Tag Archives: science literacy

Charles Babbage

Students everywhere, I expect, are thoroughly assimilated into digital culture and not especially interested in its origins and folklore–of which, as it turns out, there is a great deal. Take, for example, Charles Babbage. Babbage was a nineteenth-century polymath who is arguably the father of the computer. The amount of human error involved in mathematical work troubled Babbage, so he set out to invent the difference engine, a steam powered mechanical computer engineered to produce error-free mathematical tabulations.

Babbage’s invention has fascinated people since its inception, and unless I miss my guess, you will see in the course of your teaching career at least a few students interested in the history of computer technology. If so, then this reading on Charles Babbage and the vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet that accompanies it should serve as a short but thorough introduction to this obscure but important and fascinating historical figure.

If your students are up to and for it, you might also consider putting William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s (they are, incidentally, the progenitors of cyberpunk) work of alternate history and speculative fiction, The Difference Engine, in front of them. I like Gibson’s early work (his Neuromancer is a defining text of the cyberpunk genre, and a masterpiece in any case), don’t know much about Sterling, but found the novel fascinating.

Addendum: Please see the comments below from my esteemed high school chum Terry on the role of Ada Lovelace in creating the “software” to make Babbage’s engine actually perform more than basic mathematical tasks.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Richard Feynman on Knowledge and Ignorance

“I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.”

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Independent Practice: Johannes Kepler

If you teach social studies, or just want to induce a student interested in science to read something, this independent practice worksheet on Johannes Kepler might serve everyone well.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Independent Practice: The Renaissance

If you can use it, here is an independent practice worksheet on the Renaissance. There’s a lot of text in this document, so you have plenty of material to revise for emphasis or other purposes if you need to.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Weekly Text, November 9, 2018

This week’s Text (after missing last week) is something I whipped up pretty much on the fly about three years ago when I was assigned an eight-meeting class conducted over eight weeks on math and science literacy. This literacy lesson on the polysemous word bond is, as I look at it now, an odd melange of stuff. Depending on what it is you want kids to understand, there are materials here for one extended lesson–I wrote this for a sixty-one-minute long period–or a couple of different short exercises.

The first document, because I worked in economics and finance-themed high school, is this Cultural Literacy worksheet on bond as a financial instrument. These two context clues worksheets on the verb and noun bond in the sense of attaching or joining follow; logically, I guess, this short reading and comprehension exercise on chemical bonds rounds out this deck. I also, for some reason, made up this learning support with three definitions of bond from Merriam-Webster’s 11th Edition.

Now that I think about it, Bronx County summoned me to jury duty before I had a chance to use this material. The coverage teacher who used it did say students received it relatively well.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Prescient Carl Sagan

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology. This is clearly a prescription for disaster.”

Carl Sagan

Excerpted from: Grothe, Dr. Marty. Metaphors Be with You. New York: Harper, 2016.

Hypothesize (vi/vt)

OK, here on a insufferably muggy October afternoon in The Bronx is a context clues worksheet on the verb hypothesize. Used intransitively, this verb means to make a hypothesis; transitively, it means to adopt as a hypothesis.

Small wonder English language learners puzzle over this language.

If you find typos in these document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.