Feb 12

Wow, Annie Forest’s VLOG Made Me Flashback

While listening to Annie Forest’s vlog at


my life kinda flashed before my eyes!

As further background, Mrs. Forest is highlighting an excellent article, titled, “Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say!”  Author: Reinhart, Steven C.;  Source: Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, v5 n8 p478-83 Apr 2000.  The article is excellent!

The things I learned from my teachers and other teachers that I’ve been using (as a teacher) that I often don’t think about.  I’ll make a short list here.  This probably needs to be further developed at some point.

  1. My (late) college math professor, Dr. Mildred Gross, was a very caring person, but not exuberant.  She was small, quiet, and reserved (collected and very organized). When you answered a question, she would often ask, “Why?”  This is the neutral response (which Annie talks about in the vlog) — not telling the student that they are right or wrong.
  2. My cooperating teacher, when I student taught, was Mr. Pool. He had a rule of thumb: I like to call on every student every day, so that when they walk out of my classroom, they knew they were there for a reason. This has been a great rule of thumb.
  3. Someone told me (it may have been Melfried Olson) that the tutor should avoid picking up the pencil. The student should so all the writing. Good general rule.
  4. A Corollary to Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say! is “Never Punch into a Calculator Anything a Student Can Punch.” I’ve developed a rule of thumb for myself when it comes to calculations from a calculator.  I do not even take a calculator to class.  (If using Desmos, I do demo Desmos.)
    In math class when we get down to a step that might require a calculator, here’s how it goes. (This happens an average of 4 times everyday.)

T: OK now we have 2.8x = 18.2

T: Do we have a mental math strategy for that? (3 second wait) I don’t think so. Please put that into a calculator.  (3 second wait) Who has the answer?  (BTW, as the S’s are punching keys, I’m doing a mental estimate 😉

S: 6.5

Then T looks around the room. If at least two other students (with calculators out) give a head-nod, T moves on.  If there are no head nods, T asks, “Does 6.5 agree with the other calculators in the room?”

I use this strategy for the following reasons:

  • Keep the students engaged. (I teach college. Sometimes students need to learn that learning is a participation sport.)
  • It teaches that we should always ask the question Do we have a mental math strategy for that? (and I teach mental math and if was 2x = 18.2, we would have a strategy)
  • Teach them to use a calculator – parentheses, logs, exponents, etc.
  • If they can’t put it into a calculator, I’m loosing them and I never want to loose them.
  • I do sometime walk around and peek into some calculator.


Feb 08

Desmos files

Here is a spreadsheet (shared Google Sheet) with some

  • Desmos files on sheet 1
  • Desmos Classroom Activities on sheet 2


Jan 13

Welcome Spring 2018 Math 304 Students

Welcome Math 304 students! This webpage is one of two main webpages we use for Math 304. The other two are WesternOnline and Math 304 Resources Page.

We use this webpage for announcements and links to teaching resources.

I look forward to working with you in this course.

You might also check out my Teaching Resources webpage. This is long-running page of resources (and is useful, I hope), but is not considered a ‘main’ page for Math 304.

Dr. Olsen

Jun 27

Using Rich Problems for Differentiated Instruction

This is a good paper describing the use and characteristics of rich problems.

(The teaching method here is Teaching With Tasks.)

Has 3 examples of rich problems

  • First is rich and fairly basic and doable.
  • Second is excellent. #differenceofsquares (I like this one the best. 😀) 
  • Third is quite open-ended.

The article does a nice job of showing how instruction and (formative) assessment go hand-in-hand.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it has good mathematics.

Apr 17

Hidden Figures Curriculum for Schools

Check out http://mentalfloss.com/article/94297/hidden-figures-coming-classrooms

Free download of a curriculum based on the movie Hidden Figures.

Mar 29

Technical website note

I have disabled the comment feature of this website.  I do welcome feedback and comments on this website. Please use the phone, twitter, or email to comment on this website.

Mar 02

Educational technology that helps kids learn — and doesn’t

Good Article:

Silicon Valley teacher: Don’t confuse educational technology that helps kids learn — and doesn’t


Mar 02

Spring Math 304 Websites

Here are the websites of students in Math 304 at WIU in Spring 2017

These contain many ideas for how to make learning math meaningful our students. More will be added as the semester progresses.

Here’s one more — from Julie. She’s doing some things similar to the Math 304 students.

Feb 18

Weebly and other Internet/Web notes

My top 3 sites for creating free websites are WordPress, Blogger, and Weebly.

I have a fairly big section on my Teacher Resources page titled:

Web Page Development, Internet Stuff, Computer Hints, Graphics, Music, & Software ‘n Fonts

Check it out for more info.

Feb 14

Website Evaluation Form Here

Here is the Website Evaluation Form (.docx):  WEB SITE EVALUATION Form