Thursday, February 5, 2009

Odds and Evens 2-6-09: Contest Updates, ADP Algebra EOC Tests, "Numb and Numberer", a MathNotations Podcast?

MathNotation's First Math Contest
The Feb 3rd contest is 'virtually' over! We had a dozen schools participate including high schools, middle schools, a HomeSchooling team, a math fraternity team and a team from the UK! Our British team has had to delay the contest until they dig out of the deep snow that's been blanketing and paralyzing the UK for several days. I sure hope I am not in some way responsible for that!

The contest has been well-received although much of it proved too advanced for our middle schoolers. I will post results and selected problems in a few days after I sort it all out. I am planning on one more free contest in the spring. This one will probably be restricted to secondary teams. If interested, let me know early on. I am also planning 4 contests for the 2009-10 school year. Details about dates, registration and fee will be forthcoming.

"Is trillion the new billion?"
What are the odds that a CNN feature story appeared a few days after the Super Bowl post I published - Was the First Super Bowl More or Less Than a BILLION Seconds Ago?

Heres' an excerpt from this wonderful piece on

"To put a trillion dollars in context, if you spend a million dollars every day since Jesus was born, you still wouldn't have spent a trillion," McConnell said.

CNN checked McConnell's numbers with noted Temple University math professor and author John Allen Paulos.

"A million dollars a day for 2,000 years is only three-quarters of a trillion dollars. It's a big number no matter how you slice it," Paulos said.

Here's another way to look at it.

"A million seconds is about 11½ days. A billion seconds is about 32 years, and a trillion seconds is 32,000 years," Paulos said. "People tend to lump them together, perhaps because they rhyme, but if you think of it in terms of a jail sentence, do you want to go to jail for 11½ days or 32 years or maybe 32,000 years? So, they're vastly different, and people generally don't really have a real visceral grasp of the differences among them."

Everyone is tossing around the words million, billion and trillion. With the national debt now topping $10 trillion, following a $700 billion bank rescue and proposed $800 billion-plus stimulus package, have we become numb to the numbers?

Prof. Paulos is making an excellent case here for our middle schoolers developing better sense about large numbers. This is another view of the Number Sense standards which have been promoted for over two decades. Ah, the Power of Ten! Gee, that would be a cool name for a game show...

Update on ADP Algebra I, II EOC Tests
Do you frequently check the Achieve website to get the latest info on these tests, revised benchmarks and latest developments. For a current overview on the Algebra I test, look here.
I don't yet see released items or a set of sample questions but there is some very helpful information there, in particular the Algebra I Expected Knowledge document you can download. This can serve as the basis for curriculum development and provides sorely needed consistency. It will help to address questions like: Should we still teach those mixture problems? How much emphasis should we place on factoring quadratic trinomials?

MathNotations Podcast

Ok, what's this nonsense about podcasting? Another venture that I will try and not follow through on? Perhaps, but I'm never afraid to challenge bold frontiers that people my age are not supposed to consider! I would like to offer MathNotations visitors another way to connect with issues in math education. Once I get this set up, I'll let you know. There are a few technical obstacles I need to overcome but I'm getting close.

A sample of what I'm considering -- A 10-15 minute 'broadcast' you can subscribe to and download to your iPod or computer.

Here's the first topic I'm preparing:
Using current technologies to provide supports for our students outside the classroom.

What does that mean? Well, we all know that many students, who actually want to complete their math homework, become frustrated and give up when they can't get started or hit a wall. OR it's the night before a quiz, test, midterm, final, SAT and there are a couple of problems they can't do. To whom do they turn? Parents? Friends?
What are the Web 2.0 options?
Email, chats, forums, free help sites, mathcasts, videos on YouTube? Parents and students want to know what is available and I'd like to open up a dialog here and make some recommendations of those avenues that are cost-effective (aka 'free'!) and are effective for learners (i.e., high quality). Not every parent can afford high-cost tutoring, so where to turn? I can post recommended links but a podcast allows more informal discussion. I may also be able to have an audio dialog with some of the more knowledgeable people in these areas.

Our next Mathanagram? Prof. Rademacher to Infinity and Beyond?
Well maybe....
It's getting harder to keep this going so, for now, enjoy his picture!
Of course, you could visit MathNEXUS, and the Math Person of the Week challenge in the sidebar. Prof. Johnson, of Western Washington University, who maintains this exceptional site, provides new weekly goodies for all math educators. A truly great resource...


Pat B said...

I read somewhere, maybe Butterworth's book, that five year olds can look at a scatter of objects on a table and do a pretty good job of estimating the number...UP To about twenty... then EVERYTHING looks like 20... Put fifty on the table and they say "ummm twenty?" put 200 on the table and they say,,, "ummm 20?"
Maybe at a trillion we all become five-year-olds...


Dave Marain said...

Interesting point, Pat.
Unless you're Bernard Madoff...