The Math Forum: 2000 Summer Institute - sum2000

July 25 - August 11, 2000 - Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

2000 Summer Institute || Agenda || List of Participants

Day 3 Summary

Richard Tchen, the Math Forum's webmaster, was the guest speaker for the third day of the Summer Institute.
Part One
Richard started his session on Searching Tips and Tricks by sharing an anecdote about a particular problematic search that he had experienced. His story is on the web

    Brahmagupta's Formula A Webmaster Correspondence
    A Math Forum Webmaster Exchange -- Subject: Please help: Bramputa's Theory
Part Two
Everyone was partnered, given an index card and a writing utensil and the participants were asked to write a mathematical question that they might want to search for an answer on. Then one partner was to be the detached observer while the other partner did the searching. The detached observer was encouraged to observe:

    What is your partner honing in on?
    What kind of links are they clicking on?

After providing time to complete the task, Richard asked the participants to share the topics that were searched:

    Why is slope called "m"
    How was the quadratic formula derived?
    How can I incorporate the resources of the Internet in teaching?
    What is the relationship between the "point" and "dent" angles of a regular star?
    How can you use the Internet with kindergartners?
    Whenever am I going to have to use this in life?
    How do you measure randomness in statistics?
    Who started mathematics?
Part Three
Each detached observer shared what they had observed:

Susan and Shelly
Searched question: "What is the relationship between the "point" and "dent" angles of a regular star?"
  1. Susan commented, "Shelly was trying to follow process."
  2. Susan wasn't sure if she was going to match the screen displayed - Where am I supposed to go to start the search? Where do I begin?
  3. She went to Search for math and typed in a boolean connection "star and angle and geometry."
  4. She went to Tips and Tricks thinking, can I use boolean searches?
  5. Tips and Tricks recommends, NO boolean searches.
  6. She took out the "ands" and used "star angle geometry"
  7. Unless you mark complete word only "star" might lead you to anything because many common words such as, "start" or "started" would be included in the results.
  8. Then Susan thought, "Let me put in "dent angle" since that is the most unusual part of Shelly's question." No results.
  9. Susan decided to venture off the Math Forum site to Yahoo because at that point she was frustrated. She explained that she is much more familiar and comfortable using Yahoo. She searched using "dent angle and geometry."
  10. Jay Dent articles appeared which was not what she was looking for.
  11. No success yet in finding information to answer Shelly's question.
Eva and Matt
  1. "We cheated."
  2. Eva supplied prompts to Matt.
  3. Matt said "What do you think?" and Eva said "If I were you...."
  4. Eva redefined her question - she did the clarification intervention.
  5. Once they got to certain sites - Matt was reading the blurbs under each site - in reading those blurbs he could see that that wasn't the way to go.
  6. Eventually with some guidance from Eva, Matt found the information he was seeking.
Varnelle and Dave
Searched question: How can you use the Internet with kindergartners?
  1. Dave started with "math kindergarten."
  2. That was too broad - the result told them that.
  3. "Internet kindergarten" was next tried.
  4. Took them to worksheets.
  5. One link sent them to Jumpstart but that didn't get them anywhere.
Searched question: Whenever am I going to have to use this in life?
Jeanne took Danielle's question "When am I ever going to ever need this?" and broke it down into what it meant to her and then she broke it down to keywords.
Searched question: Is it better to teach multiplication with a calculator or the long way?
They didn't really follow the directions - they approached this as a team effort to see if they could find information on the benefits of teaching students multiplication the long way or with a the calculator. They decided that their question was probably suitable for T2T rather than just something that a search would yield.
Part Four
Where is the search engine on the main page of the Math Forum?
The Math Forum has a standardized look. At the bottom of every page - the links are always the same. If you are on any page of the Forum site you can find the search engine as a link on the lower right of the page. If you are on the main page it is in the same place but it appears as a button.

Is there only one way to search on the Forum?
You can either use the Math Forum's search engine which is a full text search. We offer that because we want to give you as much reign as possible but that has to be used with consideration because of the time that would then take. In addition there are searches for specific areas such as, Ask Dr. Math and T2T and the Math Library.

How can I know what syntax to use with my search?
There is no standard of how you use syntax - using "and" or "+" is not standard - different search engines handle things differently.

What are some tips to help narrow the search when using the Math Forum's search engine?
Use the selections such as:
    Do you want to find items that have:
        At least one of your keywords
        all, in any order
        that exact phrase

(if you select that exact phrase - you might try typing a phrase such as "Why is slope called m")

At the bottom of the page there are links to off-site search engines. You can "pass" your search from the Forum's site to the off-site search engines.

What do I do if I've tried and tried and I just can't find an answer to my question?
Write to the webmaster - Richard will answer.

Richard returned to one of the searches which had been met with no success: "What is the relationship between the "point" and "dent" angles of a regular star?"

Richard said that he would first think that this is an Ask Dr. Math question and he would narrow his search to just Ask Dr. Math.

He searched "star" and then because star resulted in too many returns he searched on: "star point" (He selected complete words only.)

A handy trick was demonstrated: In Netscape Richard selected find under edit in the menu. A window appeared and he typed "star". Each time Richard asked to find the word "star," it was highlighted which helps you focus on what is being looked for.

Richard passed the search to AltaVista and then there was a discussion of how do you know which search engine is the best for particular searches.

How can I find out more information on search engines and how they work?
Go to

How many web pages does a search engine have indexed to use in their responses?
Even the search engines that index the most pages they probably only have indexed 16% (about 1 out of 6 pages). There are so many web pages being written constantly that it is difficult to keep up with them.

How is it decided by the search engine which sites are listed first?
what people go to (popularity) (use)

What is the I'm Feeling Lucky button on Google?
It will take you out of the Google site. It takes you to the most popular site for the search that you are requesting. Richard typed in "math education" and Google went directly to a page on the Math Forum.
Richard explained that this is done by finding out the site that is requested the most often as a response to that question.

How do you find out who has linked to your pages?
One possibility is to go to Altavista and type in link:(your URL)
For more information go to this page:
Part Five: Links on the Web with more information on searching
Math Forum: Power Searching Tips and Tricks
AltaVista: Advanced Search Tutorial
Ask Jeeves: About
Google: Search Basics

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

Home || The Math Library || Quick Reference || Search || Help 

© 1994- The Math Forum at NCTM. All rights reserved.