Coloured letter combination cards

If you read different teaching blogs, you will find thousands of brilliant ideas that have taken a lot of creativity, effort and planning to create.

This is not one of those. This was an idea I had during lunch, literally less than half an hour before the lesson started. And really, I should have done it earlier given how obvious it seems now.

So my Year 12 Maths Methods class has just begun Probability - so hooray, we've reached the home stretch! While combinatorics is a Year 11 topic, my students often forget how they work - indeed, most of the class had even forgotten what factorials are. In the past, I've demonstrated combinations by choosing from whatever set of objects I had close to hand - often my coloured whiteboard markers.

This year, I made these instead:

letter cards

Six laminated pieces of paper! Okay, I know I'm not really blowing any minds, but sometimes the really useful ideas are the simple ones. And I made four sets, so it's twenty-four laminated cards, anyway ;)

Hopefully the paperclip gives some idea of how big they are - they're actually a quarter of an A4 sheet each. There's something about my class that I've never mentioned that makes the large size important. One of my students looks like this:

video conferencing system

Okay, my student isn't a TV and a camera, not really. One of the issues of being in a small rural school is the difficulty in offering VCE classes. Sometimes not enough students choose the subject to justify it, and sometimes it's difficult to get teachers who can teach those subjects. We have a few options for dealing with this, one of which is receiving classes via video conferencing from other schools. We contribute by delivering some subjects ourselves, including Maths Methods 3 & 4 by me.

One of my students is in another school, but is taught by me. At the other end, the student uses two TVs - one shows the view of the camera, and and the other shows my laptop's screen. Because I use an interactive whiteboard, he can see everything I write, as well as anything I else I choose to display.

I made the cards big so they would be easy to see over the camera. There's many challenges to teaching this way, but that's a post for another time.

By the way, if you didn't work it out, that's me in the TV taking the photo.

Because this lesson was about combinations, we also got to talk about the ten pin bowling thing I mentioned a while ago.

If anyone wants the file I used to make the cards, you can get it here: lettercards.docx. Though I only spent a couple of minutes making it, so I'm sure a little effort could make something much better looking.

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Shaun used to be maths, IT and ocassional physics teacher at a small P-12 school (primary and secondary) in rural Victoria, Australia. He is currently in the process of starting his career again in the United States.

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