Archive | December 2012

Reflection On “What Is Mathematics For?”

I recently read an article called “What Is Mathematics For?” By Underwood Dudley.  Rather than discussing why arithmetic mathematics is important, which has the obvious answer of everyone actually uses it in their everyday lives, the author discuss the other types of math including algebra, trigonometry, calculus, linear algebra, and so on (although focus is on algebra).

In the beginning of the article, the author introduces the history of the purpose of math starting with ancient Romans, Egyptians, and Arabic’s where their main purposes for math were not to study it and make it mandatory for the children to know and understand, but for reasons such as enjoyment.  It wasn’t until the mid 1900s when math became mandatory in school.  Lately, many people have believed the myth that mathematics is required for almost all jobs.  This might be true for arithmetic, but calculus and trigonometry? Not a chance.  Even then for the jobs that require these types of math, almost all of these jobs will have some sort of technology like a calculator or cash register to help solve the math.

At one part on the article where he is discussing what reasons other people think math is important for (second column of page 609), Dudley lists a quote from a book that he read and he replied with the following statement:

“Exactly what career this applied to was not specified.  Nor was it mentioned that the best way to solve this problem is to find a member of the group and ask.  The answer should be forthcoming.  If the person’s reply is the conundrum in the text, the member of the group should be beaten about the head until he or she promises to behave in a more civilized manner.”

I just couldn’t stop laughing at this partially because I never would have thought to have asked a member of the group.  I mostly likely would have tried to calculate the question in my head (which let’s face it, wasn’t that hard) even though asking was obviously the easiest and fastest solution to the problem.  Also, I just love how Dudley makes fun of the author of the book in this statement.  In the first two sentences, this pokes fun saying that the scenario posed was completely unrelated to the book topic (how math is in many careers) and that it did not justify the author’s argument in any way.  In the last sentence, which is just altogether an awesome and rather hilarious sentence, when the author states “if the person’s reply is the conundrum in the text.”  This just shows how unrealistic the actual scenario and replies were in the book and that this book might not be worth reading and taking notes on.  Also, beating someone as a way to civilize them is really more hypocritical than anything because beating someone is itself an uncivilized act.  So really, I just loved the humor the author added to spice up his article a little more.  I will also make one note which is that although Dudley pokes fun at this author, he also supports the author by saying that the author’s example was “superb”, but that they just shouldn’t have used to justify mathematics in careers.

Alright, now that I have completely destroyed that joke and made it completely not funny, the author goes on to discuss other reasons why we teach math which includes: used in everyday life and jobs and it prepares students for higher level math classes.  Finally the author gets to what he believes to be the reason for teaching math: “mathematics develops the power to reason.  It shows, better than any other subject, how reason can lead to truth.”  This isn’t a new idea, Dudley provides an exert from a text from 1834 and 1906.  Dudley’s belief of mathematics also reflects the beliefs of my education math professor and somewhat more recently, my own beliefs.

I recommend that everyone read this article as I feel that it has some valuable information and that it reflects what I believe to be the most important reason for teaching math.  I also feel that many people don’t understand why we teach math and why it’s important that students know and understand it so this article might help to clarify these issues.

Slide Rocket – Resource for Visual Presentations

What is it?

Basically, it is basically like PowerPoint except it’s online and has more animations which are a lot better!  Specifically, here’s a blurb from the website’s “about” section:

“SlideRocket is a Web-enabled transformation of the way people create, manage, deliver, and share presentations. SlideRocket provides a level of rich internet application functionality that far surpasses today’s Office-lite web tools. It will be the first online productivity application that not only matches the features available in desktop apps like PowerPoint and Keynote, but extends beyond those tools by embracing Enterprise/Web 2.0 mainstays like community, sharing, security, and collaboration to provide a complete presentation management system.”                  –

What Do I Like About It?

  • Very easy to use! I previously tried a different site (impressr) and I found it extremely difficult and frustrating.
  • Has similar features as PowerPoint but, as it says, it “goes beyond” PowerPoint.
  • Neat animations.
  • Can include voice clips that you have made or ones that have already been created.
  • Embed videos and links into the slides.
  • Stored in the cloud so you can access the presentation from anywhere.
  • Visually engaging.

What Do I Dislike About It?

  • Almost seems too similar to PowerPoint.

How Would I Use This In My Teaching?

This could be used in any classroom where a teacher wishes to do more of a direct instruction type of lesson (or others but most likely for this purpose).  In my classroom, I might use this to present information on a topic before going into practice problems with my students.  I could use this for the solutions as well but for some types of math questions, it might not be worth the time trying to key in all the symbols and equations needed to show the solution.

Evaluation of Slide Rocket

Overall, Slide Rocket is a very easy to use website where you can store your presentations online and make them easily available to the public.  It is very similar to PowerPoint but has more interesting animations and designs.  I would definitely use this in my classroom and prefer it over PowerPoint.  However, if I were given the option of using this technology over SMART Notebook (for example), I would definitely choose the SMART Notebook because of its interactive aspects.

If I had to give this website a numerical value, I would give it a 9/10.

If you would like to see a presentation that I created on Slide Rocket, see my post “Personal Learning and Tech Task 8” or click here!

When 2010 met 1979 – Resource for Teaching Isomorphic Problems and Retrieval

This is a video discussing the oil spill that happened in both 2010 and 1979.  It discusses the strategies used by the United States government in 2010 to try to solve the problem, which were exactly the same as the attempts in 1979 and that each attempt produced the same results.  This is actually a very funny video (although the situation itself is not) which is poking fun at the U.S. and their strategies.  However, this can be a great educational resource to engage and teach students the important of understanding isomorphic problems and the retrieval strategy (both used in math classes).

Isomorphic problems are “similar or identical in structure or appearance to” another problem.  The retrieval strategy (in math) is where one is able to recognize that a question they are working on is isomorphic to another question they have solved before and uses similar methods to solve the problem.

These are both important, especially in math.  If students cannot make connections and see the relationship in different content and questions, they will feel as if they are learning a whole lot more (and harder material) than they actually should and trying to solve problems will be much more complicated than it should be.  Also, a study found that retrieval is very important in consolidating learning.  There are also many other reasons that understanding and recognizing isomorphic problems and using retrieval is very important, one being this video, which as funny as it was, it was a disaster than may not have gotten as severe as it had.

Bullying and Suicide

With the increasing cases of suicide all over the world (more specifically in Canada and the United States, or at least it’s mostly publicized in these places), I feel the need to put out some discuss this issue.  Below, I have posted a few articles, links, and videos that I wanted to share with everyone discussing recent suicides and information on bullying and suicide.

If you are wanting to take a course on suicide awareness, I recently took the safeTALK course which I would recommend to anyone else who would like to increase their knowledge in suicide awareness.

Articles on recent suicides due to bullying:

Amanda Todd:

Bullied Teen Leaves Behind Chilling YouTube Video” ABC News

Here is a link to a video she posted before her suicide.

Tyler Clementi:

“Tyler Clementi: A Call to Act on Cyberbulling” CBC News

Rachel Ehmke:

“Rachel Ehmke, 13-Year-Old Minnesota Student, Commits Suicide After Months of Bullying” Huffingtonpost

Websites with information on suicide and bullying:

This link discusses the effects of bullying including kids that are bullied, kids who bully, bystanders, and the relationship between suicide and bullying.

Here is the Government of Saskatchewan page which discusses common warning signs of suicide.

Embracethefuture is a website for youth which discusses topics like emotions, youth issues, and thinking positive.  Here is a link from this website that discusses some ideas on what to do if someone you know is thinking about suicide (or you think they might be but are unsure).

Here is a link discussing bystanders and their effects on bullying.  I personally believe bystanders play a HUGE part in bullying.


Below are videos posted by celebrities and bands.  Celebrities and bands are inspiration and role models for our children and these are just some of the ways that they are trying to reach out and talk about bullying and suicide.

Here is a video by Ellen DeGeneres in which she speaks about the rising cases of suicide due to bullying.

Alyssa Reid – Talk Me Down

Billy Talent – Nothing To Lose

Alberta Grade 12 Math and Science Exams to be All Multiple Choice

I recently read an article about how the government of Alberta has changed the grade 12 Math and Science exams to be all multiple choice exams as an attempt to save money.

The only good things that I can see out of this is that it will help relieve some of the stress students may be feeling and that exam periods will be shortened.  However, this just doesn’t outweigh the negatives and this may not necessarily even reduce a whole lot of stress from students because some students rely on partial marks from showing work to do well on an exam.

One thing that I found interesting about this article is that they didn’t offer a point of view of a supporter of this change.  They did, however, include an interview with a teacher who is a critic of this change.  I feel that she was spot on and brought up the most important points about how this isn’t a good change at all.  These points include:

  • “It’s not just about the answer, it’s about how you get there.”  I feel that this is the most important point noted because what Alberta is implementing highly discourages students to think about process and understanding and puts a high importance on just getting the answer and not showing work.  Math and Science can teach so many types of thinking such as problem solving and critical thinking but teachers can not properly check if students have developed this thinking if exams are multiple choice and only the answer is marked.  Also I feel that this would completely contradict what we have been taught in my education math classes because there is a HUGE emphasis on placing equal emphasis, if not more, on marking students on their work to solve the problem rather than just the answer.
  • This leads to the next point stated: some skills cannot be tested on multiple choice exams.  “Science is fundamentally about ‘curiosity and wonderment’ . . . and multi-choice exams can’t measure those qualities.”  Not only does multiple choice exams not teach curiosity and wonderment, it also doesn’t test students on their cognitive thinking, problem solving, and retrieval thinking for both Math and Science.
  • “There are better ways of finding $1.7 million in an entire government’s budget than to remove that one portion of the diploma exams where the students can truly show how they can figure things out and get partial marks for what they know.”  Out of $80 million that the government has cut from the education budget, 1.7 million is less than half a percent! This little of a cut from the budget is not worth what usual testing can show teachers.

Overall, I feel that the Alberta government is making a huge mistake in changing grade 12 Math and Science exams to be all multiple choice.  I don’t see the little benefits it has overcoming the large negatives about this change.  This article hit it spot on when discussing the negatives and I see why they only chose to include an interview with an educator who is a critic of the change.

BrainNook – Elementary Math and English Resource

So I was just searching on Google for some new technologies to use in the classroom and I came across this website for elementary math and language arts.

What do I like about it?

  •  You can create a classroom and compete against different classes.
  • Can play as a student which is free although you do have limited access unless your teacher has a paid account.
  • Teacher accounts receive a 14 day free trial.
  • With the teacher account, you can easily set up your class, create and track assignments, view performance data, and customize the content.
  • Has many games for elementary Math and English.
  • Player unlocks worlds by completing games and improvement.
  • Games are timed which could help students improve their quickness.
  • When not playing games, there is a chat for students to talk with other players.   This chat has a security filter enabled on it so that students cannot reveal their real name, email, contact information, or any other type of personal information.
  • Teachers can review the logs, review a students friends list, and block players.
  • Students can only message other players if they are “friends” on the game.
  • User friendly.
  • Students have a Math meter and an English meter which encourages students to fill both of them up and notifies the student which subject they have more practice (points) in.
  • Have both an educators page and a parents page that lists information about the site, its’ safety features, other resources, and reviews from preview users of this site.

What do I dislike about it?

  • Not a free site if you want to create teacher accounts (student accounts are free and don’t require a teacher account).  However, for a 30 student class, its only $150 dollars for a whole year which isn’t all that bad for what the site can do to support the teacher.
  • Timed games and timed questions.  This could cause students to memorize rather than understand the game.  Also, the timing on the questions are very short.  The question only remains up for about 5-10 seconds (pretty much just enough time to read the question and then scramble to find the answer) and then it disappears and pops back up with the answers scattered.  This was very frustrating to me and I can imagine this would be even more frustrating for my students because they may need more time to determine the answer or even just to read the question.

How does this fit into the curriculum and how would I use it in my teaching?

From the games that I have tried, this mostly fits into the early years of elementary school like kindergarten to about grade 2.  Due to the fact that the games on this website are timed quite quickly, I would not want students to do this during class but maybe on their own time.  Unless there is a way to change the timing on the games, I feel this might be too stressful and frustrating for my students to do in class and might make them unwilling to learn and practice the material.

Evaluation of

This site is very user friendly and has many security settings in place to protect students from releasing their information to people.  If the timings for the games could change, this website would be an excellent resource for students to practice and improve their English and mathematical skills.  But as it stands, I currently do not know if this is possible so I wouldn’t use this in my classroom but maybe as an extra resource for students to look at outside of class.

If I were to give this website a numerical value, I would give it a 4/10.  If there is an actual way to change the timings on the games (and if you know, please let me know!) then I would give this a 7/10.