6 June, 2014
Volume 19 No. 23
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In This Issue

Engineering and Math Challenge

The Mathman

What Works: Improving Mathematical Problem Solving, Expanded


Online PD

Orientation Sessions

Problem Based Learning Courses

Graduate Credit:
Mathematics Teaching and Learning Certificate

Master's Degree


Engineering and Math Challenge


This past academic year, the Math Forum has been problem-solving with Philadelphia public school students. Through a series of school-based collaborative practice sessions and competitive events held on the Drexel University campus, the Philadelphia Engineering and Math Challenge (EMC) has encouraged local teens to engineer solutions and apply mathematical reasoning to real-world contexts.

On Wednesday, we held our final event before the summer recess. Please help yourself to instructional materials from EMC, each aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In particular, check out the free downloads of the Engineering Solutions projects, which have ranged from aiming lasers to making ice cream:


Quiz Bowls have enlivened events with short math puzzles:


The Philadelphia EMC is sponsored by Drexel University, the Math Forum @ Drexel, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition.

PoW taking place: math problem-solving moment of the week

"I was stuck. Because none of these weren't given, I began to brainstorm what was familiar to me. Since in my class, I have done a similar problem to this, I made the problem more understandable for me by connecting the steps with this problem. Once again, I brainstormed what I know about arc, chords, and circles. One thing I came up with was.... Another idea was that.... The last thought was that.... Even after all that brainstorming, I asked myself what made this such a challenging problem — but that's when it hit me: I don't know where the center of the circle is."
- Britney, highlighted in the Geometry PoW's Latest Solution

The Mathman


Known affectionately around Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and online as "the Mathman," Don Cohen has listened to a lot of young people encounter, and think through, mathematics. The veteran tutor has compiled over 100 of his students' discoveries, each accompanied by their original handwritten or -drawn work, and extended by Cohen's questions.

The author of Changing Shapes with Matrices also offers a Map to Calculus™:


The numbered bubbles in that diagram correspond to the chapters from his spiralbound Calculus By and For Young People, first featured in these pages more than a decade ago and once reviewed by Scientific American magazine as conveying, "with infectious enthusiasm, the work of many beginners in one fine teacher's class."

Last week — after four decades of tutoring full time, still averaging upwards of 40 sessions a week — Cohen retired. In a recent interview with the east central Illinois newspaper The News-Gazette, Cohen listed these three distinguishing characteristics of his approach: "One, I have a sense of humor. Two, I expect the kids to do well. Three, I expect them to do things different from how I do them."


Now taking place: math education conversation of the day

"Our students took about the same time as yours. I was proud of them for really sticking with it."
- Brian, posted to the secondary (grades 9-12) discussion group of the Association of Math Teachers of New York State

What Works: Improving Mathematical Problem Solving, Expanded


On Monday, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) expanded the content accompanying its free practice guide for improving students' mathematical problem solving in grades 4 through 8.

IES' "Improving Mathematical Problem Solving in Grades 4 Through 8" now includes video presentations about each of the five recommendations, as well as an interview of one of the guide's authors. What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has further added to this publication — first featured in these pages upon its release two summers ago — with new ideas for implementing these strategies in classrooms.

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 visual representations."


This newsletter is provided as a service of The Math Forum, an online educational community for mathematics hosted by Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA.

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