Creating Positive Classrooms (book)

8 May , 2012

I am not sure whether this should be called a book, because it is just slightly bigger than my passport! It is written by one of my favorite authors within Mathematics Education, Mike Ollerton. You can see his published books on Amazon here, and also listen to him on YouTube.

This little book, reminds me of a handbook for conducting classroom experiences although he actually HAS a book entitled The Mathematics Teacher Handbook as well. Mostly he writes about what it means to be a teacher, and in particular, a mathematics teacher. (You won’t find much math in this book, but many good activities are presented in the Handbook!)

I find it hard to disagree with Ollerton, but he does cover som rather unexpected topics. There’s a chapter on prizes, one on smoking and one on detention. His view is that prizes and award systems in general are unnecessary, and he argue quite a bit on that.

The reason he covers smoking as a separate chapter seems to be the size of the problem in UK. He claims that a huge fraction of the fifteen year olds smoke, although it is not legal for them to purchase tobacco or cigarettes.

In short, he writes about what he means about topics most teachers sooner or later will face.

In particular, I liked the relatively simple and perhaps rather idealistic view about way he doesn’t reward helpful students with golden stars or the like:

Because that is the way civilized people should behave towards each other.

It’s a short read, but I always find something to ponder in Ollerton’s books.

The known universe

10 February , 2012

Such a nice video. Never seen it and neither had NRKbeta, who caught my eye here. Linking it onwards:

The known universe

Finding the right driver home for X-mas

7 January , 2012

Going home for X-mas… to me it means family, most likely the extended family. People you might not spend so much time with anymore, in my case. I try to visit a couple of times every year, but X-mas is special. It’s a tradition, just like the annual airings of Donald Duck on X-mas morning. And another tradition is “Can you fix and/or update the computer(s)?” It’s not such a drag, but fixing computers is not the funniest thing to play around with either. Although finally we academics can make ourselves useful for something. More often than not, it’s a bit difficult to “fix” stuff. Is it drivers, errors, hardware, software, modems, firewalls, whatnot.

Of course, the owners of the computers are not that likely to be interested in maintaining their own computers, hence, the returning son is up for it. I have found a few useful things to help me out with things like this. 

I usually install CCleaner (former crapcleaner), so that it’s easy for my parents or siblings to do a medium thorough clean-up. In addition, I install Ad-Aware and maybe Search & Destroy. They attack spyware, adware, and things like that. Another program I like is Revo Uninstaller – it’s very thorough and removes stuff other uninstallers don’t.

But what happens when you are not there…

When home, I go to and make a tailored installfile (very easy!) for my relative. Just tick the software you want them have and what you know they already have. You download a small file, and tell your relative to run it once pr. month! This will then fetch the newest and updated versions of everything you have chosen, it skips toolbars and other crap, and just update what is needed. Pure genius. This is extremely handy when someone in your family gets a new computer! 

On other occations it might be handy to control the computer of your relative remotely. Many options exist, Teamviewer LogMeIn etcetera. I landed on the free Crossloop Connect. Very simple to use. Your relative calls you tells the code the program gives you, and you input it on your computer. You then get their screen on your screen and can control their computer almost as if your own. (And head to, because that is always were my relatives refuse to pay an interest! 🙂

So off we go, into 2012, hoping I can fix some more problems, and not only when I visit my parents 🙂 Happy new year!

100 ideas for teaching mathematics (book tip)

4 November , 2011


One of my favorite authors when it comes to books about mathematics, must be Mike Ollerton. We use some of his books as curriculum on our courses within teacher education. For example, we used Inclusive mathematics on one of our master courses in mathematics education.
Mike Ollerton has written several books, and you can find most of them (I guess) on Amazon and other sites.

This book is just what the title says – it contains 100 starters for mathematics classes. They are more or less grouped by topic, although some activities might fit in everywhere. I have just read through this book, and I must say I found several new tips, activities and tasks that I could and will incorporate into my own lectures at the mathematics education department. I wasn’t able to find the solutions to all the activities as I read along, but I did some, and some where also what I would call classics of mathematics.

You must have a very bad imagination if you don’t find many activities to adopt to your classroom in this book! 🙂

Ollerton’s pedagogical way of thinking is quite clear from seeing these activities. It’s not about givint the students questions and tasks, but rather activities and problems. Some of the ideas  might not even have a specific answer to be found. The activities are also expanded upon by providing hints for how the teacher could take the ideas even further.

I’d like to mention one little tip that my students liked very much. My students arrive by bus mostly, and there are always one or two buses that arrive late, and some students who have to wait a couple of minutes. I then gave each pair of students five die as they arrived, and instructions to throw them all once. The problem is to make use of the five numbers in order to arrive at 100 in one way or another. They can use plus, minus, division, multiplication and parentheses as they like. There appeared to be something within this activity that made them sit there thinking quite hard. Could all throws result in 100? (Of course not, five ones can not be made into 100). How many hundreds can be made? (Well, with 6 to the power of 5 possibilities I doubt that that is easy to find out). Perhaps if we also included powers…

I highly recommend this book for anyone teaching or learning or being interested in mathematics. You can order it quite cheap from Amazon og

The magic of reality

28 October , 2011

I really enjoy Richard Dawkins, so I try to get my hands on everything he publishes. He is probably most known for his book “The God Delusion”, who, obviously, is about arguing against the existence of any deities. He has also appeared in many documentaries, like “The enemies of reason”, handling topics on how religion tries to hinde

r scientific progress, and refuse to consider facts and knowledge. His previous book was mainly about evolution, the lovely “The greatest show on earth”. He really has a way of finding nifty titles. Now, I just finished The magic of reality, his newest book. This book is aimed towards the younger audience being more explanatory in the style of writing. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it.

Most of the book deals with natural phenomena, and myths that science has helped getting rid of. We get chapters about the rainbow, the universe, big bang, time, earthquakes, the creation of the earth and so on. We get myths from ancient cultures and religions and see how science explain them all away, whether it is tribal lore or christian dogma.
There is also an iPad version of the book, which I am thinking about purchasing as well. It is promised to be full of interactive content, and judging by the look of the paper edition of the book – it has to be great!
I don’t know how Dawkins stands it, but he actually appeared on a TV show hosted by one of my favorite morons, Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly being as obnoxious as usual (Seeing this from Norway, I had to check with my American twitter people that he really IS that bad all the time) and Dawkins doing his best to sport a smile when faced with stupidity and silly accusations. (Yes this is the guy that claimed noone can explain tidal waves, but God made sure there’s never a miscommunication (right before the wave hit USA terribly)).
See Richard Dawkins’ web page here:


25 August , 2011

Just thought I’d recommend a blog I keep coming back to. Larry Cuban is an American (I think!) author and researcher. I have only read one of his books, Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom. He writes quite a lot on his blog, and it is interesting stuff indeed. Have a look yourself:

Learning – one of our favorite activities.

11 August , 2011

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.