Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Facebook, Twitter & the Arab Spring -- International STEM Project

Join the Revolution!

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Globalization in a high school math project? Toss in a scoop of inquiry and that's what you have here. Patterns, algebra and functions get a facelift to the 21st century in this integrated international math project. Through mathematical modeling and regression, students are able to use authentic real world data to consider its real world implications. This project would fit well in an Algebra 1 class (with guidance) or an Algebra II / Precalculus class. 

Name: Facebook, Twitter & the Arab Spring
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Algebra I and Algebra II math skills)
Math Concepts: Creating Functions from Patterns, Rate of Change, Creating and Applying Regression Functions
Interdisciplinary Connections: World Studies, Globalization, Social Media, Current Events
Teaching Duration: 4-5 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $5 for a 22 Page PDF (2 assignments, 1 project and Answer Key) 

The Product: An interactive web-based timeline (or hand drawn if no computer access) which details Twitter data during the Egyptian Revolution along with the timeline of historical events.

What is more relevant than a social media revolution that topples governments one by one? As governments fell, I kept asking myself “Did Facebook and Twitter cause this revolution?” While this is a question I’m sure professors are wrestling with, it certainly can be adapted to my high school math class.

Does this have something to do
with Aladdin?
The challenge is finding appropriate mathematically rigorous content that matches the cool project idea. In this 21st Century Math Project might find its way into a Middle or High School classroom depending on the skills and abilities of your young people. Do not be intimidated math teachers! Learning a little about the Arab Spring is probably good for you too, but I have built the mathematics in such a way that while the task is authentic, it’s independent. In other words that math is still very mathy.

Now the final project is a challenge and probably unlike any math assignment the student has ever done before. Compare data to narrative history? What kind of crazy person would ever think about this? In order to build up these skills, I created a pair of equally social media friendly assignments that are included in this project. I have written introductions to help cement the authenticity of the assignment and provide necessary background information (for you and them)

You mean, like, countries were, like,
protesting for their freedom on Twitter?
I gotta know some more about this.
"Facebook Friend Challenge" -- which focuses on finding patterns, comparing rates of change and projecting into the future.

and "Kony 2012" -- this focuses on the mathematics behind a viral video. Providing a little background on the Kony 2012 video can give your math classroom an international, multi-disciplinary flair. In this assignment, students will analyze a pattern, consider the rates of change, plot the function and make predictions about the future. 

And this leads to the granddaddy: "Did Egypt Tweet Its Way to Freedom" -- focuses on a data analysis of Twitter tweets surrounding the Egyptian Revolution inside the 2011 world shaping Arab Spring. Students will analyze patterns, rates of change and consider the inquiry question. "Did Twitter play a role in the liberation of Egypt during the Arab Spring?" In this assignment students will compare mathematical rates of change with real world rates of change in international conflict. Students will produce a timeline project that provides their stance on the inquiry question and uses mathematical evidence as support.

They won't care about the Middle East.
They can't even find it on a map!
Honestly, of all the projects I wanted to take on this past summer, I really wanted this one to work and I was happy to find the right mix of skills to make it mathematically rigorous enough.

The Copy Machine Diva Teacher points out the legitimate concern. What if my students don’t know what the Arab Spring is? Much less why it’s relevant. My response is two-fold… 1) what in the world have they been taught the last two year? 2) this is a great opportunity for a cross curriculum collaboration. If reaching out to other teachers isn’t in your wheelhouse (give it a try sometime, it’s fun!), I have never been shy about teaching a little social studies, science or health to make my math problem more relevant and authentic. If you are commitment to being a 21st century teacher, I think this is necessary and an area we all can grow. And trust me I’m growing too. Fortunately I have worked in two different schools where I HAD to grow in this way.

EXTENSION: Taking on an academic inquiry question like this lends itself well to connecting with a local university. Professors may be willing to step in for a guest round table or may be willing to watch your best presentation.

Join the 21st Century Math Projects revolution! Authentic. Engaging. Relevant. Sounds like the makings of a solid Justin Bieber song. 


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