Saturday, December 07, 2013

Watching students grow: A week in the life of this teacher

In this, my 100th post, I want to reflect on some of the things that make me grateful to teach at Avila College. The last week was exhausting and energising at the same time. I believe a summary of that week will suffice in explaining why I love working at Avila. Here is a snapshot:

World Integrated Unit
For three days, groups of Year 7 students formed their own countries. They learnt about preferential voting, designed a national flag, dance, anthem, sandwich and animal! Each country had to conduct a campaign to host the Olympic games and use social media to their advantage.
 Treasurer, financial adviser and head of state deciding their country's investment priorities
My role was to look after the treasury and guide and the individual country treasurers through foreign exchanges and a financial report.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Why use algebra when you can use arithmetic?

This post was jointly written with my colleague, Steven Francis. It follows from my earlier post, Welcome to Maths class: Leave your common sense at the door. In this post, we provide examples that highlight the importance of allowing students to solve problems from first principle. At times, insisting on specific formal methods can diminish students' ability to solve problems.

In the video above, the renowned physicist Richard Feynman relates how he could solve linear equations early but was told "You did it with arithmetic. You have to do it with algebra."
Feynman then reflects with visible annoyance:
There's no such a thing as you don't do it by arithmetic, you do it by algebra. It's a false thing that they had invented in school so that the children who have to study algebra can all pass it. They had invented a set of rules which you follow them (sic) without thinking to produce the answer.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Should kids learn times tables?

Knowing that I teach year seven mathematics, people often ask me my opinion on whether kids should learn their times tables (or multiplication tables if you prefer). In this post, I argue that times tables should be learned at some stage of the child's education, but only as part of many ideas related to multiplication.

Firstly, multiplication tables should not be learned too early. My kids' primary school holds off till kids reach grade 3. A kid who "knows the answer" to 3x8 will not feel the need to group objects in threes or in eights and will miss discovering a few things about multiplication:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My reflections on Day 2 of the VITTA conference

This year, like the previous two years, three students and I ran a workshop on mobile APP development using Corona SDK at the annual conference of the Victorian IT Teachers Association. In this post, I will reflect on the workshop itself, the keynote given by Adam Eliot and other happenings at the conference.

I started the day early and was in front of the school by 7:10am. I was waiting to drive with three students to the Caulfield Racecourse, where we were to attend the annual VITTA conference. The girls were punctual and we left Avila at 7:30am.

Upon arrival, we parked and registered. There were tags and show bags for each of us. The girls loved the freebies. As soon as we checked out the room we were to present in, we went down to the expo and they moved around the exhibits, collecting highlighters, pens and stress balls!

We then moved on to the keynote which was given by Oscar-winning animator Adam Eliot. It was a very entertaining speech and we had time to ask questions. Here are some take aways from the keynote:

• Adam won the Oscar despite being up against some big studios with big budgets. He had filmed "Harvey Krumpet" in his dad's storage unit, which was far from an ideal environment. He stated that "creativity comes from the person, not the technology".

Friday, July 26, 2013

I come across many students who feel that it is unacceptable to solve a Maths problem on first principles. They always go searching for a formula and, when none can be found, give up on the problem. In this blog post, I give two examples to illustrate this phenomenon.

What is five percent of 100?
Last term, I put a question to my year 7 class which involved calculating 5% of \$250? We had not covered percentages yet and I wanted to see how they would approach this. Some students had little difficulty with the calculation although the majority decided they couldn't do percentages. Some tried to remembered a formula they had learnt earlier.
Mr Baroudi, do you multiply by 100 over 1 or do you divide by 100 over 1?

I told them not to worry about any formal methods for the time being. Instead, I asked them, "What does 'per cent' mean?" Everyone seemed to know it meant "out of 100".
I drew the diagram below, one step at a time, asking them, "How much will we take out of this \$100 (or \$50)"?
 What is 5% of \$250?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A remarkable class that taught me as much as I taught it

This year, I offered a class for the first time to the school's year 10 students: Big Ideas in Computer Technology. The course was inspired by a lecture I had watched on Youtube in which Dr Daniel Garcia of UC Berkeley presents the idea of CS Principles, an advanced placement course being offered at some US high schools in a bid to foster greater interest in Computer Science among school-aged students.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Building an APP with students: The joys and lessons

On January 23rd, 2013, the Avila College APP Group's APP, Lock Spin, went live on the App Store. A few days earlier, it had been available from Google Play. In this post, I reflect on some of the lessons I drew from this experience.
The idea behind Lock Spin was to help incoming year 7s learn how to use their combination locks. It also turned a familiar item at school into something we could have fun with.