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!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Snapshot: 7B Playing Card Proportions Project

 In seventh grade, the students applied their knowledge of ratios, proportions, and scale to a project where they had to produce a scaled version of a regular playing card. The purpose of the project was to have the students apply their understanding of proportions to a real task and for students to develop an appreciation for the feature on tablets and phones where they can just pinch to enlarge and/or shrink a map or image. These are seemingly simple features that require a great deal of mathematics to make functional and accurate. 

I like this project because there are many ways for students to customize their experiences and provide differentiation. They could add difficulty in the value of the card, the suit, the scale factor, and whether or not they did the whole or just part of the card. Artistic ability is not required to succeed on this assignment, but it is an opportunity for those who have an interest in artistic expression to share their interest. It brings a little color and fun to the walls of the classroom!

6C: Ratio and Froot Loops

Sixth grade is moving into an exciting part of the year where we move from computation to more conceptual work. We are reviewing the concept of ratios with a hands-on activity with a box of Froot Loops. 

Students were asked to estimate the total number of Froot Loops in the 12.2 oz box of Froot Loops. The box was divided up amongst the students and they had to catalog and count each color. The students made adjustments to their estimates for the full box and made estimates for the total number of each color in the box.  We briefly discussed this as a way to do sampling to estimate the total box of Froot Loops. 

I took this opportunity to show the class the power of spreadsheets.  We used Google Sheets to collect our class data. Then we used formulas for sum to find totals of each color and for each student. We applied our knowledge of fractions and percents to turn the totals into percents. They also saw the power of the spreadsheet to generate a bar graph of our data.  The class was curious to compare their data to previous years data sets and made interesting observations. Students reflected upon their experience and saw how using ratios was helpful in refining their estimating.  They were happy because they enjoyed ingesting their data set after we were done!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

6C - Discussion "Is 0.9999.... = to One?"

We have entered the world of rational numbers in 6th grade. We are working on building our fluency with different representations of fractions: moving between fractions, decimals, and percents. A perennial question that emerges, "Is 0.99999 (repeating) the same as 1?"

This year, I asked the class to tell me what they thought before any explanation was given. There was a clear majority who felt like 0.9999... was not equal to one. There was heated debate and we had to work on how to speak to each other so we could understand the other's point of view. We recognized that repeating the same response is not going to help someone see another point of view.  The challenge is finding another way to explain it help someone see from a different perspective. 

We capped off the discussion by watching the ViHart video (above). There is a lot of information to take in and unpack, but there are some very convincing arguments.  For homework, the class was asked to reflect on where they stand on the questions now. Many students found reasons to change their thinking and a few are steadfast in their belief that 0.9999.... is not equal to one.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

T-Stat Check In

T-Stat's latest incarnation.  I like the belly button!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

8A: Barbie Bungee Jump - Explore More

As introduced in the post, Snapshot: 8A Barbie Bungee Jump, the eighth grade applied their knowledge of linear functions to a Barbie bungee jump challenge. The intent of the project was to provide a real world application of linear functions to ground student understanding.  Students were divided into groups of two or three to do some introductory experimentation with a Barbie, up to three rubber bands, and a meter stick.  Here are all the bungee jump groups with their test Barbie and company name.

Groups plotted their data two ways: by hand and using the an online regression tool. Using their math skills they drew a line of best fit and did their best to estimate the slope of the line. Once they had their calculations figured out, they plotted their data on regression tool and it gave them a linear equation. They had to figure out what the slope and y-intercepts represented in this scenario and use these data points to decide how many rubber bands to add to their bungee rope.

We had to wait patiently for a dry day to perform our bungee jumps. Jump day was thrilling. They students made their initial jumps and then modified their numbers one last time.  Here are some photos from jump day.

We experimented with filming and photography of the event.  There were a couple of GoPros and lots of iPhone footage. Our favorites were the slow-motion jumps taken from the ground.For our final jump, we had all Barbies jump simultaneously.  It was a great way to make a direct comparison of all the bungee cords.

 Student reflection and feedback gave me insights into how to improve upon this activity. Fun was had by all and we made math come to life! 

Thank you to all the people who shared their Barbies for us to use and to B. Hansen for the great video clips. 

Article: When Parents Help Negatively Affects Students

I found this brief article insightful. I have always felt that math anxiety does not just materialize but comes from messages that children receive that they should be anxious. It is helpful to know that this is one source. The next step is figuring out how to address parent math anxiety so they do not pass it onto their children.  

One resource I recommend to parents is by Dr. Jo Boaler.  She provides many practice tools and suggestions to help students learn math in ways that do not produce math anxiety.

Snapshot: 8A Barbie Bungee Jump

Students are always asking,"When will I ever use this?" in math class. I do my best to give them real world contexts for the skills they are learning. In the 8th grade, we began the year learning about linear functions and figuring out how to graph them. To help make these skills real, the students did an activity where they had to use linear functions to figure out how many rubber bands a Barbie required to get the most thrilling bungee jump off QLab 201's balcony (16 feet).  Thrilling was defined as getting as close to the ground without actually touching the ground.  Here is a compilation of shots from our jump day. 

Thank you to Blake Hansen for the video footage and editing.

If you wish to read more about this adventure or see more photos and video, check out: 8A Barbie Bungee Jump: Explore More.