# Engaging students: Computing logarithms with base 10

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 Andrew Sansom. His topic, from Precalculus: computing logarithms with base 10. D1. How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

The slide rule was originally invented around 1620, shortly after Napier invented the logarithm. In its simplest form, it uses two logarithmic scales that slide past each other, allowing one to multiply and divide numbers easily. If the scales were linear, aligning them would add two numbers together, but the logarithmic scale turns this into a multiplication problem. For example, the below configuration represents the problem: $14 \times 18=252$. Because of log rules, the above problem can be represented as: $\log 14 + \log 18 = \log 252$

The C-scale is aligned against the 14 on the D-scale. The reticule is then translated so that it is over the 18 on the C-scale. The sum of the log of these two values is the log of their product.

Most modern students have never seen a slide rule before, and those that have heard of one probably know little about it other than the cliché “we put men on the moon using slide rules!” Consequently, there these are quite novel for students. A particularly fun, engaging activity to demonstrate to students the power of logarithms would be to challenge volunteers to a race. The student must multiply two three-digit numbers on the board, while the teacher uses a slide rule to do the same computation. Doubtless, a proficient slide rule user will win every time. This activity can be done briefly but will energize the students and show them that there may be something more to this “whole logarithm idea” instead of some abstract thing they’ll never see again. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Computing logarithms with base 10, especially with using logarithm properties, easily leads to learning to compute logarithms in other bases. This generalizes further to logarithmic functions, which are one of the concepts from precalculus most useful in calculus. Integrals with rational functions usually become problems involving logarithms and log properties. Without mastery of the aforementioned rudimentary skills, the student is quickly doomed to be unable to handle those problems. Many limits, including the limit definition of e, Euler’s number, cannot be evaluated without logarithms.

Outside of pure math classes, the decibel is a common unit of measurement in quantities that logarithmic scales with base 10. It is particularly relevant in acoustics and circuit analysis, both topics in physics classes. In chemistry, the pH of a solution is defined as the negative base-ten logarithm of the concentration of hydrogen ions in that solution. Acidity is a crucially important topic in high school chemistry. A1. What interesting (i.e., uncontrived) word problems using this topic can your students do now?

Many word problems could be easily constructed involving computations of logarithms of base 10. Below is a problem involving earthquakes and the Richter scale. It would not be difficult to make similar problems involving the volume of sounds, the signal to noise ratio of signals in circuits, or the acidity of a solution.

The Richter Scale is used to measure the strength of earthquakes. It is defined as $M = \log(I/S)$

where $M$ is the magnitude, $I$ is the intensity of the quake, and $S$ is the intensity of a “standard quake”. In 1965, an earthquake with magnitude 8.7 was recorded on the Rat Islands in Alaska. If another earthquake was recorded in Asia that was half as intense as the Rat Islands Quake, what would its magnitude be?

Solution:
First, substitute our known quantity into the equation. $8.7=\log I_{rat}/S$

Next, solve for the intensity of the Rat Island quake. $S \times 10^{8.7} = I_{rat}$

Now, substitute the intensity of the new quake into the original equation. $M_{new}=\log (I_{new}/S)$ $=\log(0.5I_{rat}/S)$ $=\log (0.5S \cdot 10^{8.7}/S)$ $= \log (0.5 \cdot 10^{8.7})$ $= \log 0.5+ \log 10^{8.7}$ $=\log 0.5+8.7$ $=-0.303+8.7$ $=8.398$

Thus, the new quake has magnitude 8.393 on the Richter scale.

References:
Earthquake data from Wikipedia’s List of Earthquakes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_earthquakes#Largest_earthquakes_by_magnitude)

Slide rule picture is a screenshot of Derek Ross’s Virtual Slide Rule (http://www.antiquark.com/sliderule/sim/n909es/virtual-n909-es.html)

# Engaging students: Using right-triangle trigonometry

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 Cody Luttrell. His topic, from Precalculus: using right-triangle trigonometry. A.1 Now that students are able to use right triangle trigonometry, there is many things that they can do. For example, they know how to take the height of buildings if needed. If they are standing 45 feet away from a building and they have to look up approximately 60 degrees to see the top of the building, they can approximate the height of the building by using what they know about right triangle trigonometry. Ideally, they would say that the tan(60 degree)= (Height of building)/(distance from building = 45). They can now solve for the height of the building. The students could also use right triangle trigonometry to solve for the elevation it takes to look at the top of a building if they know the distance they are from the building and the height of the building. It would be set up as the previous example, but the students would be using inverse cosine to solve for the elevation. A.2 An engaging activity and/or project I could do would be to find the height of a pump launch rocket. Let’s say I can find a rocket that states that it can travel up to 50 feet into the air. I could pose this problem to my students and ask how we can test to see if that is true. Some students may guess and say by using a measuring tape, ladder, etc. to measure the height of the rocket. I would then introduce right triangle trigonometry to the students. After a couple of days of practice, we can come back to the question of the height of the rocket. I could ask how the students could find the height of the rocket by using what we have just learned. Ideally, I would want to here that we can use tangent to find the height of the rocket. By using altimeters, I would then have the students stand at different distances from the rocket and measure the altitude. They would then compute the height of the rocket. D.1 In the late 6th century BC, the Greek mathematician Pythagoras gave us the Pythagorean Theorem. This states that in a right triangle, the distance of the two legs of a right triangle squared added together is equal to the distance of the hypotenuse squared ( $a^2+b^2=c^2$). This actually was a special case for the law of cosines ( $c^2=a^2+b^2-2ab\cos(\theta)$). By also just knowing 2 side lengths of a right triangle, one may use the Pythagorean Theorem to solve for the third side which will then in return be able to give you the six trigonometric values for a right triangle. The Pythagorean Theorem also contributes to one of the most know trigonometric identities, $\sin^2 x+\cos^2 x=1$. This can be seen in the unit circle where the legs of the right triangle are $\sin x$ and $\cos x$ and the hypotenuse is 1 unit long. Because Pythagoras gave us the Pythagorean Theorem, we were then able to solve more complex problems by using right triangle trigonometry.

# My Favorite One-Liners: Part 120

I used these shirts as props when teaching Precalculus this week, and they worked like a charm. After deriving the three Pythagorean identities from trigonometry, I told my class that I got these hand-made his-and-hers T-shirts for my wife’s birthday a couple of years ago. If you can’t see from the picture, one says $\sin^2 \theta$ and the other $\cos^2 \theta$.

After holding up the shirts, I then asked the class what mathematical message was being communicated.

After a few seconds, someone ventured a guess: “We add up to 1?”

I answered, “That’s right. Together, we’re one.”

Whereupon the class spontaneously reacted with a loud “Awwwwwwwwww.”

I was exceedingly happy.

# Engaging students: Graphing a hyperbola

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 Biviana Esparza. Her topic, from Precalculus: graphing a hyperbola. B2. How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

Prior to learning about conics and hyperbolas in precalculus, students should be able to identify different shapes and figures and learn to identify cross sections of prisms, pyramids, cylinders, cones, and spheres, from geometry class. In algebra 2, students learn to write quadratic equations and learn vocabulary such as vertex, foci, directrix, axis of symmetry, and direction of opening, all which are used when dealing with hyperbolas as well. How has this topic appeared in pop culture?

The sport of baseball originates back before the Civil War and has come to be known as America’s pastime. On average, 110 balls are used in a major league baseball game, because the balls are usually tossed out if they’ve touched the dirt. Baseballs have a rubber or cork center, wrapped in yearn, and covered with leather sown together tightly by 108 stitches of red string. The stitches are in a hyperbola shape if looked at from a certain angle and depending on how the pitcher has held the stitches, different pitches are thrown.  E1. How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

Desmos is a great, interactive website that has many activities that can be used in the classroom. One of the activities it has is called Polygraph: Conics. The Desmos activity is similar to the board game Guess Who? in which students are in pairs and will ask yes or no questions to guess the graph of a hyperbola or ellipse of their choosing. This activity encourages students to make good questions and use precise vocabulary and academic language when describing conics, specifically over ellipses and hyperbolas, so that they can win the game.

# Engaging students: Law of Sines

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 Tiger Hersh. His topic, from Precalculus: the Law of Sines. How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

This topic can be extended to geometry where students must be able to use trigonometric identities (1) to identify the degree or length in order to use the Law of Sines. The issue about trigonometric identities is that you can only use them on right triangles (2). However, with the Law of Sines, students are able to use the trigonometric identities they have learned in Geometry and are able to draw a perpendicular line across a non-right triangle (3) and then apply the Law of Sines to solve either the height of the triangle, the length of the side of the triangle, or the degree of an angle of the triangle. So, the Law of Sines use the idea of trigonometric identities from Geometry in order to be applicable. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science? Unit circle calculus / solving for height of triangles

Students are able to the Law of Sines in order to find the height or degree of a triangle on the unit circle in precalculus or to calculator vector quantities in physics. The Law of Sines is prominent in the unit circle which is noticeable in the linked website which will provide students a connection from the Law of Sines to the unit circle. The Law of Sines also connects to physics where vectors used to show motion and direction in two dimensional space. The Law of sines may also be applied in physics where in (2); The vectors form a non-right triangle. The vectors ‘length’ can be determined by identifying the magnitude of each vector and then using the method as described before to use the Law of Sines in-order to find vector r. How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?

The law of sines has appeared in almost every 3 dimensional video games known to exist that has characters that are rendered with polygons. To note: it’s not just any polygon that can be used to create the characters you see in video games but specifically, they usually use triangles to render the characters. Even some movies that use animation software use these triangular polygons to render the figures in the movie; like for example Woody from the movie Toy Story (as seen below with polygons). We can use the Law of Sines in order to find the length or degree of each triangle on the figure if we were willing so.

# Engaging students: Graphing rational functions

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 Marlene Diaz. Her topic, from Precalculus: graphing rational functions. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?
When graphing rational functions, we are able to see the different asymptotes a function has. A rational function has horizontal, vertical and sometimes slant asymptotes. Knowing how to find the asymptotes and knowing how to graph them can help in future classes like Calculus and calculus 2. In those classes you will learn about limits. When finding the limit of a rational function the horizontal asymptote is checked and that’s what the limit is approaching. For example, we have BOTU, which is big on top is undefined, when undefined it can either be to negative or positive infinity and depending on what x is approaching. For example, $\displaystyle \lim_{x \to \infty} \frac{x^2-3x+1}{3x+5} = \infty$

in this case we see that x has a higher degree on top therefore the limit is infinity. Another example would be $\displaystyle \lim_{x \to \infty} \frac{3x^2-x+4}{x^3-2x+1} = 0$

in this example we have that the degree is higher at the denominator therefore the limit is zero. In both cases we are able to evaluate both the limit and the horizontal asymptote and how they work with each other. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

A fun activity that can be created to enforce the learning of graphing rational functions is a scavenger hunt. A student can be given a rational function to start the game, they have to find all the pieces that would help them find the graph of the function. The pieces they would have to have include the horizontal and vertical asymptotes. Once they find one piece at the back of the notecard there would be a hint of where the other piece can be. There would be other pieces mixed in with the correct one and the students would have to figure out which one they need. After they are done collecting all their cards, they would show them to the teacher and if it’s correct they get a second equation and if its incorrect they have to try again. This would most likely be played in groups of two and which ever team get the most correct will win a prize. 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.

Something I have always used as a review or to better understand a topic is Khan Academy. The reason I think this website helps me is because you are able to watch a video on how to graph a rational function, there are notes based on the video and there are different examples that can be attempted by the student. Furthermore, the link I found to help learn the graphing of rational functions breaks every step down with different videos. The first video is called graphing rational functions according to asymptotes, the next one is with y-intercepts and the last one is with zeros. After seeing all the videos there are practice problems that the students can do. At the end of the link there are more videos but, in these videos, you can ask any questions that the you might still have, and you can also see previous questions asked. The way the website is organized and detailed can be very beneficial for a student to use and it is always good to give students different explanations of the topic. The link to Khan Academy is: https://www.khanacademy.org/math/algebra2/x2ec2f6f830c9fb89:rational/x2ec2f6f830c9fb89:rational-graphs/v/horizontal-vertical-asymptotes

# Engaging students: Solving exponential equations

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 Andrew Cory. His topic, from Precalculus: solving exponential equations. B1. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Solving exponential equations is important for students in their future courses. It can apply to mathematics courses in things like finances. Exponential growth is important for figuring out interest rates and how money will grow. It is also important for figuring out the growth rates of bacteria in science classes. This is the most common example used for solving exponential equations and it can help students with science classes they may take in the future. A2. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

An activity that can be used to get students engaged in a lesson involving exponential equations and exponential growth, can be a quick example of a disease spreading. The teacher can select a student to start out “infected” and they stand up and walk around the classroom and tap a student on the shoulder. Now that student is also “infected.” Now the two students each tap a new person on the shoulder. Then those four people would go “infect” other students. Pretty quickly, the entire class will be standing up, “infected.” This is a good quick activity to get students to understand how the growth of exponential equations increases quickly. It also allows students to get up and move around, which is always good to do with how long students have to sit down during school. C1. How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?

Exponential equations have to do with the growth of any populations. One that became very popular recently is the idea of zombies. The idea of exponential growth happens with how rapidly the disease outbreak happens and how quickly the zombie population overtakes the human population. This idea grew in popularity exponentially a few years ago, but has since died out a bit. The idea of how rapidly a disease could spread was intriguing to audiences, but little did they know, they were learning about exponential growth while watching popular TV shows.