Kids do much better in math classes if they are familiar with math terms and already see math happening all around them. MathFour helps grownups notice and say out loud the math they do everyday so kids can grow to be familiar with it - and even like it! Blog by Bon Crowder
I recently had cause to experience The Song That Never Ends. Again. Of course it “got stuck in my head,” as many songs do. Which made me think of infinity, finiteness and one of the weirdest concepts: earworms.
It’s not a medical problem, although it sounds like a mix between ear mites and pinworms – yuck! Turns out earworms are those bits of a song that get in your ear and cause the whole thing to get stuck in your head.
The cure to an earworm is to play the song in its entirety. It’s a psychological thing. It’s been studied.
Yup – if you listen to the whole song, it goes away (you’re welcome).
But what if the song never ends?
“This is the song that never ends…”
By the very definition of the song, it’s infinite. Which means you can never play it in its entirety. Which means it’s the quintessential earworm.
Theoretically, there’s no cure for it. But I have tried, successfully, to displace it with another earworm and then play that song in its entirety.
And here we come to the beautiful math part of all this. The next time you get a chance to explain infinity, the concept not the cardinality, you can pull out the song that never ends.
After all it’s already stuck in your head isn’t it?
I’ve been in education for over 20 years. I’ve learned to play the “get the job” game and gotten pretty good at it.
If you’re a teacher or professor, you know the game I’m talking about: there’s the “demo teach” element of the interview process. You have a handful of other math teachers “learning” how to solve a system of equations (or some other math topic replete with pitfalls for the inexperienced) based on your mini-lecture for them.
At some point, you stop getting annoyed at the demo teach and start thinking how it can show other math teachers a different way of teaching.
Changing the Game
As I mentioned previously, I’m making a transition from math teaching to math using. I’m going to be a software developer when I grow up.
But as a mid-life wife, mom and expected half-loaf bread-winner, I can’t just stop to learn. So I’ve been applying and trying to find work in my new field of coding.
And this is a whole new game!
Apparently I did okay, because I was then offered a phone interview. #woohoo
And that’s where things got weird.
…then more testing!
I was very excited, but the interview was two weeks away. I could hardly contain myself. So I researched the company. I found and read all about the people who would be interviewing me. And I was all ready with my own questions.
Then the phone rang – finally!
He introduced himself and his colleague briefly and then said, “This is a technical survey so let’s get started.”
What happened to “tell us about yourself…?” Or even, “here’s a bit about the position…?”
I had been warned about technical interviews. But I thought they would be a small intermingling of some “puzzle” type questions. Things to check on logic and reasoning and to see how you think.
I never expected a barrage of fact-based questions.
So I can memorize the questions?
I asked my coding bootcamp teacher about it that evening: “So I could be an idiot but memorize all the answers and get the job. But if I’m a good thinker, can learn fast, but don’t have the right answers, they won’t hire me?”
His only response was, “Yup.”
Coding and Bloom’s Taxonomy
The phone interview was a test at the lowest level on Bloom’s Taxonomy. The “take home” assessment exercises were at least at the application level. For me, most where at the synthesize level, since I wan’t familiar with them and had to learn while I worked.
I’m a bit worried that they think I cheated. Cheating isn’t beyond me, but this isn’t one of those times. Especially because it was such a good learning opportunity.
But there’s not much I can do about it now. I have to learn from the experience and be differently prepared next time.
How this relates to math learning…
So here we are again at the end of a post on MathFour.com and you’re wondering, “What’s this got to do with math learning?”
It’s annoying, but the reality is that you have to “play the game” – in job interviews as well as math class.
If a teacher requires you to show your work, you gotta show it. If you haven’t a clue what to show, then fake it.
If you know what’s going on and can’t play by the rules (regardless of how dumb you think they are), you won’t make the grade.
Grades aren’t everything. Heck, grades aren’t anything, when it comes down to it. But that’s how a lot of people measure things.
And that’s how this company measures ability to develop software.
Pout a bit, get over it and move on…
I may pout for a while. But I’m going to put on my big-girl pants and go memorize those answers.
Just like you or your students are going to get out that paper and start doing the 50 math problems that are all the same.
Because sometimes to show your worth, you gotta just play by their rules.