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Archive for December, 2014

Doing Math Courtside: RUSMP Sums Things Up during Rice Basketball’s Pre-game Warm-up

December 20th, 2014 by Alice Fisher

By: Dr. Anne Papakonstantinou, Director of the Rice University School Mathematics Project











RUSMP and the Rice Athletics Department collaborated to provide fun and educative mathematics activities for 4,000 3rd- through 5th-grade students from local schools before the Rice men’s basketball game against St. Thomas University on December 18, 2014. The entire RUSMP team led activities for the students which included constructing giant polyhedra using large triangles and computing math problems inscribed on beach balls that were tossed among students in the audience. Students also participated in RUSMP’s famous math tour of the Rice campus virtually. During the tour, students calculated the age of William Marsh Rice, the university’s founder, at his death. They also described geometric shapes and noted symmetries across the Rice campus. Viewing concentric circles provided an opportunity to expand students’ mathematics vocabulary. Towards the end of the tour, students calculated the number of eyes, beaks, and talons of the three owlets pictured in a popular photo taken by Rice’s Tommy LaVergne.

Mathematics has been at the center of the university since its beginning. Edgar Odell Lovett, a mathematician from Princeton University, was named the first president in 1907. The academic program emphasized mathematics and science supported by humanities from its start. In fact, the very first Ph.D. that was awarded was in mathematics to Hubert Bray who remained to become a mathematics professor at Rice. The first graduating class touted a female mathematician, Lel Red, who went on to become an outstanding mathematics teacher.

RUSMP promotes Rice University’s excellence beyond the hedges in PreK-12 education providing support to precollege institutions across the state. It continues to be the primary catalyst of sustained, progressive change in mathematics education in Houston-area schools and across Texas with its numerous programs for mathematics leaders, teachers, and students and its support to schools and school districts. The December 18th event in Autry court is the latest collaboration to bring mathematics from Rice University to Houston-area students.

Watch a short video of the exciting event below.

Mathematics Transforms Hirsch Elementary School

December 9th, 2014 by Alice Fisher

Wednesday evenings during the 2014 fall semester, the faculty at Hirsch Elementary School in the Spring Independent School District gathered in the school’s library for the popular RUSMP course “Exploring Algebraic Reasoning in the Revised Elementary School Mathematics TEKS.” Hirsch is a neighborhood school with a very diverse population of students (39% Hispanic, 32% African-American, 27% Caucasian) and with 75% of students on free or reduced lunch.

“Changes in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) place more emphasis on algebraic reasoning through the lens of number” according to Carolyn White, RUSMP Director of Elementary Programs. Teachers across the state are concerned about the increased number of questions on the STAAR on teaching standards that previously had not be taught at their grade levels.

Principal Roosevelt Wilson, a past participant of the RUSMP Summer Campus Program, expressed this concern and approached RUSMP to offer this course for his faculty. A believer in supporting the community of practice at his school over shared experiences in mathematics prompted Wilson to make this request. When asked about his role as instructional leader, Wilson responded that “The thing I have to concentrate on is enabling teachers to become exemplary teachers. And the only way to do that is to give them room to grow, to make mistakes, give them some autonomy within this structure we created, so they can truly be the best them that they can be.” Watch part of an interview with Roosevelt Wilson to learn more about his views on instructional leadership.

Veteran RUSMP master teachers, Karen Hardin and Linda Jensen, facilitated the professional development sessions which had teachers investigating the revised TEKS for algebra; constructing fractions and using different models such as area, length, or set model in problem solving situations; using different strategies for multiplication and division and applying them to problem solving situations; modeling decimals concretely and pictorially and using them in problems solving situations; and using equations and inequalities to express relationships between two quantities. Teachers received a plethora of resources to use with their students. Watch the video below to witness the enthusiasm and energy of the teachers at Hirsch Elementary School.

Algebra is the key to Texans quarterback’s son’s brilliance!

December 2nd, 2014 by Alice Fisher

As both a football fan and mathematics educator, I was not only thrilled by the Texans’ win against the Tennessee Titans this past Sunday, but also just as thrilled to watch a post-game news conference during which Houston quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, asked his 8-year old son to perform mental math. Fitzpatrick asked a reporter to give his son, Brady, two numbers between 90 and 99 inclusive.  After Brady successfully multiplied the numbers 93 and 97 in his head in a matter of seconds, the proud father yelled, “Boom!” Watch the video here.

A couple of posts have already discussed the trick including this one from the Houston Chronicle. There are a couple versions of the trick, but one version goes like this:

Let’s use the two numbers that Brady was given to multiply as an example:  93 and 97.

1. First, subtract each number from 100:
100 – 93 = 7
100 – 97 = 3

2. To get the first two digits of the product of 93 and 97, find the sum of the two differences from step 1 — in this case, 10 — and subtract the sum from 100: 100 – 10 = 90

3. To get the last two digits of the product of 93 and 97, multiply the differences from step 1: 7 × 3 = 21

4. We now have all four digits of the product: 9021

The question remains…why does this trick work?

We challenge you and your students to think about this question and ask you to either post a response or email me at afisher@rice.edu. If you need a hint, let me know at the same email address.

And thank you, Ryan Fitzpatrick, for highlighting the academic achievement of your son! Well-played!