TimeToast- Make Beautiful Interactive Timelines

TimeToast is an excellent free web-based tool for creating interactive timelines. Click here to view an example of a ‘history of maths’ timeline.

TimeToast is easy to use and produces very engaging results. The history of maths timeline above isn’t bad but how about challenging your students to produce a better one…?

Credit to bringing TimeToast to my attention must go to Cathy Deardoff who wrote about this in her excellent blog ACE Notebook which I highly recommend to you.

The educational value of creative disobedience

Sometimes the answer depends on the way in which you ask the question...

Via the excellent math for love blog I learned about an article written in the Scientific American magazine called The educational value of creative disobedience. The article is a powerful argument against traditional ‘chalk and talk’, direct-instruction teaching methods which it says have been scientifically demonstrated to be less effective than creative, problem solving teaching styles. It argues that traditional teaching methods stifle creativity, problem solving skills and encourage pupils to think there is only one way to solve a problem. Furthermore, the author goes on to despair about the fact that while much of this valuable scientific research demonstrates we should be applying some creative, problem solving approaches to teaching our subjects, ‘the system’ refuses to adopt them.

The article begins with Jean Piaget‘s famous quote:

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers” –Jean Piaget

Despite the sexism, this is surely as relevant today as it was when Piaget said it. If so, shouldn’t our teaching styles encourage this? Don’t direct-instructional methods ‘hard-wire’ our kids into “repeating what other generations have done”?

I follow the discussion of the educational community through blogs and I sense a growing tide of divergence from direct-instructional teaching methods. Perhaps the most well known proponent of this movement within the blogging community is Dan Meyer who confronts ‘the coal face’ through his blog dy/dan, giving specific examples of how to put these ideas into practice. Dan’s blog is a great read as it tells the whole story of his experimentation in this field including all the early frustrations and failures. Dan was even invited by the prestigious, exclusive TED organisation to talk about his philosophy:

Math class needs a makeover

The educational value of creative disobedience is a very interesting read that hits the perfect harmony between personal anecdote and cold, scientific facts on this important topic and I highly recommend it to you.

The educational value of creative disobedience

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The Best From The Blogs 25/07/11

There are lots of great maths bloggers out there in cyberspace. To keep my readers up to date with some of the great content and ideas being shared in the maths-blogosphere I’m going to occasionally do posts titled “The Best From The Blogs” which will feature links to excellent blog posts from other authors. So without further ado, here’s the first set:

To understand is to make connections- Mathematics for Teaching

How algorithms shape our world- TED

The perfect formula for toast- Wild About Math!

Where is social media taking education?- Edudemic

The three acts of a (lousy) mathematical story- dy/dan

If Facebook and Twitter had a baby they’d call it… Google +



Image via Wikipedia

One of the really great things about blogging is the community feeling and the sharing of ideas between people with like-minds to your own. I regularly use Twitter and have built up a great network of people to follow who work in education and share similar passions to myself. I do often feel like it would be great to interact with these people in a bit more depth than 140 characters. Facebook allows this depth with posts being able to be longer. However, I don’t like that I need to have added everyone that I want to follow as a ‘friend’ on Facebook before we can have a good conversation. In my experience, using Facebook’s work-around to this, Facebook Pages, is ok but people simply don’t regularly visit the pages which are separate from their main news feed and so the interaction is limited…

Step up Google +! It’s the brand new social network from Google which offers all the depth of communication methods as Facebook but with the ability to ‘follow people’ without them having to ‘follow you’ which Twitter has. In addition to this it allows you to group your contacts into separate groups called ‘circles’ so when you post something you choose which audience you want to see it by choosing from your circles. You don’t want your boss seeing what you talk to your friends about and Google + keeps these things separate very well. I’m crystal ball gazing here but I think it will be a Facebook-killer. These things grow exponentially and Google + has already passed 10 million users in a month.

In addition to the ‘circles’ feature, you can do free group video chat with up to 10 people which works excellently. It’s great fun! There is also feature called ‘sparks’ which suggests news articles for you to read based on your interests. This works very well too. I won’t go into a full explanation of Google + here, Mashable have done their own guide  which is fantastic in summarising this wonderful new social network.

I’m very excited about Google + and the opportunities it’s creating for communicating with the people who I care about most whilst also following fantastic people in the online education community. I urge you to check it out!

Google + is currently in ‘invite only’ beta testing. If you’d like to try it out just send me an email to info@greatmathsteachingideas.com and I’ll send you an invite.

If you already have Google+ and would like to add me to your circles you can here.

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Using Pythagoras to do up your shoes

I put a request out in the TES forums for ICT resources and lesson ideas. A chap called Kevin Bertman replied sharing many great ideas which are all on his fantastic website e to the i pi. Although it’s not an ICT resource, a superb idea he had as an investigation into using Pythagoras’ Theorem was to use it to work out the most efficient way to tie shoe laces! It’s superbly explained in his blog post here.

What a fantastic idea from Kevin. I can’t recommend the TES forums highly enough. There are over 1.4 million registered teachers on the TES website and you always get quality resources if you ask for them in the forums. Brilliant!

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Angle facts- getting the language right

Using the correct language when giving reasons for solving angle problems is very important and worth exam marks. “Angles on a straight line” isn’t good enough if they don’t put “add up to 180 degrees” with it. Here’s a lovely activity which contains all the angle fact rules the pupils need to know but in a quiz format. The first letter of each word in the angle facts are given and the pupils have to decipher what angle fact each question relates to. It’s really good for getting them to focus on the correct language. Answers are included too!

Download the angle facts quiz here


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Four ways of solving quadratic equations worked examples



When I teach solving quadratic equations I really like the pupils to have the opportunity to explore the pros and cons of each of the four solution methods. However, before they get there they need to be comfortable with all the methods… I like giving them a quadratic equation and then getting them to produce a poster showing all four ways of solving it. Giving them the following worked examples booklet helps many pupils in understanding how to calculate and present their solutions:


Download worked examples booklet

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