Archive for June, 2014

Math Shows True Feelings

Posted: June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

I love math. As an adult, I think I’ve grown a much larger love and appreciation of math. As a teacher I’ve seen so many different feelings about math among teachers. Some teach it because they have to, some try and stay away as much as possible, then some want to understand it a little more so they can help students as much as possible.

Then I read articles like “‘I’m Not a Math Person’ Is No Longer A Valid Excuse” by Business Insider. I agree with this statement, yet I still hear it all the time. ¬†When I’m teaching students I always change what they say when they give me an excuse on why they are not good. Something eye opening is when the parents say it as well at conference time. I start to understand why the student says it, because they’ve always heard it.

Some background on me:

  • My parents are not good at math and couldn’t help me with homework past 7th grade.
  • I received Bs and Cs on tests because I don’t well even though I had all As on assignments.
  • I dropped out of Calculus after the first semester of junior year of high school because I had a D and “I was not going to need this math as an adult”.
  • I have taught math to middle school students for a total of 4 years.

Three years ago I was thinking about math and how people felt and I took a survey. There was so much shared in the the results that I wrote several posts over it.

Over the past two years I have been teaching math to 8th graders. I continued to see the struggle that students had, which became my struggle to help them understand math more. It wasn’t always easy because so many have the thought instilled in them that they are not good at math.

Last summer I happened upon Danica McKeller’s Twitter account and learned that she is a mathematician. You may remember her as Winnie Cooper on the Wonder Years or most recently from Dancing with the Stars. As she stated on Dancing with the Stars, she has written books to help girls with math. These books are great to help explain math in today’s language and not always the words that math teachers are saying.

I guess what I’m trying to share here is that I agree with the Business Insider article that “But bad attitudes about math are holding us back.” We as educators need to be helping students understand math and see the math in the world around them. It is not a bad thing, it’s just something that “hard work and good study habits [are] important factors in improving math ability over time.”

Also, for the record, I am in the two-thirds department, I would rather do many math problems than clean clean a bathroom.

What do you think? Do teachers give the wrong impression or are we helping students go beyond their fears?

So it’s summer time and I was watching The Price is Right this morning. Now, I know some people don’t care for Drew Carey as the host, but I love how he made the show his own after taking over when Bob Barker retired. I love the new holiday episodes and the new ideas that he has brought to the game. In fact today, they brought social media into the show. What fun stuff!

Well, you know that I’m a math guy and let’s be honest, it’s math game. It always has been! So why not use the probability of each game to teach math? It’s right there! Real life!

So here’s a sample project you could do with the kids.

  1. Show them the Price is Right games website.
  2. Assign each person/group a row of five games. (You could also allow them to choose which they want to study)
  3. Students watch the videos of their games and figure out the probability of winning.
  4. If the contestant in the video loses, the student explains mathematically what they did wrong.
  5. Student makes a presentation sharing what they learned.
  6. If the student is able to go on the show AND choose one of their 5 games to play, which would they choose and why?

Allowing students to watch their own videos would mean that they are all needing to learn probability. They would not be able to sit and copy a neighbor. I also feel that really understanding how each game works and is played will get them excited to see the probability in all game shows. So many out there are based off of “luck” as many call it. Really, it’s just the probability of winning.

Another aspect that you could add to this is have the students create their own game and share the probability of winning for it. Students will start to see in the Price is Right games that they better chance of winning means a lesser prize, where as the cars and larger items have a smaller probability of winning.

Good luck!!!! – or should we say Happy Probability!!

In case you have some time to spare, watch the episode of all Plinko games!