Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Teaching Math Through Culture

I recently learned about the work of Dr. Ron Eglash at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Dr. Eglash has done a lot of research of the occurrences of fractals and mathematical functions in cultural designs. Based on that research Dr. Eglash has developed some very interesting materials for teaching mathematics through culture. The program Dr. Eglash has developed is called Culturally Situated Design Tools. It contains fourteen units of study based around instances of mathematics concepts, including fractals, basic Algebra, and Geometry concepts occurring in cultural designs. The units of study can be used with middle school and high school students. The resource page for teachers provides some additional resources and background information.

Applications for Education
When creating interdisciplinary units math is often the most difficult content area to include. Through his Dr. Eglash has done the hard work for math and social studies teachers. The units of study in Culturally Situated Design Tools provide fourteen opportunities to integrate math into the teaching of culture and culture into math.

The Grapes of Wrath - Free Full Length Movie

John Steinbeck's classic work The Grapes of Wrath has been taught in high school literature and history classes for years. When I read it in high school 15 years ago my mother coaxed and prodded me through it with the promise of renting the video of the movie for me after I finished reading it. Now the movie is available for free through Google Video. I have embedded below the full length version of The Grapes of Wrath.

Applications for Education
For high school literature teachers that teach The Grapes of Wrath the video is a good way to wrap-up the teaching of the novel.

For high school history and economics teachers
the story has a lot of relevance to today's current economic climate. If your students aren't ready to read the book or you don't have enough time to fit it into your curriculum, the free video may be what you need.

Community Building Activities from Peace Games

Peace Games is an organization specializing in promoting service learning and community building activities. Peace Games offers a variety of educational services for schools interested in service learning work. One aspect of Peace Games that teachers in K-8 classrooms can use just by visiting the website is the cooperative games section. There are five categories of games from which to choose. The categories of games are; getting to know you, fun group, community and team building, running and tag, and theater games.

Applications for Education
The Peace Games activities could be useful at the start of school for helping students get comfortable in their new classroom environments. The running and tag games could be great recess activities.

Life Photo Archive Hosted By Google

Some of the most iconic images of the 19th and 20th centuries were captured by Life photographers. Now those images plus images never published are available through the Life Photo Archive hosted by Google. Last month Time and Getty announced the creation of is not live yet, but the Life Photo Archive on Google is great step in making high quality iconic images available online.

Applications for Education
The Life Photo Archive could be a great place to get images to introduce a historical topic or spark a conversation about an event in history. The images from the archive might also be of interest to photography teachers as teaching models.

A couple of other places to find high quality images are the Flickr Commons and

Computer Tutorials in Pictures and Video

Today I found two good websites for learning how to use computer software. In Pictures provides free tutorials for learning to use Microsoft and Open Office software as well as learning to write some basic html code. As it's name implies, In Pictures provides all of its tutorials in pictures with descriptive captions.

The other software tutorial site that I found this morning, via Paul Hamilton, is Woopid Video Tutorials. Woopid provides video tutorials for learning how to use software on a Mac or on a PC as well providing tutorials for cloud computing programs like Google Docs. What I like about Woopid is the video tutorials are arranged sequentially in bundles. What this means is if you're watching a video about using Power Point 2007 you can start with the basics and navigate forward in difficulty. Likewise, if you start in the middle of a bundle and realize that you don't have enough knowledge to implement the concept being taught, you can back up to a video that will provide you with the background knowledge you need.

Applications for Education
Both In Pictures and Woopid could be valuable resources for teaching the use of basic software to adult learners as well as traditional students.