# Monthly Archives: October 2012

I’m in my first semester of a teaching degree and I’ve already been trying out concepts with my son who’s in 9th grade.  He has heard me talk about (and experienced) how to use scaffolding.  I’ve lead him down the path of proving the Pythagorean Theorem trying to give him the minimum scaffolding possible.  (That will have to be another post.)

So he calls me yesterday (he couldn’t wait for me to get home) to tell me what happened in his math class.  He said that a group of students were around his desk asking him how to do something.  So instead of just telling them, he thought about what I’ve been saying and was actually asking them questions to get them thinking and leading them to the answer!  He said that they needed to struggle a little bit to learn it for themselves.

I wonder if I will be able to implement this in my classroom one day…training the students who get it the first time to help teach those who don’t.

## Which triangle is more equilateral?

I’m slowly trying to add to the collection of math blogs I follow.  When I stumbled on this post I knew this blog was going to be a winner:

http://mrhonner.com/2011/10/10/which-triangle-is-more-equilateral/

Mr. Honner’s question is this:  Which triangle is *more* equilateral?  A 10-10-11 triangle or a 10-11-11 triangle?

A brilliant question!  Doesn’t it make you want to experiment with geometric ideas?  I love it.

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## Dinner Geometry Lesson

One night my family ordered Chili’s to-go and my son’s food container was square and my wife’s was octogonal.  My son asked, “I wonder why the container is an octagon?”

I thought about it for a moment and toyed with the idea that is had something to do with the cost.

I asked my son which container would hold more and which had more material.  I then asked if there could be a square container with the same volume as the octogonal container.  He said there couldn’t be.  🙂

At this point, I simplified the problem to areas and not volumes.

It took a moment for my son to envision a square a bit “smaller” than an octagon might have the same area.  I asked if the areas are the same, how about the perimeters?  I posited that the more sides, the less perimeter for the same amount of area.  I then asked which shape would ‘contain’ the most area with the least perimeter.

He thought about it for a while…at first said something about the sides would be infinite.

Then he had an aha moment that you could see on his face…”a circle!”

I led him through the math of calculating the area of an octagon with a side of one, setting it equal to pi*r*r, and solving for r.  I then asked him for the formula of the “perimeter” of a circle.  He said, “you mean circumference?”  Yes!  We calculated that the circumference was 7.7 and the perimeter of the octagon was 8.  I asked about a square and had him guess if it was more or less than the octagon.  He guessed more and we calculated it…8.7.  He said we should take our scratch paper to the Chili’s folks and tell them how they could save money on packaging material if all their containers were circular.

Some of his unsolicited quotes after our discussion:
“Who knew math could be fun.”
“It wasn’t like you were teaching it…it was like I was discovering it.”

I hope I have lots of moments like this when I’m teaching.

## How it all started

Earlier this year I was looking for a new software engineering job.  I had just gotten back from a Caribbean cruise and decided, strictly for fun, to search for software jobs in the Caribbean.  I found a website that was for all jobs in that area  (not just software jobs) so I started to look over the list.  I happened upon a job listing for a teaching job.  I remember thinking to myself, “what an awesome job…teaching kids and living in the islands.”  Then it hit me–I really wanted to teach kids!

I know that sounds corny…but that’s how it started.

After this, I had the feeling that it was a “calling” and that I should pursue it.  I am currently enrolled in a local university working part time on a Master of Arts in Teaching Mathematics while continuing my full time software job.

I feel so lost at times.

My first day of classes, I show up to class and the teacher says to log into a particular web application.  I had never heard of it before and I felt like a fish out of water.  So I’m looking over at other students trying to figure out how to get to the application.  I finally manage, but it was a rough start.  I had no orientation before my first class…I guess as a non-degree studies student I slipped through the cracks.  I hope to be admitted to the Master’s program in the Spring.

I am in one education course and one math course this semester.  I think the last time I was in a math class in college was before a lot of the other students were born.  Seriously.  20 years ago.

My first project in my education class called for us to write a lesson plan.  I had no clue what one was and felt like I was way behind the other students.  But I did manage to squeak out a A for the project.

So far, I’m having a complete blast.  Classes are fun and challenging.  I know I’m working toward something I really want to do.  I really wish I could quit my job and go full time, but I’ve got to start saving up money for the time I’ll be student teaching.  Of course, I’m not going into teaching for the money.  I’ve actually calculated it and I’m probably giving up well over a million dollars over the rest of my career to switch to teaching.

But what I gain is priceless.