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!

 

 

green lineHow has this topic appeared in the news?

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/.

 

Engaging students: Solving systems of linear 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 Austin Carter. His topic, from Algebra: solving linear systems of inequalities.

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

System of equations can be solved in several ways. Changing from linear systems to systems of inequalities only means there is a range of viable answers, but the processes for solving them remain the same; graphing, elimination, substitution, or matrices. Learning how to deal with inequalities will also give us access to more interesting real world problems, because we don’t always need an exact value; sometimes we need at least this much or no more than a certain amount. For example:

  • In order to get a bonus this month, Leon must sell at least 120 newspaper subscriptions. He sold 85 subscriptions in the first three weeks of the month. How many subscriptions must Leon sell in the last week of the month?
  • Virenas Scout troop is trying to raise at least $650 this spring. How many boxes of cookies must they sell at $4.50 per box in order to reach their goal?
  • The width of a rectangle is 20 inches. What must the length be if the perimeter is at least 180 inches?

 

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

Systems of inequalities are most easily understood with visual aid. Different colors for each equation, dotted line vs. solid line, and shading are all major components of inequalities and being able to see how each shaded region overlaps is invaluable to understanding the answer. In my experience, the easiest tool to visualize all these components is the desmos online calculator. Desmos is very user friendly and will accept equations in any form. Also, it assigns different colors to each equation entered, allows students to zoom in and out to see detail on any scale, and allows students to “click and drag” and equation line to see the (x,y) components at that location. Desmos could be used to have students create their own graphs and explain the limiting factors of their picture.

 

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Application/Technology

Sensors are how our electronics interact with the real world. Just think about a car, and how many things are being measured and monitored constantly. Every one of those sensors is responsible for measuring something specific and making sure that measurement stays within an acceptable range. What happens if your car gets too hot? What happens if you don’t buckle your seatbelt? As autonomous vehicles come online, what happens if that vehicle gets too close to another object? All of these things are measured by sensors, and those measurements are constantly being run through software to make sure those measurements stay within an acceptable range. But how does the software determine what an acceptable range is? The software uses system of inequalities to make sure every single measurement stays within an acceptable range, and if it doesn’t it alerts the driver. The world as we know it would come crumbling down without the sensors we rely on daily, but the information those sensors collect would be useless if we didn’t have systems of inequalities to make the data meaningful.

References:

Solve Real-World Problems Using Inequalities. (2015, July 7). Retrieved September 14, 2018, from https://students.ga.desire2learn.com/d2l/lor/viewer/viewFile.d2lfile/1798/12938/Algebra_ReasoningwithEquationsandInequalities7.html

Vertical line test

Source: https://scontent-dfw5-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/44665774_2388027201214092_5864075778743861248_n.jpg?_nc_cat=100&_nc_ht=scontent-dfw5-1.xx&oh=ee5e18af1ccda3f69c03ed9bdc35a280&oe=5CA63AEC

Fibonacci joke

Source: https://www.facebook.com/Tysonism/photos/a.313776598684093/1921522124576191/?type=3&theater

Cow-culus

Source: https://www.facebook.com/PunsOnly/photos/a.441764155928376/1469094213195360/?type=3&theater

Powers Great and Small

I enjoyed this reflective piece from Math with Bad Drawings about determining whether a^b or b^a is larger. The final answer, involving the number e, was a complete surprise to me.

Short story: e is the unique number so that e^x > x^e for all positive x.

Powers Great and Small

Matrix Jokes

A lot more Matrix jokes can be found at https://mathwithbaddrawings.com/2018/03/07/matrix-jokes/