Sunday, September 17, 2006

Treating Math Anxiety: How Not To

I found a copy of a textbook for teaching math in elementary and middle schools in my mailbox, and while flipping through it, I came across a table of suggestions for how to treat different symptoms of math anxiety. For example, physical symptoms could be treated with "Physical exercise before, during, and after study." This sounds reasonable.

Then I got to the symptom "Lack of Attention", which suggested as treatment
Shock treatment: wearing a clown nose and wig during lessons, staging slapstick demonstrations
I was utterly horrified. If the kids weren't anxious about math before, they will be after you start making them wear clown noses and wigs for not paying attention in class! "Now Jimmy, maybe if you pay attention today, you can take those off and the other students will stop laughing at you tomorrow."

I mean, it's bad enough when the kids are anxious about... what's that you say? Oh, you meant the teacher should wear the clown nose and wig. Oh, that's quite different. Never mind.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I bought a TiVo this summer. I'd been thinking about this as a productivity booster. No really; stop laughing. Here's my reasoning: For the past year or two, I noticed that when I came home from work or otherwise felt exhausted, I would channel surf looking for something to watch. There often wasn't anything non-sucky on. But at other times, I would watch TV because there was something on that I liked. The theory was that I could move the things I liked to the times I wanted to veg out, and not end up surfing stuff I didn't like anyway. I'm not sure if I've really tested the theory, but I'm enjoying my TiVo. (One possible hole in the theory is that the TiVo is letting me find more things I like.)

It's nice to just look at the listings, pick out any movies, series, or documentaries that look cool, and let the box just picks these things up for me as they go by. It's nice that it will snag things I would never have caught, because they're playing at 4:30 am or something. Plus I get to see the Daily Show and Colbert report every day. (I heart Stephen Colbert.) Additionally, the pause/fast forward/rewind functions are just dreamy compared to a VCR; you get instant response. I pretty quickly got in the habit of just pausing anytime I felt like getting up to get a drink, check my e-mail, or whatever else, and skipping over the commercials completely.

It had some difficulties getting set up initially. I noticed on about the 12th of July that it said it would next connect to the service on the 10th. I had to reset the whole system, but after that, it didn't seem to have trouble updating regularly. I also had some difficulty in the first week with it recording the wrong channel, but I managed to go through a manual reset of the tuner, and it seems to be working now. A more difficult problem is that not everything runs when it's supposed to run. I have occasional problems with the beginning or end of a program getting cut off because it started early or late. There is a setting to start or end a recording early or late by a fixed amount, but it would have to be set for each recording.

Interestingly, TiVo apparently sends you "messages" after some updates. I assumed these were messages covering new features or other changes, but mostly I seem to get occasional random messages telling me about features that were already mentioned in the manual and the intro videos that came on the box. (These are getting less frequent.) I suppose the idea is that people probably didn't read the manual or watch the intro videos, but you can still train them to use the box if you sneak the instruction in little by little through little e-mail type messages. Perhaps I should adapt this approach to my classes. I wonder if it would help if I occasionally sent out e-mails to my class like the following:

To: Sammy Student
Subject: You can now multiply binomials!

Did you know you can use the power of algebra to multiply together binomials? It's true! Just distribute the terms of one binomial across the other, then distribute again:

(a + b)(c + d) = (a + b) c + (a + b) d = ac + bc + ad + bd

(You can use FOIL, too!) For more information, see section 2.3 of your Algebra Book.