Unsolved problems in teaching maths

I found this video inspiring.

Using unsolved problems in mathematics to teach schoolchildren, if done well, is a great way to build confidence. Just telling young people ‘here is a problem which is simply stated, but which the greatest minds can’t solve’ really gets them interested -and using their natural creativity, rather than looking for some boring, half-remembered algorithm.

A map of mathematics

This video makes a good stab at mapping out the entire subject. Something like this would be a useful addition to all maths courses.

I’d really like to understand WHY we have selected some bits for inclusion in public exam curricula and left other bits out. My suspicion is that it’s based on the preferences of various senior academics. As usual, these political types don’t care much about whether this material will actually help young people -either in daily life or in higher study.

This contributes to the feeling that studying maths is about gathering a basketful of disconnected tools. It should be more integrated -and having in mind the big picture would greatly help.

Mean vs Median

I liked this introductory article about the historical usage of the mean vs the median value.

It shows that there is no representative value for a data set which is absolute. You need to understand the data distribution before making a choice of central measure.

The best ever Maths and Physics tutor?

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Here is Albert Einstein’s small ad. for his services as a tutor in Mathematics and Physics.

Although never the world’s best mathematician, the number one Physicist of all time was uber-determined and a patient teacher. I’m sure that his students got good grades.

(I notice he offered a free trial lesson).

One to one works best

We knew this already, but here is some corroboration for the idea that one-to-one tutoring is highly effective.

Mind you, it depends on the tutor…and the tutee.

Rewarding speedy mathematics is bad for learning

“…data from the 13 million students who took PISA tests showed that the lowest achieving students worldwide were those who used a memorization strategy – those who thought of math as a set of methods to remember and who approached math by trying to memorize steps. The highest achieving students were those who thought of math as a set of connected, big ideas.”

It really is important that maths teachers stop teaching handle-turning methods and equating speed of solution with ability. See more here.

Einstein helped with homework

I love this little tale about Albert Einstein who helped explain a little girl’s maths homework -almost daily, for four years.

What a decent thing to do.

Introductory maths videos

There are some really clear explanatory videos on some challenging subjects in Mathematics here. These include probability, synchronisation, calculus… definitely worth a look.

Another useful source of background reading and explanation is Plus, an online maths magazine.

x/0 explained

I just came across this wonderfully clear explanation of division by zero.

It also gives a nice introduction to the ideas of undefined (‘leads to a contradiction’) and indeterminate (‘is true for any value of x’).