Archive for the ‘Math’ Category

Kiss My Math - Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss book cover

Kiss My Math - Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss

I was browsing my local LIBRARY (you know, the place where you can borrow books, movies, musics, etc. for FREE) and I came across Danica McKellar’s book, Kiss My Math – Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss. This book is written to help math-phobic teens understand variable, exponents, negative numbers, graphing and other pre-algebra related math.

I flipped through the book and ended up checking it out, not because I need the math help, but to spend a little more time reading Danica’s personal ADVENTURES in, and her inviting approaching to learning math. Danica became famous as an actress in one of my favorite TV shows as a child, The Wonder Years. Growing up as an actress it made sense that she would start college with the intention of studying film. However, she soon found out that she had more fun studying math and ended up graduating with a degree in the subject and even has a BONA FIDE math theorem named after her.

Danica still acts but her LOVE of math hasn’t faded one bit. And she is sharing her love of math with a new generation of girls through this and other math books she has written. While the main audience for Kiss My Math (KMM) may be girls, the stories and techniques for solving math problems will appeal to boys as well. What sets KMM apart from regular pre-algebra text books are the annotations that provide further insights to the math instructions. They are done in a conversational and sometimes WHIMSICAL fashion that makes you want to understand the problem solving methods, which are beautifully supplemented by the anecdotal stories that go along with the examples.

Peppered in between the math instructions are profiles of an actress, a singer, a laywer, a T.V. director among others, which includes how they USE math in their professions. KMM also includes little sections entitled Danica’s Diary in which she tells her own personal STORIES, not all of which are math related. She talks about struggling with personal issues like self-esteem, boys, school and her thoughts on how to DEAL with them. The book also has a couple of personality quizzes written with the help of a professional psychologist on stress and picking supportive FRIENDS and ideas on what to do if you score “low.”

If you are struggling with pre-algebra or know of someone who is, consider getting them Kiss My Math as a present or check out a local library to see if they have a copy. The book is a pleasure to read through and at times you may forget you are learning math.

Resources

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Here is how.

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Otherwise known as computer science.

Before I continue, let me define something I will refer to often in this post. A programming language is what a computer programmer uses to give instructions to a computer to make it do what she or he wants. Just as there are many languages in the world what allow people to communicate with each other, there are a variety of programming languages that allow people to “talk” to computers.

Why should you be interested in computer science? Well, besides the OODLES of money you could make and the fact that almost everything these days seems to have a computer inside, it is a lot of FUN and can help you become better at other things.

How can computer programming be fun?

Ever played a video game? It had to be programmed. Have a favorite website you visit often? It had to be programmed. Enjoy 3D animated movies like, Up or Wall-E? People had to program the tools used to make those movies. Like all the cool things your phone can do? They had to be programmed. Want to build your own robot friend? You will need to PROGRAM it. How else would it know to do your chores for you? 🙂 There are a lot of fun things you can do with a little bit of computer programming knowledge. Of course, once you start, I can almost guarantee that you will not want to stop.

Scratch programming language demo.

Scratch programming language demo. Click to see larger version.


Computer programming has also become very easy compared to a few years ago. There are graphical programming languages that allow you to create computer programs by dragging and dropping programming elements onto a work area. It is almost as easy as building something with Lego. A couple of great examples of graphical programming languages designed to help young people create games, animated movies, music, etc. are:

If you are looking for something more challenging, I recommend either Visual Basic or C# (my favorite programming language). Free versions of both programs are available from Microsoft along with plenty of videos and tutorials geared towards young people on how to GET STARTED.

How can computer programming help you at other things?

Computer programs have to be written in a very linear way, which means you have to tell it to do this, then that, then the other thing. Therefore, as a programmer, it causes to you to think about all the steps you need to take in order for the program you are writing to do what you want it to do in the order you want it done. After you have done this a few times, you will notice that you start using a similar process in your everyday life. Why is this GOOD?

Sometimes, when we have a TASK, especially complicated ones, to do, we may find it very hard to think about where to begin, what to do and when to do it. Having the view of a computer programmer really helps because you are able to DEFINE your goals and carry them out in an efficient and orderly way, and that helps you finish the task FASTER so that you can move on to other things you would rather be doing.

The second thing with learning a computer programming language is that it helps you understand other computer programming languages; precisely because they are very structured. You may not become proficient in making computer programs in the new language but you will be able to help out a friend or just FIGURE OUT what it is that the computer program is designed to do without actually executing (or running) it.

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Girls make great scientists!

Girls make great scientists!

I am sorry that it took me so long to write about this topic. Contrary to what you may have seen (I am talking about pictures and movies where most scientists are guys), girls make GREAT scientists. I consider myself a fairly smart person, placing in top 10 in my elementary and high school classes but I was always, ALWAYS “out-smarted” by girls. Even in college, while studying physics, a girl was the smartest person in our class.

This is not a new thing either. Women scientists have EXISTED as long as men scientists. That link only lists the women scientists we know about. There are probably many more women scientists that we do not know about because either they did not get published, or they were shy, or whatever reason.

Although their contributions to science and humanity are important, this post is about you. If you are a girl who LIKES science, and thinking about a career in science, I am here to say, “YOU GO, GIRL!”

Being a scientist is a WONDERFUL job. You get PAID to figure out how things work. You know, stuff you are curious about anyway. How much better can it get?

How to become a famous women scientist.

How do you keep on track to becoming a SUCCESSFUL women scientist? Besides the regular stuff, like doing well in school here are some other pointers:

1. Declare your intentions of becoming a women scientist.

Letting others know of your intentions, does a couple of things. First, now that you have said you are going to so something, it acts as MOTIVATOR for you to actually do it (like keeping a promise). Don’t worry, you can still change your mind later. Second, if you let others know what it is that you want to do, they will be able to better help you with your interest.

2. Ask questions.

So, you like science. Great! What kind of science exactly? Do you like astronomy, astrophysics, astrobiology, cosmology, etc. It’s OK if you do not know the difference between all those words. That is WHY you have to ask questions.

3. Find other girls with similar interests.

You would be lucky if you know of many other girls in your class who share your interest for science. Having good friends that SUPPORT you in what you want to do is important. If you can’t find other girls in your classes, or neighborhood who are interested in science or you cannot get your friends to get interested in science, the internet is a great place for you to find other girls your age who share your interests. I have listed some websites where you get find such friends.

4. Don’t give up.

BECOMING a famous woman scientist takes hard work. That is why it is also fun. Imagine playing a game where you always won. I doubt it would be fun for very long as there would not be any challenge in it. On your road to becoming a famous woman scientist, you will encounter problems, problems like lots of homework, math problems, and, unfortunately, people who will doubt your abilities, discourage or make fun of what it is you are trying to accomplish. Sometimes, these things will want to you stop chasing your GOALS. Anytime, I ran into something like this, it made me even more determined to succeed. You may encounter set backs but never EVER let anything or anyone from reaching your dreams.

5. Become a famous women scientist.

If you do all the other things, this part will be the easiest. Let me talk about what it means to be a famous scientist. A scientist is someone who works to discover new things, or create them. Things that no one before her or him knew about. Things that will change how people do things. Things that CHANGE the world. So, you may not become someone who has their name mentioned on TV all the time, you will become someone who will go down in history as a person who discovered or created something that changed our understanding of the universe and how we interact with it.

Resources

If I have missed something, please share it with me and my readers by making a comment below.

Here are some websites and organizations that budding, young women scientists like yourself will find useful.

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One of the most IMPORTANT skills in science is our ability make measurements and calculations on those measurements. The metric system makes measurements and calculations EASY.

Example

Suppose you were measuring distance using the metric system. Let’s say you started with something the size of a piece of paper, moved on to size of adult humans and onto the height of moutains. In the metric system, a piece of paper is measured in centimeters, an adult human in meters and the heights of tallest mountains can be measured in kilometers.

See anything common in the different sizes? The work METERS reappears in each one. In the metric system, the meter (abbreviated to m) is the standard measure of length. All other measurements are some multiple of the meter. A centimeter (abbreviated to cm) is 1/100 meters, which is to say, 100 centimeters equals 1 meter. A kilometer is a 1,000 meters.

A standard sheet of printing paper is 21.59 cm wide by 27.94 cm long. The average height of an adult human is about 170 cm or 1.7 m. The height of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world is 885,000 cm or 8,850 m or 8.85 km. See how easy it easy to convert from centimeters to meters to kilometers. Try doing that with inches, feet, yards and miles. It can be done but not as EASILY.

The metric system can be used to easily express the lengths, masses, and volumes of things as small as sub-atomic particles to bacteria and as large as planets, galaxies and the universe.

Interesting Fact

There are only three countries in the world which do NOT use the metric system as their standard unit of measurement. Those countries are the United States of America, Liberia and Burma. I don’t understand why they don’t, it is SO MUCH simpler.

Resources

Wikipedia article – A comprehensive article about the metric system.
National Institute of Standards and Technology – An easy to print Metric Pyramid along with some other info on the metric system.

A video of the history of measuring and an explanation of the metric system.

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When I was younger, before I realized I really like science, math was my FAVORITE subject. The reason I liked math was simple, it was EASY. 1 + 1 always equals 2.

Well, you say, of course it is easy. What about x2 + 5x – 2x = 10? OK, that may not be that easy to solve right away, but my point is that the correct answer to a math problem can ALWAYS be proven. There can be no doubt as to whether your answer is correct or not.

Compare math to an English essay; which is open to interpretation. Two people could write an English paper on the same subject, both free of spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors, but still get totally different grades.

Where does science fit in?

So, how does math RELATE to science? Math is the language of science. Math lets scientists like you express ideas to others in a way that is easy to understand. For example, consider the following conversation.

Rachael: Dude, you should have seen how fast I raced my bicycle down the hill yesterday.
Johnny: How fast did you go?
Rachael: VERY FAST!
Johnny: Does that mean you were going faster than a train, or were you going faster than a turtle.
Rachael: Very funny. I was going 25 miles per hour.
Johnny: Wow, that is pretty fast for a bike.

Johnny was teasing Rachael about how fast she said she rode her bike. But, when Rachael gave Johnny the specific speed that she was traveling, he was really IMPRESSED. Yeah, this is a very simple example, but I hope it makes my point.

Side story.

When I was a science teacher, I made the mistake of telling my students that it is not matter how they behaved in my class; if they knew the answers to the questions on theirs quizzes and exams, they would still get good grades. I could not give Anna’s answer more points than Paul’s answer if they were the correct answer. As you can imagine, there were a few students who took that as a challenge and gave me a really hard time but still got GOOD grades.

Summary

All school subjects are important but MATH and SCIENCE are the ones that REQUIRE the LEAST amount of WORK. Once you learn how to solve a math problem or answer a science question, you do not have to worry about different ways of answering those math or science questions like you would for an English class. 

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