Friday, April 28, 2017

Crossing the Line: Combining History and Mathematics to Answer "Why?"

When I was a student I probably asked the question why? too many times in a day. Sometimes, in math especially, the teacher could give me the answer to that question and I would still not understand (I’m looking at you, π, who decided what you were?) But there is an important tool teachers have at their fingertips to answer some of these questions.
  • Why is a circle 360 degrees?  Because the Babylonians and other ancient cultures used a number system based on 60, and degrees is left over from that mathematical tradition.
  • Why does the Pythagorean Theorem work, and…who was Pythagoras?  Well, Pythagoras was a Greek mathematician, and his proof using geometry proves this algebraic equation in a different way than showing them the equation does.
  • Why do we need math?  There’s so many historical answers to this question. Point to the computer scientists and mathematicians that made it possible to go to the moon and have the computers we have today. Point to any of the many discoveries that have allowed us to advance as a society.
  • Why do we have to do constructions? Well, other than constructions are an important tool for students to understand Geometry, point to the fact that mathematicians such as Euclid wrote entire books talking about and using constructions hundreds of years ago, and those books have been used and examined by mathematicians for centuries. It’s not just teachers trying to make Geometry harder- its teachers showing students where many of the rules in Geometry come from.
Combining history and mathematics gives teachers a unique opportunity. You get to cross disciplines (always a bonus!) and answer the students’ questions of why? It gives teachers the opportunity to show that math is not a stagnant, boring subject, but a subject that has been growing and changing for thousands of years. Combining these subjects also gives teachers the opportunity to show students that all their education is intertwined with each other. Showing students this gives them an opportunity to have a more well-balanced and well-rounded education. It allows students with strengths in different areas to find a way to connect their interests with classes they may not enjoy quite as much. If a teacher can show a student who loves history that mathematics is connected to history, and put what they are learning in that context, they’ve just opened a door for that student that may never have been opened.

Give that little background on Pythagoras at the beginning of class. Tell students about Babylonian number systems and about Hypatia and how she was killed for her work in mathematics. Cross the line that seems to divide subjects and give students the context that for some may connect ideas and bring a whole new understanding. And if it doesn’t help them understand the concept better, they’ve at least learned a fun fact, and one more fun fact never hurt anybody. 

Kristina Luczak

Friday, April 21, 2017

Teaching Motivation

     Thinking back to the days of elementary, middle and high school, I remember many of my teachers. All of them I would be able to recognize, some I would be able to recall their names, and still others I remember the class they taught and some important things I learned. The last teachers I mentioned have clear memories that define them as my favorite teachers, but hold the phone, why do I remember these teachers? What features or experiences did I have with them to hold this memory? After some thought, I discovered that every teacher I remember either guided me to a new way of thinking or motivated me through the way they taught.
      One of the most noteworthy teachers I had was in elementary school. She was my first-grade teacher that also taught second grade, and she was the teacher that recognized my skills in math. I still remember the day that she asked me to join the second-grade lesson and all the other second graders were so confused as to why I was there since I was a first grader. From that point on, I was in accelerated math classes throughout my middle school and high school careers. This teacher helped lead me to pursue a math major with plans to become a math teacher. I can firmly say that where I am now is directly related to that specific event and teacher. I had many other experiences with her throughout my first and second-grade years, but that day sticks will stick with me forever.
      Another teacher that had an impact on me was a high school teacher. She taught geometry and that class was particularly hard for me. I was well-versed in algebra  and found geometry to be more difficult for me. This teacher helped bring out my strengths in the class but what I remember most about her was that she showed me a new way of looking at people. I grew up in a very conservative family and let’s just say we have some strong views. Later in the year, I found out that my teacher’s sexual orientation was different than I expected, and this bothered me for a while. Throughout the year, she helped me appreciate her for being a great teacher and not focusing on our differences. From that point on I have been able to see people differently and I would say that she has been one of my favorite teachers. She also pushed me to take AP Calculus in high school and that was another big push to where I am now, in college.
     Throughout these experiences, I have learned some specific things. First, each of these teachers worked on understanding their students and using that they were able to create lifelong memories for me. I am so thankful for these teachers that God put in my life. Secondly, I found it interesting that these teachers and experiences I remember most were somehow tied in with mathematics. From that observation alone, I see why I pursued this field. The motivation I got from my teachers to pursue my strength in math have led me here, to SDSU: a Jackrabbit pursuing a Mathematics degree with Teaching Specialization.
      Thinking about these stories, I hope that you can go back and think of experiences that have motivated you as a person and as an educator. For me, I can only hope to model what these teachers did for me when I have my own classroom. With all the hardships of teaching, these memories allow me to push forward and see the greatness that can come from being a teacher. Without these motivational stories, I don’t know where I would be. In conclusion, I would like to give a shout out to all my past and future teachers! Thank you.

Taylor Davis

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Stop Boring Students

Stop Boring Students

As a big sister, a tutor, and a nanny I am no stranger to helping with homework. I have helped in all types of classes. One thing I have noticed is that the person I am helping always seems uninterested. It is not that they do not really understand, but instead they just do not want to do it. Another thing I have noticed is that I always was and am helping with worksheets or problems out of the book,  and have never been asked to assist someone on a project, study for an exam or help with a paper. After a discussion in class I have begun to realize that the students understand what they are doing, they are simply just bored and tired of repetition.
Handing out worksheets and book problems are boring, never seem fun and by default students can become uninterested. Believe me, even some of the best students will become bored and unintrigued, and instead of changing it up, teachers continue to assign the same generic things. Once a student is bored, they mentally check out. They no longer want to come to class, and they start to become more interested in the minute hand on the clock, then what is going on in class. The homework they have is the last thing they want to do, and they will start to put it off until the last minute, or just copy someone else’s homework.  Turned off students will shut down in and out of the classroom. This can make a teacher’s job more difficult as they lose control over their students. A boring classroom is no fun for the students or the teacher.
As a future educator this is alarming to me. I do not want my students bored and looking forward to the end of my class before it even begins. There are a lot of different ways to assess our students that do not learn and grow from continuously using  worksheets. I understand that worksheets can be helpful and are a good way to assess students progress, but use them in moderation. Instead, try doing something more interesting to get the students involve in their learning. Teachers can use fun tools like Kahoots or online projects. Do activities, ask students questions in class rather than on a homework assignment. By doing interesting things like this, students become engaged in the class. It has been shown that students who are engaged and interested in class, will learn and retain more than a student who is not. Instead of continuously handing out worksheets, teachers should continuously change up their classroom’s learning tools to help assess students, get them engaged, and get them to learn and retain the material.
As a future educator and a past student, I know that just handing out worksheets or book problems will not work. Instead, change up your ways of assessment. Use fun activities and other forms to keep class interesting and engaging. Your students will appreciate it.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Ed Camp 2017

            Just this past weekend I had the privilege of attending my first ever Ed Camp here in Brookings, SD. I had many people tell me that you won’t regret going and they were correct. For those of you that don’t know what Ed Camp is, Ed Camp is a day of self-driven, high-interest professional development. It is a day to collaborate with teachers and future teachers of all grade levels. The best part is that you as participators get to choose the topics that are discussed that day. After a short introduction, you are asked to write down on a piece of paper what topics and ideas you want to discuss with other teachers. All of the ideas are then collaborated and you as a teacher participate to facilitate the discussion within the room. There are no presenters or power points, it is simply just teachers wanting to learn more from other fellow teachers.

            I learned more than I thought I would while attending Ed Camp. While in attendance, I was able to attend four sessions. The first session was Learning Management System (LMS) Practices/ Google Classroom. I found this session extremely interesting because as a college student we don’t always get to see the full side of a LMS. We discussed the pros and cons of Google Classroom and Schoology. I learned how many of the systems interlink with each other including Google Classroom and Schoology. I learned everything from inviting parents into the systems to working with cable companies to find low cost internet for you students who don’t have internet available at home.

            The second session I attended was Breakout EDU’s. Breakout EDU’s are becoming more and more popular to use in the classroom. I learned affective ways to use them in the classroom for all grade levels. I also learned about many resources that can help with regular Breakouts and online Breakouts as well.

            The third session I attended was Rich Math Tasks. In this session we talked about what a “rich” math task really is. I became informed of all the different resources that I have a choice on. From textbooks to online activities, as a teacher I will more than likely get to choose what the best resources are for my classroom.

            The last session that I attended was Applying and Interviewing for Jobs. This session was by far my favorite because I will soon be interviewing for jobs. I recommend to any future teacher to attend a session like this. I was able to discuss with a principal on the proper way to apply and interview for a job. The principal reminded us that the people we are interviewing with want us to do well and they want to help us. He gave us many tips to help us become successful for our first interview.

            Overall, I recommend Ed Camp to all teachers, student teachers, future teachers, substitute teachers, and administration. You will not regret it. They also do drawings all day long so you may even go home with free materials for your classroom. It is a day filled with teachers who just want to improve their classrooms.

                                    Oh and did I forget to mention it’s FREE!!

By: Katie Murtha

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A New Definition of Gamification?

So quite recently Taylor gave a talk in class about gamification in the classroom, and I was actually quite surprised. It seems as if I was used to a completely different concept of gamification than what Taylor presented to the class. It is not entirely strange that there exist two different definitions of gamification, and it did allow me to grow more used to the idea of gamification in the classroom.

Before I talk about the new ideas that I have thought of for gamification I’ll take a few sentences to explain the differences in what I thought to what Taylor knew. My thought of gamification was of applying the concepts of a game to the classroom. I’ll just start making analogies to World of Warcraft because it boils down game mechanics to their base state. In World of Warcraft you do quests, kill creatures and explore a world all for many different reasons. In the essence of World of Warcraft everything you do is to level up, all of the tasks are just to get the “ding” of the next level. Gamification is the process of taking that need for the “ding” of a level and applying it to the classroom. This entails some kind of progression in the classroom, homework gets you points as well as good tests and quizzes. In a perfect world, students would strive to do these things well in order to get that next level up. The way that Taylor knew and presented gamification is quite a different idea though. Taylor spoke on a classroom where games were used to teach topics, instead of lectures you teach through the games. One game that was mentioned was the use of monopoly to teach things like math and probability, but it doesn’t just stop there. With the advent of video games, there are whole worlds of lessons that could be learned through video games and applied to a classroom setting.

In concern to my own version of gamification, I frankly don’t like the idea of it. It has taken me a while to narrow down why I disagree with it, but I think it is because of the implication of why the student is learning. Is a student just speeding through material to get the satisfaction of the level up or are they genuinely investing in their learning? It comes with the same ideas of what we are doing currently in the school system, are students genuinely learning or are they just doing the busy work for the grade on the test and then forgetting the material?

This is in stark contrast to the ideas put forward by Taylor, in this form of gamification students learn by playing a game of some sort. Ideally, in this form, students use games that they want to play and from those games, they truly learn the concepts the game creators built into the game. I love this idea because I love games and I think they can teach a lot. I had heard a little bit about the application of video games in the classroom before Taylor’s talk, the forefront of it being Minecraft and its various applications. The thing that is more interesting to me though is the application of board games, it is one that I hadn’t had as of yet. Now that I’m thinking about it though, there are a list of games that I have that could be applicable to a classroom. For math and stats, I think the most applicable board game I could think of right now is Settlers of Catan. Catan is a civilization builder with great strategy, but underlying it all is mathematics for resource management and statistics for getting those resources. A quick one to learn and play would be Coup, in Coup there are a limited number of role cards that each player can have. The purpose is to call each other out on the other player’s role cards, it greatly helps if you know the probability of who has what. In addition to that though both are just fun games that people enjoy that you can really learn from.

I don’t know which of these is definitions is correct, or if it really matters at all. In the end, I think either way we would see student comprehension and that is what we are truly after. I just think that with the version of gamification that was presented by Taylor shows tremendous promise for classrooms and student learning.