Things I Learned This Week: Sep 14th

This week in class…

ClassDojoYear 7 – ClassDojo
Year 7 and I have decided to try ClassDojo this year. ClassDojo is a classroom tool that helps teachers record student behavior quickly and easily. Feedback points for specific behaviors can be awarded. (This is completely free). The class were very keen and this is our class decision not mine. The beauty of ClassDojo is the ease with which you can customise it. We discussed all the various categories we could have for points and have some great suggestions, points for marking and correcting work clearly for example and for asking great questions. We can also link this with our engagement with learning criteria used in school. We discussed the negative behaviours and decided that we should have anything which stops them learning either in or out of class, ‘off task’, or ‘no homework’ for example. We have far more positive behaviours than negative. Students can log in and see their own records and I do like the fact that they have a chance to reflect and add a comment themselves. Part of their homework this week is to think about the points system we will use, in fact whilst writing this post two students left comments on our homework blog with suggestions for points which I have duly added! I then used my phone to award the two of them a participation point! A computer can of course be used to award points but it is also possible to use a tablet or phone, apps are available for android and iPhone.
I regard this as a good way to document their learning behaviours, it is absolutely not a traditional ‘reward’ system which I think can be a minefield! I want something accessible to all and is clear to us all that it is about each student being the best they can be. Writing that statement has made me realise we need points for being gritty (and the value of writing things down)!
There are many leaflets and handouts with clear instructions and ClassDojo’s YouTube channel has a collection of tutorials showing you how to use ClassDojo.
Sixth Form – WolframAlpha and Desmos
Select the image for the Desmos graph.

Select the image for the Desmos graph.

As I always do I have been showing all my classes how helpful WolframAlpha is for checking working, so I was very pleased that when two of my Sixth Form students (UK age 16-18) came independently to see me about some homework they had both been using WolframAlpha to check answers. One student also asked about modulus inequalities and I showed her how simple it is to use the Desmos graphing calculator to illustrate the problem.

New Discoveries

Maths News
The National curriculum in England, Mathematics programmes of study for key stages 1, 2 and 3 were published on September 11th. (Link added to the News page).

I mentioned Jane Hart’s Top 100 Tools for Learning last week, this is the last chance to vote for the 2013 list as Jane will publish the latest list on September 30th. Jane Hart’s definition of a learning tool:  “A learning tool is a tool for your own personal or professional learning or one you use for teaching, training or e-learning.” Voting closes at midnight GMT on Friday 27 September 2013.
….and finally 
For your amusement (thank you to my daughter Sophie for the link), can you figure out these movie titles? from Spiked Math.


77100000000 is the…..

I’ll start this week with a quiz question!
Quiz Question v2
Click on the image to submit your response and see the answer.

So why start with a quiz question?!

I have just had an excellent few days at the TSM conference where I was delighted to meet Douglas Butler, the excellent tutors and so many teachers. Craig Barton’s quiz on Tuesday evening, after my own ‘Musings of a Maths Blogger’ where I showed delegates some of my favourite things has put me in a mood for quizzes! I would also like to remind everyone how brilliant Google forms are for gathering feedback, we have used many at school for gathering responses from students and staff. (See this page for some survey tools including Google Forms, links include Tom Barrett’s Interesting Ways to use Google Forms in the Classroom and a comprehensive manual from Sarah Eaton).

Craig’s tweets will give you some idea of the huge number of ideas shared and the expertise of tutors and delegates.

I thoroughly enjoyed the two workshops I attended myself, Mike Hadden’s ‘EXCEL for Advanced Users’ and Craig Barton’s ‘Autograph in the Classroom’.

I have written about Mike Hadden’s excellent MathsFiles site before so I was delighted to learn from such a master. I have used many of Mike’s files in the classroom and have put several on our VLE as they are useful for students for self-study and revision.

Autograph Activity – Craig Barton

Craig’s session looked at many excellent uses of Autograph in the classroom. Even if you don’t have Autograph you can use the activities via the free Aotograph viewer. Note that you could set an interesting homework for students by giving them a link to an Autograph activity and asking them to write their responses in their exercise books / or take a screen shot / or for more collaboration post their responses on your VLE or a wiki.

Martin Withington pointed me in the direction of an excellent source of real data for students, from unicef, ‘The State of the World’s Children‘; choosing a report for any year will show you several downloads including some under the heading Statistics; these include Excel files such as this:  SOWC_2013_Stat_Tables_EFS_FINAL, a rich source of data for many reasons. Martin has kindly shared many other resources with me which I am looking forward to exploring – watch this space!

Discussions at the conference included talk of ‘Flipped Learning’ always an interesting subject, in fact while I was away – I left my Year 12s to teach themselves the quotient rule using some, I think, excellent resources – more importantly I’ll find out what they think when I see them!

We’ll end with some entertainment, thanks to Martin again who showed me ‘Katie’s bad science’. I love this!
Original and re-edited version of Katie Melua’s song nine million bicycles proposed by Simon Singh and presented on Ted talks by Michael Shermer.

Thoughts This Week…

A compilation this week..

Think Fast

From Desmos we have the outstanding graphing calculator, their Facebook page (you do not need to be a Facebook user to view this) is also worth keeping an eye on. Some of the photos available make ideal starters. See the Think Fast series or perhaps Mental Maths Monday; there are also several probability problems. I think I’ll try some of the Mental Maths Monday series with my sixth form students – look at this for example!

The problem shown in the image could be used with younger students but also with older students who could look at an algebraic proof.

Talking of problems, here’s a reminder of some of the great problems published in Numberplay in the New York Times, I do like this Coins in the Dark Puzzle! 

Video – Sexy Primes

This video from Numberphile made me think about possible starters / fuller investigations on gaps between primes; something which could be investigated by students of various ages. I like the idea of using it for proof with older students, for example considering which gaps are not possible between primes and why.

I mentioned several Statistics resources recently, including the Standards Unit resources, Mostly Statistics, an activity I have used recently (with Year 8, age 12-13) which worked really well is S4 Understanding mean Median Mode and Rangeselecting the link takes you to a new page which includes a PowerPoint for the activity with an introduction and the solutions.

A newsletter I always enjoy comes from Murray Bourne, his IntMaths newsletters are always very clearly laid out and I always find something of interest. Recently he talked about the History of Mathematical Notation (see Item 2), note the now free download. See this page for more useful reading.

Thinking about notation reminded me of this useful advice from John Kerl: some excellent tips for mathematical handwriting. (There is a link for students on the Study Tips page on Mathematics for Students.

and finally…
In the news – look how useful mathematics can be! The University Sheffield Mathematics Department have been considering the very serious problem of how to build a perfect scone! You can read the paper here, skip straight to section 4 for the recommendations!

Dancing the Bubble Sort

Teachers of Decision Mathematics will be familiar with sorting algorithms which put elements in a list in order. A bubble sort is a sorting algorithm that works by working through the list to be sorted, comparing each pair of adjacent items and swapping them if they are in the wrong order. The pass through the list is repeated until no further swaps are necessary, the elements are then all in order having ‘bubbled’ to their correct positions.

Check Nathan Yau’s Flowing Data blog where he has embedded this video created by Sapientia University in Romania showing a bubble sort illustrated by a Hungarian folk dance.

For further dancing of sorting algorithms see this YouTube channel.

Teaching sorting algorithms will never be quite the same again! If you look at the comments on Nathan’s blog some users have spotted errors but it certainly illustrates the comparison of adjacent pairs very well indeed.

And a little Dancing with Desmos!