MCC TaLDA Workshop – May 2012

I’m pleased to announce that we’re going to start offering a “Tech Bootcamp” for non-math faculty.  Our first offering of the MCC TaLDA Workshop (Teaching & Learning in the Digital Age) will be in May 2012.  Registration opens today!

The MCC TaLDA Workshop is a week-long immersion in Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age for College faculty from all disciplines. This workshop is modeled after the MCC Math & Technology Workshop, which MCC has hosted for four years now. Over time, this workshop has been dubbed “Technology Bootcamp” by its participants. Participants come from all over the country to get an “upgrade” to their technology skills as they relate to teachinging and learning in the college setting.

Participants go home armed not only with new technology skills, but also software and hardware to help them on their journey, all provided by donations from our commercial sponsors. Participants in the 2012 Workshop will receive the latest versions of Camtasia Studio, SnagIt, and a 1-year subscription to Mindomo.  Thanks to TechSmith and Mindomo for being sponsors of the 2012 MCC TaLDA Workshop!

Organizers and presenters at the workshop donate their time for a “good cause” – that is, we hope that participants will go back to their own schools and wider educational communities and spread what they have learned. The 2012 Workshop will be facilitated by Maria Andersen and Barry Dahl (see Workshop Staff page for more info). Both have considerable experience in the realm of leveraging technology for learning, and are invited to speak and conduct workshops at many national events.

The TaLDA Workshop will be May 7-11, 2012 in Muskegon, Michigan. There are 40 spaces for participants, so register as soon as possible if you’d like to attend. For the first month, only one participant per college will be accepted.

Register here! 

Math and physical science faculty (those subjects that involve a lot of equations and graphs) should consider the MCC Math & Tech Workshop instead (August 2012).

Oh … and did I mention? Muskegon has a beautiful beach!

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Math Graphs for the Blind

If I had to produce tactile graphs for the visually-impaired, or have such a student produce a graph for me, I think I would spend an hour to create one of these velcro and wool yarn slates for the blind.

I stumbled across this Touching Slate “toy” in MAKE Magazine’s current issue and realized that this simple slate solves a key problem in teaching higher-level mathematics to visually-impaired students: How can a teacher or student quickly produce graphs of functions to share during a class, study session, or exam?  I think you could use yarn of different thicknesses in order to put multiple functions on the same graph.  With several of these easy to produce slates, you could have several pre-made graphs for exams, lectures, on-the-fly questions, etc.

Here’s a one-minute video with instructions for making the slate.

For other resources to create graphs for the visually-impaired, you should also check out Tactile Maps and Graphics, and for those of you who need to teach Calc III, you should check out Andy Long’s function machine or make friends with someone who has a 3D printer (the Industrial Technology department on our campus has one now).

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History of Numeration Systems

I just stumbled upon this great little video about Ancient Numeration Systems.  It does not go into depth on any particular system, but it wanders through the following:

  • Tally marks
  • Sumerian symbols
  • Babylonian symbols
  • Egyptian symbols
  • Roman symbols and modifications of it
  • Number systems based on the body (Zulu)
  • Commerce-based number systems (Yoruba in Nigeria)
  • Number systems involving knots and string (Persians, Incans)
  • Numerals 0-9 (invented in India)
  • Place value
  • Fractions as a solution for “fair-share” situations in culture
  • Unit Fractions (Egyptians)
  • Fractions with base-60 (Sumerians and Babylonians), still used for time measurements today
  • Abacus (Chinese)
  • Use of the “bar notation” in modern-day fractions
  • Computation by the double-half method (Russian)
  • Computation by a doubling procedure (Egyptian)
  • Computation by an abacus (Europe and Asia), the “handheld calculator of its day”
  • Introduction of Arabic Numerals in Europe
  • Importance of mental math algorithms to check for reasonableness

This would be a great introduction video to a unit that involves Numeration Systems.

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Collection of Math Games

The page of digital and non-digital games has grown too long and unwieldy, so I’ve finally taken the time to reorganize the content by topic area. I’ve also added all the new “Block” games on various topics in Trigonometry, Rational Exponents, and Logarithms.

If you’ve bookmarked the old Games page, you’ll see that it now just tells you how to find the new sub-pages.

Direct links to the new game pages are below:

I’ve also decided to collect your suggestions for other digital and/or paper games, puzzles, and manipulatives  using a Google Form, but before you submit a game for me to review, PLEASE check it against my criteria for Lame Games.

Submit your suggestions here.



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What does the classroom say?

Yesterday I had a short talk in the ITLC Themed Session called “Change the Classroom, Change the Learning” about the necessity of math classroom redesign.

Without changing the classrooms, it is unlikely that we will see much change in the instructors or students.

Here is the video from the talk, called “What does the Classroom Say?” and the slides from the presentation.

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Signed Numbers: Colored Counters in a “Sea of Zeros”

The “colored counter” method is an old tried-and-true method for teaching the concept of adding signed numbers.  However, to show subtraction with the colored counter method has always seemed painful to me … that is, until I altered the method slightly.

Now all problems are demonstrated within a “Sea of Zeros” and when you need to take away counters, you can simply borrow from the infinite sea.  Voila!  Here’s a short video to demonstrate addition and subtraction of integers using the “Sea of Zeros” method.  You can print some Colored Counter Paper here.

Video: Colored Counters in a Sea of Zeros

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Register for the 2012 MCC Math & Tech Workshop


Registration for the 2012 MCC Math & Technology Workshop opens today at Noon EDT.  Participants from all over the world are welcome, as long as you can speak English. :)

You can find information on the workshop and registration information at the website:

2012 MCC Math & Technology Workshop

The cost for the 2012 Workshop is $160.  Hotel is very reasonable at $69.99/night (+tax).

The registration is two-tiered.  First you’ll need to submit your information, and then after a quick check to make sure you’re the first registrant from your institution, we’ll confirm that you can continue on to complete the payment portion of registration.  If you are not the first person from your institution to register, we’ll place you on the waiting list.  As plans change over the next year, there are usually 3-5 positions at the workshop that become available to the waiting list.

Each participant has to complete a final 5-minute presentation on the last day, and I thought I’d share one of the best presentations from last year (with Karen’s permission), called Once Upon a Time in Technologyland.

Hope to see you at the 2012 MCC Math & Technology Workshop!

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See you at AMATYC 2011

I’ve got three public presentations at AMATYC:

  • Learning through Games in Beginning Algebra, Thursday: 10-11:30am in Rm. 417AB
  • Change the Classroom, Change the Learning: Friday, 11:15-11:45am in Salon D
  • The Search for a KAP Gap in Collegiate Mathematics: Friday, 3:30-4:20 in Salon A

Playing through Games in Beginning Algebra: In this hands-on workshop, we’ll play with algebra games, puzzles, and manipulatives that you can take back to your classrooms. In addition we’ll examine a few of the good digital games that are now available.

Change the Classroom, Change the Learning: In 2009 we began a redesign plan for two of the classrooms on our campus to encourage student-centered teaching practices.  The results were more surprising than we expected.  If you want to change the way instructors teach, you may have to change their environment first.

The Search for a KAP Gap in Collegiate Mathematics: A Knowledge-Attitude-Practice Gap is when we know about something, and have a favorable attitude, but choose not to use or practice it.  Have math instructors fallen into a KAP Gap with regards to student-centered teaching practices? In order to search for a KAP Gap, I first had to search for all the missing information.  Who are community college math instructors? Do they know about student-centered instructional practices? How do they get this knowledge? What kind of professional development do they participate in? What is their attitude towards student-centered instruction? What do they believe about specific practices?  How much do they use student-centered practices?  Finally, how are their attitudes and environment connected to their practice?  The results of this study shed light on all of these questions and begin to explain why there IS a KAP Gap.  With knowledge of what’s causing the KAP Gap, we can begin to bridge it.

I will also be at the Cengage Learning Reception at the Cactus Mexican Grill on Friday night, 5:30-7:30pm.  See ya in Austin!

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Math about the Electoral College

This was a surprisingly good video about the math of the U.S. Electoral College system.  At first I kept saying “but wait a minute…” but all my concerns were addressed in the video, and then some.  I was surprised by the revelation (towards the end of the video) that it is theoretically possible (although not likely) to win the seat of President of the United States with less than 23% of the popular vote.  Wow.

There is some great math of ratios and percents here.  You can find data and other pertinent information about the Electoral College here.

You might also enjoy playing the Redistricting Game with your students, where you can “recast” who wins an election based on how you draw the boundaries on a map.

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Announcing the 2012 MCC Math & Technology Workshop

The 5th annual MCC Math & Technology Workshop will be August 6-10, 2012.  It seems hard to believe that we’ve been welcoming math instructors to Muskegon to learn about technology for four years now, but I guess it must be so.

Registration for the 2012 “Math Tech Bootcamp” (as its affectionately known as) will begin at Noon EDT on November 9.  I’ll be posting a link to the registration information on the morning of November 9 (register fast, this usually books in less than one week).

Thought I would share some of the comments from 2011 participants:

I would definitely recommend this workshop. I’ve attended many workshops and professional development activities over the years and was already using or somewhat knowledgeable using many of the things talked about but I learned SO much! Tips and tricks and more efficient uses along with new ideas for use have been invaluable!

This workshop is great to help instructors bridge the technological gap which opened since their last computer class! No teacher left behind!

I learned all of the things about that ‘I was afraid to ask’ about. I am not alone in being technologically challenged!

This workshop is great value for the money because regardless of your level of experience with a specific item, there is something to be learned. In addition, this workshop truly is a “bootcamp” – it is intense, fast-paced, tough, and ultimately transforming.

This workshop is definitely worth a small investment of time and funds in order to learn more about internet and technology. I was really surprised how much I learned about the tools I already use that improves my experience with them.

It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about new and not-so-new technology in an environment that was supportive and encouraged playing with it.

Before the workshop I knew very little about the possibilities of using technology to enhance student learning, aside from using a graphing calculator in class. Now I feel I will be much more effective as an instructor. I can’t wait to get started with the new technologies that I learned about.

The MCC Math Technology Workshop was excellent. It was well-organized with relevant, useful information. The best feature was the time to work in a lab setting with colleagues from your discipline. A lot of GREAT ideas were exchanged and I left the conference with great free software and hardware, but more importantly a jump drive of ideas, finished work and I am looking forward to implementing as much as I can right away.

One week to learn am amazing quantity of technology. Many different software and hardware are explored. It is definitely the most important and educational conference that I have ever been to in my life. An absolute MUST for mathematical educators.

This MCC work is the best for the money you spend and for the knowledge you learn about technology and teaching. An added feature is the location in Michigan.

Packed with information and hands-on experience. Great coverage of hardware and software to get you up and going RIGHT NOW with using technology in your classes.

There you have it.  If you’d like to attend, mark your calendar to register on Wednesday or as soon as possible thereafter.  We allow one participant per college in the first cut for registration.  The registration fee is $160 (includes lunch and snacks), and hotel runs $69.99 per night (+tax) with free breakfast and wi-fi.  Transportation to/from airports, hotel, and workshop site can be provided.

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