Sam Lloyd, Master of Puzzles

Sam Lloyd was born in Philadelphia in 1841, but lived most of his life in New York. He was primarily a chess player and composer of chess problems, but he also delighted in mathematical puzzling. Actually, not just mathematical puzzles, but word puzzles; picture puzzles; tangrams; he composed thousands of them. In fact, it was one of his pictorial puzzles which grabbed my attention at a very early age, and possibly sparked my enjoyment of such puzzles. Have a look ...

Essays about Character: Analysis, Not Re-description

In your earlier years, writing about characters by re-describing them in your own words was quite acceptable, but as an IB diploma student that won't work.  First, you need to change your thinking from 'character' to 'characterization.' This last is the kind of critical thinking you need to engage in: 'how does the writer create the character' rather than 'who is this character.'  Writing about characterization is something you can usefully do in essays and oral presentations and get good ...

Digital Theatre

Following up on last month's post about the suggested option, 'Literature and Film,' which focuses on adaptations from text to film, here's another suggestion for those teaching plays in far-flung places where live theatre is not a matter of easy access. Again, this allows individual students to view the materials on their own time, and allows you to make the best use of class meeting time. A workshop participant introduced us to 'Digital Theatre Plus,' a site not only for viewing ...

Being Knowledgeable

One of the ten attributes of the ideal learner in the IB Learner Profile is to be knowledgeable. Maybe of all of them this is the one which seems most clearly to connect to TOK, although many would argue that all attributes have a special connection with TOK or even that it is in and through TOK that the Learner Profile attributes are most fully realised. Be that as it may, one could also say that for many students, teachers ...

Moral Machines

Have you seen this video? https://www.youtube.com/watch?=21&v=XCO8ET66xE4 You'll find it on this page http://moralmachine.mit.edu/ at the MIT website, 'A platform for gathering a human perspective on moral decisions made by machine intelligence, such as self-driving cars. We show you moral dilemmas, where a driverless car must choose the lesser of two evils, such as killing two passengers or five pedestrians. As an outside observer, you judge which outcome you thing is more acceptable.  You can then see how your responses compare with those of other ...

What Price Freedom of Expression?

It would be stretching things to call me a rebel, or subversive, or even a dissident, but I have recently had my words censored! Well, OK, maybe not 'my' words exactly, but the words of a student in two pages of a book I co-authored together with S. Poppy and J. Paterson, The Visual Arts Course Companion (Oxford University Press, 2017). What happened? Large sections of two pages were obscured by what looks like brown paper, because the Chinese authorities clearly took exception ...

How Philosophy Can Save Your Love Life

Rare are the books which combine light-touched erudition and insightful confessions. John Kagg’s ‘American Philosophy’ certainly succeeds on both accounts. This title may first appear misleading for an early candid exploration into a failed marriage if the author-narrator didn’t prove to be a professional researcher of the origins of this strange outgrowth of the Western tradition: American Philosophy. The accidental discovery of a long abandoned family library in the remote mountains of New Hampshire prompts a most unusual journey of philosophical ...

Literature and Film

Currently, 'Literature and Film' is one of the most popular 'suggested options' under Part 4: Options (a bit confusing, to say the least, though it all shakes out as 'Free Choice', really). There are a lot of great ideas coming from creative classrooms and here are a few from workshop participants which you might not have considered. Madame Bovary is not an easy text for many of today's students, but using film can function as a complement to reading the novel.   ...

Help with your IB Mathematics

Whether you are in the first weeks of your diploma course, or whether you are halfway through, there are always going to be some parts of the maths syllabus that make you scratch your head! Over the past couple of years some of the blogs I have written have concentrated on specific topics which I know can benefit from further explanation. I thought it would be helpful to list those blogs here: a reference for those that are new to ...

The Avogadro Project

This sounds like some sort of clandestine secret government project I think but in fact, it is something far more interesting! The Avogadro projects earliest rumblings began in the 1990’s and were linked in with defining the kilogram. Its results were published in January 2011 and updated in 2015. The ultimate aim of the project was to provide the most accurate determination ever of the Avogadro constant. It involved an international collaboration of many scientists. As nearly all good IB students will ...