Saturday, September 27, 2008

Math Clock

I found the perfect clock in TechEBlog

Probably all people regardless of their math skills can use it, but I really would love to have this in my classroom.


This has been a busy autumn. I had good intentions of updating my blog more often but I just have had no time or energy to do that. Even most of the weekends have been busy. I have been in dog shows and picking mushrooms with Piitu, who hopefully will be a good mushroom dog :) She likes to be in the woods and run among the trees but so far she has only found the mushrooms we found first and showed her with the help of some treats.

We had the final national exams for those who graduate high school and grading the papers is never easy, no matter how much practice I have got. The papers are sent to the national student board to be checked again and that is why I have to be careful. I can’t give too good grades because the students will have high expectations and are disappointed when the results come back after two months. I also can’t be too strict because I still hope that my opinion has some value; if I give low points it has to have an effect to the person who checks them after me. We have general guidelines, but they can never give advice to all the possibilities the students come up with.

On top of all this the worst happened again. After less than a year from the Jokela massacre a new one happened in Kauhajoki. The acts are almost identical. Because I am a teacher I have to face the happenings much more closely than most people and there are many issues which disturb me very much.

First of all, I am very sorry for all the victims and their families and friends. I am also sorry for the family of the student who caused all this. Everything I state below is targeted to our society and habits, not any individual.

Last year my son told me that he does not want to talk about the shooting because that was what the shooter wanted, all the “fame” the news give him. I have come to see that my son was even more right than I could ever have imagined. The event was in all the news for weeks and all the newspapers were competing who got to publish the tiniest piece of information first. When thinking about the past year I can remember only two news items going all over the others: Jokela and the foreign minister’s text message discussion!

Maybe it is typical for all humans but I think it is a very typical Finnish way of reacting; the first thing is to find who is to blame! Should the Minister of the interior be fired, did the police make a mistake when they did not take away the gun, why the disturbed young people aren’t treated or even found after Jokela… these are just the top of the iceberg.

A relatively new thing is the crisis control. There are phone numbers to call and all the health centers have to provide help for recovering the crisis. The schools have been advised that teachers have to handle the case in their classes and discuss it with the children (in my case adults). This is something I object to! All people who want to talk about it must be heard and comforted but no one has to face the discussion against their will. There are people like me who want to think things over by themselves first before we want to talk about it.

I have a very vivid imagination; if people are starting those “What if…?” speculations I really can’t handle all the new thoughts I did not manage to create myself. Talking about shooting and disturbed people to young children I condemn totally. Children have the ability of passing things they do not understand. Why make them anxious about things they were not worried in the first place. They will talk if they need to and then the adults have to answer them but on their level. I have argued about this before. I did not allow my daughter to go to the church children’s club when they told me that their subject following the religious calendar was to talk about death and they would read a book titled “Grandfather has passed away”. Why make 5-year old children worried about grandfather dying. My daughter was 25 when it happened and she had time to prepare.

One striking thing last year and now is blaming the whole thing on the internet. YouTube and games are bad for people and also heavy music. My grandmother thought that The Beatles represented all evil and nowadays Beatles songs are taught in schools. The world is developing and there is nothing we can or should do about it. People under 25 years have grown with the computers and know how to use it. The problem is that most of us older people can’t. The only thing we can do is to learn. Then we can advice the children how to act in the cyber space. I have been in a very close relationship with internet over the past year and I know that many of the myths attached to it are completely wrong.

First of all people want to limit the use of YouTube. Well, it is the biggest but how many people know that there are others. A quick Google search lead to a link Top 31 free alternatives to YouTube (video hosting sites). Who knows how many there are altogether.

A common belief is that all contacts to strangers are dangerous. I have found many foreign friends with whom I have discussions through Skype, GTalk or e-mails. The amount of contacts who have tried something suspicious is very small. If I get an e-mail from FBI confirming that a Nigerian bank is reliable and that they need help, I know it is a scam. I also did not believe the announcements I have won the Australian lottery.

The demands for young people are too hard nowadays. I just sometimes wonder if they really are or if the children are too overprotected. There are problems every person has to face at some point of life. We will not be here forever to take care of things but we have to give responsibility for our children.

The most annoying demands are the trends and advices we are given and condemning those who don’t follow them. Do eat healthy, do not smoke, do not drink, exercise at least 1 hour a day. There are strict limits to your weight, curves for the development of children and even small divergence in them creates confusion. I am old enough to ignore advice I don’t want but I really am worried about young people who don’t have enough confidence to know what is best for them. Actually there are not average people even though we all are tried to force to act average.

One exercise I think is the most important seems to be usually ignored. The frase “Mens sana in corpore sano" is usually construed to mean that only a healthy body can produce or sustain a healthy mind but I think it is the opposite way. If you keep your mind healthy you save yourself from physical illness better. Maybe it is too demanding to exercise one’s brain. To me it is the purpose of life, the only way I can keep my mind as healthy as possible. A good puzzle drives anxious thoughts away and when I have no particular worries I use the demanding ones which need my all brain cells. Finishing one gives me positive energy to save for later.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Online Puzzles

One reason for my slow blog activity has been the new online puzzles on Conceptis website. I have solved both on paper before and loved them but online playing is even more addictive.


This is a game I have played as a child with my sister and also taught it to my children. The purpose of playing was to sink the opponent’s ships before my own ships were sunk. This game is played alone and the task is to find the ships with given clues.

From Battleships rules page:

Each Battleship puzzle represents an ocean with a hidden fleet of ships, which may be oriented horizontally or vertically within the grid such that no ship touches another, not even diagonally. The numbers on the right and on the bottom of the grid show how many squares in the corresponding row and column are occupied by ship segments.

Here is a tutorial showing some tactics. The online game is much faster and you can just click on the squares or on the numbers.

If you want to try the puzzles, you can start here.


Hashi is also sometimes called bridges. They remind me of planar graphs in graph theory even though solving them does not actually involve mathematics.

From the Hashi rules page:

The object is to connect all islands according to the number of bridges so that there are no more than two bridges in the same direction and there is a continuous path connecting all islands together. Bridges can only be vertical or horizontal and are not allowed to cross islands or other bridges.

Here is the tutorial:

And here you can start playing.

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Poland wins 2008 Eurovision Dance Contest!

Congratulations Poland! The best pair won. Finland did not do as well as I had hoped but we won last year....

Marcin Mroczek and Edyta Herbus from Poland won the second Eurovision Dance Contest, which took place tonight in Glasgow, Scotland. Millions of viewers from 21 countries across Europe saw Russia and Ukraine finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively.

read more | digg story

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Back To Work

It’s odd how fast time passes sometimes. I have also noticed that the longer the vacation is, the longer you are worried it is going to end soon. The second week in August I started the worrying and thinking about all of the things I had thought of doing during the holidays. Luckily I got over that but many of the things I had planned are still undone.

School started a week ago. The first days are always exciting and I am worried how many students I will have. This year the long mathematics had the greatest success in years. I even had not enough seats in my classroom and had to borrow some from another classroom. That is a really good thing. In autumn, people are starting the studies and make good decisions but later on part of them always drop off, because of work issues, family, … the reasons are numerous.

I had some setbacks also. The most annoying thing is the wireless network. The school computers in the teachers’ lounge were connected to the municipality network and are now protected with passwords. Whatever anyone wants to do, he/she has to log in and remember to log out afterwards. I can’t attach my laptop to the school network but we have a wireless network also. Something has obviously changed at the same time the other network was set up because I am not able to connect anymore. My settings are the same and I tried also with my new cellular, Nokia E90, I bought this summer.

Both the laptop and the cellular found the network but did not connect to the log in page. Now I’ll just have to wait until someone comes and fixes it. Luckily I have a normal computer in my classroom and I can use my USB flash drive if needed.

This week I was really tired and all my time was spent in preparing the classes, the normal things I do on the computer and sleeping! I was so tired that I slept more than in ages. Maybe the bad weather has also something to do with my mood.

Today I found cool cookies. I have blogged about Tetris wallpapers and Sierpinski cookies before, and now fraskedesigns introduced Tetris cookies. I just wonder how to get the colours so bright. My experience with the food coloring is that it shows up different than you intended...

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