Engaging students: Defining the terms prism, cylinder, cone, pyramid, and sphere

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Alejandro Rivas. His topic, from Geometry: defining the terms prism, cylinder, cone, pyramid, and sphere.

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How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

 

I as a teacher can create a research activity or project with prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres. The activity would entail having the students do some research over a particular building or structure of their choice. Once the students have decided on which building or structure I will ask them to identify all of the prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres the building or structure contain. The students will have to count the quantity of each, figure out a way that all of the 3-dimensional figures hold the building or structure together, have a picture, and  to present to the class. After the students have presented their projects, I will then explain how prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres are involved in our everyday lives. I will tie it in and explain that certain professions use these 3-dimensional figures such as Engineering, Architecture, Art, Graphic Design, etc.

 

 

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How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

 

This topic extends what my students should have learned in previous courses by them being able to identify simple shapes that form prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres. For examples, the most common and referred prism is the rectangular prism. The prior knowledge of the shapes the students need to have are rectangles and squares. To expand my student’s knowledge from previous courses I will have them build prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres out construction paper. Before they cut out and form the 3-dimensional figures the students will have to identify each shape. I will split the students up into different groups. Once the groups have been formed I will let the students choose between a prism, cylinder, cone, pyramid, and sphere. Once they choose the 3-dimensional figure they will create a poster that must contain the shapes that are being used in order to form the 3-dimensional shape, and the steps the students took to get the end result.

 

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How can technology be used to effectively engage students with the topic?

 

A way that technology can be used to effectively engage students with defining the terms prism, cylinder, cone, pyramid, and sphere is by playing a game of Kahoot! I would begin the class with giving the students the definitions of the different 3-dimensional figures. Once they know the definitions I will break the students off into groups of 2 or 3 depending on the class size and have them come up with a team name. The Kahoot! will have different questions pertaining to the definition of prism, cylinder, cone, pyramid, and sphere. This should be able help me, the instructor, gauge how much the students know about prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres. This will also give me an opportunity to help the students understand major differences between the 3-dimensional figures. This will allow me to go into detail about the bases of certain 3-dimensional figures and how that ties into the reasoning behind their specific name.

 

Engaging students: Completing the square

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Victor Acevedo. His topic, from Algebra: completing the square.

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How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

Completing the square is an Algebra II topic that builds on students’ prior knowledge of areas and shapes. With a given quadratic equation, students can make a visual representation of what it looks like by using Alge-blocks or Algebra tiles.  The x-squared term becomes the starting point for the model. The x term gets split in half and placed on 2 adjacent sides of the x-squared term. The next step in the process requires the student fill in what is missing of the square. Students use their knowledge of squares and packing to complete the square and make the quadratic equation easily factorable.

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How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

Eddie Woo is an Australian High School Math teacher that also uploads videos to YouTube. He uploads his class lectures that he thinks will help others appreciate and understand math concepts better. He made this video where he makes a visual representation and informal proof for why the “Completing the Square” method works. By using the student’s knowledge of equations and shapes he can construct the square that appears when completing the square for a quadratic equation. The moment that he puts the blocks together you can hear the amazement by his students. Many of his videos have this some feeling to them in which he explores the beauty of math and makes logical connections between what students already know and what they need to know.

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What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

Completing the square was a method that was discovered in order to solve quadratic equations. This method was discovered by Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, a Persian mathematician, astronomer, and geographer. Al-Khwarizmi, also known as the father of Algebra, wrote “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing” in which he presented systematic solutions to solving linear and quadratic equations. At the time Al-Khwarizmi’s goal was to simplify any quadratic equation to be expressed with squares, roots, and numbers (ax2, bx, and c constants respectively) to one of six standard forms. The method of completing the square is a simple one to follow, but it had not been put into words formally until Al-Khwarizmi laid out the steps. In his book he progressed through solving simple linear equations and then simple quadratic equations that only required roots. This method only came up once he got to quadratic equations of the form ax2+bx+c=0 that could not be solved simply with roots. The discovery of this method leads to a simpler way of visually representing quadratic equations and applying it to parabolic functions.

 

References

Hughes, Barnabas. “Completing the Square – Quadratics Using Addition.” MAA Press | Periodical | Convergence, Mathematical Association of America, Aug. 2011, www.maa.org/press/periodicals/convergence/completing-the-square-quadratics-using-addition.

Mastin, Luke. “Al-Khwarizmi – Islamic Mathematics – The Story of Mathematics.” Egyptian Mathematics – The Story of Mathematics, 2010, www.storyofmathematics.com/islamic_alkhwarizmi.html.

Engaging students: Midpoint

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission again comes from my former student Tinashe Meki. His topic, from Geometry: deriving the term midpoint.

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How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?

 

During political elections, we usually hear how candidates are projected to do as the election moves forward. An important marker that usually separates likely candidates to win is the midpoint. Different new channels and news castor tend to use the phrase “midpoint of the election…”, or “midway through the election…” as ways to signify a halfway marker in time or events. The use of midpoint in news is used to describe halfway mark of time, events, distance etc. It’s a flexible word which gives its viewers a marker of how they can predict future events, time or distance. The uses of midpoint is inherently powerful because it simplifies and organizes ideas for views. For example, during time election there are so many stories being reported, different polls and various interpretation of how candidates are doing. Once the midpoint of the elections is reached, news anchors and new outlets provide the viewers with a consensus on how the election is going. That information is better received by the viewers because they can organize all the information they have received and create the own opinions for the second half of the election.

 

 

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How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?  What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

https://mathcs.clarku.edu/~djoyce/elements/bookIII/bookIII.html

This topic allows the teacher to simultaneously teach students about mathematical history and provide an engaging activity. I think the best way introduce students to the definition of a midpoint would be to have the students find the midpoint themselves, describe what they have found in their own words then provide them with a formal definition. A way to do that would be to show students how to bisect a line using Euclidian tool (ruler and compass) as the ruler, then have the students name the point where the line is bisected. Ask students to describe that point in their own words about the line. This activity would allow the instructor to introduce students to Euclidean geometry. The cool thing about using Euclidean geometry is that it allows students to visualize geometric concepts. It would provide them concrete understating of geometric topics.

 

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How have different cultures throughout time used this topic in their society?

 

https://www.learner.org/courses/learningmath/geometry/session1/part_c/index.html

https://www.ics.uci.edu/~eppstein/junkyard/origami.html

https://plus.maths.org/content/power-origami

 

An interesting approach to define midpoint would be to use origami geometry. Much like Euclid constructions, Origami offers similar constructions and definitions for geometry terms. Origami is Japanese art form that has been around since 200.AD. “Modern mathematicians Humiaki Huzita and Koshiro Hatori devised a complete set of axioms to describe origami geometry — the Huzita–Hatori axioms.” Among these axioms, one of them defines and constructs a proof for the midpoint. Having students construct the midpoint using Huzita and Hatori would be an interesting way to not only introduce the definition of midpoint, but also provide a different approach of explaining geometric concepts.

 

 

Engaging students: Defining a function of one variable

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission again comes from my former student Phuong Trinh. Her topic, from Algebra: defining a function of one variable.

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How have different cultures throughout time used this topic in their society?

The understanding of functions is crucial in the study of both math and science. Not only that, some functions, especially function with one variable, are often used by everyone in their daily life.  For example, a person wants to buy some cookies and a cake. The person will need to figure how much it will cost them to buy a cake and however many cookies they want. If the cost of the cake is $12, and the price for each cookie is $1.50, the person can set up a function of one variable to find the total cost for any number of cookies, expressed as c. The function can be written as f(c) = 1.50c + 12. With this function, the person can substitute any number of cookies and find out how much they would spend for the cookies and cake. Aside from the situation given by this example, function with one variable can also be used in various different scenarios.

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What interesting (i.e., uncontrived) word problems using this topic can your students do now? (You may find resources such as http://www.spacemath.nasa.gov to be very helpful in this regard; feel free to suggest others.)

Function with one variable can be used in many real life situations. Word problems can be derived from every day scenarios that the students can relate to.

Problem 1: John is transferring his homework files into his flash drive. This is the formula for the size of the files on John’s drive S (measured in megabytes) as a function of time t (measured in seconds): S (t) = 3t + 25

How many megabytes are there in the drive after 10 seconds?

This problem allows the students to get familiar with the function notation as well as letting the students work with a different variable other than x.

Problem 2: (Found at https://www.vitutor.com/calculus/functions/linear_problems.html )

“A car rental charge is $100 per day plus $0.30 per mile travelled. Determine the equation of the line that represents the daily cost by the number of miles travelled and graph it. If a total of 300 miles was travelled in one day, how much is the rental company going to receive as a payment?”

Besides giving the students practice with finding a solution from a function, this problem let the students practice setting up the equation. This also shows the students’ understanding of the subject.

 

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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

There are multiple resources that can be used to help the students understand what a function is as well as how they should approach a problem with function. One of the resources can be found at coolmath.com. The layout of the website makes it easy to locate the topic of “Functions” under the “Algebra” tab. By comparing a function with a box, Coolmath defines a function in a way that can be easily understood by students, while also showing how a function can be thought of as visually. The site also provides the explanation for function notation with visuals and examples that are easy to understand. On Coolmath, the students will also have the chance to practice with randomly generated questions. They can also check their answers afterward. On other hands, the site also provides definitions and explanations to other ideas such as domain and range, vertical line tests, etc. Overall, coolmath.com is great to learn for students in and out of the classroom, as well as before and after the lesson.

http://www.coolmath.com/algebra/15-functions

 

 

References:

“Linear Function Word Problems.” Inicio, www.vitutor.com/calculus/functions/linear_problems.html.

“Welcome to Coolmath.” Cool Math – Free Online Cool Math Lessons, Cool Math Games & Apps, Fun Math Activities, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Precalculus, www.coolmath.com/algebra/15-functions.

 

 

 

 

 

Engaging students: Slope-intercept form of a line

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Michael Garcia. His topic, from Algebra I: the point-slope intercept form of a line.

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How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

Writing linear function in slope-intercept form is an important topic in Algebra I. The slope-intercept form of a line consists of an independent and dependent variable, a slope, and a y-intercept. In previous courses, the students should have learned slope. They may not have learned specifically about the word “slope,” but they should have been introduced to the topic of rate of change. The students also should have been introduced to the topic of graphing, specifically graphing a point on a Cartesian coordinate plane. Finally, the students should have learned about independent and dependent variables.

The slope-intercept form of a line extends the concept of rate of change, graphing, and independent/dependent variables by “putting it all together.” Students now have their first glimpse into the world of graphing equations. They can now visually see the representation of the rate of change (or slope) between the different points of a line. The students can see how the slope is a constant rate that goes through our points of data.

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How has this topic appeared in the news?

On September 12, 2018, Apple held its annual news conference. They announced plenty of new gear and updates to their IOS, but everyone tuned in to hear about the new iPhone. The world freaked out when the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR were announced. So, how does this announcement relate to the slope-intercept form of a line? If we wanted to purchase a new iPhone and have a cell service plan with it, we can write a linear equation.

According to the Apple website, you can purchase the iPhone XS for $999, while you can purchase the iPhone XS Max for as little as $1,099. However, those price points are for the 64 GB model. If we are going to purchase an iPhone, we are going to buy the biggest and flashiest model. Since the iPhone XR is not currently taking pre-orders, we are going to purchase an iPhone XS Max with 512 GB of storage for $1,449. Since most people cannot afford to spend $1,449 on a single item, we are going to have monthly payments of $68.66.

According to an Apple sales representative I spoke on the phone with, there would not be a down payment on this iPhone model.* Also, according to my mom’s phone bill, it would cost $40 a month for one cell phone line that has unlimited talking, but 0.05 cents per text (my mom doesn’t text) . Our linear equation would be y= 0.05x +68.66 + 40, which is the same as y= 0.05x + 108.66.

This is a great way of viewing linear functions in slope-intercept form because it makes the problem more personable to the student.

 

*given that the customer signs up for the Apple iPhone Upgrade program

 

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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

With new technology coming out every day, there are plenty of resources available for teachers. One tool that can be used to engage students with the slope-intercept form of a line is an application called GeoGebra. GeoGebra is “dynamic mathematics software for all levels of education that brings together geometry, algebra, spreadsheets, graphing, statistics and calculus in one easy-to-use package.” There are online resources already created (very similar to Desmos), but I would mainly use their external app. I would use GeoGebra because of the many possibilities that are provided within the app.

The beauty of GeoGebra is student can utilize this app in their studying time as well. When you plot two points, the application automatically writes the equation associated with the line. This is a great way for the student to check their work when graphing/writing linear equation in slope-intercept form.

References:

https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-iphone/iphone-xs/6.5-inch-display-512gb-space-gray-sprint#01,11,31,42

https://www.geogebra.org/about

 

 

 

 

 

Engaging students: Finding x- and y-intercepts

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Lissette Molina. Her topic, from Algebra: finding x- and y-intercepts.

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What interesting (i.e., uncontrived) word problems using this topic can your students do now?

Using this topic, students can now use word problems that involve two variables in our everyday lives. One problem that many scientists often use is population growth. In population growth, we can usually see a trend of a line and determine the slope. We initially begin with a certain population in a certain year, this is considered the y-intercept, since we start at the initial year that we consider to be at x=0. Using the slope of the line when we are speaking in terms of population decay, we may then set our y=0 to find when a population would be equal to zero. We can also consider other examples such as the depreciation of a car, or when a business’s grows out of debt and begins to profit. Word problems include, but are not limited to, problems that involve a trend and wanting to find where that trend will lead to at a certain point, x, when we are given an initially amount or reverse this operation.

 

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How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

This topic crosses multiple courses in mathematics. In general, knowing the x and y-intercepts of equations help students start outlining what the graph of the function might look like. This gives part of the visual representation needed to complete part of the graph. These intercepts usually also give a prediction of what the shape of the graph may look like. A fun assignment would be giving a student two points on the graph and along with the intercepts of that equation that the points belong to. Along with this, these intercepts give us the solutions of the equations. When there are not x or y-intercepts, we would now know that the solutions do not exist or at least are imaginary. Overall, x and y-intercepts help us get a better understanding of what the graphs of almost all equations must look like. This is essentially especially when we are graphing by hand.

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How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

 

Graphing calculators is one fun essential way of finding intercepts as well as learning functions on a calculator. When a student graphs a function on a graphing calculator, for example, the sine function, we can ask the student where they believe the graph would intercept with the x-axis. We would then ask them to find the intercepts using the calculator by pressing [2nd][trace][4] function and proceed to find the approximated x-intercepts. The student would then find that the intercepts occur at every npi/2. Essentially, using this function is an interesting way of estimating the intercepts along the graph in an interactive way. Other online graphing calculators may do this as well and give students a better understanding of where the intercepts occur.

Engaging students: Equations of two variables

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission again comes from my former student Julie Thompson. Her topic, from Algebra: equations of two variables.

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What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery/and or development of this topic?

4000 years ago the Babylonians knew how to solve systems of two linear equations with two variables. The most basic notion in all of math, most of us would say, is the equation- you manipulate both sides until you obtain what you were solving for. It sounds very simple to us these days, but it actually took a LONG time to develop as a concrete concept. Not until the 16th century was the concept of an equation taken as its own mathematical entity!

Early text from Egypt, specifically in the Rhind Papyrus, 1650 BC, shows that Egyptians were able to solve linear equations of one variable. Then as late as 300 BC evidence shows that the Egyptians also know how to solve equations with TWO unknowns!

In their society, equations of two variables could be used for very useful things such as finding the length and width of their field given the area and perimeter. There were no symbols at the time, so all calculation was done mentally and verbally. Linear equations with two unknowns have been discovered and used for a very long time!

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How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

A popular question among students is, “How does this relate to the real world?” The unit on equations of two variables is one of the best ways to show students how equations really do help you solve real life problems. We solve them in our heads all the time without even realizing it! For example, if we are at a store shopping for clothes, and shirts cost $5 and pants cost $10, but we only have a $50 budget, we mentally set up 5x+10y=50 in our minds and try to find how many of each item we could buy that satisfies our equation. When introduced in a math class, it may not look so interesting. That is why as a teacher I would want to have a project where students can have fun setting up equations of two variables modeling a real life situation (maybe something they could even save and use for the future)! The idea is having students plan their ideal vacation! There are many variables that are in play when planning a trip. The students must consider gas, lodging, food, transportation, activity cost, etc. The idea is to have students do research and actually plan a trip they would want to take, while considering their budget and making decisions based on what their calculations allow them to do. An example of an equation they would write involves a rental car and gas. Let’s say that a rental car costs $50 per day and gas costs 2.33/gallon. Then the total cost, y, for their transportation after arriving at their destination PER DAY will be modeled by y=50+2.33x, where x is the number of gallons of gas they use in a day. Hopefully by the end of the project they will be able to make the connection between the topic and the real world, and even have a trip planned that they can take one day!

 

 

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As I was reading the news regarding hurricanes, I ran across this article that is comparing the European model with the American model in regards to which model is tracking the hurricane more accurately. “The European model collects data continuously over several hours at various observation points, measured in 4D. It does this before making a prediction for the next 10 days. This is updated two times per day.” Contrastingly, the American model only collects data 4 times per day in 3D. The part that especially caught my attention and relates to my topic is, “Additionally, ensembles are used to test different variables in forecasting equations. Since the European model uses more than twice the number of ensembles than the GFS, it is able to plug-in more numbers, thus generating more outcomes for potential hurricane paths.” The actual process may be a lot more complicated than what students are introduced to in Algebra I or II, but when reading this brief news article, students are exposed to content that they have learned in class and may be able to make a real-world connection. ‘Testing different variables in equations’ is exactly what students are doing when writing and solving equations with two variables. They are trying to come up with an equation to model a situation and find possible solutions. This is relatable to what the European model is doing with the hurricane- testing different variables in the equation and coming up with possible paths for Florence. Although it is more complicated, it is still the same concept in action!

 

References:

https://www.britannica.com/science/algebra#ref761896

https://www.coast2coast.me/carl/2015/01/28/the-road-trip-project-made-to-support-a-linear-equations-unit/

https://www.13newsnow.com/article/news/tracking-florence-euro-vs-american-model-what-is-the-difference/291-593842154

Engaging students: Adding and subtracting polynomials

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Christian Oropeza. His topic, from Algebra: multiplying polynomials.

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How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

The activity would consist of each student being given a bowl with 20 pieces of candy, which has multiple colors (e.g., Skittles or M&M’s) and a worksheet, which by the end will show students how to add and subtract polynomials(Reference 1). The objective for each student is to group all of the pieces of candy by the same color. Once this has been completed, the students will write down on the worksheet for “Part 1”, how many pieces of candy are in each group. Next, the students would be given 10 more pieces of random colored candy. Then, the students will regroup the new pieces of candy and write down the new number of candies in each group for “Part 2”. For “Part 3”, students will eat(or put away) 10 of their candies randomly. Finally, the students will write down the new number of candies in each group. Then the students would be asked, “What did each one of you do to put the candies in groups?”, “what operation was used for Part 2 of the worksheet”, and “what operation was used for Part 3 of the worksheet”. The students’ responses should be somewhere along the lines of “group the candies by the same color”, “addition”, and “subtraction”. Then the students would be told to relabel each group of colored candies into a different variable. For example, green=x, red=x2, yellow=k, blue=y, etc. Knowing the previous information, the students will next repeat the Part 1, 2, and 3, but using the assigned variables instead of the colors. The purpose of this activity is to show students that each variable in a polynomial must be grouped by like terms when performing addition or subtraction.

 

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How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

This topic relates to previous math classes by activating students’ prior knowledge on the concept of adding and subtracting integers. This means knowing the rules of addition and the rules of subtraction. For example, students should know that a 3+2=5=3+2, but 3-2=1\ne2-3 (i.e., commutative property). Students should also know that the when subtracting a negative integer, the signs cancel out and all that is left is the addition of a positive integer (e.g., -(-2)=2). Students should also be familiar with grouping anything into specific groups. For example, if students were given colored tiles, then the students should be able to group the tiles into different colored groups. The distributive property is a topic the students should have covered before, which helps out when trying to simplify an expression involving parenthesis (e.g., 2(3+a)=6+2a. The idea of closure for integer properties and operations is the key to adding and subtracting polynomials, so students must have understood this concept prior in order to use the operation of addition and subtraction on like terms.

 

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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic? Note: It’s not enough to say “such-and-such is a great website”; you need to explain in some detail why it’s a great website.

Technology is always a great way to engage students especially with the newer generation of students where technology is part of their everyday life. The website mathisfun.com (Reference 2) is an excellent piece of technology to introduce this topic to the students because the website breaks down the idea of adding and subtracting polynomials piece by piece in easy manner that will help students see patterns and activate prior knowledge. With the inclusion of examples and non-examples students will learn where to minimize their potential errors. Some of the examples are animated with colors to help the more visual students understand and recognize the pattern for each problem. Another example of effective technology is the website Khan Academy (Reference 3,4,5). Khan Academy has great videos that thoroughly explains this topic. Reference 3 defines the word “polynomial” in math language by breaking the word into two words, which will help students remember and recognize this topic more easily. Also, Reference 2 goes over the vocabulary associated with adding and subtracting polynomials (e.g., coefficients, monomial, binomial, trinomial, and degree). Reference 4 goes over an example of adding a polynomial by going through step by step procedures. Reference 5 does the same thing as Reference 4, but over an example of subtracting polynomials.

References:

  1. http://www.cpalms.org/Public/PreviewResourceLesson/Preview/47832
  2. https://www.mathsisfun.com/algebra/polynomials-adding-subtracting.html
  3. https://www.khanacademy.org/math/algebra/introduction-to-polynomial-expressions/introduction-to-polynomials/v/polynomials-intro
  4. https://www.khanacademy.org/math/algebra/introduction-to-polynomial-expressions/adding-and-subtracting-polynomials/v/adding-and-subtracting-polynomials-1
  5. https://www.khanacademy.org/math/algebra/introduction-to-polynomial-expressions/adding-and-subtracting-polynomials/v/subtracting-polynomials

 

Engaging students: Factoring quadratic polynomials

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Chris Brown. His topic, from Algebra: factoring quadratic polynomials.

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What interesting word problems using this topic can your students do now?

 

The ability to factor quadratic polynomials is at the essence of many two-dimensional kinematic word problems that students will encounter in the future physics courses. One specific word problem that students can now solve, is, “In a tied game between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, Steph Curry has the ball for his team. If Steph Curry is 20ft away from the basketball hoop and throws the basketball up in the air at a velocity of 3 m/s, will he be able to make the shot if 3 seconds is left on the clock and win the game for his team? Consider this to be an isolated system.” This special type of problem gives them initial distance, final distance, initial velocity, and acceleration. He student then needs to solve for time, which turns this into a quadratic scenario that requires factoring. I feel like this problem situation is super relevant to the high school age group as it seems to be popular amongst that age group, and with this problem they can extend it to any real-world scenario that searches for time when given distance and velocity.

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How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

 

When factoring quadratic equations, one of the universal methods of factoring is called factoring by grouping. Let’s identify a quadratic equation to be ax2 + bx + c = 0. When factoring by grouping, the students must first multiply ‘a’ and ‘c,’ and then find factors of the product which sum to ‘b’. Let’s call these specific factors ‘n’ and ‘m’. Thus far, this brings in students abilities to create factor trees from 3rd grade mathematics. The next step requires students to replace ‘b’ with the factors ‘n’ and ‘m,’ such that we now have ax2 + nx + mx + c = 0. Now the students have to group the ‘ax2’ term and ‘c’ with either the ‘nx’ and ‘mx’ terms in such a way that when the greatest common divisor is pulled away, what’s left is identical for each group. The ability to identify the greatest common divisor between two terms stems from what they learned in 5th grade mathematics. Then, the last step would be to factor out the common term. This entire process, which was not completed here, has used two very fundamental skills from elementary mathematics.

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How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

 

I believe Symbolab is an amazing website, that the students can use to aid them in the understanding of the process of factoring quadratic polynomials. I chose this website, because it focuses on the process of factoring and uses common language to explain their steps which the students should be aware of. Lastly, I love this website because it gives students the option to hide the steps and just see the answer. With this, the students can type in random quadratics and work towards the solution, and if they get stuck, they can see all the steps. All in all, it is an amazing way to practice the skill of factoring quadratic equations for as long as they please!

Here is the link to Symbolab: https://www.symbolab.com/solver/factor-calculator/factor%20x%5E%7B2%7D-4x%2B3%3D0

 

 

 

Engaging students: Solving linear systems of equations by either substitution or graphing

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Cameron Story. His topic, from Algebra II: solving linear systems of equations by either substitution or graphing.

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What interesting word problems using this topic can your students do now?

In algebra I, students are most likely to focus on a system of two equations with two unknown variables. Teachers incorporating two differently priced objects into a word problem works great as a real-world financial problem. However, these tend to be self-similar and are arguably uninspired. More importantly, students working to discover how to solve these systems are more challenged and engaged than those who are just handed the rulebook on systems of equations.

Suppose you place your students in the place of a farmer in ancient history. They have 25 different plots of land in their field, and each plot can either have a corn plant OR a wheat plant. However, suppose the farmer requires 4 times as many corn plants than wheat plants. Task your students to find out how many corn plants and how many wheat plants are in the 25-plot field, using any method they chose.

What is interesting is that there are multiple ways to solve this problem. Students could fill a 5×5 grid with labels C and W for corn and wheat. Then, making sure that they add 4 C’s for every W, they can simply count the squares in the grid to find the answer. Just from the information given to them, they could conclude that  and that . Students could then use substitution to arrive at the answer.

While many other methods arrive at the same solution, graphing these two equations on a W vs C graph reveals the answer to the student visually. After solving each equation for C in terms of W, the intersections of the two lines is the solution. Note that when showing this solution to your students, it is an opportune time to introduce what a system of equations with no solutions (parallel lines) or infinite solutions (two of the same line) look like.

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How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

Students are introduced to linear equations with the usual . In this equation, we have the one dependent variable y, whose value depends on the one independent variable x. When you first introduce a system of equations with two unknown variables, whose solution is some coordinate (x, y), the learning curve could be steep the students lack the conceptual understanding to connect linear equations to systems of linear equations.

You can then reveal to your students, or have them discover on their own, that you can take a system of two linear equations, write them in such a way that they represent two separate lines in point-slope form, and then find their intersection. If they intersect, then this is your (x, y) solution. Students should know that there is no coincidence here; just manipulation of something new into something more familiar.

 

 

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How can technology (graphing calculator websites or phone apps) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

Say a student is solving a word problem that results in the following system of linear equations:

x-y=-1

x-4y=-2

            First the student is required to graph this system on an x vs y graph. On a typical handheld graphing calculator, this system cannot simply be punched into the calculator as is. The student might not know this yet, but their calculator could graph it after converting to point-slope form. However, the Geogebra (https://www.geogebra.org/graphing) website and mobile-app can take the equations as shown above as inputs directly without conversion. What I like most about having the students obtain the graph first is that it takes the system and transforms it into a 2-D graph of two intersecting lines. Students should know that each of these lines can be written as  . At this point with some further guidance, the relationship between the system of equations and the lines they represent in 2 dimensions should become apparent to the students through their own independent discovery.

 

References:

“Free Math Apps – Used by over 100 Million Students & Teachers Worldwide.” GeoGebra, http://www.geogebra.org/.