- An Interesting Week
In the week 13 - 20th May 2004:
- Ina Koetsier, our Distribution Manager, won our Don't Say It Can't Be Done award by getting a Starting Maths300 & Tasks kit to a teacher at the school office 15-20 kilometres away within 90 minutes of receiving the order. Won a teacher's heart in the process too we suspect. A special case of course but a perfect example of how hard we try to serve your needs at all levels.
- We received a task order from a school in Fairbanks, Alaska and another one from a school in Beijing, China. The Beijing school also joined Maths300. How do you feel about being part of a world-wide fraternity committed to creating happy, healthy, cheerful, productive, inspiring maths classrooms in which students are learning to work like a mathematician?
- Reverse: A Conversation
Information about the iceberg of Task 184, Reverse, has been added to the Iceberg Information link on the left. The text is in the form of a faxed exchange between the project office and a task centre teacher. Many aspects of the Working Mathematically process are highlighted and if you have the task in your collection you will probably find the information very supportive.
- A Visit To Size 13 Sphinx
Sometimes you have the chance to do something special in life. On this occasion, it was the opportunity to travel more than 20,000 kilometres to meet two special young mathematicians. Amy and Emma, now in Year 8, were the first mathematicians we know of to build the Size 13 Sphinx. They were in Year 7 at the time and their teacher, Andy Martin, taped the 169 pieces together to preserve it for posterity.
Along with John Hibbs, retired HMI, who built one of the four original versions of the Size 3 Sphinx, I had the opportunity to chat with these enthusiastic students and photograph them with their work. The photos have been included in the Sphinx Album link on the left.
The girls have had several attempts at building the Size 23 Sphinx in the last few months, but have found it much harder than Size 13. However, after chatting with John they have reconsidered the problem and are ready to tackle it with renewed vigour.
Those of you who have read Fermat's Last Theorem (Fermat's Enigma in the USA), by Simon Singh, or seen the documentary with the same title, may recognise parallels between the development of our Sphinx task and the history of the solution of the world's hardest maths problem.
- Following Up MOTM
Cairns School of Distance Education sent several members to Maths on the Move in Cairns at the end of February. The school then followed up a few days later with extra input that included mini-tutorials presented to their colleagues by those who attended.
Game of 31
- Tasks Connecting Home & School
While visiting Thorne Grammar, England to see Amy and Emma, we had the chance to participate in classes which were using tasks as way of linking home and school by requiring students to take tasks home. Students are encouraged to tackle the tasks 'around the kitchen table' with their family. Every student keeps a journal of their class work and home work with tasks (one period each week and tasks borrowed for a week). Their parents and their teacher comment, in fact, converse, in writing as the student records their personal or family attempt at solution or extension.
The work started with the Library Kit for Home Lending as the source (see Library Kit link), but the staff are now including many more tasks. Thorne also applied for and received government funding to include six other local schools in the approach. Several members of those staffs attended our Maths on the Move workshop (Learning to Work Like a Mathematician) in Doncaster on April 26th and are now more enthused than ever to integrate the tasks into their school in this and other ways.
You can read more about this home/school connection and see photos of the students and their work in the Integrating Tasks link on the left.
One of the features Thorne wants to develop to support this integration is a world-wide network of eBuddies so students can email peers around the world to discuss and explore tasks. In chatting with the kids we found three common threads:
Please, please, please ... this work is so good that it needs support from all interested task centre teachers. Look in the Library Kit link for information from Andy Martin about joining this network.
- the tasks lesson was rated as the best maths lesson of week
- the kids were interested, dedicated and literate problem solvers
- the biggest disappointment for the kids was either the lack of eBuddies, or sending emails to eBuddies who didn't answer.
It is only tasks that can unite students across the world in problem solving in this way, because there are students across the world who have access to exactly the same tasks.
- New Tasks
Three new tasks have been developed and they all use miniGEOfix material which has only recently become available. These tasks are now listed in the Task Catalogue available from either the Documents link or the Resources link on the left.
- Squares Around Squares, Task 24
Square pieces in two colours are used to investigate patterns made by building squares inside squares. The emphasis is on explaining what is discovered in more than one way (the mathematician's question Can I check this another way?). The task can be entered from around Year 4 and when the possible extensions and generalisations are followed through there is a considerable challenge for students up to Year 10 or 11. There is a strong connection between the visual patterns and the algebraic rules that can be used to describe and predict them.
This task replaces Lizard Hunt which was Task 24. However, until stocks run out, Lizard Hunt is still available if you ask for it.
- Triangles Around Triangles, Task 42
Triangle pieces in two colours are used to investigate patterns made by building triangles inside triangles. The task is similar to Squares Around Squares, but the visual patterns and the symbolic expression of them are more complex.
This task replaces Secret Number which was Task 42. However, until stocks run out, Secret Number is still available if you ask for it.
- Fold Up Houses, Task 55
This task uses a combination of triangle and square pieces to create models of row houses such as those often found in older inner city areas. The task has a strong geometric component as students explore how to link pieces in a plane so they fold up into three dimensions to make a house model. It also includes significant links between the 3d visual patterns created and the symbolic algebra that could be used to describe them. The task provides challenges for students from Years 4 to 10.
This task replaces Jump which was Task 55. However, until stocks run out, Jump is still available if you ask for it.
- New Prices
This is your early warning signal!
The basic price of a task has not changed since July 1 2000 (apart from items effected by currency fluctuation). However, every year our suppliers put up their prices to us. In that time too postage charges have increased. Costs of making tasks have risen, but we have strongly resisted changing our prices to match and have sought efficiencies in production. We strive to supply quality products and services at the most reasonable prices.
However, near the end of this year, probably around September, we will have to review the cost of a task and that will necessitate a full review of prices. Please build this into any budgets you prepare for the next year.
- At this stage we can't say how much the increase will be. We can only say that it will be a fair one.
- The special service to Maths300 members of 5% discount for task orders of 50 or more if the order quotes your Maths300 number, will continue.
- Did you miss the March News?
If so you missed information about:
- new and simpler electronic payment arrangements for clients outside Australia
- updating of links between the Task Centre Home Base and Maths300
- revision of the Resources link
- release of a giant maths mat for kinaesthetic learning at all levels.