Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Math Open Reference - A Good Supplement to Textbooks

I originally reviewed Math Open Reference last year. In the time since I wrote that review there have been some additions made to it. Therefore, I'm bringing it to your attention again or perhaps for the first time. 

Math Open Reference is a free online reference for geometry teachers and students. Math Open Reference features animated and interactive drawings to demonstrate geometry terms and concepts. The table of contents on Math Open Reference is divided into four basic categories; plane geometry, coordinate geometry, solid geometry, and function explorer tools. Click on any subject in the first three categories to find definitions, examples, and interactive drawings. In the function explorer category users can select linear functions, quadratic functions, or cubic functions to explore how changes in variables affect the graphed output.

Applications for Education
Math Open Reference probably still isn't complete enough to replace a textbook, but it could make a great supplement to the mathematics textbooks that you do use. For students who need visual references, Math Open Reference could be particularly helpful.

Math Workout - A Great App for Keeping Your Math Skills Sharp

Math Workout is a free Android app for practicing your basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills. You can choose from six different practice activities. Each activity has its own series of progressively harder challenges. I started out using just the addition and multiplication activities that provide twenty problems to solve in your head. Your score for the activity is based on accuracy and speed. So that you can see if you're improving from day to day, Math Workout keeps a record of your scores for you.

After warming up with the basic activities on Math Workout I moved on and played Brain Cruncher. Brain Cruncher presents a series of calculations that you have to perform and keep track of in your head until you arrive at the final solution input field. Each calculation task appears on its own screen so you cannot see what the previous calculation was. Here's an example of a Brain Cruncher problem, "start with 10, divide by two, add thirteen, multiply by 3, subtract 6."

Here's a short video review of Math Workout. (Note, this video review is of the "pro" version which offers more challenges and is ad-free).

Applications for Education
Math Workout could provide a great way for students and adults to keep their basic mathematics skills sharp. Students can spend a few minutes each day on the app and track their progress. To see they measure up to the millions of other Math Workout users, students can try the 90 question Online World Challenge in Math Workout.

Population, Landscape, and Climate Maps

The Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center publishes data sets and maps designed to blend the studies of socioeconomics and Earth science. One of the results of that work is the creation of some interesting mapped visualizations of data sets. Some of the more interesting maps illustrate correlations between climate zone and population density. All of the maps can be downloaded and printed for free use in your classroom. The data sets behind the maps are also freely available for classroom use.

I've embedded below a zoomable (if that's a word) image of one of the maps from the collection. I used to make the map zoomable.

Applications for Education
Maps can be a social studies teacher's best friend. But they can also be useful for science teachers and math teachers who wish to have their students take information from data sets and transform it into something new. These maps could provide a model for a project in which your students collect local data and display it on a map.

What's Obvious to You, Is Amazing to Someone Else

One of the reasons I sometimes hear people give for not blogging, Tweeting, or otherwise participating in sharing their ideas online is, "I don't have anything to say." To that I often reply, "yes, you do." The great thing about sharing online is that you never know who is going to discover what you share. Something that you think has been said one hundred times over might be brand new to someone else. We all have something to share.

Applications for Education
This message needs to be shared with our students too. One of the ways you can do this is by having students write a weekly reflective blog post. They don't have to write complex blog posts, just a short summary of their learning and observations that week will do. In this way students can learn from each other. Even if they don't pick up anything brand new from this process, they will at least be reminding each other of what they have learned that week. A simple way to set up that type of student blogging is by using Posterous Spaces which I wrote about here.

Don't Punish Everyone

Derek Sivers, whose TED Talk How To Start a Movement is still one of my favorites, recently published a new book titled Anything You Want. In that book he makes the point to business owners that they shouldn't make sweeping policy changes based on one customer experience. The video below also animates that point. While the book and video are clearly aimed at the business world, the message of not punishing everyone for one person's mistake also applies to schools.

H/T to Rand Fishkin via Google+