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The Virtual Mentor 2011-2012

Mid April

If you are looking for some videos that will help your students understand their math, you should check out the 1000 movies that are available to teachers, students and parents at http://mathflix.luc.edu . This is a joint project of Loyola University Chicago's School of Education and the Chicago GEAR UP Alliance.

Links to the movies are can be accessed either through the teacher or student links from the homepage. If you use the teacher link, you will find links to collections of movies sorted by topic and placed in categories by NCTM Standards. The videos are between 4 and 7 minutes in length. There are also downloadable worksheets to go along with some of the movies to give your students extra practice.

These would be great assignments for the students to watch at home with a parent so the parent can be "refreshed" in the techniques their children are learning.

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


Early April

Please join us at the MCTM CONNECT session for pre-service and beginning teachers on Thursday May 3, 2012, from 7pm to 9pm, the evening before the joint MCTM/MinnMATYC Spring Conference. Enjoy a meal compliments of MCTM, meet and network with other attendees and leaders of mathematics education, receive advice and suggestions about getting the most out of your conference attendance, and participate in the famous door prize and book give-away.

If you haven't already done so, please pre-register by April 27. You can do so, by sending an email to ajsweeney@stkate.edu giving me your:

  • first name
  • last name
  • level you are teaching or working (or wanting to teach) -- elementary, secondary, post secondary, advisor
  • your school
  • your email address
  • and whether you are an MCTM or MinnMATYC member

There will be on site registration but reservations are suggested so we can order enough food. The registration table will open at 6:30 PM.

This is a great opportunity to have a lot of fun while you are learning lots and meeting new people.

MCTM CONNECT (Committee to Orient and Network New/Novice Educators into a Community of (Math) Teaching) is an initiative of MCTM that attempts to reach out and support pre-service Math teachers and those in their first few years.

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


Late March

Did you know the the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has an amazing amount of material and resources for teachers? You would expect it to, but have you ever taken the vast amount of time you would need to really explore their "Resources for Teaching Math" site -- Illuminations. The NCTM Illuminations site has interactive activities, lessons, web links, and more. The main problem is that it is so big and has so much, sometimes you just don't know what is available. To help solve that problem, NCTM has an Illuminations Newsletter, Bright Ideas.

Bright Ideas comes via email and always has links to a featured activity (and usually some background info about it), information on institutes or other professional development opportunities, links to a resource (this past issue had a link to the Dynamic Paper tool) and a link to a Brainteaser (the past issue featured Illuminations' Ken Ken puzzles.) If this were a newsletter for a commercial product, it would be blatant advertising -- but since it is from our professional organization and it is for free and it is full of good ideas, I do like it. You can subscribe for free by going to http://illuminations.nctm.org/NewsletterSubscriptionForm.html and filling in the form.

Have fun with all of the Illuminations resources.
Ann

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


Early February

There is something for everyone here -- all based on emails that I've received from a couple of you.

Elizabeth wrote to ask if I was aware that there is a site that sends teachers free KenKen puzzles to use with their classes. If you go to http://kenken.com you will find the link for teachers to sign up for this free service. As she points out, "These are great for logic and arithmetic practice." You can also solve various sizes of KenKen online at the home page.

Another mentee wrote to ask for some suggestions on where she might find interesting lesson plans or activities. There are lots of sites that have lesson plans and activities -- some much better than others. I thought I'd mention two. The first is an NCTM site at http://illuminations.nctm.org . If you've never visited the Illuminations site, you need to do so. There are some excellent online activities and lesson plans. Some, but not all, of the lesson plans are linked to the online activities. You can search the lesson plans by grade band and by standards as well as limit your search to those that are paired with activities.

The other free set of activities I want to mention comes from Texas Instruments. For several years, TI has sent out free activities to teachers who sign up for them for Algebra 1 & 2, Geometry, Precalculus, Calculus and Statistics. All can be done with the TI-Nspire, 84 and 89 series. They have a searchable archive that allows you to search for the subject area and download activities. You can find all of this at http://education.ti.com/calculators/timath . TI also has a program that allows you, as a teacher, to borrow calculators for your class.

Hope you had a Happy Leap Day.
Ann

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


Early February

I know that I sent you several websites in Dec. that had puzzles for your enjoyment. I want to add a site to those that has a wonderfully wide range of puzzles for your students. I was introduced to Puzzle Choice at http://www.puzzlechoice.com by the presenters at the January meeting of the Twin Cities Math Teachers Circle when I was a guest attendee. Of course, we had great fun, and I'm sure your students will, too.

One of the Virtual Mentees sent me a recommendation for http://www.abettercalculator.com . It is a wonderful on-line grapher that you and your middle and high school students will find helpful. You can save graphs, use color, use examples, etc.

If you haven't looked recently, click on the "Grants & Scholarships" in the left side menu to read about 4 wonderful opportunities for you to apply for money to use for taking classes, attending conferences, or trying something new. A couple of the deadlines are in March, so be sure to check them out.

Ann

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


Late January

While I was looking for something online last week, I stumbled across a wonderful site that contains a lot of math in very "unmathematical" video presentations -- or, at least your students will think so. The site is Vi Hart's and her videos on "Doodling in Math Class" are really good. Go to http://vihart.com/doodling to see her wonderful doodles and games that lead her to some great math concepts. Vi was just recently employed by Khan Academy but established her web site and videos before her employment, and intends to continue her work. Besides the doodling videos, you can also access her blog videos. Vi is a very creative woman. She will teach you how to slice an apple to show various shapes; how to make mathematical shapes out of balloons and beads; and how to make musical instruments out of paper. You'll find yourself wanting to show (and watch) all of her videos.

Did you know that you can now follow MCTM on Twitter -- @mctm_mn ? Check it out.
Ann

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


January

You will also see information about the MCTM Foundation Grants that are available to both beginning and mid-career teachers for financial support to participate in the conference. I know that much of the money the Foundation has designated for this has gone unused in past years. Don't let this opportunity pass you by!

There are still spots available to be a session or workshop presenter. Grab a partner or two and send in your ideas for a great presentation. The submission form is here on the MCTM site. There are reduced registration rates for those of you who present by yourself or are the lead of a group of presenters. Here's another opportunity that makes the conference very affordable!

While you are registering for the MCTM conference, you should also consider registering for the Ross Taylor Symposium for Mathematics Education and Leadership that is held each year on the day before the conference at the DECC. This year it is on Thursday, May 3 and has the theme "The Minnesota Mathematics Frameworks: Linking Minnesota Standards and Classroom Practices." Information and registration forms are here on the MCTM website.

Another conference coming up this spring is the Winning Strategies Conference at Normandale Community College. It is on Sat., March 10 from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Registration and a continental breakfast start at 8 and the keynote begins at 9:00. The theme of the conference is "Education in the 21st Century -- Living Life to the Fullest and Making a Positive Difference in your World. Breakout sessions include: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Social Skills, Transitioning, Mental Illness, Conflict Mediation, and Literacy/Math/Technology Skills. The fee is $15 and you can register at http://www.ecsu.k12.mn.us/registration/RegStart/3193.

It's not too early to start planning your spring professional development.
Ann

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


December

We all need balance in our lives if we are going to be the best educators that we can be. Since we tend not to take the time we need for ourselves and since Christmas is coming, I thought I'd send you some sites for you to help you find the balance you need. Give your self a Christmas present and spend some time investigating and playing on these sites!

I find that those of us interested in mathematics tend to like doing puzzles. They relax us and keep our brains stimulated. There are puzzles galore at http://www.puzzlebaron.com , http://www.dailysudoku.com and http://www.kenken.com , among many other sites.

The Puzzle Baron has a lot of word puzzles along with sudokus and logic puzzles. As its name says Daily Sudoku has new puzzles everyday and an archive of its classic, monster, kids and squiggly sudokus. It also has some nurikabe puzzles but is not updating them. Kenken.com, of course, has various sizes of Ken Ken puzzles. There are enough puzzles on these sites to keep you busy and relaxed for a long time.

Another great archive of puzzles is the one the Car Talk Guys on NPR keep on their website at http://www.cartalk.com/content/puzzlers . If you've ever listened to their show, you are aware that they are the funniest mechanics and have their degrees from MIT. They answer car questions from callers and give listeners a puzzle every week. They very often have mathematical or logical puzzles and they are good ones.

Have a wonderful Christmas and keep your brain agile with all these puzzles.
Ann

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


Thanksgiving 2011

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is dedicated to the teaching and learning of mathematics for preK - 12. As an organization, it offers teachers many resources. One of them is a great website, Illuminations, at http://illuminations.nctm.org . On this free site, you'll find 107 online activities and over 600 lessons, as well as a list of hundreds of websites.

You can search the activities by grade band. Each activity includes instructions and most have explorations to use. You, of course, can use your own.

You can search the lessons by grade level and NCTM standard. You also have the option to have it return only those lessons that have online activities.

I hope you have some time over Thanksgiving to play around with the Illuminations site and find some great activities and lessons for you classes.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Ann

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


Early November 2011

Are you looking for something a bit different, that involves you and your students thinking about something together and is an open ended problem or one with different solutions? The folks at the Computer Research and Applications Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory may have just what you want on their MEGA Mathematics site.

The opening page says, "The MegaMath project is intended to bring unusual and important mathematical ideas to elementary school classrooms so that young people and their teachers can think about them together." At http://www.ccs3.lanl.gov/mega-math/index.html you'll find links to their topics. There is "The Most Colorful Math of All" about map coloring. At "Games on Graphs", there is a story that your students will act out on a graph, with suggestions for extensions and other games to go along with the story. "Untangling the Mathematics of Knots" is about knot theory, while "Algorithms and Ice Cream for All" has the students learning about minimum distances and the Brute Force Method. Other activities are titled "Welcome to Hotel Infinity", and "A Usual Day at an Unusual School".

Due to lack of funding, the site has not had any additions or updates since 2007 but it is still full of ideas for your classroom. Everything is included to help you make the activities easy to prepare and fun to do with your students.

Have fun thinking with your students about topics that you don't find in your texts.
Ann

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


October 2011

I love the British terminology of "maths" because it does emphasize that math encompasses many topics. Maths Online is a good example. Part of the site is open to nonmembers ( http://www.mathsonline.co.uk/nonmembers/resource ) and includes links to Ideas on using spreadsheets in math class, probability simulations,algebra with patterns and sequences and lesson plans.

I played around quite a bit with the probability simulations. One is 7 sets of spinners with the numbers from 1 to 4, 5, or 6. In all but one set, the numbers are equally likely. The numbers spun can be added or subtracted and can be done up to 1 million times (if you are willing to wait that long). As the results of the spins are computed, as bar graph is drawn while you watch. There is also a simulation of coin tossing for up to 10 coins and up to 10 million times. Again, a bar graph is drawn as each toss is completed. In "Santa's Sack" a toy is drawn out of one of 5 sacks up to 1 million times. A tally is shown of the number and percent of each type of toy drawn and the students are asked to guess how many of each type of toy is in the sack. In "Chase Me", the roll of 2 dice are simulated with the students determining on which totals the tortoise or the hare will run. At the nonmembers site, you also have access to parts of the Game Room and the Worksheet Library.

At another section of the site, http://www.mathsonline.co.uk/index.phtml?d=18827 , there are samples that include whiteboard tools and other games.

Have fun exploring this site.
Ann

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


Late September 2011

I know that it seems awfully early to be thinking about the MCTM Annual Spring Conference in Duluth in 2012 -- especially since we haven't even had the Annual Fall Conference, yet -- but I wanted to give you a heads-up about an opportunity to apply for financial support to attend the conference. The MCTM Foundation is now accepting applications for support to attend the Spring Conference and will continue accepting them until Jan. 15, 2012. So, you have a lot of time to think about applying and to work on your winning application. In the past money that has been earmarked for this support has gone unspent because of the lack of applicants. Don't let that happen again! Apply now and start planning on on your trip to Duluth. You can get all the details and download the application at http://www.mctm.org/foundation.php . There is money set aside for both beginning and mid-career teachers.

While you are on the MCTM website getting the application, be sure to register for the Fall Conference. Click on the menu link on the left that says "Conferences". It is on Friday, Oct. 21 at Maple Grove Senior High School. See you there.

The NCTM also has money available through the Mathematics Education Trust for grants, scholarships and awards in different categories ranging from prospective teachers to those with years of experience from the preK through 12 levels. These funds are to support classroom teaching in improving classroom practices. All the information is at http://www/nctm.org/resources/content.aspx?id=198#pk5 . There are links to proposal abstracts and tips for writing successful proposals. The deadlines for different types of funding are Nov. 11, 2011 and May 4, 2012.

Start your applications early to give yourself adequate time to write the winning one!
Ann

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University

 

 


September 2011

Welcome to the 2011 - 2012 school year. I hope everyone had a very restful and rejuvenating summer, no matter which side of the desk you are on.

As you are starting off teaching a new class or student-teaching or continuing to take classes yourselves, don't forget that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the MInnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM) are organizations whose missions are to help you become the best math teacher that you can be.

The NCTM's website has tips for teachers ranging from "Starting Student Teaching" to "What I wish I'd known before starting teaching" to " Starting the first day on the right foot". You can find them all at http://nctm.org/tips and you do not have to be a member to access these tips. Parts of the NCTM website do require a membership to access, but not all of it.

Unlike the NCTM, MCTM does not require membership to access any part of its website at http://www.mctm.org . Here you will find items particular to MN math standards and tests as well as links to the "Ask Matt Mentor" and "The Virtual Mentor" archives. There is also information about upcoming MCTM conferences and grant opportunities.

Be sure to explore both of our organizations sites. You will find many helpful ideas. If you have a question that doesn't seem to be answered, be sure to pose it to either Matt Mentor or me.

Have a wonderful year exciting your students about mathematics!

Ann

Ann Sweeney
MCTM Virtual Math Mentor
St. Catherine University