Musings and Experiences of a High School Mathematics Teacher

Update Bookmarks

Posted by Mr. B on October 8, 2006

I’ve recently completed a move to a “paid-for” hosting service. Therefore, please continue to visit Naught Much by going to the official address

Please update your bookmarks and links to point to this new URL.


Posted in General | 2 Comments »

1st Quarter

Posted by Mr. B on October 4, 2006

As the first quarter grading period will end this Friday, students are suddenly very interested in their grades. It’s so curious how they will wait until the last week of the grading period to ask forgiveness for the previous 8 weeks of sins. It usually sounds something like this: “Mr. B, is there anything I can do to bring up my grade?” or “Mr. B, do you have any extra credit I can do?” or “Mr. B, I really need to get a C in this class. Can I clean your board or your desks for some extra credit?”

I sure would like to get my hands on the scoundrel who invented “extra” credit.  It’s almost like extra credit is a religion that students in which students blindy place their faith — they hope that it will save them from judgement for their sins.  I just tell my students, “Sorry, you should put forth a consistent effort throughout the entire course.  Then this wouldn’t be an issue.”

Posted in Math & Education, Students, Teaching | 1 Comment »

Just Do It!!

Posted by Mr. B on September 27, 2006

Here’s an image I created — obviously playing off of the Nike logo and slogan. I have this posted on the wall in my classroom. Whenever my students start to become lazy, I just point to this sign.

Just Do It
Click for full-size image.

Posted in Math & Education, Students, Teaching | 1 Comment »

Cajun Math

Posted by Mr. B on September 27, 2006

I thought this was pretty funny. So did my students.

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Bad Statistics?

Posted by Mr. B on September 21, 2006

Here is an excerpt from an Associated Press report that was published in my local newspaper this past Sunday (17 Sept. 2006). Some of the information presented in it raises some questions in my mind. I’ve outlined the key statistics in red.


So from the article here’s a summary of the statistics:

In 2004, the percentage of certain borrowers that “paid a higher-than-typical interest rate on their home mortgages” are:

  • 32.4% for blacks
  • 20.3% for Hispanics
  • 8.7% for whites
  • 11.5% (all borrowers)

I’m wondering how such a small percentage of all classes are paying “higher-than-typical” rates. Doesn’t logic tell us that exactly 50% of all borrowers will pay a higher-than-typical rate and the other 50% will pay a lower-than-typical rate? Certainly this would be true if the definition of “typical” in this case was “average” or “mean.” So perhaps, “typical” indicates a range of interest rates. Then, the 11.5% indicates the percentage of all borrowers that had interest rates above that range. But if that is the case, it would be very helpful to know the size of that range. Any thoughts?

Posted in General, Mathematics And Statistics | 1 Comment »

20 Questions

Posted by Mr. B on September 18, 2006

question.jpegI’m thinking of a real number. What is it?

You’ve got 20 yes/no questions at your disposal.

Whenever you are ready, ask.

Posted in Problems to Solve | 27 Comments »

Statistics Review With Choices

Posted by Mr. B on September 18, 2006

I tried something new today for a review over the basic probability chapter in my Statistics textbook. I created worksheets that contained approximately 50 exercises from the topics we have been discussing. I then assigned each problem a point value – easier problems were worth one point, harder problems were worth 3 points, and ones in the middle were worth 2 points.

Then I told the students that they had two tasks to complete today. The first was to complete 15 points worth of problems to be turned in and graded. This way, they could choose any combination of problems to solve whose combined point value was at least 15 points. The second task was for them to correctly solve a problem of their choosing and then present that solution to the class. If they chose to solve and present a 3-point problem, then they would earn 3 mythical extra credit points. If they chose to solve and present 1-point problem, they had an easier time at it, but the rewards were less (1 point extra credit).

This seemed to work very well today. The students enjoyed having the ability to choose which problems to solve. They also enjoyed listening to their peers explain solutions and rationale to the exercises.

[The phrase “mythical extra credit points” is one that I saw used by Dan Greene on his blog. As a math teacher, and I’m sure others can attest to this, I know that giving a student 3 or 5 or x extra credit points can mean as much or as little as you want it to. “Mythical” seems so fitting.]

Posted in Math & Education, Mathematics And Statistics, Students, Teaching | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Mr. B on September 14, 2006

On August 24, I posted an entry about a conversation with Andrew Jones.  That interview is now available to listen to or download at the Nick and Josh Podcast page.

Posted in Church, General | Leave a Comment »

2 Phone Calls

Posted by Mr. B on September 11, 2006

Call 1, made at 4:22 pm while driving home from school.

Mr. B: Hello Mr. Schwartz. This is Mr. B, your daughter Jessica’s Statistics teacher. I’m calling because I’ve been having trouble with the amount of talking that Jessica has been doing in my class. Despite several one-on-one converstations with her about the importance of paying attention and not distracting others, she continues to create a disruption. If this continues, I will simply ask her to leave the class and spend the remainder of it in the principal’s office. If you are able to help the situation any from your end, I would greatly appreciate it.

Mr. Schwartz: Rest assured Mr. B, I will deal with this tonight. You will not have any other problems like this from Jessica.

Mr. B.: (Thinks to himself: Yeah, I’ve heard that before.) Thank you very much.

Call 2, made at 4:26 pm while stuck in traffic on the way home from school.

Mr. B.: Hello Ms. Clark. This is Mr. B, your daughter Markesha’s advisory teacher. I’m calling to let you know that I took Markesha’s cell phone from her today. She thought that she would try to be sneaky by hiding in the corner of my classroom and sending text-messages to her friends. She must have forgotten what I always tell my students: “You are not more sneaky than me. I know what you did, what you are doing, and what you will do.” If you would like to get the phone back for her, you may personally come by and pick it up in the main office at school.

Ms. Clark: Well, Markesha knows that she’s not supposed to use her phone in school. But I’ll speak to her about it again.

Mr. B.: Thank you. Please stress to her the fact that her phone needs to be turned off and put away in her locker while she is at school.

We’ll see if these calls actually make difference in behavior.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

Posted in Discipline, Students, Teaching | Leave a Comment »

New Tool/Toy Found

Posted by Mr. B on September 9, 2006

Today I discovered and downloaded a new program, Google SketchUp. This program is free and is for drawing all sorts of 3-dimensional figures. The tools are very intuitive and the whole program is easy to use. You can save your work in a 3D file to come back to later, or you can export to a 2D image file (.jpg, .png, .gif, etc.). I wish I had this when I was teaching geometry a few years ago. My handouts and tests would have looked so much better!

Here are a few drawings that I made using SketchUp. All of these were made today, the first day I ever used this program. [Click on each thumbnail for a full-size image.]

Conic Conic section – parabola.

Conic 2 Conic Section – bottom view.

golden Golden spiral.

Golden3d Golden spiral in three dimensions.

house Home sweet home. Yes, I do have stairs on the front of my house. They just were too tedious to draw.

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