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posted May 19, 2010, 7:26 PM by Eddie Woo   [ updated May 19, 2010, 7:47 PM ]
This site is proof of how helpful I think digital resources are. Typed sheets with tough questions and clear diagrams are, it turns out, a great scaffold for the kind of work needed to really learn the difficult concepts that fill the mathematics syllabus in each year.

And yet, sometimes there's no replacement for the real thing. I make it a practice to manually handwrite all the solutions for anything I set my classes - partly to make sure that my handwriting stays legible (it deteriorates very quickly when it isn't used frequently), and also to demonstrate that I don't ask anyone to do anything I won't do myself. On top of that, with the exception of circle geometry, most diagrams are much quicker and easier to draw by hand than on a computer (not to mention what a useful skill it is to be able to construct a helpful diagram).

That's put me in a bit of a funny spot. I have had all these great handwritten worked solutions to exercises and exams filed away in a big folder, slowly increasing in size. From experience I have learnt that these are really valuable resources for learning - so long as you use them properly (and read through them carefully to understand the logic and process, rather than just skimming an answer and thinking you understand it fully). So what was I to do? How could I publish these resources so that they would be useful to the people who need them?

For months, I've simply resorted to photocopying and handing out physical copies to my classes. There hasn't been a solution that has matched photocopying for efficacy and speed. We have a flatbed scanner up in the maths staffroom, but it takes forever to digitise anything of significant size - all said and done, it takes about two minutes per page. This is awful if you consider that my handwritten solutions to something like, say, the 2009 HSC trial paper (three hours in length) are 20 pages long. I don't have 40 minutes of spare time to devote to scanning things. Actually, I hardly have 40 minutes of spare time to devote to anything! So scanning wasn't an option.

Until just now. Recently, the school has been upgrading some of our photocopying machines, and they now have scanning capabilities combined with a document feeder. That's the tray at the top of the photocopier that sucks in and collates all the pages you can cram into it. This morning I went down to the front office and scanned 97 pages in 15 minutes. That would have taken me three hours if I'd done it with our flatbed scanner. This is awesome!

So, to celebrate, I'm now going to start hosting scanned pieces here on the site. I've got lots more on the way, but here are three to start with:
  • Solutions to Exercise 17(b) of the Yellow Fitzpatrick textbook. These are questions on radian measure and circles (so, calculating the lengths of arcs, the areas of sectors and segments, etc.)
  • Solutions to Exercise 6F of the HSC 2U Cambridge textbook. This addresses the Rates of Change topic in year 12.
  • Solutions to selected past HSC questions on rates of change. The Board of Studies exam writers always seem to come up with creative and clever ways to wrap the knowledge and skills of the syllabus in an unfamiliar and challenging format. That's what makes past HSC questions such a good source of revision and preparation for the final exams.
I think that's enough to get you going. Look out for more in the next few days!