Wednesday, May 29, 2013

FastFig Video Tutorials!

Greetings Figsters!

We wanted to let you know that our FastFig video tutorials are up and live!

You can check them out on our favorites playlist on YouTube. What's that? That's two too many clicks for you? Well, okay, here you go:

Also, one of our many awesome users, Sarah Welker, is an educator after our own heart. She mentioned FastFig in a recent blog post about the many great math ed tools on the Internet. Definitely worth adding to your RSS reader and taking a look.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Introducing FastFig Premium

Hey there Fig Buddies,

Today, after many long months of work, we’re excited to announce the next level of FastFig. FastFig Premium brings the convenience and power of FastFig to your mobile devices, allowing you to type and solve math anywhere from a tablet or phone.

FastFig Premium is less than $6 per month for six months, and the first month is free. For new users, FastFig Premium also gives you unlimited FigPad storage and the ability to print and save pads as pdfs, as well as access to all the new and upcoming FastFig features as they are rolled out.

We really hope you’ll consider trying out the new FastFig Premium, even if it’s just to see how cool it is to use on your tablet or phone.

As always, if you’ve got any feedback for us on how to make FastFig more awesome, or ways we can help you teach and solve math better, we’d love to hear from you. Just drop us a line at, or tweet us at @FastFig.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Math Monday: Is Being Good at Math More Important Than Being Smart?

Greetings, Fig Friends, and welcome to the first of our recurring Math Monday blog posts. We'll use these monthly posts to note some fun news or ideas from the world of math and education, just in case you're not all as weirdly obsessed with math news as we are.
"We're not saying to lower math standards, but we ought to require math that is appropriate for the direction students want to go in," said Marc Tucker, president of NCEE, a nonpartisan education think tank funded by private donations and government grants. "Otherwise, we produce failure where no failure is necessary." 
(Ed. note: FastFig is against unnecessary failure. We're all about necessary failure, though.)
Researchers recommend that high schools ensure that all students master a basic algebra course and then offer options that suit other professions, such as statistics or geometry, rather than the "one-size-fits-all" thinking behind the math curriculum that most schools require of graduates...
Pam Guenther, who teaches algebra at Santa Barbara City College in California, has "mixed feelings" about recommended changes to math curriculum. "I like the idea that we teach what is necessary," she said. "But at 16 or 17, do you really know what you want to be when you grow up?"
Ritchie and Bates found that participants' reading and math ability at age 7 were linked to their social class a full 35 years later. Participants who had higher reading and math skills as children ended up having higher incomes, better housing, and better jobs in adulthood. The data suggest, for example, that going up one reading level at age 7 was associated with a £5,000, or roughly $7,750, increase in income at age 42. 
The long-term associations held even after the researchers took other common factors into account. 
"These findings imply that basic childhood skills, independent of how smart you are, how long you stay in school, or the social class you started off in, will be important throughout your life."
Kenneth Appel: Brought math to the computer
  •  Lastly, we'd like to note the passing of Kenneth Appel. Appel and his colleague Wolfgang Haken proved the Four-Colour Theorem at UIC in 1976, which was rad, but what was more important was that he did it with a computer. Solving a century-old theorem with a computer was a major change for the way mathematicians interacted with technology, and absolutely changed the way computers were viewed. As people who are redefining by the ways one can use computers to help with math, we view Appel as a sort of patron saint of FastFig.

In your multimedia section:

If you haven't yet checked out our little appearance on Lehigh Valley Tech Radio, it's entertaining and includes an entrepreneurship game you can play along at home.
Here's a video, courtesy of the University of Rochester, of baboons understanding quantity:
And, not really related to math but still cool, here's a video of the first music video from space, as social media star astronaut Chris Hadfield records David Bowie's "Space Oddity":
You're welcome. Happy Monday!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Online Classroom – Boon or Bane to a Teacher’s Existence?

I was speaking with a teacher friend of mine the other day about his normal day at school. He confirmed the assumption I have always held that a New York minute cannot hold a candle to a teacher’s time. I was exhausted after hearing about his normal day of juggling faculty meetings, team collaboration discussions, grading papers, preparing lesson plans, answering questions from students outside of class, copying handouts, parent-teacher discussions, teaching multiple subjects, and after school activities.   

He mentioned the online resources his school uses, which has a student population that is predominately in middle to upper middle class, that let him post assignments, calendars, grades, handouts, and other tools online. He made note how the system has alleviated his time in some regards but created more work in others – easier communication with parents, one more thing to maintain in the classroom, and a greater demand of students wanting instant feedback on grades.

I remember using such a system in undergraduate school because it allowed my professors to post extra examples online that were not discussed in class or textbooks, let me print out the homework assignments and handouts without being fearful of losing them, and kept me better in tune with what was going on in the classroom.  And I do remember refreshing the page constantly waiting for my grades to be posted – exacerbating the instant feedback frenzy.

But this led me to think about the schools that have student populations with far lower household incomes. I can see how my friend’s school could easily use this technology since it is safe to assume the students and parents easily have access to the internet and computers at home. This isn’t necessarily the case for our poorer school districts. So are there any teachers out there who work in low-income districts that use this technology and have found creative solutions to overcome the lack of internet access at home for students? What was the justification to fund such technology in these districts?

And for every teacher who uses this technology, how has it helped you in your classroom? Do you wish these services would improve in certain areas? And are there unintended consequences from using such technology that have in some ways made your job a little harder?