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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

What can we do?

What can we do?

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Online communities only grow if the members are engaged and actively participate. What can we do to build this community? I have a few ideas... (1) We can start an online "book club." We can select a book, read and discuss over a couple of months. I would be happy to organize & start this...in late January. (2) Live webinars. We could organize live webinars with a brief presentation, followed by Q&A. I could find a scientist (or other expert) on a monthly basis. For example, I have a colleague at UWO that does research in China related to the late Permian mass extinction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permian%E2%80%93Triassic_extinction_event). (3) Topic of the week. Members can suggest "high interest" focus questions to guide our discussions. I would say that 2 per month would be a good start... ---> Are you interested in any of these? If so, please leave a comment. If not, give us more suggestions!

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Kelli Hulslander's picture
Kelli Hulslander
Charter High School Math Teacher & Community Outreach Coordinator, NM

Hi Ken,

I love your mathematics festival project! You are truly thinking outside the box with that event. I hope that it is well attended.

So, what do students in Ireland do when they cook? Don't they need fractions then?? Or is that all metric also??

Hmm?? Great question tho'. I've seen a unit on fractions in the Singapore math books that I've purchased for reference. However, I wonder if other countries don't teach them either??

Ken Pinkerton's picture
Ken Pinkerton
Teacher, Math Festival Coordinator, Kids Museum designer & builder

Hi Kelli,
Thanks for your note. The 2009 math festival had 41 presentation tables and we estimate 2000 in attendance. It has been an amazing collaborative project with very generous support local educators from preschool through university and from our business community. It operates on a shoestring budget. Humboldt County is a is big on area and low population density, holding the event at a central shopping mall been a great venue. Our 2010 event didn't happen due to not being able to coordinate a date with four different spring break schedules. The 2011 math festival is already in the works.

Carol Hacherl's picture

Ken -- I'm just a few hours north of you in Curry county, OR. I'm excited to know about your math festival. I'll be there next year -- what great thing to get the community involved as well as the kids!!

Along with Ken and Kelli - I'm now really curious to know if/how fractions are taught elsewhere in the world -- that's an eye opening idea for me, too. (Yay metric system!!) However, the number sense that builds from learning fractions -- for example the concept that multiplying by 1/3 is the same thing as dividing by 3 -- seems really helpful in understanding algebra.

Starting even further back in the learning process, I'm now gathering volunteers and working to create a free community program to coach elementary-age kids on multiplication tables this summer. We'll see how & where that goes...


Kelli Hulslander's picture
Kelli Hulslander
Charter High School Math Teacher & Community Outreach Coordinator, NM

Hi Carol,

You have a very cool idea to work with students over the summer. I was a youth club director for ten years. Because I have always tutored and/or loved teaching kids, I did a lot of educational programming. One of the things I did was make learning math facts a game. We played Speed, War, Around the World, included it in kickball, whatever.... The kids most enjoyed competing with or against the adults. They always found that challenge fun. And, if you get really cool adults, they may let the kids win or get close but not make it obvious.

We even gave the group a name one year.... the Mathinators. Corny? I know...but still fun.

Mike Sims's picture
Mike Sims
High School Math Teacher

Maximizing communication among practicing teachers seems to be the best thing that you can do. No offense to my friends in academia, but in my decade plus in teaching most of the best and most useful ideas I have come across have been from other people in the classroom. Not everything I have heard about from other people has worked, but a lot of it has, and what didn't I could often modify to make more effective.

Carol Hacherl's picture

Hello Kelli, Cheryl, Ken, other teachers:
I'm working as a volunteer to help the new high school math teacher in our small rural high district get going. Last year, coping with math homework was overwhelming and he ended up mostly marking it "done" or "zero" but I can see that kids need to not only do homework but also quickly get the feedback about what they did corectly and where they went wrong. I'd like to have a better plan for next year. I know we can't be the first to face this problem. How do you guys manage homework for high school kids? Do they grade it themselves in class? Do you stay up late at night and grade it? Do you grade some and not others? Is there a secret teacher guide book with the answers to these sorts of questions?
Thanks, Carol

p.s. I realize this isn't exactly the right forum for this question, but you seem like such a helpful group...I hope that's ok!

Carol Hacherl's picture

Kelli -
We just started our summer math class -- and now I'm re-reading your games message with renewed interest! I've got War, but how do you play Speed? Or do kickball with math? I'm eager for more tools in my bag of tricks! Thanks VERY much, Carol

Vera Daniels's picture


I am a middle school math teacher and have taught 4th-8th graders. I do not grade homework, but I always give kids an answer key for their assignments. I expect them to check their work and come in the next day with any questions or problems. This saves time and puts the responsibility on students to make sure they are doing assignments correctly. It is a waste to move on if the students don't "get it" and don't find out until they have already completed work incorrectly. I give short daily quizzes to assess students on homework.

I have done this with every grade I have taught and it works pretty well. "Every Minute Counts: Making Your Math Class Work" is a book I would highly recommend. It was published in 1982, but it is a GREAT book for Math teachers. I hope this helps...

Ken Pinkerton's picture
Ken Pinkerton
Teacher, Math Festival Coordinator, Kids Museum designer & builder

Hi All,
I talked to a friend last night who is a professor at a Community College and teaches everything from remedial math to calculus and statistics. She said, even after many years, she is struggling with how to manage homework. One thing she has started recently was putting her students in homework groups. At the beginning of class, she puts the students together and they ask questions of each other. She also encourages them to share their work and show how they solved the problems. Then at the end, she answers any remaining unsolved questions - there are usually none. She walks around and monitors during this time. The first session took 20 minutes, which she was concerned about, but then that time has become shorter and shorter. She also has a rubric and feedback form that she gives students. This apparently has a place for student comments and a place for her to respond. I will try to get that form and post it. I think this is a great idea. Most importantly, it requires and encourages people to talk math, which I believe helps people understand. Good luck! Ken

Ken Pinkerton's picture
Ken Pinkerton
Teacher, Math Festival Coordinator, Kids Museum designer & builder

I couldn't agree more with Mike Sims comments that advice from teachers in the trenches is far more valuable than any other source. Although I value collaboration from academia, I think teacher peer-to-peer sharing "experience-strength-and-hope" is gold. This is particularly true with the changing face of today's students. The challenges beyond simply presenting curriculum is becoming more and more daunting. How we engage today's students is an amazing dynamic Gordian knot. I think breaking down the walls of "the second most private career" is vital to keeping education alive and relevant.

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