Thursday, July 2, 2015

Barbie Zip Line (2015) Part 1

Last summer I tried Barbie Zip Line and reported the experience here. I also supported a handful of Math 8 teachers interested in Barbie Zip Line during the school when they explored the Pythagorean Theorem. I have to admit, with every experience, it always felt like it could be different, possibly better.  This year, I went a different route and Part 1 just documents what I've done so far. Part 2 will be the conclusion.

First, I avoided the Pythagorean Theorem (for now). On Monday, my students already knew we would be starting Barbie Zip Line on Thursday. That was about as much information as I revealed. Everything else was structured to elicit as much student insight, information, and ideas as possible.

I started by projecting this slide:
Students discussed in their groups and a few shared whole group. I jotted down a few quick notes:
I love this informal language. Would this be an opportunity to work in slope? Maybe. I wouldn't force it as I'm confident we'll have plenty of other opportunities.
Me: Has anyone her gone zip lining before. 
A few hands go up.
Me: How would you describe it to someone in the class who has never been?
Katherine: Awesome!
Me: How would you describe what zip lining is to someone unfamiliar to it?
Katherine: You wear this harness. You ride down a line...
Mateo: You have two cables attached to you in case one of them breaks, there's a backup. Someone pushes you at the beginning and you ride along a cable...
Me: Great. Thanks. Would it help if we saw pictures or video of someone zip lining to give everyone a better perspective?
Everyone: YES!
Me: Here's what Google Images has for "zip line pictures". 
Me: A good business model will provide their customers with a safe and thrilling experience. Therefore, I'd like you all to fill out this Google Form with the following prompts and questions:
  • Briefly describe the characteristics of a DEATH zip line.
  • Briefly describe the characteristics of a BORING zip line.
  • Briefly describe the characteristics of a JUST RIGHT zip line. 
  • What information would be useful to know when building a zip line?
  • If we had a small scale zip line in class, what data can we collect from the small scale? 
I'm fascinated by the results. I learned I need to truly value, trust, and use my students' intuition way more often and when launching a lesson/activity. Check out their results here. These results will help guide Desmos Part 2. However, first we need to do Desmos Part 1.

The actual zip line quad.
Desmos Part 1
Students go to this Desmos graph and quickly create three zip lines.

Once they are done, they head over to this Padlet page and post their Desmos graph for their classmates (and me) to see.

Desmos Part 2
*I will post what students do in Barbie Zip Line (2015) Part 2.
Before going outside, students begin doing a small scale version of the zip line inside the classroom. Here are the materials:
  • 3 paper clips
  • 2 measuring tapes
  • 1 string (100 inches)
  • iPad (for Desmos part 2)
  • iPad or phone timer
Record their data inside of this pre-made Desmos template.
*If you go the route of the Pythagorean Theorem, adjust your table accordingly.

Here's a handout for each student. After collecting their data, students will be expected to draw a pretty descriptive scale picture of their zip line on this handout. They'll also need to predict how long it will take their doll to complete her zip line ride.

As you can see from the handout and expectations, I'm placing a big emphasis on the following:
  • Scale
  • Proportional reasoning
  • Rate of change (or slope)
  • Rate
No mention of Pythagorean Theorem. Find out if it stays that way in my Barbie Zip Line (2015) Part 2 post, next week.

Zip 1,

P.S. Most importantly, my son was really excited to visit my class today and partake in the Barbie Zip Line adventure. I was really excited too. DUH!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tacos For (almost) Everyone

Do you remember when I blogged about the Ultimate Task for Vertical Planning: Stacking Cups? If not, feel free to check it out at your convenience. I've got another task for you that can be used at multiple grade levels: Dan Meyer's Taco Cart.

When asking:
Who will reach the taco cart first?
there are so many mathematical opportunities awaiting us. Here are a few:

Math 6 (maybe Math 7)
Pass out this handout during Act 2 and tell students you will only give them one dimension. Choose wisely.
Read more about this great technique on Fawn's blog post about Mr. Meyer's Taco Cart.
It simply is brilliant. Students are measuring the dimensions (distances) on the paper and using proportional reasoning to figure out the real life distances. I recommend students use centimeters when measuring the dimensions of the triangle on the handout. I really enjoy this technique.

Math 8
If you're a math teacher and you see the picture Dan provided for Act 2, your intuition will most likely steer you in the direction of the Pythagorean Theorem. Go for it!
Geometry (HS)
Let's say you have already used Taco Cart during the year to apply the Pythagorean Theorem or Distance Formula (Desmos). How about we extend the mathematics and look for more right triangle relationships in Taco Cart. I noticed that the hypotenuse is about twice the length of the shorter leg. Let me connect that to the context of the story: Ben's distance is about twice the distance Dan travels in sand. That's right, Dan gave us a 30-60-90 right triangle. Pro skills there, Dan.
*I'm not saying the 30-60-90 relationship is the most intuitive, but we'd be helping students make connections with previous learning. 

Algebra and Beyond
As you move into the sequels provided on the website, there's a lot of higher level math. Depending on the question, the problem-solving is fun. I worked with a high school group of math teachers who found it extremely challenging to solve the question:
What path to the taco cart would take the least amount of time?
Overall, this is such a fun and meaningful task. Dan has given us a treat! Today, my students did such a great job arguing, sharing theories, identifying variables, and using their intuition even before I unveiled any information from Act 2. It was awesome! I'm avoiding the use of the Pythagorean Theorem this round. I went Fawn-style by giving students only one dimension on their Act 2 handout. So good!

Tacos por favor,

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How Much Is Your Name Worth?

Starting next week, I'll be back in the classroom with my own roster of students. I'm super pumped and plan to be really active on this blog...  I plan to do a mixture of blogging about ideas before I use them with students and after I use them.

I need to quickly learn the names of my students on Day 1, especially since I'll only be with them for only 20 days. I'll probably do the Name Tent activity and Class Height activities found here. However, I want to establish some mathematical tones as well. For example, most tasks/activities will require students to:
  • make guesses (too low, too high, just right)
  • submit data
  • collect data
  • sort data
  • use the data
  • measure
  • problem-solve
  • make predictions
  • use technology
How much is your name worth?
If each letter of the alphabet was worth its place in the alphabet, how much is your name worth?
For example:
A-N-D-R-E-W would be 1 + 14 + 4 + 18 + 5 + 23 = 65

Figure out how many points your name is and submit it here:

What name will have the lowest points?
What name will have the highest points?
What will be the class average?

If this is golf, the lowest wins.
If this is basketball, the highest wins.
If I want the class average, what would that be?
  • Students will submit their values using Google Forms.
  • We learn how to sort the data in Google Sheets.
  • We can answer our questions.
  • We can use the data to predict the value of the next person that walks into our class, or the principal, or a parent, a stranger, etc.
This should not necessarily last that long, but there will be parts of the process that will be important to being more successful and efficient during our time together.

Name value,