Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wiffleball -- Sports-Based Statistics Project

Take your class out to the ball game
Theoretical and Experimental Probability gets a facelift in this interactive game-based 21st Century Math Project. Tired of flipping coins and spinning spinners? Students play the role of team managers and with only player statistics they must build a team capable of winning the championship. 

Name: Wiffleball
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Pre-Algebra, Statistics skills)
Math Concepts: Theoretical vs. Experimental Probability, Fractions, Data Collection
Interdisciplinary Connections: Sports, Games, Awesome Fun Stuff
Teaching Duration: 2-3 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $5 for a 11 Page PDF (1 project, 2 assignments and all game essentials) 
PDF Version: Wiffleball @ TPT

The Product: Students build their teams to compete for a championship. Bracket style tourney optional and included!

Game on, homie.
Combine together three juggernaut hobbies into one colossal  21st Century Math Project. Sports. Gaming. Mathematical Swagg. While there are plenty of class activities to teach the difference between theoretical versus experimental probability, I had to lob in my own crazy attempt.

In this 21st Century Math Project students will plays a series of Wiffleball games (6 players on a team and 4 inning games to keep things shorter) where they will keep track of statistics using a baseball/softball inspired scorebook and after the game crunch the number to see if their players performed up to their theoretical expectations. How does experimental probability match up? Students will find out together.

Did someone say drunk?... Hey, you
wanna use my spinners?!
In 7th Grade, my math teacher (he may have been drunk or a genius) pulled out Strat-O-Matic baseball, a card game with every MLB team, a 60 sided die and told us to go at it. Of course we loved it. While I was 12 years old, I certainly do not remember doing any actual math. The much older version of me says, what a missed opportunity! Why can’t we do both?

In my trial runs with this project (during student lunches since this content hasn’t quite come up), students keep coming back for more. Nothing like having to kick your students out of your room because they are doing too much math! Now, I discovered keeping the scorebook was difficult at first. If you have any experience with baseball or softball this will probably be an easy thing to teach. I have simplified the game to have three outcomes. Homeruns, singles and outs.

EXTENSION: Perhaps a few students want to get together to create a league and play a season worth of games during lunch! It can happen.

Sometimes 21st Century Math Projects can get a little too intense. Students will get emotional. Some might cry. It’s all part of the design. But seriously make sure students don’t cry.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Eve -- A Sale is a Comin'...

Step off the elliptical machine and check out an upcoming sale on the Mothership, TeachersPayTeacher.com
Give a special someone the gift of an engaging, integrated math lesson!

While I don't want any of you trampling over fellow shoppers for PDF files to my latest 21st Century Math Projects, I am participating in the TeachersPayTeachers sale next Monday and Tuesday. Everything on the site will be on sale and then sellers can throw there own sales on top of that. My own personal sale will actually start on Saturday, but you wouldn't get the extra TeachersPayTeachers discount. So if you've had your eye on a Math Project to tuck under the tree for a loved one (or if you love yourself) stop by this weekend.

Gift wrapping is available upon request. 

Not really, it's an electronic document.

But seriously if you want me to wrap an electronic document, I'll make it happen.

But that's not really possible. 

But if you point your mind to something you can accomplish anything.

That's not true. Someone lied to you. It's unrealistic. Putting your mind to something doesn't include the element of hard work that's necessary--

You're probably right. Gift wrapping seems unlikely.

Unless you put your mind to it.

But I thought you just said--

Monday, November 19, 2012

Population Growth: Seven Billion and Counting... -- International STEM Project

Wait until the robots start cloning us...
As the world's population has ballooned in the past three centuries researchers wait for the other pen to drop. Currently sitting at a cool 7 billion (and counting), researchers believe (based on their models) that the world's population will top out at 9.2 billion. In this 21st Century Math Project students will analyze the same data as the experts and make their own predictions. Which model best projects the world in 2050? I guess at the class’s 38th year reunion you can find out.

Name: Seven Billion and Counting…
Suggested Grade Level: 9-12 (Basic Algebra II, Precalculus skills)
Math Concepts: Scatterplot, Creating, Using and Analyzing Regression Functions, Patterns, Evaluating Predictions
Interdisciplinary Connections: Social Studies, Global Studies, Population
Teaching Duration: 3-4 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $5 for a 20 Page PDF (2 assignments, 1 project with answer key) 

The Product: After a careful analysis of population data by continent, students will use their chosen mathematical model to predict how the world’s population will breakdown in the year 2050.  

An authentic task? You're teasing me
right? Where's my drill and kill?!
Will it ever end? Most statisticians believe we will taper off our growth. They are expecting a logistic function although to date our population is freakishly exponential. In this 21st Century Math Project, students will investigate population of the different world regions over history. Students will begin by simply trying to observe a pattern, move to lines of best fit and finally have the freedom to choose their own non-linear best fit functions. This dataset yields some interesting conclusions for prediction and discussion especially in regards to the limitations of linear modeling.

Students will use the skills of patterns, constructing pie graphs, regression functions for modeling and using their equations to make predictions. What makes a model strong? Students will explore this question. This lesson is designed to work with a class set of TI graphing calculators and would work with an Advanced Algebra 1 class, Algebra 2 or PreCalculus.

That's like a lot of people, ya feel me?
People should, like, stop making babies
and stuff.
The final project is a challenging, multi-faceted task which needs certain skills to be built. To compensate, two assignments were added which help introduce the topic and skills. Thus a student’s understanding of the mathematics concepts will grow with their familiarity the topic of population.

-- "Seven Billion and Counting" -- using patterns to determine the world in 2050 and constructing pie graphs to represent 1750. 

-- "Predictive Models (the long and short of them)" -- students use linear models for global data for two different intervals (1750-2000 and 1975-2010). Students then are asked to develop their own non-linear regression functions.

Which all leads to the Mama…
This will shape the world for
generations to come. What can we do
to take action now?

-- "The World in 2050" -- students will compare the results of their 4 different results, use them to draw conclusion about modeling in general and will construct a pie graph representing the world in 2050.

I wrote this assignment relatively recently so I have only used it one time, but students were honestly intrigued by the study and the challenge of comparing their models to the experts. Others were interested in the observations that can be made in the population data by continent which certainly can generate some discussion.

EXTENSION: Population is a global issue with serious implications in terms of sustainability, natural resources and poverty. Using their models, students could create PSAs and other Presentations that can be viewed in the community.  

Will this blog go on forever? Will it live in the cloud forever? Are you someone from the year 2341, searching through Google’s cache? Did you find my laptop? If you found my laptop, there’s a really weird short with the battery that cases the screen to flicker every now and again. 21st Century Math Projects might live forever, but one day I may have to start a new company… 22nd Century Math Projects. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Superhero Transformations -- Hands-On STEM Project

Mathematical Swagg Power Up!
The first-ever 21st Century Math Project Blog poll winner is now an official 21st Century Math ProjectTurn your Geometry, Algebra 2 or Pre-Calculus classroom into Superhero City while teaching the useful skills of tranformations. Specifically focusing on translations and reflections, heroes paired with a specific mathematics function family, have to zap enemies all over the coordinate grid into submission to save their city. Students will use cutouts of functions to turn this into a hands-on math project that will serve many different types of learners and plays into their childhood superhero infatuations!

Name: Superhero Transformations
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Geometry & Pre-Calculus skills)
Math Concepts: Transformations, Translation, Reflection, Families of Functions
Interdisciplinary Connections: Comics, Art
Teaching Duration: 3-5 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $6 for a 25 Page PDF (4 assignments and answer key) 
PDF Version: Superhero Transformations @ TPT (Download the Preview to see everything for FREE)

The Product: Students complete a series of tasks that culminate in taking down the mysterious Big Boss Villain. Can be expanded to creating a Pixton Comic (not provided)!

Hey Kid, put down that printer.
BOOM! POW! WHAMO! If those words remind you of your 7th Period Class, I... think you should find another blog regarding classroom management. If those words remind you of the hours you'd spend trying to hunt down that elusive Magneto action figure this might be perfect for you. If your kids dig comics and comic-book movies. This might be perfect for them! I've noticed a comic book renaissance of sorts in the school hallway especially with the awesomeness of the Avengers. 

One of the things that I do that many would consider unconventional is that before I teach how to manipulate any non-linear functions (square roots, exponentials etc.), I teach families of functions and transformations. I think this breaks down students intimidation of long equations with these different functions in them, it makes them more accessible and helps them understand that in many respects, they work the same. 

Does this mean I won't feel like I want to
disappear from class for a few days?
Are we actually going to do
something challenging?
In this project, I have assembled a dynamic mathematical superhero team where each hero has a different power that behaves like a different function. Heroes with Linear, Quadratic, Exponential, Cubic, Square Root and Absolute Value functions are stars of the show. There are a couple special guest appearances from the villains. 

No hero with a Wolfhead?
I'm slightly put off by the omission.
In creating this project, it was critical to me that it's not just glitz and glamor, but there truly is a bunch of hardcore mathematics at its core. I feel I have created something that authentically teaching translations and reflections and will serve both ends of the classroom. By creating functions that can be cut-out, this will make the tasks hands-on and accessible for all learners. By creating wicked challenging scenarios, the most advanced students will be enriched with the puzzle that the later problems create. By creating colorful, amusing heroes and villains, the most difficult to engage will be grabbed. 

EXTENSION: Perhaps there can be a comic book assignment that emerges that uses solid math jokes. Don't use class time for this. I'm begging you. Maybe a weekend extra credit assignment. :-)

So here it is, the 21st Century Math Project for the peeps. Hopefully you dig. I'll be setting up a little challenge for the blog followers tomorrow to give away a free copy! Keep you eyes open.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Oscar Winner -- Inquiry Project

And the winner of greatest blog visitor is...

Glitz, glamor and a 21st Century Math Project. These three things go together like peas, carrots and bubble yum. Utilize twenty years of Oscar winners (from 1990-2010) as a data set to guide your students through creating box and whisker plots, histograms, and exploring mean, median, and mode.

Name: Oscar Winner Inquiry Project
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Basic statistics skills)
Math Concepts: Box and Whisker Plots, Histogram, Mean, Median & Mode and Stem and Leaf Plots
Interdisciplinary Connections: Film, Entertainment, Acting
Teaching Duration: 3-5 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $6 for a 13 Page PDF (1 inquiry project, 2 assignments with answer key) 
PDF Version: Oscar Winner @ TPT

The Product: An inquiry project asking students the question “Does the age of the award winning star in a film relate to the overall gross of the movie?”

They sure don't make 'em like Frank
Capra made 'em
Is an actor or actress more likely to win the Best Actor/Actress nod when they are older? What about younger? What is the range? Are actors in R rated movies more likely to win the Oscar? Students will explore these questions and more in this 21st Century Math Project.  Depending on your curriculum, this works well as a middle school math project and I have also used it for remediation at the high school level and as preparation for the high school state test. One thing is for sure, students will always have to read graphs so this really could serve as a refresher at all levels.

Although most middle and high school kids do not gravitate toward Academy Award Winning Performance, but instead to teen erotica vampirey – guy dress up like a girl is lolOMG!ZZ type of movies, I have found students are still into it. There are enough famous actors, actresses and movies that there’s still strong interest in the assignment.

Who is Julia Roberts? Was she that
substitute we had yesterday
EXTENSION: Well unfortunately, this 21st Century Math Project relies more on swagg than global relevancy. Fortunately the mathematical rigor is still there. So I’m ashamed to admit, there’s not a meaty extension that comes to mind. Perhaps you could suggest a student watch a film that you believe had an exceptionally great performance so they can appreciate great acting.

In a 21st Century Math Projects the mathematical rigor has to be there, but there is a scale between global competency and awesome swagg coolness. Typically I try to lean to global competency, but eh, you can’t win them all. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pixton – Cool Free Web-based Software

Cartooning is made easy and accessible for all students with this free web-based software. Pixton is a free web-based software that allows students to create comic strips. Pre-Made characters are built as “puppets” so students are free to pose them however they would like. There are a built-in pre-made poses for anyone trying to get that perfect karate kick. Students are able to make comic books for free, but if additional features are desired pay options do exist. 
Howdy Partner
Students have never been more engrossed in a web-based software than when we used this one. The customization and freedom of expression worked great for my students. That said on my end there were a couple of challenges. Students can only make 6 panels so if their story extended, they had to make a “second” comic strip. For assessment, sending links does not work. What we decided to do was have students pull up their comics on a computer, have each comic strip on a different tab and we did a gallery walk of sorts. This worked well enough.

With Customizable Swimwear
How does this fit into a math classroom? Again very very carefully. This is the type of project that without solid structure on the teacher’s part can be on the fast track to learn-nothing-about-math-ville. In other words, the math project plague. I’ve been there. I’ve had students look up their favorite car on the computer to find the price and features. I know how this can become a dreadful waste of time without solid structure. At times, I like students to conclude a math project with some sort of analysis presentation whether it be a PSA or a jury trial. This can just as easily be used for those conclusions. How I use class time with this is the careful issue. It is certainly something I’m more likely to ask students to do at home.

I have used this software in my technology class. I asked students to imagine the world in 2030 and included 10 science-based inventions that are in development today. I asked students to construct a narrative built around a character trying to accomplish a goal. Basic story structure. I had some really awesome projects that exceeded my expectations. If you are also teaching English, Social Studies, Science, World Language, etc. this might be a really cool resource for you.

Would I use this in a math class? There are only a few topics I would even consider it (such as translating algebraic and verbal expressions). Otherwise it might serve best in a role play where someone is teaching someone else a math concept. I don’t feel a rock solid foundation that connects to a math concept, so I’d be extremely hesitant. Nonetheless, it’s super duper fun and someone in your building may love it!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Combating Poverty & Microlending -- International Math Project

Love all your students. Even the annoying ones.

The world is getting smaller, we are preparing our students for a global job market, yet many know little about the world. This 21st Century Math Project intends to help! Do you want to grow globally aware citizens in your math classroom? Would you like students that have an understanding of proportions, ratios and percents? Do both in this meaningful math project that may change the worldview of some in your classroom. 

Name: Combating Poverty & Microloans – International Project
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Pre-Algebra skills)
Math Concepts: Proportions, Ratios & Percents, Basic Operations
Interdisciplinary Connections: Global Studies, Economics, Currency Conversion, Finance, Social Studies
Teaching Duration: 3-4 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $6 for a 23 page PDF (2 assignments and 1 project with answer key) 

The Product: Students will assess cases of four microloan applicants and calculate a repayment schedule and monthly payments. Students can research actual applicants on KIVA.org, choose an applicant and present their choice to the class.

You mean, there are other countries
outside the United States
In this 21st Century Math Project, students will use the skills of ratios, proportions and percents to solve authentic global problems. While the mathematical rigor can be used in an Algebra 1 or high school test prep class, this mostly fits as a middle school math project. Through Fair Trade and Microlending, students are immersed with problems that are not only practical for math content, but are ripe for a collaboration with your social studies department!

As a teacher at an international school, finding authentic global connections is the goal. Unfortunately, at this point there isn’t a ton of resources available for a math teacher so you have to make it yourself! I was directed to KIVA.org by a community contact with our school and saw endless mathematical possibilities. If you don’t know what a Microloan is, this is the excerpt I wrote into the assignment to help students understand (and teachers!)

Microloans are a financial service that involves loaning small amounts of money to the poor. These are individuals that do not have access to banks and have little or no credit. The recipients can then invest in business, basic household needs, or education and repay the loans back with interest. The largest Microloan organization, Kiva, has administered over 250 million loans and currently boasts a repayment rate of 99%.
Doing something global? I'm going to
miss the worksheet, after worksheet
after the worksheet.

In order to get the maximum impact of the assignment, I created two assignments that lead up to the project. These assignments practice the necessary mathematical skills and help students get a firm grasp of the global picture.

-- "If the World Were a Village" -- using proportions, ratios and percent, students use authentic statistics to shrink our entire population down to 100 people (a twist on a commonly shared piece of data). If proportions were the same, who would be in the village? Find out and discuss some of the most surprising findings after. 

-- "Fair Trade" -- students look at price differences between products that are certified fair trade and those that are not. They will calculate the percentage increases. Is Fair Trade worth it? They will decide. 

-- "Microlending" -- students will evaluate four applicants for a microloan from around the world. They will help determine monthly payments and when to pay off the loan. Starting with proportions, this starts the students on their path to thinking about break-even points and linear equations in a practical context

So how can we take action as a class
in the global community?
EXTENSION: If you ever wanted a 21st Century Math Project that could lead to an extended project this is it. Microloans can be made for $25. I have set up an account that I use for my classes and each year, each class can determine a loan. Of course not every teacher is read to toss dollars into making this happen, but there is no reason a couple students in your class couldn’t set up a fundraiser – or you ask each student to bring in a dollar.

Many districts highlight students who are active in service projects and this is a great opportunity to model it as a class and show how an individual can take action on a global issue! If you don’t do it, some of your students might anyway.

While in the big picture, this 21st Century Math Project might be a small thing, but you never know what your students will latch onto and remember forever! What could be better than this?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Box Car Derby -- STEM Project

I feel the need, the need for practical equation solving
Hands-on math takes center stage in this 21st Century Math Project. Implementing STEM style project-based learning is the focus in this middle and high school math project. Along with designing, building and constructing a cardboard car students will use algebra skills to solve basic physics problems, engage in reflective writing and use data to support their decisions.

Name: Box Car Derby
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Algebra I math skills)
Math Concepts: Manipulating & Calculating with Basic Physics Equations, Measurement
Interdisciplinary Connections: Science & Engineering
Teaching Duration: 3-5 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $5 for a 12 Page PDF (1 project and essentials, 1 assignment with answer key)
PDF Version: Box Car Derby @ TPT

The Product: A Box Car Derby Competition! With optional reflective presentation of results and Design Process.

What's that noise?
Transform an ordinary Pop-Tart box into a smooth riding street racer! Students will get uber-enaged in this 21st Century Math Project in their attempt to be fastest racer. This serves as Middle or High School math project and can be a great collaboration between math and science.

The first time I used this project was in my 9th Grade Algebra 1 Class in a collaboration with the Physical Science teacher. Students submitted designs, “purchased” items for our store with their budget, built and test to perfection. It’s safe to say, this project was a huge success. The most difficult aspect was getting a strong wheel and axle combination. By far the best combo that worked were straight straws (with no bendy neck) and tealight candles. You can get a billion of them for $10 at Amazon.

Playing with Fruit Loops boxes.
Is that in the Common Core?
While there is not precise Common Core standard for Fruit Loops boxes, these are a few high school standards that fit this project:

--Seeing Structure in Expressions
• Interpret the structure of expressions
-- Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities
• Understand solving equations as a process of reasoning and explain the reasoning
• Solve equations and inequalities in one variable
• Rearrange formulas to highlight a quantity of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations.
-- 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

Can I take my Ratchet-Mobile home with me?
Let the games begin! After the Box Car Derby, it is in the teacher’s discretion to turn it into a Demolition Derby. While it sounds appeal, you’re soft (and hard) children will likely want to keep their car after their significant bonding period. It’s like a birth.

EXTENSION: While these cars are small enough to carry around, making a person-sized derby car sure sounds like a fun idea. Probably for extra credit 

21st Century Math Projects on the fast track to practical equation solving! If during the course of reading this blog you have went to your cupboard to see if you have a nearly empty Pop-Tart box, raise your hands.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Bring the funny.

Hello Internet Person. I'm Ron Burgundy.
Contest OVER. 

This can escalate quickly and I hope it does. You have 24-hours to post your best math joke in the Comments of this post. Creativity is important. If I can Google your joke... well it will have to be super excellent to be considered. 

Yes, it sure is. Do something.
Is that Ninja Turtle font, nerd?
The best joke will win a copy of one of my two newest math projects. Superhero Transformations or Grade Point Average. You decide! 

And go! Funnies!

Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth - NextLesson.org Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth - TeachersPayTeachers.com