Using an Activity To Teach

January 14th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

I recently created a real-world lesson about taking off consecutive percents vs. taking off the same discount in one step (20% then 20% again vs. 40% off the original price). I often call this stacking percents. Rather than go through a normal lesson day of notes, examples and practice and then do this activity the next day – I decided to try using this lesson to teach students about the difference. The results were mixed but positive overall.

The big point of the lesson is trying to get students to see that taking the discount off in two steps will get a different result compared to taking it off in one step. This lesson had students take a more inquiry based approach (which I will be writing on plenty in the future) as most students assumed that the discounts would result in the same price.

Doing it through the activity allowed them to find out which one saved more and conjecture about why it saved more. This worked out really well for my moderate to advanced students and not quite as well for my low students. This is partially my fault as my low students were struggling to find the percent discounts as I did not properly scaffold this skill for them – definitely something I will change in the future. I like this method of approach for students that have a firm grasp of content as it allows them to explore the learning possibilities themselves. I will continue to experiment with this approach and see what role it can take in an every-day class environment.

The Math Of Minecraft

January 8th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

A student I tutor is in love with the online game Minecraft.  It is a game in which you mine and build things out of cubes. There is a basic free version which simply gives you the ability to build in a free open range and then a paid version that adds gaming elements. We used the free version which is accesible within the browser so it can probably be used in most schools if the computer is updated with Java (and its not blocked). We worked on a lesson with volume and surface area that went so well I will probably be formally writing it up and posting it on MakeMathMore’s Real-Life Math Lessons. It is a great tool as you can freely walk around and use cubes which work great for building rectangular prisms that allowed us to easily calculate volume and surface area.

This is the reason I look for Math everywhere as you never know where you will find something that will make a perfect teaching lesson.

“When Am I Ever Going To Use This?”

December 15th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

A lot of people think my lessons are built to answer “When am I ever going to use this?” – they’re not. Don’t get me wrong, my lessons can answer this question, but this question is not one I am really too concerned about answering. The true answer to the above question is “You might not” or “You probably won’t” if we are being honest. I have never used the Pythagorean Theorem outside of the classroom. Once again, that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t find a reason to use it; the reality is reasons to use it just don’t come up. I encourage you to tell your students this on the first day of school. Is that a scary thought? For sure. However, you need to follow it up by telling them that although you are not concerned with this question, what you are concerned about is showing them what we use math to do – <b>help explain and better understand the world around us</b>. That’s what I created my lessons to do.

Students are not going to be sitting around someday and decide to write a probability problem and solve it about what song is going to come up next when they shuffle their iPod. BUT, they have thought to themselves before ‘what are the chances…’ when shuffling. So, by using my lessons and MATH you can show them what they can learn, interpret, and predict with their iPod’s shuffling feature. Or they might never use ratios when talking about music, but using the lesson will allow them to experience how math can help them describe why a song’s chorus get’s stuck in their head.

That’s what I hope you do with my lessons. I have no problem with you using my lessons and saying: “See, here is where you will use this in life.” Feel free. However, I would LOVE it if you say: “See, look what math helped us discover. Without math we may have never thought of it this way…” Training students to see math as a tool that helps them gain insights into things is much more beneficial than showing them where math can pop up.

I guess it is all a matter of perspective.