Exploration, innovation, proof: For students, teachers, and others who are curious, keeping your mind open and ready to investigate unusual or unexpected properties will always lead to learning something new. Technology can further this process, allowing various behaviors to be analyzed that were previously memorized or poorly understood. This article shares the adventure of one such discovery of exploration, innovation, and proof that was uncovered when a teacher tried to find a smoother way to model conic sections using dynamic technology. When an unexpected pattern regarding the locus of an ellipse's or hyperbola's foci emerged, he pitched the problem to a ninth grader as a challenge, resulting in a marvelous adventure for both teacher and student. Beginning with the evolution of the ideas that led to the discovery of the focal locus and ending with the significant student-written proof and conclusion, we hope to inspire further classroom use of technology to enhance student learning and discovery.
Chris Harrow and Lillian Chin
This department showcases students' in-depth thinking and work on previously published problems. The August 2012 problem scenario leverages back-to-school shopping advertisements for this real-life scenario about making purchases using discount coupons. To access the full-size activity sheet, go to http://www.nctm.org/tcm, Back Issues.
Kurt J. Rosenkrantz
Students say some amazing things. Back Talk highlights the learning of one or two students and their approach to solving a math problem or prompt. Each article includes the prompt used to initiate the discussion, a portion of dialogue, student work samples (when applicable) and teacher insights into the mathematical thinking of the students. In this month's episode, a six-year-old rising first grader uses a computer simulation to understand addition and subtraction on the number line.
Katherine A. G. Phelps
Fourth- and fifth-grade learners can use differentiated number sets within CGI problem structures to add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators.
Pamela Edwards Johnson, Melissa Campet, Kelsey Gaber, and Emma Zuidema
Three preservice teachers used virtual manipulatives during clinical interviews with students of elementary school age. The technology exposed students' problem-solving strategies and mathematical understanding, promoting just-in-time teaching about the target content. The process of completing and reflecting on the interviews contributed to growth of the preservice teachers' technological pedagogical content knowledge.
Dick J. Smith and Eric F. Errthum
Many mathematics instructors attempt to insert guided exploration into their courses. However, exploration tasks frequently come across to students as contrived, pertinent only to the most recently covered section of the textbook. In addition, students usually assume that the teacher already knows the answers to these explorations.
Maurice J. Burke
A tool that combines the power of computer algebra and traditional spreadsheets can greatly enhance the study of recursive processes.
John M. Livermore
The author uses The Geometer's Sketchpad first to construct the square root of an arbitrary real number and then to construct the square root of a complex number.
Tyrette S. Carter
Share news about happenings in the field of elementary school mathematics education, views on matters pertaining to teaching and learning mathematics in the early childhood or elementary school years, and reactions to previously published opinion pieces or articles.
Christopher J. Bucher and Michael Todd Edwards
In the introductory geometry courses that we teach, students spend significant time proving geometric results. Students who conclude that angles are congruent because “they look that way” are reminded that visual information fails to provide conclusive mathematical evidence. Likewise, numerous examples suggesting a particular result should be viewed with skepticism. After all, unfore–seen counterexamples render seemingly valid conclusions false. Inductive reasoning, although useful for generating conjectures, does not replace proof as a means of verification.