Resources: OER Commons


Good resources are so important to teaching. OER Commons is a good resource to have. I've added the link to the sidebar. According to the website, "Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost. Unlike fixed, copyrighted resources, OER have been authored or created by an individual or organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights. In some cases, that means you can download a resource and share it with colleagues and students. In other cases, you may be able to download a resource, edit it in some way, and then re-post it as a remixed work. How do you know your options? OER often have a Creative Commons or GNU license to let you know how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared." Now THAT'S the type of support that teachers need. Why don't these education departments support their teachers like this? They could save so much money on books as well.

But I digress. Even better, the resources are easily searchable based on criteria such as grade level, resource type, common core, and so. You can see below there are groupings by the area of mathematics and, in some cases, the resources have a description and rating.


Of course, with any site, it has its share of junk. But there are plenty of decent resources as well. By searching the material you also get an idea of other sites that are creating the materials that have been hosted. From CK-12 books (sign-in required) to NASA, and to one of my favorite, OpenStax, you should be able to find something useful.

Here are some stories that caught my eye over the last week:

  • The Candidates Finals are almost over. Round 13 is underway. After an exciting round 12, Caruana and Kajarkin are in the lead, with Anand right behind them. You can follow the games live on ChessBomb, located on the sidebar.
  • ZeroHedge has the latest on America's shame: the next generation. "The Daily Mail reports, the president of Emory University has spoken to demonstrators who said they were frightened after someone wrote 'Trump 2016' in chalk around campus.
    Students at the Atlanta school, which has an enrollment of more than 14,000 claim their 'safe space' was violated when the messages appeared on sidewalks and buildings. ...the students viewed the messages as intimidation, and they voiced 'genuine concern and pain' as a result. ...Now administrators want to track down those responsible for the controversial markings."
  • ClickOrlando reports "A 12-year-old was arrested and facing misdemeanor battery charges after pinching a boy's butt in school....According to the report, after the initial incident, the boy told the school resource deputy he didn't want to press charges and Evans was suspended. Evans said she didn't know the boyBut last week, the boy's mother got involved, calling deputies and saying that she wanted to prosecute Evans for battery."
  • Minnesota, like other states, is facing problems due to teacher "shortages". reports, "Teacher shortages in Minnesota have reached critical levels, and there’s no easy fix. The issue is not confined to just one part of the system; unsustainable trends in teacher recruitment, licensure areas and increased retirements have worked together to create a school environment in which students either do not have the right teachers in the classroom or schools can’t find enough applicants for the positions they need to fill.". Creating an artificial shortage through the licensing hoops which require time and money to get into a school system that is fundamentally broken isn't working. Since there's no evidence that certified teachers are better and teacher performance in some areas is so poor (eg 2% math proficient in Camden) you have to wonder how good is that certificate, anyway. But that's not the point: the certificate is for job security and not quality.
  • And here's one of those certified teachers in action: reports, "A Georgia special education teacher has resigned after disturbing surveillance video emerged, allegedly showing her slamming a boy to the ground...The boy doesn't notice his teacher behind him when she slams her knee into his back, sending him sprawling face-first to the ground, according to the boy's mother, Sarah Patterson. The boy had just turned 4 years old Wednesday, .". Check out the video. Disturbing, to say the least.

Altermundus: Line-Circle Intersections


I've added some more information to the Altermundus: Circles page. The new information is related to the finding the intersections of circles and lines. The tkz-euclide package has a macro to find the 2 points of intersection that occur when a line crosses a circle. This allows you to make diagrams, such as the one shown above, more quickly. The .tex files of two examples are posted along with comments. You can download them and experiment on your own.

Here are some stories that caught my eye this week:

  • The Verge has wraps up the AlphaGo match, looks at its impact and talks about what is next for AI.
  • looks at a bill working its way through the Mississippi legislature that would, "....require teachers to grade parents on how involved they are with their kids' education...According to

    The legislation, by state Rep. Gregory Holloway (D-Hazlehurst), would mandate a section be added to each child’s report card on which the parents are graded on their responsiveness to communication with teachers, the students’ completion of homework and readiness for tests, and the frequency of absences and tardiness.

    What's more, adds the Parent Herald, parents would also be required to volunteer—an oxymoron at best:

    [P]arents will be required to participate in at least one supportive function for the school. This includes holding position in the Parent Teacher Association, working at concession stands during sports games or helping kids at bus stops.


  • NPR reports "This week, British professor Andrew Wiles, 62, got prestigious recognition for his feat, winning the Abel Prize from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for providing a proof for Fermat's Last Theorem....The Abel Prize carries a cash award of 6 million Norwegian kroner — around $715,000 at today's exchange rates. Wiles will formally receive the prize from Crown Prince Haakon of Norway on May 24 in Oslo."
  • The Washington Post reports, "More than 100 education researchers in California have joined in a call for an end to high-stakes testing, saying that there is no “compelling” evidence to support the idea that the Common Core State Standards will improve the quality of education for children or close the achievement gap, and that Common Core assessments lack “validity, reliability and fairness."" Wouldn't it make more sense for experts to determine this prior to spending lots of money to implement Common Core?
  • ZeroHedge posts "Illinois College Will Stop Arresting Students For Passing Out Constitution". With such repressive, unconstitutional conduct by admin, it's not surprising that student behavior is so poor.
  • Quanta magazine with the interesting piece for the week: "Two mathematicians have uncovered a simple, previously unnoticed property of prime numbers...Kannan Soundararajan and Robert Lemke Oliver of Stanford University present both numerical and theoretical evidence that prime numbers repel other would-be primes that end in the same digit, and have varied predilections for being followed by primes ending in the other possible final digits...This conspiracy among prime numbers seems, at first glance, to violate a longstanding assumption in number theory: that prime numbers behave much like random numbers.."
  • The 2016 Candidates matches to determine a challenger for Magnus Carlsen are in the 8th round. After 7 rounds, Karjakin and Aronian are tied for first with 4.5 points. Topolov is in last place with 2 points. With 7 more rounds the tournament is still wide open. You can follow it on ChessBomb (side link). The tournament site is here.


LaTeX: Letter template


Well, I lost. As I already mentioned, I ran into problems when I moved states. It seems that not having a teacher training program which ended with hours of student teaching was enough deny my application for a regular license, despite the fact that I had 3 years full time teaching experience as a public school teacher. Go figure. And if you knew just how bad some of the certified teachers are in this state (any state) you would understand what a farce the educational system is. From one side of their mouth they say they want qualified STEM teachers but from the other side of their mouth they put up barriers to disqualify them. Want to be qualified according to them then pay some fees and jump through their hoops. But I don't have a lot of patience for this sort of institutionalized stupidity; rather than be classified as a rookie teacher and be forced to pay thousands of dollars to attend hundreds of hours of training on to eventually prepare myself so I'll be officially qualified by this state to teach in a classroom (something I've been doing for years) it's time to give up on being a public school math teacher. That means my job search has been in high gear for the last two months as I write letters--lots of letters-- to apply for jobs. I designed a simple template that you can see in the screenshot above. There is some code that has been commented out to produce a line at the top and the bottom, if you want. I've posted it on the LaTeX page; I call it ClassicLetter as it is inspired by the Classic thesis design.

Here are some stories that caught my eye this week:

  • Tomorrow is Pi Day and CNBC tells us "Want to earn 3.14 years of free pizza from Pizza Hut? All you have to do is answer three math questions. There's a catch. The questions have been devised by famed Princeton mathematics professor John H. Conway and range in difficulty from high school to PhD level....."Pi may be irrational, but free pizza is anything but," Conway, an award winning mathematician, said in a statement. "I'm eager to challenge America with these problems and find the next great pizza-loving mathematician that can solve them.""
  • with an article by Dr William Stein, on Sagemath Cloud in the classroom, "Before SageMath, we were using clunky, expensive, and incomplete tools (like, Mathematica) that were closed source software, so we couldn't see how they worked and modify them to do what we really needed them to do....I wanted SageMath to be a powerful tool for my students. It wasn't initially intended to be something hundred of thousands of people used! But as I began building the project, and as more professors and students started contributing to it, I realized these were problems many others were striving to solve as well....To solve the problem, I created SageMathCloud, a web-based and collaborative way for people to use SageMath and other open source software solutions, like: LaTeX, Jupyter Notebooks, command line terminals, the full scientific Python stack, Java, Julia, Fortran and more....For the first time, teachers can easily use Python and R in their courses, which are industry standard and mainstream open source programming tools...Teachers can also collaborate in real time to manage their online courses with the same cutting edge software used by top mathematicians at the best universities in the world. For the first time, students can use a full suite of open source math-related software programs to learn, experiment, and collaborate with others to improve their skills and gain a better understanding of math." Note there is a video as well.
  • The Daily Beast tells us, "Students at Western Washington University have reached a turning point in their campus’s hxstory. (For one thing, they’re now spelling it with an X—more on that later.) Activists are demanding the creation of a new college dedicated to social justice activism, a student committee to police offensive speech, and culturally segregated living arrangements at the school, which is in Bellingham, up in the very northwest corner of the state....WWU must meet the needs of this new “College of Power and Liberation” by immediately hiring 10 faculty members—subject to the approval of student-activists. Finding the money to do all this is solely the responsibility of WWU’s administration, “whose accountability to students should be expressed through their fervent advocacy for students’ needs at both the local and state levels,” according to the activists, who want an extra $50,000 to throw a kick-off party for the new college....At the heart of this effort lies a bizarrely totalitarian ideology: Student-activists think they have all the answers—everything is settled, and people who dissent are not merely wrong, but actually guilty of something approaching a crime. If they persist in this wrongness, they are perpetuating violence, activists will claim."
  • The latest in educational "research". From, "For elementary-aged children, research suggests that studying in class gets superior learning results, while extra schoolwork at home is just . . . extra work. Even in middle school, the relationship between homework and academic success is minimal at best. By the time kids reach high school, homework provides academic benefit, but only in moderation. More than two hours per night is the limit. After that amount, the benefits taper off. "The research is very clear," agrees Etta Kralovec, education professor at the University of Arizona. "There's no benefit at the elementary school level."". 
  • Wisconsin takes the lead in real educational reform. From EAGnews, "On Tuesday Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill during a visit to Brown Deer High School, allowing K-12 school districts to hire vocational education teachers who have not earned traditional teacher licenses, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The teachers can now be awarded “experience-based licenses,” so they can share their knowledge and help guide young people into the workplace....Critics of the legislation, “including the state Department of Public Instruction, the state’s largest teachers union and university schools of education have raised concerns, saying the measure will lower the bar on teacher standards and create an uneven licensing system around the state,” according to the Journal Sentinel. Of course the university schools of education crank out most of the traditional teachers, many of whom join the union. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is led by state Superintendent Tony Evers, a loyal Democrat with strong ties to the union.
    ...Meanwhile, on the most recent Badger Exam, taken by Wisconsin students in grades 3-8 across the state, only 51 percent tested proficient or advanced in reading, and only 44 percent hit the mark in math.They all have conventionally trained teachers, and a lot of them aren’t doing very well at all.Can it really hurt to trying something different, using people with practical experience in their fields who want to share what they’ve learned with youngsters?". This is a great idea. It opens up teaching to private school teachers and adjunct college professors working for poverty level wages and if Wisconsin is reasonably selective as to what experiences it accepts, would increase the quality of teachers. There is no research that shows a teaching certificate means a better teacher and given how badly certified teachers have performed, this reform is long overdue.
  • The NY Times has an article on the tenured professor fired for his views on Sandy Hook: "James F. Tracy, 50, a tenured associate professor of communications at the Boca Raton university, has repeatedly called into question the authenticity of recent mass shootings, including the slaying of churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., and office workers in San Bernardino, Calif. In his blog postings and radio interviews, Mr. Tracy has said the Newtown massacre may have been carried out by “crisis actors” employed by the Obama administration....Florida Atlantic University ultimately dismissed him on grounds that have nothing to do with his theories or his feud with the Pozners. They said Mr. Tracy, who because of his tenure could not be easily fired, had failed to submit paperwork for three years in a row that listed any other jobs or similar activities that he performed outside the university. "
  • Crushed in the first three games of the historic match of AlphaGo versus Lee Se-dol, the Garry Kasparov of the game Go, the human has found a weakness. He managed to win game 4 and has asked for, and received, a change in the match rules. But first, The Verge has an account after Alpha Go defeated Lee Se-dol, "A huge milestone has just been reached in the field of artificial intelligence: AlphaGo, a program developed by Google's DeepMind unit, has defeated legendary Go player Lee Se-dol in the first of five historic matches being held in Seoul, South Korea. Lee resigned after about three and a half hours, with 28 minutes and 28 seconds remaining on his clock. The series is the first time a professional 9-dan Go player has taken on a computer, and Lee is competing for a $1 million prize." The GoGame Guru comments on the computer winning the second game,"After losing the first game of the match to the computer Go player AlphaGo on the previous day — something that the majority of the world’s top players had thought to be practically impossible just months ago — Lee’s play exhibited a sense of calm patience and steadiness, which was not evident the day before. But somehow it wasn’t enough. AlphaGo met Lee’s solid, prudent play with a creativity and flexibility that surprised professional commentators, eventually consolidating its advantage in the endgame.Finally, after a tightly fought contest which left spectators on the edge of their seats, Lee was left with no better move than to resign...Lee Sedol was full of praise for AlphaGo, remarking that, “Yesterday I was surprised, but today, more than that, I’m quite speechless.”He added, “. . . there was not a moment in time where I felt that I was leading the game.”." The LA Times has an article after AlphaGo's second win and the Korean reaction was mixed: "Google DeepMind, he said in a Yonhap News Agency report, was nothing less than guilty of “insulting the 2,600-year history of Go.”...But for the most part, more than bristling over the struggles of their native son, South Koreans have marveled at the proficiency of AlphaGo." KoreaTimes has the most recent piece with Lee Se-dol finally smiling, "Lee said he has seized on the AI’s weaknesses in the game. AlphaGo seemed to feel more difficulties playing with black than white,” he said. “It also revealed some kind of bug when it faced unexpected positions.”...During the post-game interview, the go grandmaster asked the Google DeepMind team if he could play with black stones in the final round. According to Chinese go rules, which this competition follows, the player playing with black stones yields 7.5 compensation points to his opponent at the end of the game for playing first, and thus this considered as a disadvantage.“As I won the game with white stones, I would like to play with black stones because winning with them will be more valuable,” Lee said.
    DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis accepted Lee’s request." With Go essentially conquered, ten years ahead of schedule, what's next: Skynet?!?
  • Corruption or stupidity or something else? IdahoEdNews notes "A report tracking $16.7 million in teacher “leadership premiums” — compiled by the State Department of Education and presented to two legislative committees — is fraught with math errors....The premiums are designed to reward teachers who mentor colleagues, assume hard-to-fill teaching jobs or perform other leadership roles....In some cases, the report contains grossly inaccurate data about district staffing....In nine cases, the report offers no data at all about district or charter leadership premiums. ...The report lists the total amount of premiums awarded by a district or a charter, and the number of teachers who received a premium. ...But in many cases, this math does not line up with the averages listed in the report...In numerous other cases, the report’s math simply doesn’t add up... For example, the West Jefferson School District reported an average premium of $847.55, a maximum of $1,007.48 and a minimum of $850. This is mathematically impossible — and not the only error of this type." Public education means large quantities of money are available for skimming. Who will lose their job over this? Probably nobody? Stay tuned.
  • on the horrid state of American education, "The US Department of Education just released the results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), and they are perilously disappointing....When it comes to basic technological skills like using email, buying and returning items online, using a drop-down menu, naming a file on a computer or sending a text message — Americans rank dead last. But it's not just daily technology tasks that Americans fail at accomplishing, they also scored terribly in math and literacy.
    According to study, Americans with a high school diploma performed about the same as high school dropouts in other countries. So what's the problem? Is it lack of spending in the education department? No. The United States spends more money on education than any other country in the world, yet the average high school graduate can't even compete with dropouts in other countries. In spite of the ever increasing DOE expenditures, US students continue to trail their rivals on international standards tests."
  • The Candidate matches to determine a challenger for the World Chess Championship have begun. The games can be followed here. Unfortunately, you're forced to login to watch the games. You're better of going to ChessBomb--the link is on the sidebar.

Sagetex: Rational Functions 4


The latest addition to the website is the sagetex randomized problem on rational functions. It's posted on the Sagetex: Functions page. This one involves functions of the form f = ((a*x^2+abs(d))*(x-b))/((x-b)*(c*x+d)*(x-d)) where a,b,c,d are random integers. Unlike the previous rational function problems you'll see that (x-b) cancels so there will be a hole in the graph, as shown in the picture above.

$latex \LaTeX$ god Alain Matthes, designer of the Altermundus packages, left a comment on this page. It sounds like providing an English version of his documentation is on his mind but, admittedly, no time frame is given. Keep your eye on the CTAN feed....

Here are some things that caught my eye this week:

  • The always entertaining Kevin Knudson of Forbes on a new type of puzzle called Sweet 16.
  • Who could miss the NY Times clickbait "The Wrong Way to Teach Math"? At first I was going to ignore the trashy article, and then after seeing how a hack was given a forum to sell/hype a book I figure I should probably say something. But let's give mathematician Dr. Keith Devlin a standing ovation for stepping in to inflict a brutal beat down: he's got 2 pieces, one on the Huffington Post and the other on Devlin's Angle. The pieces are similar but there are some important differences. From the Huffington Post article he's a bit more restrained: "Since Hacker clearly has a valuable connection to the nation's premier national newspaper, it is then a pity he pitched his article the way he did....There is always a danger in setting oneself up as an advocate for change in a discipline one does not know. Hacker is not a mathematician. He is a retired college professor of political science, who has taught some courses in mathematics to non-majors....Unfortunately, since Hacker plainly does not understand what algebra is, or more generally what mathematical thinking is, he instead proposes we throw away the healthy but neglected baby along with the depressing pool of lukewarm, dirty bathwater it currently hides in....In reading an advance copy to write my review, I annotated 20 pages (out of a total of 200) where he makes significant errors due to a lack of knowledge of, or a misunderstanding of, mathematics. That's an error rate of 10%; way too high for significant errors.". In the Devlin's angle piece you'll see a recap of Huffington Post along with his analysis. But here he gives a couple more blows to the head followed by a $latex \pi$ to the face: "Not only does Hacker give no indication he is familiar with the Common Core—the real one, not the azimuth-strewn, straw-man version he creates—he gives every indication he does not understand mathematics as it is practiced today. (He also does not know that pi is irrational, but I’ll come to that later.) will be jolted by Hacker’s fundamental lack of knowledge of mathematics. He writes, “Along with phenomena like earthquakes and cyclones, nature also has some numbers that control or explain how the world works. One of them is pi, whose 3.14159 goes on indefinitely, at least as far as we know.” Yes, you read that last part correctly." Oooooooh...SNAP! Isn't it great to find out someone with a lack of basic prealgebra knowledge on the irrational number $\atex \pi$: writes a book on removing algebra from high school, has a forum to voice his ignorance at the NY Times, and teaches math at the college level. Shame on the the NY Times for giving this cr@p a forum and  to Queens College, City University of New York for having someone with a "fundamental lack of knowledge of mathematics" teaching math. THANK YOU DR. DEVLIN!!!
  • EAGNews on how "School officials in Huntsville plan on tracking students’ social media accounts as part of a new system that will also levy punishments based on posts, regardless of whether they’re private or public....The “procedure” involves tracking the social media posts of violent students or any school officials deem to be a risk to school safety. The superintendent can then use the social media posts – regardless of whether they posted publicly or privately – to take action against students. "
  • The kids really are different these days: with the story that "A 16-year old Nashville resident is accused of shooting his grandmother, sister and nephew because he did not want to leave his bed to head to school. He also tried to shoot his mother, but she managed to escape."
  • Those kids start young, too. EAGNews on "Police recently busted a drug dealer inside Marlin Elementary School – a 9-year-old who brought in several prepackaged bags of marijuana to hawk to classmates."
  • with a piece on how Denver Public Schools are using district wide credit cards. "The Problem Solvers focused on purchases totaling around $2 million that appeared to contradict school policy but were approved by the finance department anyway.....Auditors sampled 197 employee credit card transactions and found something wrong with 154 of them -- a 78 percent fail rate....That also made it easy to question certain purchases that were culled from a computer database that was built that contained all the credit card purchases in the past couple of years.
    • Party City: $23,511
    • Flowers: $7,806
    • Jewelry: $3,900
    • Gift cards: $110,638

    Putting nonstudent-related food on credit is supposedly under tight control, but when we searched for receipts linked to "BBQ" or "Famous Dave's," there were $73,917 in credit card purchases by school employees. Einstein Brother’s Bagels came out to $174,222. Pizza restaurants were at $451,658."

  • The Periodic Table of Elements in Pictures would be useful for any chemistry teacher.
  • PC zealots are alive and well at Kansas University where the Daily Beast reports that another faculty member has been removed. "You would think that Quenette must have perpetrated an egregious act of harassment or obvious discrimination to provoke her students to publish an open letter demanding her immediate termination. The letter, written by five of Quenette’s students—some, but not all of them, black—alleges that Quenette violated the university’s policies prohibiting racial discrimination...We students in the class began discussing possible ways to bring these issues up in our classes when COMS 930 instructor Dr. Andrea Quenette abruptly interjected with deeply disturbing remarks. Those remarks began with her admitted lack of knowledge of how to talk about racism with her students because she is white. “As a white woman I just never have seen the racism… It’s not like I see ‘Nigger’ spray-painted on walls…” she said....But she did not use inappropriate language to describe any of her students—or to describe anyone else. She was describing her own blindness to racial animus. Could she have used different language? Sure. Should she have? Probably. But genuine self-reflection isn’t usually rehearsed. This wasn’t a public address—it was a classroom discussion about a controversial topic. Some imprecision should be expected, and tolerated.". The potential impact of this generation on free speech in America is frightening.
  • John King, President Obama's choice for the new education secretary, is apparently not well liked by a lot of "progressives". According to Alternet, an open letter to the Senate was published in the Washington Post asking for his rejection, "The letter is signed by world-renowned scholar Noam Chomsky, along with journalist Naomi Klein, Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and a host of other prominent scholars and activists, including some of the most established pro-public education voices. A variety of teachers’ and public education organizations signed the letter as well, including New York for Public Education, Save Our Schools and Time Out From Testing. The signatories warn King’s policies “have been ineffective and destructive to schools, educators, and most importantly students.”..."The American public deserves a Secretary of Education who will advocate for their interests, not those of the testing corporations who profit from the Common Core,” the letter reads.""
  • Alternet again, this time warning, "The FBI Has a New Plan to Spy on High School Students Across the Country...The FBI’s justification for such surveillance is based on McCarthy-era theories of radicalization, in which authorities monitor thoughts and behaviors that they claim to lead to acts of violent subversion, even if those people being watched have not committed any wrongdoing...The FBI’s instructions to surveil and report young people not for wrong they have committed, but for violence they supposedly might enact in the future, is likely to promote an intensification of this draconian practice."