Archive for July 16th, 2014


#5things I Can’t Live Without in My Classroom

July 16, 2014

I thought this was an interesting exercise, so here goes:


  1. My trackball — It gives anyone who tries to use my computer fits, but I adore this trackball (think of an upside-down mouse). IMHO this is the best pointing device ever made, and I am still mad at Microsoft for no longer making them. The one I have at school I bought about 15 years ago when I was still working as a programmer; I also have one at home that I bought on eBay a few years ago when mine was stolen.
  2. WordPress — I love having blogs for different things and being able to keep those blogs separate. I use a class blog to post all of my class materials, and this blog to post my thoughts about my classes, teaching, math, and whatever else I want to share with the world.
  3. Kuta worksheets — sometimes, you just need to give a worksheet. And sometimes, your schedule doesn’t work out the way you planned and you need something to keep the natives from getting too restless. In a perfect world, I could persuade my department chair to get the full software, so I could create my own, but I can’t complain too much about the free ones.
  4. IMG_4691

  5. Magnetic tape — When S and I discovered this stuff a few years ago, our lives changed forever. (**g**) Since my boards are all magnetic, I put this tape on the back of anything I want to stick there. The most useful application has been to stick the tape on the back of display letters for things like the date.
  6. SugarSync — This has been a favorite of mine for a while, but they’ve changed it in some weird and not useful ways. They no longer offer a free version, but if you do try them out, look on their site for version 1.9x — that’s the version I still use (in spite of all of their efforts to get me to upgrade).

Good Advice For Seniors

July 16, 2014

I am sometimes at a loss when students ask for advice on career/college goals. I read this today from Jerry Pournelle, and I thought it offered some good, practical ideas:

Our neighbors’ house is sold and they’ll be moving, and their boy is entering his senior year at a good high school. He’s interested in technology and will be taking AP calculus and such. Top 15% of this class, so not Cal Tech, and not interested in leaving university with enormous debts. No father in the house, and I’ve known him and his mother quite literally all his life. Took him to lunch at the Oyster House to talk things over.

Interested in technology, not really interested in being a teacher, wants to do something in technology, not sure what. Good at math, but not a theoretical type. I suggested electrical engineering. Not as much theory as physics, but based on good science. Maxwell’s equations are a great example of scientific theory at work doing all kinds of practical things. Chemistry is more empirical, and mechanical is more practical. Electrical, then, but be sure to take chemistry through organic, and biology beyond the non-major survey course. And don’t bother with computer science as an undergraduate. You have to learn how to use the little beasts, but teaching them to do things is getting to be a pretty wide spread ability; better to learn how to build them and design chips and practical stuff on the one side, and be able to think of things you want to teach them to do on the other. Get an EE degree and you can have a job or almost anything you like in grad school, and learning organic chemistry and better than elementary in biology puts you in a good place if you decided to go into nanotechnology.