Sunday, September 3, 2017

Snapshot: 7A/7C Data and Representation

The seventh-grade classes began the school year by exploring the different ways data can be represented. We collected three different data sets: birth date, bed time vs. wake-up time, and favorite ice cream flavor, topping, and container. Observations and deductions were made on the first two data sets. Students made astute observations and deduced information about the classes based on the data. They made predictions about how adding the data from 7B might change or re-enforce our observations and deductions. We invited 7B to share their data with us too. We discussed the value of representing data in visual formats and how it can help us find patterns that may not be evident in the raw data form.

For the favorite ice cream flavor, topping, and container data, groups of students were asked to represent the data collected in a graphic manner. Students had to grapple with deciding which data to include, how to sort or organize the data so it was easier to consume, and which tool or strategy would best communicate the information. The diversity of representation was impressive.  A small sampling is located below. Please stop by the upper hallway in the Athena building to take in the rest of the posters. We discussed how the same data set can be distilled in so many different ways. I hoped to illustrate that graphs and data sets can be helpful, but we must be careful to ask questions like: Which data was used? Which data was left out? What is the point of view that is being shared or promoted?

We will practice our observation skills and make sense of patterns and representations throughout the year as we make our way into algebra and algebraic thinking. 

We are back!

Welcome back to the 2017-2018 school year. I am back for another year of teaching math at Black Pine Circle. This is a blog space for Ms. Seto's math classes at BPC.  I am beginning my third year and I am looking forward to sharing our journey through mathematics.

My hope for this space is that we can provide a glimpse into the work we are doing in the classroom, and give you a sense of how we are approaching our exploration of mathematics.  My hope is that students develop a set of skills that will carry them throughout their mathematics education.  The eight mathematical practices we will be working on developing are:

1) Understand and Persevere
2) Logic and Reasoning
3) Justify and Critique
4) Model with Mathematics
5) Strategically Use Tools
6) Attend to Precision
7) Utilize Structure
8) Utilize Patterns

For students: this is a portal to access materials and resources for class, a place for class notes and shared documents, and a place to share our reflections with a greater community.

For parents: this is a window into the math classroom and an opportunity for you to access to what happens in your child's day. It can be a tool to connect and create conversations with your child.

For others: this is a place to share our learning and to reflect on our mathematical journey.

I hope you will join us on our journey!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

7B Room Design Project

The seventh grade curriculum lends itself to many real-world projects and activities. It is the last concrete and tangible mathematics the students encounter before being thrust into the abstract world of algebra. 

An end-of-the-year project I like to do with the 7s is a room design project. Students measure their bedroom, draw a scale drawing, calculate the surface area of the walls and floor, calculate the amount of paint needed, calculate the amount of flooring needed, calculate the cost of paint and flooring and sales tax, all on a budget. We tackle this project as a series of phases to be completed with many small deadlines to keep them on track. Students get into drawing their blueprints with architectural symbols, picking out paint chip colors, deciding on the finish of the paint, and negotiating how to spend their budget.  It is a practical and real world application of many of the concepts and skills learned in the seventh grade curriculum.

Last year, I had a student independently tape all of his drawing together into a net of his room.  It was brilliant! So this year, I added it to the project and the students liked seeing how their 2D net could be transformed into a 3D representation of their bedroom. I felt like I could imagine standing in their rooms from their scale models. I learned a few things from the construction process that I would change for the future, but it was a great addition to the project. The science teacher and I discussed the possibility of having the students 3D print their rooms next year. I love the idea of cross-curricular integration.  We just need to make the time to plan and execute it next year!

Snapshot: 8A Food Deserts

Berkeley, CA
As a final project, I like to find a way to incorporate a social justice lesson into the eighth grade curriculum. Last year, the class spent the final weeks of the year tackling the question, "Is minimum wage a livable wage?" They explored by calculating living expenses for a year (rent, food, transportation, entertainment, etc) and then compared it to what you would earn if you were working a minimum wage job. They had a a guest speaker from the Human Resources department come and talk about the taxes and deductions that are taken from a pay check. In the end, we had a good debate/conversation about whether or not you can live off of minimum wage.

This year, the class took on the idea of food deserts. This is a project I have been tossing around for about a year. The essential question was, "What is a food desert? Who is impacted by food deserts?" We researched and defined a food desert. They looked at research about the impact of food deserts. For four classes, a group of students were charged with locating grocery stores on a set of maps from AAA of the Bay Area, Lake Tahoe, and Portland, OR. They had to cut out 1-mile radius circles to represent the reach of the grocery store. The areas that were not covered by the circles are defined as food deserts. These maps are not comprehensive because we were limited in time, but students were able to get a sense of how food deserts occur and who is impacted by these deserts. 

Our discussions centered around how they live in an region of the country were access to fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains is easy. They recognized the high density of markets and grocery stores is high in the Bay Area and that affluent areas had great overlap of circles. Some students were able to recognize living in Northern California is not representative of the issue of food deserts. If we had more time and I had planned ahead, we would have done a second round of maps that represent cities where food deserts are a significant issues, such as New Orleans, Atlanta, and Detroit, and compared maps with the Bay Area. I would extend this to look at grocery stores per capita and other ratios that might have helped us understand the issue further.

This activity turned out better than I had hoped and I was pleased with how we were able to use math to explore this topic. I look forward to refining and extending this project for future classes. 

Oakland, CA

El Cerrito and Richmond, CA
San Franciso, CA

Lake Tahoe, CA
Portland, OR

Snapshot: 6C Sugar Packet Posters

As part of our study of proportions, 6C did an activity by Dan Meyer called Sugar Packets. They watched this video and had to figure out how many packets of sugar are in a bottle of Coca Cola. 

We extended this activity to other beverages. They predicted which beverages had the most sugar and the least amount of sugar. They recognized that the sugar content could not be compared if the volumes of the beverages were different, so they made unit rates of sugar to volume so they could compare like amounts. Many students were surprised by the sugar content of some of their favorite beverages.

The last phase of this activity had the class take a point of view and promote one beverage based on its sugar content over other possible beverages. The students had the freedom to pick which point of view they wanted to promote, but they had to use the math to support their claims. 

These are a sampling of some of the more creative and unique posters that were created. I was impressed with the class' use of humor and puns to catch people's attention. There were a few new ideas that made us think. I have never had anyone compare the sugar content of different milks. The comparison of different waters was a new spin on this project. 

I really like this activity because it forces students to think about how proportions can be used to compare different items. I like adding the dimension of having a point of view and supporting it with numbers. It helps to dispell the idea that numbers to not lie and that data can not be manipulated if it is numerical. It provides an opportunity for students to look critically at how numbers and data are used to express a point of view and how they can be used to manipulate how you see something. This project is an opportunity to practice clear communication and sharing of ideas. 

Snapshot: 7B Popcorn Container Challenge

Last Thursday, 7B took their class to the garden for a design challenge. They were given a piece of 8.5 x 11 paper and challenged to construct a rectangular prisms popcorn container with the largest volume. They had access to scissors and tape. Their container was then filled with popcorn. 

There were lots of interesting ideas at the beginning:
-"All the volumes will be the same because we all have the same size piece of paper."
-"A taller container will hold more."
-"A container with the largest surface area on the bottom will be the biggest."

They went to work and as the containers were constructed and volumes calculated and recorded, they were able to refine their hypotheses. We will follow up on class this week with further analysis of their findings. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Julia Robinson Math Festival - April 29

Julia Robinson Math Festival is an opportunity for students to experience a collaborative problem solving atmosphere. Students work together to tackle a variety of challenging math ideas from a hands on approach. I have taken students in the past and it is a wonderful math experience.

This Saturday, April 29th from 1-4pm at Girls Middle School there will be a girls only Julia Robinson Math Festival.  

There is another Math Festival date on Sunday, May 7th from 9:30-12:00pm at Stanford University. 

If you have the time to attend, I highly recommend it!