Dan, Dan the Hot Dog Man

This is a frivolous post, sort of about maths teaching, which begins with an irrelevant and even more frivolous story, sort of about dance teaching.

My daughters learn dancing from Jodie Greenwood, who was a highly accomplished dancer and is an even more accomplished teacher, perhaps the best teacher, of anything, that I have ever witnessed. Jodie’s school is small now and runs on a shoestring, but a decade ago it was large and still ran on a shoestring. One of the Carrollian features of the school then was that it appeared to offer more scholarships than there were students. The school appeared to lack a good financial manager. Continue reading “Dan, Dan the Hot Dog Man”

VCAA’s Sweet Thursday

One of the five major errors from the 2022 VCE mathematics exams concerned a question on the mass distributions of cans filled with liquid. The stuff up was that VCAA didn’t declare which two of the three mentioned variables – Can, Liquid, Total – were to be assumed independent. Although it was 0% students’ responsibility to do so, it was also not obvious what was a reasonable independence assumption to make, a non-obviousness that VCAA eventually steamrolled, in their three-months-later exam report (Word, idiots). The independence question led to a heated argument on this blog, so naturally I titled the subsequent blog post “Cannery Row”, playing on the title of Steinbeck’s famous novel.

John Steinbeck wrote a sequel to Cannery Row, titled Sweet Thursday. Steinbeck’s sequel is not very good but it has a memorable scene, which works very well as a sequel to VCAA’s exam stuff ups. The scene concerns Joseph and Mary (one person), a schemer who is always looking for an angle. Doc (pictured above), the main character of the novel, is teaching Joseph and Mary how to play chess: Continue reading “VCAA’s Sweet Thursday”

Daddy’s Simple Lesson

It’s a stretch, but this post is inspired by the nature of some of the comments on the AMT gender post.

Growing up, my father, David, wasn’t a great father, or at least he wasn’t great for me. Our family split up when I was 2, and I saw Daddy1 only once or twice a week in the early days, and once-ish a week later on. Early memories were simple and happy, including whole-family outings, but later I felt Daddy to be judgmental and coldly intellectual. How much that was true, and how much it was the reasonable or unreasonable consequences of parental disagreement, or the result of sensible paternal concern for an overly shy kid, I’m not sure. Whatever the precise causes, I didn’t grow up close to Daddy. Continue reading “Daddy’s Simple Lesson”

Big Ideas From Little Minds

Robyn Grace, The Age‘s Education Editor, has a wide-ranging article today, on how to fix Australia’s education system. Grace’s article is titled,

Abolish the ATAR, make teachers repeat: The big ideas to shake up our education system

Grace’s article quotes the usual Smart People: Pasi Sahlberg, John Hattie, Geoff “too much basics” Masters, and so on. These go-to clowns suggest a number of old and new ways to paint the deckchairs.

Continue reading “Big Ideas From Little Minds”

The Indelicate Art of the Mathematics Documentary

Mathsy people try very hard to like mathematics documentaries. They will frequently claim that they like them. But they don’t, really, not often, not much. For non-maths people it is much simpler: they don’t like maths documentaries and, if not so intimidated as to hold their tongues, they are generally happy to say so.

The sad reality is that most mathematics documentaries are bad. They are bad art, and they make for bad education.* This was brought to mind by a new Netflix documentary, A Trip to Infinity, and by a recent invitation. The invitation I’ll get to later. The documentary is bad.

Continue reading “The Indelicate Art of the Mathematics Documentary”