Engaging students: Finding the volume and surface area of prisms and cylinders

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 Angelica Albarracin. Her topic, from Geometry: finding the volume and surface area of prisms and cylinders. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

For finding the surface area of prisms and cylinders, I as the teacher would create an activity centered around using the nets of these figures to better visualize this concept. In my experience, many students do not struggle with the computational aspect of finding the surface area of prisms and cylinders, but rather, they tend to forget to calculate the area of all the faces of such figures. When a student views these three-dimensional figures on paper, it can be easy to forget some faces as not all of them can be illustrated, requiring the student to have an accurate depiction of the figure already in mind. By having students work with nets, they will have some guidance in calculating the surface area of prisms and cylinders. Additionally, having the students construct each intended figure with the net can also help students develop a better understanding of the composition of prisms and cylinders.

A project I could use as a teacher in order to help students understand volume of prisms and cylinders would be to have the students create their own drink company. I could provide the students with several models of different styles of cans they could use and have them find the volume of their selected can as a requirement. I think this would be a fun way to not only allow to students some creative freedom but also provide practice calculating the volumes of various prisms and cylinders. Students would have to consider aspects such as how much liquid one container holds over another, how portable the shape is, and how will others drink from it. Students could also find the surface area of their drink cans in order to see how much material would be needed to print a label that would fit around each can. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Finding the volume and surface area of prisms and cylinders provides a basic background for students to start exploring more complex shapes such as spheres, cones, and pyramids. However, in Calculus I, this topic is taken further with the introduction of integrals and the concept of finding the area under irregular curves. Later down the line, students will also learn about volumes of solids of revolution. For rounded curves, an approximation for such solids is comprised of taking the sum of the volume of many cylinders; the more cylinders there are, the closer the approximation will be to the true volume. An image of this is shown below: Continuing with the theme of solids of revolutions, Calculus II is when students must find the surface area of these solids. To approximate the surface area, we take the surface area of frustums that can be formed under the curve. Frustums are similar to cones as they both have circular bases, but instead of coming to a point, a frustum also has a circular top. As before, the greater the amount of frustums used in the approximation, the closer the calculated value is to the true surface area. The formula for the surface area of a frustum is $A = 2\pi r h$ A = where $r =(r_1+r_2)/2$. Frustums are unique in that both circular bases are different. In the case that the bases are the same, the formula for $r$ becomes $r =(2r_1)/2 = r_1$,  in which case the formula for surface area becomes $A = 2\pi r h$  which is exactly the formula for the surface area of a cylinder. Below is an image of the surface area approximation of a solid formed by revolution:  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 ancient Greeks are responsible for naming many of the figures and solids we commonly see in Geometry. For example, the word “prism” comes from the Greek word meaning “to saw”, which comes from the fact the cross sections (or cuts) of a prism are congruent. The word “cylinder” also comes from Greek, specifically from the word that means “to roll”. In addition, the Greeks were also “the first to systematically investigate the areas and volumes of plan figures and solids”. One of the most famous of these Greeks is the mathematician Archimedes who is directly responsible for the approximation of the area of a circle, the approximation of pi, the formulas for the volume and surface area of a sphere, and a technique called the “method of exhaustion”, which was used to find areas and volumes of figures in a manner similar to that of modern calculus. Archimedes viewed his discovery of the formula for the surface area of a sphere as his greatest mathematical achievement and even instructed that it be remembered on his gravestone as a sphere within a cylinder.

Another mathematician who developed techniques that bore similarities to modern calculus was Italian mathematician Bonaventura Francesco Cavalieri. While his discoveries pertained to finding the volume of objects, he was able to use are of cross sections to show that “two objects have the same volume if the areas of their corresponding cross-sections are equal in all cases”. This came to be known as Cavalieri’s Principle, but it is important to note that Chinese mathematician Zu Gengzhi had previously discovered this principle hundreds of years before Cavalieri. The next biggest advancement in this topic is attributed to integrals and making sense of the idea of finding the area under a curve. An approximate method for finding the area of a figure with an irregular boundary was developed known as Simpson’s Rule which had previously been known by Cavalieri but was rediscovered in the 1600s.

References:

https://amsi.org.au/teacher_modules/area_volume_surface_area.html

https://tutorial.math.lamar.edu/classes/calci/Area_Volume_Formulas.aspx

https://tutorial.math.lamar.edu/classes/calcii/surfacearea.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surface_area

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 221): Monk

Let $A(x,y,z)$ be the statement “ $x$ accuses $y$ of $z$,” let $P$ be the set of all people, and let $H$ be the set of all things. Translate the logical statement $\forall x \in P(\lnot \exists y \in P \exists z \in H (A(x,y,z)))$.

This matches a line from the TV series “Monk.”

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

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 Austin Stone. His topic, from Algebra: finding the slope of a line. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

Using “pull back” toy cars, you can create a fun little activity that students can compete in to see who wins. Students can be put into groups or do it individually depending on how many cars you have available. The idea of the activity would have students pull back the cars a small amount and record how far they took it back and how far the car went. After doing this from three or four different distances, the students would then graph their data with x=how far they took it back and y=how far the car went. Then the teacher would tell the students to find how far back they would need to pull for the car to go a specified distance by finding the slope of their line (or rate of change in this example). After students have done their calculations, they would then pull back their cars however far they calculated and the closest team to the distance gets a prize. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Students will continually use slope throughout their future math and science classes. In math courses, slope is used to graph data and predict what will happen if certain numbers are used. It is also used to notice observations about the graph such as steepness (how quickly it changes) and if the rate of change is increasing or decreasing. It is also used in science for very similar reasons. In physics, slope is used commonly to calculate velocity and force. In chemistry labs, slope is used to predict how much of a certain substance needs to be added to find observational differences. In calculus, when taking the first derivative of a function, if the slope is negative, then the function is decreasing during that interval and vice versa if it is positive. Slope is also widely used in Algebra II, so learning how to find the slope is very important for future math and science classes whether it be in high school or college. How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

Students should have already learned how to graph points on the coordinate plane. They can take this knowledge and now not only plot seemingly random points, but now see the relationship between these points. Plotting points is a skill usually learned around 6th grade and is used regularly after that. Also, finding the x and y axis can be used when finding the slope of a line. If you have a function with no points, finding the x and y axis can let you find the slope. Finding the x and y axis is learned in Algebra I so this would be fresh on students’ minds. Finding the slope of a line can be scaffolded with finding the x and y axis in lectures or in PBL experience. Also refreshing students on how to graph not only in the first quadrant, but in all four quadrants could be a quick little activity at the beginning of the PBL experience.

Reference:

http://www.andrewbusch.us/home/racing-day-algebra-2

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 220): Cash Cash

Let $H(x,t)$ be the statement “I had $x$ at time $t$,” let $P$ be the set of all people, and let $T$ be the set of all times. Translate the logical statement $\forall t < 0 (\lnot \exists x \in P(H(x,t)))$.

This matches a line from “How to Love” by Cash Cash featuring Sofia Reyes.

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

Engaging students: Multiplying binomials

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 Cire Jauregui. Her topic, from Algebra: multiplying binomials. How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

Khan Academy has a whole series of videos, practice problems, and models to help students learn about multiplying binomials. The first in this series is a video visualizing the problem (x+2)(x+3) as a rectangle and explains that multiplying the binomials would give the area taken up by the rectangle. This would help students connect multiplying binomials to multiplying numbers to find area. This can also help students who learn better with visual examples by giving them a way to show a picture demonstrating the problem they are multiplying. Khan Academy then moves from using a visual representation to a strictly alpha-numerical representation so students can smoothly transition from having the pictures drawn out to just working out the problem. The first video in the series of pages at Khan Academy can be found at this link: https://tinyurl.com/KhanAcademyBinomials How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

Multiplying binomials extends on two-digit times two-digit multiplication that students learn and practice in elementary and middle school courses. This video from the platform TikTok by a high school teacher Christine (@thesuburbanfarmhouse) shows the connection between vertical multiplication of two numbers and the multiplication of binomials together: https://tinyurl.com/TikTokFOIL By showing students that it works the same way as other forms of multiplication that they have already seen and hopefully mastered, it sets the students up to view the multiplication of binomials and other polynomials in a way that is familiar and more comfortable. This particular video is part of a miniature series that Christine recently did explaining why slang terms such as FOIL (standing for “first, outside, inside, last” as a way to remember how to multiply binomials) which many classrooms have used (including my own high school teachers), which are helpful when initially explaining multiplication of binomials, ultimately can be confusing to students when they move on to multiplying other polynomials. I personally will be staying away from using terms like FOIL because as students move on to trinomials and other larger polynomials, there are more terms to distribute than just the four mentioned in FOIL. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

As I mentioned in the last question, learning to multiply binomials can lead students to success in multiplying polynomials. This skill can also help students factor polynomials in that it can help them check their answers when they are finished. It can also help them recognize familiar-looking polynomials as having possible binomials as factors. If a student were to see 12x2-29x-8 and couldn’t remember how to go about factoring it in other ways, a student could use a guess-and-check method to factor. They might try various combinations of (Ax+B)(Cx-D) until they find a satisfactory of A, B, C, and D that when the binomial is multiplied, creates the polynomial they were trying to factor. Without solid skills in multiplying binomials, a student would likely be frustrated in trying to find what A, B, C, and D as their multiplication could be wrong and seemingly no combination of numbers works.

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 219): Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello

Let $C(x,t)$ be the statement “ $x$ changes at time $t$,” let $H$ be the set of all things, and let $T$ be the set of all times. Translate the logical statement $\exists x_1 \in H \exists x_2 \in H \forall t \in T (\lnot C(x_1,t) \land \lnot C(x_2,t))$.

This matches a line from “Señorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello.

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

Convexity and Orthogonality at Saddle Points

Today, the Texas Section of the Mathematical Association of America is holding its annual conference. Like many other professional conferences these days, this conference will be held virtually, and so my contribution to the conference is saved on YouTube and is available to the public.

Here’s the abstract of my talk: “At a saddle point (like the middle of a Pringles potato chip), the directions of maximum upward concavity and maximum downward concavity are perpendicular. The usual proof requires a fair amount of linear algebra: eigenvectors of different eigenvalues of a real symmetric matrix, like the Hessian, must be orthogonal. For this reason, the orthogonality of these two directions is not often stated in calculus textbooks, let alone proven, when the Second Partial Derivative Test for identifying local extrema and saddle points is discussed. In this talk, we present an elementary proof of the orthogonality of these two directions that requires only ideas from Calculus III and trigonometry. Not surprisingly, this proof can be connected to the usual proof from linear algebra.”

If you have 12 minutes to spare, here’s the talk.

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 218): The Turtles

Let $S(x)$ be the statement “I see loving $x$ for all my life,” and let $P$ be the set of all people. Translate the logical statement $S(you) \land \forall x \in P(x \ne you \Rightarrow \lnot S(x))$.

This matches the chorus from the classic song “Happy Together” by The Turtles.

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

Engaging students: Solving absolute value 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 again comes from my former student Conner Dunn. His topic, from Algebra: solving absolute value equations. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

This topic is an excellent concept for algebra students wanting real life applications when learning math concepts. In creating an activity relevant to this, the “real life” concept I’d want to emphasize is distance, which conveniently is in the definition of absolute value. Distance can be expressed in words or in pictures, and specifically with absolute value, we model distance as a one-dimensional (one variable) function. To express a model like this, I’d want get students to know what the numbers and operations can mean for a distance problem. For example, a student should be able to know that |x-7| = 3 can be expressed as “the distance between x and 7 is 3.” The potential activity here is to get students to either express absolute-value equations in words or vice versus. The same concept of distance can be played out in pictural or graphical representations. Obviously, I can use absolute value graphs to model this, but I would specifically look at one-dimensional representation and maybe have students try and model a situation using absolute value equations. It’ll be in these activities that I could really nail down true meanings of 2-solution, 1 solution, or no solution problems and why, for example, they have to check for extraneous solutions when solving. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

The concept of solving this type of equation is really relevant and similar to that of solving for quadratic equations as well as polynomial equations in general. When students are able to grasp the concept of having 0, 1, or 2 solutions in an absolute value equation and know why, they’ll be using this understanding when solving for polynomials of high degrees. I’d also like to imagine students might want to make the connection to midpoints in Geometry. Absolute value equations can tell the 1-dimensional distance from a point to another two points in either direction. When Geometry students see this modelled on a number line, they may be able to identify 3 points equidistant from one another forming 2 congruent segments. How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

The things I would teach about solving absolute value equations really build off students’ understanding of equivalence and the properties about it that they use when asked to “solve” for anything an algebra class. One of the big steps in solving a|bx+c| + d = e is described as “solving for the absolute value.” This step builds off students’ previous works of “solving for x.” The solution for connecting these is clear: just let the “x” or rather the variable to solve for be the absolute value, and then solve for it using those equivalence properties they know. The great thing about this is that it builds on the idea that when solving for unknown variables, it’s okay to not immediately know them. Equiveillance properties are tools that students can use to work towards solving for unknowns. The more accustomed students are to these tools, the better, so when throwing in absolute values into the mix, it makes for good practice in using “equivalence tools.”