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Lurking on a Teacher's Website for Her Students

Last week it was a glimpse at the math teaching resources of Robert Greenlee. This week it is a glimpse at the math teaching resources of Pat Bucher. She teaches mathematics at Watkins Mill High School in the Montogomery County Public Schools (MD).

These two reviews serve as an intro to the types of materials math teachers organize and make available to their students. My rule of thumb is that I usually can find at least one "gem" in the files of an experienced math teacher...and hopefully many more.

Pat's web site (or Pat's web site) offers interactive activities and videos for algebra and data analysis. In contrast to Greenlee, she primarily provides links to exisiting "outside" websites (of varying and inconsistent quality).

So, what does one find on the website that might be tempting? Obviously, the response will vary with every teacher--their needs, pedagogical style, and view of mathematics itself. For example, on her website, I professionally would avoid the videos produced by Math Dude, as I find them skill-based with little understanding behind the manipulations being performed.

Yet, there are other possibilities to consider:

  • Calculate Probability in a Fish Tank (BBC)
  • Random Number Generator (random.org)
  • Box & Whiskers (Illuminations)
  • Area vs. Perimeter (Shodor)
  • Slope Slider (Shodor)
  • Planet Hop (BBC)
  • Cube Patterns (Illuminations)
  • PacMan Style Basic Facts (themathgame)
Now, my concerns regarding both Greenlee's and Bucher's offerings. It is great that they share their ideas...Greenlee to teachers while trying to possibly make some money on the side...and Bucher to help her students as resources.

BUT...I wish they had included commentary on the following:

  • How they used that specific activity...and what cautions they included?
  • How they would adjust an activity to meet different student needs?
  • What they felt the strengths, weaknesses, and goals were for each activity shared or posted?
For example, consider Bucher's link to "Equation Buster." These CAI-like programs always frustrate me...as they can lead to misunderstanding, incorrect focus, and frustation. First, every time I tried the program, it started with the equation 5w-3=27, when it should present a new one each time. Second, when I solved it, I got 6 = w, which is correct...but the program said I was wrong...until I manipulated it into the form w =6, then I was right. Boo! Do not use this program!...plus, my concern, does Pat Bucher know that this problem occurs?

To all teachers who set up web links for their students, I strongly suggest that you carefully investigate the program yourself...exploring and testing it like a creative middle-schooler. You need to know both the program's strengths and weaknesses...before recommending it to students. If not, potential troubles lie ahead.