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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This Batch of Children Will Do Just Fine

They didn't seem overly impressed with the origami time-lapse, but I found three (THREE!) secret-admirer origami presents on my desk throughout the day. A water bomb, a box, and a more-different box that looked kind of tulip-y. (When did they find time to make them in the midst of my dazzling instruction? It's a mystery.) (They were impressed by the ~500 views. "WHO ARE ALL THOSE VIEWS?!" "They are mostly my Mom." "Naw Miss Nowak has like 1000 Twitter followers." "WHAT?!" "Yeah she's apparently kind of a big deal." "Why?" "I have no idea.")

A child was making Vi Hart sketches of a triangle with an inscribed circle and infinity-more inscribed circles while waiting for his classmates to finish simplifying $\frac{4+\sqrt{-48}}{2}$. Me: "YOU WATCH VI HART?!?!!" Him: "Yes, I love her." Me: "ME TOO! YOU ARE MY NEW SECRET FAVORITE!"

One child keeps DOING SOMETHING to my rubik's cube in like four moves that I can't undo anywhere near that quickly and it's driving me literally insane. (Just changing the middle square color on all six faces? Wtf. I should be able to undo that THE RUBIKS CUBE HAS INVERSE FUNCTIONS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.)

Calculus is still a very timid group, extra afraid of being wrong slash anyone knowing they are wrong, but had lots of fun looking into the "there are always two antipodal points on a great circle at the same temperature" thing today. (Which true confession I'm not totally sure is a good use of Intermediate Value Theorem day but I kind of suspect is it, so I went with it.) There was a distinct, entrenched camp arguing "no," and a diverse, poorly-organized camp valiantly arguing "yes," and the "no's" were very gracious when they realized their position was untenable.

They will do just fine indeed thank you.

This all makes up for how I got observed today during quite possibly the worst-ever Geometry class of the year. (Observation the first day back from a four-day weekend? Who does that? We spent 45 minutes recalling the mathematical differences between their assholes and a hole in the ground. Not really but it took ten minutes for someone to summon a vague recollection of having heard of the pythagorean theorem before. I wish I was kidding. Needless to say we did not even get to the dazzling lesson that was planned. Why didn't she come last Thursday? We were pouring salt on triangles. It was epic.)


  1. The ol' switch-only-the-center-square was my favorite show-off move back when I could do the cube in about 90 seconds. Finish, look at it for a second, and then with a flourish, switch the center squares and slam it down. Works every time. Also, I used to make what is called the star-shaped box all the time. So basically, I might be a student in your class.

    Glad the classes are showing some personality. Mine are coming around now too. It's getting fun.

  2. Have to share ...
    Boat Balls and Pythagoras:

  3. Oh and as for the Rubik's cube, here's how to do it forwards; you can figure out how to recognize the inverse yourself: rotate one of the middle layers a quarter-turn, then do the same with another middle layer. Then rotate the first one backwards a quarter-turn, followed by the second. Presto! a double three-cycle of the centers.

    The other possibility is that they've done a double two-cycle, which works the same except the first layer rotates forward and back by a half-turn instead of a quarter-turn.

  4. linked:

  5. Back in the day I was a one trick pony when it came to the Rubik's cube; I could do the Rosebud or flower pattern that your student is doing. Here's a pretty good video of how to make the pattern.

  6. Kate, I have been reading your blog for a while now, and finally had to jump in and comment. Your last bit about your observation being the worst ever... just happened to me too! I have never had any real problems in class and the day I was observed the kids just went crazy--hands on each other, unfocused, observation nightmare. It's a shame the kids don't understand how important these observations are.

  7. Oh no! Sorry to hear. I hope your observer is understanding. Mine was. I invited her to come back a different day.

  8. Here's some crazy 1 degree of separation material:
    A math educator at Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science has been enjoying your blog. She saw your origami video. She's collaborating with an art education project and suggests making a huge installation where a whole class contributes to make some geometric origami post-it creation. She presents it to me, and other teachers, tonight at a meeting of math teachers who want to collaborate with artists on a project this year.

  9. That is crazy bananas. I hope it happens and you guys post pictures.

  10. Please explain why you were pouring salt on triangles. That sounds intriguing!

  11. Cut out a triangle out of thick, stiff cardboard. Perch it on top of a cup. Pour as much salt onto the triangle as you can fit. See what happens. :)

  12. Pouring salt is great! I tried it at home by myself. Soon my husband came in and asked why there was a bowl of salt on the counter. I demonstrated and he said that's cool! Then my son came in and said the same thing. (I've just realized I didn't give them a chance to pour it themselves. They would have loved it even more.)
    Do you give everyone in your class salt, bowls, and cups? Have them cut different triangles.

  13. So cool, right? I prepared the cut-out triangles ahead of time. I gave the kids in groups of four a triangle, dixie cup, container of salt, and the top from a box of copier paper to put it in and catch the salt.

    At the end I just had them throw away the salt, but I think in the future I will have them funnel it back into the container.


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