Math in the Movies -where was this when I needed it!

Maths has never been one of my strong points. I coped just fine until I hit year 9 and they started introducing letters into Maths problems. My brain couldn’t cope with this and my burgeoning career as a Astrophysicist went out the window. I had to settle for a career based on where I felt letters belonged – between the pages of books!

Now, had I had a Maths teacher who introduced new concepts with a snippet from a movie and who could have shown me how I could apply that concept to a real life situation, then my story could have been completely different. I often read Dan Meyer’s blog and contemplate how I think I would be engaged in his lessons. He thinks of novel ways to use new technology to relate concepts to students. I remember those discussions with teachers which always started with me asking, ‘When am I ever going to use this in life?

The other day, Carey Pohanka posted a link on Twitter about Mathematics in Movies, a page on a site run by Oliver Knill, who is from the Dept. of Mathematics at Harvard University. He’s teaching Linear algebra  and applications this semester, but he’s also providing assistance to Maths teachers everywhere by doing this;

This is a collection of movie clips in which Mathematics appears. I’m collecting DVDs and VHS tapes of such movies. This is a working document to be extended over time. I started this page during spring break 2006. See also the page “Begin of lectures in college teaching” and “End of lectures in college teaching”. To see the movies larger, watch the quicktime ipod version, which are files with .m4v extension. 


I just love ‘hooks’. The little bit of the unusual or different that get me thinking about things in a different light. If a speaker begins with something engaging I’m usually there with them for the long haul. It must be the same for the kids we teach. I like to use quotes to engage students and set the tone for a lesson. I taught for a semester at a school and thought those quotes were going over student’s heads, until one day I discovered a student diary left in a classroom. I flicked through it to find out who it belonged to, and discovered every one of those quotes carefully written out  in the pages of what was one of my student’s diaries.  Sometimes you just don’t even know the effect you are having. 

I like the thought of these Math in the Movies ‘hooks’ for students. I think they’d be able to relate to the visual medium to make a concept more relevant. Perhaps if you used them there would be less of those, ‘When am I ever going to use this in my life?’ questions that I’m guessing must rear their ugly head in many people’s Math’s lessons.

For another look at making maths relevant, take a look at Tania Sheko’s post, ‘I’m not good at maths but I could be’.  Excellent explanation of the site Real World Math and how to use Google Earth’s satellite imagery to add placemarks, annotations, photos and models, as well as measure distances and draw paths.

dy/dan – a young teacher reminds us of home truths and shows us how.

I’ve recently discovered Dan Meyer,  a young teacher sharing his first years of teaching on the Web. His blog makes very interesting reading and viewing; he has recently recorded a series of videos detailing his experiences thus far; he cleverly, and with expert film-making flair, demonstrates the effort he puts into his teaching and shows us the creative techniques he employs to make the teaching of maths interesting for his students.

I admire Dan; he shares. I’ve always liked teachers who share. They are often the natural teachers, the ones who have abilty to convey meaning and who aren’t afraid to learn alongside their students. In a recent post Dan has shared his entire Geometry curriculum with his readers and encourages people to share it with others. There should be more of this in the teaching profession; we are all reinventing the wheel in our own schools over and over again. Why not work together, collaborate, share. Demonstrate the kind of risk taking with our learning that we expect from our students.

Tomorrow I’m going to be engaging in the learning process with my students. We are having our Year 7 students create digital stories that will capture the experiences and memories of past students of the school. Some of these stories go back decades. It promises to be very interesting and memorable for our students. I’m nervous about the technology and the possibilities of things not going well but that’s part and parcel of the learning journey we’re on. I know I’m going to learn a lot in the next couple of days and so are my students  -we’re in it together.

Dan’s latest post ‘The First Fortnight’, talks of dealing with the difficult student who demands attention. He provides some pretty good strategies that young teachers could pay heed too. What I like most about the post is the last paragraph;

I’m also realizing with this new group of students exactly how tight last year’s class and I became, and something else which is nice to realize and never a guarantee: that the time we spent together wasn’t meaningless.

A good thing to realise. The connectedness you have with your class at the end of a year is a special thing; I’m feeling it now with my Yr 7 group. I’m already pondering the wrench I’m going to feel when I have to relinquish them to someone else. They’re a special group of kids; the work they have produced of late has been outstanding. Their creative stories have blown me away. Can’t keep them forever though; they’d get sick of my stories and need exposure to the ideas of others. I will miss them though.

Do yourself a favour and take a read of Dan’s blog; well worth the visit.     


Eyes Wide Open – bloggers to watch.

One of the good things about being on school holidays has been having some time to explore links that take me to blogs I haven’t had a chance to discover due to the demands on time when working.  There are two in particular that have caught my eye for different reasons.

First discovery came from a tweet from Alec Couras. He was highlighting the vimeo reflection from Dan Meyer, a maths teacher from California who is five years into the teaching profession. I loved his reflection; it’s one of a series of ten he is making and I intend to watch each one. He is a refreshing voice; a young teacher with ideas and someone who is not afraid to challenge the thoughts and opinions of ‘names’ in the edublogosphere. I had been wondering where the young teachers were in the blogging community; following Dan is going to lead me in the direction of them I’m sure.

dy/av : 002 : the next-gen lecturer from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

The other interesting blogger for very different reasons is Matthew K. Tabor   He writes this about himself on the front page of his blog;

Matthew’s background includes work in higher education, executive recruiting, consulting and government. He consults on graduate/professional school admissions, academic media and educates privately. He writes out of Cooperstown, New York.

What drew me to this blog was a post he has written about why he didn’t attend the NECC conference in Texas titled, A Bit More Education Techno-Twaddle; Why I Avoid NECC, 2008 Edition. This is his take on edubloggercon;

The EduBloggerCon is a tiny part of NECC – I understand that, as some sessions are more sensible than others – but the sheer lack of intellectual diversity [a statement which will undoubtedly be criticized as inaccurate], the techno-fandom, the 100% Process/0% Content split will keep me away. If I wanted to sit on the floor with a notebook, I’d go to a Halo 3 LAN party. At least those have HotPockets and Mountain Dew.

His sentiments marry with the opening keynote from the conference; the need to have a devil’s advocate to help stem the echo chamber effect of listening to like minds. That’s one of the reasons I’m subscribing to his feed; I feel the need to listen to the devil’s advocates. They will stretch my thinking and help shape my thoughts about the use of technology to support learning. The comment thread to this post is very interesting. This was my contribution;

I’m very interested in reading you often now that I’ve discovered you through this post. I’m new to the edublogger world but have been energised and excited through my involvement. I’m more excited about the possibilities for education now than I have been for many years. I was feeling stale but now look at things with fresh eyes. I don’t consider myself a tech geek, far from it, but I do think our teaching can benefit from the experiences technology can enable in our classrooms. My focus remains strongly on how the learning of my students can improve as a result of using technology- I’m not such a zealot that I think it’s the be all and end all of everything that can be achieved in classrooms. I am concerned about the echo chamber effect of working in these networks and welcome the opportunity to read you and others who will challenge my thinking.

We all need to read widely and explore varying opinions – these are the skill sets we expect from our students when they examine a topic of interest. We expect them to have investigated all angles before coming to a conclusion. Good practice that we need to model too.