Friday, 28 September 2012

It's Trigonometry ... There's Nothing Obscene about Trig

Well, the routine has been set.  There are times when it results in far less sleep than I would like (and enough illness that I haven't been around much lately), but my teaching life has become somewhat predictable.

What's wrong with this?
Overall, Heritage did a fairly good job of preparing us to deal with our students.  We learned many of the do's and don't's of living in Egyptian society ... and they have helped a ton.  Not that I would ever refer to my students using an animal reference, but there are colloquial phrases that might have been uttered ... and these are seen as grave insults in Egyptian culture.

Similarly, never show the soles of your shoes to someone as it implies that they are worth what's stuck to the bottom of them.  Given the collection of refuse on the streets, I can see how this might be extremely offensive.  But ... what could possibly be wrong with trigonometry?  Seriously?

The unit circle is our friend too.
Well, for those who haven't heard about my teaching style, it's rare that I will resort to the pedagogy that I enjoyed as a high school student.  I have an intense dislike of drill work so my students will rarely get a list of 50 repetitious questions to do the next day.  I'm also not a huge fan of rote memorization of formulae - if it can be developed, discovered or learned in any other way, I'll always encourage my students in that direction.  Add my liberal arts background, and I'll throw anything I can at my students from any discipline I can think of to ensure that they find a different way of seeing things.

Well, in trigonometry, there are a group of "special" triangles.  Usually, these angles (30º, 45º, 60º) are taught as another set of rote formulae.  So when I learned about the trigonometry hand, I was immediately a huge fan.

My version's better
Without going into extensive details, point your baby finger horizontally, point your thumb vertically, and your fingers will naturally point towards 30, 45 and 60 degrees.  Even more exciting, if you fold over the finger of the angle you want to work with, by counting the fingers above and below that finger, you can find the sine and cosine.  Many of you may not be terribly excited, but I can assure you that the math and physics teachers out there are gushing with excitement once they learn this

So I'm in front of my class, showing them this for the first time, and I fold over the 30º finger and ask them what the sine and cosine are of 30º.  Since one of the girls in my class missed a significant amount of school, I folded over my 45º finger and asked her what that meant.  Well, she became very silent and looked down.  A few of the guys in the class started to giggle a bit ... and I knew that something was amiss.  Well, picture the middle finger's connotations in North American society, and add some parental nuances ... Once I realized what I had done ... I was slightly mortified and couldn't apologize enough.

Aside from these very rare moments, I'm having a great time with my classes.  Oh, they have good days and bad days, but overall, they're an awesome group.  The hour bus ride to and from school has become my marking time and I'm hoping that I can finally start the habit of getting most of my lessons planned for the week on the weekend.  I finally learned the lesson that 4.5 hours sleep only does you for so long.  It took a week of stomach issues transitioning into a week of cold/flu issues for me to learn the lesson, but I did actually get some rest time towards the end of last week, so life is at least a lot more rested.  I also purchased a new course to help learn colloquial Arabic ... and this one doesn't seem to require an Arabic teacher.  Plus, I try to find a way to learn a word or phrase per day from one of my classes.

Well, paperwork is caught up so it's time for a quick nap before I start prepping my classes for next week.  12 smartboard presentations, 12 accompanying worksheets, some pencasts, and a few quizzes ... and I'm ready for the week.  Although I have a snowball's chance of completing all that tomorrow, I'm finally healthy enough that I can knock off half of that on a Saturday.  It's going to be a great week :)

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