Messy Mathematics

This post is really a vehicle to get a comment that I received on my blog more face time. I thought the potency of the words could not be ignored. It was in response to my post entitled Measuring Roots. To get the full story, first read that particular entry. Basically, I was reliving my encounter with a small boy where he challenged me to answer a square root problem. He let the answer slip prematurely, and quickly rephrased his question. It was very obvious that he had the answer in mind before the question had begun. Using this idea, I …

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Measuring Roots

I stumbled upon the “root” of this activity late in the school year after I had already taught the unit on radicals and their approximate values to my Grade 9s. I modified its purpose, but the original framework is credited to John Scammell. (@scamdog) I found the concept to be a fairly easy one for the students to grasp once the identity of a root was explored. Students know what a square root is. In fact, I was challenged by a 7 year old boy who I was babysitting just the other day. His older sister–an 8 year old genius–was …

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Jets Logo Not So Golden

The experienced hockey fan will recognize the title of this post as a reference to Bobby Hull, who was a legend with the Chicago Blackhawks before coming to the Winnipeg Jets in 1972. He became one of the biggest draws in the fledgling WHA; his blinding speed and rocket shot gained him the nickname “The Golden Jet” league-wide. The Winnipeg Jets folded in 1995, and only returned weeks ago. Today was the unveiling of the new Jets logo; an event that I refreshed the same page for hours to witness. There had been numerous leaks over the past few weeks, …

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The “Nearly” in Mathematics

Mathematics is the purest form of science, or at least that is what they tell us in university. This ideology carries over into the school staff; it wasn’t long until another member of the staff referred to me as a “math guy”. As much as this label is also self-imposed, I still struggle to understand what it means. The labels “english guy”, “phys-ed guy”, and “science guy” all persist within the building as well, but there is something that about the title of “math guy” that gets me. My friends and family quickly shunt all calculations to me when needed. …

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Manipulative Revelation

I completed school before manipulatives were in vogue. I am still not sure that they are today (where I teach). I know that my department’s manipulatives are locked up in a cupboard. In this Potter-like clandestine state, I didn’t even learn of their existence until the end of the year. I was moving classrooms, and found a pile of algebra tiles that the previous teacher had left behind. I didn’t discover that I had manipulatives available to me until, ironically, I inquired where I could dispose of this rather large supply of algebra tiles. When I opened the doors of …

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Odd Factors

I am teaching 5 new classes next year. I am trying not to think of it that way; rather, I am taking it one step at a time. Unfortunately, most of these steps need to be taken during my summer vacation. This isn’t the end of the world; I am fairly stationary, and enjoy a mental workout as much as some enjoy time on the beach or in a foreign shopping mall. I began my massive preparation marathon with a unit for Grade 10 Precalculus on factoring. As I dove into the curriculum and textbooks, I found myself actually enjoying …

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The BEDMAS of Broken Keys

It is the end of my first year of teaching, and I am in a reflective mood. The art of “reflection” was one heavily mocked in my professional college. It seemed as though every assignment in the College of Education involved some kind of reflection. Students of other colleges dismissed the idea as elementary. Do something useful, then reflect on it, then reflect on that reflection, etc. The process began to resemble an infinite sequence. It wasn’t until the reflections were no longer forced, that I found value in the process. My year began in chaos. I was hired to …

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