NZAMT14 Conference

It’s been a busy couple of months. We ran the CMA E-Learning Day at the end of May, with around 80 teachers attending. A week later I was flown up to Napier to deliver workshops and a keynote for Taradale High School’s e-learning professional development day. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and made some new friends while I was there. Then (after writing reports!) I organised and facilitated the ICT Day for the biennial NZACS Conference at the beginning of July; and this week I’m presenting a couple of workshops (and attending some excellent sessions!) at the biennial NZAMT Conference.


I ran two workshops this week, so I deliberately split them into two very distinct sessions. My first was on “Theory & Research”, then the next day I unpacked it with “Practical E-Learning Tips for Maths”. Both sessions had a decent crowd, so we were able to share ideas and tips with each other. You can check out my presentations from this week on the NZAMT Conference resources website once they’re up – I’ll add a link here when they’re available.

I’m looking forward to a rest next week! Busy term coming up again – I’m looking forward to attending the iwbNet “leading a digital school” conference in Melbourne this August, and we have a few exciting things planned at school for the next couple of months. I’m also looking forward to trying a few new things I’ve learnt this week:

If you have any related suggestions that I should try, let me know! What are you trying this term in your e-learning programmes? Share below!

Teaching equivalent fractions – five cognitive difficulties to address

This post is less about e-learning than about maths programme design in a wider sense, but it was inspired by reading a study on e-learning resources. I came across this statement when reading a PhD thesis from Arla Westenskow at Utah State University (you can find the original doc here). The thesis was about using physical and virtual manipulatives (applets etc) to help struggling maths students to learn equivalent fractions.

Five cognitive difficulties many students have in developing equivalent fraction understanding have been identified in the literature: (a) conceptualizing fractions as a quantity, (b) partitioning into equal subparts, (c) identifying the unit or whole, (d) building sets of equivalent fractions, and (e) representation model distractions.

How could this influence our teaching of fractions? I haven’t been teaching long and am just starting to move beyond the basic knowledge-delivery with teaching this topic. If we were to focus on each of these five cognitive difficulties and nail them, what would that look like? What resources can you share or suggest that could be useful for this? For those of you who are already doing this or partially doing this, can you share your insight or experience? Keen to pick your brains.

The thesis goes on to explore and discuss using manipulatives for remediating these five difficulties but the focus is more on the effectiveness of the types of manipulatives (which is why I’m reading it for my e-learning assignment), rather than focusing on the best way to remediate the difficulties from a more holistic programme-design perspective. Thoughts?

3D Building Blocks

3D Building Blocks

This is a 3D environment for building shapes with cubic blocks. Useful for teaching the relationship between length, area and volume, or for helping students to build spacial awareness and develop understanding of volume and prisms. Also just fun.

This resource is great for interactive whiteboard or wireless tablet, but won’t run on iOS so iPads etc won’t have much luck. It runs on Java so make sure you have the current version.

How else could you use this resource? Add your suggestions!

QR Codes in Maths

QR Codes in Maths

How do you use QR codes in your Maths teaching? Here’s one suggestion on a homework sheet, keen to hear your ideas!

Google Sketchup: Inquiry learning in Maths

Excellent article… Helpful in my ongoing quest to find ways to encourage students’ creativity and inquiry learning in Mathematics. Try this activity and share your experiences here so we can all learn from them!

International Schools and ICT

Shafer, K. (2010). Prisms and Pyramids with Google SketchUp: A Classroom Activity. In D. Gibson & B. Dodge (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2010 (pp. 3505-3507)

Google SketchUp is a free program that was developed for the purpose of creating 3D models. SketchUp can be used to support student sense making through an inquiry approach. The authors first describe how elementary education majors were able to use specific tools in SketchUp to reconcile issues of perception when creating a prism and investigate the various dimensions within a given pyramid (height, slant heights(s) and edges).

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Reflections on a snow day

I’ve changed my mind about the structure of my blog… I had planned to “tell my story” chronologically. The first few posts would be historical until I caught up, and from then on I would post as I learned or discovered new things… but it’s been two months since my first (and only) post, so in the interests of actually getting my thoughts out I’ll just post them as they come! From now on the “journey” narrative will be mixed in with my current musings.

My back yard this afternoon… it rarely snows here!

Today’s musings are on the topic of surviving… I am slightly drowning at the moment in assignments and reports, so my use of engaging and worthwhile ICT activities in my lessons has slowed to a trickle. For several weeks it stopped altogether, while I was in “survival mode”… until I remembered my own advice that I give when trying to help colleagues with ICT: Start small, but start somewhere (or “start simple, but start something” as I wrote in the last post). In the last week I have made an effort again to do little things (very little in some cases!) in each lesson with ICT. I was reminded again how worthwhile the time investment is when I saw the students’ engagement improve!

Thankfully we have the day off school today due to a rare snowfall. It’s a welcome opportunity to get some reports and study done, as well as to reflect on the chaos of the last few weeks and the effect of that chaos on my teaching. Of course it’s also a great opportunity to finally add another post here!

Today’s question for reflection (and comment):

Start small, but start somewhere what are some ideas for small things you could do with ICT in your lessons? For those of you who are just beginning your ICT journey, this could be a starting point; for others, this could be a baseline to fall back on when in “survival mode”, rather than letting your ICT use disappear altogether.

A slightly bigger question, and one that definitely needs to be constantly kept in mind at all times: Where is the line between using ICT in lessons for the sake of using ICT, and using ICT in lessons to maintain a baseline on which we can build engaging and worthwhile activities as we feel able?

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