Thursday, 2 May 2013

MAT: OAME 2013 Day 1 - Key Notes

As I said recently, I want to record more Professional Development. That entry was meant to be a warm up for OAME 2013, the Ontario Association for Mathematics Education's Annual Conference, now taking place in Toronto, Ontario. It's the 40th anniversary. So this post tracks my lineup of sessions.


1) Keynote: Stephen Lewis

Topic: Education: The World's Greatest Force for Good

Essentially talking about Math and Social Justice. Not hugely mathematical, but definitely relevant for EQUALITY. Just when you think we've come a long way, you hear about what's happening to women and children elsewhere in the world... or even close to home. (I still do not understand what's with all the rape cases making the media lately for the wrong reasons.)

Also, it's terrible how money tends to be the bottom line for anything. Particularly education, as strings get attached to loans, and what once was free is no more... is it any wonder Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are seeing an upswell, given the cost of education in the world?

-Education grips young children. Particularly those who haven't been able to experience it.
-There's enough injustice in this world already without creating more injustice.

2) My Session

Topic: Musical Mathematics

I actually missed a bit of the keynote making sure I was in a position to be able to present. ^_^ Had about two dozen people. Felt like my pacing was a bit off and I say "Uh" too much, but got a number of laughs, and the comments ranged from "Thanks" to "Outstanding", so I did something right. Good point raised as to how much the singing in class actually helps/correlates with results on quizzes and the like. Need to figure out how to gather that sort of data.

-Someone out there is doing a music based math summative. I gave her my card, I hope she contacts me.
-My TMC13 presentation probably won't suck.

3) Featured Speaker: Dan Meyer

Topic: Making Math More Like Things Students Like: Video Games

The room had two screens, and they weren't synchronized, so Dan had to ask the audience for a second Mac projector adapter and coordinate two clickers. He started with some Angry Bird statistics, the answer to "How long will a student spend on a homework question until they know it's impossible" (12 minutes), and took a dig at Justin Bieber. (Meyer's more of a Ryan Gosling fan.)

Some key ideas (paraphrased):
"Make math more gamelike, not games more mathlike."
"Teachers risk not developing questions enough. We find the answers too exciting." (I am SO guilty of this at times.)
"A benefit of an open middle is that my way to solve [from beginning to end] may not be your way." (I love when a student does something different.)
"Adding a timed element only makes something more challenging, not more interesting." (I hate timed games. I don't play Set.)


The six key video game elements to incorporate in math class:
1. Get to the point (as fast as possible).
2. Real world, bah (real is relative).
3. Have an open middle (self determination).
4. Grow more interesting as you grow more challenging.
5. Instruction is visual, only as needed, embedded in practice.
6. Reduce the cost of failure (don't lock in tests).

4) Featured Speaker: Jason Brown

Topic: The Connections Between Mathematics and Music

Pure tones are sine curves. Why are so many of our trig applications about angles, and repeated phenomena, and oscillating objects - and not music? Even the scale is taking a continuous blend of tones and making them discrete... based on ratios. In the equal temperament scale, that ratio is 2^(1/12), or the twelfth root of 2. (12 tones in a chromatic scale.) And why does the diatonic scale use the sequence 2212221 (TTSTTTS)? Due to network graphs that seek a "maximally even" orientation.

Some of that theory may have passed you by, so again, key ideas:
"Hearing 'beats' between two similar notes comes from a trig identity." (sin A+sin B=...)

"Transformation is used all the time in music: move the motif up or down, reverse it, invert it, speed it up." ...Then show function notation? (Rap music generally only uses repetition, this may be why I personally find it less compelling.)
"Beatles tune 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' uses f(x)=x-3; they don't start on the downbeat. You don't realize until they start the vocals, and your brain is fooled every time you hear the song, even if you know about it." (A constantly rising chromatic scale was also a brain teaser.)
"A 3 pattern versus 4 is a popular trick." (eg. Emphasize every 3rd note while bars are 4 beats. Resynchs every 3 bars.)

I actually got Brown's book as a gift for being a presenter (it was one of a few book choices), and he signed it for me. I bought his CD too: "Songs in the Key of Pi".


There was lunch there between the two featured speakers, after which I checked out some of the exhibitors. Renewed my OAME membership. Cube for Teachers is an online resource that tracks lesson items by Ontario Curriculum. Talked to the University of Guelph guy about a wallet card for Statistics. (And, I fear, stumped him when I asked how he would personify a Normal Distribution versus a Binomial Distribution.)

I was the guy at the start of the day who got the people in the Presenters room to post up the code for opening the MagLocked tech desks. Then at the end, I went to the Wine and Cheese and ended up talking more musical math. Now looking forward to tomorrow!

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