Sunday, September 30, 2012

Egg Drop Contest -- STEM Project

Drop some eggs. Do some math.
Want to fire up the engagement of your students with a Hands-On STEM project? Want to do an interdisciplinary collaboration with the science teacher? Want to smash some eggs?

Name: Egg Drop Contest
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Primarily Algebra 1 math skills, but project can be modified for different levels)
Math Concepts: Solving Equations, Collecting Data, Measurement & Using Science Equations
Interdisciplinary Connections: STEM, Physical Science, Engineering & Physics
Teaching Duration: 5-7 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $8 for a 21 Page PDF (1 project & essentials, 2 assignments and Answer Key) 
PDF Version: Egg Drop @ TPT

The Product: An Egg Drop Competition with an Optional Reflective Presentation of Results and Design Process

This will never work. They'll throw
egg at each other. And you have to buy
all that stuff!
This 21st Century Math Project might find its way into a Middle or High School classroom. Of course I did not invent the idea of an Egg Drop Competition, but built a set of math questions and assignments around it to make it more authentic and rigorous for a math classroom. Included alongside all the essential elements that will make your Egg Drop Contest a success, I have wrote a pair of follow-up activities that can actually be used whether or not you actually do an egg drop. These assignments hammer home the math skills taught in the lesson and serve as a stand-alone or follow-up activities.

My first time implementing the egg drop project was as a 9th Grade Algebra 1 teacher in collaboration with the Physical Science Teacher. The goal was to create a STEM project that would engage students while capping off our first quarter's worth of curriculum. In his case it was Force, Velocity, Acceleration and in my case it was Solving Equations. We thought this project was a perfect match.

You look like you're just throwing eggs
out the window! Please tell me there's a
Common Core Standard for that.
To date no students have ever thrown eggs at each other. In order to have a store stocked with supplies, I've spent between $10-20 on random stuff to use to build, but I work in schools where students can bring very little. You can just as easily have students bring stuff from home to donate to the store.

I have gotten eggs donated every year I've done it. A local grocery will happily write off an older batch to make it happen. To save the eggs for the contest, I use golf balls to test the devices. They are roughly the same shape and size.

While there are a number of Common Core Standards that are hit in this project, I have selected just a few from the Common Core High School Math 

-- Seeing Structure in Expressions
  • Interpret the structure of expressions
-- Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities
    So yeah, this will be really helpful
    when I'm throwing eggs out of windows!
    This is ridiculous!
  • Understand solving equations as a process of reasoning and explain the reasoning
  • Solve equations and inequalities in one variable
-- Interpreting Categorical and Quantitative Data
  • Summarize, represent, and interpret data of two categorical and quantitative variables
-- Making Inferences and Justifying Conclusions
  • Make inferences and justify conclusions from sample surveys, experiments and observational studies

Engineering Design Process of NC State University
While this project isn't the most authentic of tasks as Swagg Jones has pointed out, there is a fundamental backbone to this that is authentic. 

The Engineering Design Process. 

Research. Design. Build. Test. Redesign. Test. And on... I have written the project to revolve around this process and I suggest teachers to explicitly teach the process alongside the mathematics. This makes it more real 

Is there any way to involve the community?

EXTENSION: This project does lend itself to quite a spectacle. I have successfully contacted the local Fire Department and they brought out their biggest truck lift for the Grand Finale. This experience is something students will never forget, but should also gain a solid grasp on measurement and solving equations. 

I have also successfully invented local engineers to come, build and bounce ideas with the students. It allows kids to network with professionals and allows the engineers to see the sun. 

So there you have it, the first of many 21st Century Math Projects that I will share on this site. Boomdiggy.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Cast of Characters

Fortunately, I do not plan on writing this blog alone. I have brought on board... well a Dream Team if you will to review these Middle & High School Math Projects. They are experts at what they do and they are in pretty much every high school. So without further ado, the Math Project Super Team Review Squad...

The Common Core Stressed Principal
The Common Core Stressed Principal -- This guy eats, sleeps and is imaginary best friends with all things Common Core even though he barely understands it. With all the changes in educational policy he has no idea what good teaching looks like any more, but he's sure of one thing... The Common Core EXISTS and it IS IMPORTANT. When he sees your classroom throw egg parachutes out the window, he's perplexed as to how this meets the common core standards.

His function on the blog is to question everything I write. He just needs some evidence that what you're doing in the classroom is relevant... he thinks.

The Copy Machine Diva Teacher
The Copy Machine Diva Teacher -- Her class sizes are too big, she has too many meetings, her boyfriend lost his job, too many special ed kids, the interest on her college loans is too high, she's not supported enough by the administration, her technology is outdated and... she runs 1000 copies at the school's only copy machine on Monday morning -- 30 minutes before school. She doesn't care because her students don't care and she's angry that you DO care.

Her function on the blog is to point out every possible thing that can go wrong with your project. That and be secretly jealous of you and your ability to CARE. Although her venom is pure, some of her thoughts may help spur some ideas for differentiation.

Near-Retirement Mr. Worksheet Teacher
Near-Retirement Mr. Worksheet Teacher -- 34 years is long enough. He's the faculty rep and he's untouchable. He now wears pajamas to work every day. Don't worry about his kids... because they have a worksheet. That and he's plays VHS taped lessons that he filmed in the eighties. Inconceivably during a 7.5 hour work day he fits in 7 hours worth of naps. He thinks you work way too hard and admires how teaching used to work in the good ol' days.

His function on the blog is to wake up and say random things. He'll offer help in the way of Floppy Disks filled with really great multiple choice, open book exams.

Bored to Death Getting Dumber Student
Bored to Death Getting Dumber Student -- She should be in some sort of advanced section, but the Common Core Stressed Principal forgot to do things like... schedule kids in correct classes. All administrators are convinced that this is a problem without a solution and here she is. Your class ranges from her down to well... um... down "there". You feel bad about it, but with little time for differentiation she is getting dumber every day and learning things like what types of random objects stick to her tongue.

Her function on the blog is to get excited about the advanced math concepts she will learn about in the project and how this might cause her brain to actually work.

Swagg Jones
Swagg Jones -- He's a 19-year-old Freshman, the best rapper in the district and a future NBA superstar -- although he's 5'4". He's happy to tell his teachers that what they are teaching him is "ratchet", "lame", "just too dumb". His favorite comment is "When am I ever going to &%$#* use this $#!^?". Although he has a disengaged front, he secretly wants to do good to make his Mama proud. He's been in Algebra three times and it's just a bunch of letters and numbers. He just wants to do something interesting. Something with actual application in the real world.

His function on the blog is to shout out inappropriate comments at times, keep it real, and keep making sure I'm keeping it real.

Naive Princess Locked in Castle Student

Naive Princess Locked in Castle Student -- Her Dad drops her off every day, her mom picks her up. She's not allowed to go outside because of gangs and drugs. She's not allowed to watch TV or use the Internet because of pornography and terrorism. Her only outlet to the outside world is school.

Her function on the blog is to ask painfully obvious questions, but it's not her fault. If you had been locked in a castle tower for your entire life you wouldn't know either. She's a really kind-hearted student so even though you have to explain to her what "Google" is, it's okay.

That Student with a Wolf Head
That Student with a Wolf Head -- Don't let the fact that his head is a wolf fool you, this student's frontal lobes are fully developed -- and then some. With refined taste for problems like those involving world healthcare, the arts, and microfinancing in rural Ghana, That Student with a Wolf Head makes sure to squeeze the orange of all the juice.

That Student with a Wolf Head makes sure that the Americo-centric curriculum takes on a more global perspective and provides ideas to take the learning another step forward. Although you'd love to take a field trip to Beijing to compare and contrast rail systems, it's not feasible -- but that won't stop That Student with a Wolf Head from thinking outside the box.

Well there you have them. These 7 individuals practically do all the work on the blog. I'll pitch some ideas, share some projects and let them have at it. Tomorrow I will pitch one of my most popular projects on TeachersPayTeachers so we'll see how it holds up!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Hello Internet

It might be odd that a teacher whose entire focus is on 21st century learning has not yet entered the world of the blog. Perhaps it's because I work in a school district that's blocks blogs, wikis, Facebooks, Prezis, Google Docs and seemingly any site that can play a video.

This is the only post I intend to write on this blog. Everything else will be written by a series of personalities... we'll get to those later, but first... the point!

I have created this blog to help middle & high school math teachers dive deeper into engaging math problems and projects. At times I may toss some interesting ideas into the that perhaps a really nerdy math teacher can run with. Perhaps there will be a day when people actually read this blog. If that happens we can "conversate" about math. As the kids say. I'll also promote and dive deep into the products that I have posted on my site at
21st Century Math Projects @ TPT

While I am totally down with the open source movement and I can't stand how districts lock up their curriculum like it's KFC Finger Lickin' Crust, I have two kids under three. Lots of diapers. These cost lots of money. So for the time being, I'm a member of the dark side. Please call me out on this and make fun of me in the comments. I deserve it. However, I have only one solace...

...I think my products are REALLY SUPER COOL. And fortunately so do my buyers and their students (check out the Ratings & Comments!). I work hard to make sure everything I put up on the site is worth more than its price tag. It's the only way I can not hate myself.

If you are a math teacher that wishes to enrich your best students, my stuff is for you. If you are a math teacher that wants to engage your unmotivated students, my stuff is for you. If you are a math teacher that wants to show your academic swagg and be the swaggiest teacher in the department, my stuff is for you. (All items come with much, much swagg).

I have background working with many hard-to-motivate students in a low-income large urban school district. Both of my schools have also made attempts at innovative outside the box curriculum. There isn't anything on the site that I haven't (or one of my colleagues) haven't used themselves. It's not that students aren't interested in math, they aren't interested in the math that they are taught in most high schools. The math needs to be engaging, applicable and fun.

Some math teachers will deceive themselves into thinking that, two trains leaving the station at 1:00 is a fun problem. It's not. Some will think changing the verbs in a problem to basketball terms is authentic. It's not. Some will think doing a project will be fun. It might possibly be, but is it rigorous too?

I've battled this inertia and have dug deep to create and discover authentic, rigorous, engaging and fun middle and high school math projects. Project-based learning is a legit 21st century strategy. But for this to be effective in teaching content and meeting standards it needs to be authentic, rigorous, engaging and fun... see a pattern? It has to be all these things. Not drawing a venn diagram of the real number system. Not pasting your favorite function to a poster board.

As a young teacher, I found it impossible to find these types of math projects. They typically were uninteresting or to thin (where the concept was lost). While my stuff doesn't fill this gaping canyon sized void in our curriculum, perhaps I have rolled a medium sized boulder in the way. If other people start reading this, maybe they can find more boulders! We can be boulder friends!

If you aren't a math teacher, a math nerdy or ninja, why did you read this?

I will be back tomorrow to introduce you to the cast of characters who will run the blog on a daily basis! Til then, Math it Up. Boomdiggy.