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 Play.com


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: http://richarddawkins.net/


27 May , 2011

I could be better at writing about, or ranting about, books I read, especially when they are connected to science, teaching or research.
The other day I read a comic book called Logicomix. This may seem unserious, and no doubt, comics and comic books are considered more childish in Norway, than in, say, UK or US. At least that is my impression. As a young collector I have always been into comics and even in this country there have been, at least a few, to share the interest with.

Picture from the Logicomix website

Picture from the Logicomix website

This book is a kind of drawn version of a lecture given by Bertrand Russell, about his life, philosophies and pursue of absolute truth. What on earth (or rather, elsewhere..) could we know, and how can we be sure? What can we be absolute sure of? The excuse for the lecture is a contemporary debate on whether US should join in the war on the English side. How can we be sure we do the absolute correct thing? In this book, we get to know Russell, his life and story, his more or less strange love stories, some of his paradoxes and contradictions, as well as a number of other mathematicians and philosophers. Frege, Wittgenstein, Cantor and Hilbert all show their faces.
This is a reading experience a little bit on the side, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with the slightest of interest for either mathematics, history, logics or philosophy. Or comic books 🙂

The book has its own website, and you can get some tastes of it there. It can also be ordered (free shipping) on play.com – and cheap! Just what the cheap researcher ordered.

Christmas wishes…

4 November , 2009

Just found out what I want for Christmas! I have seen many great reviews, blogposts and opinions about this one. 1008 pages, but it seems the price and content is worth it!



Play.com (UK) : The Princeton Companion to Mathematics : Books – Free Delivery.

Happy new year all!

4 January , 2009

Well, the academic life just started on Friday, and I love this period of a few days where you actually can prepare  yourself, read some of the stuff you should’ve read ages ago and perhaps even tidy up the office. Just a little bit.

I got this question about my profile photo (not the contrived serious one in the About Me page, but the small one on comments). The reason I love this photo (even if it is of myself) is that it shows myself learning some mathematical facts and connections on my Amstrad CPC 6128 computer. Also, it’s a rather amusing picture of myself around one of my favorite pass-times, with a lot of nostalgia on the walls… (A dog long gone, pop stars, a terrific hair cut, badges and medals, Bon Jovi, etc… ah.. the memories…). The Amstrad didn’t have a blue screen of death, it actually had a blue screen of life. With yellow text. Unfortunately blue (and red) was a colour not very suited for television sets, and the blue tended to blur so much it was hard to read blue text or text on a blue background…

Amstrad CPC 6128 - the wonder machine!

Amstrad CPC 6128 - the wonder machine!

I did not set out to learn mathematics on this computer, but it somehow forced itself into my motivation. I remember learning about sines and cosines in order to plot the circumference of a circle. If a teacher have told me this is what I should do, it wouldn’t have been half as fun. I remember learning about slopes in order to draw stars on the screen. This happened several years before sines and slopes entered my syllabus. I also subscribed to this magazine, named Amstrad Action, and there one could find listings of programs in Basic, which could be typed in and saved on floppies or cassettes. (Do you remember the sound of those tapes? You could listen to it, and after perfectioning your ear, you could say just by listening to the signal hiss whether the software was properly loaded or not.) Of course there was no hard drive, but the machine would ship with an enormous 128 Kb of memory. Not quite enough for everybody, according to Bill Gates, but nevertheless – endless possibilities in the eighties! One of the programs I typed in was a short program that would allow you to play with coefficients of quadratics. It would solve the equations and draw the graphs, and this was before we had ever heard of graphic calculators. I felt like I was on the edge of technical evolution… Anyhow, this “insight from within”, has been valuable to me when meeting the quadratics (and other functions) later on, and the Amstrad have also pointed me towards ways of treating my own students and pupils.

I later read Seymour Papert‘s “The Gears of My Childhood“, and things started to clear up a bit… I highly recommend the book “Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful ideas” where I read the mentioned article in the foreword, to anyone interested in the teaching and learning, particularily of mathematics.

Amazon.com: Your Wish List

16 October , 2008

via Amazon.com: Your Wish List

This list of books is one where I recommend books for teacher in general, but most likely to interest mathematics teachers.