Monday, June 30, 2014

Fun With A Name Tent

As I ask my new students to make a name tent with an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper on the first day of Summer Academy, I think, "Let's have a little competition." This wasn't in my lesson plan. Ha!

If you haven't noticed, I have become obsessed with classroom competitions. Here are two posts in case you missed them:
Fun With A Dot and A Line
Fun With A Sticky

Therefore, I'm adding today's post of Fun With A Name Tent to the "Fun With A" series. A name tent looks like this:

I use name tents for teacher trainings or on the first week of class with students so I can quickly learn their names. Right as I tell my new students to make a name tent, I announce, "Let's see who can fold their name tent into the best thirds?"

Game on!

If you have read (or remember) my two posts from above, you know this activity will go something like this:

  • Students get time to create their best thirds.
  • Students decide in their group (of four) who has the best name tent.
  • Students vote (whole group) by eyeballing the tents and make a prioritized list. 
  • Students define how we decide the best thirds.
  • Students define what to measure.

Here are some whiteboard shots of my lazy writing as I quickly jot down what students say. It's fascinating.

I handed each group a name tent that was in the running for the best thirds. Some groups used inches and some groups used centimeters to measure.

I didn't care nor tell them what unit of measurement to use. I walked around and questioned which unit of measurement they were using and asked them to explain why they chose that specific unit of measurement. We later had a discussion (almost arguments) about which made more sense for this task. Most students eventually were convinced by their peers that centimeters would be more accurate here. My second class had two tents that were extremely close, but couldn't tell which was better:

We had to compare 0.5 centimeters to 0.25 inches to see who had the smallest error, Leyla or Srihitha? It was awesome! We had to decide if we wanted to convert the inches to centimeters or vice versa. You can see that Leyla won by 0.135 centimeters. DANG! Those are some good folds.

Next, I introduced them to Estimation 180 by estimating my height. They'll be keeping track of their estimates in their compositions books.

My favorite part was this exchange:
Brianna: Will you tell us your height?
Me: No.
Brianna: What?
Class (disappointed): Ohhhhh!
Brianna: That's not fair. Then why are we doing all this work?
Me: I understand. I said I'm not telling you my height.
And then BAM! I take out my measuring tape!
Me: Brianna, stand on your desk chair and you can measure how tall I am.
Brianna: Oh, cool! 
We proceed to estimate my wife's height and then we estimate the TOTAL height of the class. This was fun. I asked, "What would be useful to know and how would we go about getting it?" borrowed from Dan.

My favorite was Mansi. She suggested that we multiply the number of students (20) by 5 feet since most students were about 5 feet tall. Then we add or subtract the difference of each student's height in relationship to 5 feet. We started a Mansi column in our Google spreadsheet. This would make for a pretty cool lesson on integers.

Before we went outside, I had the students get in order from what they thought was shortest to tallest. If you keep track of the data in a spreadsheet, use the spreadsheet to verify their order: another great tool from a spreadsheet.

With this organized data, you could do a lesson on mean, median, mode, and range. Even mean absolute deviation if you're up to it. Another great part was Dylan noticing a student was absent today. "We don't know the height of the kid who isn't here today."

You could take this task and apply the mean or the mode. Have students predict the height of the absent kid. Furthermore, you could segue into probability if you like. What are the chances the absent kid is the mean height? the mode height?

How sweet of my first class, they wanted to include my height in the total height. We went outside and looked for an area long enough to fit our calculated total height of approximately 103 feet.

We went a little bit past 103 feet because some students were considerate enough to avoid placing their feet next to someone else's head. The dismissal time was rapidly approaching so I let it slide. One clap on three for Reese. She had the closest estimate of 102 feet.

One. Two. Three.



Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Few Updates

Update 1:
I finally finished Act 3 for my Deodorant lesson. I hope you check it out and can give me some feedback; I think it could be much better with your help. If nothing else, check out how long it took to use 5 sticks of deodorant. Mathematical Modeling should really be at the forefront of this task. It might appear linear, but I would bet a year's supply of deodorant that an adolescent's deodorant use will be far different than mine. I also guarantee students will think of variables ranging from climate to age to geographical location to genetics to more. I think you'll have some excellent conversations with the deodorant task. My favorite part is the sequel: How many sticks of deodorant would one use in a lifetime?

Way back when this task first started, I opened up a little estimation competition in the comments at 101qs. Don't listen to a word Nathan Kraft says. The person with the closest guess would win an Estimation 180 prize. With so many close estimates, the following gentlemen will be the first to receive the new Estimation 180 stickers, hot off the press!

Congratulations to:
1st place: Chris Robinson (May 14, 2014)
2nd place: Robert Kaplinsky (May 5, 2014)
2nd place: Michael Fenton (May 15, 2014)
3rd place: James Cleveland (May 3, 2014)

Update 2:
Estimation 180 will be getting a facelift and other updates over the summer. Here are a few things to look out for:
  • New logo
  • New fields for entering student estimates
  • Clean spreadsheets containing "other estimates"
  • Updated Lessons
  • Search by Categories
  • Sentence frames for student reasoning
I'm most excited about the last update; sentence frames. I occasionally browse over student responses and notice many students entered "I guessed." I think it would be extremely helpful for teachers to provide their students with sentence frames in order to better articulate their reasoning. I will be focusing on this tool in upcoming presentations and workshops.

The new logo was done by my niece. I love her simple design, the two 180 degree arrows, the metric reference, and her idea to transform me into a stick man. That reminds me, I still owe her a pizza!

I hope to get a few t-shirts made too. You can sport them at your next PLC, department meeting, casual Friday, or math conference. Any takers?

Update 3:
I've accepted a Teacher On Special Assignment (TOSA) position with my district for next year. It's a bittersweet feeling at this point. On one hand, I'm very excited because I'll be working at various secondary sites throughout my district, collaborating with other math teachers, helping design lessons and implementing various technology. My official title will be a Digital Learning Coach. I hope to seek advice from people like John Stevens, who have been doing this for some time now. As I pack up my room, I already miss my own classroom and students. However, I look forward to learning a great deal from the teachers I will be fortunate to work with and the students I'll be able to interact with at each site.