Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mathematics from the masses #2

The web is awash with wonderful resources for teaching mathematics - plus some sites pedalling pedagogy best avoided.  What follows is a purely personal selection of some of the more interesting and worthwhile sites that beamed out from my screen this month. (Follow the underlined blue links to be taken to the sites mentioned.)

So you think you know how to teach mathematics?

  • The 2011 TIMSS study was out this month - and produced much hand wringing all over the globe.  This link takes you to a site where you can access the report - and commissioners comments etc.  It seems that maths education is in trouble just about everywhere.
  • This is probably not news to most mathematics teachers - an article from the broader press that highlights the changes away from textbook focussed instruction and the improvements that can come with it.  US site reports on the success of teaching for meaning rather than memory in a local high school.
  • A collection of maths instructional videos at Mathcasts. Suitable for  high school students.
  • From the Detroit News comes an article of schools installing analog clocks in order to help children tell the time.  It goes on to mention their experiences that children can use digital clocks more easily - but that this doesn’t necessarily translate into genuine understanding of the concepts involved. A welcome example of ensuring conceptual understanding over procedural competence.
  • From England’s Guardian newspaper a sensible discussion about reform of the mathematics curriculum in England - with the observation that you can’t necessarily “cherry pick” techniques from one country and transport them to another, but recognising that the approach of some countries does seem to produce better results than others.
  • Also from England is this piece on the BBC site discussing the fact that rushing through the curriculum does not allow for the development of deep understanding. It is an issue for teachers all around the globe.   This is an issue more worthy of discussion than the hand wringing that has been seen around the world as the latest round of international testing results have come out.  Surely getting the curriculum right, and creating space for genuine understanding of the key developmental concepts is more important than the current league table results? Fixing the former will address the second.
  • Vedic mathematics is a fascinating - and neglected area. This post / video at Firstpost provides an introduction to those who are not familiar with it - and might prompt further exploration. A personal blog about the fascinating story behind the “rediscovery” of Vedic mathematics might also interest.
  • Why is the sky blue? This simple question takes some serious explanation - and is not without mathematics to make sense of the science.  Would suit upper high school students.
  • The “12 days of Christmas” gets a fair run in many mathematics classrooms at this time of year.  This self produced video on youtube uses it to explore triangular numbers and goes on to the classic “handshake at a (New Years Eve) party for good measure. Fun and has potential if pitched at the right grade level.  (Apologies to the anonymous creator - can’t attribute due to lack of details in the clip.)

Just for fun

  • This prediction trick has been around in more traditional forms for a while - but it has been given a retweet for the youtube generation by Richard Wiseman. Lots of fun.  
  • This video is great - The Amazing Anamorphic Illusions. If you like the illusions there are links to the images so you can “perform” the same trick yourself.
A collection of TED talks about mathematics.
  • 8 math talks to blow your mind -  hard to elaborate on the title really. My favourite was / is Benoit Mandelbrot’s talk on fractals - but that’s just a personal preference. They are all worth watching over a cup of coffee.
  • Is Zero an even number” asks the BBC. Brief piece re the public perception of zero.

More from before
  • In Maths from the Masses #1 I linked to some research suggesting that some people literally feel pain at the thought of “having” to “do” mathematics.  This is piece from the Newstatesman follows a similar vein  - but interestingly, people’s fear of mathematics seems to disappear when they actually start “doing” it (as opposed to merely completing endless calculations).   This is a widespread issue and impacts on  parents. How do parents who suffer from maths anxiety support their children at home?  This piece from the addresses this issue via the lens of confidence rather than calculations and contains some sensible advice.

Math page
If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy exploring my maths page which features other posts of a similar nature - some with video worth using with students, and some recreational maths developed to share a love of mathematics.
Credits: All links go to original sources.

Image from Google images:

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