Be the Idiot

A short but insightful video about the benefits of asking questions until you understand. Now, if I can just convince my students of the benefit of asking questions this way.

Video Editing Accessories

Editing in Adobe Premiere Pro using a mouse and keyboard gets tiresome, so I decided I would purchase an accessory to make editing a little easier. There aren't a lot of options in the consumer price range. I looked at and the . The Loupedeck is about $200-249 US while the Contour Design is only $99-129 US. I decided I liked the Contour for what I'm doing right now but the Loupedeck is better build quality and has more variety of controls. That said, I think the loupedeck is a compromise between video editing and photo editing and while it can do both, it almost looks like it's more suited to photo editing. I guess this makes sense as way more people do photo editing.

I'll try to post more details once I've had a chance to spend time hands-on with it.

contour sm

loupedeck plus device 1200x675

Robotics Educational Systems

When you start researching robotics for educational purposes, you encounter a lot of stuff. I'm making notes to help myself decipher what's most useful.

This document is evolving as I encounter more information.

Number 1 reason for robots (and maker activities in general) in classrooms is "Engagement".

Curriculum Supported

For robotics to be adopted significantly in classroom environments that don't have a robotics expert, they have to be supported by sound curriculum documents.

The following three systems have curriculum specific to their systems. All three also have competitive robotics leagues. Volume pricing doesn't really save you much money. I have not evaluated the curriculum for any of these systems yet.

About Adafruit and a tour of its Manufacturing

About Adafruit

This is the inspiring story of the creation of the Adafruit company and its founder Limor Fried (Lady Ada).

Tour of the Adafruit facility

This is just so cool to see an urban factory turning out cool stuff.

Decomposing and Re-Composing Numbers

Experiencing True Inquiry

I don't think I was formally taught to decompose and re-compose numbers as part of learning math and it's a tactic I don't think I use as much as I might.

Decomposing to make adding or subtracting easier

This is really targeted at younger students learning to add but it's worth reviewing even with older students as it reminds them that equations can be a bit fluid.

8 + 6 is trivial for most adults, but it may be easier for a younger student to understand the benefit of thinking in terms of 10s. They first decompose the 6 into 2 and 4 and then add the 2 to the 8 to make 10 and then it's easy to add the remaining 4 to get 14.

Square Numbers are Actually Square

An A-Ha moment

I like puzzles. I like looking for patterns and short-cuts to solutions. I like programming. I like elegant solutions which are often the outcome of identifying a unique pattern in a specific context so I'm intrigued by the challenge of helping kids to make the leap from patterns into equations.

I've never been particularly adept at mental mathematics. I have a couple of short-cuts I use to help with estimating answers to equations but more often than not, I resort to pencil and paper or smartphone/calculator or I just do a quick estimate calculation in my head and accept that it's close enough. I never really thought much about the methods I use to do mental math until we watched Jo Boaler's video on Number talk (18 x 5) ( in our first 3152 class. I was stunned by how many different methods were used to arrive at the correct result and was impressed with the brilliant connection one student made to simply the question to 9 x 10. It's so obvious when you hear it but it hadn't occurred to me. 

The Bicycle

Connecting Math and Science in the World

The bicycle, which many kids are still familiar with, provides an opportunity to investigate some real-world science that is tangible in many kids lives. The gears are the most obvious, but there is also opportunity to talk about friction (brakes), rolling resistance (tires),  lubrication (chain, wheels, bottom bracket), and momentum of a spinning wheel.


The Class - Learning from the Movie

There is so much to unpack from this film so I’ll only touch on a few points. We see the fallibility of teachers, the cultural biases that they bring to class and the cultural disconnect the students have with the materials. We see the diversity of teacher perspectives on their students and we witness the students struggling to understand their place in the classroom and society and to navigate the power-dynamics of the classroom, school and community.

Tug-of-War Challenge

Learning by Interacting with Student Thinking

This wasn't interacting with one of my student's but rather interacting with one of my classmates who is a student but the outcome is similar. Learning to tackle this problem in a different way helped me to see a better way of illustrating some fundamental math principles (substitution, keeping an equation in balance).

It starts with the problem that our professor posed to the class:

Two tug-of-wars have occurred and resulted in ties.

  • 4 frogs went up against 5 Fairies.
  • 1 Dragon tied 2 fairies and a frog

Who will win when 1 dragon and 3 fairies go up against 4 frogs?

The class sat down to tackle this problem, largely individually. For me, the solution seemed fairly straight-forward. I would simply apply some standard mathematics substitutions. I didn't spend much time thinking about the best way to do it, I just used brute force because I felt fairly confident in my mathematics ability to solve the problem. I solved the problem but I wasn't actually very confident in my solution. So much for my confidence.

Population Education PLC

Presenter: Carol Bliese

Population Education (  is a program with a strong emphasis on curriculum resources and professional development for K-12 educators that focuses on human population issues. They offer curriculum resources and lesson plans connected with population.

This workshop covered several examples of the resources they make availble. It started off presenting a video of the history of population growth in the world presented in a compelling and graphical manner.

That was the launching point for a number of interactive example lessons including; population riddles, Panther Hunt, and Who Polluted the River.

Another student mention an app named Urban World which is also interesting for investigating population in the world but it is only available on IOS devices.

Understanding the World Through Statistics

Some people love statistics and some people hate statistics and few people seem indifferent to them but understanding statistics is important not only to critically evaluate the messages that we are bombarded with through advertising, media, election campaigns and other biased message sources but also to fully understand the world around us. Statistics are often used to cause fear but they can also be used to engender understanding and put fears to rest. Everyone should be literate in the use of statistics.

Rather than focus on one particular video, I’ve identified three related videos that help to demystify some misconceptions about the world we live in. They touch on different subjects and make different points but illustrate the importance of everyone being able to understand statistics. They are helpful for the general population to understand the world around us and, for teachers, they present some innovative ways to make intangible statistics strikingly visual and comprehensible.

Old School vs “New Math” - There May be Hope!

A Change in Perspective

I grew up with old-school math. I drilled on times tables until I became fluid with them. I wasn’t generally taught to have a fundamental understanding of the mathematics I was learning but learned to apply procedures which, when applied in the right situation, rendered a correct result. My depth of understanding grew as I progressed further into the study of mathematics to the point where I became very comfortable and arguably fluent with more advanced mathematics.

I have watched my two kids go through the “new math” approach to learning and watched them be utterly confused and unable to make sense of the questions or get the correct answers. They weren’t drilled on times tables in school and couldn’t do simple math in their heads and they weren’t getting the deep understanding of mathematics that the “new math” promises. They weren’t getting even a shallow understanding of mathematics. The “new math” approach was not working for them and this was the experience of most of my kids' friends who are otherwise capable students.