## Archive for March 25, 2014

### Big Math in Central Texas

Several weeks ago, I went to Waco, TX, to deliver the keynote session at the Central Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference. But before we get into that, let’s start off with a little trivia about the Wacky City. Do you know…

What famous soft drink was invented by Dr. Charles Alderton at Waco’s Old Corner Drugstore in 1885?
Dr Pepper. (Note that there is no period after Dr in Dr Pepper. Why not? I have no idea.)

What university is currently located in Waco? BONUS: What university used to be located in Waco?
Baylor University; Texas Christian University.

What “wild and crazy” comedian was born in Waco?
Steve Martin.

After the presentation, I had the pleasure of meeting Ashleyanne Thornhill, who has a Pinterest page with over 300 math jokes. Definitely worth checking out.

My keynote presentation was Exploring Rich Problems with Technology and Online Resources. The following is one of the problems that I shared with the audience.

In the 2 × 3 multiplication table below, the numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, and 11 are used to replace the variables a, b, c, d, and e.

The six products are then found, and the sum of the products is calculated. What is the maximum possible sum of the six products?

The technology we used to explore that problem was Microsoft Excel. (You can see how we did it by visiting Multiplication Table at the MJ4MF website.) Not a new technology, to be sure, but an effective one.

As for new technology, I recommended three math apps that I think are worth knowing about:

The presentation went very well. For my efforts, I was given a Baylor Bears t-shirt, a BU hat, and I was named an “honorary bear.” Yee-haw!

What are some of your favorite technologies — old or new — for investigating mathematics?

I also presented a breakout session titled Punz and Puzzles. For those of you who weren’t able to join us in Waco but who will be attending the NCTM Annual Meeting, April 9‑12 in New Orleans, I’ll be giving a similar presentation titled Punz and Puzzles: Creating Environments Where Laughing and Learning Coexist, on Saturday, April 12, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in Room 214 of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Hope to see you there!

### It’s Not About the Standards

Dear Indiana,

I’m very glad that you have abandoned the Common Core, “designed [your] own standards” and, according to Gov. Mike Pence, “done it in a way where we drew on educators, we drew on citizens, we drew on parents.” This sounds familiar. Where have I heard such rhetoric before? Oh, that’s right… the NGA and CCSSO sang the praises of a similar process when the Common Core standards were developed.

And I love what you’ve done with your new standards! Look at this gem from the proposed Indiana standards for Grade 6:

Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, credits/debits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation.

You radicals, you! What a deviation from the Common Core State Standards for Grade 6! To wit:

Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, credits/debits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation.

How dare those pundits who called your new standards nothing more than a “warmed-over version” of the Common Core! I don’t think that’s true at all. Rather, I think they are better described as a “still-warm version,” since you didn’t let Common Core’s body get cold before pilfering verbiage.

But there are differences, to be sure. Like with ratios, where you ask students to know the three notations of a/b, a:b, and a to b. Well, bully for you! Chart your own course! Spread your wings!

Personally, I cannot wait for the new Indiana standards to be passed on April 28, and your school districts can once again adjust their curriculum, and teachers can change their lesson plans, in preparation for the new standards. Won’t that be fun, just two years after they started adjusting curriculum and changing lesson plans to prepare for Common Core? Perhaps they’ll get to do it again in 2017, when the political winds shift and his constituents decide that Governor Pence needs a different job.

And by the way, Governor Pence, I’d like to commend your cheeky use of the phrase “uncommonly high” to describe the new Indiana state standards. Bravo! What better way to trumpet your DOE’s good work than to sound like a Keebler elf at a NORML rally?

I cannot wait until that becomes the new state motto and starts appearing on license plates.

It’s not about whether students solve quadratic equations by plugging numbers into the quadratic formula or by completing the square. It’s not about whether students should graph quadratic functions with a calculator or by hand. It’s not even about whether or not students should learn about quadratics.

It’s about effective teaching and student learning.

It’s about a common discussion regarding what needs to happen in math education.

It’s about teachers from Wisconsin and California and Vermont and Alabama engaged in dialogue as professionals, in a community where their opinions matter and they are not merely enacting a pacing guide created to fulfill state mandates.

When I travel to New Orleans in a few weeks for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Meeting, there’ll be conversations between educators from different states. And sure, some of those conversations will be about effective strategies and exceptional classroom activities. But most of them will be comparing the classroom ramifications of political decisions.

• Oh, you get to teach math on a block schedule? That’s what our teachers wanted, but our administrators wouldn’t go for it.
• I would LOVE to have a SMART Board in my class. But our school board voted for new football uniforms instead of more technology.
• Well, maybe you thought it was good, but our district doesn’t teach adding fractions until Grade 7, so I’m not sure anything covered in this workshop will be relevant to me.

Don’t get me wrong, Hoosiers. I’m not mad at the state of Indiana. Hell, I love auto racing, Larry Bird, and corn. Instead, I’m frustrated at the state of education. How did we let things come to this?

Sincerely,

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

## MJ4MF (offline version)

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.