Showing posts from September, 2006

Helping girls learn Mathematics

Lately, I came across a few commentaries on this important topic in the popular media. I have also received a summary of a research project through my thesis supervisor. Naturally, as a teacher at a girls' school, I am very interested.

Just slug it out like the boys: The first serious attempt at tackling the issue brings us to an excellent Simpsons episode - girls just want to have sums! I always take the Simpsons seriously, and they seem to really care about education. If you know the episode, you can skip the next two paragraphs.

In this episode, Principal Skinner lets fly that he thinks girls are more likely to struggle with maths and science. He gets booed and, eventually, fired. The new principal, a feminist, divides the campus into two, so the boys do not drown out the girls with their loud voices.

In the girls' half of the campus, a different sort of maths is taught. One which is unlike that of men - something to be worked out and attacked. Instead, maths becomes something…

This rectangle is a square

Earlier this year, my nephew visited from overseas with his Maths holiday homework. He was on summer holidays between years 8 and 9. This is one of the questions I can translate:

Show that a rectangle ABCD, such that AB=√125 and BC=3√45 - 2√20 is a square.

You could post your answer in the comments field or try it with your students and post their answers instead.


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Solution to the make up four puzzle

A virtual star to Mr. B. on solving the puzzle. Remember, the idea is to move only one stick to make the equation correct:

Starting postions: | + || + ||| = 4
Solution: | + | + | + | = 4
(move one of || to make a "+" with the middle stick in |||)

I have made a little Flash animation to demonstrate it, but I can't figure out how to upload this to Blogger. If you know, please advise.


Make up four: a puzzle

A colleague gave me this puzzle yesterday. It is very cool.

Rearrange the sticks on the left hand side of the equal sign, so the sum does equal 4.

| + || + ||| = 4

Note: The plus signs are also made up of sticks.

Post your answers in the comments field.

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Merit-based pay and formative assessment

Several reports have been released of late telling the government to lift the financial status of teachers if the shortage -both current and looming- of Maths, Science, and LOTE teachers is to be solved. The past two federal ministers of education, Brendan Nelson and Julie Bishop, have responded to such reports by asking their state counterparts to implement a merit-based pay scale for teachers.

Teacher unions are usually opposed to such ideas. They argue that good measures for teacher effectiveness are lacking and that such moves would be divisive as they would promote competition in the staff room.

The Education Wonks have an editorial (or wonkitorial as they call it) commenting on a scheme in Iowa which links teachers' pay to the grades achieved by their students in standardised tests. They point out that some research studies have shown that students do not take these tests seriously enough, and teachers would end up being penalised for their students' carelessness. In anot…

Have an inspirational (or hopeful) story? Submit them here

Over at rickety contrivances of doing good, Susan is planning on starting a carnival of hope. Why not contribute a post to such a great idea. Unfortunately, time is running out for the first issue. Come on bloggers, we are interesting people to whom many good things happen. Let's share them with the world!

Also, at spunky homeschool, they are running a contest for inspirational educational stories. You could win yourself a digital camera.


Answer to PQR puzzle

Yeo Hui gets the -virtual- cake for solving the problem first. Mr. Person has again provided the most publishable solution:

It was easy enough to test the cases here. There are only 4 possibilities--444, 555, 777, and 888--that could possibly give three-digit quotients with all digits being different. Looks like it's 444: 148 x 3 = 444.
The answer is therefore C. 13

Students' response to the death of Steve Irwin

After school on Tuesday, I went to the room where I normally teach my Year 9s to leave a message on the whiteboard. I saw a cross with the words: R. I. P. Steve Irwin. I imagined that it was a joke or something left from a drama presentation. I then learned that it was true when I turned on the radio in my car.

The reaction to Steve's death has been phenomenal in Australia. It is being compared with the reaction to the death of Lady Di. This is surprising to me as Australians are normally very harsh on their celebrities. Steve himself had remarked how he was not as appreciated in his own country as in the US. He referred to the "cultural cringe" that we often talk about.

What really surprised me was the amount of grief of my year 7 students. In the morning, during the 10 minute "homeroom" assembly, we say a prayer and the students get to pray for special intentions. The last two days have been dominated by prayers for Steve and his family. The girls seem to ident…

The latest in education carnivals

For those who want to keep their finger on the pulse (Ok, I am running out of intro lines!):
The Carnival of education is over at Get On the BusThe Teaching carnival is over at WorkbookThe Carnival of homeschooling is over at Why homeschool?Enjoy,

Puzzle: here's the product, what is the sum

The following is a question from the 2005 Australian Mathematics Competition - Junior Division (years 7 & 8):

In the multiplication

x 3

each of P, Q and R represents a different digit. The sum of P, Q and R is
(A) 16 (B) 14 (C) 13 (D) 12 (E) 10

If you know the answer, send it with an explanation to

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It's a tough world out there!

Lately, I came across a chain letter purporting to report a speech given by Bill Gates at a high school. It lists the things that school does NOT teach (we are apparently meant to shout the "NOT") and how "politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality". At the same time, a blogger on The Age website also posted on the things we didn't learn at school.

Schools must tell kids to expect a harsh boss. "Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss." "... very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time." I must say that all my employers, both in industry and in teaching, have been very accommodating. I would have been badly prepared by my school if they had planted suspicion of employers in my mind.

Schools must teach kids everything they will ever need in the world of work. "... how to survive a poorly run meeting ... how to prepare a po…