Wednesday, November 01, 2006

we all love product placement everyday...

While I was busy immersing myself in all sorts of ways to create a French environnment in my classroom, another conference was also giong on in Regina. Yet again not knowing anything, it may or may not have been a big deal. Sci-matics, the annual math/science conference. I think it is annual and provincial. I guess I will find out next year when I go (alternating French Math seems like a plan to me).

Anywho, the staff who went to Sci-matics are super. They brought me back presents! Merci beaucoup other staff. A spectrum pen, some handouts, a CD with graphing calculator games/exercises from the fine folks at Texas Instruments and a package from CBS.

Oh yes, that's right. CBS. The tv people. They are the brainchild (with a helping hand from Texas Instuments) of the "We all use math everyday" program. Right off the bat this sounds awesome. A program supporting math and providing cool activities can't be bad can it? can it? Hmmmm.

The WAUMED program has at its base the tv show Numb3rs. Oh. I've never watched Numb3rs, mainly cause I watch too much tv already. Maybe it's a great show. I'm still not sure I was to shamelessly promote it in my classroom. Even when you pair math teachers, university professors and the calculator people to make up activities about a tv show, the bottom line still apprears to be advertising for the tv show. The activities can be made to stand alone (or so they claim) but they focus on math used in the episodes.

Each week, the fine folk from WAUMED publish 3-5 acitivities that correspond to the math used in the upcoming episode. It does appear like the include all sorts of cool ressources for follow up things if the students interest is piqued (that are not related to the show), but the lessons themselves are full of dorky plugs. Unnessesary plugs. While it would be fairly easy to modify this stuff, why put it in there in the first place? It feels like the NCTM sold out on this one.

One of the sample activities is about cryptography. A brief history on cryptography is given as well as an example of where "Charlie" receives a coded message in the show. Followed by a really solid lesson on creating ciphers and modular math, examples included. Ok, I'm willing to let the reference to the show in the intro go, seeing as they are most likely paying for this stuff, and we are supposed to be linking where this would be used in a real life situation. On to the student participation aspect. It asks the students to code their own sentence. Logical considering the lesson. However, having the student code the sentence "I watch numbers every Friday" is so cheesy and lame it hurts. Now, it's not hard to have you students code a different sentece or something of their choice, but this just became something that I couldn't just print and use. Unless of course I wanted to get into a discussion about product placement in our lives. And then this becomes an awesome lesson.

Argh. I put the we all use math everyday poster up in my classroom because it abides by the Quebec laws - what I want the kids to read is over triple the size of the CBS ad in the corner. But still. I feel like I'm being used by a network. Isn't this where selling out starts? Subtle manipulations that we ignore because we think the good is better than the evil?

And even if I use the cheesiness to discuss product placement, selling out, etc, with my kids, doesn't the network attain their goal anyway? We're still talking about them, their show and what they're doing. Something about all press is good press...

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