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I know, blogging about it only makes it worse

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the wholly indefensible ubiquity of the TI-83+ graphing calculator in high school classrooms. Sure, such powerful calculators had their uses, I said, but most of the owners of these beasts have no real need for them, and they’re doing more harm than good in the hands of their high-school-age owners. (To wit: over at Joanne Jacobs’,…

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All in a day’s work

According to one of my precalculus students, a girl apparently unacquainted with the notion of the self-fulfilling prophecy, I “derive pleasure from seeing [my] students fail.” This, I am told, is a consequence of my gross narcissism, which leads me to show off in front of the class and on tests by demonstrating what a mathematical genius I am, instead…

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The texts, they are a-changin’.

My calculus students, I should mention, are a dream. They come to class. They do their homework. They can add fractions. They don’t whine that sometimes I make them think. Some of them are failing, but none to the point that I’m led to wonder whether they have ever done any math in their lives, ever. I can’t extend such praise to…

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Can’t trust the younguns with the critical thinkin’.

Oh, for the love of God. You don’t see self-parody this good every day, so savour the moment as you witness an instance of the barrel of fish that is guerilla politics: By my junior year of college I’d had enough of the credit card advertisements. They were on every bulletin board on campus. They were on the boards in the…

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Mixed messages

From a letter of recommendation written by my boss: …I was very pleased with MS’s work in the Discrete Mathematics classes, particularly considering that this was the first time she had taught this course. …Her evaluations in the precalculus classes were somewhat lower, but I still regard them as very good…Precalculus is a very challenging assignment for any instructor; none…

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My union just served 72 hours’ strike notice.

I’m so angry over this that I can’t even work up any sarcasm, if that tells you anything. Picket lines go up next week, unless a settlement is reached, which seems unlikely: the university president claims (and I believe him) that the administration doesn’t have the authority to meet our demands even if it wanted to, and anyway it doesn’t…

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Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Setting Math Tests, I Learned From My Five-Year-Old Self

Every semester, I get complaints from students who take issue with my testing style, which requires them to avail themselves of cognitive functions more complex than those of memorization and pattern-matching. The standard complaint is a variation of “some of the questions on the test are different from the ones you gave on the homework, and that’s not fair.” I…

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Teaching binary math to third-graders

A few weeks ago, TangoMan from Gene Expression sent me this fascinating description of a teacher’s use of the Socratic method to teach binary math to schoolchildren. It’s too interesting to excerpt; read the whole thing. I don’t teach math to little kids very often, but I’ll have to keep this in mind if I ever get back into math mentoring. One thing that…

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My kingdom for intelligent activism

I’ve mentioned before briefly that back in the Spring of ‘03, the TA union at my grad school went on strike. It was a fascinating experience, and I learned more about labour law in that one month than I learned about algebraic stacks during that entire year, which isn’t to say much, but it actually was. I stand by a…

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Sometimes grading fifty tests isn’t so bad

On the stats test, I gave a question about a company whose owner takes home a million dollars per year, and whose 60 employees each make $40 000 or less. I asked my students which of the measures of centre – mean, median, or mode – best described how much money the people working at the company were making. From…

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