Math Online, and a Math Blog, too

by Yule Heibel on September 20, 2005

Rooting around on e-learning blogs, I found out about two math sites, at least one of which is a gem: Interactive Math. It’s an excellent resource for anyone studying or teaching math topics from algebra to higher calculus. Another site that was mentioned is HeyMath, recently advocated by Thomas Friedman in this editorial in the New York Times. I checked the site out and confess that my first impression was, “pffft.” That is, I didn’t like it.

Thanks to Interactive Math, I could read a review that articulated both my problem with visiting HeyMath, and that touched on some of my many problems with Friedman. There’s a link to a blog, SquareCircleZ, specifically its math category archives, which includes the following review:

Thomas Friedman was in Singapore recently to deliver a talk (read ‘book promotion’) on his theory that “The Earth is Flat”. The talk was okay, but I found Friedman somewhat condescending in tone. While I agree that technology can help to level the playing field and help poorer nations have a better competitive edge, I felt some of his notions were rather simplistic. I guess it all depends on whether you regard globalisation as a good thing or not.

Anyway, having been here for a short time, Friedman becomes an expert on the Singapore education system. He wrote an article for the New York Times, Still Eating Our Lunch. In it, he waxes lyrical about the high standard of mathematics and science in Singapore and how it is comfortably beating the US in international standard tests. (The article was published today in the Straits Times rebranded as “Singapore’s Racing US to the top”.)

He also promotes (HeyMath) in the article. HeyMath is a consortium of British, Singapore and Indian mathematics educators that has apparently put together a good math site. But it seems that Friedman didn’t even check out the site. There is nothing to see (except a summary and some Flash promotional animations) and no indication how you get (buy?) a password to login. [from SquareCircleZ]

Exactly: it’s user-unfriendly, there’s nothing to tell a first-time user how to access the supposed golden goodies available here. Plus, it needs “the latest Flash Player to use the HeyMath site,” but even that doesn’t tell you what else you might need. Registration? Payment? What? Maybe HeyMath is as good as Friedman claims, but its current welcome page doesn’t seem very inviting.

As for the mysterious (no ‘about’ link) SquareCircleZ, he (I’m guessing) also has an excellent article, How to Survive the Math Blues, which I am putting on my kids’s “must-read” list. We’ll probably be visiting this blog and the Interactive Math site on a regular basis from now on.


Zac September 22, 2005 at 12:12 am

I got an evaluation password for HeyMath – my review:

Yule Heibel September 22, 2005 at 3:04 pm

Hi Zac, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the review, which is very instructive. I also appreciated your reference to Roger Schank (in a related entry, which you link to in your review), whose work I don’t know about, but who seems to be striving for a constructivist approach I can really get behind. I checked his books out on Amazon as well as my local library — unfortunately, they only have one, but it could be a good ‘un, on children’s education (“Coloring Outside the Lines”). The e-learning book you mention, although targetting corporate e-learning, sounds like it might be really useful for pre-college or college e-learning, too.

I plan to write something more and comment on your blog, too, but for now must run — am way behind in my tasks here…

Anonymous September 22, 2005 at 11:58 pm

Hi Yule,

Somehow I missed this post earlier this week. I’m grateful for your links re:HeyMath. Apparently HeyMath is at levels above my own children, so my long-awaited email from HeyMath only told me that they wouldn’t be able to help me. Zac’s review is helpful too.
I’ve enjoyed nrich, which I found by Googling for HeyMath:
lots of great games and ideas for kids.

Yule Heibel September 27, 2005 at 6:39 pm


Yule Heibel September 27, 2005 at 6:43 pm

Ok, there’s some code in the comment I want to post in answer to your question, Julie, that’s getting me kicked out of my own comments board. So I’m going to try to rephrase it, without some of the html that might be messing things up:

I don’t know the program you mention (will check it out though), but for your kids (bright, open to challenge, younger, willing to be engaged), I’d suggest Gnarly Math, which has a commercial site where they sell their wares, as well as a website for their Newsletter, which is always engaging, funny, smart, and mathematical. The current issue is all about Ch’in Shih-Huang-Ti, Emperor of China, who “arranged that measurements of length and weight would be the same throughout his kingdom.” The newsletter is written like a newspaper, albeit a newspaper for hip kids. So, in the reportage on Ch’in Shih-Huang-Ti, we find out that this dude, like, burned books, but Gnarly News intrepidly finds a young mathematician and interviews her [sic; it’s all very pc!] to learn about ancient Chinese math. Like “Arithmetic in Nine Sections,” and tortoises with numbers on their backs… which add up a magic square…. And so on and so forth. Every two months or so it’s a different mathematical theme, with pretty interesting stuff that opens onto other deep math issues. Definitely narrative-style, contextual, and problem-based. Funky, too. Lots of fun. See their main site (which is also their store) to sign up for the free newsletter. (I deleted the code for the newsletter itself, since I suspect that it may be messing things up…)

The other thing I’d recommend really really highly is a book called the Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger — this is a great book, told as almost a kind of fairy-tale bedtime story. But with cool stuff, like Fibonacci sequences, golden sections, etc. Very good. I see there’s a computer/ software game based on the book available now, but I don’t know anything about that. (deleted code for the software game, but can be easily found on Amazon using “number devil” as search term…)

Oh, speaking of computer games: this one is great, but I don’t know if it’s widely available (we got it by way of fluke) — Operation Neptune. This is one hell of a great game, great fun for younger kids, too.

mark October 17, 2006 at 8:27 am

thanx yule

i will just check it out

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