Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mathematics Suffers Again

Russian mathematician Dr. Grigori Perelman may turn down a one million dollar prize for solving the Poincare Conjecture. He turned down a similar prize several years ago, and may also turn down this one offered by the U.S. Clay Mathematics Institute. The 46-year old reclusive genius does not seek fame or fortune.

In one way, I applaud him for his love of mathematics and his total devotion to it, not wanting the awards. I also appreciate his integrity.

In another way, it bothers me that once again we have a genius mathematician who does not fit into society, nor wants to. It gives the "normal" members of society another reason to think that anyone who devotes their life to mathematics is "weird." The study of mathematics is already held in disdain by many. We really don't need to give them any more reasons to think this.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More on Gratitude

As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily. The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world.

~Terri Guillemets

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Break Should Not Be For Children

When I was in college, two friends and I went to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break. At that time we each took $100 with us for the two weeks we were there. Thank goodness one of our friends had moved there two years before. It gave us an opportunity to see her and we got free room and board. The money we took went for gas and meals for the trip there and back.

Our parents were worried about us and almost didn't let us go. But we were 19 or 20 years old and they didn't really get to make the decision for us. By that age, we were adults and we knew how to behave like adults. There were no drugs. There was only one or two drinks during the entire two weeks. We simply enjoyed the beach, the sun, the palm trees, the ocean, and the company of good friends.

I worry about students today. And I don't understand parents. Students as young as 15 (maybe younger) are allowed to go off on their own to Cancun or Cozumel or Acapulco. I know some of these students. They are not adults; they are children and they think like children. They put on a good show to their parents, but once they're out on their own, it is a different story. I've heard some of the stories they tell when they return home. I'm sure these are stories they have not told their parents.

Today I was reading about the number of assaults on young women that have taken place already. I urge parents not to let underage children go on spring break. I don't care how much they beg or how many of their friends are going, don't let them go unless you will be there also. I know you want to trust them, but if you can't be there with them, find other activities for them to do around home. Be the parent.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Learn Everything

"Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can - there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did."

Sarah Caldwell

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Wedding

My niece got married this afternoon. I can't believe it. She and her husband both seem so young. In fact, he was one of my students shortly before I retired. Tonight I only want to tell them that it was a beautiful wedding and that I wish them all the best for the future.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Break

Spring break at Panama City Beach, FloridaImage via Wikipedia

Spring break is coming up for thousands of students across the country. I have only one piece of advice for students on careful and think ahead.

There are hundreds of ways students can get in trouble when they're out from under the watchful eye of their parents. These activities or events can have lifelong consequences. So think ahead. Consider each action you're taking. If you think that it could get you in trouble or come back to haunt you at a later date, don't do it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Earth Hour 2010 is on March 27

Saturday evening at 8:30 local time people across the world will be turning out their lights in an effort to call attention to climate change. So what can you do during your hour of darkness? Care 2 has seven suggestions:
1. Get amorous
2. Enjoy dinner by candlelight
3. Take a bubble bath
4. Meditate
5. Gaze at the stars
6. Take a moonlit walk
7. Host an Earth Hour party with friends

Seven other things to do with children include:
1. Light candles and do shadow puppets
2. Read by flashlight or candlelight
3. Tell stories
4. Camp in the yard
5. Play guitar, sing
6. Play games like 20 Questions
7. Talk...we don't do enough of this

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

There Are Limits

I've been playing three games on Facebook. Two of them, Farm Town and YoVille just take a few minutes each day. But the third one, Zoo World, takes way more time than I probably should be giving it.

Each day I get invitations to play more games. There's Cafe World, PetVille, Happy Aquarium, Farmville, Mafia Wars, Fish World, Birdland, Hatchlings, Hospital City, Fish Isle, My Town, Mobsters, Vampire Wars, Castle Age, World at War, Island Life, Country Life, Tiki Farm, Island Paradise, and many more.

A friend of mine plays about ten of them. I don't know how she does it. The last invitation I received, I politely declined giving the excuse that I had to have some time to eat and shower. These games are time-consuming; enjoyable, but time-consuming. A person could spend all their time doing just these games.

The same applies to students in school. Some students get so involved in school activities, all other aspects of their lives, including grades, can suffer. This is even more of a problem in the spring. Activities include track and field, tennis, swimming, softball, baseball, golf, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, and probably some others I haven't thought of.

And some students want to be involved in them all. I had students who were involved in so many activities in the spring that they were never home. In addition, they tried to have jobs as well. Homework was done in the car or bus on the way to events. As a result, many of their grades suffered. They, and their parents, had forgotten that the primary purpose of school was an education.

Just like the games on Facebook, school activities are fun...lots of fun. But they are time-consuming. Students have to set limits on themselves, and if they can't, then it's the parents' job to make sure students are putting their studies first, then their activities in reasonable amounts.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Play Outside

It really felt like spring today. Sunny. Warm. It reminded me of when I was a kid and we had that first spring day when we could play outside without a coat.

At dinner tonight my husband and I were talking about the things we did on that first day. Our list included bicycling, tag, hula hoops, pogo sticks, hide and seek, jump rope, flying kites, and many others. We were outside from the time we got home from school until it got dark or it was bedtime, whichever came first. We played and played and at bedtime we were tired and slept well.

I was trying to think of the last time I saw kids outside playing. Occasionally one rides past the house on a bicycle, but that's it. It's little wonder kids today are obese and have all the health-related problems that go along with that obesity. They don't seem to play outside.

I think a little more fresh air and fun outside could go a long way to solve the childhood obesity epidemic. Find something outside that you like to do.......then do it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

World Water Day

Mwamanongu Village water source, Tanzania. &qu...Image via Wikipedia

Today is World Water Day. The focus is to make people aware of the importance of clean water and to realize that a billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water. Over half the world's illnesses are a result of water that is not clean and 42000 die each week because of unclean water. An international observance, it grew out of 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

Events to increase awareness include fundraising walks, radio talk shows, conferences, and workshops.

If you have clean water, be grateful, and consider helping those who don't by supporting one or more of the many organizations devoted to cleaning the world's water supplies. Some of those organizations are charity: water, The Water Project, Give Clean Water, Drop in the Bucket, Clean Water Action, Project Clean Water, and others.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Student Loans Tied to Health Care?

Regardless of whether you support health care reform or not, you must admit that tonight's events in the House of Representatives is historic. For decades, presidents, Republican and Democrat, have tried to reform health care, but tonight it finally passed. Social studies teachers across the country should be making this part of their lesson plans for the upcoming week.

What you may not know, however, is that there is another part of the bill that was voted in tonight dealing with education. Student loan reform was attached to the health care bill. It changes the way student loans are funded, no longer relying on private funding. It may be the biggest change in education since No Child Left Behind.

The bill will increase Pell grants and make it easier for students to repay loans. Some argue that it will cause a loss of jobs and put loans in the hands of the government.

Every student considering a student loan should be aware of the contents of this legislation. It may actually affect your lives more than health care.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Check With Your Teachers

Yesterday was about 60 degrees. Motorcycles were out in full force. Today the temperature was down around 30 degrees and there is about an inch of snow on the ground. They're predicting snow and freezing rain for tomorrow. It only makes sense because today is the first day of spring.

For many students, it's almost time for the end of third quarter. Report cards will be coming out and the end of the school year is in sight. While you can't do anything about the weather, you can do something about those grades. Check with your teachers. Find out what your grade currently is. If it's not where you'd like it to be, take steps to change it. The best place to start is to meet with your teacher and ask what you can do. Then do it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is Firing Teachers the Best Solution?

Over the last couple of weeks several people have asked me what I think about the firing of all the teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. The truth is that I don't know what to think.

My first reaction was "how horrible." I can't even imagine being in the position of one of those teachers. I'm certain there were excellent teachers in this school. As in every organization, I'm also sure there were those that probably deserved to be fired. But this is like giving the whole class detention because three or four students caused trouble. Administrators would never let a teacher get by with that.

This is a high school where a large percentage of students are failing. Obviously something needed to be done. You can't fire the students or their parents. The only option, after talks with the union fell apart, was to fire the teachers. There are so many sides to this issue, that it's almost impossible to take sides.

I read that if these teachers reapply, they might be rehired. I thought about this. If I were one of these teachers, would I want to go back?

If I were new to the district, would I even want to apply for a position, knowing what had happened to the previous staff. I think I would prefer a little more job security.

I also read (I think these numbers are correct) that the median salary in this community is $22,000, but that the average teacher's salary is $72,000. In my district, median household income is $32,000 and average teacher's salary is about $46,000. When I retired I had a master's degree plus an additional 54 semester hours, 32 years of experience, was department chair, and made about $50,000. I think $72,000 is a little high considering the income of the Central Falls community in general. And these teachers, in their talks with the district, were asking for more compensation because they were being asked to do extra work and put in extra hours.

So what's a district to do when the students are failing? I personally think the entire educational system needs to be reformed, but reforming a system is practically impossible. Instead, we just keep trying to find quick fixes. In this case, it seems firing the entire staff was the quickest fix. Is it the best solution to the problem? Somehow I doubt it. What do you think?

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm Suspicious

A couple of months ago, it was announced that all teachers in our district (and in our state) would be taking a 10% cut in pay for next year. Recently, there has been talk of closing a school, cutting teachers, and eliminating programs. Today, I read in the paper that there will be no textbook purchases for next year. All of this is required to cut about three million dollars from the budget.

While all this is not pleasant (and may not actually be necessary), it is very likely to take place. However, I'm always suspicious. I've seen it before. All the cuts for teachers and programs take place in the spring, then the administrators salaries are negotiated in the summer. So often, an amazing amount of funds appear to allow for these people to get their raises.

It will be particularly interesting this summer. At the end of this school year, the superintendent is moving to another district. With all the cuts taking place this spring, I'm anxious to see the offer that will be made to a new superintendent. I guess we'll see if the district is truly in the dire straits that it claims to be.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Too Many Tweets

Tonight I spent over an hour trying to get on Twitter. I kept getting a message that there were too many tweets. I finally gave up and never logged in.

This was unusually irritating to me. It doesn't usually bother me and it really wasn't that important that I put my message on Twitter. But what if it was important? What if it was my homework? I wondered how many students out there had some required tweet they had to post. If it was my homework, I would have been so frustrated and upset.

So what can a student do if this happens? First, write your tweet on paper and plan to turn it into your teacher the next day. Second, if you have your teacher's email address, send them a message about the problem and include your tweet. At least he or she will know that you've done the assignment and made the effort. Third, if your teacher has voice mail at school (please don't call them at home), leave a message there. Again, explain the problem and recite your tweet. At that point, you've covered all your bases. Then keep trying to get on Twitter. If you wait a while longer, you may be able to connect. Last night, I finally gave up, but if I had had an assignment, I would have kept trying much longer. The last thing you should do is make sure you see your teacher first thing in the morning. Hopefully they will have received your email or phone call, but visiting them first thing in the morning shows you are sincere in your efforts to get your homework completed.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Khan Academy Sample

Yesterday I wrote about Khan Academy and included an introductory video about Sal Khan. Today, I'd like to give a sample video of what you'll find when you visit Khan Academy.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Khan Academy

When I first visited the Khan Academy, I was so impressed with the videos Sal Khan has placed on YouTube, I emailed the website link to the teachers I used to work with. Most of the videos are the same thing students see in class, but since they're online, the students can go back over them as many times as needed; something not possible in the classroom. The following video gives background information about Khan Academy. I know that if I were teaching now, every one of my students would have the link to his website and his YouTube videos.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Great Slice of Pi

I've written two posts about Pi and Pi Day. Since today was Pi Day, I just want to say that it was an excellent day. Even though it was an hour shorter because of daylight savings time, it was great. Even though I didn't actually eat any pie, I still had a good day.

Now it would have been better with that extra hour. And a nice slice of apple pie a la mode would have made it perfect. But all in all, a day of reading and relaxing is a pretty good day.

Everyone needs this kind of day. I think you should have them at least once a week. Try it. You'll like it.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ten Activities for Pi Day

English: Pi Pie, created at Delft University o...Image via Wikipedia

Tomorrow is Pi Day (March 14), but there's no reason it can't be celebrated on Monday, when school is in session. A little over a week ago I wrote about Ten Reasons I Love Pi. Today I want to give ten activities that can be used to promote Pi Day.

1. Have students use string to measure the circumference of circular shapes. Then have them measure the diameter of that shape. Divide the circumference by the diameter. Make sure to use a variety of sizes of circles for this activity. I found that lids from cans and containers work very well for this.

2. For younger children the above activity can be modified. It requires no measuring or dividing mathematically. Take the string, wrap it around the circular object, let's say a lid, and cut it where the string starts to overlap. Then take that string, put one end on the edge of the lid, stretch it across the middle of the lid, and cut it on the other edge of the lid. Do this a second and a third time. Everyone, whether they're using a milk cap or peanut butter lid, should get about three pieces of string cut from the larger piece. (Source: Exploratorium)

3. Make Pi Day greeting cards.

4. Write Pi Day poetry or puns or songs.

5. Get a collection of hats that have the sizes marked inside. Have the students find a hat that fits them. Measure the circumference of the student's head and divide it by Pi. Compare that number to the hat size. (Source: Exploratorium)

6. Study the history of Pi from ancient Egypt through its use today to test hardware reliability of super computers.

7. Make coupons in the shape of slices of pie. Students earn the "Pi" coupons for a variety of tasks like answering a question or getting a certain score on their homework. Coupons can then be used to "buy" a pencil or 5 extra credit points.

8. If the school allows parties, celebrate with actual pie. Apple pie, cherry pie, and pizza pie are always good choices.

9. March 14 is also Albert Einstein's birthday. A lesson about Mr. Einstein would certainly be in order on Pi Day.

10. Have students do research on Pi Day. There are many interesting websites that have tons of information. Presentations could be in the form of a speech, paper, video, or even a story.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Common Core State Standards

There are now common national standards available for English Language Arts; Literacy in History, Social Studies, and Science; and Mathematics. The Common Core State Standards Initiative has released its 130 page plan for improving education in the United States. It is basically a national curriculum for schools to follow. So far 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have signed on. The government has promised support to states that participate. Alaska and Texas are not participating at this time because they feel their states curriculum already meet stringent standards.

When I was teaching, a tremendous amount of time was spent writing curriculum. In Iowa, there were no state standards; everything was left to the local districts. That meant that every 6 - 8 years, a subject's entire curriculum needed to be rewritten. Once the curriculum was written, then books could be purchased. We always tried to match the books with the curriculum as much as possible. This task of writing curriculum and selecting textbooks was unbelievably time-consuming. We often wished for state standards and a state curriculum. It would have given us so much more time for actually preparing lesson plans and teaching.

Now it appears there will be something even better. Students across the country will be learning basically the same things, at the same time. Hopefully, they will be tested using the same instrument. It will be so much easier to compare students in one area of the country with another. In the past, each state had it's own standards and testing procedures, making it impossible to compare students. I hope this will also help those students who move from one school district to another. With national standards, a student moving from California to Kentucky should expect to have a smooth transition if the new school is teaching the same things at the same time as the old school. I'm sure this will not be the ultimate solution, but if done properly, it can be so much better than what we've had.

Right now the Common Core State Standards are available for public comment at:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Problems and Solutions?

Yesterday's Headline:
Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News stated that 40 years ago the United States had the highest graduation rate in the world. By 2006 we were 18th out of 24 industrialized countries. Our 15 year olds rank in the bottom third of the developed world in math and science. Of the students who do go to college, half need remedial courses in math or English.

Today's Headlines:
Kansas City: Going from 61 schools to 33 to avoid bankruptcy
Schools are closing, teachers are cut, programs are ended, taxes are raised.

Is it just me or does something not make sense here? At a time when students are scoring low and graduation rates are dropping, communities are having to close schools and cut teachers and programs. This doesn't exactly seem like a solution to the problem.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Contest ~ Commencement Speaker

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...Image via Wikipedia

The deadline is fast approaching. Monday, March 15, 2010 at 11:59 pm EST is the last day to send in your application. If you would like President Obama to speak at your graduation, you have about 4 days to apply.

At the beginning of the school year, the President encouraged all students to study hard, take responsibility, and graduate. In an effort to encourage these actions, Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge was formed to inspire students and provide an opportunity for you and your school to have the President be your commencement speaker.

The contest application has four essay questions. They are:
1. Describe what makes your school unique.
2. Describe how your school encourages personal responsibility and engages students.
3. Describe specific steps taken by your school to prepare all students to graduate ready for a college or career.
4. Describe specific steps taken by your school to promote academic excellence.
Your school can also submit a video to highlight its many qualities.

Only one application may be submitted per public high school and must be sent in by the principal using the commencement challenge application form. Six finalists will chosen and featured on the White House web site. The public will then vote for the top three. From those three, the President will choose one.

For more information, visit:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lessons in Everything

I was playing Zoo World on Facebook today and came across an interesting post by one of the other players. She said she was playing the game and her daughter was learning about all the animals.

This is a smart mother. She gets to have the fun of playing the game and also gets to turn it into an educational lesson for her daughter. I don't know if she home schools or not, but she is doing the very thing that makes any parent or teacher a great educator. She has learned that every activity can be turned into an opportunity for learning.

Opportunities like this present themselves all the time. Parents and teachers just need to learn how to take advantage of them. A trip to the grocery store can be turned into a lesson about comparison shopping. The insurance commercial on television can be the start of a discussion about the importance of insurance and the different types of insurance a person should have. That picture of grandma can be turned into a history lesson about the year she was born; mine was born just before the Wright brothers made their historic flight. Grandpa's old army uniform can lead to a quick lesson about WWII (or whatever war grandpa may have been a part of). Microwaving lunch can lead to discussions of waves, everything from radio waves to x-rays. The box of cereal can be a lesson about nutrition, calories, daily values, or percents.

Everything can be a learning opportunity. If a child learns to think this way, then he or she will always see the value of an education, because everything will be educational.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Change Happens

The newspaper is filled with stories about schools and education. The headlines are all gloom and doom. Public education is failing. Students are failing. United States students rank low in math and science. Graduation rates are low. Budget cuts will be necessary. Districts must cut millions of dollars. Teaching positions will be cut. Curriculum will be cut. Schools will be closed.

And these headlines don't even include the scandals.

With all the negative press, it's little wonder the public has such a dim view of education. Last week, a friend asked me what I thought about about all the horrible happenings she was reading about in the papers. I told her that none of this was new.

When I was a student, there were 13 elementary schools in town. Now there are five. They didn't close overnight. They have gradually been closing them for the last fifty years.

When I started teaching, I was forced to resign at the end of my first year. Thankfully, another position opened, but at the end of my second year, that position was eliminated. Again, I was able to move into a ninth grade job and was there six years, until they closed the school. From there I went to the high school. I didn't have a room. Instead they gave me a small bit of office space in the teachers' lounge and I roved from classroom to classroom for almost ten years.

For years, I was able to stay one step ahead of being laid off, never knowing if I'd have a job the next year or not. During that time, schools continued to close. Other teachers were fired. Job positions were eliminated. There were constant battles every year over pay and insurance. There were scandals even when I was a student.

So when I read all the horrible news, I consider it business as usual. It's unfortunate that the most important institution in the country is the one that seems to suffer the most. But we shouldn't be disillusioned. This has been going on for years. If you've been in the business for a long time, you don't like it, but you know it's not the end of the world. However, if you're new to the business, it's not pretty and it's easy to become disenchanted.

Just remember, everything changes. And every once in a while these changes may actually be for the better. We all just need to keep fighting the good fight. And we need to do all we can to make sure any changes that take place are for the good of the students. I still believe we can make public education better.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

And the Oscar Goes To

Tomorrow students all over the country will want to talk about the Academy Awards. Unfortunately, they don't always do it because they're interested in the awards, but because they're always looking for things that will get their teachers off topic. My students excelled at this. If only they had put as much time and effort into their math studies.

The best things for a teacher to do is be prepared and be informed. Watch the awards. Know something about them. Spend about two minutes discussing them with students, then get back to the important things you're supposed to be teaching. By giving the students a little discussion time, they feel you care, but by only giving it a couple of minutes, you're not letting them manipulate you.

An exception to this would be the case where one of the movies fits into your curriculum. For instance, a lengthy discussion about Avatar could take place if you have been studying the American Indian. A course in Current Events could include a more detailed study of The Hurt Locker. If you've studied apartheid, perhaps a short discussion of District 9 would be in order. As long as a lesson can be learned, it should be considered a valid part of the curriculum.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Global Warming ~ It's in the Stars?

I was amazed by the South Dakota legislature and a declaration they made concerning the teaching of global warming in their schools. Besides making sure that it is taught as a theory, rather than fact, they included the following statement:
That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect [sic] world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative
First, I'm hoping that they confused astrology with astronomy. Many people do that, but you would think that in a legal declaration, someone would have noticed. If they actually meant astrology, it would be interesting to hear their explanation as to how the zodiac has influenced global warming.

Second, thermology is a medical imaging procedure that uses infrared to see inside the human body. Again, I'm assuming they meant geothermal, but again, you would think someone would have noticed.

Third, I believe "effect" is a noun, as in "special effects." Again, I think the word they wanted is "affect."

And last, I have no idea what "interrelativity" is. Were they referring to relativity theory by Einstein or did they mean "interrelationship?"

Having been a public school teacher for a lot of years, I've always favored public education. I also know that it has had problems especially in some areas of the country.

However, if these legislators were the product of public education, it's a whole lot worse than anyone could have imaged.

(I believe their legislation was amended the next day.)
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Friday, March 5, 2010

Computer Problems

There is no blog tonight because of computer problems. I keep trying to make a 2000 computer do 2010 applications. It's like taking a Model T to an Indy 500 race. You can do it, but it's not pretty.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ten Reasons I Love Pi

Pi is such an excellent number. Pi Day is just around the corner. Here are the reasons I love it

1. Pi has its own day. March 14th is Pi Day. You get it ... 3/14 (3.14). Cool, huh?

2. Pi has its own song:

3. If you memorize more than two decimal places of pi, people will think you're a mathematical genius. Here are a few: 3.1415926535897

4. There are jokes about pi. What do you get when you cut a jack o'lantern through it's diameter? Pumpkin Pi

5. Pi has it's own movie. Here is the trailer:

6. Without pi, we couldn't have anything round (like cherry pie or pizza pie).

7. Without pi, we wouldn't have trigonometry. That means no microwaves, no radio waves, no sound waves, no light waves, no x-rays, no surf. Okay, we might have them, but we would have to use degrees instead of radians.

8. Computer calculations of pi allow us to increase our computing power.

9. Pi is totally irrational. That means it cannot be represented exactly as a fraction where the numerator and denominator are integers. It also means that its decimal form never ends and never repeats.

10. There are pi limericks:
There once was a number Pi
Very special like e and phi
Circumference to d
Is the ratio for me
And it's not a multiple of i

Now go and celebrate pi and Pi Day.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Procrastination Works for Me

Things I should be doing:
1. Cleaning house
2. Balancing checkbook
3. Paying bills
4. Laundry
5. Dishes
6. Writing a newsletter

Things I have been doing:
1. Blogging
2. Facebook
3. Zoo World on Facebook
4. Watching television
5. Reading a book
6. Twitter

So what is it in me that keeps me from doing what I should be doing? Why do I procrastinate and do activities that are not on my "to do" list?

I have no idea. Maybe it's National Procrastination Week (March 1 - 7)

I do know that I will eventually get the dishes, laundry, cleaning, bills, and that newsletter done. But I do have a bad habit of waiting until I have no choice but to do those tasks. It's a habit that I developed in high school. I was always so overwhelmed with school work, that I couldn't get things done in advance. Everything always got done, but always at the last possible moment. Thank goodness I always had the ability to work under that kind of pressure. Procrastination has always worked for me.

Unfortunately, that is not true of all students. They don't work well under pressure. They are excellent at procrastination, but not very good at finishing things at that last possible moment. When they get overwhelmed, they fall apart, instead of tackling the tasks one at a time.

One thing that parents and teachers could do for students is to teach them time management. Help them to understand their own work habits and modify them, if necessary, so that they can get everything done they need to do. And as it turns out, some actually work better when they procrastinate and work under pressure.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why Dad was Upset

The article was about a father who was upset that his son's teacher had taken a photo of the son sleeping in class and emailed it to the father along with statement that the son had done nothing in class. The father felt the teacher should have just awakened the child and set him about his lessons. Most of the reactions to the article sided with the teacher.

So what does a teacher do with a sleeping student? When I started teaching, I used to just let them sleep. But as my teaching career continued, that was no longer an option. Every student in class is expected to be on-task 100% of the time. Every second in the classroom is supposed to be devoted to the learning experience. Why? Because 100% of the students have to be proficient by the year 2014. Students are not allowed the luxury to sleep in class, nor should they be.

However, when a teacher tells the parent that their son or daughter has been sleeping in class, it helps to have proof. Anymore, almost everything in the classroom needs to be documented. As it turns out, a photo is worth a thousand words. The photo provides proof to the parent and provides documentation to administration.

I don't think the teacher did anything wrong in this case. The teacher simply sent the photo straight to the father so that he would better understand why his son might be having trouble in class. I hope that after she sent the photo, she woke the student up and got him back on task. It is not a good idea in this day and age to let a student sleep in class. Administrators, other teachers, students, and visitors do often visit classrooms. The last thing a teacher wants to do is give the impression that he or she lets students sleep.

Dad mad over teacher's snap of student's nap -
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Monday, March 1, 2010

A Teacher's Dilemma

I was reading a Facebook post by a teacher friend this evening. I used to work with her and really felt sorry for her. She wanted to know how to motivate students to get projects done by a due date. She had given them five class periods to work on the project and had given up her lunches and planning period so that students could work in her room. She said that she felt as if she had failed because, after all this, there were still several students not prepared to give their presentation, even though it was a 100-point project that would serve as a test grade.

Every teacher I know has had to put up with this same sort of situation. It is so frustrating, but over the years I finally decided that there were always going to be those that don't get their work done. All we can do is keep trying.

You'll find this in any organization. Think about the groups to which you belong. Does every one contribute? Do all members attend every meeting? Do all of them take on the responsibilities of committees of which they are a part? I'm guessing the answer is "no."

When I was teaching I was on numerous committees. It was always the same teachers who gave of their precious time to be on these committees. Most teachers were not on any at all. And many of those that were on the committees attended only a few of the meetings and did very little work. It usually came down to about four or five who did it all.

I belong to a local astronomy club. It's the same there. The club has about 40 members, but about seven or eight do all the work.

There is one group, however, where every person contributes. It's a teachers' society of about 60 members. At the beginning of every year, each member is assigned a committee and a job. As it turns out, this works pretty well. Everyone feels a responsibility to the group and knows that if the job isn't done, everyone else will know who the slacker is.

Perhaps this is a possible solution for this teacher and others who have trouble getting their students to do necessary work. By assigning jobs to each student, perhaps they would feel a responsibility to the group and do their work. It may not help all students, but it certainly is something to try.