Saturday, November 29, 2008

Long and Short of It

We are so thankful this year to have been able to take up once again our Thanksgiving tradition of camping at Pismo. It was just a few weeks before our planned trip last year that David had his stroke. Instead of being in Pismo on Thanksgiving Day, David was wheeled into church in a wheelchair. The picture above was posted to contrast that with the wheels he has this year!Our campsite was beautiful - lots of neat flora and fauna - lots of good times!This woodpecker sure had a smart idea for getting water! His home was in a tree just above this faucet.The butterflies are always migrating through this area at this time of year. They love the eucalyptus, and when their wings are closed they are quite well camouflaged. What could be better than a campfire?Jacob improvised a way to read even in the dark! He is really enjoying the Pendragon series - can't stop reading!The boys love the beach and the dunes. Caleb was fully immersed as often as possible - the only person on the beach IN the water! Apparently Caleb also likes being immersed in sand! We took a side trip to Cambria on our way home - to look for cool rocks! Until next year!
Our trip was shorter than usual and shorter than we would have liked, BUT it was longer than it might have been. Pismo is such a popular place to camp at Thanksgiving that you need to get reservations well in advance (7 months in advance!). We could not do that this year since we didn't know if David would be able to do this, so we took our chances and went without reservations in the hopes someone had canceled theirs and we could get in. David and Caleb left EARLY Wednesday morning, but what should have been a 4-hour drive became a 7-hour drive due to holiday traffic and accidents. When they pulled in there was ONE site left, and we had to go on a day-by-day basis - hoping each day a cancelation would occur so we could keep our site. When Caleb and David arrived it was pouring, and all the sites were filled not just with puddles but with ponds! They did set up camp, though, even knowing they might have to take it down the next morning! Anthony and Jacob and I left mid-afternoon, after school got out for them, and for us too it was nearly a 7-hour trip - same reasons - different accident. David got up early Thanksgiving morning, and we were able to give thanks that we could have the campsite yet that day and night. We were hoping to stay on, but the next morning the news was different, so we only got one full day to camp. But, as you can see from the photos above all of this was all well-worth it!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Joy of Percent (aka Chapter 7b)

This post is intended for my students :-)Well guys, I am learning AT LEAST as much about taping and uploading video as you will be learning about percent, and I am certainly learning the hard way!! I hope that this will be a useful experiment in teaching and helpful to you in the learning process!
(If nothing else you'll probably get a good laugh out of parts of this!)

Unfortunately, as part of my learning process I have had as many things fail as succeed (how many times did Edison have to try before coming up with a working lightbulb? - same sort of thing!).

UPDATE: Yea! As of 10am Wednesday morning I can change what my next sentences had been! THANKFULLY, it is the case that 4 clips are now up. All of section 7.4 is in the form of YouTube clips. They should open up for you here. If not, go to the address given below the clip; that will take you to the YouTube site. The last clip wouldn't upload to YouTube, so it is straight from this site. Notice that with the YouTube clips you can click on a button (second to the right) to make it full screen so you can see the work more clearly. Wow! Have I ever learned A LOT!! If you learn as much about decimals as I learned in figuring this out, you'll do GREAT!

. . . and now, HERE WE GO!

Section 7.4a Percent, Decimals & Fractions (part 1)

Section 7.4b Percent, Decimals & Fractions (part 2)

Section 7.4c Percent, Decimals & Fractions (part 3)

Section 7.5 Solving Percent Problems

Section 7.6 Applications of Percent: We will take this on on Monday. The learning curve was just too steep for me to get this all filmed and uploaded this fast. Your homework is to watch the clips that are up, try any practice problems given (and select your choice of a handful of odd-numbered problems from section 7.5 to try and check your answers), and do section 7.4 as listed in the syllabus. I'll see you Monday!


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Don't Miss the Holiday!

Donald wonders what all these images have in common and why today is a holiday. Can you help him figure this out before he misses out on all the fun?
Luckily for Donald the spirit of Disney brought him to Mathemagic Land where his curiousity was able to be assuaged!There he learned about the Golden Ratio and the fact that all of these images display it in some way. The Golden Ratio is intimately related to the Fibonacci Sequence, which begins with the numbers 1, 1, 2, 3, and yesterday was . . .

FIBONACCI DAY because the date was November 23 or 1123. I'm sure you're glad to know that and will make a point of celebrating next year by going out hiking and then coming back and watching Donald in Mathemagic Land!

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Time

Well, I may not have time to try to create anything like what's in my last post (nor the talent either!), but I did take time to draft with Anthony tonight. We were paired in the first round, which was kind of a bummer since it is single elimination. He beat me, BUT he won the draft. I guess it's not so bad losing to the person who won overall - especially not when he's my son. And I got a card I've been wanting since the set came out (see image) so I'm happy.

Now I'd better stay up most of the rest of the night! I usually finish grading mid-terms the day they are taken (yesterday in this case) so I can give IMMEDIATE feedback, even before class meets again, but it has been non-stop over here - mostly meetings all day, one right to the next, and stuff going on last night. I have a lot of email messages from students asking how they did. In case any of you reading this are my students, sorry - needed some mother/son bonding time - and couldn't get out of the rest of the busyness! NOW back to the tests!

More Time Than I!

Sometimes I am glad there are people who have more time than I do!

(If you can't see high quality click here and click on "watch in high quality" in the lower right.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hardest Hue to Hold

Poet Robert Frost once said that nature's first green is gold, but I'm finding nature's last green is gold too! For a few days I arrived home under a golden canopy. It was lovely! Sadly, as Frost tells us, nothing gold can stay.Going . . . . . . going . . . . . . gone. :-(Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Robert Frost(1874-1963)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nurturing the Kernel

The topic of yesterday's post - along with MANY other recent experiences in the same vein but in different areas of life - have made me negative, lacking in hope for society, education, the economy, the USA, the world, human integrity, justice, the future . . . well, that pretty much covers it!! So I needed to find a poem about hope. I think maybe it's still in there echoing against the shadows that are currently in my heart. I'll work on tending it.


A kernel of hope
Deep inside
Against the pain
The struggle

When tended
Memories ignite

When tested
For graven choices

In the dark
Against the shadows
In my heart
Raymond A. Foss (b. 1960)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Cheating and drugs are the same thing but opposite. With drugs, DOING something affects you later in life; with cheating NOT DOING something affects you later in life.

Anthony made this statement Monday on the way home from school, and I thought it sounded quoteworthy. It was a frustrating day for him. There'd been a sub in advocacy class, and other kids spent their time talking about methods they use for cheating on tests. Later in the day he had a quiz on the first 11 chapters of Huckleberry Finn, which he was to read over the weekend and which he spent a lot of time on. After class another student, one who got 6 out of 5 on the quiz, told Anthony he had skipped the reading assignment and just read the "SparkNotes" summary. There's another student in his AP (Advanced Placement = college level) Chemistry class who cheats on everything and BRAGS about the fact that he KNOWS NOTHING about Chemistry, a class in which he has an A. Then there's the kid who calls Anthony regularly asking him for answers to homework. Anthony offers to HELP him figure things out, but this kid just wants answers. Anthony says "no;" the kid asks "why?" Anthony answers, "Because it's cheating, and it's wrong." Yet although he gets the same answer every time, this kid keeps boldly calling and trying again!

For lots of reasons this is REALLY frustrating Anthony. He is putting in a lot of time and effort, and others are not but there are no consquences (at least not immediate consequences). Anthony will be competing for spots in colleges with these kids, and if they all have similar GPA's there is nothing to distinguish the kids who EARNED the grades from the ones who cheated, so he may lose a spot to someone with the same GPA who didn't earn it. He's also just disappointed because, at the AP level, Anthony thought he was among peers who shared his vision and values and interest in learning and is saddened to see more and more that this is not the case.

SO as we drove home we had the classic talk about how cheaters are really cheating themselves and how his life is now and will later be RICHER for the work he is doing - both through what he is learning and due to what this hard work now is training him for in terms of life in general - and how it's just important to do the right thing no matter what, which he will. (Being who I am I extended this to the current economic conditions of our country having come from greed and selfishness and - let's be honest - stupidity, and living for the moment instead of considering long-term consequences). That's when Anthony made the statement above, which I thought was quoteworthy.

I know cheating has been going on as long as there has been something to cheat on, and I'm just deluding myself if I think that's going to change, but that doesn't make it OK. Not only as a mother but as a fellow teacher I give this CHALLENGE to other teachers. Make it harder for kids to cheat: give frequent short pop quizzes on the basic concepts (and watch the kids while they take the quiz), make up questions on quizzes and tests that could only be answered by having read the book and not just the "SparkNotes" . . . and then be gutsy enough to do something about it if it becomes clear cheating is going on! If a kid acing your class fails every little pop quiz on the basics . . . uh . . . hmm . . .


ANECDOTE: I think a lot of people don't think this is a big deal - that it's just expected - a rite of passage - something "everybody" does. (Although I have to wonder how they would feel about having a doctor who cheating in order to pass his medical board test!) As a child I attended a Christian school. I remember one occasion in which students were caught cheating. The teacher sternly lectured the class about that being wrong, and the students were actually bold enough to answer back and even supported their "position" using scripture. They said, "The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself. Isn't it more important that we help other people than it is not to cheat?" They used THE BIBLE to justify cheating! If that can happen, maybe my "challenge" is hopeless, but I need to put it out there anyway.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Consider the thickness of a piece of standard binder paper - pretty thin - about 3/1000 (or 0.003) of an inch thick. Imagine tearing it in half and stacking up the two halves; now it's twice as thick but still pretty thin. Now tear it in half a second time and stack up the four pieces - then imagine tearing and stacking again and again until you have done so 50 times. IF you could do this 50 times how thick would the stack be?

This is the extra credit my students are working on this weekend.

In class I had them make a guess; their guesses ranged from 1 inch to 1 foot. They were being so conservative that I said, "I submit to you that it will be 5 million miles thick." After getting looks of shock I said, "Your extra credit assignment is to prove me wrong - or prove me right. It's due Monday."

What do you think the answer is? Was I just lying to get them interested? Am I right or wrong? If I'm wrong, by how much?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Unknown Annversary

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what
M.S. Merwin (1993)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Modern Tyranny

"Political correctness is tyranny with manners."
-Charlton Heston (b. 1924)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Upside-Down Math Education

The conference was GREAT! (As well as getting fired up again for teaching, which I find conferences always do for me, and as well as learning about math and education, I played roulette for the first time. I did so because a student of mine left class Wednesday saying, "Bet on black." Had I placed only one bet I would have been fine!)

Anyway, a while back I "promised" to post reasons to learn math. While I did write this up for my students I found it too long to post here. Now, however, I have a whole different vision.

At one session Edward Burger (pictured above) turned everything upside-down for me with regard to this question in a very exciting way that makes a lot of sense. He asked:
He went on to list 10 life skills that are also at the heart of learning mathematics:

1) Just do it.
2) Make mistakes and fail but never give up.
3) Keep an open mind.
4) Explore the consequences of new ideas.
5) Seek the essential.
6) Understand the issue.
7) Understand simple things deeply.
8) Break a difficult problem into easier ones.
9) Examine issues from several points of view.
10) Look for patterns and similarities.

I wish I could expand on every one of these, but I try not to get TOO long-winded on here. I will include some related quotes of his, though:
A teacher's goal is to touch lives, to change them, empowering students to think more effectively and to have them see and understand thier lives in a clearer more focused way.

As a community we don't teach our students the greatest lesson mathematics has to offer: HOW TO FAIL (and how to learn from failure).

Five percent of the grade in my class is failing well. If someone says something wrong it moves us forward, and the student doesn't have to be embarrassed about a mistake because it has contributed to the discussion.

Creativity can be taught. Teach students to look at the world, to think, to create . . .
POST SCRIPT: Part of the upside-down aspect of this is his suggestion to invert homework and classwork - for instance by having the lecture online so students take notes outside of class but THINK in class (rather than "recording minutes"). In class we should provide "opportunities for anxiety" - something that can prepare students for tests better than doing homework in relaxed situations. He had lots of suggestions for what to do in class: 1) STOP LECTURING, 2) Use activities like: "Speed Rounds," "Show No Work," "Round Robin," and "The Shuffle." 3) Provide opportunities for students to fail (safely) and show them how to learn from that failure - what specific lessons that failure teaches about what path not to take and why.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

WOW - Many Thanks!

David and I are so humbled and grateful for the prayers that continue to be said for him and us. Our prayer pager has been going off more in the last few days - since his one-year anniversary - than it had in a while (although we had still typically been getting one or two pages a day). It's been buzzing like crazy! More people must read our blog than I had realized! It brings tears to our eyes to be upheld in this way. It also challenges us to be as faithful in prayer for others as we are seeing done for us.


Aside: This is going to be an all-male household for a few days. I leave tomorrow immediately after work for a math conference in Reno, Nevada. I'm kind of shocked that a gambling town like Reno would welcome a huge math conference. I would think they'd be worried about people being too good with probablility and statistics in that sort of group. Hmm . . .

Anyway, for those of you that are used to hearing from me regularly by email, don't worry when you don't see anything from me in your inbox for a few days (or if I don't reply right away as usual). I'm OK - just out of town and learning more math! :-)

I'm hoping there won't be snow issues in the Sierra Nevada as I make the trek over the mountains there and back. I'm not so fond of driving with chains - or in the snow for that matter.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Year of Thanks

Today is the one year anniversary of David's stroke. Before saying anything else, I want to thank all those who have prayed for him and our family this past year and to thank those who continue praying as he continues to work hard at therapy and to hold out hope for full recovery.

We have so much to be thankful for! We had so many reminders this morning. Last year I was driving David's grey van - following an ambulance on a damp early morning - not knowing how to turn on the lights or the windshield wipers and not having enough light to figure it out! Thankfully that morning not many vehicles were on the road yet as I drove without lights and with my head stuck out the window to see! This morning David was driving the van on a bright morning as we all set out for church dressed up in our Sunday best - very different scenes!!

I hope to write more later, and David is planning to write on his page too, but right now we are busy with the normal things of everyday life - getting the Sunday noon meal ready. It's a miracle that we are in a position to be busy with the normal things of everyday life!

As I get on to write again, it is the end of the day - actually it is technically "tomorrow." Rather than writing more of my words about how David is doing, I will let the words David wrote of his own experience on his page stand for themselves - what it is like to be him one year after a major stroke. Tomorrow night - I mean later today! - he and I will go out to eat at Johnny Carino's to celebrate life! Today we celebrated with a game of Settlers of Catan. David's favorite way to celebrate is playing games.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Forever Friends

We are having a special reunion today with friends who moved across the country about a year ago. It's like the kids were never apart. Two of the boys (the two in the middle) were born about an hour apart on the same day in the same hospital, so we call them twins. I interrupted their "Lava Monster" game for a quick pose (click on images to enlarge).And then for a hearty meal of pizza after a long day of outdoor play: