Monday, March 31, 2008

Web 3.0 - A kindler and gentler web experience

This video found at the Inside CBC blog is droll, if not ROFL funny.

I could see using this is workshops with folks, like me, who don't really get social networking that much - being an anti-social fascist bastard and all.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Are you feeling competent?

Beware, it may be a sign of incompetence. I have always suspected that the people who are dreadful communicators consider themselves skilled. I have come across some research to support this view.

Here is a quick sample:

Incompetent People Really Have No Clue, Studies Find
They're blind to own failings, others' skills

Erica Goode, New York Times

Tuesday, January 18

There are many incompetent people in the world. Dr. David A. Dunning is haunted by the fear that he might be one of them.

Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell, worries about this because, according to his research, most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent.

On the contrary. People who do things badly, Dunning has found in studies conducted with a graduate student, Justin Kruger, are usually supremely confident of their abilities -- more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.

``I began to think that there were probably lots of things that I was bad at, and I didn't know it,'' Dunning said.

One reason that the ignorant also tend to be the blissfully self-assured, the researchers believe, is that the skills required for competence often are the same skills necessary to recognize competence.

The incompetent, therefore, suffer doubly, they suggested in a paper appearing in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

``Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it,'' wrote Kruger, now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, and Dunning.

This deficiency in ``self-monitoring skills,'' the researchers said, helps explain the tendency of the humor-impaired to persist in telling jokes that are not funny, of day traders to repeatedly jump into the market -- and repeatedly lose out -- and of the politically clueless to continue holding forth at dinner parties on the fine points of campaign strategy.

See the full article at the San Francisco Chronicle.

This agrees with some of the research done at the Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB by OISE/UT. Struggling math students were shown fractions questions just long enough to form a judgment about whether they could get the correct solution. Generally, they were much more confident about their abilities to do fractions questions than their performance on such questions indicated. Boys were especially prone to over-estimate their competence (this comes as no surprise to my fifteen year-old daughter).

What do you think you are good at? Blogging? Presenting? Communicating? Problem-Solving? It may be evidence that you are hopeless.

Allegories about Arid Mathematics Teaching

How is current mathematics teaching like teaching music without instruments or teaching art without using blank canvas? Find out by reading Paul Lockhart's Lament.

I found this on Vlorbik on Math Ed, where one of my posts was featured recently. You can also get a sense of how well it resonates with the Kitchen Table Math crowd. It also explains many of the challenges, including teacher content knowledge, that are being explored there.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A little shameless self-promotion

Now that has accepted my edit, adding me as an author (yup - that's my name at the bottom), it is a good time to let you know that a book that I helped to write is available at the Key Press site.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What is number sense?

I have been participating in an interesting discussion about number sense, the nature of Mathematics, the role of rote learning as a result of a post at the Kitchen Table Math blog.

Perhaps you would like to add your two cents worth? There seems to me to be a remarkably large chasm created by the so-called 'Math wars'. I have been taking Will Richardson's advice and subscribing to some blogs that I don't necessarily agree with.

Presentation Zen: Whitespace

Garr Reynolds, in a guest blog posting at the Slideshare blog, discusses the use of whitespace and then shares the following slides as examples:

It reminds me of the spoof on how Microsoft would package the iPod:

I wonder if the idea of whitespace is connected to teacher wait time in questioning - our classrooms could use more auditory whitespace.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Everyone for Glebe stand up and holler!

Here is a viral movie that missed infecting me until recently:

Currently, over 4 million people have looked at this video recorded in the hallowed halls of my alma mater, Glebe Collegiate Institute.

My informant in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, tells me that the champion, Alexander Overwijk, Math head at Glebe, was flown to the Czech Republic for a cameo appearance in a movie recently. Makes you believe Guy Kawasaki's contention that web success ("cewebrity") is mainly luck.

Math Wars, The Pre-eminence of Algebra and the Presidential Math Panel

The blogosphere has been abuzz with opinions about the Presidential Math Panel report. Five good ones are found at the Pulse blog. Gary Stager's opinion includes the following:

Not only is the progression from arithmetic manipulation of fractions to Algebra tenuous, but neither of the assumptions underlying the value of teaching fractions or Algebra are ever questioned. The President’s Math Panel, like most of the math education community maintains a Kabbalah-like belief in an antiquated scope and sequence. Such curricular superstition fuels a multigenerational feud in which educators fight over who has the best trick for forcing kids to learn something useless, irrelevant or unpleasant.


The Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel
does not dispute that teachers spend lots of time teaching fractions. The report merely urges that teachers do even more of the same while hoping for a different result. A definition of insanity comes to mind.

I wonder if Math teachers are so unwilling to question the supremacy of algebra because they are worried that they will lose market share in the high school curriculum and lose sections at summer school.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Funnies for the Friday before March Break

From the MathNotations blog:

From Savage Research, Humor...

Math Knowledge

Two mathematicians were having dinner in a restaurant, arguing about the average mathematical knowledge of the American public. One mathematician claimed that this average was woefully inadequate, the other maintained that it was surprisingly high.

"I'll tell you what," said the cynic. "Ask that waitress a simple math question. If she gets it right, I'll pick up dinner. If not, you do." He then excused himself to visit the men's room, and the other called the waitress over.

"When my friend comes back," he told her, "I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to respond `one-third x cubed.' There's twenty bucks in it for you." She agreed.

The cynic returned from the bathroom and called the waitress over. "The food was wonderful, thank you," the mathematician started. "Incidentally, do you know what the integral of x squared is?"

The waitress looked pensive; almost pained. She looked around the room, at her feet, made gurgling noises, and finally said, "Um, one-third x cubed?"
So the cynic paid the check. The waitress wheeled around, walked a few paces away, looked back at the two men, and muttered under her breath, " a constant."

I'm sorry, but that did make me smile! Reminds me of when I was teaching calc, I would tell my students that if they forgot the +C in an indefinite integral, their grade would be C+! Actually, I wasn't kidding...

BTW, there are many more of these at the above web site. Many are one-liners with that twisted sense of humor characteristic of Steven Wright or Jackie Vernon. I will not apologize for laughing!

Here are a few more...

1) Save the Whales -- collect the whole set.

2) If you believe in telekinesis, raise my hand...

3) The early bird may catch the worm, but it's the 2nd mouse that gets the cheese.

Ok, enuf' already (for now)...

I was once told about a job interview for a high school Math teacher position where the applicant was shown two ways to get an integral which yielded two apparently different results:
ln(2x)+ c, and
ln(x) + c ,
and was asked to explain what the issue was.

Do you have any good Math teacher interview stories?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Large Numbers

I have come across three resources on this topic lately:

The first is a swf from an Australian e-card company. I believe this was the song sung to convince a woman to give up her liver in Monty Python's Meaning of Life.

The second is a fascinating set of images meant to give perspective to numbers like
one million plastic cups; the number used on airline flights in the US every six hours.

The third is the Power of 10 video, which many of us remember watching in Science class. The field of view expands out to the universe and then back in to the atomic level.

Do you have any favorite resources to give students a sense of scale?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Does Microsoft have a sense of humour?

This video about the Office Developer Guy may be evidence that they do.

Where do I get a whiteboard for the shower?