Tuesday Teaching Question

Tuesday Teaching Question is a regular feature that attempts to get a conversation going about teaching.  Typically, the questions attempt to be very practical.  TTQ is brought to you by CAST.  If you have a question that you’re dying to have featured in an upcoming TTQ, e-mail me at hwc_cast@ccc.edu.

I’ll admit, that I’ve got some vested interest in this question.  Look at my name.  Anyhow, this Thursday will be the first meeting of the WAC (Writing Across the Curriculum) Committee.  They’ll also have a meeting on Monday 2/7.  Check the calendar on the CAST page for the time.  This got me thinking.  In fact, I just finished writing the long overdue report about the Assessment Committee’s QR assessment from Fall ’09.  Two of the big questions I ended the report with were (in parenthesis are variations for you)…

How is mathematics used in other (non-math) classes?  (How do you use mathematics in your courses?)

Do we have (or can we move towards) MAC (math across the curriculum)?  (Do you feel we should have a MAC culture at HW?)

I often make the claim to my students that math is everywhere.  This TTQ will hopefully help me (and other math instructors) put my money where my mouth is.

10 thoughts on “Tuesday Teaching Question

  1. Math is used in observational drawing all the time. What is the width of the box you are looking at in scale to the height? The width is two-thirds the height? Take two-thirds the height of the box in your drawing, turn it sideways, make two marks and then draw the height and width of the box following the marks. Similarly, look at a beaujolais bottle. The bottle goes straight up for half it’s total height, then curves in until it straightens up another quarter of the way up, at three-quarters the total height, and then straightens for the neck on the final quarter of total height. And the width of the mouth of the bottle is one-third the total width. We don’t plot these measurements precisely, but do learn to look for the relationships. This can be challenging for entry level students, and liberating for those who wish to demystify the magic trick of reducing our three and four-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional surface.

    Linear perspective (popularized by the myth of spatial certainty it produced) where you create illusion of depth based on the observation that parallel lines appear to converge at a common point in space, is very mathematical.

    We mix nitric acid 10:1 with water for etching, divide a sequence of seconds when exposing and developing photographs in a darkroom, add very specific amounts of water to powdered glaze in ceramics, discuss the inherent nature of actual mass, volume an space all the time in critiques. Students successfully completing the courses…..know this stuff.

    Don’t get me started on architecture.

  2. I teach my students how to compute their grades.

    We look at articles and talk about sample size for various studies.

    We do simple things everyday like counting the number of students in the class to determine an appropriate group size for the day or diving the snack amongst the group (yes, we have snacks in many of the CD classes).

    In our math and science for the young child class, of course students are learning about how mathematical understanding develops from birth through the early years – that is really fun because we work with hands-on materials and play games. The idea is to get the adult students comfortable with a variety of activities so they can see math skills developing in young children and support that development with appropriate activities and materials.

    We would like to find ways to help our students develop more substantial math skills. If they choose to become licensed teacers, they must pass the Basic Skills Test, which has been revised recently and many more teacher candidates are failing this test. If our students have any chance to become teachers in the state of Illinois, they must build their math skills, so we are thinking about this all the time and would welcome a MAC movement.

  3. Let’s go for it!!! I’ve always preferred MACs. PCs suck. Mouse, windows, menus, … since 1984, Dude!!! … Huh? … What’s that you say? … Mathematics across, … what…!? … Oh. … Oh. … Nevermind.

  4. We study pattens that naturally occur in languages. We compare those patterns to uncover rules.

    We make students aware that language is in many ways formulaic and that syntax is often a mathematical process of rule application within the syntactic structure of an utterance.

    We compare the syntax of a sentence to algebraic formulas through an occasional sentence or phrase diagram to engage students who are strong in number and logic to contrast components of language that ARE mathematical i.e. word order to those that are conventional i.e. morphology and word forms.


  5. MAC & WAC…also RAC (Reading Across the Curriculum)…Honestly, I never thought about MAC – and I should have being a big proponent of *** Across the Curriculum ideas. It probably never occurred to me because I was often not so great in math – but I would be open to ways to bring it into essay writing. During the WAC meeting I’d love to talk about bringing other *** Across the Curriculum ideas to light.

    • Philosophy Across the Curriculum is the Curriculum! Philosophy rules!!

      (Brief semi-interesting tangent: Also, “across” is the word that I missed in the only spelling bee I ever competed in. To this day, I almost always type it with two c’s first (which is how I spelled it), before realizing that it’s wrong again.)

      • And he even used the word “tangent!” If we are finding the tangent of “mathematics across the curriculum, and philosophy is the opposite of MAC, while spelling bees, as a species of the English language assessment, is the adjacent (since writing is most fundamentally across the curriculum), then:

        as Opposite/Adjacent=Tangent of Theta


        Philosophy/Writing Across the Curriculum=Discussions on the word “Across.”

        This posting brought to you by Cabin Fever.

  6. Philosophy, especially of the 17th and 18th century, is heavily tied with mathematics. Although I almost never throw formulas or equations on the board, I try to tie in some mathematical concepts to illustrate a point in philosophy, or vice-versa. For example, the 17th century represents a revolutionary time in science and philosophy, two methods of investigation that were beginning to understand the power of mathematics to provide a severe limit and guide for the imagination, ensuring that trustworthy progress can be made. The number of people we consider first as philosophers who also did mathematics, and the number of people we consider first as mathematicians who also did philosophy, gives testament to how important each subject is to the other while the mind was trying to push back the clouds of muddy thinking in the early enlightenment.

    Then there’s Plato, and his belief that the harmony of the soul’s parts (reason, spirit, and appetite), were analogous to the harmony of the planetary spheres, which were analogous to the strings on a musical instrument, which were entirely determined by purely mathematical ratios: mathematical truths are only one level down from the absolute truth and good, and a level above the relatively illusory world of sense-perception.

    I try to tie in philosophy with every subject I can, which is relatively easy given our subject…but don’t think I’m being generous, because I also mock every other discipline as being a mere derivative of philosophy 🙂

  7. Apparently nobody told the math folks that our classrooms are littered with examples of MAC; just like nobody told the English folks that our classrooms are littered with examples of WAC.
    I ain’t blamin’ anyone on the 6th or 7th floor of our campus. I juts hope this is a wake-up call for all of us to be more aware of what we need to do to better educate our students.

    Math peeps use MAC’s.
    Philosophy peeps use PC’s.
    I’ll leave it at that. HA!

  8. Hey REALIST I like your humor. What was it again we should “do better to educate our students”?

    Work on their readin’,riting and rithmetic (the 3R’s) across the curriculum!
    Hopefully thats what we all do in all the disciplines across the curriculum.

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