Monthly Archives: February 2015

Longwood Gardens

Yesterday my aunt took my son and I to Longwood Gardens.  I was complaining of the winter blues and right now they are having their Orchid Extravaganza display.  Everyone should visit Longwood if only for the smell!

Of course, beauties like these are a real mood lifter too 🙂  Can you believe these actually exist?  It looks like someone painted them

IMG_1423And then, since I am a nerd, I started thinking about petals and spirals and all the math behind the symmetry of these plants.



There is a great website here that will explain what I am referring to when you try designing your own flower.

As beautiful as all the flowers were, I got distracted by something else.  The amazing Longwood Gardens logo.  I realized that the logo held my attention because it mimics the fascinating circular and symmetric designs in many of the flowers.

And then I was off thinking of how you could combine math and art to create all kinds of cool projects.  Create your own logo using a compass and ruler.  Can you figure out how many degrees of the circle are in each spiral of the design?   Etc. Etc.  All in one trip to a garden.  Just goes to show that math is everywhere…if you just know where to look.

Un Nouveau Course…French 1 Offered this Fall


Registration for Aim classes in the 2015-2016 school year will open on March 2nd.  This school year I will be teaching Algebra 1, SAT Math prep, and French 1.  There is additional information about the math classes on this website but French is the surprising new class for me this year. Here is a brief explanation of why I decided to add French.

In 7th grade I enrolled in a French class with my twin older brothers on a whim.  To my mom’s great surprise I absolutely loved it and soon excelled.  Year by year French became a more and more important part of my education and by the time I was a senior I was spending 2 hours a day preparing for the AP French exam.  When I was accepted at Pitt I declared French as my major and later added on the math.  Pitt is known for its foreign language programs and I completed a thorough an excellent program while there.  Our classes were taught in French, we wrote persuasive essays in French, and even held our own political debates.

French opened the doors to so many opportunities for me.  My family ended up hosting French exchange students 3 times while I was in high school.  I was able to travel to France twice for brief visits and then spent 6 week there during college.  I learned so much…a second language…how to adapt to another culture…and even gained a better grasp of my own native language.

French is a wonderful choice as a second language because it is beautiful and because it is spoken in so many different parts of the world.  I’ve used it as a backup language in the Middle East, Europe, and even Vietnam.  As a romance language it also helps you understand Spanish, Italian, and even some Portuguese.

This fall I am excited to offer French 1 and introduce a new group of students to all the wonderful discoveries I made.



We’re in the midst of cabin fever here in PA…the winter doldrums have definitely set in.  But one way I am keeping myself entertained is by watching the TV series Numb3rs (now on Netflix).

It is a crime-fighting math show…I know, I know my husband laughs at me every time I say that. So…yeah…”nerd alert.”  The show initially aired on Friday nights at 10 pm which tells you a little bit about their audience (of which I was an original member!). But the show really does incorporate high-level mathematics into all of its episodes.  In the show Charlie Epps is a mathematician who consults for the FBI and uses equations, data analysis, etc. to pinpoint the killer.  Here’s a clip:

Quick disclaimer…it is a crime show so some episodes may have inappropriate content (use discretion).

If you’re fascinated by the math in one of the episodes Wolfram Research partnered with the creators of the show to create supplementary material.  They list all the episodes by season on their website.

If you’re snowed in or a little bored with you math textbook check out one of these episodes instead.

Nickels and dimes…how hard could it be?

While on the MAA site I found this problem.  Give it a try…but be careful.  I sat down with a pen and paper and quickly neglected my to-do list of laundry and grading.  It’s trickier than it looks and it kind of sucks you in.  Suddenly I was writing out x’s and y’s…crossing that out and drawing a table…deciding the penny should never have been invented etc.  Hopefully your method is a little more elegant than mine 🙂

Post your solutions or ideas as a comment below.

The New SAT: How to Prepare

First I want to offer my sympathies to the class of 2017.  The New SAT is being launched in spring 2016 and the new PSAT launches this October which is incredibly inconvenient for you.  I’m sorry…the timing is terrible.  I’ll post information about the options you have as soon as I get more details from the College Board.  I want to help you navigate this transition as easily as possible.

However, once the transition happens the change will be for the better.  Instead of learning lots of tricks that only apply to taking standardized tests you’ll now prepare by focusing on becoming a good mathematician. The new test rewards the hard working math student with straight-forward questions drawn from a typical high school math curriculum.  So what steps can you take to get ready?

  1. Follow a rigorous course of study in high school. Completing Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 before you take the test will prepare you better than anything else.  Of the three geometry is probably the least important…but I wouldn’t skip it entirely (more on that in a future post).  When you’re taking these classes be sure you thoroughly understand the material.  Don’t skip to problems at the end of the section (like I did!).  See if you can explain the concepts to a younger sibling.   Talk about what you are learning with your friends or parents. This will prepare you for the higher-level questions on the SAT.
  2. Spend time developing your problem solving skills. Signing up for programs like Drexel University’s Problem of the Week will give you lots of practice with multi-step math problems.  Or you could join a math club or co-op class so you have the opportunity to work in groups and discuss mathematics.  Do something that involves mixing skills together and applying the concepts you have learned to real-life situations.
  3. Sign up with Khan Academy. This is a great and completely free resource.  The College Board is partnering with Sal Khan to create lots and lots of free test prep.  They’ve given Khan Academy exclusive access to sample questions so that excellent test prep material can be developed.  If you haven’t been to the Khan Academy site recently you should check it out, in addition to their famous videos they now have quizzes and points that you can earn.  It is a lot of fun 🙂
  4. Finally, look for Redesigned SAT Prep materials which are coming out this year. The main one I am watching is the College Board’s guide due out this June.  All the other test prep books should be releasing new editions, make sure if you buy one it is for the “redesigned SAT.”  Personally, I am going to stick with the College Board resources for now because they fully understand the changes.

Those are the suggestions I have for now.  I’ll keep you updated as the College Board releases new information.