Category Archives: OpenLab Assignments

OpenLab #8: Hold your breath and dive into math – Vi Hart

Vi Hart describes herself as a “recreational mathemusician” – she has a unique approach to mathematics and its connections to the world. ¬†In this assignment you’ll be exploring some of her videos (she has a YouTube channel here), and using them as a basis for creating a new blog post.

Assignment (Due November 5, 2015).  Create a new blog post responding to the instructions below. Creating a new blog post allows you more flexibility than simply leaving a comment. You have the ability to edit your work after you submit it, and to include photos, videos and other media. It also allows you to contribute to the public content of our course website.

You can get started by clicking the plus sign at the very top of our site¬†(if you don’t see it, make sure you are logged in to the OpenLab). Detailed instructions on creating a new blog post can be found here¬†(see “Writing a Post” in the middle of the page). You should create a new post including the following:

  • The title should include the word “Videos” and also your name.
  • Your post should include responses to all three parts of the assignment described¬†below.
  • Under “Category,” select “OpenLab Assignments” (you will see this on the right side of the screen)
  • Under tags, enter “OpenLab 8”, “Vi Hart”, and any¬†other tags you think¬†describe the videos you watched (for example, you might choose “pi” if it’s a video about pi). ¬†Don’t forget to click “Add” after entering your tags in the box.
  • When you’re done, click “Publish” (the blue button towards the top right on the screen).

Instructions:

Watch at least three different videos by Vi Hart from  https://www.youtube.com/user/Vihart/ .  You should:

  • choose videos at least 2 minutes in length
  • choose¬†videos that are related to¬†math in some way
  • choose three videos, at least two of which should not appear on her front page (older or less popular videos). ¬†For a full list of her videos, click the “Videos” button near the top of her page – or click here. ¬†Scroll to the bottom and click “Load more” to see older videos.

In your post, include a response to each of the following three Parts:

Part 1. Include a link to each video you watched (3 minimum), the title, and a one or two sentence description of what the video was about.

Now choose one video to focus on.  You MUST watch it 3 times. Use it as the basis for parts 2 and 3.

Part 2.  Write one paragraph discussing the contents of the video:

  • How did you feel watching it? Did you like it, or not? Were you confused? Inspired? Bored? Excited? Bewildered? ¬†Why?
  • What is one thing you learned¬†from the video?
  • What is one question you¬†have after watching it?

Part 3. ¬†Write a one-paragraph reflection discussing what the video could mean to your own math teaching. ¬†Is it math? Is it teaching? Is it relevant to the work you will be doing in the classroom?¬†Is there¬†any connection to the earlier¬†reading assignment Lockhart’s Lament? ¬†Any other thoughts?

Extra Credit. ¬†You can earn extra credit by responding to one of your classmates’ posts. ¬†As always, be kind, be respectful, be honest.

OpenLab #7: Proof Journal

Your assignment for the next week is to try to prove the conjecture that your group created in class on Tuesday, 10/22/15.  You must spend at least 90 minutes working on this.  Trying to prove something can consist of many different activities, such as the following (you do NOT have to do all of these things Рyou can choose how to spend your time Рthey are provided for inspiration only).

  • coming up with ideas, and testing them out (for example, by creating puzzles and trying to solve them)
  • trying to understand what the conjecture says
  • trying to solve puzzles that other people created
  • trying to create puzzles (and solve them yourself)
  • communicating¬†with other members of your group (talking, emailing, etc.)
  • trying to write down a proof
  • other stuff…

As you work, keep track of what you are doing, thinking, and feeling (this is metacognition Рan idea that discussed way back in OpenLab #2).  What did you do during the time you spent?  Did you create any puzzles?  Did you solve puzzles?  Did you change your mind about whether the conjecture is true or false?   Did you have any new ideas about how to prove the conjecture?  Did you have any ideas that you gave up on?  How did you feel as you worked Рwere you frustrated/confused/happy/depressed? Why? Did your mood change along the way?

Assignment (Due Thursday, 10/29/15):  Submit a journal of your efforts in the comments below.  Your response should be at least 300 words.  Describe what you did during the 90 minutes you worked, and express in some way what you were thinking and feeling during the process.  Your response can include puzzles or other work you did along the way.

OpenLab #6: Lockhart’s Lament

In 2002, a mathematician named Paul Lockhart wrote an essay¬†called “A Mathematician’s Lament,”¬†a passionate criticism of mathematics education in America. ¬†It has become widely known among mathematicians and mathematics educators – not everyone agrees with everything he says¬†(though many do), but everyone seems to have something to say about “Lockhart’s Lament,” as it is called. ¬†For this week’s assignment, you will read a short excerpt (three pages) from his essay and respond to the prompts below.

Assignment (Due Thursday, 10/15/14). Your assignment has three parts:

First, read the section titled “Mathematics and Culture” (pages 3-5) in Lockhart’s essay, (click here). ¬†If you’re interested, I encourage you to read more, starting at the beginning – but this is not required.

Second, write a response to what you read and post it in the comments below.  Your response should be at least 300 words. Your response should represent your own thoughts and opinions on what you read, and can include responses to any or all of the following:

  • What is one thing that you agree with in the reading? Explain why.
  • What is one thing that you do not agree with? Explain.
  • Choose one¬†quote that you think stands out in the reading. ¬†Give the quote, and explain why you chose it.
  • Have you ever had an experience of mathematics as art?
  • On page 5, Lockhart describes mathematics in schools today as “heartbreaking”. ¬†What do you think he means? ¬†Do you agree? How do your own math experiences in school compare to his description?

Third, and most important, I want you to write down a conjecture or question about the Bridges and Walking Tours game, and bring it with you to class on Tuesday¬†10/20 (do NOT post it here).¬† Consider Lockhart’s¬†example of a triangle drawn inside a rectangle. ¬†He described the process of playing around with this picture, until he arrives at the basic idea for calculating the area of a triangle. ¬†He contrasts this with a traditional math class, in which the formula is given to students without providing them any opportunity to explore the problem on their own. ¬†The bridges and walking tours game¬†is a little like the triangle-rectangle picture – it’s fun to play around with, but you may not be sure what the point is. ¬†You’ve had a chance to play with it a bit, and try some different challenges. ¬†Now what? ¬†Your job is write down a conjecture (a guess!) or a question about your game. If you could have one question answered about your game, what would it be? If you wanted to be a master of your game, and be able to solve any challenge that was given to you, what would you need to know?¬†Write down a conjecture or question about your game, and bring it with you to class onTuesday¬†10/20¬†(do NOT post it here).

Here is an¬†example: Let’s imagine that you have just been introduced to the game Tic-Tac-Toe. ¬†After playing it for a while, you might come up with one of the following:
Conjecture: The person who goes first always wins.
Question: Is the corner the best move, or the center?
Conjecture: It’s impossible to win, no matter who goes first.

ps. ¬†Paul Lockhart retired from being a first-rate research mathematician in order to teach math at a private elementary school here in Brooklyn,¬†Saint Ann’s School, where he says “I have happily been subversively teaching mathematics (the real thing) since 2000.”

OpenLab #5: Bridges and Walking Tours

The assignment below is due BEFORE CLASS on Thursday, October 8th (it is essential that you complete it before class, as we will be doing a class activity building on the assignment).

We are going to play a game creating walking tours of cities with bridges. ¬†We begin in the city of King‚Äôs Mountain, which is built on four land masses ‚Äď both shores of a river and two islands in midstream ‚Äď connected by a total of seven bridges (shown in green).

EXAMPLE 1:  Can you create a walking tour of the city that crosses every bridge exactly once?  You can begin anywhere you like, and end anywhere you like, as long as you cross each bridge just once.

Background –¬†Graph Theory

We can simplify the picture of King’s Mountain to make it easier to deal with:

The key elements of the map are the four land masses (let’s label them A, B, C, and D) and the seven bridges (p,q,r,s,t,u and v) (thanks to mathisfun.com for the images):

For the purposes of our problem, we can simply think about each land mass as a point (A, B, C, and D), and the bridges as lines connecting the points (p,q,r,s,t,u and v) – like this:

We call this kind of picture a graph – the points are called vertices and the the lines are called edges. ¬†Our goal of finding ‚Äúa walking tour that crosses each bridge once‚ÄĚ is now matter of tracing out all the edges without lifting our pencil (and without repeating any edge).

Assignment, Due Thursday 10/8 (beginning of class)

Warm up (This Warm Up is just for practice Рyou do NOT need to submit your answers Рsee below for the three-part Assignment to be submitted).  The following examples build on EXAMPLE 1 above.

WARM-UP EXAMPLE¬†2: If you are given the freedom to build one new bridge in King’s Mountain (“make one new edge in the graph”), can you do it in such a way the walking tour becomes possible? ¬†Do it!

WARM-UP EXAMPLE 3: If you are given the freedom to destroy one bridge (“erase one edge”), can you do it in such a way that the walking tour becomes possible? Do it!

WARM-UP EXAMPLE 4: Construct walking tours for each of the following graphs (or decide if it is impossible).


Assignment.  Your assignment has 4 parts.

PART 1.  Leave a comment responding to EXAMPLE 4 (above), telling us for each one of the 8 graphs whether a walking tour is possible or not.  You only have to state whether it is possible or impossible for each one.

PART 2. ¬†Challenge your friends: ¬†Now it‚Äôs up to you to build your own graph, and challenge your classmates to construct a walking tour (or to determine if it is impossible). ¬†It can consist of as many points as you wish, and as many bridges (edges) connecting them. ¬†You MUST label your points¬†“A, B, C…” etc. ¬†When you‚Äôre finished, decide for yourself if a walking tour crossing each bridge exactly once is possible. ¬†¬†Remember, the most challenging puzzles are the ones where the answer is difficult to determine. Post two puzzles in the comments. ¬†See the note ¬†“POSTING YOUR PUZZLE ONLINE” below for instructions on how to draw and share graphs online.

PART 3. ¬†Solve a friend’s puzzle. ¬†Leave a response to a friend’s posted puzzle, giving a solution. ¬†TO POST A SOLUTION, JUST LIST THE POINTS OF YOUR WALKING TOUR IN ORDER.

Example:
Here is a puzzle: http://sketchtoy.com/65962726 
Here is a solution: (start at A) – A, C, B, A, D, C

PART 4.  The third part of your assignment is to write a short paragraph (at least 3 sentences) responding to the following prompt.  Be sure to respond to each part:

Writing Prompt: ¬†Did you enjoy this assignment? Why or why not? ¬†Describe a connection between this assignment and our work in the class. ¬†(If you don’t believe there is a connection, try to imagine why we are doing this). ¬†Leave your response in the comments.

POSTING YOUR PUZZLE ONLINE. ¬†I recommend the site sketchtoy.com¬†– it allows you to draw something, then click “SAVE” and get a link to your drawing. ¬†You can post the link in a comment, and we’ll be able to click on it and view your drawing. ¬†¬†Don’t worry if it’s not pretty! ¬†For example, here is a graph that I drew (can you find a walking tour that crosses all edges?):¬†http://sketchtoy.com/65962726

 

OpenLab #3: The MIU puzzle

We are going to play a game with strings of symbols.  This game was invented by a man named Douglas Hofstadter and found in his book Gödel, Escher, Bach. Here are the rules:

Suppose there are the symbols ‘M’, ‘I’, and ‘U’,¬†which can be combined to produce strings of symbols called “words”, like MUI or MIUUU. The MIU game asks one to start with the “axiomatic” word MI¬†and transform it using the following four rules, to obtain some “goal” word. ¬†The rules state:

  1. You must always begin with the word MI, and attempt to reach the goal word.
  2. You may add a U to the end of any string ending in I. For example: MI to MIU, or MUUII to MUUIIU.
  3. You may double any string after the M¬†(that is, change Mx, to Mxx, where ‘x’ represents any string of symbols). For example: MIU to MIUIU
  4. You may replace any III with a U. For example: MUIIIU to MUUU
  5. You may remove any UU. For example: MUUU to MU

WARM UP.  In each example, start with the axiomatic word MI and show, step-by-step, how to obtain the goal word (in each step, state which of the rules you used). These are just for practice (you do NOT need to submit your answers).

Example 1: Goal word MIU
Example 2: Goal word MIIU
Example 3: Goal word MIIUIIU
Example 4: Goal word MUUII
Example 5: Goal word MUUIIUIIU

Here is a sample solution to Example 2:
Our goal is to reach the word MIIU.  According to rule 1, we begin with
MI to MII (rule 3)
MII to MIIU (rule 2)

Assignment (due Thursday, 10/17): Your assignment has three parts.

PART 1. ¬†First, create an MIU puzzle — that is, make up a goal word, and post it in the comments. Your¬†goal word should be between 8 and 16 letters long. ¬†Try to make it¬†tricky to reach, requiring at least four steps to reach (but the more the better!). ¬†See if you can find a clever use of the rules!

PART 2. ¬†The second part of your assignment is to solve someone else’s puzzle. ¬† Type your solution step-by-step, indicating which rule you used at each step. ¬†Leave your comment as a response to their puzzle. ¬†Only one solution per puzzle!

PART 3.  The third part of your assignment is to write a short paragraph (at least 3 sentences) responding to the following prompt.  Be sure to respond to each part:

Writing Prompt, MIU puzzle: ¬†Did you enjoy this assignment? Why or why not? ¬†Describe a connection between this assignment and our work in the class. ¬†(If you don’t believe there is a connection, try to imagine why we are doing this). ¬†Leave your response in the comments.

OpenLab #2: Mathography

This assignment is due Thursday, September 10, at the end of the day

NOTE: Normally, OpenLab assignments are due on Thursday at the start of class. However, Thursday, 9/10, runs on a Monday schedule, so our class does not meet.  Instead, this assignment is due at the end of the day.

Assignment.  Choose ONE of the following two topics.  Write a reply to this post, responding to the topic.  Begin by telling us which topic you chose. (1-2 paragraphs).

Topics.

  1. Sometimes people can recognize a time when their opinion of math dramatically changed either for the better or the worse. If such a time happened to you, tell us about it.
  2. Choose an experience you had in which you suddenly understood a math concept (it could be any kind of math, from elementary school up through college).  Describe what happened.  Do you think you could explain it to others in a way that they could have the same flash of understanding?

Extra Credit. ¬†For extra credit, write a response to one of your classmates’ comments. ¬†Do you feel the same, or different? ¬†Did you learn anything? ¬†Did you get any ideas about teaching, or about learning?

Why are we doing this, anyway?¬† We are following two ideas that have come up already in class — things that may¬†not¬†seem related to learning math, but research shows that engaging in these activities can¬†dramatically¬†increase the amount that you learn, and change the way you learn it. ¬†The first is¬†writing¬†‚Äď something not typically associated with mathematics. ¬†When you express your ideas in words, it forces you to think them through very carefully, detail by detail. ¬†A great way to check and see if you really understand something is to try to explain it to someone else, either out loud or in writing. ¬†Example: if you know how to add fractions, try teaching it someone who doesn‚Äôt know how. ¬†The second is called¬†metacognition, or ‚Äúthinking about thinking.‚ÄĚ ¬†This happens when you think about what was going on in your head while you were working on a problem or trying to learn a new idea. ¬†What train of thought did you follow? ¬†Where did you get stuck, and what did you do next? ¬†What were you feeling at the time? and so on. ¬†Combining writing and metacognition can be a tremendously powerful tool in identifying the ways we learn best and the ways we make mistakes, and learning to improve. ¬†However, like any skill, it takes practice. ¬†That‚Äôs why we‚Äôre getting started by writing a little about our past experiences with mathematics.

OpenLab #1: Advice from the Past

Two years ago I taught this same course for the first time.   At the end of the semester, I gave my students the following assignment:

Imagine that you are invited to speak on the first day of MAT 2071, to give advice to entering students. ¬†Write at least three sentences … describing what you would tell them.

To see the assignment and the students’ responses, follow this link.

Your assignment, due next Thursday, September 3th, is to:

  1. Read through ALL the responses (there are 22 of them).
  2. Write a reply to this post (1 paragraph) responding to all of the following:
    1. What advice seemed most relevant to you personally? Why? (you can copy/paste a short statement, or put it in your own words)
    2. Based on this advice, what changes can you make right now to help you with this course?

Extra Credit. For extra credit, write a response to one of your classmates’ comments.  Do you have any advice?  Be kind.