don't like doing this, but it seems more time efficient.

Is anyone else being plagued by spam comments? Has there been a rash of them in the last six weeks or has some evil blog directory been updated to include mine?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday

My blog is now into its third year and although I have plenty of ideas for posts, I seem to have placed writing them at a very low priority. Most of my ideas for posts require more concentration and research than I think I can muster. I often check my Feedjit traffic - about 15 visits a day for topics closely related to my interests or as far away as the visit by someone searching for "dream about number 127". Recently, I noticed for the first time a visit by someone from a Google Doc (that I don't have access to) and someone leaving the page from my embedded delicious feed at the left of the screen. That was a link to what I thought was a fair-minded and well-written piece in the Washington post about a teacher trying to encourage Math talk in her classroom.

If you are looking to follow a blogger who is more prolific, may I again suggest Doug Peterson. Just one day of his delicious feed is inspiring.

It has been two years full of learning and thinking about the effect of Web 2.0 on education, much of it chronicled at http://mathfest.wikispaces.com. /Web2.0+For+Math+Educators. Thanks for your part in it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Where are the Math Project sites?

Neil Munro shared a spreadsheet with me of the medal counts by country at the 2008 Olympic Games. You may know that the press in Canada was critical of the performance of the Canadian team, especially prior to a run of medals toward the end of the games. If you adjust the medal count for the population of the country, Canada does better than the United States and much better than China. Others have adjusted for a nation's GDP. Depending on the method used, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Zimbabwe fare very well.

It struck me that the question is a good one for a mathematics exploration - especially since the source data is available in lots of locations, including wikipedia and there are media reports and analysis all over the web. Vancouver 2010 is fast approaching too.

I went looking for a repository of good open-ended questions like this and came up with the square root of 0.

Surely, there is some interested wikiphile who is compiling such things. Isn't there?

If you know of some good resources, please let me know.

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.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


A fantastic video by Rives at Ted exploring the nature of coincidence and revealing a deeply disturbing conspiracy.

and a poignant love story...

'nuff said.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Geek Ruby Poetry

From dougpete's delicious feed comes the 99 Bottles of Beer site. The site features the code to produce the lyrics in 1264 different programming languages and variations.

One that caught my eye was Ruby.

One commenter wrote:
This may not be the shortest and most efficient version, but it's definitely the version that was the most fun to read.
Especially the parts "wall.call" if you need the next bottle, "step = method :buy" if you have no beer left and "beer.drink" as what to do in each stanza.

I would actually call it a geek poem.

For those of you who don't code Ruby: Learn Ruby, so you can enjoy reading this poem and writing your next scripts/applications/whatever.

There are "poems" written in Actionscript, Pascal, Turing, APL and lots more.

Poetry is a bit of an unintentional recurring theme in this blog. There certainly are times when programming feels elegant and creative and expressive. It certainly has plenty of rules that constrain - syntax, keywords, etc. Maybe it is like Haiku on a grand scale!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Joys of Google Earth

I got my edition of the Google Earth Sightseer today and spent a little time updating Google Earth, downloading the browser plugins, and generally reminding myself of how cool it is.

There is a contest to create models of bridges in Google Sketchup for inclusion on Google Earth. How authentic would that be for students?

You can map the big melt. Global warming made real.

You can look at up-to-date Earthquake data and wonder why there has been such a serious earthquake in Italy, seemingly far away from fault lines.

You can even view photos of the area to see what it looks like. That's current Current Affairs.

The next step is probably figuring out how to program the browser plug-in!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Funny Care of Microsoft

Microsoft has some very funny spots. Maybe it helps explain why they charge so much for some of their products.

The videos below are from the collection found here.
The embedding below only works in IE for me.

I have blogged previously about the Software Architect guy video from Microsoft.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Embed Flickr Slideshows with flickrSLiDR

This via Patricia Donaghy. The slide show below is of my favorites - mainly coming from an RSS feed of the images tagged with "Geometry". However, you can create an embeddable slide show of any combination of user, group and tag that you like.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Google Maps API

I have been learning a lot about javascript and the Google Maps API lately. If you are interested, you might find my delicious tags helpful. It includes links to sets of map markers that have been painstakingly created and then shared.

I have created a geocoding tool that shows off some of my learning. It will allow you to enter an address and get its lat/long coordinates. It also displays the lat/long coordinates of the centre of the map in case the address isn't enough. If you view the source, I have commented the more interesting bits.

The tool is a dumbed-down version of one that I am working on with all the Thunder Bay Community Services Agencies.
It takes 20 or 30 seconds to map the hundreds of addresses out of their database, assign different markers, set up the interactions, and display the results on three maps.

It has been interesting to apply my growing knowledge of actionscript (which is a derivative of javascript) to the object model of a browser page.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Math in the Movies

If you are going to subscribe to only one delicious feed, choose dougpete, unless you already subscribe to his blog.

Here is a beauty of a site that Doug tagged: Mathematics in Movies.

Right now it has about 80 clips from movies that involve math, including the explanation of why 7 times 13 is 28 below from Abbott and Costello's In the Navy, which I just love and the clip from Harold and Kumar that I wrote about previously.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy V-D!

Here is a Valentine's gift for that someone 'special'.

Thanks to Kaz for alerting me to this and for his contribution to the book:

How would you represent the pain of moving ego to zero, though?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What could you do with this?

Dan Meyer has posted some photos and videos and wondered what Math teachers could do with them. I have been wondering the same thing about some of my recent Flickr favorites.

So let me ask you the question - What do you make of this?

It is from the site where we get our paystubs from.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Finding Points of Intersection with The Geometer's Sketchpad

So Frank asked me about finding intersections of plotted linear functions at our Web 2.0 session last week. It turns out that constructing the intersection of two lines is trivial but of two function plots is not.

I told him the story about how happy I was to have written a custom tool to take two linear functions as input and create their point of intersection for Stephanie. The .gsp file is here.

At least, I was happy until I asked my pal Shawn Godin about it and he very quickly created a sketch that takes two polynomial functions (and maybe other kinds), and the origin and plots the functions, creates a locus of all the points of intersection found using Newton's Method, and labels one of them. You can then drag the point on the locus through all the points of intersection. His .gsp file is here.

Guess which one of us is working on our PhD in Mathematics?

Thanks Shawn for giving me permission to share the sketch. I'll be curious to see if this post gets as much traffic as the post about graphing inequations in Sketchpad, which also reported Shawn's guru status in the Sketchpad community.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oh Carina

I have been involved with introducing educators to Web 2.0 and have tried to write compelling, serious reasons why they should care about it - and I think those reasons are right. But, a good part of my enjoyment of the web is the finding something delightful that exhibits the best of the human spirit - something remarkably creative or intelligent or funny.

It happened to me this morning just as I was about to delete a post by David Pogue about iPhone apps. I don't own an iPhone. Luckily, I scrolled down. David was writing about the iPhone apps store where users can download apps for $1. His example was an app by Smule called Ocarina. It turns your iPhone into a wind instrument. You blow into the microphone, finger the screen and the speakers play. Here's the demonstration that he mentions:

Not only that, but there is social aspect. Like Wikipedia Vision, you can view a map of the world and listen in on people playing their music anywhere in the world. You can even record your work and view sheet music for the Ocarina.

As a math educator, I get excited about students bringing their Mobile Internet device to school and having access to a wealth of resources and tools (like a CAS graphing calculator!!!). I hadn't really thought about the device giving them a $1 musical instrument to play. There is something oddly full-circle-ish about this. Computers putting stage musicians out of business and then turning everyone into amateur musicians.

I was thinking of this song from Danny Marks, of CBC Radio's Basic Black's feature called the Hum Line, when I wrote the post's title. I was way more excited to meet him last year at Jeff Healey's Roadhouse than he was to meet me.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Web 2.0 for Ontario Math Leaders (reprise)

In a previous post, I asked for help in creating a one day workshop on Web 2.0 for Math Education leaders. My Personal Learning Network provided some excellent ideas in the comments.

The workshop was delivered yesterday to an eager and experienced group. Many indicated that they had seen Will Richardson at one of his appearances in Ontario, like the EDUGAINS symposium, and were ready to do more with Web 2.0.

In preparation for the session, I worked on a wiki to capture some of our ideas about

* What is Web 2.0 and why should Math Educators Care
* What are some Web 2.0 Tools (with a page for each)

I have updated the wiki with some of the ideas of the participants as well. It is a little light in the sections that I was not responsible for. Perhaps some of you will edit it to beef it up.

If you were at the session yesterday, please feel free to comment and describe a interesting discovery that you made or pose a question that is still bothering you.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Theo Jansen - reinventing the wheel - for real

Some time ago I posted a video of a very neat Geometer's Sketchpad sketch simulating Theo Jansen's beach animals. However, I didn't investigate the source of this effort.

Today, I read Barbara McLaughlin's post which embedded the video of Theo Jansen's TED talk, below. Astonishing what problems the human mind turns itself to. As Barbara points out this is the kind of delight that is a reward for maintaining a Personal Learning Network.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Math Coaching in Ontario

The provincial government has announced a large investment in Math Coaches (Grades 7-12).

I have created a wiki page with some support links (please feel free to add to it).

Does anyone have any experience with coaching at this level that they are willing to share?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mathematical Poetry?

This is not as deep as Kaz's stuff, but comes from Harold and Kumar by way of the College Math Teacher,

I’m sure that I will always be
A lonely number like root three

The three is all that’s good and right,
Why must my three keep out of sight
Beneath the vicious square root sign,
I wish instead I were a nine

For nine could thwart this evil trick,
with just some quick arithmetic

I know I’ll never see the sun, as 1.7321
Such is my reality, a sad irrationality

When hark! What is this I see,
Another square root of a three

As quietly co-waltzing by,
Together now we multiply
To form a number we prefer,
Rejoicing as an integer

We break free from our mortal bonds
With the wave of magic wands

Our square root signs become unglued
Your love for me has been renewed

I probably should have saved that for Valentine's Day, but I have something else up my sleeve for that.

Once again mathematical proficiency is associated with embarrassing lameness - sigh.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

We are number 1 - oops, we are number 127!

According to a list of the top 200 jobs, Mathematicians have the best job. Teachers, unfortunately, hit the list at 127 - right between Vending Machine Repairer and Buyer.

See the related story, sent on to me by Dr. Doug Franks - maybe he was trying to cheer Dr. Dan Jarvis up on his birthday!