Thursday, June 19, 2014

One Resource a Day

It's the summer!!!!!! I am trying to figure out what I am going to do with all my free time, since Geoff doesn't approve of when I hibernate in the summer time. (It has happened. I can sleep ~20 hours a day when I channel my sleeping chi.) I'm also trying not to be a brat about my semi-permanent vacation status when around my non-teaching friends, so I'll go ahead and be a brat here. Excuse me.

One of my colleagues said that he's trying to watch one documentary a day during the summer, to help enrich his (senior elective) Media Studies class. I think that's a great idea!! I love documentaries, and I love how his goal sounds motivating all by itself. I think in general, over the summer I am going to try to delve into my various non-math interests, in hopes that they will end up energizing my teaching or feeding into my mathematical interests. For example, a while ago when I was reading some biology thing or another, I realized that the reading tied immediately back to the exponential topic I had been teaching, in terms of tracing back to our ancestors and realizing based on average generation-length estimates that at some point within the last few hundred years (between now and the Middle Ages), there must have been lots of in-breeding if you compare exponential growth of expected number of ancestors (as a function of number of generations counted back) and the estimated world population at the time of the Middle Ages. A very interesting application of real math, coming out of an unexpected leisure reading!

But, more specifically, I like my colleague's documentary-a-day idea because it's specific, quantifiable, and not directly linked with planning for classes for next year. Here are some things that I've thought about doing over the summer, linked directly, indirectly, or not at all to teaching:

* Exercising 3-4 times a week (not connected with teaching, but a definite, stated goal because I think I may get lazy while I am on vacation in New Orleans this summer and not in easy access of my building's elliptical machine.)

* Reading a book a week (I have on my shelf: Mushroom Hunters for my book club, Americanah, and I plan to pick up some leisure reading involving math, brain/learning, or just general fiction.)

* A weekly happy hour or WEEKDAY brunch.

* Learning to sew!! (This has been on my list for a while, but it hasn't been a priority since I have been busy with other things during the year. My goal is definitely to take some intro classes at the start of the summer and to investigate some patterns that I want to make during the rest of the summer. I am really inspired by our friend Adria, who makes fabulous-looking custom quilts as a side hobby!!)

* Lastly, I want to make good use of this summer to widen my lens beyond math. It's hard to be creative in math or in teaching if you're only thinking of math all the time, so my goal is to really look outside of math and teaching, and to hope that those dots will connect themselves back to the classroom. For example, I came across this article by Margo Jefferson, which is amazing and links to a lot of the race/class issues that lie just underneath the surface at independent schools such as ours. Some ideas for tangentially related subjects include: leisure reading about chemistry, biology, and astronomy. I don't know/remember much about these subjects, so it'll be fun, like starting from scratch.

* Investigating some open-source computer-science teaching curricula, such as Girls Who Code or Our school doesn't offer any programming course or club, so I don't know what I plan to do with these curricula exactly, but I have been curious for a while and now seems the perfect time to investigate. (I have a programming background from a previous life, so I am not looking to learn myself, but rather to see how they scaffold the tasks, what their pedagogy is, etc.)

*Oh, and almost forgot to mention this, but I'm going to try to do One Teaching Resource a (Week)Day. As in, each day I'll look for something new that can add to my teaching repertoire, and maybe blog about it. I'll start tomorrow since tonight has gotten quite late. 

Is that too ambitious?? Stay tuned.


  1. lately I've been writing a ton about this digital literacy teaching program in Pittsburgh where teams of folks go out into the community to teach coding, programming, and intro to robotics to teens and tweens. The tools they use are called Scratch, Thimble, and Hummingbird. Maybe one of those tools will tickle your fancy during your break of exploration?

  2. Thanks for the rec! I'm familiar with Scratch and I'll look into Thimble and Hummingbird. I'm actually particularly curious about and Girls Who Code because they offer fully fleshed out lessons that allow me to peek at their pedagogy. It's not so much for any practical purpose but rather just to satisfy my curiosity.

  3. What an exciting list! It does sound highly ambitious, but I'm not one to judge - you can always recalibrate as the summer progresses. And I like the mix too!