Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bad Math

Over the last year, I have created a Diigo library bookmarking 200+ websites that I use and recommend to other teachers and parents.  I am especially interested in math tutorials and videos that students can use to supplement and expand on the math lessons in the classroom. The videos give struggling students the opportunity to explore difficult concepts and processes. They can stop and replay them. They can find varied explanations of the same thing, hopefully finding one that makes sense to them.

Most of the websites I bookmark come from blogs I follow. I always spend time exploring the content, trying out the games, and watching the videos before I create my bookmark. Today I discovered that I may need to make my investigation more thorough before accepting the information as useful and valid.

This morning, I found a collection of YouTube math tutorial videos made by a community of teachers. I watched several videos and was about to make a bookmark when I came across the Partial Products Algorithm video. I taught this method during my student teaching, so I took time to watch it. I was very disappointed.

The problem: 28 x 32
The explanation: multiply the ones, multiply the tens, add the 2 products
The final product: 616

I did write a comment asking them to recheck the math. I suggested they use all 4 partial products: 2 x 8, 2 x 20, 30 x 8, 30 x 20 = 16 + 40 + 240 + 600 = 896. I also mentioned that a quick estimation (30 x 30) should have indicated that the answer would be very close to 900.

Everybody makes mistakes, and quite a bit of our learning results from our mistakes. However, I think some form of quality control, such as peer review, should be performed before these videos are uploaded to the web.

Bad math is worse than no math at all. Now, I wonder if other websites I have recommended contain information that will confuse rather than clarify.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Browsers and the Web

The Google Chrome Team published an informative online book entitled 20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web. Read it here:


I helped 3rd graders write stories at yesterday. They had been on the website once before and were anxious to create more stories. The author selects pictures and adds text to create the cover and pages. A free account is required to save and publish the books. After they have been saved, but not yet published, books can be edited. This is nice because it is not necessary to finish in one session. Students can also invite someone to collaborate on a book via e-mail. Once a book is published, it can no longer be edited, but it can be deleted by the author. The author has a choice of keeping a book private and accessible only be e-mail invitation, or making it public.

As the students were working, I thought about reading how publishing students' writings for a larger audience than their teacher or classmates motivates them to do their very best. I could see this was happening.

Today, I decided to give it a try and am now a published author. You can read about Max the monkey here: Also, check out some of the other stories by clicking on the Read tab.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Son/Daughter Hates Math

What came first, the chicken or the egg. Do students hate math because they have found little success with it, or do they find little success because they hate it? I think the lack of success brings about the negative feelings, which then lead to more failures. Whatever the reason, it becomes a vicious cycle of struggle, failure, and disdain for math.

Almost 20 years ago, I accepted my first mentoring job when a friend told me her son was failing algebra. Algebra was my favorite subject in school, so I started working with this young man. I hoped my  enthusiasm and encouragement would replace I can't with I can in his mind. He did start believing in his ability to master the subject and finished the course successfully. He now works with numbers daily as an actuary.

This week I had a similar experience, and I am anxious to begin the challenge of helping a young lady improve her math skills and her attitude about math. This time I have the internet to help me. Technology has made available unlimited tutorials, videos, examples, and practice problems. It also provides numerous ways for us to communicate remotely. I am sure one of my favorites will be to simultaneously edit a Google Doc. I am excited to put these new tools to work!