Archive for May 2011

Breaking the speed limit

May 21, 2011

Well, here we go. This is the target topic of entirety of Mathematical Methods – everything else has been getting us up to this point.

Calculus is one of the core achievements of mathematical theory in the last 500 years. The massive majority of modern physics, chemistry, ecology and even economics is based on the techniques developed in calculus.

Not surprisingly then, almost any degree you take in university will have a mathematical component – any form of analysis of the world will have some models involved – models based on the concepts of calculus.

Everyone recognises the importance of calculus – even if they don’t understand it. If you look at the cartoon at the top of this post, you will see something that appears to be maths; look a little closer and you will see it gibberish. Many people are mathphobic – they say things like “I can’t do maths”. Unfortunately, that line is not available to you, so you’d better get into it!


Are you Ready for your Examination?

May 19, 2011

Examinations are tricky things – most people think it is all about learning and mastering the content, but this is only half the battle.

You’ve got to learn to look at any assessment, be it test, examination or project as a game – a challenge. And just like any other game, you must have a strategy.

Just like a football team coach has a gameplan, you must have an overall strategy for any assessment. Not having one is like a team showing up to the grand final without any training or practice – it isn’t going to be pretty!

So, how do you become good at assessment? Well like any skill you want to develop, it begins, and ends with practice. Drill is your friend, and you need to start looking at each test as a challenge to be beaten – study the types of questions – don’t look at the content, think about how you would answer a question of this type. We will talk more about this later, but first, here are some exams from previous years that you can look at, to start training yourself to be better at assessment:


Nukophobia or reasonable concern?

May 13, 2011

Unless you were asleep for the entirety of term 1, you may have noticed that there was some “consternation” about a (pending) nuclear disaster in Japan. To review the story, after a huge earthquake (magnitude 9+, depending on who is asked), an enormous Tsunami (tidal wave), one of Japan’s oldest nuclear power plants was severely damaged. A great deal of concern was raised about the potential for disaster – meltdowns, fallout, radiation sickness, catastrophic nuclear explosions. If you want to see some of these stories about the panic, these links show some examples (1, 2, 3). These are far from the worst – some of the reporting in the media was nothing short of fear-mongering, and is cause for concern. The “Journalist Wall of Shame” lists some of the most egregious offenders.


Are you Certain?

May 10, 2011

Your upcoming task, the Extended Practical Investigation (EPI) is coming up. This is going to be hard – you have to plan, conduct and report upon a specified task without support from your teacher. I will be present in the classroom, but will be assessing your laboratory practice and questioning your decisions.

You all know that the task is to determine what metal the wire you are given is made of by determining it’s resistivity. You *must* research resistivity – the minimum you must know is how to calculate it, how to measure it and how to interpret it.

Measurement is an issue in all experiments, but the EPI requires that you know how to measure, and how to evaluate the accuracy of your measurements.

Here are the links you need:

EPI Measurement 1

Measurement Good Practice Guide

Here is the Task Guidance Document (2011 EPI report guidance) and the Assessment Rubric Document (2011 EPI Criteria).


Making the complex simple is hard…

May 7, 2011

Hi everyone,

This is just a placeholder post for those of you who want to get an early start. More detail to come when I can sit for more than 20 minutes at a time.

Here is the powerpoint:

You must, with a partner, select one page to explain more fully. Use similar simple language, suitable for late primary school. You may make a poster, blog, video, or other medium to make your presentation. This project will assist in the assessment of “structure”, “number”, “listening, viewing & responding”, and ” managing personal learning”.  A rubric will be available shortly.

Good luck,