This will be my last newsletter for quite some time, as I'm entering a very busy period of summer workshops. Hopefully some of it will be of use to you plan for next year.
If you're looking for a summer professional development opportunity, you might check out my Saint Louis workshops.
In any case, enjoy your break!
Here are links to posts on my Math Education Blog that you might find interesting.
If you are so moved, you may comment on the posts, and/or subscribe to the blog.
The Assessment Trap
In this eight-part series, I analyze the legitimate uses of assessment, its problematic uses, the meaning of grades, and the perils of so-called "backward design". A guest post by Sarah Clowes surveys some of the research on grades. Based on all this, I recommend de-emphasizing grades, and propose some tools and strategies to get the most out of assessment, while minimizing its often negative impact on curriculum and pedagogy. Finally, I propose a forward design strategy. Start here.
In Defense of Algebra 2
Algebra 2 is a favorite target of American anti-intellectualism. It is often used as evidence that learning math beyond the basics is pointless, as Algebra 2 is often about mindless manipulation of symbols and ineffective memorization of techniques — all of it divorced from meaning, and only relevant to future mathematicians. Unfortunately, the traditional course and the version favored by (e.g.) New York State, includes a random assortment of too many topics, taught too fast, which can end up supporting those arguments. In this post, I argue that Algebra 2 can be a great course, and propose an approach to make that happen.
NCTM Is Its Members
I've been a member of the National Council of Teachers of Math for decades. During that time, I have been a speaker at more than 80 conferences of NCTM and its affiliates. I have written and reviewed articles for The Mathematics Teacher. I edited the "Student Activities" department in that journal for a couple of years. I was excited and impressed that in his recent message “NCTM Is Its Members”, Matt Larson, the new President of the Council asked for suggestions. I took him at his word. I wrote to encourage him to get rid of the wall between the NCTM journals and the Web, and to launch a nationwide conversation on the strengths and weaknesses of the Common Core. Read my letter here.
New or new-ish on my Web site.
A new launch page about fractions, with links to:
- my grid paper approach to fraction arithmetic;
- how to make connections with angles, time, and money by way of the "pie" representation; and finally,
- the wonderful Egyptian Fractions Challenge, which I recommend to you as a fun summer exploration.
An excellent Shrinky Dinks activity about scaling, by Rachel Chou, a teacher and department chair at Menlo School in Atherton, CA. I link to it in my Geometry Labs page, as it is very compatible with the book both in its subject matter (Section 10) and in its hands-on approach.
Algebra and Precalculus
In preparation for my summer workshops (see below), I made some improvements to three activities:
- I improved the worksheet on deriving a proof of the quadratic formula based on translating a parabola so its vertex is at the origin. Prerequisites are on my Parabolas and Quadratics page.
- I improved the worksheet on Graphing Square Roots, which among other things leads to the formal definition of absolute value as a piecewise function.
- I improved the worksheet on Perspective, and added teacher notes and a GeoGebra applet. It is a good way to introduce inverse variation by way of a real-world lab.