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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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 Enrique Alegria. His topic, from Algebra: multiplying polynomials.

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How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics and science?

This topic can be used in students’ future courses in mathematics by simplifying expressions of increasing degree. In Algebra II students are expected to simplifying polynomials of varying degrees as they move on to multiplying and dividing polynomials. From there determining the factors of a polynomial of degree three and degree four. Real-world problems can be solved through the simplification of several like terms. Each term representing a specific part of the problem. We can even compare the addition and subtraction of polynomials to runtime analysis in Computer Science. Measuring the change in the degree and how that affects the output. In a way, this can translate to the runtime of a program. For example, a chain of commands with a constant time is run. A loop is nested in another loop that is placed after the first expressions. This has changed the overall runtime of the program from constant time to quadratic because of the degree of the nested loops. The overall time would be the addition of the expressions and their corresponding times.

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

This topic extends from the early concept, ‘Combining Like Terms.’ Starting with adding and subtracting items of similar groupings such as 8 apples and 4 apples altogether are 12 apples. Bringing students to place value such as adding 3 ones and 2 ones to adding multi-digit numbers. We then leap towards Algebra introducing expressions and equations. Learning about linear and quadratic equations and graphing them. Students should have learned about monomials in correspondence with coefficients and exponents. From there, students are familiar with algebraic terms. Those are the building blocks that we are going to be expanding upon. Once students familiarize themselves with several terms in an expression, they will focus on adding or subtracting like terms by focusing on both the coefficient, term, and exponents on the variables. Shortly after the students can continue to be challenged by using terms such as 6xy or 3a^2b^3+4a^2b^3c^2 to focus on the terms and confirm if they are ‘like’ to be combined or just notice the fact that they have some common variables with the same exponents but with a slight difference other than the coefficient, the expression cannot be simplified as one may think.

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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?

Adding and subtracting polynomials can be engaging to students with the help of Brilliant. This site starts with helping students identifying polynomials and their degrees to help students understand how to describe them. Then moving to the arithmetic of polynomials performing addition and subtraction operations on the polynomial numbers. This source goes through polynomials through challenging and insightful exercises. For example, a quadrilateral of sides such as 5, 3x+4, 4x+1, 17x-10, and from there simplifying the expression. Students would be able to substitute values and determine if a specific quadrilateral has been made. I can have students go through a few exercises as a class or on their own and then they can come up with a problem on their own that would be posted to the ‘public’ (which would be only their class) so that the students will be able to have classroom interaction and grow as they challenge each other. Students can apply this concept by creating a large polynomial expression and then simplifying it and lastly graphing the equation.

References:

Polynomials. Brilliant.org., from https://brilliant.org/wiki/polynomials/

Simplifying Expressions. Brilliant.org., from https://brilliant.org/wiki/simplifying-expressions/

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 Angelica Albarracin. Her topic, from Algebra: solving linear systems of inequalities. green line What interesting (i.e., uncontrived) word problems using this topic can your students do now? One example of an interesting word problem students can do using this topic is based on a technique astronomers use to learn about celestial bodies. Being able to assess the number of craters a body has on its surface can reveal information about the body’s age, as well as its history of impacts. In comparing the number of craters two bodies have experienced over time, astronomers are able to compare their lifetimes and hypothesize reasons for differences and/or similarities. This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is crater1.png
Taken from https://spacemath.gsfc.nasa.gov/algebra2.html
Another example of an interesting word problem pertains to determining whether a specific phone plan is best for you. When choosing between certain plans, individuals may have to decide between a higher flat fee and a lower rate per minute or a lower flat fee and a higher rate per minute. In many cases, the answer may not be so obvious so to be able to figure out which is the best deal can prove to be a very helpful money saver. Of course, the answer to this question depends on how many minutes an individual plans to use a month, but we can use linear systems of equations to find out at which point do the plans differ, and thus finding a starting point to the solution. This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is phone1.png This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is phone2.png Taken from https://students.ga.desire2learn.com/d2l/lor/viewer/viewFile.d2lfile/1798/12938/Algebra_ReasoningwithEquationsandInequalities12.html green line How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses? In previous courses, students should have learned about x and y intercepts and solving linear equations. Solving linear systems of equations is and extension of x and y intercepts because one of the major components in this topic is finding the exact point at which two different linear functions meet. We can think of a typical problem of finding the x or y intercept of a linear function in terms of a system. For example, we can let our first equation be y = 3x + 2 and the second be y = 0. From this we can clearly see that our second equation is the x-axis, and as we are trying to find the point of intersection between a linear function, we end up calculating the x-intercept of our first function. It is also not difficult to see that solving linear systems of equations serves as an extension to solving linear equations. When employing the method of substitution, you must solve for one variable, in terms of the other. This process requires the student to know how to solve singular linear equations, and to apply their solutions through substitution. We can also see an extension regarding graphing linear equations. When solving linear systems of equations by graphing, one must graph each individual linear equation. Once the two individual equations are graphed, the solution can be found by observing the point at which the two equations intersect if at all. green line How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic? Desmos is widely regarded for its creative lessons that integrate mathematical topics in fun and engaging ways. For the topic of solving systems of linear equations with graphing and substitution, one such Desmos activity is titled Playing Catch-Up. The first two slides set up an engaging premise where a video compares the running speed of an average person and a professional runner. Further along the activity, the student can see a graphical representation of their speeds and is able to make a prediction as to whether they think one person will pass the other. Aside from being able to see an animated graph that corresponds to the information given in the video, there is also an interesting short answer feature on the first slide. This feature allows the student to ask a question regarding the situation they are presented with in the video. The most helpful part of this feature is that not only can the teacher view the student responses, but also the students can see each other’s responses. This allows for students to communicate with each other in a controlled environment and lead the way for further elaboration on some of the most asked questions. This specific Desmos activity places much of its emphasis on solving systems of linear equations through graphing, however substitution can still have a place in technology. Typically, when students are introduced to this concept, they are taught the graphing method first as its visual component aids in understanding. Graphing isn’t always reasonable however as it is time consuming and you may be faced with equations that are difficult to graph. By using technology such as the Desmos graphing calculator, the teacher can show the student of an example of a linear system of equations that would be unreasonable to solve by graphing. This gives the students reasoning as to why learning another method such as substitution is necessary while also making them consider a possibility that they might not have thought of before. References: https://spacemath.gsfc.nasa.gov/algebra2.html https://students.ga.desire2learn.com/d2l/lor/viewer/viewFile.d2lfile/1798/12938/Algebra_ReasoningwithEquationsandInequalities12.html https://teacher.desmos.com/activitybuilder/custom/5818fb314e762b653c3bf0f3

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 Jesus Alanis. His topic, from Algebra: solving one- or two-step inequalities.

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

As a teacher, the activity I would make so that this topic is more fun is by using the game battleship. When I was in school, learning this lesson for the first time, we did a gallery walk that you would solve for the solutions and would go searching for that solution. Well, you can use the same problems used in a gallery walk. All you would have to do is put it on a worksheet that could be half the solutions of the enemy’s problems and the student’s problems to work on. The student will place(draw) their “ship” on the enemy’s solution. With this activity, you can pair up students and make them go one by one, or since time may be an issue you can make it a race between the two students to see who sinks the opponent’s ships first.

I got the inspiration from here. https://www.algebra-and-beyond.com/blog/bringing-back-battleship

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What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

A brief history of inequalities is that the less than or greater than signs were introduced in 1631 in a book titled “Artis Analyticae Praxis ad Aequationes Algebraicas Resolvendas” created by a British mathematician named Thomas Harriot. An interesting fact is that the creator’s work and the book was published 10 years after his death. A shocking fact is that the actual symbols were created by the book’s editor. At first, the symbols were just triangular symbols that were created by Harriot which was later changed by the editor to what we now know as < and >. A fun fact is that Harriot used parallel lines to symbolized equality, but the parallel lines were vertical, not horizontal as we now know as the equal sign. In the year 1734, a French mathematician named Pierre Bouguer used the less than or equal to and greater than or equal to. Also, there was also another mathematician that use the greater than/ less than symbols but with a horizontal line above them. During these times, the symbols were not yet set in stone and were still being changed. The symbols were actually just triangles and parallel lines to symbolized greater than, less than, greater than or equal to, less than or equal to, and equal to.

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

By using technology effectively with this topic, is that I found an online game that has the same idea of the battleship. The website is this: https://www.quia.com/ba/368655.html. The game is online so this is really good resource especially since we are in a pandemic but also an extra resource if the student needs more practice that they can do on their own. This is a good activity for students because I know that there are schools that have in-person classes so each student can use their own computer to prevent any more spreading of the virus while being in the classroom. There are also schools that have classes through Zoom and Google Classroom so they can add this online game as an assignment and make the students have them write down their questions and answers with their work to see the way they work the problems out.

References:

  • Seehorn, Ashley. “The History of Equality Symbols in Math.” Sciencing, Leaf Group Media, 2 Mar. 2019, sciencing.com/history-equality-symbols-math-8143072.html.
  • Lythgoe, Mrs. “Two-Step Inequalities Battleship.” Quia, http://www.quia.com/ba/368655.html.

Xmas Tree, Ymas Tree, Zmas Tree

I’m not gonna lie… I wish I had an ugly Christmas sweater with this theme.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10157861645601449&set=a.115338471448&type=3&theater

Engaging students: Powers and exponents

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 Pre-Algebra: powers and exponents.

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B1. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Exponents are just an easier way to multiply the same number by itself numerous times. They extend on the process of multiplication and allow students to solve expressions such as 2*2*2*2 quicker by writing them as 2^4. They are used constantly in future math courses, almost as commonly as addition and multiplication. Exponential functions start becoming more and more common as well. They’re used to calculate things such as compounding interest, or growth and decay. They also become common when finding formulas for sequences and series.
In science courses, exponents are often used for writing very small or very large numbers so that calculations are easier. Large masses such as the mass of the sun are written with scientific notation. This also applies for very small measurements, such as the length of a proton. They are also used in other ways such as bacteria growth or disease spread which apply directly to biology.

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C2. How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?

Any movie or TV show about zombies or disease outbreaks can be referenced when talking about exponents, and exponential growth. The rate at which disease outbreaks spread is exponential, because each person getting infected has a chance to get more people sick and it spreads very quickly. This can be a fun activity to demonstrate with a class to show how quickly something can spread. A teacher can select one student to go tap another student on the shoulder, then that student also gets up and walks around and taps another student. With students getting up and “infecting” others, more and more people stand up with each round, showing how many people can be affected at once when half the class is already up and then the other half gets up in one round.

 

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D1. What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

Euclid discovered exponents and used them in his geometric equations, he was also the first to use the term power to describe the square of a line. Rene Descartes was the first to use the traditional notation we use for exponents today. His version won out because of conceptual clarity. There isn’t exactly one person credited with creating exponents, it is more of a collaborative thing that got added onto over time. Archimedes discovered and proved the property of powers that states 10^a * 10^b = 10^{a+b}. Robert Recorde, the mathematician who created the equals sign, used some interesting terms to describe higher powers, such as zenzizenzic for the fourth power and zenzizenzizenzic for the eighth power. At a time, some mathematicians, such as Isaac Newton, would only use exponents for powers 3 and greater. Expressing things like polynomials as ax3+bxx+cx+d.

References:

Berlinghoff, W. P., & Gouvêa, F. Q. (2015). Math through the ages: A gentle history for teachers and others.

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, August 28). Exponentiation. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:24, August 31, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Exponentiation&oldid=912805138

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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: 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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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