Skitchdork International!

22 June , 2012

The book that proves you don’t need artistic talent to make people giggle at least once! (Or your money back (maybe)).

Go to Skitchdork – international edition to get your pretty cheap copy! (I AM the cheap researcher, after all.)

But please DO read the disclaimer, I don’t want you guys angry at me for not delivering the goods 😉

Android app: TI-86!

18 January , 2011
Picture from Jyri Tuulos webpage (Creative Commons licence)

Picture from Jyri Tuulos webpage (Creative Commons licence)

If you have an Android system on your phone, check out the retro (or is it?) calculator, TI-86! It looks quite similar to previous TI-84s also…

Download the app free from Android Market, or here:

EDIT: Since the calculator I have been using the most is the TI83 / TI84 (They are quite similar) I soon found the TI-83 app in the Android Market instead: 🙂

Battle of the traditions…

25 November , 2010

A few days ago, this comic appeared in my Google Reader: OK, this is not too difficult when you know who Kenny Baker is (and who doesn’t?!). Click that previous link before you read further.

I then did the calculations by hand, as seen in the first picture (yes, it looks horrible, just like mathematical work should).

I figured I should check my answer, and brought out my TI-89. Not a tool I use too often, as wxMaxima and GeoGebra fulfill all my needs, but it was “nice” to see it again.

Punching in the exercise I got the correct answer there too, shown in the calculator shot.

Now, first of all, nice going on making this exercise Spiked math! Finding proper integration limits so that integrating C-3P0 turns into R2-D2 is not trivial.

Second, it struck me how different even straight forward exercises like these are when using two different means of solving. One can argue using a calculator is less work for the brain, but I can’t recall one instance in the handwritten version, where I actually had to stop to think. It was all memorized rules of calculus and algebra, rote work.

Using a CAS like the TI-89 (now replaced by the TI Titanium, and later the TI n-spire), there was still not much work for the brain involved. The only parts where you (or rather, I) would stop to think was wether the syntax of the input line was “expression, variable, lower limit, upper limit” or “expresseion, lower limit, upper limit, variable”. Logically enough, you should tell someone (anyone!) what dummy variable is involved in the calculations before applying the limits of integration.

Either way, solving the problem felt good because it was Star Wars related. The one who learned anything at all from this, was the one who devised the problem in the first place.

And perhaps Kenny Baker got a giggle out of it, too.

Women specific geometry

20 August , 2010

They have their own geometry? I really wasn’t aware…

The imaginary number of the beast

13 October , 2009

Toilet Thoughts on Learning

5 September , 2009

Toilet thinking

I remember once, when attending confirmation training, we were forced (mildly, I should add) to learn the ten commandments by heart. Me being godless already at the age of thirteen, I thought this was a rather meaningless activity, but played along just to please grandparents and others. I digress – the point not being my own attitude towards the ten laws noone is capable of living by, but rather how the priest wanted us to learn them.

Take this cheat sheet with you, and sit in the bathroom, preferably in the toilet.

As absurd as the ten commandments appeared to me, this last statement proved to be much more vital to me. The priest’s words making a deeper impact than any god’s.

And it works. I can’t think of any better quality study time than the lonesome toilet scenario.

There are, of course, a lot of authors who have appreciated the toilet serenity. Even the guys at MAD magazine have their own Bathroom Companion (the turd in the series). Another favorite of mine is the Great American Bathroom Book, or GABB. In three volumes, they gather single-page (single sitting) summaries of all time best selling books.

At work, I have started the secret toilet-exercise-tournament. I print out A4-sized pages with a mathematics problem printed in large lettering on it. PowerPoint is a nice and easy way of making these poster pages. I am thinking of laminating them, in order to… you know, avoid incidents.
The current problem is this one (I think I read this in a lovely little book by Mike Ollerton, perhaps it was 100 ideas for teaching mathematics):

On a 2×2 grid of dots, you can draw one quadrilateral only. The square. How many quadrilaterals can be drawn on a 3×3 grid of dots?

I have so far just started to deploy these sheets on the toilets, so the ideas keep coming. Perhaps the exercises or problems could be more toilet-oriented (“How many sheets of paper…”,  “what will the radius of the paper holder be…”, “How big is the proportion of people who prefer the toilet paper end to hang on the inside instead of on the outside” etc…)

To be kind to the toilet-goers, you could consider leaving a stash of post-it notes and a pencil available.  Or make a bigger competition out of it; Stick problems on ten toilets in the school, who will be the first one to solve them all…

Suddenly the character “Shitbreak” from American Pie sprung to mind, so perhaps all these toilet exercises will be too weird for a lot of people, I don’t know. Right now it seems like a fun thing to do. If not THE right thing to do.

I will appreciate any suggestions for toilet exercises in the comments. (Pictures are from the flickrCC site). Have a nice weekend!

How much is one million (giraffes)?

12 June , 2009

I just flipped through a book called “How much is a million” (and later found out- others exist with a similar topic).
The points of the book(s) are to visualize to children how they can picture the size of a million objects of some sort.

My previous and current students and pupils more often than not amuse me with creativity and humor. Yesterday, a previous mathematics pupil of mine, Ola, seem to have fallen right into the trap of NOT being able to picture one million objects! 🙂 (…and who can blame him) I really hope he can prove me wrong so that all those mathematics lessons don’t turn out to have been useless, and perhaps he will! He made a bet with a friend, claiming he can collect a million hand drawn pictures of giraffes in around two years time. At the moment of writing he has gotten a few thousand drawings, have published a few hundred of them and has almost six hundred days to collect the rest of them. Being the kind and helpful teacher that I am (or was) I have to help trying to promote his project in several ways:
– I force all my family and friends to send him giraffes
– I promote him on my twitter feed
– I write this blog and cross-post it to my other blogs and facebook

This is the giraffe I sent Ola

This is the giraffe I sent Ola

Other helpful tips for Ola:
– use the next year’s Earth hour for all that it’s worth. The earth needs a giraffe hour.
– I will also try to make all my new students next year draw giraffes of course… This year students faced a similar task, trying to draw a mathematics teacher the way they picture him (I say him, because around 95 % are male. The class thought was pretty strange, because in teacher education, it seems around 90 % are female!)
– How about trying to have giraffe drawing as an exercise in kindergardens, pre-school, primary school (and upper secondary schools and higher education!) all over the world?
– Publishing on the Internet is one thing (or rather, one TEDIOUS thing…), why not make a “Best of the giraffes” and turn it into a book? Or t-shirts… (Next project ?) I’d buy a handpicked-by-Ola giraffe t-shirt anytime.
– Let people comment on each others drawings on the web site. Maybe vote for the best giraffes.
– Get interviews from those who made the bet
– Visit the Kristiansand Zoo for inspiration and giraffe info (this reminds me of Monkey news, from the Ricky Gervais show)
– Schedule interviews with Norwegian TV for children (Portveien 2, a famous children program from the 80-90’s?)
– Get permalinks, so people proudly can display “I’m a part of the onemilliongiraffes project!” on their blogs…
– Ask celebrities to send you their giraffes (some have already done that!)


So, head over to and upload/mms/send/mail/e-mail Ola your giraffe pictures! You can also follow the project on twitter. And while you are at it, you can listen to giraffe music on Spotify, or draw giraffes on Shidonni, that also will walk about and eat the food you draw for them…

*EDIT* Here’s one of several newspaper articles on his project: Aftenbladet. And I have lost count of his television appearances and other spots…