COMET • Vol. 9, No. 12 – 13 April 2008


(1) Archived Online Chat for “Where’s the ‘T’ in STEM?” by Sean Cavanagh and Andrew Trotter

Source: Education Week

Education Week hosted its second live online chat based on the report, Technology Counts 2008 (see ) last Wednesday. The topic was “Where are the ‘T’ and ‘E’ in STEM?” A transcript of the chat is now available at (Visit to view the transcript for the online chat entitled, “STEM: The Push to Improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education.”)


(2) EduTopia–Technology Integration

Source: GLEF (George Lucas Educational Foundation)

Director George Lucas writes, “Traditional education can be extremely isolating–the curriculum is often abstract and not relevant to real life, teachers and students don’t usually connect with resources and experts outside of the classroom, and many schools operate as if they were separate from their communities.

“Project learning, student teams working cooperatively, children connecting with passionate experts, and broader forms of assessment can dramatically improve student learning. New digital multimedia and telecommunications can support these practices and engage our students. And well-prepared educators are critical.

Our Foundation [(George Lucas Educational Foundation–GLEF)] documents and disseminates the most exciting classrooms where these innovations are taking place. By shining the spotlight on these inspiring teachers and students, we hope others will consider how their work can promote change in their own schools.

“Our Foundation staff is eager to know about your work in improving schools and what you think of our site. We encourage you to share your ideas on by contributing to the comments field at the bottom of any content page, or email your comments to

Visit to learn more about the foundation, its mission, and its products. The Technology Integration page ( include articles and videos on the following topics:

ESSENTIALS: The why, what, and how of effective technology use
•  Topic Focus: Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?
•  Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom
•  Synching Up with the iKid: Connecting to the Twenty-First-Century Student
•  Technology Integration Instructional Modules: How To Integrate Technology into the Curriculum



(3) GeoGebra–Free Software


Markus Hohenwarter, a native of Austria, created the open source mathematics software  called GeoGebra in an attempt to join dynamic geometry, algebra, and calculus. He writes, “On the one hand, GeoGebra is a dynamic geometry system. You can do constructions with points, vectors, segments, lines, conic sections as well as functions and change them dynamically afterwards. On the other hand, equations and coordinates can be entered directly. Thus, GeoGebra has the ability to deal with variables for numbers, vectors and points, finds derivatives and integrals of functions and offers commands like Root or Extremum.  Two views are characteristic of GeoGebra: an expression in the algebra window corresponds to an object in the geometry window and vice versa.”

GeoGebra runs on all computer platforms and is available for free download from


(4) Picture This: Explaining Science Through Drawings

Source: National Science Foundation – 10 April 2008

If a picture is worth a thousand words, creating one can have as much value to the illustrator as to the intended audience. This is the case with “Picturing to Learn,” a project in which college students create pencil drawings to explain scientific concepts to a typical high school student. The National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Undergraduate Education, provides support for this effort.

What sets this project apart is its emphasis on inviting students to draw in order to explain scientific concepts to others. The act of creating pencil drawings calls into play a different kind of thought process that forces students to break down larger concepts into their constitutive pieces. This helps clarify the underlying science–from Brownian motion (the movement of particles suspended in a liquid or gas and the impact of raising the temperature of the liquid), to chemical bonding, to the quantum behavior of a particle in a box. In the same assignment, students are asked to evaluate their own drawings, which helps them identify and appreciate critical components.

“Visually explaining concepts can be a powerful learning tool,” says Felice Frankel, principal investigator at Harvard University. “The other important part of this is that the teacher immediately identifies student misconceptions.”

The project brings together five institutions: Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Duke University, Roxbury Community College and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. The students involved are undergraduates studying physics, chemistry and biology.

Each drawing assignment asks students to explain a science concept or process. For example, in addressing the question of how to identify which of two compounds has the higher boiling point, students are encouraged to be creative and to consider a variety of formats, including cartoons and stick figures. Students are also told, “In your drawing, strive for clarity in visually representing the concepts of bond type and strength.”

Many of the drawings bring scientific concepts to life in interesting and unexpected ways. They also bring any misconceptions immediately to light so that professors can address them with students.

“I’ve been surprised and very pleased about the enthusiasm and excitement we’ve seen in some very renowned science professors,” says Rebecca Rosenberg, the project manager and a former secondary school science teacher. “They could have pooh-poohed this idea, but instead, they’re seeing how it helps inform their teaching.”

An eventual goal of the project is to expand it to students in middle school, high school and graduate school. “This project promotes widespread adoption of these methods through workshops and publications,” says Hal Richtol, NSF program manager. “Clearly it offers a useful teaching tool to anyone teaching science at any level.”

The students’ work, and a description of the project, is accessible at



(5) “Mathematics and Voting” is the Theme for Mathematics Awareness Month–April 2008; Video Competition

Source: Mathematical Association of America
URL: and

Mathematics Awareness Month (MAM), held each year in April, was created to increase public understanding of and appreciation for mathematics. It began in 1986, when President Reagan issued a proclamation establishing National Mathematics Awareness Week. Activities for Mathematics Awareness Month generally are organized on local, state and regional levels by college and university departments, institutional public information offices, student groups, and related associations and interest groups.

MAM is sponsored by the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (JPBM), a collaborative effort of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the American Statistical Association (ASA), the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). The Board has selected “Mathematics and Voting” as the theme for MAM 2008.

In a presidential election year, the term “voting” brings to mind national elections. Voting is not just about electoral politics, however; it’s part of everyday life. In any situation in which preferences are expressed–where to have dinner, how to raise money for a charity, who makes the team, etc.–voting in some way occurs. Surprisingly, different voting systems often yield different outcomes.

Resources for this year’s Mathematics Awareness Month are designed to help explain what makes these votes matter, as well as how the voting system used affects the outcome, regardless of the context of the voting. At, you can download these articles and essays, as well as an 8.5 x 11″ copy of the 2008 poster, “What Makes My Vote Matter?”

Finally, the JPBM invites you to create a video using music, humor, and other creative elements to express your feelings about the connection between mathematics and voting. $500 will be awarded to the producer of the top video. The winner will be announced June 1 on and and acknowledged in Amstat Newsin July.

Videos should be posted on YouTube at by April 30. YouTube viewers can vote for their favorite video once a day until the contest ends on May 15. Each video can be up to three minutes in length.

Here are some videos others have made about mathematics and statistics:

For more information, please visit