# Engaging students: Simplifying rational expressions

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 Peter Buhler. His topic, from Algebra II/Precalculus: simplifying rational expressions. A2. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

One activity that could be performed when introducing rational expressions is to demonstrate the reason for simplifying. Before teaching students to simplify, instead ask them to evaluate the expressions given various x values. As they struggle through the painstaking process of taking squares, distributing, multiplying, adding and subtracting as they attempt to evaluate the rational expression, take note of how long it may take the students. Then have several students share their method. Following the student sharing, show your efficient method that allows you to simplify the expression before beginning to evaluate.
This not only shows the students that it is quicker, but it often provides more accurate answers to the process that must be taken to “cancel” the terms and then evaluate. Students should be more willing to participate in the following lesson on simplification due to the desire to do less work. This could also be an opportunity to discuss why it is often helpful to look for “shortcuts” or tools that can be used to simplify long or tricky problems into something manageable, even by high school students. B2. How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

This topic actually extends several previous topics seen in middle school mathematics. One of these topics is reducing fractions. This actually builds on the topic of finding the greatest common factor (GCF), which students learn in elementary school. To reduce a fraction, students find a GCF from both the top and bottom of the fraction, and then simply eliminate that factor leaving the expression in a simplified form. This could be utilized to introduce the idea of simplifying rational expressions, as students will likely be familiar with reducing fractions to their most simplified form.
This can also be applied to multiplying by fractions, as the GCF can be pulled out of the top and bottom of the fractions and simplified, making the multiplication of the fraction simpler. One last possible application could be in solving proportions, as students are typically taught to simplify the proportions before attempting to solve. The common theme in all of these is simplifying in order to make a problem easier and is a more efficient process for most students. There are many advanced applications of simplifying rational expressions. One such function is the Pade approximant, which is an approximation of a rational function of a given order. It was created by Henri Pade in 1890 and has been used to model certain rational functions. While this is certainly an advanced rational expression, it still holds true as there is a polynomial on the top and the bottom, which can be factored and simplified.
Rational functions have also been commonly used to model certain equations in STEM field such as functions of wave patterns for molecular particles, various forces in physics, and other fields that take mathematical ideas and apply them to a science. As a teacher introducing the topic of simplifying these expressions, one could display various applications of these functions and how they are used in a day-to-day setting. Students should be able to see beyond the cut-and-dry steps of simplifying the expressions and understand the implications beyond what they are doing.

References:

If Simplifying Rational Expressions Is Aspirin Then How Do You Create The Headache?

# 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 Jessica Williams. Her topic, from Algebra I: the point-slope intercept form of a line.

A.2 How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

In order to teach a lesson regarding slope intercept form of a line, I believe it is crucial to use visual learning to really open the student’s minds to the concept. Prior to this lesson, students should know how to find the slope of a line. I would provide each student with a piece of graph paper and small square deli sheet paper. I would have them fold their deli sheet paper into half corner to corner/triangle way). I would ask each student to put the triangle anywhere on the graph so that it passes through the x and the y-axis. Then I will ask the students to trace the side of the triangle and to find two points that are on that line. For the next step, each student will find the slope of the line they created. Once the students have discovered their slope, I will ask each of them to continue their line further using the slope they found. I will ask a few students to show theirs as an example (picking the one who went through the origin and one who did not). I will scaffold the students into asking what the difference would look like in a formula if you go through the origin or if you go through (0,4) or (0,-3) and so on. Eventually the students will come to the conclusion how the place where their line crosses the y-axis is their y intercept. Lastly, each student will be able to write their equation of the line they specifically created. I will then introduce the y=mx+b formula to them and show how the discovery they found is that exact formula. This is a great way to allow the students to work hands on with the material and have their own individual accountability for the concept. They will have the pride of knowing that they learned the slope intercept formula of a line on their own. E.1 How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

Graphing calculators are a very important aspect of teaching slope-intercept form of a line. It allows the students to visually see where the y-intercept is and what the slope is. Also, another good program to use is desmos. It allows the students to see the graph on the big screen and you can put multiple graphs on the screen at one time to see the affects that the different slopes and y intercept have on the graph. This leads students into learning about transformations of linear functions. Also, the teacher can provide the students with a graph, with no points labeled, and ask them to find the equation of the line on the screen. This could lead into a fun group activity/relay race of who can write the formula of the graph in the quickest time. Also, khan academy has a graphing program where the students are asked to create the graph for a specific equation. This allows the students to practice their graphing abilities and truly master the concept at home. To engage the students, you could also use Kahoot to practice vocabulary. For Kahoot quizzes, you can set the time for any amount up to 2 minutes, so you could throw a few formula questions in their as well. It is an engaging way to have each student actively involved and practicing his or her vocabulary. B1. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Learning slope intercept form is very important for the success of their future courses and real world problems. Linear equations are found all over the world in different jobs, art, etc. By mastering this concept, it is easier for students to visualize what the graph of a specific equation will look like, without actually having to graph it. The students will understand that the b in y=mx+b is the y-intercept and they will know how steep the graph will be depending on the value of m. Mastering this concept will better prepare them to lead into quadratic equations and eventually cubic. Slope intercept form is the beginning of what is to come in the graphing world. Once you grasp the concept of how to identify what the graph will look like, it is easier to introduce the students to a graph with a higher degree. It will be easier to explain how y=mx+b is for linear graphs because it is increases or decreases at a constant rate. You could start by asking,
1.What about if we raise the degree of the graph to x^2?
2.What will happen to the graph?
3.Why do you think this will happen, can you explain?
4.What does squaring the x value mean?
It really just prepares the students for real world applications as well. When they are presented a problem in real life, for example, the student is throwing a bday party and has \$100 dollars to go to the skating rink. If they have to spend \$20 on pizza and each friend costs \$10 to take, how many friends can you take? Linear equations are used every day, and it truly helps each one of the students.

# Engaging students: Solving one- or two-step inequalities

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 Michelle Contreras. Her topic, from Algebra: solving one- or two-step inequalities. A.2 How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

One way that I could create an activity for my students is by modifying a worksheet that I’ve seen around the internet and make it something enjoyable and engaging for students. The original worksheet is called “Who broke the Vase?” from teacherspayteachers.com and the students are supposed to solve the one and two step inequalities and match the answer with the letter of the question to figure out who broke the vase. The students are to cut the lettered puzzle and match them to the answer. I believe tweaking this worksheet and make it a group scavenger hunt activity will be a good idea because the students will be split into a group of 3 or 4 and each group will have particular letters assigned to solve.

The scavenger hunt will be around the class so the students have an opportunity to work with other students but also to walk around and be active. I will have the lettered puzzle cut into pieces so each group can match their answerers to a letter and put it up in the overhead so everyone can see everyone else’s answers and progress. I believe this 20 minute activity will be best used after a lesson in one or two step inequalities giving the students an opportunity to work with their peers, to ask questions, and to address any misconceptions. This gives the teacher an opportunity to clarify ideas and to see how well students are understanding inequalities. B.1 How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Having a good understanding on how to solve for one or two step inequalities is an important skill to acquire. There are many classes that use this concept of inequalities over and over again, so if the foundation of this topic is not set right other math topics and concepts may not make sense. Personally I have made use of my knowledge of inequalities in calculus 1, solving for inequalities trying to prove limits and the squeeze theorem. Last semester in real analysis class there was a theorem called the triangle inequality which just by the name you have an idea of what it’s about. The theorem compares the sum of two lengths of a triangle to the length of the third side. Talking with your students about different instances that you will come across a certain topic may help them want to learn and gain a better understanding.
Comparing inequalities and equations is important and helps the students draw connections and remember better what to do since the properties of inequalities are very similar to equations. Stressing to your students that when you divide by a negative number on both sides that you should always flip the sign is essential. Students struggle to remember this properties since with equations you normally don’t do anything when you divide by a negative number. Having all the properties imbedded into your student’s memory will benefit them and prepare them for the future. E.1 How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

You Tube in my opinion has great learning videos, which are a great tool for the classroom. Most often than not I refer to You Tube to get a deeper understanding about a topic, even more now that I’m in college. Searching for inequality videos that would be engaging was a pretty tough because I was looking for a precise video that was not only educational but I guess “fun” to watch. The video that I believe is a great tool for the students who are trying to remember all the rules for solving inequalities is called “Inequalities Rap”. This video makes reference to a show that I used to watch when I was little “Power Puff Girls” so automatically it grabbed my attention.
The video which was made by a group of students for a math project contains the voices of the actual students rapping about the properties of inequalities and going over the steps to solve one or two step inequalities. The video is just short of 2 minutes and is very enjoyable to watch which I believe will grab the students attention since there is some rapping/singing involved. I could also ask my students to memorize all the lyrics to the rap song and rap it to the entire class if their up for it. Giving those particular students 5-6 free homework passes that could be used throughout the year.

References
“Who broke the vase?” https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Solving-One-Step-Equations-Fun-Engaging-Worksheet-Activity-124604

# 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 Kelsi Kolbe. Her topic, from Algebra: completing the square. A2) How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

When students are learning how to complete the square they are usually told the algorithm take b divide it by two and square it, add that number to both sides. To the students this concept seems like a ‘random trick’ that works. This can lead to students forgetting the formula with no way to get it back. However, if we show students how to complete the square using algebra tiles they will be able to understand how the formula came to be (pictured to the left). This will allow the students to be able to have actual concrete knowledge to lean on if they forget the algorithm.

For an engage I would introduce them how to use the algebra tiles by representing different equations on the tiles. I would mix perfect squares and non-perfect squares. I would wait to do the actual completing the square as the explore activity. This way it’s something they can experiment with and really learn the material themselves. What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi was a Persian mathematician in the early 9th century. He oversaw the translation of many mathematical works into Arabic. He even produced his own work which would influence future mathematics. In 830 he published a book called: “Al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa’l-muqabala” Which translates to “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing” This book is still considered a fundamental book of modern algebra. The word algebra actually came from the Latinization of the word “al-jabr” which was in the title of his book. The term ‘algorithm’ also came from the Latinization of Al-Kwarizmi. In his book he solved second degree polynomials. He used new methods of reduction, cancellation, and balancing. He developed a formula to solving quadratic equations. As you can see to the right this is how Al-Khwarizmi used the method of ‘completing the square’ in his book. It is very similar to how we use algebra tiles in modern day. You can really see the effect he had on modern algebra, especially in solving quadratic equations.

E1) How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

I found a fun YouTube video of the Fort Collins High School Math Department singing a parody of Taylor Swift’s song “blank space”. In the video they are teaching the steps for completing the square. It also addresses imaginary numbers for more complex problems. I think this could be a fun engage to get the students attention. The video incorporates pop culture into something educational. I have always liked watching mathematical parodies videos on YouTube. It not only engages the students, but if they already know the words to the song, they could also get the song stuck in their head, which will help them solve the problems in the future.

References:
Completing the Square. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.mathisradical.com/completing-the-square.html
Mastin, L. (2010). Islamic Mathmatics – Al-Khwarizmi. Retrived September 14, 2017, from http://www.storyofmathematics.com/islamic_alkhwarizmi.html

# 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 again comes from my former student Kelly Bui. Her topic, from Algebra: multiplying polynomials. A2. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?
The main idea of the activity will be finding an expression to represent the area of the border given the dimensions of the outer rectangle and the inner rectangle. The students will need to know how to multiply binomials and add or subtract polynomials. Therefore, this activity would be towards the end of the unit. Students will be asked to roam around the classroom or the hallway in search of items that already have dimensions labeled. For example, in the hallway there may be a bulletin board with the dimensions (2x² – 7) for the length and (3x – 4) for the width. Inside of the bulletin board, there will be the dimensions of a smaller rectangle. The question will be asked: What expression will represent the area I want to cover if I want to cover the only the border with paper?
Students may work in partners or groups to put minds together to solve this problem. Every object labeled with dimensions will be in the shape of a rectangle and the math involved will require students to multiply binomials and subtract polynomials. B2. How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?
Before students learn to add and subtract polynomials, they learn how to combine like terms such as 3x and 5x. When we add and subtract polynomials, it is very similar to combining like terms in algebraic expressions. Students will need be familiar with the concept of combing like terms before they add or subtract polynomials. To introduce the topic of combining polynomials, it can be set up horizontally.

Such as: (3x² – 5x + 6) – (6x² – 4x + 9)

By setting it up this way, students can determine which terms can be combined and which terms need to be left alone. Additionally, students will build on the concept of combining like terms as it applies to this process as well. Setting it up horizontally will also increase the chance of preventing the mistake of forgetting to distribute the negative sign throughout the second polynomial. Once students are comfortable doing it this way, the addition and subtraction can be set up as a vertical problem where students must now take the step to align the like terms together in order to add or subtract. By taking the step to set up the polynomials horizontally before vertically, it will give the students a deeper understanding of what concept is actually behind adding and subtracting polynomials. E1. How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

The website http://www.quia.com provides a multitude of activities relating to different subjects. The game I chose to correlate adding and subtracting polynomials is identical to the actual game Battleship. The game can be played by anyone with access to the internet and Adobe. This game is interactive because you won’t have to perform math on every single shot fired at the enemy. If the student does hit one of the vessels, in order to actually “hit” the enemy’s ship, the student must successfully add or subtract two polynomials. If a student hits a vessel but is unable to solve the polynomial correctly, the game will highlight the hit area so that the student can try again. This game can either engage the students to see who can sink all of the enemy’s ships first, or it can be assigned as a homework assignment that requires showing work and screenshotting the end result of the game. Lastly, you can choose the level of difficulty of the game. For example, on the hard level, you must determine the missing addend or minuend to the expression, or add or subtract polynomials of different degrees.
The website also offers an option to create your own activities, so if Battleship isn’t panning out as desired, it is possible to create your own game for your students.
Game: https://www.quia.com/ba/28820.html References:

Battleship: https://www.quia.com/ba/28820.html

# How Mathematicians Tip

While funny, it’s usually courteous (at least in the United States) to tip a server more than 11.7% if given good service at restaurant.

# Engaging students: Using the point-slope equation 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 again comes from my former student Rachel Delflache. Her topic, from Algebra: using the point-slope equation of a line. A2: How could you as a teacher create an activity that involves the topic?

An adaptation of the stained-glass window project could be used to practice the point-slope formula (picture beside). Start by giving the students a piece of graph paper that is shaped like a traditional stained-glass window and then let they students create a window of their choosing using straight lines only. Once they are done creating their window, ask them to solve for and label the equations of the lines used in their design. While this project involves the point slope formula in a rather obvious way, giving the students the freedom to create a stained-glass window that they like helps to engage the students more than a normal worksheet. Also, by having them solve for the equations of the lines they created it is very probable that the numbers they must use for the equation will not be “pretty numbers” which would add an addition level of difficulty to the assignment.

B2: How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

The point-slope formula extends from the students’ knowledge of the slope formula

m = (y2-y1)/(x2-x1)
(x2-x1)m = y2-y1
y-y1 = m(x-x1).

This means that the students could solve for the point-slope formula given the proper information and prompts. By allowing students to solve for the point-slope formula given the previous knowledge of the formula for slope, it gives the students a deeper understanding of how and why the point-slope formula works the way it does. Allowing the students to solve for the point-slope formula also increases the retention rate among the students. C1&3: How has this topic appeared in pop culture and the news?

Graphs are everywhere in the news, like the first graph below. While they are often time line charts, each section of the line has its own equation that could be solved for given the information found on the graph. One of the simplest way to solve for each section of the line graph would be to use point slope formula. The benefit of using point slope formula to solve for the equations of these graphs is that there is very minimal information needed—assuming that two coordinates can be located on the graph, the linear equation can be solved for. Another place where graphs appear is in pop culture. It is becoming more common to find graphs like the second one below. These graphs are often time linear equation for which the formula could be solved for using the point slope formula. These kinds of graphs could be used to create an activity where the students use the point slope formula to solve to the equations shown in either the real world or comical graph.  References:

Stained glass window-

Stained Glass Window Graphing Project

# 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 again comes from my former student Deetria Bowser. Her topic, from Algebra: finding $x-$ and $y-$intercepts. Unlike most student submissions, Maranda’s idea answers three different questions at once. E1. 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.

One example of an engaging form of technology that involves finding x- and y-intercepts of lines is mangahigh.com. Under the algebra section, there is a tab for finding x and y intercepts which once clicked provides an option to start a game (“Algebra.”). In this game, the student is expected to look at lines and quickly decipher what is known about the x and y intercepts of the line in question. Before the game begins, the student is able to choose the difficulty of the game as well as the number of questions. After the game is completed students are able to review their answers. Implementing this website into the classroom will help students gain quickness in identifying x and y intercepts. Additionally, this game is also a quick and fun way to evaluate students understanding of x and y intercepts, without forcing them to take a quiz. D1. What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic? (You might want to consult Math Through The Ages.)

The topic of x and y intercepts falls under a much broader topic called analytical geometry.The article “Analytic geometry” defines analytical geometry as “[a] mathematical subject in which algebraic symbolism and methods are used to represent and solve problems in geometry” (D’Souza). One of the people who discovered this topic was René Descartes. René Descartes was actually a french modern philosopher who also made discoveries in the realms of science as well as mathematics. Descartes “dismissed apparent knowledge derived from authority,” meaning that he made his discoveries based on what he thought rather than taking ideas from scientists, philosophers and mathematicians (Watson). He discovered analytical mathematics (along with Fermat) in the 1630s (D’Souza). He also “he stressed the need to consider general algebraic curves—graphs of polynomial equations in x and y of all degrees” (D’Souza). Mentioning Descartes in class, and explaining his accomplishments in Mathematics as well as modern philosophy and science, will encourage students to realize that they can succeed in more than one subject . Also, Descartes can be used as an influence in the building of ideas in the classroom, since he did not just accept ideas already created. C1. How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?

The topic of x and y intercepts appeared on a “pop culture blog” called the comeback.com. In an article posted in November 2016, a former UCLA and current Cleveland Indians baseball player named Trevor Bauer helped one of his fans with her math homework (Blazer). This article describes a girl asking Bauer for help determining the slope of a line and the y – intercepts via Twitter. Her specific question involves the equation 2y=x (Blazer). He then explains that “for every 1 unit on the x axis go 2 units on the y axis. y intercept is where it crosses the y axis. Make y 0 and figure x” (Blazer). Since Bauer is a professional baseball player, he already has a great influence over people. Showing students this article about Bauer will show students that even people who play baseball for a living still have the knowledge of Algebra.

References
“Algebra.” Mangahigh.com – Algebra,
http://www.mangahigh.com/en-us/math_games/algebra/straight_line_graphs/find_the_x_and_y_intercepts_of_lines. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.

Blazer, Sam, et al. “Trevor Bauer helped a fan do their math homework on Twitter.” The
Comeback, 13 Nov. 2016,
2017.

D’Souza, Harry Joseph, and Robert Alan Bix. “Analytic geometry.” Encyclopædia Britannica,
Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 6 June 2016,
http://www.britannica.com/topic/analytic-geometry. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.

Watson, Richard A. “René Descartes.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.,
27 Jan. 2017, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Rene-Descartes. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.

# Engaging students: Finding the slope 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 again comes from my former student Deanna Cravens. Her topic, from Algebra: finding the slope of a line. C3. How has this topic appeared in high culture (art/sports)?

While one might not think of ski jumping as an art but more of a sport, there is definitely an artistic way about doing the jumping. The winter Olympics is one of the most popular sporting events, besides the summer Olympics that the world watches. This is a perfect engage for the beginning of class, not only is it extremely humorous but it is extremely engaging. It will instantly get a class interested in the topic of the day. I would first ask the students what the hill the skiers going down is called. Of course the answer that I would be looking for is the “ski slope.” This draws on prior knowledge to help students make a meaningful connection to the mathematical term of slope. Then I would ask students to interpret the meaning of slope in the context of the skiers. This allows for an easy transition into the topic for finding the slope of a line. C1. How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?

Look at this scene from Transformers, it shows a perfect example of a linear line on the edge of the pyramid that the Decepticon is destroying. This video easily catches the attention of students because it is from the very popular Transformer movie. I would play the short twenty second clip and then have some student discussion at the beginning of class. This could be done as an introduction to the topic where students could be asked “how can we find the steepness of that edge of the pyrmaid?” Then the students can discuss with a partner and then group discussion can ensue. It could also be done as a quick review, where students are asked to recall how to find the slope of a line and what it determines. The students would be asked to draw on their knowledge of slope and produce a formula that would calculate it. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?
Finding the slope of a line is an essential part of mathematics. It is used in statistics, algebra, calculus, and so much more. One could say it is an integral part of calculus (pun intended). Not only is it used in mathematics classes, but it is also very relevant to science. One specific example is chemistry. There are specific reaction rates of solutions. These rates are expressed in terms of change in concentration divided by the change in time. This is exactly the formula that is used in math classes to find the slope. However, it is usually expressed in terms of change in y divided by change in x. Slope is also used in physics when working with velocity and acceleration of objects. While one could think of slope in the standard way of ‘rise over run,’ in these advanced classes whether math or science, it usually better thought of as ∆y/∆x.

References:

# Engaging students: Solving linear systems of equations with matrices

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 Danielle Pope. Her topic, from Algebra II: solving linear systems of equations with matrices. B2. How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

Based off of the TEKS, matrices are introduced in Algebra 2. In previous math courses, students are already going to learn basic arithmetic from elementary school and solving equations in middle and high school. By the time students get to high school, they should have solving single equations down. This concept is then expanded with a system of equations, which is taught with the help of matrices. A matrix is just an “array of numbers” so that’s why this method of solving can be used with linear equations. Once the matrix is set up there are 2 main ways to solve for the solutions. The one I will be discussing is reduced row echelon form. This method of solving systems utilizes the basic arithmetic that students already know. There are 3 row operations that students already know how to use in general not related to matrices. Those are multiplying a row by a constant, switching two rows, and adding a constant times a row to another row. Even though these specific operations are used for matrices, kids have seen how to multiply 2 constants or variables, switching variables, and adding constants or variables in their previous courses. Matrices just add another element to their basic arithmetic abilities. D4. What are the contributions of various cultures to this topic?

Matrices have been around for much longer than some people may realize. One of the earliest civilizations that matrices were traced back to were the Babylonians. This was just one of the many contributions that they contributed to mathematics. The Chinese wrote a book, Nine Chapters of the Mathematical Art, Written during the Han Dynasty in China gave the first known example of matrix methods”. During the same era, around 200 BC, a Chinese mathematician Liu Hui solved linear equations using matrices. In the 1800s, Germany started taking a look at matrices. German mathematician, Carl Jacobi, brought the idea of determinants and matrices into the light. Carl Gauss, another German mathematician, took this idea of determinants and developed it. It wasn’t until Augustin Cauchy, a French mathematician, used and defined the word determinant how was use it today. James Sylvester, an English mathematician, “used the term matrix in 1850”. Sylvester also worked with mathematician Arthur Cayley who “first published an abstract definition of matrix” in his memoir on the Theory of Matrices in 1858. This final definition of a determinant is still used today in classrooms to help solve complex system of equations. E1. How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

In a classroom today, students should be able to access use of a graphing calculator. The matrix feature on these can easily check the work of students just learning how to row-reduce or solve for determinants and inverse matrices. In the classroom, I would use this technology like a race for the right answer to get them engaged in matrices. Give students an easy 2-equation system and have them solve for the variables. Each new problem add an equation or add a variable. While students are solving by hand, the teacher will be using the calculator to see which person can get the answer first. Overtime the problems will be too daunting to do by hand so students will be more engaged to learn this faster shortcut using the calculator. Another resource that can be used out of the classroom is Khan Academies’ videos on solving system of equations with matrices. These videos can be used to fill in any gaps if students have questions at home. These videos can also be used as the lecture in a flipped classroom environment.

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