Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: January 2009

Mr. Myamoto Can KENKEN

After writing my post yesterday, I did some reading and found this article from The Times Online about the creator of the KENKEN puzzles. He has some very interesting ideas about math and education in general.

Mr. Myamoto offers special math classes on weekends, and parents flock to him for a chance to have their children attend. In these classes, children solve the puzzles with minimal guidance. They are encouraged to work on their own, using trial and error, which differs greatly from fact memorization, a common theme in education around the world.

Mr Miyamoto’s theory is that the brain – of a child or adult – is failed by conventional teaching. By concentrating on a “third way” of problem-solving, he believes that the mind becomes a more potent tool for dealing with the rest of life, from main-stream education to the challenges of the workplace.

Last night I introduced my own children to KENKEN. Together, they solved a 4X4 and a 5×5 puzzle. Tonight, they want to try the next size. They are working on their math without any reminder to please finish their homework. I agree with Mr. Myamoto who says, the puzzle “draws out the primal, self-starting learning instinct of human beings.”

Logic and Math

I love Sudoku puzzles. You can’t get away with guessing on them, or at least not very often.

This morning I took a break from work (snow day???) to play with a variation of the usual Sudoku: the KENKEN.

In this puzzle, in addition to filling in numbers without any repetition, they have to yield a particular number when manipulated according to instructions.

Here is a blank KENKEN, a 5×5 puzzle.

The numbers within the dark borders have to add, subtract, multiply, or divide in any order to yield the given answer. Tricky.

Here is the first KENKEN I solved.

Now I can try a bigger one, maybe that 5×5 above.

Students would learn from working on these. The skills needed are many, from simple arithmetic to finding factors and, of course, logical thinking.

There is a new one every day at the KENKEN site. Show one on your Promethean board and solve it with your class, or divide students in groups and have a race. Link one to your blog and let the students work from home. The kids might enjoy this more than a worksheet.

Manage the Crowd

Are you organizing the next potluck lunch at school? An awards ceremony? How about asking for your colleagues’ opinion?

Don’t ask for emails. You’ll have to filter, cut, paste, sort, ask for clarification, work, work, work.

Our Google Docs makes it very easy to create a form and collect all the information in a searchable, sortable, readable, exportable spreadsheet. Get exactly the information that you need in exactly the format that makes it most usable to you.

Stop by my office or send me an email if you would like to learn more.

Beautiful Earth

I spent some time today taking a break from a day of justifiable inauguration overload browsing through the images at the Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog. The entry for January 14 has beautiful pictures of our planet taken by different satellites over the past eight years or so. The patterns are amazing, and the scale of what they represent is overwhelming.

The Globe also features a link to the original source of the images, NASA’s Earth Observatory. In their Image of the Day section, you can find many more beautiful, but often sad images of our planet’s erosion, forest clearing, wetland damage, forest fires, etc.

Are you teaching about glacers? volcanos? pollution? deserts? irrigation? cloud formations? Look through these images and find a few to help your students get the big picture.

Yes, we do have Google Earth, but these images are well worth clicking the link.

Museums, Games, and Learning

Today, I wanted to hug my radio. NPR ran an installment of their Museums in the 21st Century series that made me want to jump up and down and cheer for the people looking at transforming museums for the future.

Jane McGonigal, an expert on alternate reality games, speaks about the emotional and educational value of games and how they will make museums fun places for everyone. But she may have been speaking of how to make schools places where kids want to be, and are learning to boot.

(McGonigal has) come up with four elements she believes we all need to be happy: satisfying work, the experience of being good at something, time spent with people we like, and the chance to be a part of something bigger. Games, she says, do all of these things.

Imagine if students had all four of these at school!

Of course, it can’t all be fun and games at school. But, fun lesson plans can help. Take a look at Ms. Kuhn’s social networking project and Ms. Harden’s Scratch animations.

Flying People

I stumbled upon this video of people jumping off cliffs with “wingsuits” and pretty much flying.

wingsuit base jumping! from theartist on Vimeo.

I had no idea this is such a popular activity. I wonder if, given the limited surface area of the “wings” provided by the length of a person’s arms and legs, the activity is limited to people under a certain weight. I am sure I could ask around, but maybe there is a Physics or Science class that can look into it.

Atlas of Inequality

Once again I am posting about maps, graphs, and statistics, this time from my husband’s Alma Mater. The UC Santa Cruz Atlas of Global Inequality has very interesting graphs of world-wide statistics. Here are two that caught my eye.

The first one I find fascinating because it is so absurd. I’m sure I’m not the first person to look at this graph and wonder how it can be possible. Are we wasting our dollars on health care and insisting on living unhealthy lives, or is our health care that much more expensive than others?

The second one, I see as a great way to start many, many discussions. What does “other” mean and why is it so high in Latin America? What kinds of viruses and parasites are in Sub-Saharan Africa and why do so many people get infected? What kinds of tumors do people in Europe get and what causes them?

I could paste a dozen other interesting graphs and keep writing for hours. Take a look at all they have to offer, including teaching modules (meant for college students but easily adaptable).

Vital Routine

How many of us back up our hard drive regularly? I have to admit I have skipped a Back-Up Friday or two. Read about an entire company going out of business for lack of a proper back-up.

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