# Category Archives: Uncategorized

December 24, 2012, 3:34 pm

# Merry Christmas

It’s not Thanksgiving, but during this season I’m very thankful:

• For all of you who check in on this blog from time to time, who have it in your RSS feeds, and who add your comments.
• For the Chronicle, for having the momentary lapse in judgment that led to me being part of the blog network since last fall.
• For the Chronicle web development team, working behind the scenes to keep all these sites up and running.
• For my online friends from Twitter and Google+ who interact with me these and give me a tiny slice of a tight budget of attention.

Being able to write about math, education, and technology here at Casting Out Nines is a great privilege. I’m humbled to be able to do it, and I’m looking forward to good conversations in 2013.

I’m taking the rest of this week off to hang out with my wife and kids and friends. In the meanwhile, enjoy Christmas. In my Christian faith…

November 5, 2012, 7:00 am

# What do you do with all that class time?

It’s now week 11 of the semester, so it’s time for some updates on the flipped transition-to-proofs class. Also, this blog needs a jumpstart.

The flipped structure of the class presents a number of logistical and planning issues that can be challenging. For example, structuring the out-of-class reading/viewing activities can be tricky. So can staying disciplined so that you release screencasts at a reasonable pace without procrastinating. But the most challenging planning issue so far has been simply figuring out what to do in class and how to do it.

The whole reason I decided to flip this class was because students needed as much time hands-on actually investigating mathematical questions and writing proofs as possible. All the information transfer in a traditional setup was just getting in the way. So with the flip, all that transfer time is outside of class, leaving the…

June 29, 2012, 2:23 pm

# The summer of BYOD

So, the six-week Calculus 2 class is over with — that didn’t take long — and there’s beginning to be enough distance between me and the course that I can begin to evaluate how it all went. Summer classes for me are a time when I like to experiment with things, and I wanted to comment on the outcomes of one experiment I tried this time, which is using a bring-your-own-device setup for clicker questions.

I’ve been using TurningPoint clickers ever since I started doing peer instruction, and I recommend these devices highly. They have a lot going for them in terms of classroom technology: They are small and unobtrusive, relatively cheap (\$35), exceedingly simple to use, rely on no pre-existing infrastructure (for example, whether or not you have decent wifi in the room), and are nearly indestructible. They are about as simple, dependable, and inexpensive as a radio-operated garage door…

March 23, 2010, 1:25 pm

# Programming, lectures, and the inverted classroom

Image via Wikipedia

We started programming in the MATLAB course a couple of weeks ago. It’s been… interesting. Keep in mind that 75% of the students in the class have never written a program of any sort before; half the class rates themselves below a 6 out of 10 in “comfort level” in using computers at all. As with everything else in this course, the audience is everything.

I started this three-week unit last week with a minilecture on FOR loops. But wait, you say: I thought you were using an inverted classroom model for the MATLAB course, where students are assigned reading and viewing tasks outside of class, accompanied by homework assignments designed to help them extract the relevant information and then do simple applications of what they’ve learned. Well, yes, that’s been the plan, and the practice up until now.

But I decided to go with a minilecture/activity model for the…

March 2, 2010, 10:00 am

# Program note: ICTCM coming up

Just a note: I’ll be attending the International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics (ICTCM) in Chicago next week, March 12–14. I’ll be giving two short talks there:

• “Integrating spreadsheets, visualization tools, and computational knowledge engines in a liberal arts calculus course”, on Friday, March 12 at 11:30 AM. This talk is about how we use these kinds of technologies in our Calculus courses specifically to support the liberal arts mission of the college. I’ll be joined in this talk by my colleague, Justin Gash.
• “Teaching MATLAB to a non-canonical audience”, on Friday, March 12 at 12:30 PM. This is on, you guessed it, the pedagogical and design issues behind the MATLAB course for a general audience which I have blogged about a lot here lately.

I’m also going to be participating in the Geogebra workshop on Saturday in preparation for my junior/senior-level…

February 21, 2010, 9:30 pm

# Five reasons you should use LaTeX and five tips for teaching it

Over the weekend a minor smack-talk session opened up on Twitter between Maria Andersen and about half a dozen other math people about MathType versus $$\LaTeX$$. Maria is on record as being pro-MathType and yesterday she claimed that $$\LaTeX$$ is “not intuitive to learn”.  I warned her that a pro-$$\LaTeX$$  blog post was in the offing with those remarks, and so it comes to this. $$\LaTeX$$ is accessible enough that every math teacher and every student in a math class at or above Calculus can (and many should) learn $$\LaTeX$$ and use it for their work. I have been using $$\LaTeX$$ for 15 years now and have been teaching it to our sophomore math majors for five years. I can tell you that students can learn it, and learn to love it.

Why use $$\LaTeX$$ when MathType is already out there, bundled with MS Word and other office programs, tempting us with its…

February 5, 2010, 8:00 am

# Friday Random 10: 2/5/2010

Friday music time again, and just about the only thing I’ve had time to post this week due to classes starting back:

1. Texas Flood (Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Greatest Hits)
2. 40 Days (Third Day, Come Together)
3. Who’s Been Talkin’ (Howlin’ Wolf, His Best: Chess 50th Anniversary)
4. Man in the Green Shirt (Weather Report, Best of Weather Report)
5. Waiting on the World to Change (John Mayer, Continuum)
6. Where You Are (Rich Mullins, The World As Best As I Remember It v. 1)
7. Heavy On My Mind (Back Door Slam, Roll Away)
8. Try (John Mayer Trio, Try! (Live))
9. Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman) (Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II)
10. Doing It To Death (James Brown, The CD of JB)

Normally I would take one of the entries in the list that gets my attention and do a video focus on it. This time… Well, the classic Led Zeppelin chestnut “Living Loving Maid” (#9) makes me think of the fantastic…

January 15, 2010, 10:45 am

# Friday Random 10: 1/15/2010

It’s that time of the week again:

1. Heart of the Heartland (various, Lewis & Clark soundtrack)
2. The Maker of Noses (Rich Mullins, The World As Best As I Remember It, vol 2)
3. Shot of Love (King’s X, Out of the Silent Planet)
4. Something to Believe In (Clannad, Past Present)
5. People Watching (Jack Johnson, Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies (Curious George soundtrack))
6. Cello Suite #6 (Mstislav Rostropovich, Bach Cello Suites)
7. Miracles Out Of Nowhere (Kansas, Leftoverture)
8. The Drift (Béla Fleck & the Flecktones, Three Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
9. Hold Me (Fleetwood Mac, Greatest Hits)
10. A Felicidade (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Personalidade)

“Miracles Out of Nowhere” by Kansas (#7) is one of my favorite rock tracks. Here’s a live version (I can’t tell from where or when, but it looks recent):

That song is appropriate for today, too, since it’s my son’s first birthday. He was a…

December 30, 2009, 10:19 am

# Resisting the urge to verify

When I am having students work on something, whether it’s homework or something done in class, I’ll get a stream of questions that are variations on:

• Is this right?
• Am I on the right track?
• Can you tell me if I am doing this correctly?

And so on. They want verification. This is perfectly natural and, to some extent, conducive to learning. But I think that we math teachers acquiesce to these kinds of requests far too often, and we continue to verify when we ought to be teaching students how to self-verify.

In the early stages of learning a concept, students need what the machine learning people call training data. They need inputs paired with correct outputs. When asked to calculate the derivative of $$5x^4$$, students need to know, having done what they feel is correct work, that the answer is $$20x^3$$. This heads off any major misconception in the formation of the concept…

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