Projects
days until the end of spring semester.days until Snakes on a Plane.
Boxes unpacked
Math article project
Finished mathematical core of article. Next: Write analytical core of article.
Dummit and Foote, Abstract Algebra
Finished section 1.6 (86 to go)
Silverman and Tate, Rational Points on Elliptic Curves
FInished 2.5 (31 to go)
Conway, Functions of One Complex Variable I
Finished section 7.5 (27 to go)
Munkres, Topology
Finished section 21 (60 to go)
Royden, Real Analysis
Finished section 2.4 (97 to go)
Nonfiction book project
Todo list uptodate
Fiction book project
1443 out of 100,000 projected words written.
Top 100 novels of all time
Reading Ulysses
IMDB top 250 films
Tengoku to jigoku next in queue.
Blogroll
This academic life
Academic CoachConfessions of a Community College Dean
Learning Curves
The Little Professor
My Hiding Place
New Kid on the Hallway
One Bright Star
Planned Obsolescence
Tall, Dark, and Mysterious
Math blogs
Ars MathematicaMathForge
MathPuzzle
Think Again
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Vito Prosciutto: Teaching community college math on the road to a PhD.
Saturday, January 31, 2004
13:12Saturday teaching
Friday, January 30, 2004
17:15Geometry
I had one student appear who has been absent from class for most of the last two weeks. Apparently he was suspended. I never saw the point of an outofschool suspension when I was a student and as a teacher, I still find the practice pointless. The business of students is learning. Taking them out of the classroom doesn't help that at all, and as a behavioral remedy it seems counterproductive since the student will be behind academically and will have an even harder time in the classroom and will likely behave even worse.
16:57Algebra
So after school, my Algebra mentor came by to talk with me and her opinion was that the remainder of the chapter that I will be teaching is poorly organized and that I should do this material completely differently. So much for the week's worth of lessons I had planned based on the book. I do see her point, though, and the book that we're using, McDougal Littell Algebra is one that I've complained about before. I do, however like, the supplementary materials.
16:47Half geek, half human
You are 53% geek  
You are a geek. Good for you! Considering the endless complexity of the universe, as well as whatever discipline you happen to be most interested in, you'll never be bored as long as you have a good book store, a net connection, and thousands of dollars worth of expensive equipment. Assuming you're a technical geek, you'll be able to afford it, too. If you're not a technical geek, you're geek enough to mate with a technical geek and thereby get the needed dough. Dating tip: Don't date a geek of the same persuasion as you. You'll constantly try to outgeek the other. 
16:28Math competition question
The second is similar in spirit, but a bit harder. We're given two quadratic equations with integer coefficients: ax^{2}+bx+c=0 has its largest root 2, and ax^{2}+cx+b=0 has its largest root 3. The greatest common denominator of a, b and c is 1. What is b+c? I've not yet worked this one out. My instinct is that we would solve this as a linear diophantine equation, but that seems a bit much to expect of Algebra II students. More in the comments to spare those who want to try working it out on their own.
Thursday, January 29, 2004
20:20It's girl scout cookie time
19:58Geometry
15:45Algebra
Here's a sample grid to show how it works for (x+3)^{2}:
x  +3  
x  x^{2}  3x 
+3  3x  9 
I also think that for understanding why we lose the middle term in the product of a sum and a difference and for seeing why the middle term of a square is 2ab, this helps make the material clearer.
One last thing was that many of the students were still having difficulty with yesterday's material, so I may end up having to do some reteaching next week as we get into factoring.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
20:01I am a limerick

19:48Catholic Schools Week
19:46Another bonus day of Algebra
19:34Review in Geometry
19:24Cliff's Test Prep ACT
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
20:00My no failures policy
I intend to assign no failing grades in this class. What this means is that if, after, any exam, you are failing in this class, you will be required to come in before or after school for additional review until you are able to take a test on this material and score a B or better.My inspiration on this was a comment from the teacher institute a couple weeks ago where the consultant talked about schools where students who didn't fulfill the performance objectives for a section of the course were required to redo that material until they did. This is one of those things that seems like common sense upon hearing it, and yet is completely absent from most practice (although one of my fellow grad students said that she saw this at the charter school where she observed in the fall).
I was going to talk to my mentor teacher about this today, but she had a doctor's appointment (same sub as yesterday) so she wasn't present.
20:00Teaching as Organizing
But there's also the question of dealing with the organizing within the lesson. And this is where things become more art than science. As a teacher I need to be aware of what will help the students learn best, and will also let me remedy any deficiencies that the students may have, both in the learning that should have taken place in my class, and also in the classes leading up to my class.
19:46Planning ahead
18:55He doesn't explain very well
18:53Teaching induction
Monday, January 26, 2004
15:26A taste of what teaching fulltime would be like...
It's quite different being at the front of the algebra class. I have one student, Juan, who's quite vocal. It takes some effort to keep him from answering all the questions that I asked of the class. We'll see tomorrow how well they did on the homework assignment, which was perhaps a little bit long.
I made a good use of Algebra tiles, I think, in introducing the concept of polynomial multiplication. I hope that pointing out the interesting correspondence between the algebraic notation on polynomial multiplication and the algebra tiles notation. Perhaps later this week I'll put up some pictures of how the algebra tile lesson worked.
I've also finished printing up the cards that I use for my homework checkin and attendence. Each card has the student's name and seat location printed on it, along with a grid that I can use to indicate when students are absent and when they brought in homework.
Homework checkin is a bit of a challenge still. I spend more time on it than I really want to. I think that tomorrow when I'm watching the Algebra class, I'll time how long my mentor spends looking at each student's work and what she does at each student's desk.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
08:13Even the Republicans don't like No Child Left Behind
Also mentioned in the article was a study commissioned by Ohio Republicans which found that NCLB had been severely underfunded. So much for claims from Joanne Jacobs and her followers that the claims of added costs from NCLB beign prohibitive to local school districts is just liberal whining.
Here's a link with some suggestions on taking action about this issue
Saturday, January 24, 2004
20:19First real teaching with Saturday program
From there we were able to look at some basics of functions, exponential notation, and we finished by seeing that we could solve x^{n}=c by taking c^{1/n}. I had hoped to get to logarithims in this lesson, but there wasn't time so we'll do that next week (we'll vary the model we use to go to six degrees of separation).
Friday, January 23, 2004
14:15Learning names
It's a great thing to do.
By introducing myself to these people and asking their names, they have all gotten a favorable first impression of me. And as anyone who's ever seen the movie Election knows, it's important to keep a positive relationship with your janitor.
14:06I need to be better organized
I also need to be careful about the level of my teaching. My mentor was telling me that I was occasionally going over the students' heads with my teaching.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
20:30An interesting grading exercise
So I decided when grading the quizzes to go one beyond my usual questionbyquestion tally of points (which is useful in itself) and I kept a tally of why students lost points.
The tallies themselves weren't terribly interesting, but the experience was very helpful as it made me think a bit more about what was going wrong and what to do about it. What I found as significant problems:
 In both classes it was a bit too common for students to do things like x^{2}+x^{3}=x^{5}
 Another thing that seemed to cause difficulty was remembering to correctly change the signs on polynomial subtraction.
 I also saw a lot of students who would not find 5 + 5 = 0 or who would do 1 +7 = 6 rather than 6.
 I found a lot of careless arithmetic errors as well, for example, 2x + x = 4x. I'm sure that the kids can do the arithmetic, but the pressure of a timed math problem gets to them. Some practice on this sort of thing would be helpful (tip for those teaching K8 math, it might not a bad idea to have daily timed math drills).
16:27Not always perfect
I did get tomorrow's quiz written, typed and copied. I had planned on giving the kids an excerpt from The Art of the Infinite on proof by induction, but reading over it last night, I realized that it didn't stand on its own very well, so I retyped it, adding some introductory material from earlier in the book and some marginal comments to help expand on some of the points covered.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
18:50Day 2, plus seminar
Which reminds me that I've been doing a bit more direct instruction than I'd prefer with the class and really no guided practice.
I also need to be careful about being sure to give wait time when I ask a question. I waited what seemed an eternity (but was probably about 3 seconds) and was rewarded by one of the students volunteering the answer that I sought.
The student teaching seminar looks like it'll be much less demanding than it had seemed at first. The opening exercise really wasn't a harbinger of things to do, and there isn't any reading due until February, and that is relatively light. I can worry a bit less about all of that.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
14:07First day student teaching
I'm not as far ahead in my planning as I'd like to be though. I call it the curse of the 3day weekend. I figure that I've got lots of extra time to get stuff done so I put things off and end up not getting anything done in the end.
14:02Interesting visitors...
Saturday, January 17, 2004
17:25I like seniors
I also get to do a vocabulary lesson with the kids. I'm given a short passage with a few words highlighted which are the words to be learned. I'm not too crazy about the tracking groups because I think that the students in this case would benefit from a more mixed ability group, especially with the smaller class size. I'm thinking that there's a different between tracking and placement that tends to get lost in the discussion about tracking.
Friday, January 16, 2004
15:25Most inspirational "inspirational" cinematic teacher?
14:16Teacher Institute
During discussions about school reform, I found myself thinking about how the best way to make reforms survive changes in faculty and administration would be to build the provisions into the teachers' union contract. I wasn't the only person to have this thought, apparently, as it rapidly developed into a consensus in the room independently.
Another intriguing idea was to regroup students on a 9week basis rather than each semester. In classes like math and foreign language, I can see this being especially important as a failure to keep up in the first quarter can lead to almost certain failure in the following quarter(s).
The other thing brought up which really struck me was the idea of having students redo work that isn't up to the standard. It's one area where I imagine many teachers, myself included, forget that what we're about is making sure that students learn the objectives and let the grade suddenly become the objective in itself. This almost makes me rethink the whole idea of how to grade. I think that grades really should flow out of the course objectives and the students' demonstration of having achieved those objectives.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
14:14Plan plan plan
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
20:16I Have CPCTC
15:18Books, ID and some minimal planning
After that, it was her prep period and she showed me the scantron readers and how they were being used although she did mess up so she didn't get the item analysis she wanted, then we ran about to arrange for keys and parking (both of which had to wait until noon).
I picked up my textbooks (I just got student copies, I actually kind of prefer to have the exact same book that the students do), and we spent some time going over how she does endofsemester grading. GradeQuick actually looks like a very useful piece of software. I think that I may go ahead and spend the $60ish that it costs so I can have my own copy running on my Mac (the priceliterally!that I pay for swimming against the current).
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
14:09Back at the high school
Monday, January 12, 2004
18:08Student teaching organizational meeting
One amusing moment was when one of my classmates asked about how much time he should spend planning for class. The prof responded, well, you should sleep 8 hours each night, and I'll be generous and give you 2 hours for eating, then subtract 5 times 50 minutes for your class, and you do the math.
I would think that he'd have some idea of the time involved from the fall Ed class. I typically have found that I need about 12 hours per class prep most of the time. I'm hoping that it will be lower by the time that I have to do the full 3 prep course load midsemester.
Sunday, January 11, 2004
07:56Saturday teaching
I arrived back in town early Saturday morning and courtesy of a comedy of errors just made it to the Saturday session (they still asked me to show up and I wanted to get a parking pass for the spring anyway). I introduced myself to the students and was asked to explain the meaning of the work in a freshman calc class. I think I may have oversold the amount of work.
One student asked if we would do any discrete math. Oh joy! My favorite subject. I told her that this would be very possible. I've come up with an organization plan where I'll do one hour inclass lessons and I'll give them a makesureyouknowthis sheet before each class to make sure that they're up to speed for the class. Next class I'll do a pretest based on the university's math placement test and give them a roadmap of university math classes (this latter inspired by some of the questions I heard yesterday).
Monday, January 05, 2004
17:11NCLB rant
Thursday, January 01, 2004
08:36Resolutions
So my resolutions for the year (or, I suppose, more accurately goals):
 Get my Saturday teaching planning done at least a month in advance
 Write lesson plans for the week each Friday rather than the night before.
 Get all the junk I've got in my parents' garage and basement sorted and compacted so that I can easily get myself packed for the big move in May.
 Get all the wedding planning stuff that I need to take care of done with plenty of time to spare
 Find a teaching job for fall
 Write the great American novel
 Take guitar lessons
 Reassemble my PC long enough to pull off the files on the hard disk.