How to Divide by Zero: An Interview with Bill Shillito

For this post, I interviewed a colleague about a new project he is working on: a website where he encourages his readers to consider the possibility of dividing by zero.  Bill Shillito has a Master’s degree in Secondary Mathematics Education and currently works as both an academic tutor and an independent curriculum designer. In this interview, we discussed his “How to Divide by Zero” website, which can be found at: Continue reading

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Teaching Lessons from a Summer of Taking Mathematics Courses

Although I am a mathematics education graduate student and am not required to take mathematics courses as a part of my PhD, I had the opportunity to take several mathematics graduate courses this summer as part of a Mathematics Graduate Certificate for Teachers program, which aims to bring mathematics graduate courses to current classroom teachers in order to certify them to teach college-level mathematics.   I wanted to summarize some of the lessons I learned about teaching from these classes that I can bring into my own practice as a mathematics teacher.  These fall into three categories: questioning, alignment, and metacognitive modeling. Continue reading

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Ingredients of a Class Activity

Non-lecture math education seems to be getting its advocates in the math communities at all levels. Every alternative to the traditional math education involves some sort of class activity, where students are given tasks to complete in groups or pairs. These tasks should be carefully devised by instructor(s) to achieve certain goals. One usually decides on mini goals and designs activities and tasks that will lead the students to accomplishing those goals. (Yes, a backward design.) In a previous post, I talked about setting SMART goals that are, among other criteria, Measurable (progress could be assessed) and Achievable (within abilities of the class).

In this post I will talk about the basic components of a class activity, and illustrate them with an extended example. (I am borrowing these from the context of English teaching! As an ESL instructor I used to look for ways to improve my teaching skills, which lead me to Task-Based Learning (TBL). The category below is from “Designing Tasks for the Communicative Classroom” by David Nunan. It is fascinating to be able to apply it to math education!) Continue reading

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The Sliding Scale of Academia

When I start thinking about where I am going in the future – or when someone asks me the age-old question, “What do you want to do when you graduate?” – I hesitate to answer. My hesitation is well-warranted. It has been my experience that professors and adults alike enjoy providing you a label and tossing you into a predetermined box. It’s quite funny how quickly they change the way they interact with you. Honestly, I am not about that life. This could potentially close off some really important doors that I am still investigating. And, as it turns out, I am a growing human being with extreme amounts of passion; wild and wonderful amounts of passion. So I don’t need constraints. Thanks, but no thanks.

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Communicating Mathematics to a Broader Audience

How we communicate mathematics is an essential part of making mathematics accessible. You’ve probably experienced communicating with peers and faculty in your area of specialization, taught a few math courses, or even been involved in outreach activities with younger students.  All these types of audiences shape how we communicate mathematical ideas and require different types of skills.  While I consider all of them an important part of our growth as mathematicians, there is still one more type of  audience I want you to consider, the general audience.

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