If I had my druthers, here's what I'd love for all of my Algebra 2 students to have under the tree on December 25th, (or some other time this holiday season) separated into categories:
STOCKING STUFFERS (Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Friends)
- Great for placing emphasis on steps, color coding elements of formulas, or triggering reminders of side-notes the student took during class
- Grid paper notebooks
- I had my students purchase grid paper composition books (or notebooks) this year, and it changed my teaching to be able to have them sketch (appropriately neat) graphs in their notes without having to have coordinate grid squares handy every day. Also, the students didn't have to tape/staple said squares into their "regular" notebook. Graphs, equations, and charts are all right next to each other, all in context.
- Personalized pencils
- My mom bought me 2 pencils when I went off to college that had "Charles" written on the side of them, and I cherished them so much I couldn't bear to sharpen one until this past summer. They sat in my desk waiting for that right moment for about 10 years. So.... having a lot of personalized pencils would have softened the blow of using them the first time. As far as my students, I've kept track of the pencils alright, and my students need some help in that department.
- Zebra mechanical pencils
- These metal pencils have a feel similar to using a pen, and for reasons similar to the pencils listed above, your student will probably keep track of this longer (and feel more important). I hunted a Zebra ballpoint down for a week once in high school.
- Erasers (Magic Rub)
- Mathematics and problem solving can be messy work - I always feel more ready to make mistakes and try a ton of different approaches when I'm working in pencil with a great eraser, than with ink. Finality is fantastic, but kids need to be okay with starting over sometimes.
UNDER THE TREE (Brother, Sister, Close Friends, Mom, Dad, Grandparents)
If the only place my students ever read about math is in their textbook, they're always going to think no one really does anything with math.
- Freakonmics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Levitt and Dubner)
- Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance (Levitt and Dubner)
- The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure (Hans Magnus Enzenberger)
- Euclid's Window: The Study of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace (Leonard Mlodinow)
- Cartoon Guide to...
- The Manga Guide to...
- How to Lie with Statistics (Darrell Huff)
- Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive in Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail (Danica McKellar)
- Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss (Danica McKellar)
- Hot X: Algebra Exposed (Danica McKellar)
- Any sodoku
- TI - 36X Pro ($18.97) or Casio FX-300ESPLUS ($12.99)
- These beefy scientific calculators are closer to what scientific calculators in 2012 should be. Can do most statistics, trigonometry, and functions work a graphing calculator can besides the graphing, yet comes in under $20, probably less than you might spend on some of those books.
- Casio Prizm FX-CG10 Color Graphing Calculator ($108.35)
- I've said before, I'd rather students not have to carry a dedicated calculator, but I beg of you, save $40 and buy the top of the line Casio graphing calculator instead of the Texas Instruments. This Prizm has the same functionality as the TI NSpire CX, at a fraction of the cost.
- I would buy my own children a Casio for literacy reasons, as well. Most math teachers are still largely unfamiliar with how the menus on Casios function and are organized, so a student with a Casio has to be skilled at reading and following manuals. I've seen some kids sink because of this, but it wasn't because they couldn't, but because they wouldn't. I like knowing I'm nurturing young technical readers.
- Livescribe Echo Smartpen ($75.99)
- Not just a pen, the Livescribe will record audio, and track pen movements when used with the dedicated notebooks (yes, I know, another investment).
- Livescribe pencasts are the selling point for me. You could use anything to record audio, but the pencasts can be replayed on a phone, tablet, laptop, or PC and students have their very own Khan Academy-style videos.
- Apple iPad Mini ($458) or Amazon Kindle Fire ($199)
- Everyone knows that tablets put learning in the palm of your hands. I may not be reading books all the time, but I'm definitely reading more content (blogs, professional websites) since my school district gave me an iPad last September, and students are going to need them in college, anyway.
- Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook ($24.95)
- Evernote is fantastic for curate material and easily search text and notes later on, but not everyone wants to take notes on a tablet or laptop all the time. This notebook has special paper and tagging stickers that, when paired with a tablet or smartphone, allow you to upload those handwritten notes into your Evernote account and search/catalog however you please.