724 Links To Mathematics Lessons And Activities

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics website is full of mathematics activities. It also provides a reviewed list of hundreds of links to websites that are not hosted by NCTM itself. An editorial board reviewed and classified the weblinks collection. The users navigate the collection through five categories reflecting the national standards in mathematics education: Numbers & Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis & Probability.

This is a great resource that curates the treasures of mathematics activities on the web.

Mathematics illuminated. (c) NCTM


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Tesla, Wi-Fi, and Electronic Music – Literally

A Tesla coil is a resonant transformer circuit invented by Nikola Tesla at the end of the 19th century. It is used to produce high voltage, relatively high current, high frequency AC electricity. Some people make music out of it.

“What you hear is audio modulated thunder”, Joe DiPrima of Arcattack, a band from Austin, Texas, explains. During their shows Arcattack’s MC and stunt man Patric Brown walks and dances through half a million Volt sparks wearing a Faraday suit.

One of Tesla’s early stuntmen was Mark Twain. The writer and the engineer were close friends and spent much time together in Tesla’s laboratory. Obviously Mark Twain survived the experiments and wrote some great novels later on. High voltage AC electricity is less dangerous for human beings than DC electricity. One explanation is that under AC electricity the ions in the human body are rather oscillating within the cells than moving between them. It might hurt anyway; and remember: a real thunder is DC! So please don’t try this at home, unless you are a stuntman wearing a Faraday suit or a great writer looking for inspiration.

Mark Twain in Tesla's Lab (1894): Suddenly the lights came on.

Today the main use of Tesla coils is entertainment and educational displays. Neverless the underlying ideas on wireless communication seem visionary in the era of the internet. In 1915 Tesla declared that “wireless wonders” may solve some of the world’s greatest problems. With wireless communication “we might decrease the cost of the dissemination of useful information that every citizen of this country, resident no matter how remotely from the populated centres, could be kept continually in touch with the outer world occurences, weather prospects, and all that helpfull information which the Government already gathers, or might gather if it had at hand the means by which to make it public”, the New York Times reported on August 1, 1915. Let’s solve the problems, we have got the tools!

Wi-Fi 100 years ago: Tesla's tower on Long Island.
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Books + Internet = ?

With more and more books digitalized, with Kindles, iPads and audio-books, will printed books become an endangered species? Not if you turn the idea the other way round: How can printed books benefit from the internet and its networking features?

One idea is Ubimark Books that links paper books, such as “Around the World in 80 Days” to the web. This happens rather seemlessly through 2D code. Have a look:


Another brilliant idea is BookRenter. The service enables students to save money by loaning textbooks for a fixed duration, usually a semester. The system is simple: a student searches for a book on the website using a title or ISBN, and places an order by selecting a rental period and delivery option. The books are delivered complete with return UPS labels for easy shipping.

Rent, read, return. (c) www.bookrenter.com

The bookstores at the University of Texas at Austin, the North Carolina State University, the University of Memphis, the City College of San Francisco, and the University of San Diego already offer a textbook rental store on the BookRenter platform. Alternative book rental services are provided by Chegg and Barnes and Noble.

(Thx @techcrunch and @swissmiss)

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Making Music at the Speed of Light

Everything that vibrates makes music. The music that is perceived by human beings is human music. For being able to perceive the music of atoms, stars, and animals, it has to be transformed. (Karlheinz Stockhausen 1975)

Sonification is the use of sounds to perceptualize data and information. It is an interesting complement or even an alternative to visualization techniques. Infographics have already become widespread and are considered as cool or even sexy.

Just imagine the huge potential of infosounds in the future.

“ATLAS is a music box” (c) Toya Walker.

One impressing example of sonification is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland. LHC was in the news recently when it broke its own energy world record on March 30, 2010. The high energy collision created an enormous quantity of data which inot only  a big challenge in the field of computing, but also may be one of the reasons why LHC made it’s way into the world of music and sounds.

Here is a visualization of what happened inside the LHC when two opposing particle beams collided with an energy of 7 000 000 000 000 eV:


Now a group of particle physicists, composers, software developers and artists in the UK started a project called LHCsound, turning real and simulated data from the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider into sounds.

The team members Lily Asquith, a particle physicist, Richard Dobson, a composer and music software developer, Archer Endrich, a composer, Toya Walker, an illustrator and painter, Ed Chocolate, a London-based producer and DJ and Sir Eddie Real, a percussionist, want to attract people to the results of the LHC experiments in a way that is novel, exciting and accessible.

Their “simplest” example of sonification is HiggsJetSimple. This sonification transforms properties of the particle jet to properties of sound: energy becomes volume, distance defines timing and the deflection of the beam is the pitch. In this example the sounds reduce in density very much towards the end, with isolated events separated by silences of several seconds:


By the way, Frank Zappa sonified the search for Higgs’ boson many years ago. You can find it on his album Trance-Fusion.

In principle any data can be sonified. NASA sonified the sun and the planets. Seismic data of earthquakes and volcanos has been sonified to great use. You can even sonify a painting, photograph or moving image which has enabled blind people to see with sound.

Sonification has a great potential and I am eager to see if it can make its way into popular culture like data visualization did with infographics.

(Thank you Toya Walker, CERN, Frank Zappa and LHCsound)

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The Globalization of Reading and Writing

Schools are in the middle of a transitional process. The future of literacy has already begun. Globish is replacing English as a lingua franca and Moore’s Law is not only an indicator for the long-term trend in the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit but also for the speed of change coming with technological progress. Are teachers, parents, students and policy makers keeping up with the times? Is there anything like change management for schools as learning organizations?

Dr Patricia Fioriello, an educator and administrator from San Francisco, recently published an e-book on new literacy proposing thoughtful ideas and suggestions for “the piece that is missing” in the transition from the current school curriculum to a world wide web based literacy approach. Her book is clearly written, insightful and fun to read illustrating the issue with a lot of good examples and historical background. Teachers, parents, policy makers and students alike may find it interesting.

Literacy for the 21st century. (c) www.drpfconsults.com

What does it mean to be a literate person today? According to Patricia Fioriello “Literacy needs to be thought of as the sum total of the skills that a student will need to have proficiency in so that they can become successful college students and workers.”

Chapter 1 of “Teaching Literacy: Keeping Up with the Times” is setting the stage with a historical overview on literacy, stating that “teachers today are using most of the same methods that have been used for the last half of the twentieth century with little upgrade.” This is sad but true and one of the reasons why I really suggest the reading of Patricia Fioriello’s book.

Chapter 2 about “Online Reading Comprehension and Writing” assembles plenty of good ideas to consider when it comes to reading and writing on the internet: technical vocabulary (www), shorthand (LOL), search engines use (limiting results) and navigation issues (hyperlinks). She also critically assesses the virtues and challenges of auto-correction tools in many word processor programs.

Chapter 3 on “Language and Communication” advocates the advantages of cultural diversity and multilingual learning environments when preparing students for a globalized world. The chapter deals not only with idiomatic expressions, translations or the ambiguity of written language but also with the ability to read logos and fonts. Just think of Captcha and the question “Are you human?”.

Chapter 4 deals with the “Paperless World” it and puts it clearly: Although many people are predicting a move towards a paperless world, the truth is quite the contrary: because of printers, fax machines and photocopiers “we are using more paper now than we have ever used before.” Nevertheless Patricia Fiorellio argues that this may be due to a time lag between the appearance of new technologies and the disappearance of older ones. Just think about the big shifts that new recording techniques and later MP3 brought to the way we listen to music. That is why schools today need to prepare students for a paperless future, including the use of digital textbooks, online testing and a changing approach to professional development of teachers.

Chapter 5 on “Different Cultures and Customs: A Global Audience” continues the argument of chapter 3 on language and communication, discussing Globish vs English and the ability of American readers to contribute to the global dialogue. Online readers and writers have to consider their audience, both locally and globally.

Chapter 6 is a follow up of Chapter 4 and discusses in depth the advantages and challenges of “Online Assessments” for students, teachers, parents and policy makers.

Finally, chapter 7 makes suggestions on “The Next Steps” not ignoring that money matters have to be considered. It is about funding and managing the transition process and on how to include the school community.

In my opinion Patricia Fiorellio’s book is an outstanding example for change management at schools!

You can download it at www.drpfconsults.com/Literacy

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