A crafty math application

A lot of people find math pretty dry. If math class is composed of going over pointless problem after pointless problem with very little practical application, then, frankly, I don’t blame them.

My favourite thing about math is its applicability. It can describe anything and everything! If I asked you to think of your favourite thing, I bet math could be used to describe, predict or analyze some part of it.

Don’t believe me? One of my favourite hobbies is crochet (the one that involves yarn, a hook and results in blankets that tend to be made up of granny squares). Now, crochet isn’t something that anyone would typically try to throw math at … unless of course you’re a serious math geek like me.

One day, when I found myself with some free time on my hands and an abundance of yarn, I decided that I wanted to crochet a perfect sphere. I wanted to know the exact number of stitches required in each row to make an ideal sphere. I thought to myself, if I sliced a sphere up into thin, horizontal slices, each slice would look like a circle. The circumference of each circle-slice would represent the number of stitches I would need in each row of my sphere – so that’s what I set out to find.

After I threw a little bit of math at it, I came up with a pattern for the number of stitches required in each row to make an ideal sphere! I posted the pattern on my craft blog along with a description of how I solved the problem.

Voila! Math used in a decidedly non-mathy situation.

Here’s the cool thing: since I posted the sphere pattern, lots of people have used it! Not only did I share with people about how math can be applied to a real life problem, but I also created a pretty basic pattern that people took off with. Lots of people actually shared photos of things that they made using the sphere pattern on a craft website called Ravelry.

If you crochet and are interested in the pattern, here is the link to the pdf.

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Technology in the classroom

Friday was a PD day at the high school that I’ve been placed at. And it ended up being super informative for me.

One of the best parts of the day involved a meeting with all of the grade 9 teachers. The school is starting a technology initiative wherein all grade 9 classes have to incorporate a technology related project. I sat in on the grade 9 math teachers’ brainstorming session.

One teacher shared her experience using wiki spaces with her class, and suggested that this would be a great idea for the grade 9s. She whipped out her laptop and showed everyone some examples from her class. She had started a wiki space and assigned the students their own pages, which link off of her home page. On each page, the students could put together a summary of a unit from the course, or a tutorial on how to solve equations, for example.

Everyone was impressed. Their response to this idea was: “I love it! I have never used a wiki space before. Let’s do this!” I was completely impressed by their enthusiasm.

For the next 20 minutes, all of the math teachers sat around computers in the library and worked together to start their own class wiki space. I mentioned that I was taking this technology course at Brock, so my associate teacher suggested that we have the grade 9 math class (which I am teaching) work on their wiki project during the time that I’m teaching. How cool is that?

After you’ve completed the sign up, you automatically have a wiki home page. Here is the wiki space that I created just to test things out. If you want to change what it says on your home page, click ‘Edit’ at the top. If you want to add some pages (let’s say, add a page for each student to work on), click ‘New Page’ on the left. When you click ‘Manage Wiki’, on the left,  you will get this screen:

From this screen, you can change the look of your wiki space, invite students via email and change permissions as to who can edit what.

When you click on ‘Invite People’, you will get this screen. You have to input the email of every student that you want to add to your site. They will be sent a link and will be asked to create a user name and password.

Once they’re in, they will be able to edit anything they want. It’s a good idea to click on ‘Permissions’ (under ‘Manage Wiki’) and lock the home page, so that you are the only one who can edit it. In order to prevent one student from messing around with another student’s wiki page, it’s probably a good idea to point out that, as the organizer of the wiki space, you are able to see who edits what.

Each student just has to explore the wiki and learn how to add content to their page. So, I created a few pages on my test wiki space for me, Mark and Mom to play around with. So far, it’s really fun to explore and easy to add to it. I’m really looking forward to trying this out with the grade 9s in a month or so.

UPDATE: Dad hacked my Mom’s wiki space and added a fun math riddle. I think Dad is testing me to see how to handle students messing around with each other’s pages!

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