Monday, October 27, 2008

A little off topic

MathML Strengthens Digital Math Texts
Digital texts are moving beyond simply putting pages on a computer screen.
In Kentucky, a small pilot study is demonstrating the benefits of this textbook technology for students with different learning styles. Instead of re-creating a complex math problem as a static image file, digital texts that use math markup language, or MathML, are able to speak words and equations while highlighting corresponding elements on a computer screen.
MathML-enabled digital texts helped the study's very small cohort of students struggling with printed text outperform peers who used traditional print texts. Many students said that before MathML, they'd see a problem but not know how to say it. Hearing the formula and how to say it was a big help to these students.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The fence question

So I assigned the classic fence-against-the-river question to my group (you have 200m of fencing, what's the largest rectangular area you can contain where one side is not needed against the river). We had just started quadratics so they have no real background in it at all. One student solved it thusly:
1) He made a table of values for a few fences:
Then, he turned to Maple. We had done a unit on linear systems and did a few questions on finding lines of best fit... so he used the Curve Fitting Tool to find the best fit parabola, then found the vertex of the parabola and hence the best area.
Then he found the vertex of the parabola by zooming:
Almost every other student did it the traditional way of setting up the equation, graphing and finding the vertex. I thought it was a nice bit of synthesis from the previous unit to approach it in this fashion!

Monday, October 20, 2008

So a little further

Well, we're into quadratics now. The one section is doing really well incorporating Maple into their learning process -- they fluidly jump back and forth between Maple & OneNote. The other class more stubbornly holds on to doing everything by hand/calculator. I keep struggling to move this section to a more exploratory model but they will have none of it.

Maple still perplexes us from time-to-time... the switching between independent & dependent variables based upon alphabetical order is one of the more irritating ones. It will graph it in the desired order but as soon as you change the window (axes, zoom, etc) it switches the order! I've gotten around it by choosing my variables appropriately but when they experiment the students don't always think to (nor should they have to).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Well, we've used the Curve Fitting Tool for the past couple of classes. Lesson learned: it's best to be descriptive in your variables because using x and y is not conducive to the CFT (it wants to use x as the regression variable).
We're on to quadratics now; I wish the spreadsheet tool was a little more flexible than it is and followed Excel notation ... having to add the tilde before the cell reference is clumsy. I also wonder if there's a way to have the column filled by a list variable?
Oh... and results on the survey coming up.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The test

Things that immediately pops up....
Having them able to use the TEXT to describe their variables and present their solutions neatly. We focused so much on the math work that I didn't do enough on using the text component to explain the setup and solution. Sigh.... only so many hours in a class is one excuse, but it is an excuse, I should have done it. Goal for the next unit.
And another thing... having them use the HELP function in case they got stuck during a test.
They are also spending a long time (relatively speaking) per question on the Maple as opposed to the written portion. They finished up the written part (3 algebraic solutions, 1 graphical, 2 analysis questions) in about a half hour, then took another half hour to finish up 1 graphical & 1 algebraic question in Maple. Something is up there... going to survey them to see what they thought.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Leading by the nose? Or breaking a path?

Well, we did a bit of direct instruction (not Direct Instruction, which is completely different... kinda like variables in poorly designed programming languages) where, in order to lead them through using Maple to get a least squares line for a set of data, I had to go through with them step-by-step. For one, I didn't plan enough time to write out instructions & film them ... 2nd, I wanted to be able to discuss WHY we were doing each step with the students.

It went VERY well... in fact, I had a number of students say "I really like using Maple" and most were actively engaged. I did have one student get frustrated and say "I hate Maple" but a caveat: he's not the most focused student and tends to make sloppy errors. His adjacent seatmate helped him make corrections.

They also wanted to experiment a bit... one student didn't want to write all the years 1989-1992 so wanted to write that Year:=1989..1992. I said there was a way to do that so I'll have to work that idea in later.

I'm really hoping that they are open to experimentation... they seem okay with the "button pushing" process but, of course, I really want them to focus on mathematics problem solving.