Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Toothpick Bridge -- STEM Project

For another smooth integration for your science and math curriculum, this 21st Century Math Project intends to bridge that gap. Hahaha get it? Bridge the gap! And it's a project about Bridges! You get it? Contest style, students will try to build the strongest bridge as light as possible. 

Name: Toothpick Bridge
Take that toothpick out of your mouth and build a bridge
with it!
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Geometry skills)
Math Concepts: Measurement, Shapes, Symmetry
Interdisciplinary Connections: Engineering, Science, Architecture
Teaching Duration: 4-5 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $5 for a 12 Page PDF (1 project, 1 assignment and handouts) 

The Product: Students create presentations regarding their design process and the links to geometry. Oh, and of course an awesome contest.

What's all that noise?! Student
Engagement?!! Bah!!

One of my favorite high school memories was doing this type of project in Physics. I seemed to have a glue problem -- meaning that I used WAY too much glue. I still contend that the bridge didn't break, but kind of folded. So while I certainly did not invent this project, I thought the applications to geometry were really strong. Each type of design has elements of geometry built in.

Break stuff? I'm in.

In this project, teams of up to three students will construct a bridge out of only toothpicks. This toothpick bridge must be able to hold a predetermined load without failing. Teams will research the style of bridges, create a three-view diagram of a bridge, build it, test it and complete a presentation about the project and its connection to geometry and the design process. The ultimate goal is to build a bridge that is strong, but is light as possible. The bridge with the greatest ratio of load weight to bridge weight will win the contest.

I limit students to only using flat toothpicks and Elmer's glue. I find the simpler, the easier. 

As far as testing these bridges go some people like to stack free weights. In high school, I recall this falling on someone's foot so I didn't do this. I've seen a string connecting a bucket to a 2x4, but that would require having a drill press handy. I've chosen to write the project using a good ol' fashion bungee cord and a large bucket (think a 5 gallon paint can). I like to write these in a way anyone can pull them off with minimal complications. 

Who needs a consultation?
In the bucket, I fill it with water and use a household scale to determine the winner. Of course, you'll need to borrow a gram scale to measure the weight of the bridge. While it is a little bit of hunting, the payoff promises to be a blast and one that high school students will not forget.

EXTENSION: You could attach a budget to this project! Maybe charging for toothpicks and cups of glue. Maybe charge for an engineering consultation. The possibilities are endless. 

It seems around every corner there's a new STEM school popping up and 21st Century Math Projects can help! If this is interesting I've also integrated projects for an Egg Drop, Box Car Derby and Solar Oven. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

CSI: Geometry the Complete eBook now on TPT!

You wanna figure out this mess?!
Nothing like a good criminal investigation to liven up geometry!

CSI: Geometry-- the Complete eBook is a collection of nine different geometrically inspired mathematical puzzles with a little international pizazz. The nine puzzles intend to target specific Geometry units and add a little flair to the ordinary challenge question. 

Name: CSI: Geometry the Complete eBook
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Geometry & Trigonometry skills)
Math Concepts: Geometry content (listed below)
Interdisciplinary Connections: Too many to list
Teaching Duration: 27-45 Days (or there ‘bouts)
Cost: $25 for an eBook with 9 separate CSI themed puzzles 

Is today Thursday or Monday?
The Product: Student conduct an investigation to determine who the criminal is in each case. Teachers have an option of having student present their evidence in front of a jury of their peers.

After finishing my CSI: Algebra eBook it was easy to see that a sequel had to be in the works. The eBook has been my most popular item by far and was getting super cool
comments like

Very engaging. Awesome with current pop culture references . Also; cultural references like currencies, places, famous individuals, etc. Lovely integration of the sciences and social studies into relevant Algebra problems."

I am excited to try these with my Algebra students! I have tried one of them and got great results! Thank you!

Kids loved it!

So I put on my STEM shoes, my International hat, and my Hollywood socks to work and went about creating 9 super-duper geometry projects. But here’s the problem, they are super-duper time consuming to make. I pick a chapter of topics from a textbook, find a world region that fits the themes from that chapter, research that world region for interesting authentic problem, create cool, interesting authentic problems (and my soul doesn’t allow me to duplicate problem types! They all have to be different), the puzzles have to solve to a cryptic text message, I have to draw funny faces and necessary sketches and then I have to write attempt-at-an-amusing criminal narrative to tie it all together and add swagg. BAAAAH!
Don't you have better things to do?
(Answer --Apparently not).

I mapped the puzzles to the curriculum in the widely used Glencoe Geometry, although in my experience most Geometry books have the same stuff. The way these projects work is that each puzzle has 6 “scenes” which will uncover a mystery variable. These six mystery variables will be used to decode a cryptic text message and if everything is correct, the result will match one of the six suspects.

Based on the experience in my own classroom, students are actively engaged in the puzzle solving element in my CSI assignments. Top students brighten up because it is “something different” and hard to motivate students will pick the pencil to give it a crack. These assignments are designed to be “math-first” projects. By that I mean, the Geometry skill is explicitly what the students are doing, the rest works as window dressing. In my career, I’ve found most math projects I’ve attempted from books are typically not mathematically rigorous enough and the math concept I intended to teach was lost. In my experience, students will complete interesting assignments and I’ve put a lot of sweat into making each of these puzzles interesting and fun.

Depending on the puzzle, you’ll find that some of the problems are hard. Some puzzles may depend on students doing 5-6 problems correct in a row. Lots of word problems. By design, I use a variety of levels of problems to keep a variety of learners engaged and challenged. If you use any of these assignments I strongly such that you help and hint, as you desire.

In this product you will receive ALL NINE different puzzles. I have created these puzzles to map the curriculum to nine different chapters of most Algebra 1 textbooks.

Unit 1: Shapes, Lines & Angles (South Africa): Distance and Midpoints, Segment Addition, Polygons, Writing Equations of Lines, Parallel Lines 

Unit 2: Logic & Reasoning: Logic and Conjectures (France):, Compound Statements, Venn Diagrams, Deductive Reasoning 

Unit 3: Triangles (the Caribbean): Triangle Classification, Interior and Exterior Angles, Triangle Congruence, the Centers of a Triangle

Unit 4: Proportions & Similarity (Canada): Ratios and Scale Factors, Similar Polygon, Parts of Similar Polygons

Unit 5: Trigonometry (India): Pythagorean Theorem, Special Right Triangles, Sine, Cosine & Tangent, Law of Sine & Cosine, Angles of Depression and Elevation 

Unit 6: Circles (United Kingdom): Circumference, Radius, Diameter and Chords, Angles and Arcs, Tangents, Equations of Circles

Unit 7: Area (Chicago, USA):  Calculating Areas of Polygons & Circles, Area Dissection, Area of Irregular Figures, Geometric Probability

Unit 8: Surface Area & Volume (the Mediterranean): Calculating Surface Area and Volume many figures, Nets, Congruent and Similar Solids

Unit 9: Transformations (South America):  Translations, Rotations, Reflections, Dilations, Tessellations 

If you are teaching Geometry and are looking for fun review activities and enrichment problems, I have you covered. Student Satisfaction Guaranteed or I'll give you your money back. Be the cool teacher :-)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Three New Person Puzzles!!

The popular Person Puzzle collection is growing at 21st Century Math ProjectMiddle School and High School Math Teachers rejoice! (or not)

Mixing History with Algebra Practice one person at a time!

Name: Person Puzzle -- Maya Angelou -- Solving Systems with Substitution
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Algebra, Prealgebra skills)
Teaching Duration: 10-30 minutes
Cost: $0.75 for a 2 Page PDF (1 assignments and answer key) 

Name: Person Puzzle -- Aung Sang Suu Kyi -- Distribution
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Algebra, Prealgebra skills)
Teaching Duration: 10-30 minutes
Cost: $0.75 for a 2 Page PDF (1 assignments and answer key) 
Person Puzzle - Aung Sang Suu Kyi @ TPT

Name: Person Puzzle -- William Kamkwamba -- Solving Inequalities
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Algebra, Prealgebra skills)
Teaching Duration: 10-30 minutes
Cost: $0.75 for a 2 Page PDF (1 assignments and answer key) 

Maya Angelou, Aung Sang Suu Kyi and William Kamkwamba may live all over the world, but now they are forever together in this blog post! They join an already stellar cast of Person Puzzle People.
Umm.. I don't think so, and it's
a little weird to be talking about
this right now.
Did you sign up for this?

It's okay ladies, Person Puzzles are
pretty cool.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Super Sunday Sales Event

Since you likely have nothing better to do this Sunday night, you can browse and get discounted lesson plans on Teachers Pay Teachers sitewide! I already have a sale on everything 21st Century Math Project.

Don't forget the promo code!