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Q&A #2599

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Classroom Openers

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From: Marty S <mschmude@mail2.northnet.com.au>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2001062807:59:47
Subject: Classroom Openers

Thanks very much for your interest.

I tell many stories to my class. Most of them are used to try to
motivate them to do work. I emphasise why it is important to learn how
to think mathematically. Alright, I concede that learning the
nitty-gritty of algebra might be seen as a waste of time in terms of
what you need in life (although one could argue against that) but it
is important, however, to learn how to use reason and logic. 
The main reason for this is so that you can't be tricked with numbers.
So often I see surveys, graphs and numbers being manipulated to prey
on the 'innumerate'. Such as a simple stock market scam
('Innumeracy'). 

Lets say you were interested in investing money in the stockmarket. If
you received 6 straight correct predictions on a certain stock index,
would you be willing to pay for the 7th? If you would, think about
this scam.

Let's just say you buy some fancy stationary, with a really nice
letterhead on it and write to 32000 people, talking of your elaborate
computer model, your 30 years of experience in the stock market and
your inside contacts. Now in 16000 of these letters, you say a certain
stock will go up. In the other 16000 letters, you say the stock will
go down. 

Now, no matter how the stock performed, a follow-up letter is sent,
but only to the 16000 people who received a correct prediction. In
8000 letters, you say the stock will go up. In the other 8000, a
decline. Now after this, whatever the outcome, 8000 people have
received 2 straight correct predictions. 

You then send out 4000 letters - 2000 say up, 2000 say down. You this
a couple more times until 500 people have received six straight
correct 'predictions'. The 500 people are reminded of this and are
asked to send $500 each if they are to continue to receive this
valuable information. Assuming everyone does, that's a cool $250 000
for other scammer, with only a couple of thousand dollars in postage
fees. 

If I told the class this story, I would mention that if anyone does
this knowingly, with intent to defraud, they would spend the better
part of their life behind bars.

The fantastic books that I get some of these stories from are 
     - 'Why Do Buses Come In Threes?' by Rob Eastaway and Jeremy      
Wyndham, published in Great Britain by Robson Books Ltd
       ISBN 1 86105 247 2
     - 'Innumeracy' by John Allen Paulos, published by Penguin Books
       ISBN 0 14 029120 2

In 'Innumeracy', Paulos shows just how much trouble people have in
grasping even the fundamental ideas about numbers, and how this lack
of understanding can profoundly effect us in our everyday lives. 

I have also bought a game called 'MindTrap' from MindTrap Games Inc.
(MS 51557) and licensed by Wind Chimes Limited. This game has about
500 lateral thinking questions (at least 1 everyday!). 

I have math jigsaw puzzles that I give to the kids every now and then.
It really helps with their literacy too - a lot of reconstruction e.g.
geometrical pictures (adjacent complementary angles) and the word
adjacent complementary angles whichthey have to match. The kids love
them and it is a good opportunity to do group work.

Unfortunately, I haven't got these openers typed out, but would be
very willing to so. Hopefully I could post them somewhere so you can
benefit from them. 

My advice when doing these activities:
(a) because the kids enjoy the novelty of these things so much,
emphasise that it is only going to be done when you decide - otherwise
they will ask you 20 times each lesson! (from personal experience),
and (b) start collecting puzzles, books and interesting math stuff
whenever you see it. It doesn't have to do with any topic in
particular, just something that will get them thinking mathematically.

Thanks for your interest and support and I'll try to get some specific
openers up very soon.

Marty

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