Another First Day

Posted on July 6, 2014


Sundays do lend themselves to a “fresh start” feeling for me, especially when I don’t have a lot on the agenda. Much to be said for practicing a Sabbath. Is it really sabbatical to be using the day to step back and look at the big picture, and be planning madly and *thinking* about work?

I successfully found pages online about actually, heaven forfend, releasing an app. (Yes, it still needs a lot of work, and yes, I need to figure out what my intention for releasing it would be: for students to use, or other professionals to see and critique? Or…)

Other avenues: Dive back into Camtasia for “use this this fall!” items. Next Powerpoint: Order of operations, with personalities 🙂 Lord Vinculum Rules!

tl/dr part:
In our pre-algebra course, first section of Chap. 1 is all about integers, using chips as concrete reference and including the “Same Sign, add & Keep” song for the mnemonic support. Next section, BANG! Order of operations, and yes, they’re doing lots of multi-step problems that induce hair-rending.

I’m thinking of several possible frameworks. First one is that Lord Vinculum is the guy with the most power (I considered Lady Vinculum but um just seems too masculine; may devise a gender-free Power Title)… and s/he cups hands around and hte hands will turn into parentheses and brackets…the “grouping symols.”
… then a brief “grouping symbols that do other stuff” side bar with absolute value and fraction bars and square rootages, perhaps as the “accelerated version.” I also have to peek back at the book (it’s not here, it’s the weekend!) and see just how much of that stuff is included… and peek at ALEKS to see where it goes with it.

The next most powerful are THE POWERS!!!! … having trouble deciding whether to build this up from the simplest, which would be *last* in the order of operations, or not.

To build up I’d talk about how + and – are the simplest operations, with the least power, crawling up and down the number line or counting… and how because they’re simplest they wait in line ’til the others are done. Stress that + and – are like siblings; one undoes the other but they’re the same kind of operation. Since students have just done “adding the opposite is subtracting” a little review of that can be tossed in, as well as reminder that you have to add & subtract the same things together to make sense. You can’t subtract inches from cranberries. However, since they’re at the same level, + doesn’t get to go before minus.

Multiplication and division are more powerful than simple plus and minus — can take us out into two dimensions; show an array… oh, and yes, THis Is The Week I Start Making Cute Animated GIFs of Math Concepts! (I hope.) Like + and – … if dividing comes first… it goes first…

Next up are the POWERS… see above… and yes, I’ll toss in a link to my exponents stuff ( ) … but ALL MUST DELAY FOR THE GROUPING SYMBOLS.

Hmmm… should I personalize the operations, verbally and/or visually and/or musically? As Sesame Street did with squares and triangles?

I think I’ll have a separate powerpoint about suggested ways to do multi-step problems. ONe of the critical thinking tasks that are horribly important but we generally don’t explicitly teach is the one about how to break a math task into its pieces, do one, and keep track of all the pieces! Like lots of learning strategies, explicitly teaching it could end up being one or five more layers of learning that end up interfering (“I must use this process to do math problems. I have no idea what it means, or what the problem means, but here goes!”) … but I’ll toss out a couple of the ways to write the problems so parts don’t fall off.

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