The Reflective Educator

Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

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Day: September 16, 2011

Moebius Noodles

A couple of weeks after I posted some resources for parents looking to teach their young kids about math, Maria Droujkova has introduced the Moebius Noodles project which is intended to build a book and a support site for parents who would like some support teaching math to their children.

In her own words, the reason she started this project is:

  1. There are very few materials and no community support for smart math for babies and toddlers. Just try to find anything that is not about counting or simple shapes! Mathy parents create opportunities for their own kids, of course. But without support and resources, it’s very hard even for the rocket scientist mothers and fathers. We want to change that!
  2. Peer-to-peer learning, research and development groups in mathematics education need a process for crowd-funding their projects. We are the trailblazers for other fabulous communities that want to make open and free math materials with the support of their members, such as the group developing materials for learning mathematics through music, the play math network, and the math circle problem-solving depository project.
  3. We are creating OERs – Open Educational Materials. It means people can access, use, modify and share the materials for free [emphasis mine]. Imagine the project you support translated into any language in the world, and used freely to support young kids everywhere!
  4. The activities are sustainable in many senses. You can use everyday household items and recycle materials for Moebius Noodles games.
  5. If you are a parent or teacher who loves arts and crafts but is afraid of math, the book will help you teach your kids mathematics through your talents. If you are a math or science geek who envies other families always doing neat art projects, the arts-math bridge in the book goes both ways!

You can donate to her cause by clicking on the image below. At the time I posted this entry, Maria is about $4000 away from her goal.

Moebius Noodles Fundraiser Badge

Disguising flash cards as a game is deceptive

I’m reading The Connected Family by Seymour Papert, and ran into a quote which I found appropriate.

"…learning multiplication facts by putting flash cards on the screen is not a new way of learning math. It is a polished-up version of the old ways and promotes to greater heights their worst and most mechanical features. Moreover it is often done in a spirit which I see as dangerously dishonest: Disguising [emphasis mine] flash cards as a game introduces an element of deception that undermines two fundamental educational principles.

First, learning works best when the learner is a willing and conscious participant. Second, deception and dishonesty in the teaching process make a mockery of the idea that schools should develop moral values as well as knowledge of math or history." ~ Seymour Papert, p19, The Connected Family, 1996

It was timely, because just this morning, I saw this tweet from Jason Klein:

Most Education category apps (iOS, ChromeOS, Android) are low-level, fact-based. Just give me Internet & Creation apps.

Just searching now on my iPhone for math in the App Store, these apps showed up.

Top five math apps on the iPhone

All five of these applications are based on learning math facts and arithmetic, and two of them even have the word "flash" in their name. Of the top twenty five math applications that I saw, 23 of them are essentially flash cards disguised as games. Two of them aren’t, one is called "Equation Genius" (it solves algebra equations), the other is called "Motion Math" (which lets students learn the relationship between fraction as symbols and visual representations of those fractions).

Could we please get more educators programming these apps? (If someone would donate me a Mac to work on, I’ll happily do it myself.) 

Heading to the Computer Based Math conference in London, England

So I just got confirmation (and have paid for registration and my airfare AND found a place to stay – mostly) that I get to attend the Computer Based Math conference happening London, England on November 10th and 11th. I’m very excited about it!

I’m flying out of Vancouver on Tuesday, November 8th (after being in workshops all day with my colleagues), and arriving in London midday on the 9th. I’m at the conference on the 10th and 11th, and flying to Toronto on Sunday, November 13th, where I’ll be attending the Mindshare Learning Canadian Edtech conference on Monday, November 14th.

I have a place to stay arranged for my time in London (actually many offers of places to stay) but I could use a place to stay for the Sunday night I’ll be in Toronto. I’m trying to make this trip more economical for my school (since they are footing the bill) by staying with friends.

My hope is to find out more about how different people are using technology in math education specifically at the Computer Based Math conference, and to be part of the team trying to build a curriculum for math based on the assumption that students have computation devices with them whenever they need them. The big questions I have are, what does that kind of curriculum look like, and would it be effective for teaching math?

It will be strange to be at these conferences as it will be the first time in 2 years that I’ve attended a conference, and not presented. Maybe I’ll find a way to get to talk about some of what I do at one of these conferences anyway… even if I’m not officially on the schedule to present.

I’m posting this to let the people in my PLN know, and I’d love to connect with anyone else heading to these conferences that I’ve met via Twitter.