Great River Teacher Corps

Jim Olsen's Home Page
Develop Math Reasoning
James R. Olsen, Ph.D.
Western Illinois University
Teaching Resources
For Students
Info on Dr. O.

Investigations in School Geometry - Fall 2020 Online Course Offering ~ WIU ~ Math 402(G) Click here for details.

Summer 2020 (online) Graduate Courses at WIU:

Annual Western Illinois University Mathematics Teachers Conference has been cancelled - April 17, 2020, on the WIU Macomb campus. Join us for this great conference in 2021.

Mini-Conference on Secondary Mathematics Teaching - Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, 5-8 pm. This mini-conference is intended for grade 7-12 mathematics teachers.

Information page for the Masters of Science in Teaching Mathematics (MSTM). This degree has not yet been approved (it is in the approval process, spring 2020). This page has the structure and ideas that we are working on.

Logic For Middle School - workshop at NCTM Centennial Annual Meeting & Exposition, in Chicago, IL, April 3, 2020, 9:45 - 11 am.. Session #369 (on page 67 of the program book; location: McCormick Place - South Building, S401BC). Workshop by Jesus Aguirre, Alejandro (Alex) Rangel, and Jim Olsen of Western Illinois University. Logic for Middle School is the web site. Parking information.

added 4/2019Logic for Middle School - web site created by Jesus Aguirre, Alejandro Rangel, and Jim Olsen of Western Illinois University

My Top Eight Reasons for Using Technology to Help Students Learn Mathematics, with Examples of Each - Handout and Slides. Presentation at the Mini-Conference on Secondary Mathematics Teaching, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019.

Materials for Promoting Problem Solving and Experiencing the Beauty of Mathematics - Poster Presentation at Educating the Educators III international conference in Freiburg, Germany, October 7-8, 2019. Handout of problems.

Number Theory Concepts in School Mathematics - Fall 2019 Online Course Offering ~ WIU ~ Math 407(G). Click here for details.

Bob Mann is teaching Math 406(G), Problem Solving and the History of Mathematics, as an online class in Spring 2020. Details here. Website here.

Online Teaching of Math and Technical Subjects Series - Three sessions, fall 2019, given for CITR at WIU. Top 10 Suggestions, Sept. 26: slides; handout. Zoom Videoconferencing, Oct. 24: slides; Introductory Zoom, Sychronous example, Whiteboard example. WesternOnline, Nov. 14 slides; handout.

Converting to Online Instruction: Workshop on WesternOnline and Google Hangouts Meet, hosted by Jim Olsen on March 16, 2020 for Math and Philosophy Dept. Slides here. Video part 1 here. Video part 2 here. Notes page here. Workshop description here.

10/2019Postsecondary & Workforce Readiness Act - Statewide Transitional Math: Competencies and Policies - (PDF) released August 2018. CCSSMPWR Transitional Math. Main PWR Act website. PaCE expectations.

W.I.U. Basic Skills Test Preparation Page

Deepening an Understanding of Division and Problem Types - Handout , Student handout, and Slides for presentation by Kim Hartweg & Jim Olsen at the 68th Annual Western Illinois University Mathematics Teachers' Conference, April 12, 2019. Link to GeoGebra, Division I app:

Look For and Make Use of Structure, Symmetry, and Similarity - handouts (pdf) for presentation at ISMAA at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, March 30, 2019.

Improving Vertical Alignment by Identifying Essential Learning Outcomes in Math - Workshops with Macomb C.U.S.D. #185 teachers October 17 and November 28, 2018. Facilitator: Dr. Jim Olsen.

Slides for presentation titled, The Conceptual Understanding-Procedural Fluency-Problem Solving Trifecta in Mathematics: Helping Students Learn, presented at the Educational Essentials Conference, Sept. 21, 2018, at Western Illinois University.

Look For and Make Use of Structure, Symmetry, and Similarity - handouts (pdf) for presentation at 34th Annual Conference on Teaching Mathematics at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, Feb. 21, 2019.

Handouts and Slides [ICTM] for presentation titled, Beautiful Geometric Diagrams and Connecting the Mathematics Beneath, presented at ICTM, Oct. 19, 2018, in Tinley Park, IL.

Slides [WIU Math Ts Conference] for Look For and Make Use of Structure, Symmetry, and Similarity, presentation at the Annual Western Illinois University Mathematics Teachers Conference, April 13, 2018.

Slides [Math Club] for Some Rich Geometric Diagrams and Connecting the Mathematics Beneath, presentation at the W.I.U. Math Club, April 11, 2018.

Slides [Valpo] for Some Rich Geometric Diagrams and Connecting the Mathematics Beneath, presentation at the TRISECTION MEETING of the Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan Sections of the MAA, March 23, 2018. - this is a new (therefore under construction) web site. This website provides geometry problems which are mathematically beautiful in their own right, and which also help our students reason mathematically, see connections in mathematics, and improve problem-solving abilities.

Summer Academy - 2018 - Engaging Learners with Video - In June, I attended this summer academy put on by the WIU CITR. The academy provided numerous tools for designing, developing and integrating video for educational use.

Desmos and Desmos Classroom Activities for Math Grades 7-12 - Workshop at Rock Island ROE, July 11, 2018. Slides - Handout.

Desmos Updates - presentation at the NCTM Regional Conference in Chicago, IL, November 30, 2017. Click here for the Google Slides, which have links.

Percent: From 7RP.3 through College and Career Readiness (.PPT) - presented at the Mini-Conference on Secondary Mathematics Teaching - Thursday, November 16, 2017.

Mental Math Strategies PowerPoint - created and presented for WIU Math Club, 10/4/2017. This is an overview of mental math strategies with seven strategies highlighted.

New SAT Test

SAT / ACT / TAP Preparation Page

STEM through A Wind Turbine

Desmos and GeoGebra Updates - Handouts: page 1; page 2 Illinois Math and Science (ICTM/ISTA) Conference presentation, Oct. 7, 2016 at 4:00 p.m., in Peoria, IL.

Standards Based Grading - presentations at the ICTM Annual Conference, Oct. 24, 2015, at Tinley Park, IL; the W.I.U. Mini-Conference on Secondary Mathematics Teaching, Nov. 19, 2015, in Moline, IL; NCTM Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX, April 6, 2017; MAA MathFest, Denver, CO, August 2, 2018 at 3:30-5:00 pm.

Beauty of Three Dimensional Polyhedra Workshop (in Celebration of the MAA's Centennial) at MAA MathFest, August 7, 2015 (Washington, DC) and at the ISMAA Annual Meeting April 8, 2016 (Illinois College, Jacksonville, IL). Links to the presentation and resources.

Brain-Based Learning and Learning Theories - much has been discovered and written lately -- and this helps us help our students learn.

Math Education Research and a Plethora of Committee and Government Reports - Originally compiled on the occasion of the Common Core State Standards (the reports were the precursors for the CCSS). Updated periodically.

The 24 Percent Tweets project is 24 quick lessons on percent.  Click>>24 Percent Tweets for the information webpage with links. I hope you can use this to teach or learn about percent and its applications.

Mental Math Curriculum Course Specific Mental Math Curriculum - For Eighth Grade and for Algebra I. 30 worksheets each, teaching 30 strategies.  Free download.

CCSSMCommon Core Math Standards: Information, Links, and Resources


24 Percent Tweets

Math Contests at Western Illinois University For Middle School and High School Students - This is as ongoing initiative at W.I.U. Get your students involved!

My Fall 2020 Courses: (Click here for office hours.)

My Spring 2020 Courses: (Click here for office hours.)

Quizlet Page - Quizlet is a great program (and app for iPad or other tablet) for making flash cards and review materials.

Volume and Surface Area Webpage - Prisms, Pyramids, Cylinders, and Cones

Navigating the Landscape of Fraction, Decimal, and Percent Problems - Documents, problems, and handouts from our presentations at the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Meeting, October 22, 2011, the International Conference on College Teaching and Learning, April 8, 2011, and the Western Illinois University Mathematics Teachers' Conference, March 23, 2012.

PFD Boot Camp (Percents, Fractions, and Decimals) and Basic Training.

RATES Project - Real-world Applications Teaching Everyday Solutions curriculum development project

Math Fundamentals - How ~ Why ~ Games ~ Practice

My PowerPoint on the Berlin Wall.

I am a professor in the Mathematics and Philosophy Department at Western Illinois University. I teach mathematics courses and teaching methods courses for prospective and practicing teachers. My research interests are student understanding of the function concept, educational uses of technology, and problem solving. For more detailed information, click Info on Dr. O.

The header graphics:

  1. A new scholarship program is available for WIU teacher education students. The Great River Teacher Corps (GRTC) program recruits and develops highly talented teachers to work in schools in West Central Illinois. Click here for details and to apply online. Take advantage of this great opportunity. Be a Teacher! Make a Difference! Flier here. News release here.
  2. I believe that this graphic, from Pam Harris, is very useful for teachers and students. These are the key themes of P-12 math education. Also note that Spatial Reasoning runs the entire span (and Algebraic Reasoning runs from Additive Thinking to grade 12). More information here.

Some additional things which have caught my interest lately are:

  • Western Illinois University has 12 Signature Programs.
  • Jason Allemann is a LEGO Artist. He makes lots of really neat things, including models with moving (and motorized) parts with gears and pulleys. LEGO is a great, fun, learning tool/toy. Many STEM concepts can be learned via LEGO. Jason's website is He's on twitter at @jasonallemann. For us mortals, we won't be able to create things on Jason's level right away, but we can learn much from his videos. Then we can get out the LEGO and start playing and creating.
  • There is much good information in the Sketchnote by Tanmay Vora @tnvora. I was particularly interested in interleaved learning. See this page ( for more information and links.
  • We are in a very difficult situation here at W.I.U., but we are staying positive. The State of the Student Address video shows that our students are remaining positive and proud about Western's future and the student learning that continues. I recommend watching the video. Speakers included (1) SGA Speaker of the Senate Jacob Tomlinson, (2) WIU Student Trustee Michael Quigley, and (3) SGA President Wil Gradle. The address was given March 9, 2016.
  • The Amazon company is launching a national movement to eradicate the fear math imparts in many U.S. students and get them to adopt the growth mindset ( I have two webpages ("Everyone Can Learn") also touting the Growth Mindset. It's time to put an end to the phrase, "I am not a math person," and get everyone to adopt the growth mindset (the truth of which has been proved by learning and brain researchers) and get rid of the fixed mindset. Check out my pages for videos and information on the growth mindset.
  • Geodesic Domes are real cool. You (and a group of people) can make one in less than 2 hours out of newspaper and masking tape. The AlWood Science Club built one. I've built them with teachers and with students. To learn how click here. To learn more about Geodesics Domes and Spheres Page click here.
  • Wir sind ein Volk (We are one people) - In 2015, a 2 Euro commemorative coin was released commemorating the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Germany. The Berlin Wall going up, and coming down, in my lifetime is a big deal. The coins show people celebrating in front of the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin. Also on the coin: on the edge of the coin: EINIGKEIT UND RECHT UND FREIHEIT (Unity and Justice and Freedom), 25 Jahre Deutsche Einheit 2015 (25 years of German Unity25 years of German Unity). A number of years ago I made a PowerPoint on the Berlin Wall, chronicling the history of the Wall (my perspective). Berlin is one of my favorite cities. The Wall came down in 1989 and Germany was reunified in 1990. I have the 2 Euro coin and a LEGO model of the Brandenburg Gate in my office. Stop by and see it.

WIU Home Page ~ Department of Mathematics and Philosophy ~ MRO

James R. Olsen, Ph.D.
Assistant to the Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Philosophy
Mathematics and Philosophy Department
Western Illinois University
Morgan Hall 478
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455
phone: 309/298-2315
Page URL:  or
Old (past) announcements archive.
updated: July 14, 2020
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The ultimate goals of mathematics education are to find meaning and to solve problems.

Love ~ Learn ~ Engage ~ Empower

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Frank and Ernest (comic), by Tom Thaves, is often subtly profound with a light-hearted approach. "You just need an outlet" - which provides power - has meaning on multiple levels.

You Just Need an Outlet