Henri Picciotto's

Math Education Newsletter

September 2020

Upcoming webinars


I taught an online workshop for teachers in July. It was a bit of a challenge to teach remotely, but nothing compared to what most of you have to deal with at the start of this school year: I only had to do this for a couple of hours a day. The workshop participants were understanding as I struggled with various tech issues. ("We've all been there...")

Please give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn in this crazy time, without the unrealistic expectation that you'll "cover" as much content as you did in previous years.

Given my retirement, I've had the time and opportunity to develop some virtual manipulatives which may help students who are working remotely, far from the hands-on materials they might have used in the classroom. This is the main topic of today's newsletter. Scroll to the end for information on a free online introduction to those tools this November 10.

Until then, good luck to all!


Blog Posts

Links to posts on my Math Education Blog.

Using Google Drawings: Virtual Lab Gear

In this blog post, I discuss learning tools in general: manipulative and electronic. Virtual manipulatives attempt to bridge the gap between the two, with mixed results. I go on to discuss my online implementation of Lab Gear, using Google Drawings. Surprisingly, this led me to rethink and improve a classic introductory Lab Gear activity. Read the post.


Using GeoGebra: More Virtual Manipulatives

I went on to write about using GeoGebra to make virtual manipulatives. That environment is not yet perfect for this purpose, but it did allow me to create several successful online tools. Read about those (and about the broader conclusions I arrived at) in this post. And see below for links to the tools.

Best of the Blog?

I don't know if these posts are the best, but they are among the most visited on my blog:
Taking Notes vs. Doing Math: no one can do both at the same time.
Retakes vs. Test Corrections vs. Neither: should the test be the end of the road?
Understanding "Understanding": how can you tell if a student really understands?

New and not-so-new on my Web site.

Virtual Manipulatives

Here are the links to my virtual manipulatives — all created in the past few months:
Circle Geoboard
Lab Gear
Grid Paper
For some context on where they fit in:
Geoboard home page
Geometry Labs
Lab Gear home page
Geometric Puzzles home page
Polyomino Lessons
Scroll down for information on an online workshop about all this, coming this November 10.

Geometry Labs Updates

I have updated the Geometry Labs page. It is now organized so that all the connections, corrections, extensions, and revisions are listed under the corresponding Sections of the book (which, by the way, is a free download). In addition to my own, this includes many ideas from users of the book.

In addition to the reorganization, there are some updates:
I added a Google slide for group record-keeping of Lab 1.1 (Angles Around a Point)
I corrected a mistake in Lab 3.9 (Triangulating Polygons).
I added an online applet to support Lab 5.6: Symmetry with Pattern Blocks

About Teaching

Three articles you might find interesting:
Reaching the Full Range: students learn math at different rates — what to do about it
Hyper-Acceleration: sooner and faster is not necessarily better
The Assessment Trap: how to minimize the harmful effects of grades

Virtual Manipulatives

I will present up to seven free virtual manipulatives I created on a foundation of Google Drawings, Google Slides, and GeoGebra: 11x11 Geoboard, Circle Geoboard, Algebra Lab Gear, Tiling, Grid Paper, Pentominoes, and Tangrams. For each one, I will share a problem-rich, low-threshold / high-ceiling lesson —suitable for middle school or high school— plus links to additional activities.


Hosted by two Bay Area NCTM affiliates: AC3ME and SFMTA
Tuesday, November 10, 4:30-6:00 p.m. PST on Zoom.
Free! Register to get the link.


I will be presenting at the California Math Council North annual meeting. This year, the conference will be held online. My topic "Symmetry: a unifying thread across grades and cultures" should be of interest to teachers at pretty much any level, K-12. We'll look at symmetric designs from around the world, create some of our own, and discuss some of the underlying math.

Sunday, December 6, 9:00-10:00 a.m. PST

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