Tuesday, May 19, 2009

High school kids and the economy

Watch CBS Videos Online
This video was filmed in high schools near where I live. The students they interview are like the students I hope to be teaching. They have a lot more to worry about than passing an Algebra exam, which is necessary to get their dream, to go to college. But will their family be able to afford to send them to college?

This is part of a series from CBC, called Children of the Recession. You can read the text of the video at: Teens Bring Economic Stress To School: CBS Reports: Psychological Toll That Recession Is Taking On Students Is Expanding Teachers' Roles

Sunday, May 17, 2009

After Studying Math

Studying Math
Originally uploaded by bonbayel
My recent journey through Math started innocently enough when I took Biology 101 last summer. Then I wanted to learn something about Organic Chemistry, so I bought the For Dummies book and workbook for that and a set of molecular building balls, which was lots of fun. Then my husband thought it would be interesting to look at calculus again, so we bought Calculus for Dummies and 2 workbooks. . . .

Yesterday I took the CSET in Calculus, Trig and History of Math, the last of the subject matter tests I'm planning to take to qualify as a teacher. The picture shows most of the books I've bought and devoured for this project. There aren't many For Dummies math books I haven't used!

The ones on the floor are mostly about pedagogy and classroom management, which is the next step to become a teacher. Some are required for my classes that start June. Some just looked interesting.

Last night I started a novel and signed up and played around with FaceBook. Today I rescued our beautiful Lantana bush in the corner of our patio, which had fallen down, and then downloaded pictures I took a couple of weeks ago at our family "ancestral estate" (it was a farm then,) now called Lotusland, in Montecito. The quiet before the next storm!

Sunday, May 10, 2009


(You may need to click through to the original to read the text.)
They tell me "Always keep your eyes on the class..."
I love this strip. Frazz is the most intelligent strip about schools that I see. I hope I can be like him - and not Mrs. Olsen!
Talk about experiments! That's what school should also be about!

Studying for the last CSET Exam

I'm taking the final California Single Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) - Math III (Trigonometry, Derivative and Integral Calculus, Infinite Series - and the History of Mathematics!) next Saturday. I have been studying for it for about 2 months - since I took the first 2 exams. My last official class in math was in 1963, so there is a lot of knowledge being pulled out of dusty corners of my brain. Because the interesting thing is that I recall most of what I am reviewing. That doesn't mean it's active knowledge, but I at least recognize the concepts.

I love solving Sudoku puzzles, and I play 3 different solitaires at night to relax my brain before sleeping, so I enjoy the puzzle of solving Trig identities and figuring out Integrals, both of which require puzzle solving skills.

What I don't enjoy is formulas. I'd much prefer to be able to figure out the formula myself than memorize it. My physics professor at college showed us how to set up problems using the different units (like gravity is acceleration, measured in feet (or meters) per second per second,) so you know how the problem should be set up from the units. Or if you know the trig function definitions, you don't have to memorize their values. However in a test situation you can't spend all your time deriving things. I am sure that is why I used every minute of the allotted time for the first 2 exams (taken in one sitting.)

I've been using a variety of sources to review the math, since I really do have to learn it from scratch. These have included college math and physics books, nearly the entire series of math for Dummies books, some Cliff's Notes books, a Calculus book for Economics students (which left out the trig functions, but was an excellent start,) some dedicated CSET review books - and a program I found online Ace the CSET, which is not really all you need to "Ace the CSET" - which is only pass or fail anyway, but a good help. Everything has practice exercises and practice tests, usually with great explanations about how to solve them.

However almost all of them have very vital typos. Some times it's a forgotten negative, which sent me to my calculator yesterday to find out that I was right, or another has been typed up from a hand-written script by a person who didn't have a clue what the material was about. This produces such interesting things as "l n(2x) - i.e. one n times 2 x" instead of "ln(2x) - natural log of 2x." At any rate, you can't trust everything you read, and it keeps me on my feet. It is comforting to know that even text-book writers make the same kinds of errors I make, but that doesn't help on a multiple choice test!

Test-taking and teaching

So will my current intense study of math help me as a teacher (besides knowing the materials, of course?) Will I be able to see the pitfalls more easily, or point out good study habits. Of course, my students will not be dedicating 2 months intensively to one subject! But at least I will understand the pressures of taking multiple choice tests!

I have kept my delight in math throughout (which my husband would not entirely agree with, as I've gotten grumpy here toward the end, and when I've hit something that involves what to me seems very tangle logic to understand.) Originally I figured I'd be teaching English to foreign students, which I also did in Denmark, but I wasn't feeling terribly inspired. When I started studying for the CBEST (Basic Educational Skills Test) my mind woke up reviewing for the math section, and I knew that it was math I was intended to teach!