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The challenge of math education is big and our team at Desmos is small. That means we have to decide every day which parts of that challenge we’ll work on and, especially, which parts we won’t. We make those decisions much easier for ourselves by defining and refining our company’s values.


Friday Fave for March 29

Ticking away, the moments that make up a dull day….

If you’re going to keep track of those moments ticking away, you’re going to need to learn to some things. If you’ve interacted with the 3–7 year old set in any extended capacity, you likely know these two things about them:

  1. (1) Their concept of time is quite different from our adult concept of time, and
  2. (2) They are nonetheless steeped in rich language and ideas about time.

For example, here’s a recent exchange reported by Australian teacher and father Mark Bennett through the #tmwyk (Talking Math with Your Kids) hashtag on Twitter:

Playing deliveries with [daughter] and I organised for a delivery of three boxes. I asked her when I should expect the delivery.

She said “7 quarter minutes.”

Is that a long time or a short time?

“Short time”

It is unlikely that anyone has ever spoken to this young one about quarter minutes. Instead, she has heard about quarters, and about a range of time units.

Quarter minute is her own unique, delightful, and mathematically correct creation.

It is with these two assumptions that we designed and released Polygraph: Clocks. Like our other Polygraphs, we’ll pair kids through their devices to play a guessing game that involves asking yes/no questions as they attempt to narrow down the collection of 16 clocks and to determine which clock their partner chose.

What questions can you imagine children such as Mr. Bennett’s daughter asking as they try to figure out that which clock their partner chose? What vocabulary will these children bring from outside of school? What ideas will they have that will be useful in this game, and then offer you opportunities to build with formal instruction later on?

Image shows an array of 16 analog clocks, each telling a different time that is either on the hour, or 15, 30, or 45 minutes after the hour. The hour hands are all red; the minute hands are all purple.

Rich opportunities for young ones to use and refine their developing ideas about time.

That makes Polygraph: Clocks this week’s Friday Fave.

Friday Fave for March 22

Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun is shining (at least part of the time). The days are getting longer.

In the United States, state testing is on the horizon. This deep into the school year, the classroom can feel a little restrictive; a little crowded. Maybe we need to break up the routine a little and get outside.

While we at Desmos are enthusiastic about leveraging technology to help students develop deep conceptual understanding, we are also enthusiastic about students taking advantage of the flexibility offered by using paper, whiteboards and even sidewalk chalk.

You know that practice task the class was going to work on? Maybe print one set of problems— one question per page—laminate them or use plastic sheet protectors. Tape these to a wall in a library, gym, hallway, or even to the outside walls of the school building. Students can walk around and answer each question on their own paper.

Or you could get outside to use proportional reasoning comparing actual distances to measurements a map, measure tall objects using similar triangles, engage in a Barbie bungee activity for linear equations or Barbie Zipline for right triangle trigonometry.

When there are no large outdoor projects that fit your curriculum, there is always the option of practicing math outside using sidewalk chalk.

Learning outside is this week’s Friday Fave.