Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Underground -- International STEM Project

Mind the Gap. Mind it Well.

Expand your student's international education with an exploration of the London Underground in this 21st Century Math Project. Through building skills of estimation, measurement, and use of scale, students will conclude their learning with an estimation of London's Circle Line. This is a hands-on STEM Project for hands-on learners and provides a nice departure from the grind of the daily classroom.

Name: The Underground
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Algebra & Geometry skills)
Math Concepts: Measurement, Scale, Proportion, Distance and Estimation
Interdisciplinary Connections: Travel, Global Studies
Teaching Duration: 3-5 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $5 for a 14 Page PDF (1 project, 1 assignment and answer key) 
PDF Version: The Underground @ TPT

What's a ruler?
The Product: Students develop a strategy to approximate the length of a train line on England’s famous Tube and use their approximation to find the distance between the tube stops of tourist destinations.

Whenever our math department gets disaggregated data back on standardized tests there always one consistency that we can count on – students are low in measurement. Usually they are really, really bad. It’s as if they have no concept of an inch or never touched a protractor. When the word scale is thrown in the mix – it’s every math teacher for themselves. Anarchy.

My idea behind this project was to make a creative task that would be both mathematically rigorous, but interesting. In this project, students will have to measure, use a scale, calculate proportions to estimate distances… all in a seemingly sensible way. This packs in about as many problem spots into one project as humanly possible. Buckle your chin strap and dive right in.
Haha. Gotcha. Proportion and
measurement are elementary skills!

I learned something interesting in developing this project. The Great Wall of China is in fact spread apart in many different pieces. Miles apart. I always thought it was one long wall. Uh… hey what am I talking about? Too much cough syrup? When I originally conceived this idea I planned to approximate the length of the Great Wall. When I discovered this would be nearly impossible I went for something a little more achievable. With all the math packed in, I couldn’t bear to complicate the project by estimating multiple pieces of the Great Wall.

Truth be told, the necessary level of these separate math skills (measurement, scale, proportion, distance and estimation) vary great. In the Common Core, some of these skills are listed in 5th grade, others in 8th grade. However as a high school teacher, these are areas of significant skills deficiency. Students can cross multiply and divide, but they have difficulty recognizing a proportion problem and have trouble setting it up. Certainly, the higher order thinking skills necessary in this project raise the level of difficulty.

Calculus? I could get used to that...
Depending on your state tests, this could be a useful prep assignment. If you are working with remedial students, it’s a more concrete assignment to help work on past skills, while pushing forward their thinking skills. Usually when I teach high school geometry, I like to slip this in after I want to review Perimeter. Perimeter is an elementary skills, but non-linear perimeter? We’re talking about Pre-Calculus and Calculus.

EXTENSION: This can get a little tricky, but an idea that I have to extend this is that you can have students find a picture from the internet of a non-geometric shape. After determining a scale, they could do the same activity. It's tricky, but maybe you could pull it off. 

However, or whenever you decide to try this 21st Century Math Project, have a jolly good time and Mind the Gaps. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Solar Oven -- International STEM Project

Lunch the 21st Century Math Project way
If you are trying to integrate an international flair into your science and math curriculum, this 21st Century Math Project is a great place to start. Students will design, build, test, and present a solar oven design with the objective of heating a hot dog the hottest. This is a hands-on STEM project for hands-on students. This works great when integrated scatterplots, best-fit functions, with energy. There are plenty of great opportunities to extend this learning into the humanities as well! Temperature probes with TI's work great! Any will do.

Name: Solar Oven
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Advanced Algebra, Algebra II or Precalculus skills)
Math Concepts: Scatterplot, Creating, Using and Analyzing Regression Functions, Data Collection
Interdisciplinary Connections: Science, Heat & Energy, Global Studies
Teaching Duration: 4-5 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $5 for a 9 Page PDF (1 project and handouts) 
PDF Version: Solar Oven @ TPT

The Product: Students will use their solar ovens to heat a hot dog and will measure its temperature over time. And eat! 

Whoopdidoo! Like this applies to
your content area! Good grief!
At our school we had a local professor speak to an entire school body. Essentially, his work was developing large scale, efficiency solar cookers that he could then take to some of the poorest communities in Africa. To me that sure sounded like a 21st Century Math Project!

Of course I did not invent the idea of a Solar Oven project, but in most iterations I could find, most of them were science specific. As with a few of my other projects, science is the ideal fit for both mathematical rigor and real world relevancy. The challenge is to build up the mathematics side of these traditionally science activities, identify the core math concepts in play and concentrate on teaching these skills. In terms of Solar Ovens, regression functions, (exponential functions specifically) are at the core when heating or cooling. If you are teaching lines of best fit (or your students have this skill), there’s no reason this can’t be extended to work in your classroom.
An actual authentic application...?
Did I take the wrong bus this morning?

The best, simple, Solar Oven designs I have seen is with a modified pizza box. Fortunately high school kids eat pizza so these contraptions are usually available. There are plenty of possible designs that are one Google away from helping your students on their journey. I would suggest that the design component of your project should take place in a computer lab for the resources.

This is another project that can easily draw in the community. If there are local engineers that want to get out of their cubicle, walk in the sunlight and stuff, it’s a great way to get your students in contact with professionals outside of the school. I’ve been very fortunate with my engineer contacts. They always come with and provide invaluable classroom support. They also like it a lot! Give it a whirl and make the contact and I wouldn’t be surprised if they become an annual fixture!

How might we use this knowledge to
help the global community?
EXTENSION: There are endless possibilities. Creating PSAs. Entering Science Fairs. Building a large scale oven with the help of engineers to send it to a developing country. Comparing and contrasting the results of morning classes and afternoon class results. It’s a matter of how far you want to step.

If you give a man a hot dog cooked with the sun, they’ll eat it, but if you teach a man to cook a hot dog with the sun, it’s a 21st Century Math Projects. In the event of the forthcoming Zombie Apocalypse, you can’t take for granted things like grills, ovens and microwaves. This might be the only means. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Silence the Violence -- International Take Action Project -- FREE DOWNLOAD

Empower young people to use their voice and not let policymakers forget.

Lord bless the 26 new angels
Name: Silence the Violence
Suggested Grade Level: 6-12 (Pre-Algebra, Statistics skills)
Math Concepts: Correlations (calculations or scatterplots)
Interdisciplinary Connections: Law, Policy, Peace
Teaching Duration: 2-3 Days (can be modified)
Cost: A Free 20 Page PDF 
Interactive & Customizable Version: Silence the Violence @
PDF Version: Silence the Violence @ TPT

Product: A PSA for gun control and non-violence that perhaps can make a difference.

Since the tragedy in Connecticut, it has been put on my heart to to something meaningful. I learned as much as I could about the issues at play.  Perhaps with enough teachers and enough students classroom can come together to make a clear, data-driven argument that there is a positive correlation between firearms ownership and firearms homicide.

Empower your students to take action and create a PSA. Encourage them to make something powerful and let their voice be heard!

I built this project through the use of correlations of international data. I have included content for either middle school (plotting and calculating) or high school (calculating correlation with summations).

The results are meaningful, the results are real and the data is possibly the same data policymakers are reviewing right now. It was put on my heart to make this, perhaps it will be put on a student's heart to drive this point to Congress.

I will likely be updating this file, but I wanted to get it to you before some of us go off on Winter Break.
A Spreadsheet is included for convenience.

Of course taking on a project like this depends on the psyche and maturity of your class, but feel free to use anything or pass it on.

God Bless.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Person Puzzles -- Mother Teresa

Adding to the already prolific (not really) collection of 21st Century Math Project Person Puzzles, we have the greatest mother ever... Mother Teresa! 

Best Mother Ever? Goose v. Nature v. Teresa... You decide!
Name: Person Puzzle -- Mother Teresa -- Factoring
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Algebra skills)
Teaching Duration: 10-30 minutes
Cost: $0.75 for a 2 Page PDF (1 assignments and answer key) 

Lets face it, many people think Mother Teresa is from Asia. While she earned her India citizenship, her life was far more interesting. If you asked kids who she was some may say "she was nice". Although we remember her and her work, she passed away in 1997 -- the same year my Freshmen were born. Yes you are old. 

Mother Teresa is a figure far more deserving as opposed to always being the token woman entry into the most important person ever debate in high school! Help your students imagine leaving the United States for another country to go serve sick and poor people in another country, never asking for any credit, and doing it for decades! 

I'm Mother Teresa, I never wanted any
credit or recognition and I'm honestly
uncomfortable being the subject
of a person puzzle. 
Help preserve the legacy of Mother Teresa and get down with some mathematical swagg. Mother Teresa swagg. Anyone who forever Googles "Mother Teresa swagg" will now hopefully find my website.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Prezi -- Cool Free Web-based Software

Tired of PowerPoint after PowerPoint after PowerPoint after PowerPoint after PowerPoint? While, making a good PowerPoint is a great skill for a high school student to have. Students will quickly hit a wall with the software and not learn any new tricks. I think it’s important when I do a project that I’m teaching a new skill with a new software. This way they are learning multiple things at one time! Enter Prezi!

Kill posterboards with me
You have likely seen a Prezi before and it’s possible that you have used it in your class. When I introduce it to students, their eyes light up in a way doing a PowerPoint for the 431st time will never. Prezi is relatively user friendly if you understand their control “wheel”. They do have high quality how-to videos on their site that you can show to the class. One thing I have learned about this software is they are always upgrading it. Every time I log on there seems to be some new feature (Like Spellcheck!).

What else is super cool about Prezi? Technology group work does not mean three kids sit at one computer. One types, one rocks with their iPod and the other naps. Multiple students CAN ALL be working on the Prezi from DIFFERENT computers. Funny little characters “walk” on your partners screen so you know where they are working and what they are doing.

The way my brain works
The other awesome thing? It’s web-based so it saves to the web. No worries about flash drives or school networks or emailing to themselves. They can log onto any computer and get it. It is 99% impossible to lose it (forgetting their password is a completely different story).

Who can use this? Pretty much anyone who wants to use a PowerPoint can just as easily use a Prezi. How does it fit into a math class? 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.

If there’s someone who uses their union paid counseling because they are tired of PowerPoints – this could be a welcomed change for them.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Person Puzzles -- John Herrington

The latest release to 21st Century Math Project -- A Person Puzzle! I came across a handout similar to this earlier in the year and found that my students really enjoyed it so I decided to go insane with it. It's necessary to practice skills, but why not throw some interdisciplinary connection in there for fun? 

They're Puzzles...about People... they're Person Puzzles!
Name: Person Puzzle -- John Herrington -- Solving Equations with Variables on Both Sides
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Algebra skills)
Teaching Duration: 10-30 minutes
Cost: $0.75 for a 2 Page PDF (1 assignments and answer key) 

Bring to life the traditional practice class or homework assignment with some global competency and diversity! While your students practice solving equations with variables on both sides, they can learn about the interesting life of John Herrington, the first Native American to fly in space. 

Person Puzzles are designed to highlight individuals with diverse backgrounds who have made significant contributions to our world. In my experience, our students are underexposed and unaware of many significant (historical or current) figures and this is a an easy way a math teacher can throw some interdisciplinary content without sacrificing their math!

My name is John Herrington and I approve this
Person Puzzle! Not really. I haven't contacted Mr.
Herrington and hope that he's comfortable being
the subject of a Puzzle. Fingers crossed.
Students enjoy the person puzzles because they innately like figuring out these type of facts and enjoy learning about someone interesting and different. I typically use Person Puzzles as timed warm-ups which allows me to share a little about the person's background before my daily lesson. I can also drop some college readiness info like majors, degrees and careers!

Stay Tuned. More Person Puzzles are coming!
You can also get the Interactive & Customizable Version of Person Puzzles entire collection at my store and optionally customize it for your needs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sploder -- Cool Website Spotlight

Does every student in your class want to design a video game? Sometimes I've felt that way. They certainly love playing games in the computer lab when I'm not looking. When I was tasked with designing a 21st century technology course, I knew we'd be in the lab a lot. Video Games are a natural extension and I came across this jewel of a site that is ready for students -- Sploder.

Be the favoritest teacher ever.
On this site, you are able to design one of four different model games (each with a varying degree of difficulty). Three of them are designed primarily with dragging and dropping pre-designed objects into a world of their own creation. I started my students on what I thought was the simplest game. "The Classic Shooter" this allows a student to create a game board, set up tasks and objectives and litter their world with hazards. Students created high quality games in 2-3 days.

After learning the ins and outs of this, we moved on to "Platform Creator" and this is where they fell in love. Students are able to create games that surpass the  quality of original Nintendo games. They are able to create multiple levels and customize on a more intimate level.

Enter Rambo Spongebob
It was in the middle of this that I made a surprising revelation. Students were designing, testing, redesigning, getting peer feedback, offering feedback, revising. This is exactly what you want students to do with their English paper, but they are happy to turn in a 30 minute turd. After this was completed I shared this observation with students and got some interesting reflection.

The final game we created was the "Physics Puzzle Maker" which is an animal all in itself. This is finally the point some of the kids through in the towel and others buckled down. In this game builder, you are building and defining EVERYTHING that happens in the game. As opposed to the convenient dragging and dropping in the other games, this gets very complex, but there are some high quality video tutorials on YouTube that could help with it.

How will this fit into your class? Unless you are teaching technology, I'm sorry to say this likely will not work into your lesson plans, but if you need to cater to a student's interest in games, be the cool teacher that lets your student build a video game during lunch! There just not enough options to customize it to make it work into a lesson in a content class (believe me I've though about it for a long time). There is a ton a math and science on display, but right now I can't think of a meaty enough topic that could work with it.

Pass it along to the Computer teacher in your building though! And perhaps your own children need to get away from playing six straight hours of video games, but you'd rather spark their creative juices!

It truly is a fun site that I'm surprised I'd never heard of before. Check it out!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Theme Park Tycoon -- Integrated Math Project


Any teacher knows ANY period can be a roller coaster ride. In this 21st Century Math Project, Variables & Expressions go to the Amusement Park in this engaging four assignment unit designed for Algebra or Pre-Algebra. Bring variables to life using a theme park motif. From park operations to admissions, variables and expressions are the backbone of the analysis of the Amusement Park’s data.

All that and this happen to be one of my hottest selling projects!

Name: Theme Park Tycoon
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Basic Algebra skills)
Math Concepts: Translating Verbal and Algebraic Expressions, Order of Operations, Mathematical Modeling
Interdisciplinary Connections: Business, Entertainment
Teaching Duration: 2-3 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $5 for a 12 Page PDF (3 assignments, 1 project with answer key) 

The Product: After a careful analysis of the park’s data, students make a proposal regarding the need for another roller coaster at the park.
Money. Speed. Cotton Candy. I'm in.
Josie is the new manager of a theme park -- Fun Time Awesome Place. Unfortunately, Fun Time Awesome Place is considered the thirteenth best amusement park in the Midwest and she has to turn it around! One of her duties is to collect and analyze data to determine how the park is doing financially and figure out which rides are the most efficient. It’s the student’s job to help determine some mathematical expressions that will help make her job much smoother.

Although most adults are deathly afraid of the Quadruple Brain-Crippler Vortex, Middle School kids will hop right on and claim it’s the most amazing thing ever. Capture that invincible, youthful energy and package it into your Pre-Algebra or Algebra 1 class.

Understanding and writing verbal expression is still one of the most difficult skills in math. Really, whenever students are asked to learn to interchange between multiple representations, it’s a challenge. I created three assignments that increase in difficulty and practice different aspects of the skills. Depending on the level of your students, these assignments may be better off done in groups and follow it up with some teacher leadership.

Roller coasters? I need to see the
Common Core.
After having done this a few times, I have worked out a number of the kinks that my students faced in the assignment. For the most part there was great benefit to doing it in class and going over the answers in the end.

While there are a number of Common Core Standards in regards to mathematical modeling and writing algebraic expressions, I have selected a few from 7th Grade and High School Standards.

7th Grade Algebra
Use properties of operations to generate equivalent expressions.
·         Apply properties of operations as strategies to add, subtract, factor, and expand linear expressions with rational coefficients.
·         Solve real-life and mathematical problems using numerical and algebraic expressions and equations.
·         Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals), using tools strategically. Apply properties of operations to calculate with numbers in any form; convert between forms as appropriate; and assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies. 
·         Use variables to represent quantities in a real-world or mathematical problem, and construct simple equations and inequalities to solve problems by reasoning about the quantities.

How can you cover all those standards
in a stupid roller coaster assignment!!!
High School Algebra:
·         Interpret expressions that represent a quantity in terms of its context.
·         Interpret parts of an expression, such as terms, factors, and coefficients.
·         Interpret complicated expressions by viewing one or more of their parts as a single entity. 
·         Choose and produce an equivalent form of an expression to reveal and explain properties of the quantity represented by the expression.

This won’t be a three minute thrill ride, but this 21st Century Math Project is at least three days of glorious business related relevancy.