Whatever happened to …

… typewriting mathematics?

Since last weekend’s post about double spaces, I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing about typewriting.

Sure, it was a skill that landed some folks a job but there is more than just learning to type the right keys.  So many self-taught people missed out on the academics of learning to type and document creation.  I note the parallel of the decline in typing with the fall in mathematics scores.  Is there a correlation?


Thanks, Morguefile.
Note:  Our typewriters were Underwoods.
A Mercedes typewriter would have been very cool.

Learning to type is more than just the tapping of the appropriate key.  In fact, it was packed with mathematics.

Of course, you needed a textbook – after all, we learned to type in high school where there generally was a textbook for everything.  You can buy one at a discount here.  I looked but could not find the one that we used.  I seem to remember it having a brown and tan cover.  Probably the lack of sales for textbooks is reflected in the fact that so much is online.  Like here.  It even includes timed writings – the ultimate test of speed acquisition in typing!  And, a great problem to be assigned for solution in a Computer Science class.

But, back to the mathematics.

Line Length:

Who can forget the instruction to “Set a 60 stroke line”.  Now, to the newbie, that appears to be easy.  Just set the left margin to zero and the right margin to 60.  Of course, since this is academia, that doesn’t work.  Whatever the instructions, you had to make sure that the final document was centred on the sheet of typing paper.  “Set a 70 stroke line”

White Space:

Speaking of centring, you always, always, had to make sure that you had an appropriate amount of white space on the resulting document.  This generally meant a one inch border, top and bottom, on the 8.5 x 11″ sheet of paper.  I can remember us having to work it out with carriage returns and sample letters.  The reason why it worked ever time?  Mono-spaced keys!

To make things more challenging, we used to get cast aways from the Practice Office and we’d type on the back of them.  That made more opportunities to determine white space when we’d use 8.5 x 14″ sheets of paper or paper that had gone through the paper chopper so be odd sizes.

Timed Writings:

Typing is competitive.  Of that, there can be no doubt.  Who can forget.

“Hands on the home row, feet flat on the floor, eyes on your copy …. Begin

And we were off and typing.  Our teacher had a specialize clock with squeezable controls that he would start and a bell would go off when the typing was done.  At the bell, hands had to go up in the air so there were no extra letters after the bell.  Typically, our timed writings would be 1, 2, or 5 minutes in length,  Typing also involved finger stamina.  Nobody had ever heard of carpal tunnel syndrome.  Was it because of our proper technique at the time?  As I write this, my Chromebook is in my lap, I have my right leg under my left, my wrists are indeed touching the computer, and I’m reclined in my chair watching Formula 1 qualifying.  So much terrible technique.

At the conclusion of the speed test, the mathematics kicked in.  The textbook had the number of keystrokes off to the right of the text.  It was a matter of adding them up to get a total.  Then, heavy duty mathematics.  Results were always words per minute so some calculation was needed if you’re doing a 5 minute test.  Then, there were the extra keystrokes on that last line if you didn’t finish a complete one.


Yet another skill that gave us an appreciation for odd and even numbers.  To centre a title on the screen, you had to move the carriage to dead centre.  Then, left hand finger on the text to be centred and right hand on the backspace key and it was a matter of one backspace for every two characters to be centred.  See also page numbers…

This was a skill not to be limited to one point in time.  There was also typewriter art and reinforced at Christmas time typing symmetrical Christmas trees.  This was also easily transferred to a Computer Science activity.

Learning while typing

One of the things that could be accomplished was learning by submission.  I know that we were told not to read the content but to just read the letters and type.  I could never do that.  I always enjoyed reading what I was typing and I can remember a couple of the texts that included some bios of famous mathematicians.

Ah, the memories.  The things that today’s youth will never know and experience.  (or even truly understand!)  It’s interesting to see how these things that we learned manually are just a mouse click and/or drag away in a modern word processor.

How about your thoughts for a Sunday?  Please don’t get too serious; enjoy biting your tongue as much as I did as you share your thoughts.

  • Yes, so much of what we learned has now been relegated to a button in a word processor.  Are there any valuable skills that we’re getting rid of by doing this?
  • In any text, words have varying lengths.  In typing, a “word” is a strictly defined term that’s needed for determining those extra words on the last line.  How many characters are there in a “typing word”?
  • Do you remember the name brand of your first typewriter?
  • Did you have a typewriter at home?
  • How many strokes after the bell warning on a typewriter did you have before you hit the right margin?
  • At the end of the line, the left hand was used to press the return bar and move the carriage back.  How did you double space?  Or one and a half line space?
  • A no-no was to grab the paper and rip it from the roller when you were done.  It made a very distinct noise.  What was the proper way to remove your paper?

As always, I would encourage you to share your memories – this time about the mechanics of typing class and possible mathematics connections.  I challenge you to make it fun to read!

OTR Links 07/29/2018

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

@voicEd #twioe Playlist – Weeks 46-50

The voicEd radio This Week in Ontario Edublogs summary continues with Week 46.  This picks up on December 29, 2017.

Week 46

voicEd Radio Show:  https://soundcloud.com/voiced-radio/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-with-doug-peterson-december-27?in=voiced-radio/sets/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-with-doug-peterson

twioe Blog Post:  https://dougpete.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-288/

Featured posts by:  Paul McGuire, Matthew Oldridge, Julie Balen, jennifer Aston, Jonathan So, TESL Ontario, Kyle Pearce

Week 47 

voicEd Radio Show:  https://soundcloud.com/voiced-radio/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-with-doug-peterson-january-3?in=voiced-radio/sets/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-with-doug-peterson

twioe Blog Post:  https://dougpete.wordpress.com/2018/01/05/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-289/

Featured posts by:   Peter McAsh, Helen Kubiw, Ramona Meharg, Laura Wheeler, Deborah Weston, Stephen Hurley, Tina Zita

Week 48

voicEd Radio Show:  https://soundcloud.com/voiced-radio/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-with-doug-peterson-january-10?in=voiced-radio/sets/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-with-doug-peterson

twioe Blog Post:  https://dougpete.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-290/

Featured posts by: Anne Marie Luce, Deborah McCallum, Lisa Noble, Terry Greene, Jen Giffen, Jennifer Casa-Todd, Helen DeWaard

Week 49

voicEd Radio Show:  https://soundcloud.com/voiced-radio/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-with-doug-peterson-2?in=voiced-radio/sets/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-with-doug-peterson

twioe Blog Post:  https://dougpete.wordpress.com/2018/01/19/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-291/

Featured posts by:  Julie Balen, Lisa Cranston, Anne Marie Luce, Jon Orr, Joe Archer, Laurie Azzi, Caroline Black, Brian Aspinall, Sarah Lalonde

Week 50

voiced Radio Show:  https://soundcloud.com/voiced-radio/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-with-doug-peterson-january-24?in=voiced-radio/sets/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-with-doug-peterson

twioe Blog Post:  https://dougpete.wordpress.com/2018/01/26/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-292/

Featured Posts by:  Ramona Meharg, Peter Cameron, Aviva Dunsiger, Will Gourley, Paul McGuire, The Beast, TDSB Professional Library

OTR Links 07/28/2018

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Can you believe that it’s the last Friday in July already?  Where did the month go?

Sit back and dig in to engage with some of the reading that I’ve done from the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers this week.

Ontario Educators: Are We to Be Pawns?

A true scholar of education, Peter Skillen takes us through a quick review of educational theory and how it’s played out in Ontario.  In particular, Hall-Dennis and the Common Sense Revolution.  As Peter correctly notes, there’s so much in the Hall-Dennis report that could sustain a progressive, evolving curriculum.  Of course, direction is dictated by the government of the time.  It’s supposedly the will of the majority voting population.

Much has been written about the current promise for changes in education, along with some of the things that have actually been implemented.  I think that it’s important to realize that curriculum directs educators as to what needs to be covered and not necessarily what need not be covered.

As Peter correctly notes in the post, we’ve always relied on the professional judgement of good educators to make what’s taught in the classroom relevant and important for students.  This is the latest in the current situation (at least as of this morning) and it’s good to see school districts standing up for students by demanding a solution.  After all, it is the end of July.  Curriculum planning doesn’t begin in September…

In this post, Peter introduces the notion of an “origin mindset” which should give all pause to think.  There is great encouragement in the opening pages of every curriculum document.  Have you read it lately?

My #1 Go-To Tool In Math Class

Jon Orr shares a post about a tool, and a product, that he’s used successfully in the classroom.  He’s upfront that he’ll get a commission if you buy the product.

What interests me in this post is how he builds on a sound pedagogy.  I think back to my days of mathematics and it was anything but.  I recall it as being me and the textbook doing problems.  I always did well but we never worked in groups or had opportunities to show our thinking or our problem solving.  Probably the closest was the traditional beginning of the class where selected students were to write their homework solutions on the chalkboard while the teacher circulated the room checking that everyone else had completed the overnight assignment.

He includes an interesting graphic explaining his criteria for creating learning situations.

If you created your own, would you align with his or do you have other ideas?  I struggle with understanding his description of “Ratio”.

Thinking About the Thinking We’re Not Thinking About

I love the format of posts that come from The Beast blog.  It starts usually with this long premise for the post and then the two ladies behind The Beast (Andrea and Kelly) have a back and forth sharing their thoughts about the premise.

This was not a quick and easy read for me.  It starts with the title and the premise is about summer learning, putting things off, and then a moment of reflection.  It was the moment of reflection that really caught my attention.

The Beast has featured 20 blog posts and a look back at what they were thinking at the time of writing.

It’s probably a good activity and so I did that here.  It was an interesting experience.  I expected a brilliant deja vu experience.  In some cases, it was.  In other cases, I re-read a post and I have no idea what on earth I was thinking about at the time.

I did jot myself a couple of notes as I was doing this and thinking about things.

Is this the essence of blogging?  Does it lead to regrets or to growth?  If you know you’re going to evaluate yourself later, does that inhibit the desire to blog?

I know that I have forced myself to blog regularly just to document my thoughts at the time.  The fact that I keep the posts around, I suppose, means that I stand by my words.  I think that it’s also important to add “at the time”.  If we truly believe that we’re growing and learning, then posts shouldn’t be construed as full stops but rather as stepping stones.

Thank you ladies, you just made me think about my own philosophy of blogging.

Digital Geo Tools for the Classroom

If you’re a user of Microsoft products, you need to make a point of attending a Partners in Learning event.

If you’re a user of Google products, you need to make a point of attending a Google event.

If you’re a user of Linux, I really don’t know what to suggest.  Compile your own something?

Larissa Aradj attended a Geo Teacher Institute at (I’m assuming) Mountain View and learned a great deal about geographic applications.  This post is an accumulation of the tools that she learned about.

Readers here know that I’m a sucker for mapping applications so I’m just pigging out on the resources that she shares.  Many I did know about but there were some new ones – like Global Surface Water Explorer or Map of Life.  I’m still hung up on the screen capture that she shares about 119 types of fish in Ontario.  (Sorry, Larissa, I can’t bring myself to type fishes).

For me, this is a fascinating collection and has quickly become an obsession.  There are so many classroom applications that easily come to mind.

The Interview Follow Up

Eva Thompson was a guest on the This Week in Ontario Edublogs show so we wanted to include a post from her.  Previously, I had featured a post from her called The Interview as PD.  This follows on it.

You’d be lying, I’ll bet, if you read this and determined that the message Eva shares doesn’t apply to you.

Haven’t we all been unsuccessful in a job interview at one point in time?  If we really are learners, then hopefully we’ve learned from the experience and have become better as a result.

I do wonder though, in applying for a position in your own school district, if the interview is entirely open and objective?  Don’t we all carry our own reputation into the interview room with us?  We talk about curating our own digital selves; we also be curating our own reputation at the same time.

Eva seems to have developed and shared her own personal philosophy as a result.  I think that’s a good thing.

Getting to “Flow”

I’ve said more than once that superintendents, directors, and leaders within education should blog regularly.  By this, I mean really a thoughtful sit down and sharing of feelings and thoughts post.  Sure, you see the odd retweet from some but it’s often other’s original thoughts and often used to spread propaganda or some district initiative.

It’s one of the reasons why Sue Dunlop is a regular on my reading list.  She’s open and at times shares her vulnerabilities and what she’s doing about it.

In this post, she talks about “flow” as defined by Mihaly Czikszentmihaly and nicely ties it into her thoughts about her own professional and personal life.  This is an interesting read and Sue recommends that you spend 20 minutes with this TED talk.

10 Days, 5 Guest Speakers

This post brought back memories of a graduate course I took once.  The instructor had season tickets to the Spitfires and, when they played at home, our 7:00 class started at 6:30.  Our instructor would book a guest speaker for the night, introduce the speaker to us, and then leave for the game.  I would have loved to have read the evaluations at the end of the course.

This was anything but in Diana Maliszewski’s Library AQ courses.  Guest speakers can really enhance a course and bring in strong and differing viewpoints on topics. I think that’s important in the development of future teacher-librarians.

Into her class, Diana invited:

  • Melanie Mulcaster
  • Michelle Solomon
  • Jennifer Balido-Cadavez
  • Alanna King
  • Jennifer Brown

That’s a powerful lineup.  In true Diana style, there are pictures and a short summary of each of the topics addressed.

An Interview with Melanie Mulcaster

As luck would have it, I had the opportunity to interview Melanie Mulcaster, one of the guest speakers in Diana’s class, this past Monday.  If you missed it, enjoy.

If you’d like to follow these bloggers on Twitter, here are links to their profile.

If you’d like to “hear” most of this post, join Stephen Hurley and me on most Wednesday mornings at 9:15 on voicEd Radio and then repeated throughout the week.  For the summer, we’ve invited a special guest host for each of the shows.