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There is two hour parking all around University of Saskatchewan. I once went to move my car (to avoid a ticket) and found that the parking attendant had marked–in chalk–the top of my tire. I wanted to erase the mark so began driving through as many puddles as possible.
I then convinced myself to find a puddle longer than the circumference of my tire–to guarantee a clean slate and a fresh two hours.
As I walked back to campus, I got thinking about the pattern left behind by my tires. For simplicity, let’s take the case of a smaller vehicle–a bike.
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## Using Real-Time Graphs

I have a class of grade nine students this semester that are part of a stretch program. This essentially means that they get 160 hours to complete a 120 hour course. The class is designed to accommodate the transition from elementary school (Grades 1-8) into high school (Grades 9-12) for those students who feel uncomfortable with their math ability.

It also affords me a few extra days here and there to stress certain topics. One of my foci this semester has been pattern modelling. Essentially, we work with various patterns and develop generic rules to describe their behaviour. Linear relations will be our finish line, but I am making sure to provide ample concreteness before abstracting into notations.

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## Destroying Functions

I have spent the better part of 2 weeks going over various mathematical relationships in my Grade 10 class. They have been represented as tables of values, arrow diagrams, and sets of ordered pairs. Relationships, both qualitative and quantitative, have been defined, analyzed, and graphed. My focus on graphical literacy has been previously detailed on the blog. See this link for details.

Numerous relationships were handled. Students we required to create a family tree and then represent its branches as a table of values and set of ordered pairs. Throughout the various exercises, the words “input”, “output”, “domain”, and “range” were consistently used. My family tree mapped the connection between a Domain of “Names” to a Range of “Familial Relationship”. Some of my ordered pairs then became:
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I recently finished up a unit on sequences and series with my grade 11 pre-calculus students. The unit is somewhat of an enigma because it contains relatively simple ideas bogged down in complex notation. This coupled with the overlapping definitions makes for a fortnight of rather rigorous cognitive exercise.

The unit was supported through group tasks as the topics moved along. Arithmetic sequences and series were linked to linear functions through the toothpick problem. Students were asked to arrange toothpicks into boxes and record how many toothpicks it took to make ‘x’ number of boxes. Their results were extrapolated and tied to variables from the linear functions notation. From there, I introduced the new terms of “common difference” and “term one” instead of slope and y-intercept. The arithmetic portion usually goes smoother than its geometric cousin for two reasons:

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## In the Footsteps of Gauss

I like to introduce each topic with a task or activity. These do not necessarily have to be long, but should activate mathematical thinking. The idea has slowly evolved for me throughout my short career. They are the amalgamation of the ideas of a “motivational set” and discovery learning. I felt that both components are positive things to include in a math class, but both had severe implementation problems.

The motivational set is far too passive. In my college, a picture, story, or conversation could serve as a motivational set. It was essentially a transition tool that was completely void of any mathematics. Every lesson begins with the same routine whether it be a national anthem, attendance, or a short time of homework recap, but each learning experience needs to begin with an active brain. I found that the purpose of the motivational set was important, but needed a stronger method to get brains engaged in the day’s learning.

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## Struggling with Infinity

My fascination with infinity began early on in life. I went to a small private school in Prince Edward Island for my entire elementary school career, and it was outside on the playground where I first tasted the enigma of infinity and the power it held.

Across the cul-de-sac parking lot stood the swings, slide, and monkey bars; I still remember the first time I encountered infinity under those bars. You see, we had been learning the base-10 number system that day, and my friend Jason and I somehow got into a counting contest of sorts. We began at very small numbers, and gradually cycled through the digits at varying positions until we countered each other with unusually large–and most likely inaccurate–numbers. Trillion, Quadrillion, Bazillion all made appearances until Jason ended the contest with one word–infinity.

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## A Declaration of Independence

I used to be roommates with a magician. He kept all of his materials locked up in a trunk in our hall closet. Although he had devoted himself to the study of human psychology, I still convinced him to crack open the trunk and show me a trick from time to time. This experience was one of the most frustrating yet intellectually stimulating experiences of my life. I was a mathematics undergrad immersed in a stressful environment of number theory, numerical analysis, and abstract algebra. I was being trained to reason effectively, and his antics refreshed my perspective on reality. Life often muddies mathematics; such is the unfortunate reality.

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## Un-Locking Prior Knowledge

I enjoy mathematics in the morning. It wakes my brain up, and makes my coffee that much more comforting. Much of the deliberate mathematics learning that I do takes place in the morning. I say deliberate, because mathematics always finds ways to sneak itself into all parts of my day. Morning is just when I open the door and embrace the learning with open arms.

Today’s dose came courtesy of @republicofmath via @jamesgrime. The problem took longer than I expected, but the result was quite eloquent. I ended up using a method that I had no intention of ever using again. It was the use of this prior knowledge that made the experience valuable.

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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 the intricacies of the topic…nerdy, I know!

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## The Linear Relations of Hamburgers

Maybe you have seen the Burger King Stacker commercial where “Meat Scientists” work on an interesting problem. Needless to say, it piqued my curiosity the second I saw it; it was not long until I was trying to suck every ounce of mathematical value from the video. I am sure that I did not accomplish this goal, but I did manage to find some interesting problems and questions.