Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Educate, Engage, Inspire ... with the Power of Mathematics!
I never thought I would be teaching math in China! Last June, I had the opportunity to go teach in China for a couple weeks, and I took it. In the heat of July, I was there. My colleague (an American History teacher) and I met together, and planned some activities for teaching English, then we each did our own planning in our subject areas. I had to plan enough material for teaching 10-12 two hour classes, without knowing whether I would have internet access, a SMARTBoard, or access to copies! I knew that it could mean being "stripped" of the many luxuries of teaching in my little bubble of the world in Room 221 in Northeast Ohio, USA! What have I gotten myself into?
My math lessons included topics such as equations, inequalities, systems, trigonometry, congruent triangles, sequences, and polynomials. The students seemed to be the equivalent of my sophomores back in the USA. They were excited to hear me teaching in English, and to assimilate what they already knew about each topic. Of course, there were things that were simply translation issues. (including my jokes!) We used translators to help, but discovered that often an English word and a math word don't translate very well! Another thing I knew I couldn't use was "American shortcuts" such as FOIL, that only work if you think/speak in English. I'm not sure the students knew the word "Distribute", but they knew how to do it.
One day, I decided to do triangle congruency with them. No problem, right? The students knew each of SAS, AAS and ASA very well. All of a sudden, we came to a few right triangles and they used HL before we even discussed it....they didn't know what H or L stood for, but they knew that the logic of the proof was correct. When I introduced the words hypotenuse and leg, there was a unanimous "Ohhhhhhhhhh" to express their understanding of the method of proof. Enlightening.
After a day with the Unit Circle and some basic Trig (again, skipping the SOHCAHTOA mnemonic), I moved on to using the reciprocal functions of cotangent, secant, and secant. The students had never heard of these! What? I guess they are truly not necessary, since you can always change the problem into its reciprocal and solve it from there. But what about the graphs? I thought it was worth playing around with, so we did graph them one day. I liked to think that I actually "taught" some math to this group of students! And it didn't really matter, because it wasn't on any test for them, and I wasn't giving them a grade.
Let us not forget, that one of the best parts of teaching is the different groups of students we get to work with every year or every semester. I had a group of 25 kids from China, who had dreams of coming to the U.S. for education in the next few years. I enjoyed asking them about their favorite movies, foods, and more. They were thrilled to ask me things about life in America. Unfortunately, sometimes those conversations turned to talk about drugs and gun violence. They wondered if I was afraid in my home, and if I would buy a gun. Discussions that would not likely take place in my classroom at home.
After two weeks, my colleague and I figured out that we were actually teaching the kids through their last week and even their last day of school! (Who wants to be teaching someone else's classes on the LAST day of school?) The day was July 28th, and it was probably 90+ degrees outside. Our last act as their teachers was to attempt to buy "ice cream" from the local guy just outside the campus gates...rather challenging to communicate how many and how much! We think it cost us about $20 to buy each kid an ice cream bar of some sort. :)
Stay tuned for the next installment...
I'm blogging today to let you know about a newly published article from the Ohio Journal of School Mathematics. Catherine Lane from Baldwin Wallace University has written a remarkable article, "The Joy of Following Students Down Unexpected Paths." The article documents Catherine's experience when she decided to let her students think and reason mathematically FOR THEMSELVES (imagine that! An all-too-rare occurrence in many classrooms, right?).
As you read the article, you'll be struck how students will take unexpected paths, and how letting them do so---even when working with the most familiar of tasks---can lead to surprising connections. In this article, Dr. Lane describes new paths her class took to generalize the sum of the interior angles of convex polygons.
Check out the article here. Share it with your friends and fellow teachers! Spread the word about the excellent ideas of our Ohio teaching colleagues!
The Ohio Journal of School Mathematics has just posted a newly published article, What Are The Next Three Terms In This Sequence?, by Janet Walker and Matthew McBurney of Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Here's a link: https://library.osu.edu/ojs/index.php/OJSM/article/view/5816. The authors explore a task that---on its surface---appears unremarkable. However, upon closer inspection (and with the help of some algebra and technology) yields some cool mathematics. Arguably more importantly, they illustrate the danger of assuming that routine tasks have only one solution.
I love their use of TI-Nspire and the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (OEIS). You really must check out their paper! :)
Coming in October… Global Math Week!
The Global Math Project aims to engage students and teachers around the world in thinking and talking about the same appealing piece of mathematics during a series of annual Global Math Weeks. Inspired by the work of code.org, which makes coding accessible for millions of students across the globe, the GMP team will share the inherent joy, wonder, relevance, and meaning of mathematics with students everywhere and create a forum for the global celebration of creative mathematical thinking.
What Happens During Global Math Week?
The very first Global Math Week takes place this fall. Beginning October 10, 2017, one million students will experience Exploding Dots, a popular topic developed by Global Math Project founding team member James Tanton. During Global Math Week itself, teachers and other math leaders are asked to commit to spending the equivalent of one class period on Exploding Dots and to share their students’ experience with the Global Math Project community through social media. Teachers can choose a low-technology presentation format by using downloadable pdf lesson plans as a guide. Alternatively, they can opt for a technology-intensive experience, developed by the Canadian education technology company Scolab, which will consist of a collection of visually appealing “islands” representing Exploding Dots topics. For those who wish to delve deeper, additional materials will be freely available on the Global Math Project website to support further exploration of place value, arithmetic algorithms, negative numbers, alternative bases, polynomials, formal infinite series, and more.
How Can I Get Involved?
Consider becoming involved in some or all of the following ways:
See mathematics like you've never seen it before and take part in a global conversation. Get started at http://gmw.globalmathproject.org.
In the Spring 2017 issue of the Ohio Journal of School Mathematics, Anne Berger discusses an exciting way to engage our students in conversation and collaboration while developing their procedural fluency and mental math skills. In the article, "Using Number Talks to Build Procedural Fluency through Conceptual Understanding," Berger describes her use of number talks to provide brief, daily opportunities for students to discuss, connect and develop their strategies for solving problems. Here's a video of children engaged in a number talk with a guru of the technique, Jo Boaler. Here's a link to the Spring 2017 Issue of the Ohio Journal of School Mathematics.
OCTM is an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.