Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Week as Math Educator - Day 3

My name is Circe. I still maintain I have Greek in me. I also WIN the vote, and so I will be the one blogging about Day 3 of "A Week in the Life of a Math Educator"!

Ahem. It was a tie. I got a vote too.

What? No! Too late! Besides Elly, you're not even IN the Ontario high school curriculum anymore!

I might be in the American curriculum somewhere. I don't know enough about it. Anyone care to comment below?

Well, until you find out, this is MY show, okay?!

So defensive. I was only going to interject occasionally. But by all means, continue to rant and make readers think you're a crazy person.

...Agh, why did fate put me in such an eccentric family?! I need a moment. Look, readers, while I compose myself, you should go listen to ViHart, the mathemusician, sing about a circle! It doubles as our theme song today!


The math teacher in question wakes up before his alarm again. This is unusual for him, despite the fact that it seems to be happening every day this week. Today's more like Monday - he goes to check out his Twitter before coming back to get ready for the day at 7am. (Incidentally, has a new follower, adds a couple back, which puts him over 100 following.) Oh, and I make him wear his circle tie. (Yesterday he wore the coloured mice tie, to match the dark shirt with coloured stripes.)

A check of Facebook includes a link to a CTV News video update on the state of teaching in Ontario this week. He watches, and if you like you can too by following this link. The people they talk to include the Student President of Trustees, and a guy named Joel Westheimer, Education Research Chair. The math teacher heads out to school after that.

Traffic circle! Come on, how can I NOT give a shoutout to that?!

Event check: School, before class.

He heads through the prep room and on to the office to check mail and photocopy that handout he'll need this afternoon. (The one he finished about 4:45pm last night before donating blood.) There's another couple teachers there, and they chat a bit. He follows another out when finished, still talking - and he's referred to as 'Mr. T'. Insert joke about the "chain rule" here.

A bit more chatter in the prep room, then head to class for just after 8:20. A custodian is still there doing the floors - in part because all the desks are still separated from doing the task in class yesterday. In other words, it's now easier to clean than when they're together, so she's taking advantage of the opportunity. Good call.

You know, a day in the life of a school custodian, or office worker, might be rather interesting too...

Speaking of calls (and ignoring Elly despite her valid suggestion), his classroom phone rings - it's the other teacher who has this course. The same one referenced yesterday around 4:45pm. She's noticed a field trip, we'll need to alter our plans for next week a bit. Which is no problem, and he's glad she noticed that. Then, with the computer booted up, mail check time.

Warning bell, and the first few students help put the desks back into sets of two. Voluntarily without being asked, though one of them is a student who's been late a few times lately, so the teacher quips that he hopes this isn't turning her off being on time. He then heads to the door; doesn't recognize the 'get to class' music today. Rock with guitars or something.

Event Check: Period 1, Gr 11 Mixed

After morning announcements (it's Formal Day tomorrow...), time for him to get students going with TVM solvers for Finance. He posts up three general questions as the class goes on, solving them every fifteen minutes or so. One student away yesterday asks if the information from then is on the course website yet. Yup! He also has to lend his textbook out to the same person as he did yesterday.

Brief interruption partway through related to the Penny Drive at the school that's starting. A number of students donate pennies - he doesn't have any, despite remembering about this last night while blogging. Mainly because he didn't find any in his change. Also a few students asking about the marking for the test too, and "what's a level 2 question" or "what's a level 4 question". He describes as best as he can, but it's hard to nail that stuff down definitively.

His class in general goes smoothly. He's hopeful that the test tomorrow will go well too, and reminds them that he'll be available for last minute questions ten minutes before class starts. (Assuming there's no problems with the dropping off of his car tomorrow morning to deal with snow tires, but he doesn't tell them that.)

Event Check: Period 2, Gr 12 Data

First ten minutes is spent fixing up the mess that was left behind yesterday, regarding extrapolation. (There was also the fact that he'd misplaced his solutions and thus was winging it the latter half of yesterday. Para didn't even mention that!) Then he moves on to talk about two variable graphs that involve NON quantitative data, for instance, double bar graphs. Things are pretty much covered with a half hour left in the period, so that's time for the class to work and catch up.

And it's time for HIM to confront the people who didn't hand in their assignment on Monday, as collated yesterday. They'll "be in tomorrow for sure"... so, phone calls and/or emails if not. Also get more topics from students, which are needed by tomorrow to work out the survey groups for next week. Also a student who was away for a week asks him if they're still on for the test rewrite after school today. ....sure! Also he lends a student fifty cents so that they can print out an assignment in the library at lunch.

In the last five minutes, he sings to them. Yeah, I'm serious. The song is "One Line" adapted from the group Hedley, all about scatterplots. You can see the rewritten lyrics here. Does fully engage some students at least, and they were getting each other to quiet down so that there was time for this too. After, one of them was overheard to remark that Lyn's facepalm was funny.

Event Check: 11:15, Lunchtime

Is it just me, or is Wednesday going faster than the previous two days...

I'm cutting to the chase today! Too many asides in those previous days, not to mention readers probably have a good sense of this guy's day by now anyway. Assuming they started at the beginning anyway. So where was I? Right, lunch. Except the first fifteen minutes of that is his attendance, uploading lesson files to the web, and finding and slightly modifying an old test to give to that student as a rewrite for after school day. With that done, back to the prep room.

He has time to sit and have lunch with colleagues today. One mentions that she saw him at the blood donating last night; he was oblivious. There's some additional talk about food, politics creeps in, then things one can do with a Grade 10 textbook. Eventually things break up, then warning bell at 12:05, and he heads to get some stuff from class.


Student shows up. It's pointed out that this is a Day 2, not a Day 1, and the student quickly hurries to the proper class.

Event Check: Period 4 aka Prep Period

He starts by getting a quiz together for tomorrow, even though he should be working on tomorrow's first period TEST. He then modifies yesterday's task slightly for the few remaining people who will need to write it, which involves looking up some numbers. Finally he checks for a review, and unlike yesterday when he couldn't seem to locate anything, this time he turns it up almost immediately.

With everything figured out for Thursday EXCEPT for Period 1 (Sheesh), he heads back to the prep room to retrieve printouts. Ends up in a conversation related to the Gr 11 College level course, which he's teaching next semester, one colleague is doing now, and another did last year. After this, he heads to the office photocopier once more.

He runs into the math/music department head there. (Yes, it's the same department, just like tech/art are one department.) They chat briefly - apparently his coworker actually writes his own music when needed for play tests, which he didn't know, so that's kind of neat.

Speaking of music, have you ever noticed that whole notes look a bit like ellipses?

No. Also, seeing as I'm writing, ellipses remind me less of you and more of those three dots... which is totally off topic. So, stop that. He goes back to the prep room, and decides that with the amount of time left (about fifteen minutes) he'll use his laptop to print off the electronically submitted student assignments from Monday. Since the school computers can't open OpenOffice properly.

This also gives him the chance to check email and see if anyone's actually commented on his blogging to date. Because, yeah, narcissist. (And nobody tell me it takes one to know one!) Anyway, no new comments since last night. Which should be no surprise, because seriously, who has time to read blogs during the day? No, honestly, I'm curious, is there an occupation out there that allows for that??

Anyway. Prep period ends, test still hasn't been written, and no new marking accomplished. If only it COULD be done magically overnight!

Event Check: Period 3, Gr 11 U level

A number of students away here, but he knew about that in advance. Lesson on exponential word problems. It goes well, a number of people make the connection to percents real fast, others have classmates explaining it to them as he gives them some time to work on questions. He also schedules those people who need to do yesterday's task tomorrow.

Now here's something interesting that comes up.

He's been emphasizing don't round, rounding causes difficulties in calculating exact exponential ratios, and is not mathematically precise. Yet apparently in chemistry, they're getting penalized for NOT rounding. Because of how you're only supposed to end a question with as many significant digits as you started. If you start with 79.7, and cut it in half, you can't end up with 39.85 because that's more digits of precision than you had initially, so use 39.9.

Mathematics and science seem to be at cross purposes here.

Why does this come up, exactly? There's a big chemistry test next week the same time as our exponentials test is scheduled. Seems the chem test was scheduled first too, so to avoid confusion (and by popular request of at least a half dozen students), our blogging math educator bumps his test forwards a day - with the understanding that he'll be talking about the next unit on the original test day instead.

Event Check: School, after class.

The school day ends uneventfully; there are a few additional questions, but by 3pm, attendance is entered, files are uploaded, and he's headed back to the prep room. Oh, and that student from Period 2 who was going to write the test returns to indicate he cannot, owing to some issues related to his last period class. So hopefully tomorrow.

From 3pm to 4pm, he pulls out that same set of tests from last week to mark. (A student asked about them today. He's still trying for Thursday, but at 4pm, he's sure it's not going to happen, in particular because even if they're marked, they'll take an additional hour or two to total. Yeah, he has trouble with that.) Brief conversations with colleagues occur here too, at one point there's about six in the office.

At 4pm he decides he can't put it off any longer, and goes to his class to create a finance test for tomorrow. Normally he has these things done at least a day in advance, and in fairness, he does have a good sense of it in his head, but the thing about money problems is the numbers should make at least some sense, and he has no idea if a car costs $5000 or $20000. Finance... the simultaneously most useful and most annoying unit.

First, he sees a colleague he hasn't seen yet this week, and says hi... it's one he works with on drama productions, and they're friends. Amazing the number of people you work with that you really don't see on a daily basis, unless you chance to run into them in the office or something. He starts preparing the test by looking over one another colleague actually gave. Then decides he needs music. Back to the prep room - he's going in circles, and it's not my fault!

I'm sensing a lot of trouble coming from what will happen next.

He gets his laptop, which has good music. Decides to take a moment to check Twitter. Particularly interesting article talking about how False Memories Linger for Years. Reminds him of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Retrospect" on a similar theme. Though in a more mathematical sense, maybe this explains why some math mistakes keep coming back? There's a false memory somewhere of that method actually having worked, even though it didn't? Quick scan through more articles. And now it's almost 5pm. He FINALLY starts pulling together the test. Sheesh!

Called it.

Music from a 'Dance Dance Revolution' mix plays as he writes up the test, then prints, then checks for accuracy and tweaks, and then an additional question is devised for the students to consider over the weekend, since there's more finance coming next week. Once all this is handled, it's 7pm, and photocopying still needs to get done since there won't be time for that in the morning if there's additional questions.


Copies made, he heads out, needing to stop by the store to pick up some groceries on the way. Having done this, it's back around the lovely traffic circle and heading home. Oh, also a deer (or something) is spotted near the side of the road, despite the darkness. So, wow.

Event Check: Home, 8pm

His wife made dinner last night, so his turn, and he'll be starting on that now. Excepting he hasn't done dishes since Sunday morning, and there isn't a large frypan available. So, multitasking doing the dishes while cooking dinner too. Also chatting with his wife about their respective days.

Dinner is ready a little after 8:30pm, and enough dishes are done to take them through to the weekend. (Maybe even to Sunday - seeing a pattern? Don't read too much into it.) Time to check email and another quick scan of Twitter before starting this post.

Which is shoved slightly into the background at 10pm, because he does online Roleplay on Wednesday night, and so for over an hour he's all about killing vampires or somesuch, while pretending to be a British person in New York. It's text based, not like those crazy MultiUserOnline things. And I guess I can't complain THAT much, because in a sense I'm also Roleplay.

The lines are blurring again. Must be late.

Yeah, it's actually just after midnight now. Good thing tomorrow's the last teaching day, with Friday being Professional Development. We'll see if our creator and math educator pulls through - more power to him. (Hah! Get it? More power, and I have powers on both of my variables? Because I'm a circle? ...feh, fine, whatever.)

Looks like tomorrow will be Tangent. Hm. Not what was expected.

Oh, and as before, Tina's roundup of other educator posts at her site, Drawing on Math: Day in the Life, Part 2


  1. Impressed you're still going! Thanks for the link back. Promise to sleep this weekend?

  2. At this rate, the traffic circle is becoming a daily feature and should soon have guest billing. J

    I do remember something about the connection between music, math, and memory. Before literacy was the norm, instructions were sung to make them memorable to people who had to teach to the next generation of apprentices. We still see it today with the Alphabet Song. Many people today when going through the alphabet to remember what comes where still remember the snippet of the song. So, music parodies that tie into the lesson isn’t as silly as it looks on the surface. Plus, students paid attention, another bonus.

    And if I may provided the science side of significant figures… In math, when a mathematician says a line is 4 units long, he or she means precisely that, 4. Not 4 plus or minus 0.05 milliunits. However, in science, observational errors creep in. Measuring a line means using a device that is accurate to a degree. So, a measurement of 4.0 units means there could be a small variance of plus or minus 0.1 unit, while 4.01 units means the measuring device can be accurate to plus or minus 0.01 unit. (And this is simplifying greatly.) Not rounding compounds the error; you can only be as accurate as your least accurate reading. Thus, in science, a 4 isn’t necessarily an accurate four, while in math, a 4 is precisely 4 without any deviance.

    For the numbers in finance questions, $5000 is a good number for a used car. I’ve walked past car dealerships and see new car prices from $19 995 to $39 995, averaging about $25 000 without doing any real averaging or weighted mean analysis. The types of cars your students are likely to get fall in the $5000 and $20 000 numbers you give, but you could go all Porsche ( on them and let them price out a $140 000 car to see how much it really costs after financing. J

    Chances are, the deer that was spotted was either really a dear or could have been a moose. There’s been a moose striking already this week. So, yeah, keep an eye out. Cars and moose don’t get along. And are your RPing as Circe online? :D

    I was surprised that Elly didn’t get to narrate given who voted for her. ;) But having both was a nice bonus.

  3. Some sleep last night! More tonight, hopefully.

    Oh, I have a sense of the science side of things, but isn't it awkward when two different courses are applying math in (effectively) not just different but completely opposite ways? As to perspective, I could have gone either way, more meditative (Elly) or abrupt (Circe); had the former style in mind Monday, but elected to give top billing to the earlier vote in the event of a tie.