## Mathematics in Civilization (1/n)

I picked up a great-looking book a few years back and I’m just now getting a chance to dig in. It’s a freshman math textbook for college folks: Mathematics in Civilization (H.L. Resnikoff & R.O. Wells, Jr.). It’s a 1973 book that shows how mathematics came to be and how it has shaped and continues to shape our civilization.

A few wise folks have recommended some number of times that I learn more about the history of math, and as folks usually are, it was wise advice.

This book is intended for students and others who desire to understand the role that mathematics plays in science and society. (p 3)

Way to start it off with a bang, fellas.

The purposes and consequences of mathematics are of serious concern for the growth and health of society and therefore are a proper and necessary part of the workaday intellectual baggage that must be carried about by every educated and effective participant in civilized life. (p 5)

I had no idea that folks teaching math up in the ivory towers saw numbers in that light. This was fascination, beautiful stuff, and I wish I had understood this aspect of it earlier.

And if you want connections to ELA (it obvi includes art and science, as both are requirements for math to work), here’s some explicit evidence:

It is conceivable that mathematical needs for notational symbolism were later developed into full-fledged pictographic writing systems. (p 11)

Wow.

You can place this initial blog post analysis of my book on the following rubric. I’ve used grade 12 standards for this rubric, which I would use if I were studying this book for an adult course.

Standards Expert Proficient Apprentice
Art.Anchor.11.CConnectingRelate artistic ideas and works with historical context to deepen understanding.
Related artistic ideas and works with historical context to deepen understanding. Evaluated the historical impact of artistic ideas and works.
Related artistic ideas and works with historical context to deepen understanding.
Identified the historical context of artistic ideas and works.
Struggled to identify the historical context of artistic ideas and works.
HS-PS1-1Physical SciencesUse the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
Used the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms, including quantitative understanding of ionization energy.
Used the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
Used the periodic table as a model to explain the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
With support, used the periodic table as a model to identify the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
HS-PS4-2.APhysical SciencesEvaluate questions about the advantages of using a digital transmission of information.
Evaluated and refined questions about the advantages of using a digital transmission of information.
Evaluated questions about the advantages of using a digital transmission of information.
Asked questions about the advantages of using a digital transmission of information.
Identified questions relevant to the advantages of using a digital transmission of information.
HSA.APR.D.6.AAlgebra: Arithmetic with Polynomials & Rational ExpressionsRewrite simple rational expressions in different forms.
Clearly demonstrated and explained how to rewrite simple rational expressions in different forms.
Rewrote simple rational expressions in different forms.
Understood simple rational expressions in different forms.
Struggled to understand simple rational expressions in different forms.
HSS.ID.A.1Statistics & Probability: Interpreting Categorical & Quantitative DataRepresent data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots).
Represented data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots). Applied this concept to solve real-world problems.
Represented data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots).
Understood data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots).
Struggled to understand data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots).
HSS.ID.A.3Statistics & Probability: Interpreting Categorical & Quantitative DataInterpret differences in shape, center, and spread in the context of the data sets, accounting for possible effects of extreme data points (outliers).
Clearly demonstrated and explained how to interpret differences in shape, center, and spread in the context of the data sets, accounting for possible effects of extreme data points (outliers).
Interpreted differences in shape, center, and spread in the context of the data sets, accounting for possible effects of extreme data points (outliers).
Understood how to interpret differences in shape, center, or spread in the context of the data sets.
Struggled to understand how to interpret differences in shape, center, or spread in the context of the data sets.
MP.2.EMathematical PracticesPause as needed when manipulating symbols.
Did not rush through manipulations. Paused and double-checked as needed when manipulating symbols.
Did not rush through manipulations. Paused as needed when manipulating symbols.
Did not rush when manipulating symbols.
Rushed when manipulating symbols.
MP.2.FMathematical PracticesProbe into the referents for the symbols involved.
Looked deeply into and explained the meanings for what the symbols represent. Evaluated how well the symbols represent what they mean.
Looked deeply into and explained the meanings for what the symbols represent.
Described what the symbols represent.
Identified what the symbols represent.
MP.2.GMathematical PracticesCreate a coherent representation of the problem at hand.
Created a coherent representation of a complex or real world problem.
Created a coherent representation of the problem at hand.
With some support, created a coherent representation of the problem at hand.
Created a coherent description of the problem at hand.
MP.2.HMathematical PracticesConsider the units involved in a problem.
Clearly explained the units involved in a complex or real world problem.
Explained the units involved in a problem.
Identified the units involved in a problem.
With support, identified the units involved in a problem.
MP.2.IMathematical PracticesAttend to the meaning of quantities in a problem, not just how to compute them.
Explained to the meaning of quantities in a problem, not just how to compute them. Evaluated how well the quantities represent their meaning.
Explained to the meaning of quantities in a problem, not just how to compute them.
Identified to the meaning of quantities in a problem, not just how to compute them.
Understood the meaning of quantities in a problem, not just how to compute them.
MP.2.JMathematical PracticesKnow and flexibly use different properties of operations and objects.
Evaluated when to use different properties of operations and objects.
Flexibly used different properties of operations and objects.
Identified different properties of operations and objects.
Understood different properties of operations and objects.
MP.4.BMathematical PracticesWrite an addition equation to describe a situation (Elementary).
Wrote and solved an addition or subtraction equation to describe a complex situation.
Wrote an addition equation to describe a situation.
With support, wrote an addition equation to describe a situation.
Identified the situation that a given addition equation represents.
MP.4.EMathematical PracticesKnow and make assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later.
Made assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. Checked assumptions and approximations against other situations.
Made assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later.
Made assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation.
Made assumptions and approximations to simplify a situation.
MP.4.FMathematical PracticesAnalyze relationships mathematically to draw conclusions.
Analyzed complex relationships mathematically to draw conclusions.
Analyzed relationships mathematically to draw conclusions.
Identified mathematical relationships and created assumptions.
Identified mathematical relationships.
MP.7.AMathematical PracticesLook closely to discern a pattern or structure.
Looked closely at complex problems to discern highly useful patterns or structures.
Looked closely at problems to discern a pattern or structure.
Recognized a pattern or structure in a problem.
With support, recognized a pattern or structure in a problem.
MP.7.BMathematical PracticesStep back for an overview of a problem and shift perspective.
Generated an overview of a complex or real world problem. Considered the problem from multiple relevant points of view.
Paused to look at the overall problem and to get an overview. Looked at the problem from different points of view.
Paused to look at the overall problem and to get an overview.
With support, understood the overall problem.
RST.11-12.4.AReading in Science and Technical SubjectsDetermine the meaning of symbols as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Clearly explained the meaning of symbols as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Explained the meaning of symbols as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Identified the meaning of symbols as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Struggled to identify the meaning of symbols.
RST.11-12.4.CReading in Science and Technical SubjectsDetermine the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Clearly explained the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Explained the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Identified the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Struggled to identify the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases.
W.HST.11-12.4Writing in Science and Technical SubjectsProduce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Produced clear, coherent, and engaging writing in which the development, organization, and style are best suited to task, purpose, and audience.
Produced clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Produced writing that was sometimes clear and coherent and the development, organization, or style was somewhat appropriate to task, purpose, or audience.
Struggled to produce writing that was clear or coherent or where the development, organization, or style was appropriate to task, purpose, or audience.

## Update!

Here’s a copy of an e-mail I just sent my students’ families.

Hi there, and happy Thanksgiving week!

A few updates for you! (Just kidding, there are kind of a lot of updates. This is super long. I’m sorry.)

First, your students DID NOT bring home theirÂ superbright folderÂ today, which they normally do on most Mondays. That’s because this is a short week, so they’ll bring them home on Wednesday. The folders should be blue or purple.

Speaking of Wednesday, we haveÂ early dismissalÂ on Wednesday at 1:20 PM. Students have lunch at 11:00 AM, so they will eat breakfast and lunch at school.

Secondly, some of my 3rd grade families know I spent last year working on my National Board portfolio. After submitting my portfolio in May of this year, I FINALLY heard back this weekend, and I’m glad to report that I am now aÂ National Board Certified TeacherÂ in middle childhood! You can learn more about the process and about my SWEET new credentials here: http://www.nbpts.org. Other NBCTs at Wildwood are Mrs. Stock, Ms. Willard, Mrs. Gray, and Mrs. Choi.

Thirdly, I imagine your students have mentionedÂ CSI WildwoodÂ to you. We have finished our first unit in social studies, so we are starting our first unit in science. This unit is Changes, and it usually focuses on the states of matter water can have. Borrrrrrring.

In addition to states of matter, we’re going to talk about the chemical and physical changes that happen when detectives and scientists investigate a crime, and we’ve enlisted the help of MANY teachers and staff members! This week and next week, students are detectives investigating an arson in the library. They interview teachers as the suspects and witnesses, take notes, examine evidence, and determine whodunnit.

We’re integrating this project into social studies (timelines), math (attend to precision) and English Language Arts (writing, communicating clearly and accurately). You canÂ follow our updatesÂ on Twitter by using the hashtag #CSIwildwood, and all our tweets are posted on our class website at www.mshoughtonsclass.com. You can read more about the CSI curriculum here:Â http://www.prufrock.com/Crime-Scene-Detective-Arson-Using-Science-and-Critical-Thinking-to-Solve-Crimes-P278.aspx

Also, I spoke atÂ Ignite SeattleÂ last Wednesday, and I had a chance to talk with many people about the impact of their elementary school math instruction on their math identity as adults. Many people shared painful, embarrassing math experiences with me, and for a lot of these folks, the turning point was 3rd or 4th grade. I know this is a critical time for your students, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with them to support them. My talk will be posted online in the next month or so, and I’ll share the link when it’s available.

Phew. I know that was long. Thank you so much for reading (or skimming) all the way through this. Thank you as always for giving me the privilege of learning with your students every day. They are remarkable young people, and I’m honored to help them grow.

Shannon

——————————————————————————————
Sent from the desk of Shannon Houghton
2nd & 3rd Grade HCP
www.mshoughtonsclass.com
Currently Reading:Â The Wig in the Window, Kristen Kittscher
Just Finished:Â The Dead Boys, Royce Buckingham
I believe all students have the right to a rigorous and relevant
education that prepares them to follow their passions.
——————————————————————————————

## Notable Books I Read In 2012

The BEST BOOKS of 2012 have already been covered extensively. Mr. Schu has a great roundup of Best of 2012 lists if you’d like to peruse the bulk of them. ERMAHGERD BERKS!!!

All I can really add to the conversation is to humbly provide recommendations for books I connected with this year. I’ve tried to filter out some of the great books you probably know about (Wonder, Green, etc.), unless they particularly resonated with me. Some months have more books than others, because some months I read more than others. You can tell when I was finishing my National Boards.

I didn’t consciously chose to include more nonfiction than most lists I’ve seen, but I do want to point out how important I think it is to highlight more traditional expository writing. YES, lyrical nonfiction books are fantastic, but we do a disservice to our kids when we aren’t seeking out good books of the type they’ll encounter when they’re doing research, even if they’re not as thrilling for us to read.

I owe a lot to the book recommendations from Nerdy Book Club folks who I’ve given shout-outs below.

I’ve included children’s books and adult books, and not all of them were published this year. Images were either created by me or swiped from GoodReads.

TRUTH TIME. I actually like the trailer for C. R. Mudgeon better than the book itself. Do yourself a favor and watch (or rewatch) Julian Hector’s work:

Watch me pimp out The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place on Mr. Sharp’s Nerdbery video:

Â

Phew! What a year! I eagerly await your input on these selections.

## Integrating Sound with Math

Time to rethink my integration of science with math. My attempts to connect proportions of the human body with measurement went down in flames in my entry last year, so I’m focusing on Systems, Order, and Organization related to sound this time.

I know sound, math, and science are all suuuuuuper tight. What I don’t know is how to adequately organize my sound unit so it includes great inquiry-based investigations. My guiding framework is an annnnncient curriculum from the National Science Resources Center (published when I was in junior high) that has such profound extension activities as the one featured below:

Ugh. Not helpful. It’s worth noting that there are a whopping two math extension activities in this entire unit.

The wise and enthusiasticÂ Katie Weichert gave me some great ideas to chew on and think about. I wish I saw her more often. But in her absence, I had to get a move on.

So I started trolling the Internet.

This Aztec music lesson seems compelling.

I’m also interested in harmonics, but I don’t know how to build this into a full lesson. My students already use harmonic series as a procedure to line up from music class, so I wouldn’t need to go over the basic musical idea of third and fifth intervals.

THIS could be useful. It appears to be a sound generator. Could I have kids compose a song using fractions and then convert them to their frequencies? Speaking of composing music…

I imagine I could show snippets fromÂ Donald in Mathmagic LandÂ and have students generate questions from that? Yesssssss, I could totally do that… That way the learning would be authentic and related to the curriculum we already have in place!

My only concern remains starting with a video. I want to make sure I’m looking for an introduction that inspires perplexity, not just engagement. After the 27-minute video was released in 1959, Walt Disney admitted:

“The cartoon is a good medium to stimulate interest. We have recently explained mathematics in a film and in that way excited public interest in this very important subject.”

(emphasis is my own) Now in looking at moving from merely interest to investigation…… I suppose that recording student questions will take care of that fear, right? Then having their questions shape the following lessons?

Hmmmmm. Of course, there are a wealth of videos available on sound and math, but much of the information is so complex that I can’t figure out how to simplify it.

I’m also interested in looking at the materials used in instrument strings and the number of strings included in different instruments. How do the number of notes an instrument is capable of producing related to its system? Can systems be different sizes? Is a larger system necessarily “better” or more “complete?”

Anyway. Let’s see how this goes.

## Air Time

When you take time for yourself, good things follow. In this case, it was some REALLY AWESOME MATH.

Friday morning, I missed the bus (oops) and was able to drive to work at a legal speed.

I had an opportunity to drink some nummy nummy coconut mocha coffee and read my Wall Street Journal. And lookie what I found!

Iâ€™ve been thinking a lot about Dan Meyer commenting on how we spoon feed each step to a problem solving situation, and so today, I went out on a skinny limb and used this graphic to help us work on our measurement skills. I wasn’t sure where our work would take us, but we’re early on in the unit, so many of my students are still working to measure accurately using a ruler.

I showed them the graphic, and Samuel helped me pronounce all the playersâ€™ names. He was our resident expert. Then I opened the floor to mathematical questions.

Hereâ€™s what we brainstormed as our big questions.

Â The questions with green dots to the left are the ones we decided to pursue.

Then, people started asking more â€œnitty-grittyâ€ questions, which we identified as being the â€œquestions along the wayâ€ you had to answer to get to your big ideas. We kept this poster up as we worked. I stayed near my computer so I could capture students’ comments.

â€œYou need to know how big the field is,â€ Savanah spoke up. I handed her my iPad so she could find the field size. She paused. â€œDo I need to know like, how BIG it is or how long the sides are?â€ Â â€œI think youâ€™re asking me whether you need the area or the perimeter?â€ â€œYeahâ€¦ ohhhh, I need the length of the sides.â€ Hereâ€™s the information she found.

After checking another site to verify the accuracy of her information, we added the dimensions of the field to the poster. (Yes, I know I could have taken a screen shot of the iPad, and I did, but I couldn’t get the image sent to my computer. Hrmph.)

â€œBut whatâ€™s a yard?â€ â€œWho can answer that?â€ â€œItâ€™s three feet,â€ Ivy answered. â€œHow can you check to see if you agree?â€ â€œWell, I could look in my math book, but I remember what yard sticks last year look like, and I know there are three rulers.â€ (I knew we’d need to convert from yards to feet to inches so they’d be able to convert the lengths they measured on their papers into the actual lengths)

â€œWell, then you need to multiply by three to get the length â€“ 120 times three.â€ â€œWoah. Howâ€™re we going to do that?â€ â€œUse a known fact, 12 x 3.â€ â€œ36?â€ â€œYeah, 36.â€ â€œSo itâ€™s 360 feet.â€

They did the same for the other side. Then a group of students wanted to determine the linear distance the ball traveled for each player. I asked how many inches long their picture was, and Marcos stopped us all.

Marcos: WAIT. You blew up the picture from your newspaper article. So our picture isnâ€™t the same size as yours and the distances will be all different. (I photocopied the graphic at 121% so it’d be easier to read than my original copy of the newspaper.)

Me: Nice. That would be a problem if the image were STRETCHED like a rubber band and warped, but since it was enlarged to scale, weâ€™ll be okay AS LONG AS you donâ€™t let me use my original copy, okay?â€

Marcos: Okay. So the field is 11 inches long.

“You know, if they would have just included a map scale on this picture, we wouldn’t have to do ANY of this measurement.” “I guess that’s why Miz Houghton wants us to be able to use map scales in social studies.”

Then a few of us worked to create this poster.

We knew the field was 11 inches in our image, but we wanted to know how far just ONE inch would be because then we could find out how far Jone Samuelson’s 6-inch kick actually went. We also knew how long an actual field was, so we tried to find the relationship between the two.

Using a fact family (the triangle drawn above) helped us figure out the ratio. Or. What I initially THOUGHT was the ratio. DO YOU SEE MY GLARING ERROR??? I didnâ€™t notice until lunch. I neglected to convert the 240 feet into inches so the units matched. Drat. I frantically called AP Calculus teacher James Brown to make sure I didn’t make any further errors.

So after lunch we converted 240 feet into inches, THEN used the ratio and found out that one inch in our picture equalled approximately 33 feet.

Some students switched to using calculators for these larger computations, which gave us a chance to talk about how calculators represent 1/2, equivalent fractions (5/10), etc. Above, Alejandra calculated how many feet David Villa kicked the ball (5 inches, according to her measurements, making the kick 165 feet). I asked her about the “33 in. in a inch” she wrote, and she said, “Oh no no no, it’s not 33 INCHES or that would be like a mini soccer field.” So she was also looking at reasonableness of answers.

Another group wanted to know how far the balls would have gone if they were kicked on the moon. Again, I told them to ignore the parabolic motion and just look at linear distance. I know the physics of this arenâ€™t entirely correct, but I didnâ€™t think itÂ  hurt the integrity of the original problem situation.

Oh, actually! Selam originally asked how far the ball would go in SPACE, but Maya pointed out that if the they were in space, the player and ball would both push off each other and the ball would never land (AMAZING INSIGHT, RIGHT???). So we clarified that the ball would be kicked on the moon, where there was still a force acting on the ball, but a lesser force than what we’d find on Earth.

Adam went to the classroom library to find out what the gravity was on the moon. Hereâ€™s the passage he found, from the DK Eyewitness Book UNIVERSE.

Eayn: It says the gravity is one-sixths of Earth!

Me: So the gravity is 1/6 of the gravity on the Earth. So if we are converting from the moon, what would we have to do to the distance we calculated for the ball kicked on Earth?

Adam: Multiply it by three?

Me: Where did you get three from?

Milena: Multiply it times five.

Me: Five? Where did you get that from?

Milena: If the moonâ€™s gravity is 1/6, then the rest of the fraction thatâ€™s left is 5/6.

Me: Ohhh, I think I see what youâ€™re picturing in your head. But think of the gravity on the Earth as being one whole, and the gravity on the moon being 1/6 of that whole. You’re not looking at the other 5/6ths.

Vy: Youâ€™d multiply it times six.

Me: Where did you get six from?

Vy: If itâ€™s dividing by six to get the pull on the moon, then youâ€™d multiply by six to show how much further the ball would go when it has a sixth of the gravity slowing it dowwn.

Me: So youâ€™re saying that fractions can be a way of dividing.

Vy: Yep. And then the opposite, er, inverse, is multiplying, so you times by 6.

(It is perhaps worth noting that Vy has not voluntarily spoken in front of the class in the past year and two months)

Wow. So now that we knew how to find distances on Earth and on the moon, we plugged away, with at least three people needing to agree on their measurements to the nearest half-inch before we would post the results. (reviewing our estimation and rounding unit from earlier in the year)

As we approached second recess, we posted what we’d come up with so far.

We also reflected on what we’d learned over the course of the day, and on the math we used.

As you can see, we didn’t finish everything, so some students asked if they could finish the calculations during Math Daily Five. UM, YES OF COURSE.

What suggestions or modifications do you have to offer me and my students? Where can we take things from here? Other thoughts?

## Book of the Week: Bats â€”Â A Nature-Fact Book

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

BONUS! This week also features all sorts of Common Core activity goodies! Wowie!

Bats: A Nature-Fact Book, by D.J. Arneson

At first glance, what a totally inaccessible book. The text is small and dense, there’s no organization, and the book itself is small and not ideal for a mentor text.

BUT! Each page is a different topic, so it’d be really easy to photocopy and enlarge a page, then have students break it apart. You could even do a class jigsaw, with different groups picking different sections. Look! Now you have a complex non-fiction text for students to read deeply, just like Common Core suggests!

Speaking of Common Core, why not extend this lesson and make it 23894678 times more interesting by including this story about a boy who used echolocation because he was blind.Â AMAZING! There’s a bunch of additional information and resources here. A gent named Dan Kish uses echolocation too:

Congratulations! Now you’ve provided your students with the multimedia resources CCSS encourages.

This book features an !!!OFFICIAL!!! FWPS lesson plan focusing on text features. The book actually doesn’t HAVE nonfiction text features, but the lesson explains that it can then be contrasted with Vampire Bats & Other Creatures of the Night published by Kingfisher. The lesson also encourages students to create their own table of contents for the book.

There is aÂ CAFE menuÂ included with this mentor text, and Iâ€™ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

• Use dictionaries, thesauruses, and glossaries as tools.Â Because there is no glossary included in the text, this might be a good time for a dictionary lesson. Alternatively, you could take the lesson in another direction if your dictionaries aren’t complex enough to include bat-specific terms. In which case you could talk about when it’s faster to look something up online and when it’s faster to use a hard copy dictionary.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

###

## Collection of Higgs Goodies

I’ve been collecting some Higgs videos and articles since Higgsdependence Day last Wednesday, and I wanted to share them all in one place.

Presenting a crash course in the HIGGS-BOSON, as curated by me!

My new favorite YouTube channel is Minute Physics, which I just discovered. YES. Here’s their Higgs explanation.

Now. I need to be honest with you. I love Vi Hart deeply, but it has come to my attention that her assertion that the Higgs Boson accounts for “missing mass” in critters like us (and pigs) is incorrect. So although I revere her enthusiasm for the discovery, I need to tell you she’s off the mark on this one.

But like I said, her enthusiasm isÂ contagious:

Another piece that isn’t quite accurate, but IS humorous.

You can listen to Ira Flatow talk about the Higgs discovery on Science Friday. I met him at MSU. He was kind of a douche.

I love TED. I love hot scientists. Yesssss.

And here’s another Brian Cox explanation:

This is my favorite analogy of all time, from John Ellis:

You can see the full announcement of the Higgs discovery here. I originally mentioned that I hadn’t seen any women speaking about the announcement, but Chip pointed out that the decidedly female Fabiola Gionatti is in charge of ATLAS, which along with CMS is analyzing all the detrius that the LHC spits out.

I always can appreciate a good rap. Here’s an overview of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

And here’s what happens at the LHC. Brought to you by Chip Brock, who as I mentioned yesterday has been a TREMENDOUSLY generous resource.

Chip is also helping me work on my own explanation, as I’ve received feedback from several people that the above explanations aren’t clear/basic enough. Fingers crossed I can create something comprehensible. Although by the time I post it, people probably won’t be excited about the Higgs any more. Which is a shame.

## Perceptions of Science

I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days about science and people who consider themselves to be “not science people” or “not math people” and how that winds up playing out in educators and education. The response to the Higgs Boson discovery has been huge and wonderful, but these New York hipsters show us we still have a long way to go.

In my musings, I owe much gratitude to Chip Brock, who has always been willing to answer my random, rapid-fire e-mail questions. My lifetime favorite question is probably when I sent him a message from my internship at The Gazette in Colorado Springs asking how much pressure it would take to blast off a manhole cover. Yessssss.

I owe a lot in advance to Kendra Snyder, who is a science publicist for the American Museum of Natural History. I say “in advance” because I plan on picking her brain plenty in the future, although before yesterday, I hadn’t seen her since we graduated together from MSU in May 2005. Which is an absolutely tragedy, because she is brilliant and wonderful. We didn’t hang out much outside of SNews functions at MSU and our sweet 2003 study abroad, which is a shame.

I was trying to figure out yesterday morning, as I was brain barfing to Kendra, why my passionate interest in lay-person’s science advocacy has been on the sidelines for so long. Maybe it’s because I’ve found science-loving friends in Toby’s coworkers at Cheezburger who made me think that the rest of the world was more into science these days. Maybe I was lulled into a false sense that science was becoming more widely recognized because of popular shows like Mythbusters and Alton Brown’s Good Eats.

But I’m probably really thinking about how most people respond to science because of the reaction most people have when I tell them I’m writing a children’s book about Buckminster Fuller. There are three main forms these reactions take. I am including photos for ease of interpretation.

Â

1) Delight. “OMG Awesome! The geodesic dome! Buckyballs! What are you writing about him?”

2) Dismissiveness. “Oh, SHANNON, you’re such an overachiever. Don’t even tell me, I know I wouldn’t understand.”

3) That Look. “That Look” also goes along with “That Voice,” the tone that people use when they talk about science being beyond their grasp. You’ve heard every single TV and radio personality using “That Voice” when they lead into a story about the Higgs discovery. It’s oftentimes meant as a compliment, I’m sure, like “Now we’ll hear from a brilliant person who understands the mysteries of the universe,” but I actually take it as an insult. When you use That Voice and give me That Look, here’s what I actually think: If I am failing to communicate in a lucid way how certain processes work, you are actually calling me an incomprehensible jerk incapable of communicating clearly.

I don’t want you to tell me I’m smart; I want you to ask me questions so I can help you understand too! I want you to be able to see the beauty and majesty and wonder in how science shows us how the world is put together.

How can we get people to be more comfortable and interested in science, especially in a time when NASA funding is nonexistent, education is floundering, and there’s a grossÂ permeatingÂ feeling of anti-intellectual sentiment that I can only seem to shake when I’m with the brilliant educators they keep tucked away in the district office?

Well, I can tell you one strategy that probably WON’T work:

I’ll be continuing to ponder this further. But for now, I’ll leave you with inspiring words from Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who actually works out of the American Natural History Museum and might have been in THE EXACT SAME BUILDING AS I WAS yesterday.

## Plant Books: 3rd Grade Unit

I’m preparing to do a rad GLAD integrated plants unit this year, so I want plenty of books I can use during our literacy block. Our school nonfiction selection, although significantly improved this past year, is still wimpy. I get most of these books from the Seattle Public Library. Our school district does a trees unit in Kindergarten, a plant unit in 3rd grade, and an ecosystem unit in 4th grade, so many of these books would work in all three of these units (HINT HINT, NEW WILDWOOD LIBRARIAN, PLEASE BUY THEM!!!). I’m organizing these books by approximate reading level for 3rd grade, although you may sort them differently. I’m also attaching a shopping list without cover pictures!

I know that no book list can be exhaustive. I tried to include mostly titles that you wouldn’t necessarily find if you ran a basic library search for “plants” unless they’re excellent (like How a Plant Grows, which is brilliant). I’ve also sorted them from most recently published to older, because I know my science curriculum does a pretty good job of covering classic kids’ books about plants (i.e. Aliki’s Corn is Maize).

What am I missing? Tell me in the comments!