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 Jesus Alanis. His topic, from Precalculus: solving exponential equations.

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

An activity for solving exponential equations is Bingo. If you know how to play Bingo, you know that there are many ways to win. You could either have five in a row, blackout, in an X and 4 corners.  In the regular Bingo game, you have a free space, but it is up to you if you want to have a free space or add an extra problem on there. The way I would do the bingo cards is use all the spaces so that means I must create 25 equations with graphs. I am using this website as a reference to get some ideas on how to setup and may even borrow some graphs and equations. The way I would set it up is on the bingo card to have a mix of both equations and graphs. I would also create like a class set and place them in sheet protectors so the students can use expo markers. Since students cannot write on the bingo card, give the students scratch paper so that the students are able to work it out. Once students have solved their Bingo cards, we would start the game, and this would make students not have to worry about a time limit. Students could just play and check their work as well since the students will have the same graphs and equations. During the game, you as the teacher could go over the question and this would be a good time to teach students or show students how the problem will be solved and the answer. This will also give students the how and why the answer is the answer.

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How has this topic appeared in the news?

The way exponential equations have appeared in the news is in our current times we are in a pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic to be specific. When the pandemic first started and quarantine had been placed, the news was talking about the number of cases that were being reported. The news had displayed a graph of the number of cases that had happen in a few days. Now the graph has changed to months and the graph is an example of an exponential function. The coronavirus has been a very contagious disease that has taken deaths and sadly there is a graph for this to and it is exponential. The graphs that are being displayed are of exponential function and sadly they are exponential growth functions. This is also a real-world connection of exponential equations and why they are used.

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

The way technology can be used to effectively engage students to exponential equations is to show or make students hear the song Billionaire with Bruno Mars. Using the song will make students wake up and be ready for class. It is up to you how long you want to play the song, or you could have it as background music while having these questions posted either on your whiteboard or projector. The question is “Would you rather be given million dollars right now or be given one penny today and each day be given double what you were given the day before for thirty days?”. This question will make students think and start to do math. The question talks about the penny and double each previous day’s amount. The value earned is exponential growing. This could also introduce the lesson and reference it to businesses and how they work. This could also be a life lesson about being patient and how things take time to become successful.


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