7 December 2014

5 Maths Gems #17

Ho-ho-hello and welcome to my seventeenth weekly gems post. This is where I round up some of the best maths teaching ideas I’ve seen on Twitter. I’ve got some crackers for you today.

1. Balancing
Do you remember in Gems 13 when I featured the brilliant balancing problems from Don Steward? My readers loved them! Well this week Damian Watson (@dwatson802) shared the visual algebra puzzle website SolveMe Mobiles which has similar problems for use on an interactive whiteboard, tablet or computer. The website, from the Education Development Center, allows users to both build and solve mobiles. The website says that 'the logic of these puzzles is the same as the logic behind the solving of equations and systems of equations, but the visual format makes these puzzles, and the logic they develop, accessible and appealing...'.
2. Blanks
Sarah Aldous (@mathsfeedback) shared a nice idea for teaching logs that could be used for a number of topics. The idea is that you put questions up around the room and students answer on a post-it, but their answer must differ from the answers already given.

Here's my examples of similar questions for fractions:
and indices:
You get the idea. Students make suggestions for the blanks and in doing so they demonstrate their understanding of the topic. Plus, they have to think creatively if their idea has already been taken.

3. Dictionary
Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom) shared this collection of web tools that don’t need a log in. The list includes a brilliant maths dictionary for kids. This dictionary from Jenny Eather is really lovely - it's the best maths dictionary I've seen for students. Definitions come with examples and interactivity. Here's the definition of the word adjacent (check out the website yourself to play with the interactive features).
And here's the definition of sector. Again, it's interactive.
And here's two more examples - palindromic and perpendicular.

4. Simultaneous Equations
I love this blog post from Heather (@misshdavis). In it she describes how she introduced the idea of simultaneous equations. She started with a series of visual problems to solve by trial and error, like this one:
She then gave students a set of game cards like this:
She asked them to set values for x and y and work out the answers. They then had to give their card to another student, and that student used trial and error to work out the values of x and y. Students were encouraged to use fractions and negative numbers for x and y - they were impressed that their teacher was able to figure out their values so quickly. This is a lovely link to the next lesson, in which they'll learn algebraic methods to solve simultaneous equations.  What a fantastic idea.

For more simultaneous equation teaching ideas and resources, see my post Linear Simultaneous Equations.

5. Whiteboards (again!)
I've written about vertical whiteboards and acrylic sheets before (see Gems 7) - I love these ideas and hope that one day I have the budget to do both.  Andrew Stadel (@mr_stadel) wrote a great blog post this week about his experience of using large whiteboards - it's well worth a read. One idea is 'Placemat':
If students are working on a task together, they work individually on separate sections of a large whiteboard, then use the centre to record their final answer. This approach helps students compare their work and support each other. It's also a good way for the teacher to assess individual understanding and check that everyone is contributing to group discussion.

Another idea is Brain Dump:
Here we have an image in the middle and students write down everything they know about it in their individual sections, before they compare and discuss their answers.

And we have Number Talks:
In this example a number is written in the middle and students work in their individual sections to write down as many ways they can think of to make that number.

Do read Andrew's post for the full details and links to lots more ideas. If your department doesn't have the budget to buy large whiteboards or acrylic sheets then you could use flipchart paper for these activities. Whiteboards are much better though, because of the power of the eraser ('because the markings can be easily erased, students are immediately inclined to write without hesitation') - you can read about this in the excellent post Whiteboards vs. Chart Paper by Thomas Ro (@MrT_Ro).

That's it for this week. I'll leave you with a great problem for your students from UKMT, shared by Matt Smith (@mathsmatt). Find the angles in the rhombus, assuming there's one equilateral and three isosceles triangles.