Sunday, August 29, 2004

Why Students Don't Do Well in Math

After only three meetings with my math instructor I have learned why many math students don't do well in the class. Math requires "thinking outside of the box," to use the common administrative cliche. You have to approach problems using all of the standard processes, but then you've got to come up with completely new methods. Students don't want to do this, it requires too much effort and can take up too much time. Why try and figure out a formula that some ancient mathematician has already done 1,000 years ago? Why prove something that's already been proven? These thought patterns alone hold students back from success.

To do well students need to be active during lectures and participate. Students should ask questions rather than accept what is given to them by the instructor without any thought. Give the teacher a problem to work out on the board. Do the problem along with the teacher, working out each step in a collaborative effort. Instead, students will just sit back and wait for class to end by watching the teacher write various runes on the board.

Math isn't just about completing homework assignments. When students are at home they should research on the internet topics that were brought up in class. The library has plenty of resources on the history of math, mathematicians, and the wide range of math subjects. Students don't want to do this, because again, it takes up too much time and effort.

Students forget anything they've learned, hoping that they will never see it again. Unfortunately, they do see it again, but they don't remember seeing it in the first place. In math, there are basic skills that students shouldn't forget. They should use these techniques and apply them to future problems. These methods serve as a springboard for solving a problem that the student hasn't seen before. If every problem is approached like it's an alien script then the student won't know where to start and what to try, ultimately failing.


I'm just like every other math student. Most of the time I sit in class, copy down what the instructor writes on the board, and accept whatever statements s/he makes. At home I do my assignment, skip the hard problems, check my answers (the solutions are usually in the back of the book or in the solution manual), and forget about what I've just done. However, I found that when I "cheated" on my lazy strategy of apathy toward the subject, and become more involved, I did better.

I have survived math courses by taking the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde method. Sometimes I'm the lazy student, other times I'm the active math pupil. As of now I'm the lazy student, probably due to the long summer. If only I could be one of those kids that just gets math automatically, then I'd be set.

Talking About Language

A few days ago I was looking for a great site I had found awhile ago that had sound clips of different languages. Specifically, I wanted to find the Mandarin Chinese sound clips that pronounced "ma" in the 4 different tones. After doing a Google search I found the site, called Fonetiks: The Online Language Laboratory. It's a service you have to subscribe to if you want to have free access to the entire site, but the free samples are fun to listen to. The Chinese sound clips show how difficult it can be to get used to a tonal language, but listening to them helps a lot if you're learning Chinese.

While I was searching for this site I found some other insightful articles and websites about language in general. The Linguistic Society of America writes about what an accent is, Phrasebase serves as a community for language learners to help each other, and a Microsoft blogger posts a article about German being a language of love, if not to love ( I loved the comments on that one). Personally, I've grown to enjoy how German sounds somewhat aggressive and forceful since I associate that with importance and authority, but the compound words are confusing.

My favorite languages would have to be Japanese, Italian, and Latin. I like the way Japanese and Italian sound, and Latin because it is useful for learning other romance languages. Arabic, Persian, and Hindi rank highly for me because they flow nicely together according to my ear.

The language I dislike most is French. It has nothing to do with the people, the country, the history, or the structure. It has everything to do with the teachers I had. I learned from them that if you have a bad language teacher you'll grow to despise the language itself for long after you quit learning. It's sad and I wish things had been better, especially since visiting Montreal, but French ranks low on my list thanks to my odious instructors.

Searching around the web, walking around town, or talking to friends; everywhere there is something about language! Good thing it's a topic that never gets old. It's boring, confusing, funny, dynamic, insightful, and powerful. Why didn't we understand this in English class??

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Montreal Pictures

Horse and carriage in front of Notre Dame.

Flowers at St. Joseph's.

Olympic Park.

View of Japanese and Chinese gardens and the rest of Montreal from the Stadium Observatory.


Some birds inside the Biodome.

Replica of Brother Andre's chapel near the Oratory.

Brother Andre.

Some bells at the Oratory.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Back Home, Back to Work

St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal Posted by Hello

I''m back from Montreal and feeling somewhat satisfied with the place. It didn't have as many people as I had expected, and they went to bed by a certain time unlike New York, but overall I enjoyed being there. Safe and clean unlike many big cities, it does have what is necessary and then some. There's something for everybody, including myself, with plenty of sites to see and food to eat. I had no clue about the presence of French, but we only met one person who didn't speak English. Most people could smoothly convert to English, many without the slightest hint of an accent. I guess everybody working there could speak French, however, two guys at an ice cream shop had American accents that made it hard for me to believe they could switch to French like everybody else.

Overall I had a pretty good time because there was plenty to see like St. Joseph's Oratory, the Olympic Park and Biodome, and Notre Dame. Six days is not long to see much, and I did spend three sleeping, but I saw plenty and would like to go back some day. I learned you don't need to travel far to see nice things.

Tomorrow classes start and I'm not ready for anything since I have no supplies. Taking things as they come will be my motto for tomorrow since there's not much I can do now. What will this year bring? Will I get lazy and neglect studying like most students? Will I find a permanent school by the semester's end? Right now, to me, these are the most unimportant questions in the world so I'll forget about them until they're answered.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Last Minute Vacation

I'm squeezing in another vacation before fall semester starts, so I probably won't be blogging for almost a week. I doubt I'll even have time to check my email, read other sites and leave comments, or respond to anything until I get back. This time I'm taking a camera with me, so I'll try and have some photos of Montreal up when I return.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

There's Always Plenty of Hate to Go Around

Just what we need in this world: More hate. People who hate other people, things, and concepts can now create a hatelisting, as opposed to a fanlisting. Their motto "Because sometimes you just need to express it," does little to convince me that this is merely an outlet for negative self expression. There isn't much expression in listing your name on somebody's website in the first place, and unless this hate is consuming joining some club about it is hardly worth the effort.

Joining a hatelisting carries more weight than mentioning that you don't like something, but takes less energy than writing hate letters to CNN. It's a pointless concept altogether and I'd rather focus my dislike for something in a more descriptive form.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

End-of-Summer Lag

Over the past few weeks I've been uninspired to write much of anything. It could be that I've been too lazy, but I haven't felt compelled to login and start writing. Every other day I'd post some information about a website or article I read, but nothing with any weight. I'm not the only one though, some other writers have taken a break from blogging to do anything but.

Perhaps we're trying to hold on to what's left of summer. Usually weekends are slow blog days, but now it seems like every day is like that. The blogosphere is stuck in some kind of funk and there's little telling when it will get out. Probably when the school year starts and people get back from their vacations.

When classes start up for me, the first week is accompanied by an absence of writing of any kind. It takes me about that long to adjust into my new schedule after a few months of not doing anything productive. Before classes do start I still have one more trip to make. I'm going to Montreal for five days with my family and I can almost guarantee that I won't be writing from there.

When will the lag go away?

Monday, August 09, 2004


Looking for tutorials for web design, digital imaging, and programming software? Tutorialized has member-submitted tutorials for Photoshop, Dreamweaver, PHP and more. Although you have to sign up to see all the tutorials, the ones that are on display for everybody are pretty helpful.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Crimson Room

The Crimson Room is a game where you are stuck inside a room with red walls and a red ceiling. You have to find different objects hidden around the room to help you find a way to escape. When you finally get out you can play the Viridian Room.

Link via Heather

Dual Nationality

Yes, the United States recognizes dual nationality. I was talking to the guy next to me on a plane one time and he said that dual nationality was not recognized in the U.S. or China. After coming home I forgot about the conversation, but I remembered it when I thought about a friend who is a U.S. and Chinese citizen. In the U.S. she's a citizen of this country and of China, but according to China she is only a citizen of the U.S.

I wonder how Chinese who are citizens of other countries become citizens of China again when they return. This is a situation my friend's family will have to deal with when they come become citizens of the U.S., but they made it sound like an easy process. Maybe it is as simple as denying citizenship of the other country and claiming citizenship of China.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

This Wasn't in F911

Saudis lavish gifts on Bush family
Saudi Arabia's de facto leader lavished nearly $US130,000 ($A185,000) of fine jewellery on US President George W Bush, his wife, children and top aides in 2003 but the weightiest gift presented to the first family last year came in the form of hundreds of pounds of raw meat, according to documents released today.
Raw meat? I guess that's not going on display at the National Archives.