Friday, August 27, 2010

Math on the Rocks: Skyping with Professor Garibaldi

Sometime this summer someone tweeted out this video from Emory University.

It features Professor Skip Garibaldi talking about the mathematics of rock climbing and I immediately tagged it to use when teaching proportion. But then as I thought about it, I thought this might be the perfect guy to be my first Skype connection into my class. I searched and found his email address at Emory, then contacted him with the basic pitch. We traded a few emails and we'll be Skyping on Wednesday, September 1st.

You can read a little bit more about Professor Garibaldi on this post on the class blog, where I gave my students some background information to help them develop some questions for him. The basic structure is that he's going to talk for five to ten minutes about rock climbing, or the lottery, or mathematics, or learning in general, then we'll ask him a few questions. Students submitted questions via a Google Form, and I was going to try to use Google Moderator to have them vote on them, but I had trouble getting it to work the way I wanted it to, so I ended up selecting the questions myself.

1. How do you define “math?” How would you describe what “math” is to non-mathematicians? -Me
2. Does learning about things that interest you, like rock climbing and the lottery help you learn/teach better? -Kara
3. Can you recall an analysis/equation that was particularly frustrating for you to work on and what did you do to work through it. -Gabby
4. If you dropped out of high school as a sophomore, how could you go on and graduate and get a bachelor's degree and a PhD? -Ashley
5. What made you realize the connection between algebra and rock climbing? -Mackenzie
6. If you were playing the lottery with, say, 5-10 tickets, what effect would that have on the risk? -Caleb

We're keeping it to about twenty minutes for several reasons, not the least of which is that he has to teach a class twenty-four minutes after we start. We'll see how it goes, but I'm hopeful the students will find it interesting and meaningful.

Here's part of the email I sent Professor Garibaldi describing what I hoped we get out of this:
I'm hoping to accomplish three main things by inviting folks such as yourself to skype in:

1. Give them an idea of "when are we ever going to use this?"

2. Have someone who is passionate about math (and learning) talk about how they use/think about math/learning. (And hopefully get them more excited about math and learning.)
3. Expose them to professionals from a variety of backgrounds (and geographic areas) to expand their view of the world and what's possible.
If we touch on one or all of these, I'll consider it a success. Depending on a few things, I'm hoping to ustream it out for parents to view as well, so you're welcome to tune in on our ustream channel. We'll be skyping from approximately 9:21 - 9:41 am Mountain Time (PLC day for us, so late start) on Wednesday, September 1st.

Oh, I also have to say that I think this (see the entry for September 1st) is kinda cool.