What Works: Improving Mathematical Problem Solving
The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) of the Institute of
Education Sciences (IES) recently released a practice guide
for improving students' mathematical problem solving in grades
4 through 8.
Geared toward teachers, math coaches, other educators, and
curriculum developers who want to improve the mathematical
problem solving of students, "Improving Mathematical Problem
Solving" consists of five freely downloadable PDFs — one for
IES rated these two recommendations as backed by the strongest
evidence: "Assist students in monitoring and reflecting on the
problem-solving process" and "Teach students how to use
PoW taking place: math problem-solving moment of the week
"Erika and I had analyzed and analyzed this question over and
over again until we figured out that if you draw a circle and a
figure of a person on the top that is looking towards the
curved Earth (draw a line), it creates a tangent. We knew that
tangents touched circles at exactly one point so they would be
perpendicular to the radius."
- Monique and Erica, highlighted in the Geometry PoW's
Get the Math
Get the Math has returned with a second trio of videos that
help students understand real-world applications of
See National Basketball Association (NBA) veteran Elton Brand,
as well as professionals in the restaurant business and the
special effects industry, as they introduce six teenagers to
their professional lives — and everyday algebra challenges.
Brand, a two-time NBA All-Star, poses a question about the math
behind the perfect free throw shot. The owner of a Manhattan
restaurant asks students to predict avocado prices for the next
year, then use their predictions to recommend a menu price for
guacamole. And two New York City pyrotechnicians challenge the
teens to determine the best light intensity and distance for
shooting a high-speed explosion.
For an overview of all six videos from this year and last year,
along with accompanying lesson plans, visit
A project of THIRTEEN in association with WNET, Get the Math
receives funding from Next Generation Learning Challenges and
the Moody's Foundation.
Now taking place: math education conversation of the hour
"May I offer my sincere appreciation to you for the tremendous
job that you have done in moderating this group for the past 7
years. I am sure many, like me, have found the discussions
stimulating, invigorating and giving us alternate discussion
starting points in our calculus classrooms. It was also
interesting for me to note alternate methods of attacking
problems — which just goes to show that teaching AP calculus
and math for 24 years does not give you all the answers — but
rather more opportunities to learn!"
- Trevor, posted to the ap-calculus discussion group
Math of the 2012 Transit of Venus
Next Tuesday, 5 June, Venus will pass across the face of the
sun, producing a silhouette that no one alive today will
likely see again.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA), "the nearly 7-hour transit begins at 6:09 pm Eastern
Time on June 5th. In the USA, the transit will be at its best
For over 100 years, the main quest of astronomers was to pin
down the distance between Earth and Sun (the Astronomical
Unit), which would give them a key to the size of the solar
system. Careful studies of the transit of Venus became the gold
mine they would harvest to reveal this measure.
Follow a live webcast, see visibility maps, find viewing event
locations, download mobile apps, read about safe viewing
techniques, watch instructional videos, download a folder with
math activities, and much more from NASA's site.
Transits of Venus are predictable, but the pattern of the
frequency seems strange. The last transit occurred only eight
years ago — but the next one will not take place until 2117.
To learn more about the mathematics of the frequency of this
astronomical oddity, visit