Stuff the Net Is Good at

Here's something interactive websites are really useful for: walking us through concepts in geometry. If you're trying to home school a kid, this sure would be a helpful tool. There are clear and well-organized explanations, too, better than the gibberish we often encounter in printed textbooks. I linked to the parabola page, but the site is broad.

5 comments:

raven said...

In boat-building school, we learned to loft the shape of a hull, and expand it to show the shape as "flattened" in board form, so it could be cut. Most of the development techniques used geometry. My guess was many of the early shipwrights were not schooled in math, but the geometric relationships were easy to understand on an intuitive level.

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Assistant Village Idiot said...

Let me be discouraging here. I found the parabolas fun to play with. People who already like that sort of thing will find it to be a fun method that other folks would enjoy if they would just give it a try. My experience with five sons, however, is that those who don't like math just want to find the quickest way out. They are not impressed at all that this would be an easier, more enjoyable way to learn the concepts. They don't want to learn the concepts. They want the assignment to be over. Forcing them to play with stuff will just irritate them, and they won't learn anything.

If you could convince them that action X, which takes an hour now, might save them 10 minutes on their homework twice a week for the rest of the year, they might go for it. But something like this, where something about parabolas is "all" they will get, they'll never go.

Texan99 said...

I always start from the assumption that the student has some interest in (or aptitude for) the subject. If that's not true, you have to back up and try to figure out a way to make him believe the subject can get him something he wants. I don't know if it was accurate, but Patrick O'Brian used to describe illiterate seamen who could calculate in their heads the value of a 3/128 share in a prize consisting of some odd amount of bullion and coins. Certainly I knew young men whose interest in chemistry flowered when they discovered they could use it to blow stuff up.

If you've got a kid with any interest in math at all, though, I'd really recommend this site. Sadly, there aren't that many textbooks or lecturers that can make these things so clear. Why should he slog through a muddled exposition approved by some committee somewhere?

bthun said...

IMHO Tex, your first paragraph in the comment above addresses the heart of the matter.

Youngsters will, as often as not, vigorously pursue only those subjects which pique their interests, or subjects which can be shown to have a relationship with something that does.

Cultivating that point of interest in a young person is indeed the crux of the matter, and I will stand by my hidebound opinion that parents, grandparents, or guardians shoulder the bulk of that that responsibility.

Parents, not teachers, must drag their kids away from game consoles and the tube, early and often, in order to offer the young minds in their charge an opportunity to build something from wood, carve a figurine, hammer a tree-house together, pull a wrench on a machine, haul their little behinds around in a go-cart, on a mini bike, steer an old car from mom or dad's lap, weld scrap together to sculpt a vision, gaze at the heavens on clear nights through a telescope, own a pet --which mandates the assumption of care/feeding responsibilities for said living creature-- grow some flowers/food, learn woodcraft, etc. Behaviors learned early in life...

The parent and teachers can then tie the spiffiness of the newly discovered interest to the math, physics, biology, chemistry, architecture, reading and language skills, discipline and/or diligent practice, often belittled as rote, that made said spiffy interests possible in the first place.

..."describe illiterate seamen who could calculate in their heads the value of a 3/128 share in a prize consisting of some odd amount of bullion and coins. Certainly I knew young men whose interest in chemistry flowered when they discovered they could use it to blow stuff up."

Reflecting on the formative years of a certain Hun's life, and taking those points under advisement, I plead the fifth.


Disclaimer: 5¢ worth of commentary from the cheap seats of an empty nester.