You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.
Education in Victoria is succeeding in some areas, but failing in many others – we have new school buildings, but they are overflowing and the school rolls climbing so quickly that teachers and principals have no bandwidth left for improving educational outcomes. Schools are adapting to technology, but failing to handle the wide range of ability and rates of learning our kids have. The system is not flexible enough to handle the needs of low achievers and high achievers in specific areas.
Every couple of months there is a new study showing how badly Australia is doing compared to other countries in areas such as Math. We know there are approaches that have worked elsewhere but we seem unwilling or unable to change and adopt them.
Homeschooling is an important right for Victorians – in many cases it is the only way to solve problems with bullying, with low achieving students and with high achieving students. Homeschooling is a rising demographic which serves as an important barometer of how well our schools are serving students and parents.
If the government understands this, then it will understand the value in Homeschooling, and will preserve that right as a legal option, and keep the current registration regulations intact. Homeschooling also serves the Dept of Education – it relieves pressure form a strained system, and gives a flexible way of educating students who are not well served by schools. It is part of the solution, not part of the problem.
It is so important that the Department of Education _listen_ to Homeschoolers, not try to tell them how to educate, or punish them – rather use it as important feedback. I was surprised to find many ex-teachers among Homeschool parents, and other parents had studied education theories in some depth. Homeschoolers as a rule are those who value education highly – they are pro-education, not anti-education.
I can say personally, it is heart rending to make the decision to take your child from school, you would only do it if there was a real problem to solve, or a clear benefit in doing so.
My son has just turned 13yo, he is by some accounts gifted – but the reality is simply that he was read to a lot from an early age, and had some opportunities for books and learning and discussion, and excelled because of normal healthy genes and a supportive environment. He has attended public schools in inner Melbourne for 3 years, the other years being Homeschooled – so I have some basis on which to compare the good and bad of each approach.
Early this year he was accepted into the SEAL program at a very good new school in inner Melbourne. The SEAL program is great for many kids because they immediately skip a year and jump ahead closer to their current level. I’m in favor of the SEAL program, its a good thing – but its not the complete answer. In my sons case he was repeating material he had done a couple years earlier in Math, so the homework was ‘busy work’.
I tried him out on year 10 questions and he worked through them well, so it seemed he was at that level. I asked the teacher if he could work ahead in Math, then asked the year coordinator and finally the deputy principal – and was surprised that this request was politely ignored in every case. At first I was angry, but then I realized that they probably just saw my request as “more work” for them, and they are already straining to keep up with massive expansion in student numbers. The roll is growing at a massive rate, and I think this is why they just don’t have bandwidth to gather a real focus on learning outcomes, let alone catering flexibly to students who fall outside the norm.
As an aside, there are ways to teach and learn math that are vastly better for all students than the approach we have in most Australian schools now. You don’t have to invent new methods, they are tried and work well overseas – you can read about Jo Boaler, ProofSchool, MathCircles, KhanAcademy, AoPS.com, Australian Math Competition etc. You can read any review of our current math texts by university mathematicians, or look at any comparison study with other countries to know we are doing it badly. The system needs to be flexible enough to accommodate and experiment with these new methods. Its not the curricula per-se, it is the way its communicated – it is not visual enough, it is too topic-centric and should be more problem-centric, it is not interactively explored.
Id like to see schools adopt these approaches – but right now they are too busy handling roll growth alone, and in moving from paper books to ipads.
This means the only solution, for now, is to Homeschool your child if they excel in Math – school is a hostile environment towards learning math deeply.
We need to change the way we think about Homeschooling – it is valuable for mainstream education in Australia, it is a place to see how new methods work and take the needed risks in new approaches to learning. It is a pressure valve for a school system experiencing the stress of rapid growth, and it is the only way to accommodate that small minority of students who will not excel at schools, no matter how good those schools become in future.
To this end I propose that the Victorian Government / Department of Education Victoria consider supporting Homeschooling in the following practical ways :
- Preserve the current lite-touch Homeschool registration regulations in Victoria [ realise that making regulations tighter will likely result in mass non-registration ]
- Fund a fulltime Homeschool liaison specialist educator in DETV [ to support homeschoolers, not police them ! ]
- Establish an open registry of public school events that Homeschoolers can join in with
- Fund several masters/phd opt-in studies on Homeschool education approaches and attainments
- Fund Math and Science specific programs for both schools and homeschoolers, eg: [ alternative curriculum materials, such as AoPS.com books, Math Circles and Robot workshops ]
- Establish a yearly tax deduction for extra costs associated with homeschooling your child [ taken from the money that homeschooling saves the government on schooling ]
Just made a couple of videos explaining multiplication in a visual way, using the ‘Box Method’
Havent posted for a good while.. been incredibly busy working on a side project which seems to have a life of its own.
Collabapi.com is not quite ready for release, but I’ve been using it to get real work done for a while. Its basically a much quicker way to develop data centric apps. This kind of app is useful for tracking all the information you need to run a business well – the stuff that goes on paper / word / excel forms. It would be great if there was a quick way to make it mobile / web and have the data in electronic format from the get-go so you could search it more easily and so on.
Example App : Gym Membership Sales Pipeline
We can start by making a form each for our Salespeople, and our potential Customers. I configure up the data model in the App Designer for these, save those changes… then the app comes up on web and tablet straight away :
I did this by configuring the fields, checkbox items etc, and the app reflects this ‘datamodel’ :
Apparently there’s a sales-cycle thing we want to keep track of –
- initial contact
- see if the customers interested
- what are their goals
- book a meeting
- get them to signup
- success! happiness! cash!
So here’s a go at modeling up a sales call…
… hmm, promising and a good place to start, I can actually put that in front of the Gym Owner and her Chief Sales Maven, and they can try it out on the web or on their tablet device.
The point of this article is not to say ‘you can do apps real quick in Collabapi’ … which is kinda true.
The coolness is really just the way we can iterate and experiment : get something out there quickly and get the users to make suggestions.
Its more of a GSD or MVP / lean-startup approach to making apps. Its not just for business apps, but I think it will be really handy for business … putting the love back into the ‘small-data’ that’s important to most people.
I’ll talk a bit about the technology under the hood at some stage – and there is a lot of tech under the hood – but for now, that’s a good place to pause and have a cup of tea :]
justgord at gmail dotcom
I get the feeling a lot of people are surprised when they find out you can _understand_ math.. it isn’t just a series of random facts and some Rube Goldberg machinery.
I think this problem must start quite early in school, and get enforced so often it becomes a belief system. For example its rare that the distributive rule is related to areas of rectangles.. but that’s such a good visual explanation, it should be the default way of introducing the idea :
After a couple of these diagrams you can mention it works for any rectangle with sides of length a+b and c+d , namely : (a+b)(c+d)=ac+ad+bc+bd.
Maybe with tablet computers we can make Math more intuitive, when good visualizations can be seen by most students.
I wonder if teachers are so constrained to teach the points of the curriculum, handle admin tasks and control the class, that there is no time left for cultivating Math ‘understanding’ ? But surely its faster to learn / teach by understanding?
If you never get that little rush of endorphin from understanding, I could see how Math would be very boring and random.. because its not really math then, its something else ( and that’s not good, is it Precious? Not at all.. no it isn’t.. Precioussss… hmm… ghollum ! )
Here’s a nice problem to introduce simultaneous equations and Algebra. I saw this on the singaporemathsplus.net blog here
There are 100 chickens and rabbits altogether. The chickens have 80 more legs than the rabbits. How many chickens and how many rabbits are there?
In GridMaths there are a couple ways to approach simultaneous equations visually – sometimes you might use a different color bean to represent each variable, lets say an orange jellybean and a brown coffee bean, and you don’t know how much each weigh, but you might be able to figure it out. This is nice, as your not tempted to add apples and oranges together [ or jellybeans and coffee beans ].
Another way is to have rectangles or lengths and color or shade them differently – this is easy in GridMaths, you just draw color rectangles, or Cuisenaire Rod lengths. Remember to make the point this is not to scale, you cant yet measure off the diagram, the length is standing in for the real length which youll arrive at.
Here’s a sheet with the C chickens and R rabbits problem [ Chickens in green, Rabbits in orange, known lengths in blue ] :
Apparently this is called the ‘Bar method’ in Singapore maths – I think its good to have a name so teachers, parents and kids can talk about this approach. Someone asked me about an earlier post, whether it was the Singapore method.. and actually no, I’m not familiar with that method or series of books.. but from what I hear it seems quite good in terms of using visual keys to get the concepts across.
Here’s another problem solved using pink! jellybeans and brown coffee beans to represent X and Y :
A good order to broach these ways of looking at simultaneous equations is :
- a word problem
- jellybean approach
- shaded length bars
- algebra / variable names
- linear graph intersection
Likewise, I think that using rectangles for multiplication is a huge thing that isn’t done enough. This approach can help reach some learners who see algebra as just wacky rules with no meaning. The great thing about this Visual representation is its easy to work with.. and leads directly to algebra. Once you’ve done a couple, you can just use letters instead of colored lengths and everything works the same way. So its seen as an efficiency, to save making the diagram each time.
I was first introduced to simultaneous equations through one of the books of W.W.Sawyer a great teacher of math teachers. I read his book as a youngster and so got interested in Calculus.. he had a wonderful way of making things simple and interesting. He talked about how the average speed of a car over its entire journey was not that important, if you happened to get hit by the car just when it was travelling at its maximum speed. In court you’d want to know the average velocity of the car in the few meters and seconds before the event.. this led directly to ds/dt type discussion. Awesome guy!
So GridMaths.com is in open beta, now works reasonably well on iPad and recent desktop browsers. Android browser support coming sometime soon.
Heres a pic my 9yo created while testing things out on the iPad.. with the obligatory battle scene [ dad vs browser quirks ? ] :
Here’s a couple of sheets on how I like to present long multiplication…
Firstly a concrete rectangle where you can actually count the squares to satisfy yourself its right…
Then move to a more compact form, which still shows the rectangle grid, but not to scale..
This shows that lots of digits should not induce panic.. the same systematic approach works [ which is why computers can do multiplication so well ].
I think having the box grid is a nice way to remember where all the pieces come from [ single digit products ]. Also I think it really helps to use the blank grid spaces, rather than fill in every 0.
The lattice method is slightly more compact, but I think this box approach reminds students of whats really going on.
Thanks for all the emails and encouragement so far as I build this.
Enjoy, and let me know how your using GridMaths.
Parse.com is a Y-combinator startup offering a fest-setup and easy -to-use backend store for iOS and web apps …
Here are some impressions after using on a commercial iPhone app project :
My feedback after using Parse for real work for a few days on iOS is that there are a few things that Id like to see added :
- allow Pointer type cols [aka relations / object refs ] to be added via the web / DataBrowser
- allow double click on objectIDs in DataBrowser, for ctrl-C/V
- add csv export, json export [ imnso, these make me more likely to pay for Parse, not less ]
- search/filter, sort cols, in DataBrowser
As a workaround I had to do “inspect element” of the Data Browser web page to get the object id, then write some test code to create the object Pointer references.
Also Ive been pining for a detail button for each row – that would pull up a detail grid with [ colname | value ] so I can see all a rows attributes vertically at a glance [ if it can be left open while I select rows, all the better ]
Generally, the iOS Parse api is nice, and it just works… in fact a lot of this I had already implemented myself in js + Node.js + mongo, but a client wanted a Parse backend so that gave me an excuse to evaluate.
So my first impression is good, but as people use this for real work, youll need those little details to save time.
( btw, prefetch link/reference with includeKey is handy )