Thursday, March 28, 2013

Solar System Site

Does your student like astronomy and space? Take a look at NASA's Solar System Exploration site.

screen shot from

Whether or not your student is wild about space, check out NASA's Homework Helper:

Opening screen of NASA's Homework Helper.
Pull-down menu lets you pick a topic. 
Instead of looking all over the Web, you can find good, reliable information on NASA's site: "planet facts and trivia, the latest news and images from across our solar system and a bunch of slick extras to help impress your teacher."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Math Test for Graduation

This year 12th graders will have to have passed a state math test to graduate. Good story on KUOW: Ann Dornfeld, Many Wash. 12th Graders May Not Graduate Due To New Math Standards, KUOW, March 19, 2013. The State Board of Education page on graduation requirements is here.

Somali Poetry

Did you know that the Somali language wasn't written until about 1972? And setting it on paper was tied up with the dictator's efforts to control the flow of information and propaganda. Meanwhile, tape recorders were becoming affordable, so there was a big movement to circulate poetry on cassettes. Poetry was powerful and subversive. Check out this interview (To the Best of Our Knowledge, March 10, 2013).

A year ago I was tutoring a Somali girl who wrote poetry and I would have shared this with her, but she graduated and is away at college (hooray!).

Monday, March 11, 2013

Math with Computers

Last month I posted a link to Conrad Wolfram's Ted Talk when he argues that we waste time teaching students to calculate when we should be teaching them how to look at, think about, and solve problems mathematically. Wolfram and his allies are working toward this goal. For more, see the website

The Resources page links to more videos, news coverage, and some "explorations" (e.g., an essay explaining how a mathematician used computational techniques to figure out Hangman).

The Wolfram Demonstrations Project has thousands of examples of graphical depictions of problems.

screenshot from Wolfram Demonstrations homepage

In the list of topics, you find math, technology, economics, geography, and more. I chose "Kids & Fun" and then clicked on "Everyday Life."

The demonstration called "Blue Sky and Red Sunset" shows how the angle of the sun's rays changes the color of the sky.  You move the slider to change the angle and you see the colors change.

Blue Sky and Red Sunset screenshots

In the math section, I found this interactive demonstration showing the graphs of the derivatives of trigonometric functions:

Derivatives of Trig and Hyperbolic Functions screen shot
 It has been a very long time since I took calculus, but I suspect that being able to see the changes in the graphs would help a student see the relations among the functions.

There are over 200 puzzles.

To be able to interact with the demonstrations, you need to download Wolfram's free CDF (Computable Document Format) Player.

Vocabulary, Digital Content, Snowballs, and the State of the Union

Interesting comment about the importance of consciously working to develop childrens's vocabularies, all through school. Vocabulary, Digital Content, Snowballs, and the State of the Union, Teach, Learn, Grow: The Education Blog" Feb. 27, 2013. The author says, "students must be exposed to important words they can leverage across subjects (academic vocabulary) and they must be exposed to words repeatedly and in a context that allows them to add words to existing schema or frameworks of background knowledge."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The More You Know the More You Learn's blog has a post about a study that show that students with larger vocabularies learn new words faster. I suspect the same is true of all areas. The more math you know, the more quickly you can learn math, the more history you know, the more quickly you can learn history. One implication of this is that kids who fall behind in the early grades will have a harder and harder time as they progress through school. Ninth-grade history, for instance, will be much easier for the students who learned a lot of history in elementary school and middle school—both in class and through leisure reading, talking with parents, watching documentaries, and so on. Just as knowing more makes it easier to learn, knowing more also makes a subject more interesting and fun to learn more. I don't think it's a coincidence. It's just challenging to persuade a student who finds everything "boring" that it will probably get interesting if she puts in enough work to learn something.