Posts Tagged ‘Why don’t kids like math?’

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Who Ya Gonna Call? Homework Busters!

September 14, 2012

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Kyle Gerrity is Co-Founder of Slader, an Aussie-American and Director of Performing Arts. He lives in NY. His hair is Australian.

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Slader is an academic community for students, by students. It is the first crowd-sourced approach to education online. Slader is a collaborative website that provides answers for American School Text Books. All the answers. Students can use the forum to work on problems with other students and/or access up to 75 answers a day. Woo Hoo! (Then a small, but affordable, fee applies.)  Slader was developed to help ALL students with math, but especially their math homework.

 

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An Interview with Kyle

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Q1: What math topic was your favourite at school?

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Algebraic equations of all sorts. Specifically, simplifying polynomial expressions appealed to my inner need for cleanliness!

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Q2: What math topic drove you insane?

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Trigonometric identities. They. Drove. Me. Nuts! (And still do.)

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Q3: Did you ever do anything really exciting in math at school like go on an excursion to some weird math convention?

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Tragically not. Although I did babysit my Algebra II teacher’s children for extra credit. Seriously.

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Q4: What math error in the media annoys you the most?

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When Fox News shows bar graphs and distort the scales of their X- or Y- axes to convey a specific political point.

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Q5: Give me 3 reasons why you think students should do math.

 

1. Because if you love math, then it’s fun.

2. Because if you don’t love math but you’re good at it, you’ll likely be able to make good coin doing something tangential to the subject in adulthood.

3. Because if you are neither in love with math nor good at it, then learning a difficult subject can have far more rewards in the long term than just immediate frustration.

 

Q6: What is wrong with the way math is taught in American schools?

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Homework is treated like a take-home test. Instead, homework should be the time were students can wrestle around with issues and not be afraid to toy around with concepts, ask questions, and get help without the risk of a lower grade.

(Mathspig: How weird is that? Aussie kids correct their own math homework because the answers are in the back of the book. It would be sooooo easy to write a MATH TEXT BOOK if you don’t have to work out the answers!!!!)

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Q7: What can teachers do right now to get kids more interested in math?

 

High school students have a short feedback loop. My business partner, Scott Kolb, and I were fortunate to have a high school teacher who was clued into this fact. He constantly engaged us students in positive feedback. In the same manner in which a student can quickly become lost and disengaged through negative feedback (ie. getting lost on homework, receiving a bad grade on an exam, or simply saying the wrong answer aloud in class that’s met with negativity), that same student can be captured through positive responses.

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Q8: How does your blog/website/book help students with their math?

 

Slader is a student-driven site with user-generated content.

 

We operate under the assumption that homework should never be a take home test; learning takes place in the classroom and homework is the time to wrestle around with concepts taught in class without fear of failure. Therefore by offering moderated step-by-step solutions and written explanations, Slader ensures a student is not isolated in his/her math frustration after school; help is out there.

 

Another key objective of ours is that we are a student-initiated site. A student may think they are simply coming on to Slader to grab one answer that they are having a tough time with, and for many of our users that’s how their Slader experience begins. However, we consider it a success when that student ask her first question or rates his first solution. Encouraging users to interact socially with math in an out-of-school context is our goal and we’ve achieved once our users are engaging with each other online.

 

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Q9: Tell us one funny math story/joke.

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What is the first derivative of a cow? Prime Rib!

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Q10: If you ruled the world what would change to help kids get excited about math?

 

I would love to create a system of digital learning tools (textbooks, even) that churn out positive affirmation every step of the way. In a public school classroom of 30+ students, such a tool can encourage subject mastery and allow students to focus more time on concepts difficult to them, respectively. And here at Slader, we believe that providing correct answers and solutions to capture a student’s engagement just before s/he gets lost is a good way to start. 🙂

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Kyle Gerrity, for services above and beyond the call of math duty and for outstanding service in relieving the pain and suffering of math students everywhere, you are declared an Honourable Mathspig.

 

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How many Mathematicians Does It Take to Change A Light Bulb?

September 14, 2012

Patrick Vennebush

When not solving problems, telling jokes, playing gameswith his sons, managing projects for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, or finding fun ways to help kids learn math, Patrick Vennebush plays Ultimate Frisbee, where he occasionally wins a national title.

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Patrick Vennebush is the Author

of Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks

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Here are two jokes from the book:

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Without geometry life is pointless.

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Economists have forecast ten of the last six recessions.

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There are some great resources @ Illuminations, The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics website.

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INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK

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Q1: What math topic was your favourite at school?

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Geometry is a mathematical jigsaw puzzle, except that you have to figure out which pieces you need as well as how to arrange them. But there was always something powerful about combining things I knew to prove things I didn’t.

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Q2: What math topic drove you insane?

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Combinatorics drove me mad. There are a million wrong ways to think about permutation and combination problems, but there’s only one right way to think about them. Even when the required calculations only take a few seconds to complete, the thinking to come to a solution might take hours.

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(Mathspig: Combinatorics? Wha? We just call them Permutations and Combinations in Aussie Land.)

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Q3: Did you ever do anything really exciting in math at school like go on an excursion to some weird math convention?

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No. I mean, this is crazy, but I can’t think of a single reason that I should like math… at least, not based on any great experiences.

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Q4: What math error in the media annoys you the most?

Misleading graphs, like this one from The New York Times.

 

 

Yep, Bush won, but this makes it look like it was a landslide.

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And I also hate arguments based on “man who” statistics. These are based on statements like “I know a man who…” and from that one example, great generalizations are made. More mathematically, results pulled from small samples are a huge problem, both in the media as well as in much of math education research. I can’t tell you the number of times that a researcher suggests that a particular teaching method is effective because there was a positive impact in just one or two classrooms. Oish.

(Mathspig. I think Oish is an underused word. We need a bring back the Oish Campaign.)

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Q5: Give me 3 reasons why you think students should do math.

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1)    To become proficient at problem solving, but more importantly, to understand that the greatest asset in problem solving is perseverance.

2)    To think logically. All the computational skills in the world won’t help if you can’t put the pieces together. (Mathspig: Yey!!!! My fav too)

3)    To be facile with numbers for daily life. So that when they’re confronted with various loan options or statistics in a newspaper, they can make an informed decision.

4)    Most importantly, to understand the jokes in my book. (or ve hit them vith pi. Mathspig)

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Q6: What is wrong with the way math is taught in American schools?

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Educators are too willing to sell kids a bill of goods. The curriculum contains a lot of topics that most students will never use. Honestly, when’s the last time you factored a trinomial? Part of the problem is the standards. Take the Common Core standards, for instance—they contain eight “practices” that artfully describe what a mathematically proficient student should be able to do, but then the practices are followed by a thousand standards that require nothing more than rote skills. Honestly, why are students asked to “derive the formula for the sum of a finite geometric series” to “calculate mortgage payments,” yet they’re never asked to consider the pros and cons of taking an adjustable rate mortgage?

But I’d also blame a lack of passion. The exceptional teachers I’ve met, the ones who are able to get their students excited about learning math, love numbers and shapes. They don’t have to convince their students that math is useful or interesting; their passion makes it obvious.

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Q7: What can teachers do right now to get kids more interested in math?

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I think there are two things they can do. First, be interested in math themselves. Second, keep their eyes open for examples of the usefulness of math in everyday life. (But, please, no more examples about measuring and cooking!)

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Q8: How does your blog/website/book help students with their math?

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Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks contains 400 jokes, which I think helps to dispel the myth of humorless mathematicians. Teachers can use the jokes in class, and research has shown that humor has physical, psychological, and pedagogical value. Laughing decreases blood pressure, reduces anxiety, increases retention of information, provokes thought, hones prediction and decision-making skills, creates a more open atmosphere, and actually aids with classroom management.

 

On the MJ4MF blog, I post funny math stories, interesting math problems, and examples of math in the real world. I don’t know that a student would ever become proficient in math simply by reading my blog… but hopefully I can help them see that math can be both fun and useful.

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Q9: Tell us one funny math story/joke.

 

Just one? Surely, you jest!

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How do you know if a mathematician is an extrovert?

When he talks to you, he looks at your shoes.

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A woman goes to the doctor. The doctor tells her that she only has six weeks left to live.

“Oh, my goodness! Doctor, what should I do?” she asks.

“Are you married?”

“No.”

“Then find an actuary, and marry him!”

“Will that help me live longer?” she asks.

“Well, no,” he says, “but it’ll feel longer.”

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Q10: If you ruled the world what would change to help kids get excited about math?

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Foremost, I’d make Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks be a required text for all courses.

Seriously, if I ruled the world, then I could do anything, right? I’d make teachers the highest paid professionals in the world, based entirely on merit. Teachers would get a base salary on which they could survive; and then, when their students were old enough to honestly and fairly assess their teachers, the students could provide ratings that would send huge bonuses to their previous teachers. I would never base a teacher’s pay on students’ standardized test scores. And while we’re at it, I’d throw away all standardized tests, period.

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Patrick Vennebush, for services above and beyond the call of math duty and for your outstanding contribution to the field of math humour, you are declared an Honourable Mathspig.