the twit


    required mcpost? not-math box

    benny guest (aka yep, he looks like larry bird) has asked us to write a post about a "procedure, routine, rule, or consequence, etc. that has been successful." so, a few words on the not-math box.

    in one of the corners of my room, there's a pile of stuff. in that pile you may find textbooks, jackets, binders, personal items, etc. many of these items have been there for most of the year, and i look forward to the end of 4th term when i see what treasures i've inherited. somewhere in that pile of stuff is a blue milk crate, which is my dreaded not-math box - and the center of this procedural black hole.

    rule #3 states: "when in math class, do Math." i enforce this rule by confiscating any objects of interest which are patently not math, or are clearly not math in the way that a student needs to be paying attention to my class at a given time. once confiscated, the objects go in the not-math box -a space which has become universally dreaded and often caricatured (students often wanting to put each other - or me - in the not-math box for being silly in some silly way). the not math box is a very potent reminder to stay on task, and seems to have limited a large degree of explicit doing-someone-else's-homework-in-mr.-molina's class. the only reason for the largeness of the not-math pile is the nearly universal inability for students to remember that i'd taken a textbook or note or homework and placed it there. in the slow accumulation next to my white board, a vast witness to the frivolity of academia slowly grows, and festers.

    sometimes, when no one's looking, they learn.

    there's always a mischevious disconnect between what you think you're teaching people, and what they actually value and acquire. however, sometimes they surprise you by hitting a home run in the area of things that are "actually important," despite an unimpressive batting average in all the other crap. the following post (which has turned out to be part of a three-part student-focus postgasm [re: this post, "To Whom it May Concern," and "Statement of Incident"]) is a list of excerpts from my caculus class's response to the question: "To what degree is our entire experience of mathematical truth - as it relates to concrete reality - an issue of dealing with limits?" this question appeared on an intro to limits test, and referenced a discussion we had on plato's allegory of the cave - which i used as a jumping-off-point to talk about the conceptual attractiveness of the mathematical limit.

    "As in life and mathematics, nothing in life is what it seems. Something might have the characteristics of a certain thing, but it will never be a perfect shape or form. There will always be some minor, microscopic flaws that enable anything to be perfect [sic]. For instance, a hoop earring is said to be a circular object, but if you looked close enough you'll see tiny ridges and imperfections that couldn't make it a perfect circle. Another example is that this very paper is considered to be a rectangle, but it's not because its sides aren't perfect 90-degree angles."

    "Limits have everything to do with mathematical truth. As we sit in class grasping concepts of a line or a circle and how perfect they are or the can be the reality of it is that we'd never find the perfect line. A line as we know it is not a line. A line is defined by having no depth or width, but in order for us to see a line without imagining it gives it width [sic]. Really everything is imaginary and what's real is fake."

    "Philosophy says that everything we were taught is to be a lie [sic]. I believe [sic] this six years ago. Although if you think about it long enough everything will still be the truth... We believe only what is taught and have no proof. For if we were to search, ordinary people like us has [sic] made things up but we still are advised to believe what is taught no matter what."

    "Our Mathematical truth to me really is no truth. The truth of all things doesn't ever exist it is just an allusion [sic] of all things. Nothing exists only just an example or explanation of them exists. We could draw straight lines all day long but actually we'll never reach the point of drawing a 100% straight line. The reason is because of the line is never precise it always has crooked and rough edges [sic]. The smallest edge or defect in the line makes it not a line."

    "It's all a lie! You can never achieve a perfect circle or a perfect line or a perfect everything for that matter. Because no matter what, there will always be falacies in the construction so it could be said that the limit to the function of reality is perfection!"

    "real world" my ass [re: "Statement of Incident" sidenote].

    To Whom It May Concern:

    (the following is a letter given to me by an exceptionally talented student of mine. she is by far one the most mature and intelligent people i've met at jim hill, and i'm excited about every opportunity i get to assist her in achieving her goals/aspirations. this post is in some ways an unabashed solicitation on her part [with her permission], in some ways an interesting juxtaposition to the post immediately following [re: "Statement of Incident"], and in some ways merely a witness to the kind of incredible talent that i run into daily - craving every opportunity to futher develop itself.)

    To Whom it May Concern:

    My name is Renee Ombaba, and I am a Sophomore at Jim Hill High School and have been a member of the Jim Hill High School Concert Choir and Chorale since ninth grade. I have been a member of Mississippi State -Honors Choir for the past two years and I have been studying piano for eight years.

    Just recently I learned that I was selected as one of only two students from Jackson Public Schools to perform with the prestigious SOUND OF AMERICA Honor Band and Chorus 2006 European Concert Tour. This group will perform eleven concerts in six countries during its twenty-five day tour. Unsurprisingly, I am thrilled at the possibility of joining the select group of musicians.

    Each participant must pay his or her own expenses estimated at $5,000. Because I am not sure if this opportunity will ever present itself again, I am working to earn some of the money for the trip. However, I will need substantial assistance from the Tri-County Community [Hinds, Rankin, and Madison, MS] to make this dream a reality. If you could possibly make a contribution to assist me in this once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience, I would be very grateful. Please help me be able to perform in some of the great concert halls of Europe by making a contribution to help with the expenses of this unexpected honor. Please make your check payable to:

    Renee Ombaba/Sound of America
    P.O. Box 1575
    Jackson, MS 39213

    For your financial support, I would be honored to perform for any civic club or organization as well as for any business or industrial function upon request. My home phone number is 601-982-4390.

    When I began my music career eight years ago, little did I know I would have such an unique opportunity to perform abroad. Now, with your help, I have a chance to proudly represent Jackson and the United States.

    Thank you for your consideration and support.

    Renee N. Ombaba

    Statement of Incident Occurring Feb 22, 2005 in Room 105

    Physical violence witnessed as an exchange between students A (male) and B (female).

    12:05 PM

    Student A entered class markedly late. Immediately upon his entrance, I went to enquire why Mr. A was so tardy, and - as Student A and I were engaged in this discussion - Student B approached Mr. A and slapped him.

    Thereafter, a violent exchange began as Student A retaliated, at one point having his hands around the neck of Ms. B, who continued to fight/argue with Mr. A.

    Two students - Students C and D - assisted me in getting Mr. A out of the room. At this point, I notice A's nose was bleeding, and - after asking another teacher to monitor him - I returned to the classroom to get him some tissue.

    After the incident, conversations with Student B revealed that - in initially attacking Student A - she was responding to a prior incident where Student A had inappropriately touched her. I am unclear as to whether or not this alleged incident happened in my classroom - but since Student A had very recently entered the room when the confrontation began - I am under the impression that the violation Student B was referring to happened prior to today's class.

    (this post is a copy of the written statement that I gave my administration after witnessing/breaking up a fight in my class [names are changed for the usual reasons]. this was the second fight i'd seen since i'd been at jim hill [the first was at a football game last semester], and the first fight i'd witnessed in my classroom. i'm not going to comment on it too much, but i will note that: in the aftermath i felt a saddening disgust; in many ways the most difficult part about the whole ordeal was not the fight itself, but the fact that i had to continue teaching immediately afterwards; it's endlessly frustrating that most everyone's response to this [the students and administrators included] was along the lines of (a) now you're a teacher, and (b) you ain't seen nothing yet; no one should ever have "to get used to" violence, as if it's one of those innate and grave truths of "the real world." [which is not to say that people do not get used to violence, nor that i won't most likely get used to violence, nor that people do not benefit in some ways by getting used to violence, but rather to find absolute disgust with the romanticized, badge-of-honor notion that there's some "real world" out there which trumps all others, which is fixedly unequal in ways that other "worlds" aren't, and that has a cultural validity that is treated with a coming-of-age exclusiveness that - in its ennobled ownership - prevents a sober perspective on how pathetically "unreal" its own delineations may be, and - in fact - have to be if they are ever to be communicated. there is a huge difference between things existing, things usually existing, and things necessarily having to exist])